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The Call to Suffer

July 19th, 2018

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” (Mark 10:39)

I cannot suffer for my own salvation. Jesus has already born the whole cost. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24).

Yet as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to suffer. There is no Savior without a cross, and there is no discipleship without suffering. This is true because there is no true discipleship without love creating in us a burden for someone. Paul said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom. 1:14). But love – and the burden is one of love, not of guilt – eases the heaviness of it all until we feel as though there is no burden at all. As it was said of Jacob who worked seven years for Rachel, “They seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20), so it can be said of us and those things and people for whom God gives us a burden of love.

I say “things” not because they are as important as people, but that sometimes it is that our task of love will be to invest in Christian organizations, or the building of church buildings, or the writing of Christian texts that will help others. God’s love is for people, but there is more than just one way we must function. Though Mary received the better blessing for sitting at the feet of Jesus, still there are many things that Marthas are called to do for Christ and for others, and if these opportunities are surrendered to Christ and done under His loving Lordship, they can be as much labors of love as winning souls.

How do we suffer? The ways in which we suffer are too many to mention them all, but a sampling would include: sleepless nights, generous giving, patience with people, long days and nights of service and difficult travels, sicknesses, fatigue, threats against our lives, going without recognition or thanks, persecution and rejection, being misunderstood by friends and loved ones, humiliations, and labors in prayer. We see what the apostle catalogued of his own experiences:

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Who are you suffering for? That person is the one you love. Do you do it happily, as a privilege? Then it is profound love. Do you keep score of your hardships so as to complain later? Then your love must grow. Do you do it out of guilt? Then that is not love at all, and your guilt will never enable you to carry the load in joy. Paul said, “I am willing to spend and be spent” (2 Cor: 12:15). Spend time before God until He gives you the love you need to serve where you are, or calls you to the place and people He has put on your heart.

 

Daily Devotions, Leadership

The Promise of Light in Darkness

July 18th, 2018

How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah (Psalm 89:46-48 ESV)

The author was nearing the end of his life and as such was petitioning God for his own needs and desires. We do not need to search very hard to see the thoughts of his heart, for he was abundantly clear with his words He felt all alone, that God had hidden Himself, that life was too short, that life’s shortness seems to even mock us. We are scarcely born and we are quickly looking at the end of our days.

But we gain encouragement realizing that all of these questions are answered graciously and encouragingly in the grace of the New Testament. Life does not end at our physical death. We live on in Christ – not merely through the memories of those who knew us and whose lives we have touched, but we live on consciously in eternity.

Is life a riddle and its purpose too illusive? It need not be to the Christian for we learn from scripture why we are created and what we are to do with our lives. We are made for God:

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

And we are redeemed in Christ from sin, from purposelessness, and even from this decaying body. We are forgiven, called to know Him and to serve Him, and promised that at death we enter into eternity with Him. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). “And this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Throw off the skeptic’s garb and embrace God in faith, and Christ in His love for you. Let the Spirit fill you with eternal hope and joy. Look up at His love, not down at your problems. All of our problems are temporary but God’s love and our life in Him is eternal.

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties, Psalms