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Suffering Makes Perfect (Hebrews 2:10)

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. (Hebrews 2:10)

I suffered this weekend. Actually, the suffering started on Tuesday and ended on Saturday. On Tuesday, I noticed that problem with my truck’s wheel–you know, the lug nuts about to come off releasing the front-left wheel into the wild. Replacing the lug studs–the bolts that you screw lug nuts onto–proved more difficult than I would have expected.

First, I had to get the axle nut off. Before this week, I had no idea what an axle nut was, but I learned. Then I realized that I didn’t have a socket, wrench, or other grabbing device large enough to fit on the axle nut. I managed to procure the proper socket. Then I pushed and pulled on the ratchet with all of my might. I tried standing on the bar. No good. Eventually, as the sun beat down on my, I thought to use my jack to turn the ratchet. Amazingly, that worked.I suffered monetarily when I bought eight new studs and nuts.

Still, my ordeal had not ended. I had to remove the old, stripped out studs. I had to get the new ones in place. None of this happened easily. All the while, the sun was hot on my back and head. Eventually, I mounted the wheel and turned those new nuts as hard as I could. I drove the truck and tightened them some more. My plan is to keep tightening them after each drive until they don’t budge. So you can see that I suffered.

But my suffering was of my own making. My suffering was well deserved. What Jesus suffered in 33 years of life and 18 hours of outright abuse, was not deserved in the least. As I sweat and fret through this life of mine, I need to remember that pioneer of my salvation. He was perfect already, before his birth, yet he was made perfect as my salvation–and yours–through his suffering. That ought to get me through my next flat tire.

 

Undercover Messiah (Hebrews 2:9)

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

Have you ever watched Undercover Boss? In this show, CEOs from big corporations disguise themselves and work in low-level jobs for a period of time, all the while being followed by a camera crew. You’d think that after the first couple of episodes of this show had been aired, the jig would be up and nobody would be able to maintain the charade. Still, week after week CEOs manage to work in convenience stores, garbage trucks, or manufacturing plants, apparently unrecognized by anyone.

This is what happened when Jesus came into this world. The ultimate CEO came into the rabble and lived his life. Of course, Jesus wasn’t followed around by video cameras, so it’s understandable that people didn’t catch on to his identity. On the TV show, the CEO reveals himself at the end, doling out rewards to his good employees and humbly sharing what he learned. It’s amazing that these people never seem to discover slacker, antisocial employees in their organizations. Jesus, of course, returned to his “executive office.” He doesn’t share any things that he learned during his undercover stint, but he certainly has some goodies for even the less-than-stellar followers.

I don’t think we can overemphasize the role change that Jesus underwent, going from Heaven to here, putting off the trappings of Deity to take on human flesh. TV’s undercover bosses do their role reversal for a week or so. Presumably they go home at night. Jesus did his reversal for 33 years, spending 24 hours a day in the land of smelly humans. While the undercover boss does his thing to boost stock prices and his own performance, Jesus did his for us: worthless, ungrateful wretches living in open defiance of the creator of the universe.

That’s a difference that will echo long, long after Undercover Boss has long since been replaced by some sappy sitcom.

 

A Distant Crown (Hebrews 2:7-8)

You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.” (Hebrews 2:7-8)

Today cannot go down as one of the most efficient uses of time in my life. Penny, Olivia, and I rose at 5:30 and headed south as quickly we could. After passing cross country to Harrisonville, we started down U.S. 71, bound for beautiful Anderson, Missouri, home of… well, pretty much nothing. However, Olivia’s friend/boyfriend/suitor/whatever lives a few miles outside of Anderson.

The Teglands occupy a house that, to the best of their discernment, used to be a two-story affair. Apparently, after a fire on the second floor, the previous owners determined not to rebuild but to chop off the charred remnants and put a new roof on their newly one-story house. There’s nothing fancy about this house. It’s clean and relatively close for four people, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing you could build in one of the swankier subdivisions around Kansas City.

Mr. Tegland is a truck driver, carrying snack cakes around the nation, while his wife homeschools their two children. Like many rural folk, their home is a work in progress with evidence of projects yet to be scattered around the house.

It is these people who have been crowned with glory and honor. It is me who has been crowned with glory and honor. Forget Donald Trump or Warren Buffet or Jimmy Buffet. They’ve grabbed for crowns themselves. They have their reward. But those of us, imperfect and awkward, who make an effort to follow the Lord have been crowned.

You can’t see my crown or those of my family. You can’t see the ones on the Teglands either. You can’t see them today, but they’re present nonetheless. My guess is that you have such a crown as well. At times you, like me, allow it to be battered and stained, but it’ll shine up nicely. There’s royalty just outside Anderson, Missouri. That’s worth the drive.

A Light in the Tunnel (Hebrews 2:5-6)

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:    “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:5-6)

This world is just no durn good. You’ve got tornados here and flooding there. People are protesting against the military and other people don’t care. The government taxes us too much and they don’t do enough for us. People are wasting far too much time watching TV and there’s nothing good on. Have I mentioned that they’re putting all sorts of chemicals in our food? I tell you, it’s a mean old world.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, I’d mention–and I guess I am mentioning–the fact that everything seems to be getting worse. Take a look around you and you’ll see topsoil washing away, jobs moving to Indonesia, and families disintegrating. Just this morning gas prices jumped by 13 cents. If that isn’t a sure sign of the final collapse of American civilization, then I’m not sure what is.

I tell you, I look at my children and my grandchildren, and I worry about what sort of a world they’ll be inheriting. I figure that by the time Uri, the youngest, is 25, the ozone will be depleted, Social Security will be a dim memory, and the K.C. Royals will still be mediocre or worse. There’s just not much hope.

If all of that rant sounds anything like you, then I have to direct your eyes, ears, and heart to to the verse above. It is not angels to whom God has subjected the world. True, but that sentence suggests that the world, the awful, disintegrating world, has been subjected to somebody. To whom?

It’s here that we break out the All-Purpose-Sunday-School Answer: “Jesus.” I have to ask myself, when I get into a despairing mood, if any world that has been made subject to Jesus is truly headed for a complete and final disaster. A disaster? Yes, but neither complete nor final. That’s the hope I’ll hang on to when times are difficult.

Such a Testimony (Hebrews 2:4)

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)

Today, I got home from hauling my fourth load of water for the day. All the way on that last trip, I’d been hearing odd sounds, sounds that worried me and made me wonder if my 1996 Dodge Ram was about to give up on me. Returning to the hill, I hooked onto the hose and started the water flowing to the cistern. At that point, I glanced back to the truck and thought fondly of it. Then I noticed something rather alarming.

My front left wheel was missing three lugnuts. The remaining five looked as if they were holding on with their last turn of threading. In short, my wheel had nearly fallen off as I drove through Oak Grove with 3,500 pounds of water in the bed. Immediately I realized that somebody–me, of course–had neglected to tighten the lugs after mounting the spare last week.

I mention this today because my wheel did not fall off. I mention it because I’m convinced that my loving God protected me from my own stupidity and carelessness. Yes, I’ll have to fuss with replacing the bolts, which had their threads nearly chewed off, but that’s immensely preferable to grinding to a halt on Broadway as my wheel rolls off to its own private destiny.

Every day, God testifies to that great salvation we have through Jesus Christ by little acts of grace punctuated by occasional big acts of grace. I’m convinced that we never know exactly how many things God arranges in our lives to shield us from harm and steer us toward blessings. While we might grumble that God doesn’t shower us with hundred-dollar bills, He does many things, some of which utterly escape our attention.

My skeptical friends would simply dismiss my precarious truck wheel as good luck. Had I driven another five miles, they’ll suggest, I’d have come to a rough stop. Perhaps, but my God knew where I lived. He knew how much vibration those lugs could endure. He knew me–and more to the point loves me.