1 John 4:1-11
A couple weeks back I posted a meme on the Spirit of Hope Facebook page about not believing the non-Biblical and trite sayings about God. The specific one was the one where we hear God will never give us more than we can handle. That can sound very reassuring until we run into something that is more than we can handle. The danger of that kind of saying is what are we to do once we’ve collapsed under the weight of the situation that is beyond our strength to carry? Hate God because God gave us something more than we can handle.
No, not at all. What we do instead is some research and some investigation into trite sayings or as John is telling us in the first verse of today’s reading, “1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” When we hear those Biblely sounding phrases and memes we need to be careful and not believe all of them. That’s not always easy to not believe things that are phrased to sound believable. There’s an entire industry around this sort of thing. Like how horoscopes and fortune cookies work. They sound believable but that doesn’t make them true.
I saw something the other day about dragonflies having a second set of wings to carry angels on their backs. It went on to say that if you see a dragonfly someone is sending you a message from heaven. If a dragonfly makes you think of a loved one that has died and you feel touched by that, that’s fine. But this is the kind of made up stuff that can really distract us from something that is symbolically believable and something that’s actually God’s truth. And really, angels need a dragonfly to haul them around? Please…
When it comes to God not giving us more than we can handle, how do we know that’s not Biblically accurate? This is where that research I mentioned early comes into play. If you open up your handy dandy Bible app and start searching for oh, say, “crushed’ you might find 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, “8 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[a] of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us.” Clearly, God doesn’t heap things on us to crush the life out of us but when life is happening like it does, threatening to crush the life out of us, God will be there. With God present, rather than relying on our own strength, we then turn to God. And God has the strength to get us through the trials and tribulations of life.
If you don’t have a handy dandy Bible app available, get what’s called a Bible concordance. Someone has gone through the Bible and found all the words used and mapped them out. It’s like looking up a word in the dictionary but instead of the definition you get all the chapters and verses where the word shows up.
God wants us to rely on God’s strength but these false prophets that come up with these believable but Biblically false sayings want the opposite from us. They want us to rely on our own strength so that when the life is crushed out of us, we then blame and hate God for our misfortune. That is really the spirit of the antichrist that John is talking about. The antichrist isn’t a person who shows up to take over the world. It’s a subtle kind of false teaching that brings false hope, wrapped up in a believable saying with a pretty bow on top. It’s not headbanging death metal that’s in our face. It’s more of a subtle kind of false teaching that distracts us from the love of God found in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Think about the last time you felt like you were being crushed under the weight of life’s happenings. Was your first thought to turn to God? I hope so but it doesn’t always work that way because we’re being pulled away from God. Turning to God first takes some practice.
One way to practice staying connected to God first and foremost is to test the spirits that are distracting us from God’s love. How do we test the spirits? Think of it this way. Look at it as being in an escape room. How does an escape room work? You go into a room and try to sort out a series of clues so that you can escape the room and perhaps save the world. Testing the spirits is kind of the same thing. You go into your handy dandy Bible app or your handy dandy Bible concordance and try to sort out a series of clues so that you can escape the false teaching and perhaps save the world.
The world is an interesting place but not everything and not everyone has our best interests at heart. It’s up to us to dig into God’s word and as best as we can to have an idea of the truth of what it is that God wants from us. So that we don’t fall victim to false spirits and bad theology. And so we don’t have the life crushed out of us by our circumstances but instead turn to God for our escape.
Then we can know the true joy that comes from being claimed and loved by God.