Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two Words of Encouragement

People commonly attempt to encourage by extolling our great possibilities because of our great potential and the virtues of all that we can do, which is a good thing.  But sometimes I’m better built up by remembering how very little I actually need to do.

To illustrate, consider two of my favorite words:  “Rahab lied.”  There you go.  How does that make you feel?  Off the charts with encouragement?  Over the moon? 

Well, think about it.  Rahab, the hooker, is on the short list of the Biblical Hall of Fame, found in Hebrews 11.  Maybe you know who is in the Hall of Fame:  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses (“Let my people go!”), Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel.  If you’re aware of the story of their lives, then you know that they had weaknesses, but that didn’t stop God with them at all.  He did great and miraculous things with each of them.

What was Rahab’s signature moment that boosted her into God’s Hall of Fame?  She lied!  Joshua, king of Israel, sent spies into Jericho to see how things looked just over the hill.  However, the king of Jericho found out about the Israelite spies, and sent some of his soldiers directly to the one person’s house that would know about any men who were new to the community.  Who was that?  The town prostitute.  Of course.  She’d know.

What did our little Hall of Famer do?  Having hidden the spies on her roof under the camouflage of some branches—certainly no one would think to look up there—she cooked up a story.  A fabrication.  You know—a lie!  “Um, yeah, the strangers came to my home, but I didn’t know who they were.  And they left just before dark.  I don’t know where they went, but if you hurry, you can probably catch ‘em.”

And there it is, Rahab’s Hall of Fame moment.  Woo-hoo!  Congratulations.  Well done, girl.  Gimme five!  Confetti everywhere.

Yes, Rahab believed that the true God had sent the people who were on their way to Jericho and whose spies were hunkered down on her rooftop.  That was as much as she had.  On the strength of that, did she go out and evangelize the neighborhood to prepare for their coming?  No.  Did she pass out flyers inviting them to a potluck?  No.  Did she spend time in anguished prayer?  No.  Did she get rid of everything unclean and non-Jewish in her house before the people of God came for their visit, I mean, their invasion?  No.  Did she spend time in worship, or did she reach out to the poor and needy to earn favor with God before the invasion came?  No.  Rahab lied.  Nothing else. 

Why do I tell you this?  Because much of our fretting and worrying is over how seemingly meager our service or sacrifice for God is when looking over our past—that it all fails to amount to anything significant.  We remember great motivational sermons to do great things for God that drew from us great pledges of great commitment to great adventures of service to our great God.  It felt GREAT when we did it. But the years since have not revealed greatness.

Confronted by failed greatness, maybe we’ve closed off just a bit on the inside.  Maybe we’ve sort of turned off the lights in our heart, and we’re quietly disillusioned with ourselves.  “Greatness is for someone, but not me,“ we might think.  “What have I ever done that really matters to God?”

So, to answer that question, I have one for you:  What did Rahab do to get into God’s Hall of Fame?  On the count of three, what did Rahab do?  1, 2, 3:  “Rahab lied.”  She is the brilliant epitome of mustard seed faith; the tiniest little seed of faith in God, clumsily planted, and the mountain that was Jericho began to move.  Wow.

In our day we’re so caught up with doing things right that we miss, sometimes entirely, what God holds dear and values, which would set us free from much of the fear that plagues us.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the fearfully perfectionistic, rule-enamored Galatians: 

Galatians 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit (In other words, ‘Did you get God”) by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? . . . 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law (because you do things right), or because you believe what you heard?  (Parentheses mine.)

We know the answer.  If you were to scan the great and worthy days of my life in order to figure out my lineage, my relatives, I know you’d find that Rahab types figured prominently.

God measures in ways far better than we know.  I can’t imagine that Rahab thought much of her lie that night, but God did.  You may rest today, knowing that on the day you meet Jesus face to face on the other side, you will receive a rich inheritance that is imperishable, un-spoiled and fadeless, kept for you by your Father, who is pleased with His Son, who provided it all for you.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Two Words of Encouragement”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click

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