Sunday, September 09, 2007

"I wish I could take their place"

Here is a meditation and prayer I wanted to share as I am concluding my reading of a book entitled, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”. Particularly as we witness suffering on a regular basis and look ahead to a life promised to be filled with suffering (for 2 Tim 3:12 promises this to all who wish to live a godly life), some realizations have hit us. Not that we have mastered them, but are awed by this tremendously gracious calling:

It is a common though among parents and any who love to wish that they could suffer in the place of another whom they love and who is suffering in some way. “Can I just take their place?” we ask. “Can I suffer in order to ease their pain?” This is a Christian question, for at its heart we see Christ on the cross and the words of John 15:13 and 1 John 3:16ff. Yet, as we meditate upon the words of Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,…” are we not exactly in a position to do this for those around us and the thousands or millions whom they might influence?! When we go into the world, into relationships, into times of service or suffering, we accept the cost of pain and dieing to self in order that others might not endure the eternal torment of His wrath! Oh, children of God, we can take their place in a particular sense, on the basis of Christ’s absolutely satisfying death. Not only the death of their souls forever, but the curse of a daily, godless life. Paul writes, “So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). Apart from the Spirit, there is not hope from the “body of death” (Romans 7:23).

Shall we “put to death” (Col. 3:5) all that is fleshly in order to present Christ to those who are dead and dieing? Christ, whose life was wholly consecrated to God, who loved, suffered, died, and rose again—his life and death we reveal in our life! Oh Lord, this is too great a task! I desperately ask for your provision, protection, and our perseverance. Make us and keep us faithful!

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 could not make this message more clear to our hearts and minds, for we are called to carry “in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in our bodies” Who can do this be self-willing? No one! This is a Spirit graced miracle!

Be encouraged to press on and welcome (not simply tolerate) various trials, for to suffer well is for the glory of God and the good of human souls (2 Cor. 4:15ff). Oh my soul, daily practice the art of suffering well. Boast in weakness. To paraphrase one writer, for every 1 thought of our “slight momentary afflictions” (2 Cor. 4:17), let us think and speak 10 concerning Christ and the glory to be revealed!



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