Monday, September 22, 2014

"All the Advantages"

Have you ever known a man or woman of whom it could be said, "They had all the advantages?" Someone who had, not just the necessities of life, but all the "extras," from childhood on?  Money .... fine schooling ... loving parents ... travel ... the "right" friends and contacts ... and, apparently, everything that anyone would need to create a happy, successful life?  Of course you have. We've all known such people.  And have you ever seen such a person simply squander it all, and end up a shipwreck, a "loser," an unmitigated failure?  Yes, you've probably seen that, too.  Or lived it.

We often say that such people were "born with a silver spoon in their mouth."  For the vast majority of the human race, of course, it's not that way.  As The Who sang, years ago: "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth!"  And some people have no spoon at all.


But it doesn't always work out, does it? People write stories and poems about people who had "all the advantages," but came to unhappy ends, like Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Corey." Tragically, there are plenty of real-life Richard Coreys. I've known some.  Maybe you have, too.  I knew a man who was the Mayor of a small Southern town, owned his own business, had a lovely family ... and ended up a suicide. I know a man who was a respected judge in California, and ended up in federal prison. And, apart from such dramatic examples, we've all seen lives that started out with a flash and a happy burst of power ... but ended in misery, anguish, and poverty.

We've also seen, or heard about, the apparent opposite: people who were born with none of the advantages, but through hard work and vision, enjoyed great worldly success.  Many professional athletes fit into this category.  We admire their stories ... but even then, some of them can't handle the success, and go into a downward spiral of poverty or drugs or multiple marriages, none of which seem to work out.

How different it is for the man or woman who knows Jesus Christ!  For those who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, the beginning doesn't determine the end, and they're not reliant on their own talent or cleverness or "advantages" to achieve what God wants in their lives.  Of course, this also applied to those people in the Old Testament who, while not knowing Jesus, followed the true God faithfully.  Life isn't a bed of roses for such people, of course, and God often leads a Christian from one problem to another .... but God is leading, and controlling the situation.

Do you remember Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, and grandson of King Saul? He was certainly born into a distinguished line, but things fell apart quickly. Saul and Jonathan both died at the Battle of Mount Gilboa, when Mephibosheth was only five years old (1 Samuel 31). His nurse, in a panic, fled the royal palace, and accidentally dropped the child, causing him to be permanently lame (2 Samuel 4:4).  Now he was an orphan, injured, and on the run, at five years old!  "All the advantages" had disappeared overnight ... except one.

Because, years later, King David was thinking about Jonathan, who had been his dearest friend, and wanted to do something for him. And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet .... Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table (2 Samuel 9:1-10, selected).

That's how Mephibosheth had come to see himself: as a "dead dog."  But David blessed him in a way he had never dreamed possible, simply for the sake of someone else.  Just as God the Father blesses every Christian, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We may never eat at the King's table in this world, but we have the King's constant and eternal Presence with us.  Talk about an "advantage!"

There was another man who was apparently born with "all the advantages," and didn't lose them. But he never received the blessing that Mephibosheth had .... because he rejected it.

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich (Luke 18:18-23).

He was rich, was some sort of "ruler," and, apparently, an upright man, at least morally.  He only had one problem.  He wasn't willing to meet Jesus on Jesus' own terms. He was drawn to Christ; he recognized His authority.  But when Jesus got to the "bottom line," he rejected him.  And there have always been more "rich young rulers," who are unwilling to receive God's kindness, than Mephibosheths, who are willing.

Jesus doesn't want us to sell all of our possessions, of course: at least, not as a condition of salvation.  (He may lead individuals to do certain things after conversion, or He may not.) He wants us to be born again, by an act of the will, as described in John 3:3-8. And after we've done that, we have an advantage that even some of the greatest heroes of the Bible didn't have.

Moses was used of God as few people in history have been used; but, apart from a few conversations with God, he didn't have constant access to, or fellowship with, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We do.

King David never had the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nor did anyone else before Jesus' Resurrection.  But we do .... even when we mess things up.

The disciples of Christ, who walked with Him for three years, never had constant, intimate, uninterrupted fellowship with him ... but we can.

Perhaps you were born with a plastic spoon in your mouth, or no spoon at all.  Perhaps you had "all the advantages," but blew them all, and disappointed so many people, yourself most of all.  But once you come to Christ ... or even fifty years after you've come to Christ ... none of that matters.  Every day is a new day, every failure brings us closer to God's next great victory in our lives, and His blessings are "new every morning."

In the words of my grandfather: "The past is prologue, the present is unparalleled, and the future is as great as our faith in God."

Keep going!   Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)!

Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

1 comment:

  1. As I once had an unbeliever tell me: "Love God, and everything else will fall into place."