Friday, September 30, 2016

Staying The Course

Staying The Course

Out recently is a film entitled, "Simon Birch." It is about a 12-year-old boy who was tiny and deformed at birth. In fact, he never grew taller than 3 feet, the size of, well a young boy. Because of his physical and emotional peculiarities, he was disliked and rejected by many. Even his parents hardly paid any attention to him at all. In the town, only a few liked Simon, and sadly, he killed one of them by accident. To make matters worse, it was the mother of his best friend, Jake. What made Simon different, is that he dared to ask questions and to expect answers, even from adults. He was unafraid. Above this, Simon believed that all human beings had a purpose in being alive, a purpose that God designed them to fill. Simon not only believed this about others, he believed it about himself and would share it whenever he felt the conversation prompted it. Simon wanted to please God. So to say that Simon was an odd fellow was, definitely, an understatement.

For most of his short life, Simon searched for his purpose. Waiting and watching, he spoke of it always. When Simon discovered that Jake was attending church with his mom, Simon asked to visit with them. Enjoying church fellowship, and being close to God, Simon was unafraid to rebuke the Reverend out loud when he was wrong-- even in the middle of the service. Naturally, the Reverend was embarrassed and humiliated and therefore didn't like Simon for this.  Also, Simon got into trouble for the childish pranks his classmates pulled.

Simon and Jake used to go swimming together where they would practice holding their breaths and of course they competed with one another to see who could hold his breath the longest. Simon had the uncanny ability to hold his breath for a long time under water. Each time they went swimming, Simon tried to hold his breath longer than he did the last time. This ability proved to be an asset, for one day, it saved lives. While on an outing with four and five-year-olds, the bus they were riding in swerved to avoid a deer. Out of control, the bus careened off the road, down the embankment, and into the river. The force of the current drove the back door open, and the bus began to sink. Panic-stricken, children started rocking themselves out of fright, banging on the windows, and crying. Some were even screaming. Pandemonium reigned, as the bus driver opened the front door and escaped underwater. All thought they would drown. Only Simon remained calm. Standing on a seat, he shouted to the children "shut up, and listen!" And they did. Because Simon had been kind to them and was about their height, they trusted him. Stronger than they were, Simon was able to force open a window, get under them, and push them out one by one. At last, one boy remained.  But, his foot got stuck between the seats. Holding his breath, Simon finally freed the boy but began to sink with the bus in the icy cold winter waters of the river. The children told the adults arriving on the scene what happened and that Simon was still on the bus. Swiftly they took action, rescued him and took him to the hospital. Simon did revive and was able to talk, but was far too weak. One by one his classmates and best friend Jake visited. Simon told them that he was ok and ready to die, that he was at peace because he had fulfilled his purpose and could now go. Trying to reassure them, Simon told them not to be afraid and sad, because God had a purpose for each of them too, and that when it was time, each one would know it. Bidding them good-night because he was tired, he died.

The moral of the film is that God used Simon.  God prepared Simon and that Simon was willing to be used by God. Like Simon, John the Baptist, although awkward, was willing to serve the Lord.  And, God prepared John, also.  Being a Nazarite, John lived by strict lifestyle principles. According to Mark 1:6, "And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey." Unfashionable, John did not partake in the trendy styles of consumption. "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" Mark 1:4. John, of course, lived in the desert and was not frequently seen in the towns or cities. He seemed to be like what we would refer to as a cave man. He may have been unpolished and unmannerly, and was probably dusty and sweaty, to say the least.  

Both John and Simon were forthright, but not only was John straightforward, according to Mark 1:7, he was humble. He preached: " cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." He understood that Christ's mission would supersede his, and responded by saying, "... I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost" (Mark 1: 8). 

The book of Mark says that John the Baptist was unafraid to preach the truth to whoever would listen, and that included the wealthy and the powerful.  The people throughout Judea knew John as one who defied the authorities with a message of righteousness and truth.  John called Sin by its name and was unafraid to do so. Obviously, he was politically incorrect, not that there existed such a thing at that time, but just the same had we heard him, we might have found him offensive. Needless to say, straight truth is usually unappreciated. So perhaps like our film character Simon, he was tolerated by the religious types.

God filled the Baptist with the Spirit From John's birth.  John was the one of whom it was said, "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight" (Mark 1: 2, 3).  Christ said of John in Matthew 11:11 (KJV) "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist..."  Yet, we know that when John was imprisoned not once did Christ visited Him.  
Ellen White gives us the reason,

To many minds a deep mystery surrounds the fate of John the Baptist. They question why he should have been left to languish and die in prison. The mystery of this dark providence our human vision cannot penetrate; but it can never shake our confidence in God when we remember that John was but a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. All who follow Christ will wear the crown of sacrifice. They will surely be misunderstood by selfish men, and will be made a mark for the fierce assaults of Satan. It is this principle of self-sacrifice that his kingdom is established to destroy, and he will war against it wherever manifested. { DA 223.4} 
Jesus did not interpose to deliver His servant. He knew that John would bear the test. Gladly would the Saviour have come to John, to brighten the dungeon gloom with His own presence. But He was not to place Himself in the hands of enemies and imperil His own mission. Gladly would He have delivered His faithful servant. But for the sake of thousands who in after years must pass from prison to death, John was to drink the cup of martyrdom. As the followers of Jesus should languish in lonely cells, or perish by the sword, the rack, or the fagot, apparently forsaken by God and man, what a stay to their hearts would be the thought that John the Baptist, to whose faithfulness Christ Himself had borne witness, had passed through a similar experience! {DA 224.2}

Those who serve Christ will suffer.  But, though suffering, they will give glory to God.  
Raul Diaz