I love watching children’s faces as they get to the best part of the song:
“And the house on the sand went SPLAT!”
Everything about their body language—the violent slapping of the hands, the hard wrinkling of the face, the wicked crook of the mouth- suggests that the SPLAT moment is not something we want to experience in life. Yet, there are SPLAT casualties all around us as God’s chosen people—people who no longer have a spirit of fear, but one of boldness—people who have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! Why is that? Why do we, too often, witness yet another victory for the enemy? Oh, I know the theological discussion: There is a spiritual war—a fight for our souls. The enemy lusts to become god by using us as his pawns. What better way to hurt God, than to use His beloved creations to spit in His face? I get all of that; but, why? How do we let that happen? It’s not like we don’t know that we are merely a means to an evil end in the enemy’s eyes. We know the tempter’s promises are empty, temporary, and unfulfilling lies. We know each temptation stems from our lustful desires, our wanting eyes, and our deep-seated pride. We have been warned that Satan roams the earth, looking for those whom he may devour. So…why are we so weak? Why do spiritual giants fall? Why do the casualties, at times, seem more than the victories?
How is it that we get caught up in the world’s measurement of “success”, and we find ourselves lacking?
How is it that affairs happen among the leadership—the very ones who have been charged with the spiritual caring of the sheep?
How is it that we devour, with our slander, gossip, and criticism, our brothers and sisters—those who, like us, have been bought with Jesus’ blood?
How is it that we are more concerned for our personal comfort and material possessions than rescuing a vulnerable child from modern-day slavery?
How is it that we shrink back from telling THE STORY because the world around us tells us that truth is relative?
How is it that after loving and leading God’s people for seven years, most is unraveled in the course of a few months because of finger-pointing accusations and ungodly living?
How is it that I _________________ because _______________ ?(You fill in the blanks.)
Volumes of books have been written on this theme. An abundance of sermons have been delivered pondering its answers. Uncountable prayers have been placed at the feet of the One who understands our struggles and failings. Yet, the battle continues: “The whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
Our chorus of groans does not go unnoticed by the One who suffered more than we ever will or could even imagine. Our cries, like those of the Israelite slaves in Egypt, are heard and acted upon in His time and manner. Our pleas, like those of the persecuted saints of Revelation, are being considered as we “wait just a little longer”. Until that time, we are exhorted to “rejoice in the Lord always, to let our gentleness be evident to all, because the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5).
We can pontificate and stupefy over the theological depths of temptation and sin; but, the bottom line as to the why is found in our disobedience. Joy in Jesus cannot come until we learn to become obedient, not out of “oughtness”, but out of a deep desire to please the One who is saving us! Jesus, Himself, had to learn obedience. His 100% humanness clashed with His 100% godness. He struggled with fleshly desires, so much so, that He was tempted to use His “god” power to satisfy His “human” hunger, as the tempter held out a stone that looked amazingly like a replica of Mary’s mouth-watering bread.
Jesus struggled with the desires on that which His eyes lingered. When He gazed at all those people who were trapped in Satan’s kingdom, a kingdom that would be handed over to Him by a simple bow of the knee, Jesus contemplated a shortcut. He reasoned that it was the end that counted, not necessarily the means. How much easier and cleaner it would be to bow to the enemy than to die on the cross.
Satan appealed to Jesus’ pride—IF you are the Son of God… Wouldn’t it have been a spectacular testimony of His greatness had the angels intervened in Jesus’ rock jump, catching Him in mid-air rather than going SPLAT on the sacred temple grounds? I mean, didn’t Jesus demonstrate His power through miracles? What harm would come in showing the people just who He was: the Son of God? The harm would have come in Jesus’ pride in demanding that God send the angels to His aid.
These temptations were very real for Jesus. They touched the very humanness that He shared with us. And, Jesus obeyed. He didn’t rationalize, hypothesize, or victimize. He simply, though it was not so simple, obeyed. “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient, even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
The root of our SPLATS is often disobedience. We, all too often, choose to linger on another’s beauty as did King David, rather than run away like Joseph. We tend to preserve self with lies like Abraham, rather than speak the truth without positive results like Jeremiah. We, in fear, turn tail and run like Pilot, rather than stand boldly in God’s strength like Esther. Many succumb to earth-made spirits, as did Noah, rather than be filled with God’s Spirit like Stephen. The harsh, envious and angry words of Cain are quicker on our tongues than the pure, humble and reconciliatory words of Abigail. The cunning, calculating deeds of Jacob’s own hands and guile are preferred over Abraham’s declaration of reward that God is his refuge and shield.
Our reasoning and wants often cloud out Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice.
Jesus learned obedience through His temptations and trials. He went to the cross counting it all joy. Jesus knew joy, even in pain and suffering, because of His obedience. May we walk this journey, albeit with a joyous groan, learning obedience through our own temptations and sufferings. Our joy comes in knowing that our God walks with us as we abide, not stride!