Sore Throat Thoughts

June 27, 2011

110621 Sickness and Sovereignty

Maybe you can relate to this:

One night last week I was having an intense dream. (In this one I was being chased by a landshark…no, I’m not making this up.) I woke up in a bit of a frenzy, took a couple deep breaths, and swallowed. That’s when it hit me – I’m getting a sore throat.

Instantly my mind began to reel. I hate being sick. Is this really a sore throat? How long is this going to last? Is this going to develop into some kind of full-blown sickness? Last time I got a sore throat, I was sick for two weeks! Why have I been sick so much this year? I can’t get sick right now; I have too much to do! I need health to do ministry well – doesn’t God know that!?!?

It was at this point in the thought process that began to be alarmed at myself. While I tried to couch my worry and indignation in the righteous motives of ministry, I ended up acting like I had a better understanding of my needs than God did. In that moment in the middle of the night, I was not acting like God was my perfect heavenly Father who knows and provides for all my needs.

Thankfully, the sore throat quickly went away in the morning. I think it was just a reaction to having my throat scoped the day before. But maybe, just maybe, it was a sovereign reminder that God knows exactly what I need, and even if he seems to throw a wrench in my plans, he is still lovingly sovereign.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:19 ESV)

Shock and awe. It seems to be a popular strategy for starting wars (see “Gulf War II”) or getting dates (see “Hitch”) but not so much for the Christian’s pursuit of personal holiness. Rather than to be shocked by the sinfulness of sin and in awe of the purity of Christ, many Christians opt for complacency and comfort.

Ezra did not buy this lax approach. He stuck with shock and awe. Check out his response to the sin of the people of Israel: “As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.” (Ezra 9:4) He goes on to pray, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” (Ezra 9:6)

In addition to his clear grasp of the seriousness of Israel’s iniquity, Ezra goes so far as to include himself in the situation with the first person pronouns. American evangelicals are often quick to be shocked when some state approves same-sex marriage or when Lady Gaga releases a new single yet so slow to be disgusted by the sin in their own lives.

We should be appalled by sin – it is rebellion against the King of the Universe. We should be amazed at the cost required for our redemption – the precious blood of Christ. In fact, these emotions should build up a hunger for holiness. We should thirst for righteousness. This weekend at Compass Bible Church, we sang a couple songs that expressed these desires.

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity”
-“Hosanna” by Brooke Fraser

“Give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another”
-“Give Us Clean Hands” by Charlie Hall

Let’s be shocked over our sin. Let’s be in awe of both God’s justice and love. And let’s long for holiness.

Two main thoughts remain with me after reading this chapter. I will tie them to a couple of quotes.

“Such is the way in which expression is often given to the modern hostility to ‘doctrine.’ But is it really doctrine as such that is objected to, and not rather one particular doctrine in the interests of another? Undoubtedly, in many forms of liberalism it is the latter alternative which fits the case. There are doctrines of modern liberalism, just as tenaciously and intolerantly upheld as any doctrines that find a place in the historic creeds.”

To shun doctrine altogether is not an option. Everyone lives their life on the basis of some system of thought. The crucial question is whether or not that worldview has any legitimacy or factual basis. The question is not, “Doctrine or no doctrine?” It must be, “Good doctrine or bad doctrine.”

Good doctrine will have a basis in fact, and Machen spends much of the chapter demonstrating how the religion of early Christianity (and even of Christ!) was clearly tied to fact and history.

“But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine.”

These words and thoughts are just as true today as when Machen wrote them!