When life sends a hard turn in a direction I am not expecting, all the cracks and flaws in my theology show up. The wheels come careening off my carefully constructed orthodoxy, leaving me in the ditch with all the prosperity gospel folks or the “Where was God?” finger pointers. When God does not “cooperate” with my vision of success or yield to my will for Him, I am slow to yield my own will to a rogue story arc that may eventually untangle itself in the passing of years . . .or not.
While I am familiar with Paul’s words about having been “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down,” somehow it always comes as a surprise to me that believers are not exempt from the usual challenges and inconveniences of life. Peter devoted an entire letter to the topic of “fiery trials,” exhorting believers to take them in stride, and yet, my feet trip over the plain truth as my brain struggles to instruct my heart. Suddenly, it is my mission to relax all the tension in the gospel, to disconnect glory from suffering, and to drag the not-yet of redemption into the right-now.
When I insist upon picking and choosing inspired words as if some might be optional, I take a seat in the Winter Room alongside King Jehoiakim. On the day he received the scroll containing Jeremiah’s scalding prophetic words, the content came highly recommended by his advisers. Unfortunately, the king was already nursing a grudge against Jeremiah . . . something about a prophecy in which Jeremiah predicted for King Jehoiakim a donkey’s funeral on the city’s garbage dump–a consequence of his slipshod spiritual leadership.
Therefore, instead of receiving the inspired Words of God with joy or in a spirit of repentance as his father King Josiah had done, Jeohoiakim sliced them up with a knife, line by line, as they were read to him and then tossed them into a fire that was burning nearby to keep the Winter Room comfortable for his royal highness. Jehoiakim did not reckon with God’s commitment to preserve His Word, nor did he comprehend that, like Jeremiah, God the Holy Spirit values the good of the reader more than He values the reader’s good opinion of Him. The king’s unwillingness to receive the truth diminished its urgency and its sway over his life not one iota.
The View from the Winter Room
The earth’s axis is slowly tilting toward the sun in these days of late winter, but here on the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere it will be a while before I can feel the effects of this seasonal shift. Even so, I will not sit with Jehoiakim in the Winter Room, filleting Truth for my own comfort and employing every available defense mechanism against the parts I’d rather not accept.
Sitting in the Winter Room, truth becomes less important than self-justification. The view from the Winter Room is small and limited, and suddenly the sovereignty of God is not a comfort but, rather, a threat to be managed as eyes dart frantically in every direction for a way around the revealed will of God.
Leaving my chair in the Winter Room, I have found two undeniable truths about God’s written Word:
Better to be burned by its searing statements about reality than to dismember it in dangerous denial;
Better to embrace the fiery words and reckon with their truth than to sit in the Winter Room, warming myself before a small fire kindled by my own willfulness.
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