Although we reside in the Lord’s garden, the inclination of our still-fleshly lives is to choose our own path for growth. We strive for reproduction of ourselves—more of me! more of me! But God has a way to strengthen and beautify us, drawing forth applause and glory—more of Him! more of Him! And as happens in the cycle of growth, that often involves deadheading and affliction.
Don’t let conduct or conversation steal away opportunities to proclaim freedom to those enslaved to sin and life to the despairing. (originally published at Servants of Grace)
When God acts in history, he does so to highlight his glory and to govern and preserve his people. He manifests his purposes through the voluntary and involuntary actions of the spiritual body and its members. We generally are not aware of it, though. We just thread the needle. We just drive the car. We just breathe.
If I disregard the protection my blood pressure medication affords me or neglect the exercise of regular dosages or leave it in places where it would get lost or stolen, I am making my heart an easy target for stroke or attack because of weakened and malfunctioning systems. When we disregard the value of the graces the Lord has provided, or fail to put on the spiritual armor available to every believer, or neglect the benefits in growth and maturity accessible through the body of Christ, the church, then we make ourselves easy targets for the side-of-the-road attacks from the fiends of temptation, affliction, and sin.
Who says Christmas has to come to a close? Who says that just because the boxes and bags get broken down and packed away for use next year that we can’t intentionally and carefully prepare beautiful presents and packages of love and ministry for others?
No good can come from calling fellow believers enemies. These are people we fellowship with at the table of the Lord, meet with in corporate worship, lay our burdens down together before the throne. To determine that they are enemies when God Himself has declared them His friends at the expense of the blood of His Son is to pronounce that relationships operate on your rules and terms, regardless of what God has done. And because it’s possible that those you suspect are behaving badly are not believers, it’s still not grounds for alienation if all they’ve done is give the appearances of enmity. They are without the spiritual tools needed to do conflict well. Witness to them of the greatest work of reconciliation done in all of history and rightly inform them they are enemies to God—as you once were—and that they can be bought and washed and made new—as you are now.
Here is the shared experience of those who travel Christian’s road, whether new or old in the faith: wrestling with “right” decisions, fighting doubts, putting off behavior and thoughts of the old man that do not honor Christ, grappling with understanding theology and God’s commands. These struggles threaten to steal any joy from living this life, and they don’t even come close to the battles that thousands upon thousands of worthy Pilgrims fight every single day for the sake of the gospel.
Imagine how equipped an army hospital would have to be to deal with the tribulations that Christian experienced. Consider how ill-equipped many of us are to minister to the wounds and trauma inflicted in Apollyon’s battle against the church. But according to verse 17 of John 15, we do have one balm and solace to offer our stricken comrades: These things I command you so that you will love one another.
Although my friend was delightfully feminine in all her ways, and loved sharing about how the Lord was ever growing her as a godly woman, she never assumed that all women had to look like her, act like her, do ladies’ devotionals like hers, bake like her, dress like her, adopt orphans like her. That was a good thing, because I was so very different than she, mostly in all of those ways! How she managed to influence me so deeply, despite our differences, was in the manner she placed the whole of her confidence and trust in the God of the Scriptures.
How often have I paid attention to moments in my life when the Lord has made it all so much more worthwhile, so much more satisfying, because of the blessings He has chosen to put right in front of me?