Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Sword of Damocles

Dionysius II was the "king" of Syracuse who ruled in the 4th Century B.C. There is a story that a famous Roman orator, Cicero,
(during the times of Sulla and Julius Caesar) told to convince people that living a virtuous life was the path to happiness rather than being a powerful man. (This is important, because Cicero was one of the main proponents of returning to the Roman Republic after Sulla and Caesar were voted dictators, and he was eventually killed because of this.)

This is a basic retelling of the the story.  

One of Dionysis' sycophants, Damocles, was telling the king how awesome it must be to have so much power, money and ability to do what you want.  He meant it as a complement to the ruler.  Dionysus, however, saw the flaw in this particular retainer's attitude, and suggested that they switch positions in life for a day.  Dionysus, seeing an opportunity to be rich and powerful, leapt into the role happily.  However, Dionysus rigged the experience, to teach his follower a lesson.  He suspended an over-sized sword over the throne where Damocles had to sit.  This gave Damocles sufficient fear to ask to be relieved of the position.  Thus, the ruler had shown the constant fear that a powerful person always lives with. 

Cicero sums up the meaning of the story, in Tusculan Disputations 5, by saying, "Does not Dionysus, then, seem to have declared there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions?"

This is a very good point to remember.  The phrase, the grass is always green on the other side of the fence, is only a small part of the understanding that Cicero was trying to convey.  Certainly, if your motivation is to improve your life by taking the role of someone else's life, you are doomed to failure, but the real point is, FEAR is bad for you.  FEAR of death is REALLY BAD for you.

Most of the time humanism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ do not agree, as one is about the power of human nature and the other is about the fallen nature of the human.  But in this case, they agree.

In an article I read on, they state, "There is one great fear common to all men, which is greater than all other fears. It is a fear which paralyzes men all of their lives. It is the fear of death."

Thanatophobia is a psychological condition which is the fear of death. What makes it tricky is determining if the fear of death is out of proportion with your life, making it a phobia.  In other words, everybody is afraid of dying.

So, in order to deal with Fear, you have to deal with fear of death first, since fear of death is the Primo fear.

John 14:1-6 The Message (MSG)  John 14:1-7 "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking."

Thomas said, "Master, we have no idea where you're going. How do you expect us to know the road?"

Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me."

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Jesus said this before his own death, and it is pretty clear that we go to him when we die.  He is speaking here as though the people he was talking to were children, so he gives us many direct pictures of his promise to prepare a place for us.  This is made all the stronger by his Resurrection.  Certainly anyone, even I, could tell you when we die we will go and prepare a place for you.  That would be a waste of breath however, for you have no reason to believe that I will survive death.  You have every reason to suppose I will not.  Jesus, however, was different.  He rose from the dead, and was seen in one place by hundreds of people after his Resurrection.  That proves that we can trust his word.

What was his word again?  First, he will be in heaven to prepare a place for YOU.  He will come and get you.  He is the Way, just in case you forget how to get there.  Tada.

Recently, everything I have read and heard by pastors, bloggers and gurus has all taken parts of the word of God out of context, using that to comfort us.  The implication from their words was that God would get involved in your finances, you illnesses and your relationships.  The problem was, every one of their verses was about spiritual issues, as in fear of death.  It was beginning to seem like the entire bible is all about spiritual growth, and heaven.

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And then I remembered one of our friends, who is a Baptist Pastor in Worcester, once told us of the horrible condition of his church, ministry and the people he has chosen to serve.  His church had been hit by lightning.  It was a 200 year old church in a section of town that was waiting for urban renewal.  The church was condemned because of the damage.  At the same time, a place next door where the homeless people stayed was partially destroyed. These are the people in his ministry.  When we saw him, he was happy.  After we heard the story, he also told us that the town had lost some property too, and they were not using it either now or before the storm.  So I asked.  Why are you happy?  He said, "you have not because you ask not."  I nodded my head up and down, and moved on.  He got his land.  God got his Glory.

Turns out, that is James 4:2.  In Context, the verse becomes a promise for help from the Father.  James 4:2-7 "You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 

      “ God resists the proud,
      But gives grace to the humble.”

So, if you want something, ask for it.  If you ask for it the right way, which is with humility and NOT for your pleasures (read that sin), Jesus gives you "more" grace.  He gives.  So ask.

But is that too simple.  Is there some more scripture that encourages us to rely on God for earthly or worldly issues?

How about John 14:13-14  " And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.   If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

Anything, that may glorify the Son.  In other words, if it is about your sin, don't ask.  If it is about the Lord, ask.

More ?  Ok.

Matthew 7:7-11 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

Read good things as spiritual things, that God sees as good.

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Enough.  Time for the good news, from the Good News.  The Key that I learned in church 3 weeks ago, but it took me all this time to find the scripture to explain it.  The answer.  The way.  What you need to do to make it work for God, so you do not have to worry about the world or death.  So your fear can be released.  (There is more than one verse saying this - I have just picked the one that is the easiest for me to understand.  Are you ready?

1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

If you go to work for the money, than you have already gotten your reward, in your pay.  If you go to work for God, than you can expect even more Grace.  You glorify God, then good things happen to you.  In my case, giving it to the Lord means that the results in within his hands.  I am told to ask, but ask that he do these thing for his business, his people, his bills.  Then whatever happens is in his hands, as long as I, in whatever I do, do it for the glory of God.

Pick up the key, and open the door.

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