In all three synoptic gospels, a story is recorded of Jesus casting out a demon. The Jewish heirarchy, wishing to discredit Christ, accused him of casting out demons through the powers of Hell. To this accusation, Jesus replied:
““Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
Matthew 12:25b-28 (ESV)
Jesus knew, and wanted us to know, that the only way a community long stands together and survives is to remain united and unified. This is especially important for us to remember now.
Earlier today, Dean had to stand before the congregation and let us all know that our friend and brother, Jim Shields, was being released from staff due to financial short falls. The pain this brought to our staff, our eldership, and our congregation is palpable. We have wept and wailed, prayed and anguished, and the pain we feel for our friend, his family, and for our own loss is very real.
It is this very pain that we must know the enemy will try to use to attack us individually and as a congregation. When we allow it, pain turns to anger and anger to sin. It can lead us to back bite and gossip, to place blame and attack one another. When we allow the enemy to navigate in our pain, to whisper and direct us, the seeds of destruction can be sown.
But this is not the way it must be. In Christ, we have the promise of Romans 8:28
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
All things, that means pain. It means goodbyes and tears, sleepless nights and things we never wished to come to pass.
But as in all things we have a choice. Whether to face adversity with faith, trust and hope or to give in to doubt and despair. Whether to allow the commonality of our pain to draw us closer together, to strengthen our resolve as God's people, to be dedicated to his good works and perfect purpose or to point fingers, undermine, and become disjointed.
Jesus was clear about what he wanted for us as his people:
"Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." John 17:11b (ESV)
So yes I will greive, I will hurt, but I will also choose to trust that God has this situation in the palm of His hand. I will trust that God has a perfect plan for Jim and for FCCHP. When given the choice to be divisive, accusatory, or negative I will choose instead to unify, build-up, and to be positive.
When faced with the question of how I will respond, may my answer be the same as Joshua: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.