Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO SHOW FOR IT?

This was a most probing question my father-in-law would ask his daughters after they had completed a baby-sitting job; summer job; or some other money-making opportunity. His children have continued asking this of their own children.

It reminded me of a question I had been asked as a teenager, by the single missionary who had been left in charge of the mission in Mt. Frere, South Africa, while my parents were away, on mission business.

“I want you to help me select special gifts for our special Bible class promotion coming up in a week. I want them to be wise and useful in their lives.” She later reported to my parents that I had “passed the test”. (Just barely, in my opinion!)

My prayers about a recent, special concern were not being answered. I found myself asking the same question, but with its own personal twist. “With all you have invested to be ready for such a time as this, what have you got to show for it?”

As King David looked at the unfolding drama of his son, Absalom, he no doubt asked a similar question, “What have I got to show for all of this? Just give me my son back!” In the end, his heart could utter nothing else than a helpless wail, “O my son, Absalom, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)

I have thought about that question off and on for many years, and often wondered how my father-in-law got that from scripture. I knew better than to question his wisdom, because I was quite sure he knew what he was talking about! After all, he had done pretty well in raising his daughters, one of whom I wanted as my wife. (I knew it “had” to be in scripture!)

As I was working on projects around the home recently, a flash of insight came and I saw a connection between that statement and what Peter said in one of his epistles:

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:13-16 esv)

“. . . be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience . . .”

My father-in-law was requiring his daughters to be able to answer the question, “How will this, (job, position, purchase, right, etc.), give you an answer for your personal hope, and the hope of others? What have you got to show for it?”

Regret, frustration, complaining, etc., are horrible enemies, and basically come from ourselves.

When Israel began to listen to the law of God being read by Ezra, in the newly restored city of Jerusalem, under Nehemiah, they began to weep. Nehemiah told them that strength was found in joy, not in weeping. God had engineered the rebuilding of the walls. The law was being read again. They had begun to see where the failure was. This was no time to weep, but rather rejoice. (Nehemiah 8:10)

I began to realize that I have always been the most concerned when I truly felt a problem had been left up to me. We are overcome because we see our own failures, but see no responsibility towards God, and the amazing provision He has given us. “Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!” Could this be one reason why no answer will come? This question can be asked of anything that we desire in our world – whether it is a purchase, a position, or a legitimate desire.

What can we do to fix the problem? Or, “What have you got to show for it?”

One is to “make ends meet”, in a world fraught with challenges along the way. As my sister-in-law would say, “Do what you got to do, and live with it!”

The other is that we might use what we have been given as eternal treasure, a “trust”.

The apostle Paul put it this way, “Still, I want it made clear that I've never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I'm not writing now to get something. I'd rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it's not to get something out of it for myself. I'm compelled to do it, and doomed if I don't! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I'd expect some pay. But since it's not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don't even have to pay my expenses! 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 The Message (MSG)

The prophet Samuel’s robe tore, as King Saul, Israel’s first king, grabbed it when he began to walk away. Saul had disobeyed God’s specific instructions, keeping the best for himself. “Since all you want is the stuff, the kingdom has been taken away from you.”

Its almost as if I hear Samuel saying, “I hear the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen. Show me, oh King, how this “stuff” brings hope to you, and to God’s people, especially since God had told you to destroy it all!” (1 Samuel 15) As I recall, “stuff” had been Saul’s problem even from the time of his anointing to be the king, in trying to please his dad, when his dad was more concerned about he, himself! (1 Samuel 10:22)

I find it ironic that Saul’s spirit betrayed itself in yet another encounter. This time it was with the Philistines, where he couldn’t wait for the prophet Samuel to turn up for the worship service, and his excuse was, “I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.” (I Samuel 13:12) Even worship had become a drudgery, and something that he had to force himself to do.

It is as if the Holy Spirit was saying, “Show me how your job, activity, frustration, etc., provides something you need more than what you already have in God. Show how you can experience personal Christian hope, demonstrate genuine love, and bring these to someone else who crosses your path.”

Jesus may as well have asked the rich young ruler the same question, as he refused to sell all he had in order to follow the Lord Jesus, “What do you have to show for the kingdom of God?” (Matthew 19:20)

The same God who had allowed him to have a lot of “money and stuff”, would care for those needs outside of the “virtual security” he was now experiencing.

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