Thursday, March 13, 2008

Embrace Suffering?

I want to take a moment and expand on an earlier post; Worship = Surrender. Take a moment and read these words of Jesus from Luke 9 (The Message)

"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."

In these words are the key to discipleship.

1) Jesus leads, we follow. This is perhaps the hardest thing for us to grasp; at least it is for me. Jesus leads, I follow. My human nature constantly battles for control over my life and yet, as His words so clearly illustrate, IF I intend to follow Him, I HAVE to let Him lead...He is in the driver's seat. And what do we communicate to God if we try to lead? "You don't really know what you're doing; I know better then You do. I don't need You." And all the while, He patiently waits for us to surrender to Him. As Jesus states later in Luke 14, it would be wise for us to "count the cost" of being a true disciple. The cost is high - He wants it all.

2) Embrace Suffering. Huh? What? Yep. Not only are we to expect suffering, not only are we to endure suffering, but embrace it? As we read in the book of James, suffering makes us grow. It develops character, perseverance and stamina - it teaches us the things that we will need later to finish the race. This year I've taken up jogging. I hate jogging. I hate running, unless it's on the athletic pitch (soccer, basketball, etc). But just to go out and run? I hate it. Why am I doing it? Because I have a goal to do some intense hiking this summer, and namely to summit the sisters. In order to achieve this goal, I have to endure some hard times now, so that when I hit the really hard times later, I'll have the confidence and stamina to make it. In a similar way, it is during hard times that we grow the most. Can we, can I not only "endure" suffering when it comes, but truly embrace it and learn to grow?

3) Self Help isn't the way, but self sacrifice. Think about this; at no other time in the history of the United States have we had as many "Self-help" books and experts out there. There are books/experts on anything and everything - diet, exercise, overcoming obesity, overcoming smoking, alcohol, how to be a better parent/single person/son/daughter/grandparent, how to educate your children, how to make your marriage better/stronger, how to save your marriage, how to find your strengths, how to find your weaknesses, how to lead better and the LIST GOES ON.

Now think about it; as a result of all these "self-help" tools, are we as a society/country better off? Are addictions down? Are marriages lasting longer? Are we better parents? The answer? No. In fact, we're probably worse now. Now the point isn't to bash all these books; heck, I read many of them. The point is this: no book or person is the answer; Jesus is the answer. And furthermore, His answer calls for sacrificing ourselves, laying down our desires and taking up His. That is a tall order. Sound impossible? Read that verse up above again and look at the promise in there - God is giving us the key to finding our "true self." I don't know about you, but I'd do just about anything to find my "true self." The key? Self-sacrifice.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help." (James 1)

Dear Lord, give me the faith to trust You as I lay down my life in surrender [worship].

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