In my last sermon I mentioned how social media options like Twitter and Facebook are great places to get topics for talks and articles, but there is one thing that definitely beats both hands-down…
The utterances and actions of a 4 year-old. 🙂
A couple weeks back I had a bunch of stuff to bring into the church, thus requiring a couple trips from my Nissan Cube. During the first one I had left the driver's door open, and when I returned to my car I was pleasantly surprised to find a little bird flying around near the dashboard. It's hard to explain how cute it was—kind of imagine the birds from Bambi flying around that famous deer when he was just a newborn fawn. (At this point I'll have to admit that I am not even sure if I've watched Bambi completely, so those cartoon birds might just be a figment of my imagination.)
The adorable bird, however, wasn't as enamored with its equal surprise at seeing me, and when I went to the other side of the car to let it out it took my absence from the open door to escape. Even though the feathered friend's visit was short, this little episode is my favorite one (so far) with nature during my stay here on the grounds of the Pleasant View Church (although there is also something to be said for the turkeys some mornings and deer some nights).
Naturally, having a story about a cute small bird would immediately make me want to share it with an equally cute small boy, and later that day I described the experience to Augie. He clearly enjoyed the tale, and at one point asked a very simple question.
"Was it a bad bird?"
I assured him that no, it wasn't a bad bird…just one that liked to check things out and then was pretty scared because I was blocking his way to freedom.
How would have you answered my blond, curly-haired boy? Since the bird was in a place it shouldn't have been, was it a "bad bird"?
Although I'm positive we've been "bad humans," I wonder if God sometimes looks at us as I did that bird. If you consider that we are born sinful and are often brought up in ways where we are taught evil is good and good is evil, is it no wonder that we get trapped where we shouldn't be? Does God knowingly look down and say, "I understand how you might have gotten stuck in there, now let me go open the other door and let you out"?
In some ways the writer of Hebrews seems to convey that:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16, English Standard Version).
Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness because he has experienced them (minus the sinning). Of course, the Father is no less understanding:
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13-14).
At this point my thoughts return to Augie. If he unintentionally spills his milk, he is no more guilty of an infraction than that delightful little bird was. However, even when Augie is a bit rebellious, or stubborn, or selfish…it is easy for me to empathize since I once was a kid too…not to mention I still have to fight those same propensities at my age. I will not encourage his sinful behavior, but my understanding of how powerful temptation is tempers my reaction.
Yes, only God is good (Mark 10:18), but that doesn't mean Augie is a "bad boy." Measured by the ultimate litmus test (Matthew 5:48's "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect") Augie doesn't fare well, but our Lord knows his "frame" even better than I do…and I can't help but think that as He looks down from above He has the same understanding and compassion I do (and we both want Augie to grow up into a man of God).
He sympathizes with Augie's weaknesses.
He sympathizes with my weaknesses.
He sympathizes with your weaknesses.
And He hopes we'll do the same with each other:
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
As we read those words to the Thessalonians we should remember God never asks us to do anything that He won't do Himself…and also recall that when we are weak He always provides a way out:
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).
Why does God provide a way out? Because He knows "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41b). He recognizes we cannot do it without Him.
And if still we blow it…and He realizes we often will…"if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Augie has a daddy who loves and understands him, and…
We have an Abba who loves and understands us.