“Be prepared” isn’t a slogan just for Boyscouts.
MAY 1, 2023
“Be prepared” isn’t a slogan just for Boy Scouts. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches the God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. If you’re just joining us, I’m spending a considerable bit of time with the themes in a book that came out recently called Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. In some ways, this is a hard book to read and a really hard book to write because it’s a book where you learn to kiss the demons on the lips. When you learn to stare down the pain and you discover the surprise of laughter in the midst of it, laughter and lament. And last week talked about the sound of silence and what’s silence for and how you get there. You only get there by making noise first. And secondly, you only get there by making noise that other people can hear and then you relinquish. And in the relinquishment, God comes and there is freedom, and there is grace, and there is a laughter. But let me say before I leave that particular subject on the sound of silence, and then we’re going to spend some time talking about the curse of loneliness. But before we leave this in the silence, use the silence to prepare. I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling good, my problems are minimal and all seems right with the world. I think I’m living in a permanent place. I’m not silly enough to really believe that, but it does feel that way. And just the same way when it’s dark and the pain is real, I identify with Oswald Chambers who said that he would have to live his life in tears.
I hear the sound of weeping.
The agony feels permanent. Oswald Chambers didn’t have to live there permanently. And I don’t either. But when I’m down, I think I’m gonna stay down. Just to remind you, when you’re up, you won’t stay that way. And when you’re down, you generally won’t stay that way either. In both cases, this too shall pass. The Psalmist talks about the dark side of life coming from what he says is the wrath of God.
So, teach us to number our days.
This is Psalm 90:12.
Teach us the number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
In other words, before we face our death, it is wise to think about it and prepare accordingly. That’s what Charles Spurgeon did. Often at night, Spurgeon would fall asleep, and this is going to cause you to wince, picturing himself in his coffin. Now, Freud would have a field day with that. But Freud would be wrong as he was wrong about so many other things. That really does sound neurotic and weird, but Spurgeon was wise to remember and to count his days. Death isn’t the only place where preparation is wise. Thinking about losing it all, facing the worst that could happen is a wise use of the silence that is a part of our prayers. Relinquishment during the pain is a good thing. And relinquishment before the pain is a good thing too. If you, for instance, fear death, and we all do on occasion. We all say, of course I don’t fear death, I’m a Christian, but we all do. And if we don’t, it’s cause we haven’t thought about it very much. Because death’s a pretty scary thing and we weren’t created to die. And the sting of death is sin and it has to do with some really dark stuff. And I’m old. Old as dirt and cramming for finals. And so, I think about death a lot. So, when you do, don’t run from it. Look it in the eyes, stay there as long as you can, but tell that demon, I’m coming back tomorrow. And we’re going to do some more business and keep doing that until you’re prepared and you understand that this is a part of the lament of what it means to be alive. During Hurricane Andrew that I told you about, a large tree fell on my car. It was an old Buick, but in pretty good shape. And to be honest, I was kind of attached to that car. I washed it often and drove it carefully. After the hurricane, my car still worked okay, but it looked like what it was, a wreck. It was the kind of car that needed a bumper sticker, my other car is a Mercedes. I was getting used to driving my wreck of a car until that is somebody stole it. It was a Sunday morning and I went out to our apartment parking lot. And it was gone. I went back inside and I said to my wife, Anna, Hey, guess what? And she said, what? I said, somebody just stole God’s car. Anna started laughing and then I did too. If it had happened a month before, I would’ve found my gun and gone looking for the car. The difference I had prepared, even reluctantly, to not hold things too tightly. I’d learned that everything changes, sometimes they change for the worst, sometimes for the best, but all things are temporary. Paul said this, and this is profound, Philippians 4:11 through 13.
I’ve learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
What was his secret? Paul already told his leaders earlier in the letter.
That to live was Christ and to die was gain.
Philippians 1:21. It’s called relinquishment. There is a Christian belief system, part of the health and wealth movement sometimes called name it and claim it, suggesting that if you name it you can claim it in Christ and it will be yours. I have some problems with that, but I do subscribe to the name it, frame it, and relinquish it philosophy. It’s a belief system that holds water. In fact, it is a pathway to laughter and freedom. There’s a funny bumper sticker that says, sin now repent later. Better to lament and relinquish now, and then you can deal with the pain better later. As a pastor, for a whole lot of years, I’ve noticed that almost always people die the way they’ve lived. I can’t tell you how often I’ve stood by an believer’s deathbed and heard them say that God was never a part of their lives and they certainly weren’t going to be a hypocrite and turn to him now. I would often point out that turning to God isn’t hypocrisy it’s wisdom. And that Jesus didn’t say to the thief crucified alongside him, who asked Jesus to remember him, forget it, it’s too late. Instead, Jesus said.
Today you will be with me in paradise.
Luke 23:43. My comments to unbelievers at the end of their lives are more often than not spoken to deaf ears. People really do generally die the way they have lived. People also face the dark and pain of life the way they have lived and thought before the dark and the pain became a reality. In a personal liturgy I sometimes use in my private devotions, I pray.
Almighty God, you are the sovereign Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of my life and all that is. I know that you are good and merciful and kind. I also know that you can do with all I give to you as you please, but as your servant and child, as an intentional act, I place on the altar before you, and then I name it all. Everything that’s mine. Everything that defines me. And I say, I offer it as a sacrifice of worship.
When I pray that prayer, the list of who and what I intentionally place on the altar is often long. It includes of course, my family, my goods, also includes my reputation, my friends, my wife, my death, my mind, my body, heart, and spirit. I name what I love and value, and sometimes I even include my sins. In that sense, I name it, and frame it, and relinquish it. Now, I sound pious, but I’m not. Sometimes I just say, you can’t have a bit of it. But when he’s there, I know I can trust him with everything. And that dear friend will set you free. You think about that. Amen.
Name it, frame it, and relinquish it. Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown resuming our tour of the Biblical foundations of his latest book, Laughter and Lament. And today that included Philippians 4:11 through 13, Philippians 1:21, and Luke 23:43. Well, as you know, for the last few months we’ve been talking about Steve’s new book, and if you haven’t gotten a copy yet, I have some great news. We now have a Laughter and Lament booklet. It features several extensive excerpts directly from the book. Can we send you a copy of that, for free? Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. Or to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the Laughter and Lament booklet. Finally, a question, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving could not be easier. Just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or join the growing number of folks who gift safely and securely by text. Just text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. And hey, if you can’t give, we completely get that, we do, but please do pray for us. Okay? It helps. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.