December 15, 2015

Yielding in the tough times

Jeremiah 29:1–30:24, Romans 6:1–14, Proverbs 20:13–30

The Bible tells me to yield to God and resist the devil. It only works if done in that order. When temptation, trials, or even sickness threatens, God wants me to yield to Him. During many of those occasions, I’ve learned to say, “God, if you have any purpose in this, then I accept what is happening and surrender to you . . . .” and must really mean what I say. This is not a formula!

However, by surrendering to God and accepting whatever He desires, the threat often vanishes. Even when it does not, I am confident that God’s hand is in it, and can face the struggle in faith instead of dismay.

This is a difficult lesson. The OT people of God struggled with it as God allowed them to be taken captive in Babylon. He told them, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare . . . . When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:4–13)

Essentially God was telling them to settle down and live normally in enemy territory! They were supposed to yield to Him and not fight against this strange request, but cooperate and learn the lessons He had for them. They learned, but it took seventy years.

Solomon also instructs me to yield to God. He says: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” (Proverbs 20:22) He explains that this and all suffering can have a good purpose: “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:30) Some trials are strokes from God. In them, I can grow more like Jesus, but must yield and let God have His way in me.

The NT covenant of grace stresses that salvation from sin is a work of Christ. This begs the questions: Can I now do whatever I please? Can I insist on a comfortable life and simple avoid as much pain as possible? (Industry makes millions by producing all sorts of products and services to alleviate suffering.) Now that my salvation is secured by grace, can I sin without consequences? The Bible says no way! Grace means security, yet grace continually calls me to yield to God, not giving myself to sin.

“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life . . . . We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin . . . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:1–14)

This ‘now but not yet’ salvation is something like the end of World War II. Officially, it ended on a specific day, but some battles continued after that day. My fight with sin and self is much like that, a “now but not yet” principle in God’s kingdom. Another way to say it is: I am totally saved from the penalty of sin, totally being saved from sin’s power, and eventually will be totally saved from its presence.

By grace, I am “in Christ” and have died with Him, even risen to new life with Him. In the mind of God, this is a done deal. However, it has yet to be lived out in my experience. The war is over, but not yet finished.

Key to a full victory is realizing that suffering is part of the experience. Struggles draw me into deeper reliance on Christ and a deeper awareness of His loving commitment to preserve me for Himself. Going for comfort does not change His plan, but it can certainly interfere with the process!

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