August 2, 2011

It Could be Hotter

If you’re at all like me, maybe you’ve been whining a bit about the record heat wave we are experiencing these days. I hate hot weather … with a passion. I think it’s surely one of the effects of the fall! Give me 65 and breezy any day of the week!

But I’m trying to remind myself of something quite important in these dog days of summer – it could be hotter! For one thing, I could be back in Mississippi where what Cincinnati calls record highs are simply the norm, and where the humidity often feels, literally, like you’ve closed the bathroom door too long while taking a hot shower. Or the air conditioner could be out, or non-existent, like it is for so many people in our city every summer. So there’s a lot to be thankful for, even when the sun is beating down and the A/C is having trouble keeping up.

But even if you’re A/C is out and you’re trying (in vain) to sleep at night with no sheets on, and under the minor comfort of a mere ceiling fan … it could still be much, much hotter! So, if you’re tempted (like me) to murmur, think about three ways that is so:

First, you and I could be facing the fiery furnace of persecution. We could, in other words, be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. Yes, I know, they seem not to have actually felt any of the heat. But for most of our suffering brothers and sisters in the world, that is manifestly not the case. The furnace is turned up very, very hot for many of our brothers and sisters in the persecuted world … such that they’d take a ceiling fan and safe haven any day of the week – air-conditioning or not.

Second, we could be enduring the wasting heat of guilt and condemnation. Listen as King David describes it: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me. My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (emphasis mine, Psalm 32.3-4). In other words, unconfessed sin can become like the drain that comes at the end of a hot, un-air-conditioned summer day. It can literally wear you out, “as with the fever heat of summer”. And, having been worn out with both, more than once in my life, I’d choose “the fever heat of summer” any day over the groaning and oppression and shame and condemnation of sins un-repented-of. I hope you would, too.

Finally – most predictably and most seriously – we could be consigned to the fires of hell. We could be without Christ and without God in the world. We could be forever without the hope of mercy … in that place where, according to Isaiah 66.24, the “fire will not be quenched”; that place where the longing for even a single drop of cool water upon our tongues will never, ever be satisfied (Luke 19.24). If we are on our way there, we ought to bless God’s mercy that we aren’t there yet … and then flee to Christ who, alone, can rescue us from such a fate. And if we have run to Christ, and been rescued forever from the flames, we ought to bless God all the more! For, yes, I will be the first to admit my dislike for 95 degree day after 95 degree day … but let me never forget that, without Jesus, it could be much, much hotter!

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