Sermon for Sunday 1st August 2021

BE PATIENT IN AFFLICTION – read Hebrews 10: 19 – 39

Welcome:

Psalm 40

Last week at our Tuesday zoom bible study our theme was that of patience.  During the last 18 months, you have probably lost count of the number of times you have said, or you have heard someone else say, “Be patient!” Wait! Just a little longer!” We are naturally intolerant and impatient creatures.

This was among one of many exhortations the apostle Paul gave to his church when they were experiencing the vicissitudes of life – its unpredictability, its ups and downs. Our patience has been sorely tested. We have had to wait and wait and wait some more! And we just don’t know how much longer we can wait. We don’t like God’s timing!

When I was young I thought I was invincible. Young men (often) think they know it all. A dear friend used to call me “Professor”.  When I came home from University, proudly wearing the school-colours, I thought that I had ‘arrived’ and that, with my smattering of under-graduate psychology and history – I knew it all. He told me he had attended a different University, the ‘University of Life’ and its colours were black ‘n’ blue! My friend (my Dad!) went to the ‘school of hard-knocks’.

I didn’t listen, of course – because that’s also what young men are like. My sons think they’re bomb-proof. Like all of us, I would have to be dragged to the University of Adversity myself. I’m still attending classes.  I have become quite an expert in affliction...

An affliction is anything that comes our way which causes us pain or distress – physical, mental or spiritual. It is the truly human experience to undergo trial, tribulation, and trouble – in short, to suffer.  We will all face afflictions (simply) because we are living, breathing human beings...Some of our afflictions have been self-inflicted; some of them (I have no doubt) are down to the will of a sovereign God. Much of what we know as life is a mystery, and knowledge of these things – and how long they might go on – these things belong to God.  

There is accident and illness, cruelty and loneliness, grief and times of innocent unbridled joy; there is war and want; there are times of peace and plague; and there is mercy and grace and love.  And there are the looming realities of death and dying.  We wrestle with questions about where it comes from, who’s responsible for it; and (of course) why do all these ‘things’ happen to us. There are no easy answers.   It is always painful.

The story (of God’s dealings with humankind) began in a garden, but when sin came into the world, we knew for a fact that it has been anything but a “rose-garden”. But one thing is sure: God chose a people (Israel) who came out of and through the crucible of affliction. I can think of no biblical character that God called who was not, in some way at least, afflicted.

But the real issue is not whether affliction is inevitable or not (it is, of course), but how will we face affliction?

Read Passage... Hebrews 10: 19 – 39

Some people in this church are starting to turn away from Jesus. The going is getting tough.   There are hints in the letter that the church is under attack and some want to go back to the old formal religion.

From our passage - Hebrews says they can’t go back – a way forward – a way to God - has been opened up for them (10: 19-20) by Jesus (Great-High-Priest) who has “gone there” before them and watches over this (His) house! They want to go back. They can’t. Go forward. Keep moving. But, if they have to look back...

Remember, don’t forget, just how you used to face affliction?

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded...

They had endured in great suffering. They were patient in affliction. They accepted their losses. They stood side-by-side with others who suffered.  They stood.  They didn’t fall or fall away. Jesus told his disciples that they would, necessarily, have to face affliction...persecution... in the last days...but “by standing firm (they) would gain life...” (Luke 21:19).

We are to meet affliction (tribulation) with patience or, as William Barclay described it, with “triumphant fortitude”. Have you faced the last 18 months like that?!

We are reminded of the time when the king cast the three young Hebrew boys into the furnace and how he was amazed that none of them were harmed and also how he saw four men in the furnace. The fourth looked like the Son of God. (It was!) We can meet anything when we meet it in the company of Christ. The Christian is not alone in her affliction...

  • We don’t have to face affliction alone. We know that God is there!

Draw near to God – come as you are – afflicted perhaps – but come...- with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Hold on to God. Hold on to your hope. BE JOYFUL IN HOPE. What else can we do?! We may not be able to get hold of the answers, but we can take hold of God!

  • We know God’s people are there too! We are not alone!

24 God’s people should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. God’s people should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.

36 You (God’s people) need to persevere so that when they have done the will of God, they will receive what he has promised.

7 My friends, be patient until the Lord returns. Think of farmers who wait patiently for the spring and summer rains to make their valuable crops grow. 8 Be patient like those farmers and don’t give up. The Lord will soon be here! 9 Don’t grumble about each other or you will be judged, and the judge is right outside the door. 10 My friends, follow the example of the prophets who spoke for the Lord. They were patient, even when they had to suffer. 11 In fact, we praise the ones who endured the most. You remember how patient Job was and how the Lord finally helped him. The Lord did this because he is so merciful and kind. (James 5 - Be Patient and Kind)

  • We know God’s people are there too!

I might be an expert in affliction; I might know troubles very well, but I’m still working on patience! “I need to have a longer nose!” Those who came to the bible study on patience will know exactly what I mean...

The greatest of all examples of the virtue of patience in affliction is Jesus Christ Himself and, so far as it is possible, we should live by His example and, in the words of the hymn-writer, “try His works to do”. He did not give up. So...remember him in your struggle with sin...

  • We know His Word is there. We do not give in!

 

Waiting is difficult. Everyone knows that. When we face disappointments, delays, detours...there are dangers. We can become so frustrated and angry at our circumstances that we end up doing and saying things to each other that we regret and which cause us even more affliction. So, pray for patience!

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls...

39 We are not like those people who turn back and get destroyed. We will keep on having faith until we are saved.

We do not shrink back. WE DO NOT GIVE IN! (like the persistent poet)

“I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true; I’ve seen them vanish at dawn;

But I’ve realised enough of my dreams, thank God, to make me want to dream on.

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came; I’ve waited patient and long;

But answers have come to enough of my prayers, to make me keep praying on!”

“I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain; I’ve gone many days without song,

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life, to make me want to live on.” *

We will, by God’s grace...Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, be faithful in prayer –

We know that wherever we have been and whatever the circumstances we have found ourselves in, we can and should pray. We know that the apostle Paul was right when he told the Athenian crowd (Acts 17:24) that, “the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands…” That we will have waited hopefully and patiently over the months will make our reunion all the more special when it finally happens...next week

Let us praise the Lord who created the tortoise.

God our Maker, we praise you for the beauty of your creation:

for the green earth, for the blue skies and the fresh waters.

We praise you for the different forms of life you created,

From big animals to small and humble beings,

for the rapid leopard as well as for the slow tortoise.

In this age of growing speed and unrest we want to especially praise you

Because in your wisdom you created the tortoise,

giving it a slow pace but a long life.

Let us consider the tortoise and learn the lesson you want to teach us through it.

Let us value slowness; let us learn patience.

Give us a slow pace in order to better respect your creation

and to be able to contemplate its beauty.

Teach us to live our life respecting the rhythms of your creation.  Amen.

MFR

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