William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
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We continue to steadily go through the Bible at Seward Church looking for themes of grace and Jesus. This week David shared from the story of 1 Kings.   He began with a story about William Wilberforce and his amazing perseverance trying to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom. You may recall the excellent movie about him, Amazing Grace. David said of Wilberforce that he showed “exemplerly perseverance.”

The book of 1 Kings is about Solomon and the transfer of power from David to his son.  With the passing of the torch came many responsibilities and directives.  One important one was treasuring God.  Something we try to do is be a loving church that perseveres in loving our community.

In 1 Kings 2:1-5 Solomon was told to persevere in the faith so that David’s lineage would continue to reign over Israel.  As if this wasn’t burden enough, in the same breath David asked Solomon to take care of some unfinished business – killing people David had promised not too!  Yikes, David may have had some problems!  We all think to ourselves that we want to be heros like Solomon and David, but we really just need to live a life following Christ and loving Him.

One of Solomon’s first actions was also one of his smartest – asking for guidance and help from God (3:3-9). Unfortunately, the passage also indicates that Solomon was struggling to keep the faith by offering “sacrifices and offerings at the high places”.  High places were where pagans went to worship their gods.  Sometimes we fall under the great burdens placed on us, whether by ourselves or by someone else.  The great thing is that no matter what God accepts us radically for who we are even when we fail.

Another inspiring action by Solomon was when after a dream he “stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings” (3:15).  This is important because standing before the ark was similar to standing in the presence of God.  The Ark also contained a copy of the 10 Commandments, a pot of Manna, and Aaron’s rod.  Respectively, these stand for God’s justice, grace, and intercession all things that Solomon and we need to remember on a regular basis.

Yet today we don’t need to offer sacrifices or offerings to God, we have free grace through Jesus.  We can’t earn it through religiously based acts of worship but through a change of heart.  This grace is the same grace that allows us to accept our broken neighbors – even those who seek to harm us.

Sadly, Solomon didn’t persevere in the faith – look at the differences of language in Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.  Small compromises such as those we saw in 3:3 begin to pile up and really impact our lives, resulting in something like 11:1-2 where Solomon began putting his wives before devotion to God.  David gave a great analogy, using adrenaline versus the steady pounding of the heart.  The adrenaline rush is like a mountain top experience or quick burst of energy about an idea or topic while the steady pounding is a life-long devotion to change someone or something.  Think back to Wilberforce – many in his day thought slavery was bad and got excited for a short period of time (adrenaline) while few like Wilberforce were willing to commit their entire life to the cause (steady pounding heart).

Jesus gives us lots of hope, even when we fail miserably.  Romans 5:1-5 has this to say:

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Jesus gives us hope.

We ended the evening singing the song Amazing Grace, but I couldn’t help but think of another song, My Hope is Built.  The first verse is below:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

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