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“Life is Hard, We’re Not Helping”

October 07, 2012
Job 1:1; 2:1-10 Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 Mark 10:2-16

John Wayne once famously said, “Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid.” Life is hard, but if you listen to the voices in our culture, in advertising, and elsewhere in the media today you would think that you have it in your power to transform your life in defiance of the economy, politics, fate, destiny or any other opposition that you might encounter. There are several schools of thought that teach various sorts of positive thinking, that if you will just think the right thoughts, if you will just envision the right outcomes, that if you will just fill your self with positive energy, or some other metaphysical claptrap, then the world will bend over backwards to pave the way for your success. Hogwash. The reality is that sometimes your company lays off employees in a bad economy and if you have the least seniority, your head is already in the noose. The reality is that if your boss was just told by her boss to cut expenses by 20 percent, there isn’t much chance of her giving you a raise no matter how positive your “aura” is. McDonald’s can tell you all they want that “You deserve a break today,” but if you’re broke and you’re worried about finding the money to pay the rent, maybe you really don’t deserve a break, or at least you can’t afford one, even if you do deserve it. The reality is that sometimes, even though you didn’t do anything wrong, your wife or your husband runs off with tart down the street and there’s nothing you can do about it but clean up the mess. The reality is that sometimes we lose people we love and no amount of positive energy or mystical energy or anything else is going to bring them back. It isn’t a message that we expect in church. We often come here expecting to hear messages of good news and help and hope, and we will get to that eventually… sort of. We don’t like to think about it, in fact, we often do our very best to ignore it but, the reality is… life is hard. Sometimes life just stinks… …and no amount of positive thinking is going to help you. In the story of Job we meet a man who even God declares to be blameless among men, a man who has done nothing wrong, and Job suffers one horrible tragedy after another, financial, personal and spiritual and all his wife can say to him is that he should give up his integrity, curse God and die. Job, however, has a different view… (Job 1:1; 2:110) In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
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Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” 1

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“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
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The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

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So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
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His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

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Job did nothing wrong but lost everything, his fortune, his children, his standing in the community, his health and in the end, even his wife tells him that he is better off dead but that isn’t the end. Job refuses to give up. Job refuses to give in. Job refuses to surrender to despair. Job refuses to accuse God of wrongdoing and he refuses to blame God for his trouble. Instead, Job says, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In effect, Job is saying, ‘Sometimes life just stinks. Deal with it.’ It isn’t fun when life stinks. We struggle when life is hard, but instead of making it all better, Jesus adds another layer to our problem. In Mark 10:2-16, we discover that sometimes our actions make a hard life even worse…
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Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

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“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
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When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
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People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. The Law of Moses said that divorce was acceptable and the Pharisees argued among themselves over what sorts of things were acceptable reasons for divorcing your wife. Some said that burnt toast was a sufficient reason to throw your wife out of the house but others had higher standards. By asking Jesus this question they hoped to pigeon–hole him and trap him between the different factions of their group, but Jesus does the unexpected. Instead of choosing sides, Jesus claims territory even more radical than any of them could have possibly imagined. Jesus says that Moses was wrong and that divorce, of any kind, is wrong. Divorce, Jesus says, only exists because human beings are weak. Even worse, when his disciples question about it, Jesus says that remarriage after a divorce is adultery. 2

Jesus’ thinking is that divorce is not a part of God’s plan. Divorce hurts people. Divorce hurts the people whose marriage breaks up, it hurts their children, it hurts the people around them, it hurts their society, and it hurts their relationship with God. Jesus says that divorce doesn’t exist because God accepts it; divorce exists because human beings fail to live up to his standards. Divorce, no matter what the reason, is less than what God wants. Life is hard and Jesus tells us that sometimes our own stubbornness, our own weakness, our own hardheartedness, our own sin, often makes a hard life even worse. Now I can hear you thinking, “Great. I thought Jesus was supposed to make my life better and here is the pastor telling me that life stinks and it’s all my fault.” Well, not exactly… because Jesus didn’t stop there. Jesus finishes this teaching by talking about children. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Have you ever given a gift to a four-year old? They love gifts. They gladly accept gifts… without conditions. Too often, as adults, someone tries to give us a gift and we meet them with suspicion. We want to place conditions on the gift, we want to be given a list of assurances, we want to sign a ‘gift-giving pre-nuptial agreement’ but Jesus says that we need to receive God’s gift differently. To enter the kingdom of heaven we need to drop all of our hesitation and suspicion and… just… accept… the gift. We need to get out of our own way. We must receive God’s gift the way that a little child would receive it, with joy, with gratitude, with an open heart, and little else. The next piece of good news in our discussion of how badly life stinks is found in Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12, here we are reminded that as badly as life may treat us, we are not alone… In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
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It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? 7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor 8 and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
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In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, 3

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” We are reminded that God sent his Son, Jesus, so that we might be purified and forgiven of our sins. Yes, we make mistakes. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that for reasons that we cannot understand or imagine, God cares about us. Yes, we sin. Yes, our stubbornness and hard heartedness often make our hard life harder. But even so, Jesus stands ready to forgive. Yes, we get hurt. Yes, our actions hurt those we love and the people around us, but even so, Jesus stands ready to bring healing and hope. God loves us so much that he suffered and died in order to make us perfect. God loves us so much that he has adopted us into his perfect family. God loves us so much that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. John Wayne said, “Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid.” Jesus said, ‘Life is hard. Sin makes it harder.’ Yes, life is hard. Yes, life sometimes stinks. Yes, sometimes our best efforts only make things worse. The good news is that someone cares. God cares. We have been adopted by the King of the Universe. We are brothers and sisters of the Ruler of all Creation. Life is hard… …but it’s going to get better… …a lot better.

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You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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