Temptations in affliction
The temptation of avoidance.
A friend, presence, story, the comfort of God. We are tempted to avoid this. We’re tempted to avoid this befriending and storytelling just as we’re tempted to avoid the rhythm of work and rest we talked about in our first session. An ugly prayer and things like that. We’re tempted to avoid these means of God and what are we tempted with? And I’d like to take our last 10 minutes thinking a bit about that. One of the things we’re tempted with is resignation. We just wanna quit. All of us know what that’s like.
The temptation of busyness.
But another surprising temptation is busyness and because we’re often unaware of that I wanna spend a little time on it. Some of us, instead of saying, “I’m wore out, “I’m exhausted, I’m afraid. “I need a friend and some stories about grace.” Some of us, instead of that, get busy. We start working harder and more. I don’t mean the good work of going out and putting our hands in the soil or something or just going out and just doing the next thing. I mean intentionally avoiding the care our soul needs, the comfort our downcast soul needs, with busyness. Eugene Peterson has said, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. “It is essentially laziness.” That’s a surprising thing that getting busy could mean we’re lazy. It means we’re lazy toward rest. It means we’re lazy toward the means God gives us for the rest that we need. And when that takes place, something called “acedia” or sloth sets in. When we think of sloth we think of not doing anything but sloth is merely this, not doing the thing that needs to be done. Not doing the thing that needs to be done. Not doing the thing that needs to be done. If the thing that needs to be done is presence with a friend and stories of grace and you are busying yourself to avoid it, you are I are slipping into this old temptation called acedia. It is the expression of the one-talent man in Jesus’ parable. There was a person that they gave five talents to, the master went away, doubled those talents. One given three talents, invested, doubled those talents. Remember what the one-talent man said? “I hid them because I knew you would be harsh. “I knew you weren’t to be trusted. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to handle me. “I knew you would ask of me “the things that you haven’t sewn in my life. “I knew that you would be cruel to me “and so I hid this talent.” Some of us are at that spot. We’re in the midst of these pressures. We believe that a person of God should not have these pressures and affliction and therefore we get angry at that God and we begin to say to Him, “This goodness that you’ve given me, I bury it, “cause I know you are not good.” Now one of the remarkable things about that is He does not ask the person with one talent to get to work and get to five. We do that with each other but that isn’t the Lord’s way. The guy with three isn’t gonna be judged on oh he’s gonna compete with the guy with five and get … It isn’t like that. Do you have three? That’s all He’s asking? Do you have one? That’s all He’s asking. So He comes towards you and He asks you and invites you to the one thing and the one thing is, “You need to sit with Titus “and you need to hear stories of my grace “cause this is the way I will comfort you.” I play the piano by ear and so I’ve struggled with piano lessons and there was a time when I thought I would force myself into piano lessons. It was in college so I took a piano class but that didn’t work. The reason is ’cause there was a whole class, we were all sitting at various keyboards, and I learned I could sit in the back, the very back, and by the time the teacher had gone through each person I’d learn the song and play it for the teacher. So I thought, “I need a personal teacher” so I got a personal teacher and, you know, that personal teacher caught on to me, figured me out, and set a very difficult piece of music right in front of me and said, “I’d like you to play this next week”. Now all I’d have to do is practice, you see, but I did everything else. I mean, I worked at homework, I called people that I knew I relationally should’ve called and I hadn’t for a while, I prayed, I had my quiet times all week, I mean I worked, but I would not do the one thing needed. And when I went in and could not play the piece because I hadn’t practiced, who even knows, I didn’t even try, I hadn’t practiced, I resorted to tears. “If you only knew my story, “if you only knew what I’d gone through, “you would know why 28 minutes of practice “is so hard for me.”
Some of us are looking right at the thing we need. For some, it’s the first session, the rhythm and surrendering to it, the God who makes us lie down. For others, there is none of that to be had. We have to face the fact that we’re not omnipotent, we’re not omnipresent, we’re not omniscient and the thing we most need is a relationship and a moment of time and a story of grace, and we will do everything else but that. And that is called being lazy even though we’re so busy. Paul the apostle frees us from that stuff. Thank the Lord that those in leadership like this just tell us their stuff. They tell us about the clay jar so that we can see the treasure that’s within them. So may I ask you a question? Is there a person in your life, they’re just imperfect you know, they might say a dumb thing and then they have to say they’re sorry but they really care about you, and what would be be like just to have coffee or tea? And what would it be like to think about someone other than ourselves and to hear stories about what God’s doing? Not fortune cookie stories, not take these two scriptures and call me in the morning stories, I just mean in the midst of tears, laughter, so that when the panic attacks come we have a way through. It’s not the way we want it but it is a given way. So that somehow this guys says, this human being who lived in the first century tells us, amid all these pressures and fears somehow he tasted joy. It’s not the, “I’m joyful!” joy, it’s with tears. “I don’t know, I’m overwhelmed, but God, “how are you making it through “what you’re going through? “I don’t know. I don’t know. “All I know “is God was with me. “Sometimes I don’t even know that “but my friend Titus, he reminds me. Sometimes I can’t even sing a song on a Sunday Morning. I can’t sing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” so I just listen to the others who do and who can and I just figure one of these days they won’t be able to sing it and maybe I will be and they’ll have to lean on me. Let’s pray together. Thank you Lord for these scriptures. We just ask that you’d make much of them and enable us to discern you, find you, and be found by you. Thank you for such ordinary means that you give us, that you walk with us. Please comfort your people. In your name. Amen.