Thursday, April 23, 2015

Things Above

Dear readers,
Due to an oversight, this entry did not get published on April 9, as it was scheduled. It should have been before the entry entitled, Grace, On April 15. Hopefully, that one will make a little more sense after you have read this one. Sorry for any confusion!

Our biblical counseling center has been swamped with new counselees lately! While I am sorry that so many are struggling, I am glad they are coming, because it means that they are seeking the only true help available: The power and comfort of Christ and His Word! My counselees always stretch me and teach me, causing me to search the Scriptures diligently to find words of exhortation and encouragement for them.

One of my “go-to” passages for almost every counselee is Colossians 3:1-4, where Paul exhorts us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. One of my counselees asked me an excellent question as she reported back this week about her meditations on this passage: “What exactly are ‘things above?’ Am I to think on streets of gold, and imagine my mansion in heaven? Should I think about the throne of God, and the angels singing, ‘holy, holy, holy’? I’m just not sure what he means by ‘things above.’”

I thought this was an excellent question, and my answer to her was to think on God, who He is, what He does, who we are in Him, and to be grateful for all those things. But I wanted something more concrete to give her, so she would gain more understanding of God through this assignment. For me, the most encouraging way to focus on things above is to think on the attributes of God. A. W. Pink has a very helpful little book called The Attributes of God, and in it he lists, describes, and backs up with Scripture, 17 attributes of God! I highly recommend this book (Also available for Kindle) because it explains these concepts in very conversational language, and in terms that anyone could understand. Yet at the same time, it teaches the deep, biblical theology that is indispensable to a believer who is suffering.

I hope you’ll get the book, but in the meantime, let’s talk about just a couple of these attributes of God that we can meditate on when we need to get our mind off the things of this world, including our pain, illness, or disability. I’ll start with my favorite, which is the sovereignty of God. (See Dan 4:35; Ps. 135:6; 115:3; Eph. 1:11).  Pink’s chapter on this attribute quotes C.H. Spurgeon: “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all…It is God upon His throne whom we trust.” God’s sovereignty is our starting point when we ask all the ‘why’ questions that are so common in suffering hearts.

That sovereignty might seem cold and hard, were it not for God’s love for us. (See 1 John 4:8)  Since God is sovereign, and since He is love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. He is uninfluenced by anything in the creature, so there is nothing we can do to win or lose His love for us. (See Deut. 7:7-8). His love is infinite, and it never changes. This is the kind of love we need as we are suffering in these fallen bodies. To know, regardless of our circumstances, that God loves us, and to believe it simply because the Word of God says it is so, brings great comfort beyond anything this world has to offer. God’s love is eternal (Jer. 31:3). One day, all this pain and suffering will end, and we will be with Christ forever!

It was hard to choose just a few attributes to talk about in this short space, but I simply must include the mercy of God for you, my friends. People who suffer physically often struggle to understand God’s mercy. In our human and finite minds, we think mercy should equal pain relief. But we must remember the reason we were created. Isaiah 43:7 tells us that we were created to glorify God. So, if that is true, then His mercy to us would be found in His helping us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. When we respond rightly to our pain, we bring Him glory. Do you see His mercy in that? We will never be content until we are fulfilling the purpose for which we were created. Our suffering gives us many opportunities to do just that. I'm not saying that this is easy, and if you read almost any other post on this blog, you will know that I understand the difficulty. But that does not make these truths any less true. God, in His mercy, knows exactly what it will take for you to bring Him glory and fulfill your purpose.

But how, you might ask, am I to apply this truth about God’s mercy when I am aching, exhausted, and feeling helpless? That is a conversation for my next post, where we will continue talking about the attributes of God, beginning with that very provision you are asking for: His grace. In the meantime, I hope you will get this book, or maybe do a study on the attributes of God through Bible Gateway or one of the other excellent Bible resources available online. And remember,

“Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with  Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2&3)

There's a wonderful old hymn that always comes to mind when I read this passage, called “Turn 
Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Here's just a sample of the lyrics, but check it out here, too.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.