Sunday, May 7, 2017

Authentic victory in suffering

I was giving an inspirational talk to a grief group one day and I asked them all this question: What is the worst pain in the world?  They all thought for a few moments, and then slowly, one by one they began raising their hands.  I knew their answers before they spoke.  Some said childbirth, some expressed that the pain of losing (whoever they were there mourning), and the answers continued until the group eventually fell silent.  I smiled, and then apologized because it was a bit of a trick question.  I went on to say that the worst pain in the world is yours because it is the only pain you feel and-humanly speaking-you must feel it all alone. 

Which brings me to today’s reading.  1 Peter 2: 20-25

If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

I have spoken with and been in churches in various denominations who believe and teach that if we are followers of Christ we will not suffer, we will be redeemed in this flesh of all sickness all the time (if we are not active in sin),  that we will flourish financially (if we are not active in sin),  and that we will be wonderful-heart, mind, and body, all the time, always-in this world.  I call this “The gospel of prosperity doctrine.”  And it’s a very dangerous teaching, because it’s simply not true.   The belief in this causes a crisis in a faith that is destined to remain shallow and of this world.  Why?  Because we are a suffering people and this is a suffering world.  In fact, the more your heart awakens to the love of God and the redemptive power of Christ, the more your heart will suffer for a world lost in darkness.  And the worst pain in the world becomes your pain, the one you feel. 

I know that sounds pretty bleak, but we have been given instructions on how to handle all of it so all we ‘saints in training’ might claim the ultimate victory-a victory not of this world. 

We are instructed to pick up our crosses (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23) and follow him.  Meaning, accept the trials and tribulations you must carry, and do so in the way Jesus did.  We are assured that we do not have to do this alone (Matthew 11: 28) when we look to Him and the Father.  And in today’s reading, we are given, in some detail exactly the path we need to walk with our personal crosses. 

We cannot over imitate Jesus, our Messiah.  In His example, we have the very key to ultimate victory, heaven, and peace in suffering.  We cannot out love Him or out feel the world’s pain.  He took on every sin that we might be forgiven and redeemed.  He did it, and felt it alone-the greatest pain in the world-so we would no longer have to, and so He could grant us great graces as we follow along his path.  That, is the true doctrine of true and great prosperity,not in this world but for eternity.  This is the path of a saint in training...

Some food for thought and prayer.

Here I am, Lord, send me,