Love Like Wine

  • Dec. 26, 2016
  • #9041

Fellowship with Jesus involves suffering. We trust Him with our suffering, because He suffered on the cross for us.

Love Like Wine

Hi, I’m, Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to "Joni and Friends".

Thank you for sharing these few minutes with me — and I want to thank my good friends here at the station for giving me this opportunity to spend time with you. As you know, I love taking these few minutes we have to share stories, stories of people with disabilities that have inspired and impressed me. And I share them in hopes their stories will encourage you, too.

Here is one such story: I’ll never forget a conversation I had many, many years ago with a stressed-out firefighter. I sat across from him in the diner where we met and talked about my friendship with Christ. I told him: “Sir, Jesus is my friend. He’s been there before and He understands what I’m going through now.” The fireman looked at me straight in the eyes. This was one angry guy. “So he understands,” he grumbled. “Big deal! What good does that do me?” He bristled when he said that and then he raised his arms out from under the table. His rolled-up sleeves revealed the smooth ends of two stumps where his hands should have been. “Burned them off in a blaze,” he said. “At first I was everybody’s hero, but who can use a fireman with no hands? I lost my job.”

I was taken aback. I was fresh out of the hospital and certainly no expert on the Bible. I answered as honestly as I knew how. I said to this man who, at this point, was staring at his plate, I said, “Sir, I don't know all the answers. But I do know the One who has the answers and knowing him makes all the difference.” I then shocked myself by saying, for the first time since the accident in which I had broken my neck; I said, “I’d rather be in this chair knowing Jesus than on my feet without him.”

God used that simple, fresh-and-honest statement to break through that fireman’s crusty, calloused heart. The fact is the fireman didn’t need a bunch of words. He needed the Word. The Word made flesh, gouged, nails piercing wrists nearly ripping off hands. Spat upon, beaten bloody, buzzing flies and hammering hatred. These aren’t merely facts about Jesus. This (as Thomas Merton has said) is love poured out like wine as strong as fire. In that diner, the fireman stopped thinking of God as a meditating mystic on a far away mountain. He stopped thinking of God as a theological entity talked about in academic circles. That day, he realized God got messy when he smeared his blood on a cross to save people from hell-fire. The idea of fire held a strange appeal for this man who had injured himself rescuing others from the flames.

The invitation to know God — really know him — is always an invitation to suffer. His invitation has dried blood written on it, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.” The supreme reason why the fireman could trust God with his suffering is found at the cross. That Jesus would endure the full fury of hell-fire so that you and I might escape it should say something to us as we face our own hellish circumstances.

God didn’t strip off the veneer of our sin, He entered it. Like a fireman who enters a burning building to hand a baby out the window just in the nick of time and loses not just his hands, but his life when the building collapses. Thankfully, Christ’s sacrifice didn’t end under a gravestone. If I’m to be held steady in the midst of my suffering, I want to be held not by a doctrine or a cause, but by the most powerful person in the universe who conquered death. I want to be held the way God holds that fireman with no hands.

*Previously aired as #8000 on 12/28/12

© Joni and Friends

 

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