Saturday, January 16, 2021

Damocles’ Sword


Have you ever felt on edge because you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Perhaps it’s a financial burden looming on the horizon, such as a debt that must be repaid with no apparent means to do so. Perhaps it’s waiting for a test result to determine whether a dreaded illness threatens your future.

Maybe your child or other loved one is on a self-destructive path, running away from God straight to inevitable devastation. Or what if you were convicted of a crime and were waiting for sentencing, knowing that the outcome would be bad at best and fatal at worst?

In many situations like these, our anxiety and distress are aggravated by knowing that we are in some way responsible for the dilemma, whether through irresponsible spending, neglecting our health, careless parenting or even illegal acts.  If any of these situations ever apply to us, how should we live our life while we’re waiting for the resolution?

A well-known story illustrating an extreme example of such a situation is that of Damocles’ sword. During the fourth century BC, Dionysius II, tyrannical king of Sicily, had a power-hungry, opportunistic courtier named Damocles. When Damocles expressed his admiration and even envy of the king’s wealth, splendor and magnificent lifestyle, Dionysius II offered to trade places with him.

Damocles eagerly accepted and was seated on the royal throne, only to find that Dionysius II had arranged for a deadly sword to hang over his head, held in place only by a single hair of a horse's tail. How could Damocles enjoy living in luxury when his life could end at any moment? Ultimately he begged the king to let him resume his former life, having learned that grave, imminent danger accompanies great power and wealth.

Damocles was responsible for sacrificing his own peace of mind to acquire fortune and power, and he quickly regretted the consequences of his decision. But I wonder if he found true peace once he returned to his less exciting, but safer, life circumstances?

Ultimately we must all face the truth that at any moment we may be in life-changing, paradigm-shifting, even fatal peril. If we escape the immediate threat that is our primary concern at the moment, whether it is financial collapse, life-threatening illness, loss of a loved one, or even criminal penalties, do we breathe a sigh of relief and resume our carefree ways?

Scripture is clear that we are not promised tomorrow, and that no one but God knows what the next moment may bring (Proverbs 27:1). The fool whose goal was to build bigger barns to protect his amassed wealth did not know that he would die that same night (Luke 12:16-21). When we speak of scheduled events, we should always add, “Lord willing,” because His will surely prevails over our plans (James 4:13-15).

So how should a born-again Christian (John 3:3-8), one who is saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), live their life when danger looms? Fear is a natural but undesirable response, as is remorse or guilt if our own choices endangered us. Even if the calamity is not of our doing, all trouble can be traced back to the curse of sin, which affects all of us (Genesis 3).

If our sin has put us in peril, we should quickly ask for forgiveness, which God in His mercy will grant us (1 John 1:9). No matter how threatening the external circumstances, we should have the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), for we can trust that He works all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

No affliction can come near the child of God unless He allows it to accomplish His purpose (Job 1:8-12). We need not fear what man can do to us (Psalm 118:6; Hebrews 13:6), for if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) The worst that can happen to the saved soul is physical death, which is then immediately counteracted by eternity in Heaven (John 3:16).

As James and Paul remind us, we can have joy in the Lord through all our trials and dangers (James 1:2; Philippians 4:4-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), for His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

But what happens when the immediate trial passes and we experience resolution?

Our sin nature leads us to drift away from the Lord once the imminent danger is over, as we forget that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Our faith grows stronger in the valleys than on the mountain tops, for our pride seduces us into believing that we are responsible for and deserve our own successes, rather than seeing them as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13; 5:19; 1 Peter 4:10).

In truth, each of us, whether saved or unsaved, has a lethal sword of some sort hanging over our head by a single thread. At any moment, the thread could break, destroying our physical body or our earthly life as we know it, or it could hold, protecting us from disaster. These threats result directly from our sin nature, for since Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3), every one of us has been plagued not only by the consequences of sin, but by aging, sickness, and physical death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15).

The unsaved should rightly fear the devil, who not only kills the physical body but throws the unsaved soul into everlasting hell (Luke 12:4-5). For that person, Damocles’ sword dropping is truly a disaster of eternal consequence, for after physical death, there is no escape from eternal damnation. Now is therefore the time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), before it is too late!

Should born-again Christians live in fear of the next calamity? No, we should trust God, Who is still on the throne, to do what is best for His children and to deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:10). He has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), He provides for all our needs (Luke 12:22-32), and every moment of every day is a gift from Him (James 1:17).

If the thread breaks and the sword pierces one of God’s children, we will be absent from the body but present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Every earthly trial will fade (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17) and every earthly blessing will pale in comparison to one look at His precious face! Our physical senses cannot even begin to imagine the delights He is preparing for us! (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

God has not given us the spirit of fear (Romans 8:15), but of power, of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), for His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We should cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7), for He cares for us! We should not be anxious about any trial, known or unknown, present or future, but pray to Him for deliverance, thanking Him in advance for the optimal outcome (Philippians 4:6).

May we use every day to serve Him, for the time is soon coming when He will return for us at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or bring us home to Himself.  May we thank Him for the gift of each breath, using it to enjoy and praise Him for the many blessings He has given us! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives


Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
The worst thing which can happen to any man is to be called a fool by God, as was the case of the character Jesus spoke about in Luke 12.
Indeed, in a sense, we all have the sword of Damocles hanging over us, and it's for this reason that my spirit mourns over everyone who refuses to believe the Gospel.
Hence, one of my biggest regrets is to wish away my life, that is, to constantly peek at the clock on the wall at my workplace when I knew that a holiday was coming up. But thanks be to the grace of God, I have now learned to be thankful to Him every day.
God bless you and Richard.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Amen -- today is the day of salvation, for we are not promised tomorrow. And even once we are saved, we must work diligently for Him while it is still day, to redeem the time, for the night is coming when we can no longer work. May He be able to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"
Thanks as always for sharing your insights. May God bless you and Alex,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie, I love the way that God speaks to us and teaches us His ways through His Word. He understands that we are flesh and that the sin is in the way flesh but the more we learn His ways through the teaching of the Holy Spirit when we become born again the more responsible we have to be for our actions. If we sin wilfully when we know what is right the scriptures say that we crucify Christ afresh. Even though we are been born of the Spirit we still have a responsibility as we grow in the body of Christ on earth. The enemy is rife in these times and the scriptures say that in the end times many shall fall away. Thank you for sharing God's precious Word. God bless you and yours in these chaotic times. In Jesus we have peace.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

So many times we act without considering the ramifications for the future. Thankfully, God is so great that he can even fix our worst mistakes if we will trust him to do so.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
The world is pulling so many in so many different directions, sadly, all away from Him. May we be aware of the devil's wiles and put on the whole armor of God each day. Thank you for your Scripture-based comment and encouragement. May God richly bless you and your ministry,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! Amen -- praise God for His new mercies and compassion to help us even when we act rashly without considering His perfect will.
God bless,