Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Squeeze Chute of Distress

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"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
Luke 12:49-50 NASB

We have started a new series based on the last few verses in Luke 12. Jesus was speaking prophetically of things that were to come, not all in the distant future.

We started this series with a lesson about the fire of persecution. Previously, we've studied lessons from the life of Tyndale. Yesterday, we studied Christ's baptism of suffering.

Today we turn to the emotional impact of the coming baptism of suffering. The word translated as "distressed" is synechō and indicates the anguish of being "pressed in". The idea is that of a cow being pressed in by a cattle squeeze chute. The cow is led in and the sides of the chute are tightened against the cow's sides so that the cow cannot move. It is completely hemmed in. This allows care to be done safely, so that neither the animal nor the humans working with the animal are harmed. 

The interesting thing about the squeeze chute is that, for cows at least, the chute calms them. When it squeezes against the cow, all resistance fades. The cow settles and stands still. 

The prospect of His death loomed like a cattle squeeze chute for Jesus. It squeezed tighter and tighter against Him until the Cross was all He could see. He dreaded it. He hated it. He agonized about it. 

Despite the agony already building inside Him, Jesus poured love into His disciples, into the crowd following Him, and into all those who were desperate for His care. 

Jesus preached peace and forgiveness even as the squeeze chute of death tightened against Him.

The prospect of a frightening, painful future did not stop Jesus. He clearly didn't relish the job God had given Him to do, but He pressed on. He did what needed to be done and He did it with joy.

I could learn from His example, if I would. We all could.

With the worst possible situation looming before Him, Jesus still loved. Still served. Still reached out to those less fortunate. Still drew sinners to Himself.

What if we acted like Jesus, no matter the circumstances of our lives? What if we took the hard times in our lives and presented them as an offering to God? 

I'll tell you what would happen... If we would let go of our anger, our bitterness, our hate of the circumstances in our lives and the people we think are responsible, AND embraced the place God has allowed us to occupy on this earth, it would rock our world. We would soon be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. People would see the work of God in our lives. It would draw them to Christ. 

Why don't we?

We want our anger, our bitterness, our hate. We want it because we believe we deserve it.

What we don't seem to realize in the midst of the crisis of squeezing is the price we will pay for anger, bitterness, hate. Justified, or not, they steal our peace, steal our joy, steal our witness, and affect our health. Why would we want to lose peace, joy, and an effective witness when we are being squeezed by crisis? Why would we want our negative emotions to rob us of our health?

I've seen this crazy choosing many times, and I always ask WHY? I don't have a good answer, but I wonder if we choose anger, bitterness, hate because we don't believe God is powerful enough to give us something different. We don't believe God will give us peace in the midst of turmoil. We don't believe God can give us joy in the midst of sorrow.

I have great news. God can do it. He's up to the challenge and He gives more joy, more peace, more hope in worse circumstances than our own. He is able. 

We can see the power of God in overcoming the sheer terror of looming agony in the life of Christ. He demonstrated the transforming power of God during His entire ministry. The Cross loomed throughout His three years, yet He was a friend to sinners. Filled with joy. A paragon of peace. Despite the distress.

Something amazing happened to Jesus when the squeezing of his distress became most acute. He chose not to embrace His fear. He chose not to embrace anger, bitterness, or hate. He chose, instead, to relinquish His will to His Father's. 

When Jesus embraced "not My will but Thine be done," it was a great relief, as if the cattle squeeze chute of His distress had done its work. It brought calm and peace.

Not my will, but Thine be done will bring calm and peace to us all if we will embrace it like a life raft, cling to the hope of God, and abandon our so-called "rights" for the undeserved gifts of God.

He is able. He is enough. 

So let us cling to Him instead of to our emotional reaction toward the situation at hand. When we do, we will see the mighty deliverance of our God who loves us.

Our Father, forgive us our sins, which are many, and help us to cling to You, trust You, abandon our roller-coaster emotions and trust You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#peace #disciple #notmywillbutthinebedone