Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Immediate Hallelujah

*When thinking about thankfulness, I decided that this post from March 17, 2013 best conveyed my heart right now. I want to be ever-so-thankful for hardship...

Warning: This is a long post. Grab your coffee...
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10
This thought has been rumbling around inside of me for weeks. While I since the Spirit giving me some insight here, let me make two things clear: this is just my interpretation and it is still marinating. {Let me state a few of my beliefs here. Scripture is God's very Word and is, thus, God talking to me -- It cuts me, changes me, steadies me, and leads me. It judges me and not vice versa. The Word is unchanging, eternal, unalterable, perfect, enduring, the Rock, powerful, and will never pass away. I also believe that the Holy Spirit can reveal something new to you in a verse that you may have read hundreds of times before. I think He brings things to light in His Word to show you exactly what you need or He wants you to see. In other words, I can read a verse many times in my life and one time this pops out and another time that, then another aspect hits you another time and sometimes nothing stands out to you. I think you never know what's coming when you read the Word -- watch out! -- because that Spirit, He knows your heart and thoughts. Basically, each verse is like a gem with many different facets or faces; while there is one truth, the Spirit might decide to show you a slightly different angle or aspect you never saw before. Anyway, this is one of those.}

This may seem a little theological, but it has an amazing, profound impact. So much so, it scares me a little to think about it. Great, now I'm crying... hold on.

This verse kind of closes out that famous passage about Paul's thorn in the flesh and when God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Whenever I had previously read 2 Corinthians 12:10 (at the top), I think my brain would somehow interpret that Paul is saying he delights in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties that are for Christ's sake. In other words, he takes delight in a hardship that you suffer from that was caused because of your faith in Christ. Yes, that articulates what I thought that verse was saying. [Granted, many versions (of the Bible) read that way and that interpretation is also buttressed by many other verses in the Bible -- rejoicing when you suffer things for Christ's sake.]

One: I take delight in hard things that are because of His sake.

Two: For His sake, I take delight in hard things.

I think both are true. But, the second statement is a brand new understanding for me. Probably because of my disease. You see, it is a hard thing, but I fail to see how I suffer from it because of my faith in Christ, for Christ's sake. [Friedreich's Ataxia being just another rare, genetic nerve disease. Scientifically, we know that two recessive genes combined... blahblahblah...] It's not like I lost a limb in a bombing while I was at church -- that being an example of a suffering because of faith in Christ. 

Alright, let me go back to this passage about Paul's thorn in the flesh. There is nothing in this passage that makes you think that Paul's thorn was caused by his faith in Christ. It likely could have been some random difficulty or physical ailment not brought upon him because of his faith. [I think he would have mentioned it if his faith was the cause, as he usually does in his other letters.] So, with this in mind, it looks like Paul probably did mean the second interpretation mentioned above.

Now, here comes the good stuff -- the understanding, the epiphany, the application :)

What does it mean that for Christ's sake, I should take delight in hard things? Why??

Let me rephrase that question: If I take delight in hard things, how is that for Christ's sake? And here's the answer: Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4)Because taking delight, rejoicing in hard things, in suffering can develop the character of Christ in us! [And that is God's desire -- Romans 8:29.]

I think we all kind of know that (mental assent). Yet, here is where the rubber meets the road. Paul is not just saying persevere through hardship until you overcome and can wipe the sweat off your brow, say whew, and return to a life of ease and comfort. He says to rejoice in suffering and take delight in hardship to gain the character of Christ, become like Him. If you want to be like Him, be glad and take joy in hard things.

I think I had always somewhat understood this with the understanding that eventually you need to come to grip with hard things, with life, and make peace with God, not hold on to bitterness, but trust that God is working it for your good. After you are beyond the hard thing, you can tell others about it and even smile while doing so. But, that is not what I'm saying. That is saying be upset and sad and frustrated and confused for a while, get it out of your system, and then try to be content with your circumstances. Eventual nonresistance. I'm talking about immediate hallelujahs! Hard thing... yes! An opportunity to build His character in me!

Now, I am not saying seek out persecution or go looking for difficulty. They will come your way. I am saying that when it comes, welcome itmaybe even desire it (yikes!), with open arms and give thanks for it! Yay! An opportunity!

No, I never see this done (nor do I do it). Usually when anything bad or negative or hard happens, I see the responses of fear, fret, or frustration -- never delight or praise! I want to be like my Lord, so I want to be ready with praise and thanksgiving for these opportunities to build character. Because, honestly, Jesus tells us that the more hardship you endure, the bigger your crown will be in Heaven. If that's true, then wouldn't more hardship actually be a good thing, eternally-speaking? Wouldn't more hardship be God's way of loving us?

Join me in saying yes -- yes to hard things, yes to God!
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10
Praying for strength to rejoice in hard things right away,