Monday, March 22, 2010

When There's Pain in the Plan

"But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled. (Matthew 26:56; ESV)

Two times in this passage, the phrase "the Scriptures fulfilled" is mentioned by Jesus.  Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures, not to replace them.  It seems popular today to live like Jesus but to ignore the very words that he came to fulfill.  But why? I think it's mainly because, if we are completely honest, there are parts in the Bible that we just don't like.  Even if you're a Christian, you have to admit that there are some parts of the Bible that are hard to swallow and to do because it goes against everything that is natural to you.  And that's the point. When I begin to believe that everything that comes naturally to me is automatically the will of God, I have a problem.  When I automatically think that my likes are God's likes, and my dislikes are his dislikes, I've elevated myself much too high.  Christianity was not created for me.  Rather, I was created for Christ.  Isn't that what Paul reminds us of in Colossians 1:16?

Scripture is what God has given to reveal his will to us.  I do believe that God speaks personally to us as individuals, but we have the Bible to test every single thought and motive that comes our way.  To deny Scripture is to deny God's expressed will for our lives.

In Matthew 26:47-56, "the Scriptures fulfilled" is mentioned two times.  However, these two times point to the bad that was coming.  The fact that Jesus would be betrayed by a friend, handed over to be crucified.  The fact that his own disciples would all desert him in his greatest time of need.  These things were in Scripture and fulfilled in Christ, thus showing us that Christ's suffering was part of the will of God.  That suffering brought about reconciliation between us and God.  So who's to say that I personally will not, by the will of God, face difficulties for the greater good of the Kingdom of God? Philippians 1:29 tells is: "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,..." It has been GRANTED to suffer for Jesus.  Granted. James picks up on this topic: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:3-4; ESV). Paul also reminded the church at Rome of this concept:  "...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:3-5; ESV).

However, this should not discourage or upset you but rather encourage you.  It gives purpose to your suffering.  To my suffering.  As hard as it is, and believe me when I say that I too have faced difficult times, there is a God who has it all under control.  Some suffering occurs because of stupid people being stupid (and let's be honest and admit that we too have been those stupid people).  Many pains and hurts come because of sinful people sinning (again, guilty).  To go against God's expressed will is sin.  This sin affects others negatively in one way or another.  My sinning is not part of the will of God but rather against it.  However, there are times when God actually wants me to face a tough time in order that his greater good is accomplished through my struggles.  Remember: God's purpose for our lives is not that we would be happy but rather that we would be holy.  This is not to say that we will constantly be in a state of depression as we continue to work out our salvation.  We will experience joy in the midst of the tough times.  Joy is lasting; happiness is temporal and completely dependent upon circumstances.  Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who is constant and true no matter the circumstances.

William Barclay words it this way:  "If we can call God father everything becomes bearable. Time and again we will not understand, but always we will be certain that, ' The Father's hand will never cause his child a needless tear.'"

So when there's pain in the plan, hang in there.  There is a purpose to it all.  But even better, there is a God who can send more than 72,000 angels to deliver me at any moment (see Matthew 26:53).  He has it.  Don't worry.  He's been doing this for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Brian,

    Thank you for those words.

    Of course all glory be to God, but thank you for helping me grasp pain and things I don't understand. It's not always a bad thing to be in pain but to realize that there is a greater good; to build my joy, not my happiness.