In my study I have a dummy. Some of you may have suspected that for a long time! Actually I think the technical name is a mannequin. I bought it in order to be able to photograph it in different poses and use them as photographs to accompany words on PowerPoint slides that I use alongside my sermons. If you look at the picture on the left perhaps you will since the emotion that I was trying to convey: sadness (I guess it could also be sorrow or counting up to 10 in hide and seek).
The observant among you will have noticed that in the background of the picture is a little bit of a finger. Don’t panic, it was still attached to the rest of my hand. The problem is that my mannequin was fairly cheap and whilst he is relatively poseable, he is also a little bit more springy than some of his more expensive relatives, which means he does not always stay in the pose in which I have put him. Sometimes he needs a helping hand (literally) and I have to carry out some contortions to take the photograph whilst holding the mannequin in position.
I guess the parallels for the Christian life are relatively obvious here. We don’t always stay how God would like us to be and perhaps our inherent bias selfishness means that we won’t always do what God wants. I find Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 7 both comforting and challenging:
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good as it is, it is no longer I myself do it, but it is sin living in me… For I have the desire to do what is good, that I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I to do it, but it is sin living in me that does it… what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I guess all of us can identify with Paul and his struggle with sin. Like my mannequin we don’t always remain as we would like, never mind as God would like. We are always subject to temptation and, sadly, we sometimes give in. Even despite our best intentions we don’t always get it right. Paul tells us that this is because we are not yet perfect: sin still influences our lives.
The good news is in the last sentence. Like my mannequin receives a helping hand from me, God delivers us through Jesus. He gives us his Spirit to help us and he will always offer us a way out of tempting circumstances. Whilst there may be occasions when we spring back from the God wants us, is gracious and patient and will forgive and restore us if we come back to him. Two of the most incredible words in the world are ‘grace’ and ‘love’. We see them embodied in Jesus and people can see them embodied in us too when they see us experience that and demonstrate it as free samples of Jesus.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
No direct link in the following joke, I just like it!
God created the donkey and told him: “You will work tireless from sun up to sun down, carrying heavy bags on your back, you’ll eat grass, you will not have intelligence and you will live 50 years. You will be a DONKEY!”
The donkey answered: “I’ll be a donkey, but living 50 years is too much, give me only 20 years.”
And God gave him 20 years.
God created the dog and told him: “You will look after the man’s house, you will be his best friend, you will eat whatever they give you and you will live 25 years. You will be a DOG!”
The dog answered: “God, living 25 years is too much, give only 10.”
God gave him 10 years.
God created the monkey and told him: “You will jump from branch to branch, you will do silly things, you will be amusing and you will live 20 years.”
The monkey answered: “God, living 20 years is too much, give me only 10 years.”
And God agreed.
Finally, God created man, and told him: “You will be Man, the only rational being on this earth, you will use your intelligence to control other animals, you will dominate the world and you will live for 20 years.”
The man answered: “God, I’ll be man, but living 20 years is not enough, why don’t you give me the 30 years that the donkey refused, the 20 years that the dog did not want and the 10 years that the monkey refused?”
That was what God did, and since then, men live 20 years like a human, then he enters adulthood and spends 30 years like a donkey, working and carrying the load on his back, then when his children leave home, spends 15 years like a dog, looking after the house and eating whatever is given to him, then he gets into retirement, and spends 10 years like a monkey, jumping from house to house or from children to children, doing silly things to amuse the grandchildren.