It seems that God has a double standard. He treats some of His children far worse than others.
How badly God treated John the Baptist! The Holy Spirit compelled him to live in the desert, wearing rags and eating nothing but locusts and wild honey. When John obeyed God and preached righteousness without respect of persons, God allowed him to be seized by Herod's soldiers, imprisoned, and eventually executed.
How badly God treated Paul! Paul tells in 2 Corinthians 11:23-32 of how he was repeatedly whipped, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, betrayed, deprived of food, water, sleep, and clothing. What man in his right mind would continue under such circumstances?
How badly God treated Jesus! At one point He was sent out into the desert with nothing to eat or drink for 40 days. He was constantly on the move, both to share His message and to escape His enemies. Jesus had virtually no possessions and no place to call home, for His own home town rejected Him. When He died, He left not even a single piece of clothing, save for His loincloth. What a lousy life!
God did not merely treat them badly, He also added insult to injury. For those very same individuals He treated so harshly, He sent to bring healing and blessing to filthy sinners who were entirely undeserving, who indulged in ugly sins of perversity, immorality and idolatry.
How could God be so unfair? Why is He most stingy with those who serve Him most faithfully? Jesus' parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) addresses precisely this situation. The elder son served his father faithfully year by year, while the younger son went away and squandered his inheritance. When the irresponsible younger son returns empty-handed, the father throws him a party. The elder son finds this too much to bear, and complains loudly and bitterly. His father's answer seems like a lame excuse: "My son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours." (verse 31) If this really were so, then why didn't the father ever throw a party for the older son?
But John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus did not complain over their hardships. They understood the deep significance of the Father's answer: "My son, I am always with you, and all that I have is yours". Now what does "all that I have" refer to? Not worldly riches or possessions or power or fame, for these things have been misappropriated by Satan, and now lie under Satan's dominion. What the Father shared with them was far more precious: namely His own presence, His own nature, His own heart which He placed within them by the gift of His Holy Spirit.
People of the world despise the Father's gift. To them, the Holy Spirit is for drunken idiots or madmen. They see God's promise as empty wind. But to those whose hearts have been opened, the Spirit is the wellspring of life, joy, creativity and intelligence.
Ancient Greek myths tell of the "nectar of the gods". One sip of this heavenly nectar, and for the rest of his life the partaker became consumed with the desire for more. Now the Holy Spirit is no myth, it is the true nectar of God. To those who have truly tasted of the Holy Spirit, all of the world's valuable treasures become tasteless as gravel.
King David knew the joy of God's imminent presence through the Holy Spirit, for he wrote: "In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11), and "One day in Thy courts is better than a thousand" (Psalm 84:10). So when David sinned, his greatest fear was not that God would take away his life, status, or possessions, but that He would withdraw His Holy Spirit. This is why David cried out in anguish, "Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11) .
God indeed does have a different standard for those who hearts have been knitted with His, for He counts them worthy to follow Jesus on the road to Calvary. Though the worldly may see them as cursed and afflicted (as they saw Jesus), in truth they are the recipients of a far greater blessing than this world can begin to comprehend.
Father, You revealed Your love
for us by sending Your Son to die for us (1 John 4:10). We have heard
the Good News and can believe the love that You hold for us--but this is
not enough for us. If we believe in Your love without tasting
for ourselves, then we are still far from You. Please pour out Your
love into our hearts through Your Holy Spirit(Romans 5:5). Make your
presence known within us, make our bodies the dwelling-place of Your Spirit.
Only then will we be able to pray as David did: "Whom have I in heaven
but You? And there is none upon earth I desire besides You" (Psalm 73:15).
Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: October 20, 2000
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