Never Forget

Kendra Miller, ND
Kendra Miller, ND

In the final scenes of The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta peer into the countryside from the train that returns them to their district. Peeta asks Katniss, “What do we do now?” She replies, “I guess we try to forget.” Peeta and Katniss have literally had to fight for their lives and have discovered love in the process. Their experience has been incredibly tough, one that wasn’t asked for but chosen for them by lottery. Peeta responds: “But I don’t want to forget.”

I watched that scene and instantly noticed the parallels. I’ve had tough times and we all do. Let me share some points this scene rehearses for me.

  • Never forget the days that humble you. In fact, they’re unforgettable because they’re often full of pain that grinds us down in positive ways we don’t realize until months and years later. We shouldn’t forget these periods because God, in his providence, oftentimes orders our steps through these places, always with a purpose and providing for our safety. We must embrace these tough times for the spiritual training they provide and certainly as grace afforded us. I’ve learned to thank God for the hard times in my life. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything now because I’ve gained too much from them.
  • Hard times should prove the good in us. They should be a constant reflection to us of how well-equipped we are for our challenge; of our spiritual strength and progress, although our knees may buckle at times. Our perspective should also change: God doesn’t send us through a wilderness to be conquered. If anything is to be lost, then the course is designed to necessarily relieve us of excesses and encumbrances impeding of God’s purpose in us, for which we always need refinement. In the end, God wants to make a show of us to us.
  • Pain produces shared intimacy that can otherwise never be known. People who experience incredible hardships or disasters together are often knit heart-to-heart forever thereafter. This is why Peeta says what he does. Their lives were at stake and they had to trust one another in the most ultimate way. They learned things about themselves and each other and had to use it to survive. The situation was serious; there was no playing around, not even with words. Our relationship with God is the same. Those who rely on God through their toughest times gain an intimacy with him others who neglect him cannot know. People often desire the spiritual connection they perceive in some. But it won’t be acquired apart from walking with God wherever he leads—and that includes through tough times.

The chorus of Colton Dixon’s beautiful song “Through All of It” says:

“I have won and I have lost,/ I got it right sometimes,/ But sometimes I did not./ Life’s been a journey;/ I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret./ O! And you have been my God through all of it.”

The Preacher and His Preaching

Kent Kanouse, NC
Kent Kanouse, NC

A sage old professor of mine would sometimes say, “God can strike a mighty blow with a crooked stick.” The saying is a rendering of a medieval adage, and it has never left me since hearing it. The apostle Paul explores the notion in his epistle to the Philippians.

As he explains to them that his imprisonment is due to his advancement of the gospel, he draws attention to other preachers who in his absence are attempting to sway the masses with their interpretation of the gospel.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (Ph. 1:15-17)

We don’t know these preachers’ agenda; however, we can make a strong case for Judaizers who leaped at the chance to debunk Paul’s preaching now that he was bound and unable to evangelize, shepherd the congregation, and, importantly, oppose them. If you’ll remember, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that “savage wolves” would appear and devour the flock—“even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

These particular Macedonian ministers were much closer to orthodoxy than those John and Jude warned their readers about. Yet their motives were still impure and far from the heart of the gospel. From the little we can deduce in Paul’s words, their purpose didn’t lie in the exaltation of Christ, spiritual transformation, and the care of the soul with grace and godly love. Instead, they were in it for control, indoctrination, and whatever other self-centered, contentious reasons that figure in Paul’s description “envy and rivalry.”

The Diamond in the Ruff

Paul then says something truly remarkable: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (v. 18).

Geraint Rowland, NC
Geraint Rowland, NC

Given the crooked hearts and devious purposes of these preachers, Paul suggests that there is more than enough gospel and truth about Christ to be learned by their preaching. It was sufficient for those who didn’t know Christ and those needing edification; and, to Paul, this is a splendid thing. God was not limited by the moral character of these persons, but rather served his own purposes with them. In fact, if necessary, he could save one by their preaching and raise him up to condemn their ungodliness!

It should give many of us pause when we chance to pass a vote on a preacher in the cause of Christ that we feel is serving his or her own purposes more than the Lord’s. Something may be wrong about them, but we should nevertheless rejoice that people are hearing the Word of God. Further, we should be responsible and spiritually perceptive enough to pray for the many these ministers lead and influence, that their eyes be fixed on Christ; that God would align that leader’s heart with his own; and that we might see more clearly where we may have only judged incorrectly.