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I have been into C.S. Lewis as of late, “The Screwtape Letters”, especially. If you are not familiar, the old and cagy demon Screwtape is mentoring his inexperienced nephew, the demon Wormwood. Screwtape’s letters of advice concern how to best secure the damnation of the young man assigned to Wormwood by Satan. So, it reads backwards. God is the Enemy throughout. I read somewhere that Lewis had little joy in writing the book. It was not fun thinking like Satan, the whole experience a dark and dreary affair. We were not to expect a sequel from him and we did not get one.
In one of his letters to his prodigy, Uncle Screwtape writes of an observation he made regarding the way the Enemy [God] uses tough times in His children’s lives:
“It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it [the Christian] is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best…. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
When a follower of Jesus “still obeys” when God feels distant and there seems to be no point, that is a mark of a maturing Christian. To please God when you believe Him absent is a good sign your sanctification is moving forward. It is easier to trust and obey when the sun is out, you are sipping lemonade, and your feet are dangling in the pool. “My, Jesus is good”, you say to yourself as you raise your glass and take another drink.
But we are talking about obedience when the sun hasn’t been out for months, you’re drinking straight lemons, and your feet are blistered and worn. That is what we are talking about, the kind of obedience pleasing to God that is exhibited by the maturing saint.
What are you drinking these days? I know lemonade tastes better. We would choose that. Obedience as we sip from that cup is still good. But when straight lemons are all we have in our glass and we still obey, that is when our sanctification is catching up with our justification. That is when what we are becoming is more in line with what God has already declared of us.
Believer, we are holy because of the accomplished work of Jesus. That is our justification. When we are still obedient when God seems elsewhere, God is pleased, the devil is frustrated, and we are becoming more like our Savior. That is our sanctification.
So, pucker up and obey to the glory of God.
Pastor Rich Hamlin
March 18, 2021