Today is a historic date as the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI takes effect. He becomes the first Pope to resign from office in 600 years. It is expected that a new Pope will be elected before Easter.
The main reason given for his resignation was that his “strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry”.
The news came as a shock to many but one thing is certain – his decision to resign would not have been taken lightly considering the fact that it would impact the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide for whom he is the spiritual head. There will definitely be speculations and different theories about his resignation.
I try to picture the struggles that would have gone on in his mind before making that decision. It’s not the kind of decision, you just wake up one day and say,”Hi Guys, I quit!”. He would have considered the possibility of continuing – in spite of his “failing strengths” and a lot of other options.
In a recent address to a gathering at St. Peter’s Square, he said that God had told him “to climb the mountain. So, was it the fact that he “heard from God” that determined the final outcome? Are there lessons for us to learn in all these?
God speaks to us. Some people may question this, but He speaks to us regularly and we can hear Him speak if we are careful to listen.
God speaks through various means. Again in his resignation, the Pope refers to, “having repeatedly examined my conscience before God”. One of the ways, God speaks to us is through our conscience.
He also speaks to us through the Bible, through events happening around us, through sermons, bible study groups etc. These days he speaks to us on Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc, through nature e.g. he used a donkey to get the message across in Numbers 22:28.
Whatever way God chooses to speak to us, what he says may not always be exactly what we want to hear or what is popular.
For example, in Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 3 when God told him to go back to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to release the Israelites.
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt … Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” – Exodus 3: 7 – 10 (NLT)
It was definitely not what Moses wanted to hear at that time.
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” – Exodus 3:13 NLT
He did his best to wriggle out of the task and proceeds to give alternative options and suggestions, But thankfully he agreed
Another example was Simon Peter’s encounter with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been preaching to a crowd and borrowed Peter’s boat. When he finished, he asked Peter to let down his nets for some fish. Again, it wasn’t what Peter wanted to hear, but in spite of all the reasons to disagree, he obeyed.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. – Luke 5:5 (KJV)
There are lots of other examples in the Bible and if we think about it, we can surely find examples in our own lives where God has spoken to us – and sometimes asked us to do things which we know are right, but may not be what we really want to do (or told us not to do things which we know are wrong but looked very attractive to us!)
I had one of such experiences this week. I’d prayed to God in the morning, asking some questions and I was shocked when a few hours later, I got a text on my phone from a friend with what looked like answers to the questions I’d asked. I almost fell off the chair!
Now my friend was not aware of the issue, in fact I haven’t sen him in ages! The text message addressed my questions. I realised the message was the right thing to do in the scenario, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. Like Moses, I wanted to have a different outcome!
It’s important for us to listen in order to hear God speak.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves – James 1:22 (NLT)
It’s even more important to do what God says – as long as we are sure it is what He is saying, and not just what we want. We should be sure it is God speaking and most times, like the Pope, we may need to “repeatedly examine our own consciences before God”
How does this relate to our marriage? God says a lot about marriage in the Bible e.g.
Give honour to marriage and remain faithful to one another in marriage – Hebrews 13:4 (NLT)
A lot of the things God says would be things we don’t really want to do all the time and may not be popular, but still – it is important that we do what He says.