Church Matters

By Alex Russon / April 22, 2024

1 Samuel 4 : 12 – 22

This week’s sermon from the Old Testament detailed the seizure by enemies of the ark of the covenant, a physical construct which the people of the age looked to as holy. The ark was whipped from under the Israelites’ noses and left them believing God had left them, abandoned them. After years wandering in the wilderness behind the leadership of Moses and then Eli, believing they were on their way to a promised land, they now felt they’d reached a cul-de-sac or cliff edge instead. Certainly they’d reached a spiritual wilderness and now thought there was no future, the game was a bogey.

We might feel the same as a nation perhaps, that the culture has changed so massively in recent decades that we wonder quite where God is in all of this. Society has jettisoned him in large part, departed from him, gone its own way to leave a vacuum of despair as far as many are concerned, a nation somewhat bereft of genuine identity and moral fibre.

And on a micro level, at times in our lives we feel it’s all over too, our situation so devastating that all the lights seem to have gone out, we find ourselves in utter darkness. We might reckon we’ve been doing the right things, living life on the square, harming no-one and generally minding our own business when wallop, we’re knocked off our feet, floored. At these times do we stick two fingers up to God and turn our backs on him? Does he get the blame as we stomp off in the opposite direction?

Well that’s not advisable because then we really are in darkness. Neither is being half hearted in our ‘belief’ advisable, being sedentary and passive isn’t going to cut it. Complacency can be as harmful as rebellion at times, when stagnation sets in we can become all but passengers in our own lives, looking on from the sidelines instead of taking our lives by the scruff of the neck with eagerness and enthusiasm. There comes a crunch time when we need to act, engage, go forward. And we must do this with God in the centre, with us turning to him not running away from him. He didn’t promise us a rose garden, but he did promise us he’d be with us always, through thick and thin.

Middle and old age can find us beaten, tired, listless. We no longer strive or seek but rather, sit and stew. Rise up! There’s plenty life in you yet, opportunities abound if we’ll open our eyes to them; new days, new friendships, new life. Physical restriction may be a fact of life to some of us if we’ve suffered illness or injury but even then, psychological flexing remains open to us, mental agility, a stimulation of the mind that can still give us a zest for life.

God is not stumped by the failings of his people, he’s not left scratching his head to work out a plan B if we feel life’s dealt us a bad hand. He’s omnipresent, he’s above time, he sees your future and it remains positive if you invite him in day by day and yield to his will. Given the opportunity, he rules over us, directs our paths, gives us guidance and mercy.

In the bible passage Eli becomes weak, complacent, stagnant and ‘heavy’. He suffers a progressive blindness to God and in the end perishes. He takes his eye off the ball, takes his eyes off God, loses his way. God’s hope for us is that we don’t let this happen, we stay focused on him, embrace and welcome him, live the fulfilling life he wills for us through his holy spirit and enjoy him eternally. It’s not difficult, we need only open our hearts to him, pray, read his Word and let him enter him. Let’s not plod through our lives, bloated and wearisome, let’s truly live instead.