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Philippians 2:12-18

 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

 

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.   Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (ESV)

 

Down In a Ditch

Easter Wednesday

23 April 2014

The city of Houston is crisscrossed by uncounted drainage canals and bayous. Although necessary to drain the occasional torrential rains from the city, they are an eyesore because they tend to collect all manner of trash, refuse, vermin, and even the occasional dead body. During drought they are depressing ditches when the vegetation in these veins is dried up and brown. But in the days after a downpour the bayous become verdant with life; suddenly what was lifeless and brown becomes a streak of green through the cityscape. These slashes of depression, when filled with water, become jubilant with vitality.

 

So it is for us who feel the burden of our sins and true depression within death's valley. We feel that we are in the ditch of life, where God cannot see us. The walls of the valley only imprison, funneling us into the wadi strewn with the trash, refuse, and vermin of our lives. The vegetation of the life of Christ is brown and dying in our lives lived in that depression. At first, we desire to escape the ditch, clambering on the filthy hillside until we slide back into the enmiring gorge. There is no escaping it. The walls of the valley are too steep.

 

But there is no need to escape. For the rain will run into it. The Lord's teaching will flow in the water course. His speech will cause the grass to green and the bud to burst forth (Deut 32:2). The water comes into the depressions and does most good there. The valleys green first and longest, flushing out the filth and giving life to the trees planted by the bank,  yielding its fruit in its season. Its leaf does not wither. The Lord sends prosperity (Ps 1:3).

 

Our weakness and sin leave us to die like a dog in a ditch, as Franz Kafka rightly felt. But Kafka knew not the gentle dew of God's Word, which runs into those low places in our lives and gives life. Just when we are lowest are we most likely to receive the grace of God. Humility is down in the dust of the earth, in the parched valleys desiccated by life-sapping sin. But just there is humility met by God's grace. It is a gift. Let it rain down life. Down in a ditch.

 

Augustine of Hippo

 

"It is astonishing that when Christ crucified is preached, two people hear, one despises, the other ascends. Let him that despises, impute it to himself. Let him who ascends not arrogate it to himself. For he has heard from the true Master: 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him' (Jn 6:44). Let him rejoice that it hath been given. Let him render thanks to Him who gives it with a humble, not an arrogant, heart, lest what he has attained (meruit) through humility, he lose through pride. For even those who are already walking in this way of righteousness, if they attribute it to themselves, and to their own strength, perish out of it. Therefore Holy Scripture teaching us humility said by the Apostle, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling' (Phil 2:12). And lest anyone should attribute anything to themselves because he said, 'Work,' he added immediately, 'For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Phil 2:13). 'It is God who works in you,' and therefore 'with fear and trembling,' make a valley and receive the rain. Low grounds are filled, high grounds are dried up. Grace is rain. Why do you marvel then, if 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (Jam 4:6)? Therefore, 'with fear and trembling' means with humility. 'Be not high-minded, but fear' (Rm 11:20 KJV). Fear that you may be filled. Be not high-minded, lest you be dried up." 

 

Augustine, Sermon on John 6
 
Prayer

Almighty God, keep us from pride. Raise us to the humility that accepts the gift of divine grace, that as it showers down we would be planted where there is water for life. Amen.

 

For Luke George, that his therapy would continue to bring him strength and healing

 

For those who have been ensnared in pornography, that they would find help for this enslaving sin

 

For the family and friends of Belinda (B.J.) Hall, who are grieving her passing, that they would grieve with the hope of the resurrection of the flesh

 

For government employees everywhere, that they might be faithful with the people's work that freedom would flourish among us

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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