STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND
Pastor Thema Robinson
“I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take the out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”
In this season of fasting I want to put us in remembrance of John 17:14-18. The reason people of God enter into a time of fasting is to reconnect with the Spirit and presence of God Almighty so that we can hear direction for our lives. And that we can put on the courage we need to live according to God’s law. It’s a season of remembering the extreme importance of our obedience to the Word and Will of God; remembering that we were put on this earth for a specific and divine purpose.
I am a strong believer that we see the hand and message of God all around us, including movies! Recently I watched the Netflix Original version of the Jungle Book called Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. From the very start I saw how this story parallels our lives as believers, strangers in the world. We all know the story. The ruthless and evil tiger Shere Khan kills Mowgli’s parents BUT he is rescued by the gentle black panther Bagheera. Bagheera takes Mowgli and leaves him at the door step of a family of wolves that he knows will take the “man-cub” in. In the Netflix version that’s Nisha and Vihaan. While Nisha and Vihaan are still trying to figure out where the man-cub came from and what they are going to do with him Tabaqui, Shere Khan’s cronies hyena, shows up in search of the man-cub. This next part is powerful to me because it reminds me how ferociously God protects His children. Nisha, Vihaan and their wolf cubs literally just discovered the boy minutes earlier but they all immediately stand in defense of the child against Tabaqui, whose eyes light up like a Christmas tree when he sees Mowgli. Once they run him off Nisha springs into action and without haste goes to the leader of the pack, Akela, to ask permission to raise the man-cub. While the council is still deliberating Khan and Tabaqui show up. Khan demands the child be handed over to him but Akela has had a revelation about the man-cub which he will reveal a little later in the movie. Shere Khan is trying to intimidate Akela but Akela rises up in the authority he has as leader and rallies the pack against Khan declaring that the child is under the protection of the pack and if Khan wants to challenge him he will be challenging the entire pack.
A lot happened in just that first 10 minutes! It made me want to preach it! Let’s step back and draw out the comparisons. I am always puzzled by people that blame God for any bad thing that happens in their lives because God has given us power and authority to stand our ground when the enemy attacks and He gives peace that surpasses understanding when we are grieved. Jesus told us in John 16:33b “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Why then are we so surprised when bad things, trials and sorrows happen in our lives? I will tell you why, it’s because we don’t have the word of God hidden in our hearts (Psalms 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”) we so easily forget the second part of John 16:33 when Jesus promises that He has overcome the world. Jesus also commands us in Philippians 4:6,7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
From the very beginning Mowgli’s life was marred by trials and sorrows “But God” showed the child favor and sent a panther to rescue him. But that isn’t the end of the story. Even though Mowgli was under the protection of the pack he was not and could never be a true member of the pack and was teased and ridiculed by some in the pack for this reason. Not only that, Shere Khan didn’t go away for good he simply laid in wait for an opportune time to strike. That opportunity came when Mowgli became utterly distraught after failing a running test that would determine if he could become an official member of the pack. After that failure he lost his way. He turned on another unique member of the pack that had been his only friend and he disobeyed the warning of Baloo to stay away from the monkey people. This all worked together to provide the prime opportunity for Shere Khan to strike.
This is exactly what happens in the lives of believers. Tragic things occur, major failures and disappointments slam into our lives at times and many allow these temporary events to make them lose hope and faith in God, to lose their way. These trials and sorrows are not supposed to derail God’s plans for our life. They are meant to make us stronger as we continue to move toward the high calling of Jesus Christ in our lives. The revelation that Akela had was that one day Mowgli would rise up and save the jungle from human intruders. In the end however he did not only that but he also rid the jungle of the evil that was Shere Khan but he didn’t do either without having to endure major difficulty and disappointment in life. Mowgli was different from the very beginning, his entire life was plagued by an evil trying to take him out, trying to snuff out his purpose. The jungle however provided many protectors starting with Bagheera, then the pack, Baloo, the elephants, and even the python Kaa. Our Heavenly Father does the exact same thing for us. In the midst of every trial we see the favor and protection of God if we will open our eyes and hearts to it. Just as Mowgli had a specific purpose so do we all. In this world there will be trials and sorrows but God has given us everything we need to overcome. We have to overcome people ridiculing us for being different. When we adhere to the standards of God we are called out dated, and even intolerant but we must remember that we must not ever be in league with this sinful world. We must overcome in His name because our families, communities, and world are all watching and waiting to see if we will take up this call or if we will be defeated by the hardships in life.
“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it. “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy. “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ~ Deuteronomy 30: 11-20
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Father I thank you that you are always with me, protecting me and ever leading me toward your plan for my life. Even when I don’t recognize your favor on my life you are always sending me the help I need to weather every storm that comes my way. Forgive me Lord God for the times I have forgotten your word and I have allowed the cares and troubles of this life to hardened my heart toward you; the times I have allowed fear and the intimidation tactics of the enemy to make me forget that you do indeed have a plan for me and that I am not alone and that everything that I must face, though not of your doing, will all work together to help me accomplish your will for my life. Holy Spirit please give me the strength of heart and mind to remember that I was not called to fit in with this culture, that you have called me to be different on purpose so that I can be a light in the world. Give me the tenacity I must have so that I will hold firmly to your promises when life has thrown me situations that seem to hard or painful to bear. I reject the spirits of conformity, fear, depression, rage, loneliness, sickness, lust, compromise and suicide now in the name of Jesus and I accept with all my heart, mind, and soul the sweet powerful work of the Holy Spirit of God in my life. I declare that I am made holy and righteous by your word. Let the world watch and follow me as I follow you Lord.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Song: William McDowell - Through Christ