|Volume 19 Number 5 May 2017||
The 911 system is a work of art. Dial three simple numbers and a call comes into a center full of dispatchers, unknown to the caller. The dispatcher has a readout on a computer screen with number, address and name of occupant. Often, the caller is hysterical and can only scream into the phone, or too sick to make any sound at all. That is of no consequence to the dispatcher’s ability to do his job; police, fire and rescue are sent to the location simultaneously. The ability of the caller to make his condition known is inconsequential to the 911 center, the source of rescue for the one making the plea for help.
In Romans 8:26 we find, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Prayer is our 911; we can call for help. God is the dispatcher, and His Spirit understands what we need. We may not be able to say it for our spiritual despondency or our inability to understand the problem. Yet, when we make the call, God understands the situation and works to rescue us. God is the Christian’s 911 system, and our rescue lies just a call away.
Paul Beneath the Surface
The apostle Paul is well-known for his rejoicing in sufferings. From Roman imprisonment, he wrote to a place where he had been previously imprisoned and beaten, Philippi. He told those “beloved and longed-for brethren” (4:1) to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). He spoke in some detail of his rejoicing and contentment in any situation (4:10-13). We rightly admire his brave outlook in the face of dire circumstances.
Yet, he called the whole of the situation his “distress” (4:14). Then, also, there is a verse back in Chapter 3 that gives this author pause. In the midst of an encouragement to walk rightly and seek heavenly things, Paul acknowledged that some have not done so. He said, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18).
Did you catch that? As Paul was writing the inspired letter that we know for his rejoicing, he was, at some point weeping. The letter arguably best-remembered for its focus on Christian joy may well have been tear-stained.
It would serve our psyches well to remember that Paul’s joy was not an external giddiness and frivolity, but it was an inner confidence that he was doing the right thing, even in the face of many heartbreaks. There is a hint of more heartbreak in some of Paul’s final words. “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Timothy 4:16). One wonders wildly who is meant. Who were all of the deserters? Was Demas included (2 Timothy 4:10)? Maybe those who preached Christ “from envy and strife” (Philippians 1:15) were among them. To be sure, it included everyone, because no one stood with him. For all the lip-service his preacher friends may have paid to standing for truth, when Paul stood before Roman kings, his buddies scattered like the disciples at Christ’s crucifixion (Mark 14:50).
Yet, Paul was benevolent. After the Lord’s example (Luke 23:34) and Stephen’s (Acts 7:60), Paul was able to overcome personal hurt and carry a magnanimous attitude of forgiveness. Paul reminded the recipient of his epistles that standing for Christ and joy in sufferings has a depth of emotion and internal pondering perhaps beyond the superficial notions of many readers.