Polka Spotted

Polka Spotted

By Pat Knight

Among our three grandsons visiting Christmas day, the 5-year old suffered a fully developed case of chicken pox. The disease had no regard for person, place, or time; no indication it was interrupting our celebration of the birthday of the King. The chicken pox boy endured long enough to unwrap his Christmas gifts before he collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day. Occasionally a whimper erupted from his direction as he tried to resist the complete lethargy and generalized soreness that accompanied the disease.

Our grandsons coined the phrase ”polka spots” for the skin lesions populating his body, including his lips, throat, inside his nostrils, and on the soles of his feet. The generalized outbreak of chicken pox, if blended together, had the potential to change his skin color. As I performed a close inspection of the polka spots on his back, it occurred to me that God could devise a method of registering our transgressions; a pox assigned for each sin. Over our lifetime, I wonder if we would have enough room on our bodies to register all of the pox? Thankfully, God does not choose any means of broadcasting to the world the mistakes we make. Sin is a private matter between God and the believer. Never does He make our indiscretions known to others. He has promised, “‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:12).

If we are wronged by another person, we remember the incident to prevent similar hurt again, applying what we’ve learned, but not for the purpose of retaliation. God assures us, “‘I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers them no more’” (Isaiah 43:25). Our Lord is not interested in flaunting our sins to the world. Once we repent of our sins and he redeems us, he destroys sins’ memory, never to be retrieved. Our God is patient and long-suffering, identified by justice and loving kindness. “‘I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22, NLT).

The Son of God’s death on the cross paid all debts in full to redeem our sins. God is not interesting in brow-beating; His forgiveness is merciful and full of grace. Conversations and dealings with us are held in strictest confidence, never to be revealed. Our Lord is kind and compassionate. “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5, NLT).

In some societies slaves wear collars to identify their status and their owners. As Christians, our uniqueness is displayed by our love of God and our fellow traveler. No physical marks are necessary. We exhibit an outward manifestation of inner peace and joy, secured by hope in an unfailing God. Job, who suffered untold physical and mental anguish, said, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him’” (Job 13:15).

 

“He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Believers in Jesus Christ do not require a distinguishing physical mark. Rather than brand us as His followers, God expects us to minister for Him with our speech and actions. “Just as the body is dead, without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26, NLT). Our external actions reflect our heart’s allegiance.

If we yell from the rooftops our love for God, we would be summarily labeled as wacko. But, if in our daily lives we consistently display the love and peace of God, our positive actions and benevolent outreach will impact many lives, including our own.

People also listen to what we do not say. Non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words. If we refuse to be controlled by anger, resentment, or bitterness, others take notice. Are we active listeners, conveying a sense of importance to others? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19).

Our goal is to be a conspicuous Christian, to imitate Jesus and His actions. The slogan so popular with Christian teens years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W. J. D.), is still an appropriate question for us to consider prior to decision-making. We are commanded, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, NLT).

Let us evaluate whether we exhibit joy and patience amidst the disappointments and losses in life. Are we able to cling to our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost? Are we patient and long-suffering when awaiting answers from God? Others observe confidence, joy, and gentleness as correct responses to unpleasant situations, those features that cancel negative behavior in every scenario.

Unlike the Nazi practice of tattooing Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or the fanciful idea of a chicken pox for each sin, as followers of Jesus Christ, promises are the only brands we will ever receive from our Lord. His words are believable, His love magnificent, and His gifts generous beyond our imagination. Polka spots represent a hurtful, temporary disease. Give God your sins and He will exchange them for an abundant life on earth and a home in heaven forever and ever!


[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Patience

Patience

By Pat Knight

The Bible book of Job opens with a snapshot of its namesake: In the land of Uz, there lived a man named Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3), a respected elder in his community, admired for his civic leadership and justice.

God granted Satan permission to test His servant Job, to prove Job’s righteousness and faithfulness. Within a day Job lost his enormous wealth in livestock, his house, and his servants. Worst of all, his ten children were killed in an accident. Soon Job contracted a disease, with “sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).

Job’s entire body was wracked with gnawing pain day and night (Job 30:17). The infection caused festering sores (v. 7:5), scabs that peeled and turned black (vv. 30:28, 30), disfigurement with a repulsive appearance (vv. 2:12; 19:19), nightmares (v. 7:14), bad breath with loss of teeth (vv. 19:17, 20), physical emaciation (vv. 17:7; 19:20), and fever (v. 30:30), which may have caused delirium and hallucinations   (v. 7:14).

Job’s wife helplessly observed her husband deteriorating before her eyes, scraping his sores with broken pottery glass. Job struggled with thoughts of shame, insignificance, and injustice. He cried out to God, but heard only silence. Suspecting Job would soon die, and aware of the law stipulating death for blaspheming the Name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:15), Mrs. Job suggested a way to hasten her husband’s death: “‘Curse God and die’” (Job 2:9b). Job refused, saying, “‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all of this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).Though stretched to the limits of human endurance, Job refused to give up. He clung to God with all his might.

Three friends traveled to comfort Job. Ideally, they should have provided Job with encouragement, an oasis in the desert of his suffering. But they offered only a mirage, another disappointment for Job to reconcile. He received callous arguments from his friends, who branded him a hypocrite. Job desired friendship, dependable counsel, and spiritual guidance, costing his friends nothing, but which would have proved most valuable to a wretched man. Job responded, “‘One should be kind to a fainting friend but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty’” (Job 6:14, NLT).

“The patience of Job” is a phrase commonly but inaccurately used. The book of Job omits such a characterization. Job claimed the right to bellow and complain that he was wounded and forgotten by God. He rued the day he was born (v. 3:11). He accused God of excessive criticism (v. 7:20). Job was adamant that he had done nothing wrong to invoke God’s discipline or punishment. The more he argued, the more arrogance he acquired. He came perilously close to implicating God of wrongdoing. Job complained of God’s apparent injustice and insensitivity, accusing God of abusing His power, attacking him, and disregarding his pleas for mercy. “‘You have become cruel toward me. You use your power to persecute me’” (Job 30:21, NLT).

The believer’s spiritual gift of patience (Galatians 5:22) includes more than just waiting. It implies the calm bearing of trials without complaining. Inherent in patience is submissive relaxation in the comforting, assuring arms of Jesus. Serenity and praise are implicit factors, trusting the plans of God without necessarily knowing His purposes. At its core, patience requires humility and submission to the will of God. “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“When we let circumstances come between us and God, God is shut out, and as a result of that we lose the sense of His presence. We get to the place where there is worry and distress instead of peace in our souls, and we do not feel His fatherly hand upon us. We become fretful and impatient and irritable and fault-finding. We get far away from God and out of communication with Him. We do not see the hand of God in all circumstances. All the while He wants to bring us back to Himself in brokenness of heart and humbleness of mind” (J. Vernon McGee).

If we intend to exhibit the fine art of patience during adversity, Job is not the model to emulate. Jesus Christ is our divine example. During His thirty-three years on earth, Christ encountered the gamut of human experiences. Both in His purpose and in His performance, Jesus patiently carried out the plan established for Him in the heavenly realms. He showed patience toward the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders whose design it was to taunt and entrap Him. Jesus never sinned. He never lost His temper unjustly. He never dishonored His Father in heaven or people on earth. Jesus was humble and patient with men and submissive to His heavenly Father. “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15, NLT).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tempter offered Jesus the crown without the cross. Jesus patiently and obediently committed Himself to God, praying, “‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ And in anguish, He prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).

Jesus is the perfect, patient Son of God, the only Person qualified to suffer in our place. The ideal model of patience in weakness is the cross of Christ! Now He strengthens us by the power of His resurrection.

Though there is no mention of Job’s patience in the Old Testament, later Job is remembered. “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord faithfully brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). Job was not patient, but he exhibited steadfast trust. Job persevered because he had already established a devout personal relationship with God prior to his losses. Satan was sure Job would capitulate in defeat under the heavy weight of loss and suffering, but he didn’t count on his victim’s enduring faith. Job’s belief of a future reward in heaven sustained him during the long months of tribulations. “‘Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One’” (Job 6:10).

Our responsibility is to “Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12b). It pleases Jesus’ to know that His followers inherit His divine attributes. Like Job, we must learn patience, the ability to respond with quiet, uncompromising endurance under stress.

Let us implement the gift of patience that characterizes Christ,
leaning hard on the Rock, resting in His divine help and power.
Then God will be glorified by your patient, adoring acts of faith.