Thursday, March 20, 2014

Paul Says Don't Become a Better You, Become More Like Jesus

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us with a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. 

                                                                                                                        2 Timothy 1:8-9

            Paul knew what Timothy would face in the future. He had no misgivings about leading Timothy to be a devout man who followed hard after Christ. Paul also knew that this was no primrose path to walk in this world. There would be a cost- a price paid at the expense of comfort, safety, relationships and dreams for the future. Timothy would be better equipped for the struggle ahead if Paul warned and instructed him.  Paul instructed through word and deed. Paul’s life-on-life experience with Timothy modeled for Timothy a striving against the flesh, an uncomfortable subjection to the world and a wonderful transcendent victory that would be replicated in Timothy’s own life. On the surface it doesn’t make much sense- but there is a paradoxical nature to truth in God’s economy.

            Happy are the sad.  Rich are the poor. Last are first. Wise are the foolish.  Loved are the hated.  Established are the pilgrims. Weak are the strong.  Paul stated in 2 Cor. 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak then I am strong.”

            Thank you Paul!  Thank you for reminding us of Christ’s strengthening power.  The humility and brokenness the comes from stressful and emotional taxing situations are not for naught, but rather work to serve a higher purpose.  Have you exhausted yourself financially, He is strong.  Your teenager keeps you on pins and needles, He is strong.  Your parents expect much from you, He is strong.  The very person you respect and love most hurts you horribly, He is strong.  My friends seem to ignore me, He is strong.  My rights have been violated, He is strong.  My good intentions have not been well received, He is strong.  “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”2( Cor. 11:30)

            Who are we seeking to glorify and satisfy?  Too much of the time, upon careful examination, we will find that we only work from our strengths (comfort), operate in our strengths (comfort) and make decisions based on our strengths (comfort) that we may be glorified and our egos satisfied. When we do, the world, our co-workers, other disciples have no reason to boast in Christ. We, through our own wisdom and strength, could produce the same results.  Walk in your weakness (what is uncomfortable) that Christ may be exalted.  Dare to walk in an area of discomfort or expose an area of weakness, failure, or distress in your life that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.  My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Cor. 12:9) Paul is simply agreeing with Peter who prevailed upon Christ, “I believe but help my unbelief.”

The cycle of discipleship is facilitated by trying and uncomfortable circumstances. Believers grow in grace as a result of a pursuit of holiness, an ownership of failure and the humility of repentance but we also model the mission of making disciples in the midst of such circumstances. It’s paradoxical- and antithetical to most of the self-help strategies that we could embrace. But then again it’s not about becoming a better you. It’s about becoming more like Jesus.

“I walked a mile with pleasure
she chatted all the way;
And left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow
And not a word said she;
But, Oh, the things I learned
When sorrow walked with me.”

Robert Browning

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