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Where do you find comfort? Distraction? Netflix serves up a seemingly endless supply of that. More data? Every day there’s a new study warning of this or that danger related to the pandemic, or brain eating amoebas. Politics? Well there was a food fight on national TV the other night, a Supreme Court vacancy, and a president fallen ill. Booze? The end of the bottle will come sooner or later. Where is your comfort?
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
These sixteen precious words are a sweet balm to the soul of the saint. In these words we see a gentleness and encouragement unrivaled; no other work of literature could, in so few words, offer encouragement so great. So, let us treasure these words, and make of them, as Spurgeon would say, a song which we might sing in the night. Indeed, this earthly sojourn must often traverse sorrowful, difficult, and dark paths. When all the lights goes out, will you (even with a faltering voice) have a song to sing? You must.
Sunday morning at church, the truth of God’s comfort is clear and your senses are not confounded. We often describe it as that summer camp high, where you’re ready to take on the world. But there will come a day of testing in the not too distant future which will assail you and buffet you for all you’re worth. In that day, the mettle of the saint is tested, and may it be said that when all around your soul gives way, Christ remains your hope and stay. Even though all the natural realm might imply that He has forsaken you, the saint clings to precious promises such as this one.
If I might, I will indulge for a moment in two stories from Narnia. First, remember what Aslan once said to Jill Pole, after he had given her signs to follow in order that she might fulfill the mission he had assigned her: “Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”
Second example, in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is exhausted after many long adventures, his companions are incapacitated, and yet they still have an errand to complete. So, despite his burning lungs, tired legs, and dizzied mind he is pointed in the direction of the King he needs to warn of the coming enemy army. Lewis leaves us this wonderful insight in the narrative: “If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”
SIXTEEN WORDS OF COMFORT
I want to make four observations on these sixteen simple words of comfort. First, our Savior simply says, “fear not.” He implies that there will be causes for fear, worry, and anxiety. But rather than saying, “yep, all hope is lost, you may as well despair,” He buoys us with two simple words: “fear not.” He does not qualify this statement and say that it is only for certain times or circumstances. He exhorts us to never fear. This is a precious hope.
Secondly, he says, “Fear not, little flock.” Couldn’t he have encouraged us more if he had said, “Fear not rippling muscled army!” Or, “Fear not, brave and gallant troop!” Or, “Fear not, you that are more than conquerors!” Indeed, all those statements are, to a certain extent, true. Nevertheless, Christ calls forth an intimate image of a little flock of dumb, foolish, needy, prone-to-wander sheep. He gives us three pictures of God’s character in this verse, so that the saint might stand firm in the midst of difficulty. This is the first image He paints for us, one of a tender shepherd watching over a little flock. A little flock is easier for wolves to prey upon, therefore this little flock ought to stay near to its Shepherd.
Third, He tells us that it is “your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” So, not only is He to us a Shepherd, but He gives an even more human, intimate and loving picture of a Father who delights to give what His child needs. He shows us that our Father is a gentle, loving Father, interested in providing for our every need. We need only ask, trust, wait and live in the knowledge that He will always make sure that we are protected, nourished, loved, and free to grow to full maturity.
Fourth, notice that Christ tells us that this loving Father delights to give. We must not muddle the nature of God our Father, with the often tainted image of our earthly fathers. He is not begrudging in what He designs to give, He is lavish, generous, and, above all, jubilant in offering unto us that which we most desperately need! He doesn’t say, “it is your Father’s obligation, job, duty, or malignant hatred to give you the kingdom.”
One unfortunate thing that can happen as we study theology, is that our systematic theology becomes to overgrow our biblical theology. Notice that as Jesus is teaching us and comforting us, we are not given syllogisms, or theology to the fifth decimal point. He gives us pictures. We can begin to think of God as blocks of attributes stacked and assembled. But if we are doing systematic theology correctly, we should know that God is simple, not made of parts. Further, we should start from these Scriptural images that are given and revealed, and move forward from there to fill in the blanks of our understanding of systematic theology.
Jesus, here, gives us a threefold portrait of our God’s character: tender Shepherd, loving Father, good and generous King. He could have chosen other imagery more grand, powerful, large, or intimidating. It could have read, “Tremble, my pathetic minions, for it is your imperial, ruthless, high-Potentate’s dastardly will to give you the stale crumbs from His table.”
Instead, He chose to show us that He is a Shepherd who gently guides His own, a loving Father who delights to provide for our every need, and a generous King who provides us with the leadership, resource, and protection we need.
HE GIVES A KINGDOM
What is it though, which is God’s good pleasure to give us? He is delighted to give us a Kingdom.
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like leaven which a woman works into a lump of dough, and that leaven gets into the whole lump (Mt. 13:33).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a father running to meet a prodigal and rebellious son, embracing him, clothing him, putting a ring upon his finger and killing the fatted calf and that same father once more going outside to remind an older brother that everything the father has is his (Luke 15:20).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a man sowing good seed, but his enemy sowed tares in the same field, but in the end the tares were destroyed and the good corn was saved (Mt. 13:24).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a mustard seed, that though it may be small it turns into a mighty tree (Mt. 13:31).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a merchant seeking goodly pearls, who when he finds a most precious of pearls sells all he has to buy that one pearl (Mt. 13:45-46).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a net that when hauled in the good will be saved and the bad will be cast away (Mt. 13:47).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a householder looking for laborers for his vineyard, and at the end of the day He rewarded them all with more than they deserved (Mt. 20:1).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a king inviting guests to his son’s marriage supper (Mt. 22:2).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a master entrusting his estate to his servants and recompensing them according to the faithfulness of their stewardship upon his return (Mt. 25:14).
He wants to give us a kingdom that is like a treasure hid in a field, which a man, for joy thereof, sells everything he has to buy that field (Mt. 13:44).
He wants to give us a kingdom whose builder and architect is God, and which cannot be moved (Heb. 11:10, 12:28).
He wants to give us a kingdom whose very light source is the glory of Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:23).
So indeed, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Stand upon these sixteen precious words. Rehearse them in the good seasons, when the sun is brightly shining, so that when the blackest of midnights surrounds you, and the wind and storms beat upon your life, and the howls of the fiends of night are swirling in the air, you might cling fast to the unchanging nature, and therefore the trustworthy promise of our Shepherd, Father, and King!
So I close with the question I started with. What is your comfort? Stock markets fail you. Presidents and Supreme Court Justices will fail you. The Netflix binge will leave you bleary eyed. The needle and the bottle will not ease your fears. Your only comfort and hope, in life and in death, is Christ.