This past week the American public lost a legend, an Icon and a star in Robin Williams. Many are grieving and some are wondering how come a man who made millions laugh through his great sense of humor has been battling addiction and depression for years and finally succumbed to it by committing suicide? Perhaps one of the hardest things to accept is that behind all the laughter and smiles was someone dealing with immense pain and suffering.
Robin Williams’ death is, first and foremost, a horrible tragedy for his family and friends. For the public at large, it's a dark reminder that depression and suicide are shockingly common, both in America and in the world. One article headline noted, “Robin Williams made millions laugh, while fighting His own demons.” This statement brought back some questions in my mind in regards to the origin and the cure of depression. Is depression a mental illness? Or is it a demonic influence? Or both? What is the best way to handle and possibly cure depression? Why would anyone think that the only way out of depression is committing suicide? If depression is a sickness, can God heal depression? How far medicine and therapy can help those who are struggling with depression? What role Christ and Church can play in fighting depression?
As you see I have more questions than answers in this area, as this has been my quest since coming to America. I am still in the process of understanding depression and how best I can help serve those who are struggling with depression. The medical experts and therapists tend to label this as decease due to “chemical imbalance.” Though I understand the complex nature of depression as a pastor I tend to approach this subject as a “truth imbalance” because most often, when we are depressed we struggle in our minds telling and believing lies.
We have a false perception of truth about God, who we are, others and the world. WE hear a voice telling us, nobody loves us and there is no hope for our situation. In the end, we can go over the edge and might loose our battle against that nagging, and negative voice that shouts at us relentlessly. I wonder where that voice is coming from? Could that be the voice of the enemy, making us doubt our God given identity? According to my understanding of scriptures I isolate the source of that destructive voice to our enemy, Satan.
The scriptures tell us that our enemy is like a thief. “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:10. Christ is promising to give us a better life in this world and eternal life with him in the world to come, why would anyone want to end their life abruptly, by committing suicide, other than that they have believed the lie of the enemy?
What does our arch enemy Satan tries to steal from us? It is our SONSHIP and Daughterhood in Christ! These days’ banks and the credit card companies have come up with cool apps to prevent identity theft. Are you aware of your true identity and walking in it? Or has it been stolen from you? If so how can you reclaim it? What does SONSHIP mean for us today? We will look at how the enemy tried to steal Jesus’ SONSHIP. What can we learn from Jesus, the Son of God and how can we walk in our own SONSHIP? Let’s read Matthew 4:1-11
A bit of background will help us understand the context. Jesus was baptized by his cousin John. As he came out of the water the heavens were opened up, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in the form of a dove and rested on Him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Here all three Persons of the Trinity are clearly portrayed. The Father’s command to hear his Son, and the Spirit’s vindication and empowerment officially inaugurated Christ’s ministry.
This scripture is referring to two Old Testament prophetic scriptures that would have been well known to the audience at that time, since both of them were to do with messianic expectations. Psalm 2:7, He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” Isaiah 42:1“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
What was affirmed by God in front of a large group of people now was being challenged privately by the Devil. Two times the Devil said, “If you are the son of God.” The conditional clause “if” carries the meaning of “since” in this context. There was no doubt in Satan’s mind who Jesus was, but Satan’s design was to get to violate the plan of God and employ the divine power that Jesus had voluntarily laid aside when he became a man.
It is interesting that the devil came to tempt Jesus not when he was strong on the first day, but after 40 days of fasting. You can imagine how hungry and desperate one would be after not eating for 40 days. The devil, using a desperate situation challenged Jesus to command stones to become bread to satisfy his hunger. The devil came to him when Christ was all alone. In one way Satan was challenging Him to misuse His power privately and meet His personal needs. Jesus overcame that temptation saying, it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
In a similar manner when we are depressed, alone and desperate the devil ceases that opportunity and bombards us with lies, doubt, fear and pushes us to do something to get out of our rather a difficult and desperate situation. When you are pushed hard; pause and know that God loves you and has better plans for you than what the devil is suggesting you to do. Take up the double edged sword, pick up the shield of faith to extinguish all the arrows of the enemy.
The second temptation was to prove His power publicly. The devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God” throw yourself down.” This pinnacle probably a roof with a portico at the southeast corner of the temple. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, this was a drop of nearly 450 feet. Can you imagine what would happen to someone who throws himself from that height?
In one way the devil was suggesting to Jesus an apparent suicidal plan. Had Jesus fallen for his trap; in haste, to prove his power as the Son of God He would have been killed pre-maturely hence the plan and the prophecies of God to bring forth salvation to mankind through crucifixion could not have been materialized? That’s what happens, every time someone commits suicide and dies prematurely. All what God wants to accomplish through that person gets aborted and comes to a halt abruptly. I believe God has a plan and purpose for all of us.
There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that He was the Son; and had the divine power but it was not yet the time to use that power. On these two occasions his Sonship was severely challenged to use his power once to meet his personal needs and another to display it publicly yet Christ remained humble and calm. He knew that pride was the downfall of Satan and He did not want to move in the same manner. He claimed his sonship and quoted God’s word boldly that sent Satan flying. In the end angels came and ministered to him.
What can we learn from Jesus, the Son of God? Christ being the Son of God was tempted in human form as you and I are being tempted. Christ used God’s word to stop the intruder who pushed Him to prove His Sonship in an untimely and unethical manner. When we too stand firm on God’s word like Jesus did, the devil will flee from us. And we will be victorious over our temptations.
So far we looked at Christ being the Son of God and how he held on to his Sonship in the midst of temptations. Now we will look at what scripture says about us who we are in Christ. And how can we reclaim and walk in that God given identity in our day to day lives.. The Bible calls all those who have believed in Christ the sons of God. John 1:12, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
2 Corinthians 6:18, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” Romans 8:18-19, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Scripture uses several metaphors and images to depict our redemption. Sonship is one of them and this theme runs deep throughout the Bible. Off late Wilma and I have been studying and pondering on this major theological theme of sonship. We are asking questions like what it means to be a son and daughter of the Most High God? How it should affect my relationships both in the Church and in the work place? How it should change my perspective on the world? As I said we are still working this theme out, and hopefully we will get more clarity.
When we reclaim our true identity as sons and daughters of God, our lives, and relationships change radically. A true story, Alfred Poirer, in the “Peace Making Pastor,” explains how the teaching on the sonship radically led to reconciliation between two families in his Church, “After a period of four months after the teaching on sonship one of the fathers of the families called Alfred and said this, “ Pastor I just realized how stubborn I am. (I laughed to myself, as this very criticism was one that he resisted most.” He continued, “I see now that I am God’s son. I am part of a new family. I do not have to be like my father or brother.”
Alfred notes, “During our conversations, he had often spoken of the dynamics in his own family, such as holding grudges and being critical, manipulative, and stubborn. He went on to share with me his renewed understanding of the truth that he was now God’s son, and he drew the first and most important implication: “Since I am God’s son, I want to be a peacemaker like his Son.” With that truth in heart, he began to take concrete steps to be reconciled to the other family in the church. Sonship led to building not only of his family, but the family of God.”
What a powerful story of reconciliation between two conflicted families; all because one father grasped the truth of what it means to be a son of God. Just like those two families; we too have conflicts in our Church. We hold grudges, we take offense of people. We can be manipulative, critical and stubborn. We hold bitterness and unforgiveness towards those who may have hurt us. But we don’t have to remain like that. God has promised better things for us. Jesus came to give us life and life in abundance. Sadly, speaking many of us without realizing our sonship, live lives like orphans. Once we realize, that we are sons and daughters of the most high God and walk in our sonship on a daily basis, we will experience the abundant life.
In closing, if you are struggling with depression or any other problem in your life don’t lose heart. Don’t believe the lies of the enemy and take shortcuts. No matter how hopeless your situation might look, there is hope for you in Jesus Christ. Jesus the son of God is praying for you and wants you to reclaim your sonship and walk in it boldly. He wants you to believe in Him and entrust all your concerns to Him, because He cares for you. As you do that, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you might be filled with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen