Saturday, October 6, 2018

Display and Vainglory

People get into bad situations. I see it all the time. Maybe I even do it all the time. We find ourselves up against the wall, and sometimes we ask ourselves where the promises of God are when we really need them. But more often than not, the scrapes we find ourselves in are of our own doing, and would have been perfectly avoidable had we followed our conscience or done what we knew was right in the first place.

In the Gospels, we find Jesus being tempted by the devil to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Why? Because of this promise of God:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 
On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
Ps 91:11-12
Alexander Maclaren, in his Expositions of Holy Scripture, had this to say on the subject of such protection: 

Another condition of divine protection is obedience. We need not expect that God will take care of us, and preserve us, when we did not ask his leave to get into the dangerous place that we find ourselves in. Many of us do the converse of what the Apostle condemns, we begin ‘in the flesh,’ and think we shall end ‘in the Spirit’; which being translated is, we do not ask God’s leave to do certain things, to enter into certain engagements or arrangements with other people, and the like, and then we expect God to come and help us in or out of them. That is by no means an uncommon form of delusion. You remember what Jesus Christ said when the devil tried to entice him to do a thing of that sort, by quoting scripture to him... Christ’s answer was: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ You will not get God’s protection in ways of your own choosing.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness not to put God to the test, but to help Jesus find out who he was and who he was not. And who he was not was a self-serving servant of God. Just as he resisted the temptation to expect a self-aggrandizing miracle in the wilderness, he resisted it throughout his ministry. Indeed, many of his miracles were done in secret, for he had no need to make himself look better in the eyes of mortals.

And so, when I find myself in a situation that was begun 'in the flesh' and not following the will of God, am I better than my Lord? Can I claim as a promise made to me personally a passage of scripture that Messiah himself would not claim? Instead, as John Chrysostom put it, I "must overcome the devil, not by miracles, but by forbearance and long-suffering, and that [I] should do nothing at all for display and vainglory."
 
Help me, O God, to leave it to you when you will fulfill your own word; in the Name of him who taught me to pray...