For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3: 17

Peter was aware of two realities that had faced him as he followed Christ, and he was also certain that they would face every other person who traveled that same path through life. Firstly, suffering and pain would come to each of us in the wake of our encounter with Christ, and secondly, all of our thoughts, words, and actions would order under one of two headings as they would be either good or evil. Although these categories or divisions of the content of life may seem extreme or even as overly simplistic and harsh, they represent the reality of how the content of all people’s lives are ordered when it comes to their most basic of descriptors. We effect good, or we bring about evil. Neutrality is not a part of what it means to serve a master in this world, and all of us are ordered under someone to whom we pledge our allegiance.

Christ leads us into that good side of the equation of life, and His Spirit works within us to bring about change that permeates the deepest aspects of our beings so that these changes have a positive impact upon the way that we think, and so, they also transform the words that we speak and the things that we do. In this process of change our will can come to our aid or it can work to hinder the progress that we will make in assimilating Christ as our identity and image. For as we yield to Christ and surrender control of the deepest aspects of our selves to the work of the Spirit, then we are most profoundly impacted by the presence of the Lord in our lives. When we hold on to areas of our beings that we find comfortable and deem as important to us, we tend to retard that same growth into Godliness.

I am not suggesting that this form of deep and highly personal surrender is easy, for it tends to involve aspects of our identity and being that have been developed over the entire course of life to date, and it also impacts us in places where we find some of our greatest sense of security and self-determined peace. Yet, even these aspects of life are ones in which Christ is asking us to enter into a form of the suffering that the righteous journey requires of all travelers along the holiness road. When we place the prized possessions of our egos and our escapist thoughts and actions upon the altar of Christ’s cross, we begin a journey of faith that will take us upon an often painful journey into transformative healing for those places within our souls that have been rubbed raw by our days of living in this harsh and broken world. The decision to accept whatever pain may come in the process, whether it is ours internally or derives from external sources, is a first step into pursuing good and rejecting evil. 

Advertisements

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.

2 Chronicles 16: 9 

There are many people who claim that God is either passive or non-existent, that He has no relevance in this world, and even that He is unnecessary. Others believe that the only god that anyone needs is to be found inside of themselves; thus, each individual is the master of his own universe and is totally equipped to do and to handle everything alone. I find all of these perspectives to be frightening, incredibly lonely, and disastrously wrong. I have learned that my strongest and most capable times are ones when I am yielding my will to God’s and when I allow Him to work with and through me. It is also true that God doesn’t just passively wait for things to happen; He is with me, He goes before me, and He protects my back. The Lord is a very real presence throughout my world for every hour of each day.  

Now, consider what it means to be blameless. I am not close to perfect, and my heart is certainly not always aligned with God’s will. I fear that for too much of the time my thoughts and actions are no where near to righteous; yet, I know that God sees me as blameless, as forgiven of everything wrong and hurtful that might come from within my heart and mind. Jesus has paid for all of my evil and sinful ways, and because Christ lives in me, God sees Christ’s perfection when He looks at my weakness. The Spirit of Christ goes with me through everything and guides me toward His will as He speaks truth, love, and life into my being. Thus, it is His perfect will that is seen by God and by the world as I live out the calling of Christ with my life. 

Perhaps, the most important word in this ancient verse is “strong,” for that is what God brings to me. He gives me strength, He makes my frail and easily discouraged will into one that is truly mighty, and He gives my cloudy thinking a form of clarity that comes from out of eternity and that runs straight and true until the end of time. There is no partial or conditional involvement from the Lord. He is fully invested in the lives of His people, and He is totally committed to us forever. If you are willing to yield to Christ and to grant God access to your heart, to your concerns, and to your plans; He will continually fill you with His wisdom as He encourages and strengthens your heart. 

Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

Who has gathered the wind in his fists?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?

Who has established all of the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is his son’s name?

Surely you know!

Proverbs 30: 4

 

The answers to these questions might seem obvious to most of us who are reading them in the context of Christian faith. Even that last question in the series readily calls forth the response, Jesus, the Son of God. Yet, we know that the writer of this proverb did not have that answer in mind when he set out these words. He was probably indicating the fact that everything in this list of actions was something that only God could possibly accomplish; so, no human, whether father or son, can do the things that God has done in creating this world and in engaging in its operation. The wonders of this world are far too great to be the workmanship of mere humans, and the remarkable and intricate way that it all continues to do so is utterly outside of the capability of our chaos devising hands. But that is not all.

 

God’s Word is complex and multi-layered. There is meaning and content present within it that often takes us beyond the intent of the human author and into the heart and the mind of God, Himself, as the inspirational and the creative force behind the crafting of the words. All of these questions involve existence, the world as it was on the day that they were first written and the world as it has continued to be over the time since. I think that they also suggest the possibility of the future. They enter into God’s promise of redemption and restoration for all of Creation. All of the elements of this world that are set forth after the first question in this series and before the last one are subject to the brokenness in this world that has come about as a result of our sinful rebellion against God. All of these things which were proclaimed as good by God have become dangerous and harmful in various ways and at certain times.

 

Yet, there is a Holy God who seeks to bring all of His created world into the safety and the security of His presence. We can know this God by coming to accept and to know His Son, Jesus Christ. There is redemption to be gained in this relationship with the Father through the Son, and we can know the deep peace that comes into existence within our souls when we yield our lives to Christ and follow His will for the conduct of our days. Then, the God who manages wind and the waters of the seas and who has set into place all of the corners of the planet that we stand upon enters into the minute details of our lives and grants to us His love, grace, wisdom, and perfect will so that the life that we are living is one that now possesses the presence of the divine and is filled with the glory of that presence in all situations and circumstances. God the Father is the great creator, the Son is the perfect redeemer, and the Spirit dwells with us to grant us all knowledge of our God and to guide us into the absolute wisdom of His Word.

So we do not lose heart. Though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

The erosion and the deterioration of the body is one of the realities that all people face. The longer we live, the more it is apparent. We can do things to either slow or to accelerate the advance of time in our bodies, but in the end, time wins. This is true for followers of Christ just as much as it is true for people who follow other gods or no god at all. We can despair over this loss of youth and its strength and beauty, but despair gains us nothing. We can fight against it, too, but, likewise, the battle with Father Time is not going to be eternally productive. Now there is a third alternative to surrender or to full-on war fare, that option is the one in which we accept the physical aspects of aging and embrace the way that Christ works in us as we travel through life with our hearts and minds yielded to Him.

 

This sort of surrender is not particularly easy for most people. We are wired to be fighters and to be independent workers in those encounters with our world and with life. Yet God says that He wants us to surrender to Him and to yield our control over everything to His will. There are to be no holdouts and no exceptions to this total surrender to the Lord. So, when we actually enter into acceptance of the supremacy of God and give our lives over to Him in full, Christ’s transformative work in our hearts, minds, and spirits is accelerated. He takes over and renews all of the internal real estate that we deed over to His hand of grace, mercy, and love.

 

Although some people get this idea at an early age, most of us do not. There seems to be something significant in the way that as our bodies age and start to break down that our hearts become more open to what Christ desires to do within them. It is as if the strength and capacity of youth function as a hindrance to acceptance of the absolute lordship of Christ over all of life. So, age and infirmity with their ever-growing list of broken body parts is not at all a bad thing so long as we keep turning to Christ for our strength, wisdom, and encouragement. As our hands grow weary, His reach out more boldly from us. As our eyes continue to fail, Christ’s vision becomes ever clearer to His people; for, in the quiet of diminished hearing, God’s Word of life can be heard with ever-greater clarity.