Friday, January 27, 2012

Doing "hard" for the glory of God

Paul, in writing to the Philippians, comforts their hearts in a number of ways...he lets them know he thanks God for them, that he is confident that God will complete what he began in them all, that he sees them as partakers of grace alongside him, and that he longs for them all with the affection of Jesus Christ...he prays for them that their love may abound and that they may approve the things that are excellent and be filled with the fruits of righteousness for the glory of God.  Then, after all that and more, he assures them: But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. ~ Phil 1:12-14

What do we do when we long for one thing and God gives us another? For Paul it was being thrown into jail for his faith, but there are all kinds of hard and unexpected things we experience in the wisdom and goodness of God, aren't there?  Do we whine, chafe, gripe and complain OR do we submit ourselves to God's sovereign directing of our lives, look for the praiseworthy, and bear the fruits of righteousness for the glory of God?   Do we trust that in the big picture, God knows EXACTLY what He is doing in the midst of hard? 

This isn't a terribly uncommon thing...Proverbs 16:9 makes it plain that "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  If our response is to chafe and whine, it isn't very likely that we'd be able to assure anyone afterward that "the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel."  As God's representatives, His ambassadors, we shout out anything but gospel when we fail to trust the One who directs our steps.  We need to rest in Christ and praise Him in all He brings, like Paul did.

That doesn't mean there are not times when we are disappointed, but what we do with it matters.  Edith Lillian Young wrote a poem on this that I really like.  The first verse goes like this:
Disappointment - His appointment, change one letter, then I see
that the thwarting of my purpose is God's better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing, though it may come in disguise,
for the end from the beginning, open to His wisdom lies.
(You can read the rest of it HERE

Paul encouraged many in how he responded to the multitude of "hard" he faced throughout his Christian walk to put their hope in God.  Haven't we all be encouraged by people who "do hard" in a God-glorifying fashion?  I want to be THAT kind of person...someone who can count it all joy when facing various trials.  How about you?  Oh may God give us the grace for the glory of His name and for our joy to trust Him always, to bend to His ways, and to desire His gospel to be proclaimed and His kingdom manifested more and more.

At the very heart and foundation of all God's dealings with us,...we must dare to believe in and assert the infinite, unmerited, and unchanging love of God. ~ L.B. Cowman

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