I have a couple of comments that I would like to make about my blog last week, first of all, a correction and then an insight. First the correction – I mentioned last week that I sat on the chair that collapsed at the 90th celebration when in actuality it was at a wedding reception that took place in our church’s basement with 180 people present in November. Something that Tracy said to me reminded me that it was the wedding reception and not the 90th anniversary. Secondly, I was speaking about being the chosen one on the occasion of a jellyfish sting which occurred while I was snorkeling in the bio luminous bay in Puerto Rico. I’d like to suggest to you in this blog the possibility that that jellyfish sting (actually I was stung twice) was way more than a matter of chance and more likely an occasion of discipline.
Let me explain – that Wednesday was a difficult day as we had driven to the location for the bio bay tour which was about 2 ½ hours away from the resort where we were staying. When we got to the VRBO rental unit where we were supposed to spend the night, we found that the house was not part of the VRBO program and was rather a private residence. I was then first told by the VRBO agent that VRBO would cover the cost of wherever we found to stay and then when I was given the conflict resolution person, I was told that VRBO would not find us another place, nor would they be responsible for housing us for the night. By that time, we had already pivoted and found a place where we could spend the night much closer to where our cruise was leaving from and less expensive. We saw very clearly the hand of God in making provision for us in working out the details (instead of sleeping in our car), but this was still very aggravating and upsetting to have been misled about where we would be staying and then secondly to be misled by the VRBO agents.
We ended up having enough time to get some dinner and then we proceeded to the place where our cruise would be leaving from. When we arrived at the cruise place, I noticed a message on my cell phone from Embassy Manor where my mother is now residing. I had left them emergency contact numbers for my daughters in case there was an emergency, so seeing the number on my phone was very unsettling. I called back the number and extension and the woman stated she was calling to begin the application process for mom to go on Medicaid. Now I had already had the conversation with Embassy Manor that my mother was not eligible for Medicaid at this time, so please understand the context of my response to this woman. I was very rude and short in telling her that she had no right to be bothering me while away on vacation for such a stupid reason. I guess she hadn’t gotten the memo. Continuing the theme of annoying events from that day I promptly hung up and felt proud of myself for being so obnoxious. My wife Deb, who had heard the whole conversation, immediately called me out on my rudeness. She stated, “You were very rude and inappropriate to that lady,” to which I explained to her the stupidity of the call as the reason for my response. She then spoke (I believe under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) and said, “So what happens someday if that lady shows up at our church and finds out you’re the pastor? How do you think she would feel about sitting under your ministry?” OUCH!
The Word teaches us that God disciplines His children. In fact, we read in the book of Hebrews, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful (two jellyfish stings were certainly very painful). Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,” (Heb.12:7-8,11 NIV). Can I suggest to you that being stung by a jellyfish was more a matter of discipline than chance. Humm, quite a thought to consider.
Am I suggesting to you that there are consequences for our sin and God uses those consequences to discipline us? That’s exactly what I’m suggesting and using myself as an example. We know that not all suffering has its source in human sin, but we also must acknowledge that much suffering is in fact the consequences of known and willful sin. When the woman called me back on Monday morning at the business office at Embassy Manor and stated that she heard that the conversation last week didn’t go very well with her associate I immediately extended my humblest apology to the person that I had been so rude to. I, in fact, told her boss that I believe I was stung by a jellyfish while snorkeling because of my rudeness to her employee. Do I know for sure that’s why it happened? No, not for sure, but I believe Debbie’s warning was a prelude to the discipline God had in store for me that evening.
My experience leaves me wondering how many times in our spiritual journey we experience suffering that is the direct result of our inappropriate response to life circumstances. I wonder when bad things happen in our lives, do we take the time to contemplate and consider what God wants to speak into our hearts and lives through the challenge or difficulty? Each month during communion I read a passage of Scripture and challenge people to consider the issue of sin in their lives. The passage reads, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread or drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judge ourselves, we would not come under judgment,” (1 Cor.11:27-31 NIV). Paul is actually stating that some in the Corinthian congregation had not only become sick because of their treatment of one another, but some had actually died. I don’t believe that when Paul refers to the body of Christ here he is referring to the bread and the juice, but rather the body of Christ that is composed of all those who are presently believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. If this is true, then Paul is saying that how we treat one another and our attitude towards others is profoundly important, especially as it relates to our own health and strength. I would like to consider this thought further in our next study, as I see a great challenge to deal with one another in honesty and integrity as it relates to this theme of suffering as a source of discipline in our lives. Until we meet again, make sure that you are connecting daily with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word and through prayer.
All for Christ,
Pastor Rich Sivo