Weekly Update - 5th March
Dear sisters and brothers
Many years ago I served as a youth worker in Newhills Church. We had a young teenager in the youth group who was also a keen footballer and part of a local team. One day he came to me to say that he had decided to follow Jesus. You can imagine how proud I was that he had made such a commitment, but my bubble was soon burst when I overheard him urging one of his team-mates to also become a Christian because, “with God on our side we’ll definitely win on Saturday!”
In my letter last week, I spoke about the first temptation that Jesus faced to satisfy his overwhelming hunger after 40 days of fasting. I suggested that we too can face such temptations: to be self-absorbed, self-centred or for self-satisfaction. The second temptation, as Matthew relates it in chapter 4, sees the devil taking Jesus to the highest point of the Jerusalem temple and reminding Jesus of the Bible’s promise that God will protect him from harm. If God is who Jesus says he is, and if they have the relationship that Jesus thinks they have then surely, the devil suggests, Jesus could throw himself off the temple and God would save him. Jesus replies simply that the Bible also tells us not to put the Lord our God to the test.
I’ve often thought of this temptation being the devil’s most unimaginative. Who in their right mind would throw themselves off a high tower to see if God might send angels to catch them. Jesus’ response seems an obvious one: don’t test God (or gravity for that matter!). But I wonder if there is more of a temptation here than we realise. It is the temptation of thinking that God is on our side. That was certainly what my young football playing disciple thought. If he now had God as his Lord, then surely God would want good things to happen for him – and he couldn’t think of anything better than winning on Saturday. Again, we might not be quite as naïve as to think that way, but we can fall into a similar trap in far subtler ways. Most often it is when things are not going well for us and we are tempted to come to the conclusion that either God is not who he claims to be (all loving, all powerful, our Father etc), or we are not who we claim to be: we think there must be something wrong with us or our faith.
We must not think that God is “on our side” in some special way. Jesus knew that God is on everyone’s side – that is why he was sent in the first place. We, like Jesus, are therefore called to be on God’s side: and if we are, we will have the delight of knowing ourselves children of God. Whatever you go through, remember that God is for you and loves you. To win or lose at football is not what is most important in life, and however hard things may get, there remains something more important – it is to know that you are God’s child and that nothing can change that. This gives us freedom to live lives of peace and love.
All that being said, sometimes we need a bit of help and support: a reminder that we are cared for. If I can provide that in anyway, please let me know. Enclosed are the usual bits and pieces.
With love from Sarah and myself,
Rev. Ian Aitken
52 Ashgrove Road West
Tel. 01224 686929
Aberdeen: Stockethill Church of Scotland
Scottish Charity Number - SC030587