The Pressures of Physicality, Criticism, & Fear
The pressure of physicality.
They’re local, not everywhere at once, and there’s a physicality to life. “Our bodies had no rest”, he says. What’s Paul doing with an awareness of his physicality? Why is he so aware of his body? How does he even know that his body has no rest? How does he know that his body’s tired? There’s some kind of awareness to his physicality and some of us forget that, that we are, as our theology teaches us, both body and soul. I know there are discussions about spirit but body and soul. Body, physical, and we aren’t able to escape that. I have moles and freckles. I have scars on my face from acne to long ago to remember. I see you and you see me. I’ve seen my grandfather’s nose and my dad looks just like my grandfather and I see what’s happening to my dad’s nose and I look just like my dad and I know what’s comin’. My nose is gonna get big. It’s already happening. I saw a picture recently and I was, “Oh my goodness! It’s happening.” You’re physical, and “Our bodies had no rest”. When you’re in ministry with people you smell things, beautiful and not so pleasant. You touch, you see, you hear. There’s a close geography of ministry. It’s sensory. When you pray with someone you do so with coffee breath or donut breath or whatever you had for lunch breath. When you speak of the depths of theology you read it with reading glasses even though you didn’t need to before you were the age of 44. You are physical and so this body of his had no rest. You ever said that? Felt it? “My body has no rest.” How do you find rest when there isn’t any? “My body has no rest.” And there’s just stress in this local place converging in on this physicality of his life. He is “afflicted at every turn”, he says. Afflicted at every turn. Get out of the ministry Paul. Sounds hard. Affliction. Some of us are stressed because of our childhoods. We experienced traumas in particular ways and it still haunts us today. Others of us are feeling stressed and I need to tell you, it has nothing to do with your childhood, it’s just an ordinary Friday and there are things in the broken world that are stressful. He is afflicted. Maybe if he just prayed more. Maybe if he just ate more vegetables. Maybe there’s something wrong with Paul, isn’t there here? Job’s friend. Something’s wrong with Paul. A person of God shouldn’t be afflicted at every turn. He just needs more faith. No, not at all.
The pressure of criticism.
Now I remind you that sometimes it takes more faith to do less. Sometimes it takes greater faith to name an affliction honestly and to walk through it locally and to bear up under the pressure that it brings is an act of faith. And what is this affliction? Well, he’s criticized. Fighting without. He’s got this group of people constantly tweeting about him. Everywhere he goes the Judais are, everywhere he goes they’re always picking on Paul. It’s like they can’t let him go. You ever had a person like that in your life? Have you ever been such a person? It’s like they can’t let him go and just go on with their life but they’re fixed on him and they are aiming at him to tear him down. Everywhere he goes, a critic. Do you have critics like that in your family and among friends and congregation and ministry? And you might be a critic like that. Someone else would say, “Yeah that person’s always trying to tear me down. “It’s like they can’t leave me alone “and get on with their life.” And Paul say he has critics and there’s fighting without everywhere always telling him who he should be, and what he shouldn’t be, what he should say. They don’t like his theology. They don’t like the way he preaches. They perceive better theological statements that he should have as Judaisers. He should handle the Old Testament better than he does in their opinion. Constantly criticizing. The critic imitates the accuser of the brethren ’cause the Spirit of God is called a convictor of sin but never never never is the Spirit of God called the accuser of the brethren. There’s a difference between conviction of sin and the Spirit of God’s hands and what it is to be accused mercilessly by our critics. Do you have a critic in your life? Maybe you are your own worst critic. Fighting without, fears within. “I’m afraid, man”. Paul just says it. “I’m scared.” He has a right to be scared. When he says he’s scared to death that’s a real possibility for him.
The pressure of fear.
Death. The kind of pressure that he’s undergoing. For some of us, we’re blessed. We have a position, we have a salary, we have people who are responding to the Word, responding to our counseling but we’re constantly complaining that God isn’t something and we just forget. Paul has no pension and Paul’s actual life is on the line and he’s saying, “I’m scared” and he’s looking to the Lord. The convergence of things that cause us hopelessness, despair, sadness, are legitimate. This is legitimate fear. I understand irrational fear very much in my own life. I’m a fearful person. A person of anxieties, person of melancholy. I am Eeyore, “We’re all gonna die.” My wife, Jessica, and you’ll know what I’m saying when you meet her, she’s Tigger. “It’s the morning, it’s a new day!” Right? But this is legitimate, sane fear. Emotional fatigue from external pressures of criticism, situational afflictions, bodily he’s tired, and all of this has made him sad. So let’s just pause there for a moment and say we get sad and we have pressures. Some of us imagine more pressures than there are but all of us have legitimate ones and there are times in your life when you will say, “I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m wore out, “I don’t have any rest, I can’t sleep, “and I’m afflicted”, and that statement, those statements, will not mean that you have no faith. Those statements will be undergirded by the faith you have to say them and to know that you are held by the one who undergirds all that stuff and gets through all that stuff. Because somehow he says, “But God”. Now here’s the thing, notice Paul can’t fix it all.
So number one, he can’t be everywhere at once, he’s local in a place. Number two, he has afflictions, he has fears that he cannot fix. Notice none of these circumstances change in his life. Something’s gonna change inside of him but his circumstances don’t change. It’s not fixed. It doesn’t go away. He’s gonna go to bed that night and everything is not made right and so you were never meant to fix it all. I know you’re trying so hard to. That’s why some of you are driving other people nuts. They have to walk on eggshells around you, they have to figure out how to talk to you ’cause you are constantly trying to fix it. And the thing is, being able to fix it all, being able to have the ability to do that, that’s described by a word like “omnipotent”, all powerful, able to fix anything and there’s only one person in the entire universe that has that quality and it isn’t you and it isn’t me, it’s God. You were never meant to repent because you couldn’t fix it. You’re meant to repent because you tried to fix it all. And Paul can’t fix it and he doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know what’s gonna happen, that’s why he’s scared. He doesn’t know what’s coming around the next corner. He’s afflicted at every turn. To know everything is called “omniscience” and you and I, as a finite local creature, were never meant to know everything. Stop repenting because you don’t know everything. Start repenting because you’ve been trying to. That is the great temptation when these pressures come, to be like God: everywhere, fix it all, I know it all, I can manage it. And look at that remarkable penetrating freedom to deliver you from all that and just to say, “I gotta tell you, “this is a hard hard hard season of my life.” Just to say it. Because life under the Son is stressful. It involves criticism. It is psychologically, emotionally fatiguing and worrisome but God, but God, who comforts the downcast comforted us by whisking us away into a beach side cave where mystically He came down and we ate quinoa. It’s not like that. It’s just not like that. It’s not like that.