April 21, 2013

Struggling, with God at my side, is better than…

My biggest temptations are not about wanting to do evil, but wanting to enjoy perfection. Of course, perfection is not available, so what am I going to do about it? Can I patiently wait for it (it will come in eternity) or do I foolishly try to make it happen?
If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)

Using these metaphors for myself, I want to soundly win the race, regardless of who or what I am racing. I want to be in the safe land where I can trust everything and everyone, not be where life is difficult and hindered by slow going. Instead of trusting God with my progress in the race, or with what jungle He might call me to hack my way through, I want to be first and the finish line, and never even see a jungle.

Today’s devotional reading is both a rebuke and a comfort. The author first points to the survival of the church. Many man-created structures have come and gone, but the church endures. As the reading says, the church “was willing to give up anything to hold her ground, to pour out blood like water in order to take root.” Christians for centuries have not only believed in Christ, but also suffered for His sake. When “persecutors thought they were scattered like chaff, it turned out that they were scattered like seed.” The church meets all opposition and survives because of its God-given power to endure.

This is the secret of success for individual spirituality. Patience is my safety, even if all else is lost. But what do I know of heroic endurance? I am so easily tempted to give up. My enemy cannot be dislodged. My sin is too stubborn, too deeply rooted. The kingdom of heaven in my dreams is impossible, at least in this life.

Why then am I in this world? Is it to find a soft place and easy tasks? I wonder what I have done for God or for humanity? Or what I have endured for that dream’s sake? What have I given up in my self-indulgent life or sacrificed that Christ might be exalted?

Jeremiah was scolded for his complaining and told that things could get worse. Instead of that giving me courage, the idea of endurance makes me wilt. I struggle with resisting sin in my own heart, never mind protesting the evil of this world. Yet today’s reading scolds me, particularly with these words: “To begin to serve God is to serve him forever. It knows no cessation. Complaining dies in his presence.”

Then it adds this: “If God sends someone to the thickets of Jordan, it is well. That individual will not go alone. A land of peace without God is a terror. The jungle of Jordan with God is peace.”

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