August 19, 2013

Growing through suffering

Lately I’ve been praying that God would increase in me the attitude of a child. I had some attributes in mind, such as innocence and carefree, but He surprises me with a focus I did not expect – needy and helpless. He has set me into a battle with an issue that is showing me how much I need Him every moment and that I am helpless without Him.

Today’s devotional reading points to the gifts of God to His Son, and by inference, the gifts of His Son to me.

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. (John 3:35)

In thinking about my situation, I must remember that Jesus did not live here as the exalted God the Son; that will come later. He even called Himself the Son of Man, perhaps because He took on our needy helplessness when He added human flesh to Himself?

Yes, Scripture says much of the power and glory of Christ, and this is needful for me to know…

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3)

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:19)

But at the same time, Jesus identified with sinners. Even though He was sinless, he lived in total dependence on the Holy Spirit and His Father as we must do...

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)

As fully God, Jesus had to learn how to live as fully human. Hebrews 5:8 says that, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” This is the humiliation of Christ. It describes what it meant for Him to become One of us and shows that I must learn through what I suffer, just as He did. Those are not easy lessons, but for Christians, the only learning, the only entrance into glory, is through struggle and suffering.

Still, in the plan of God, all things were given to Christ. He has all the mercy of God in his hands; all the infinite love, pity, and compassion of God. What is Christ but the love of God displayed in flesh and blood?

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9–10)

Now I note this important truth; if Jesus learned obedience through suffering, then why should I expect God to take away all those things that trouble me, that make me feel needy and helpless? Or if I have one day or one hour of victory over a temptation, should I expect that the battle is won and it will never come back?

Yes, Christ is perfect righteousness and in Him, I am more righteous in God’s sight than I was ever guilty in His sight. In Him, I have the righteousness of God. In Him, I am justified because the justice of God is in Christ. In Him, I know the mercy of God because justice and mercy meet in Jesus and Jesus lives in me.

Because Jesus Christ has all the faithfulness and truth of God, all the character of the Holy One, then I can look to Him to change my life, make me faithful, truthful, even holy. Because He is the wisdom of God and all God’s fullness dwells in Him, Christ is for me the source of unsearchable riches and everlasting salvation.

But before glory comes suffering. I cannot eliminate the very thing that was lived out in Christ and that will make glory possible. Instead, He tells me to keep my head about me and not let one little victory make me forget the manner in which all victories come…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)

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