Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A different perspective helps

 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

Most of us don't want to consider that the hard times we are going through yourself may be designed for us to learn what we will need to know in order to come alongside someone else going through a hard time.  When we are in times of trial and the way seems pretty awful to us, the last thing we think of is that God would make us an instrument of his grace in the life of another!  As a matter of fact, we usually are thinking, "Get me through this as fast as possible, God! I want out!" The Apostle Paul spent a good deal of his ministry under house-arrest in a Roman prison - that is somewhat of a 'trial' for sure.  He was not free to go about the work of the ministry as he would have liked to - he had to resort to writing epistles, teaching what he could through his writings when his 'itinerant' ministry was put to a halt.  From his place of imprisonment, he penned the majority of the words we have recorded for us as the Pauline epistles.  His attitude was one of trust in his God, not chafing against the trials he endured, but embracing them for the value they produced in his life.  It is apparent that he had come to understand God comes alongside in order to not only bring him through the trial, but to prepare him to come alongside others in similar trials.

Being human, we sometimes focus on the hard times more than we focus on the good times, finding it easier to gravitate toward what is NOT right, focusing only superficially on what IS right.  Why is it that we go to the bad before we ever think upon the good?  Simply put, it is because we have a sin nature - we are pursuing what come NATURALLY to us. God's mission is to change that nature. His plan is to use the things of this life to expose the sinful side of our choices, motivations, and attitudes. It is 'this life' which is at his disposal to become 'teachable moments' for each of us. In so doing, he also is there to replace wrong choices with correct ones - something we often resist because it isn't very comfortable for us. He affects what motivates us by getting into our heart and spirit. In moving upon our emotions, setting them straight where they are all messed up, he begins to affect our attitude. In time, our sinful desires, patterns of behavior, are changed.

A question comes to mind: How can a Christian can grow up? Truthfully, the one asking this question is struggling with something they are trying to "grow out of" - most of growing up is really growing out of something.  Most of us are looking for a formula to follow - some mystical advice that will change everything in our lives almost instantly - like when we wanted so much to blossom into women, or grow that first facial hair. We want it so bad, until we realize 'growing up' isn't all that easy! The means to growing up: Don't resist the trials! Not what you expected? Well, it is the way God does business and we cannot circumvent his methods no matter how hard we try.  In the trial, he comes alongside. He is there, not as an observer, but as a participant in bringing us through with grace, peace, and exuberant mercy. He even provides others to assist us in the "moving through" phase of the trial.  

This Christian walk is not mystical - there is no immediate, instant growth process. There is no formula to follow. In fact, it is one consistent opportunity after another opportunity designed to help us lay down one pattern of sinful behavior or selfish attitude, taking up new patterns of righteous living and Christlike attitudes. Step one today, in today's trial, may not even be the same the same step required tomorrow. God is after our obedience, not a system of rules or regulations we follow - so the steps change from time to time. The next time you are in the heat of the trial, ask God who he will be bringing you alongside to help in their time of trial - who is it he is preparing you to be of assistance with later on as they move into their place of growth. Having the attitude that you are in the trial with Christ alongside and for the purpose of becoming a means of blessing for another can make it less difficult to bear up under. Knowing he will use us to come alongside another in similar trial gives us hope that we will get through the present trial! Just sayin!