Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pain and the Upward Call

I was chatting with a lady in the pool today who has struggled all her life with her weight. Over the years she has gone up and down the scale too many times to count. As she spoke about her new plan and her goals, I couldn’t help but think how much energy, thought, and money she and others  have put into such pursuits. Weight loss and other disciplines get so much attention in our culture but very often, as we are preoccupied with these things, we miss out on the most important goal of all:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 3: 12-14, NKJV)

Did Christ Jesus lay hold of you so that you could set a weight loss goal? Did He save you so that you could get on a spending and saving plan toward a comfortable retirement? No, Christ Jesus laid hold of you so that you could lay hold of him:

“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”  (Philippians 3:10-11, NLT)

Ah, but there’s the rub. This goal includes some suffering along the way, and we don’t like to suffer. Oh sure, if we’re going to see a difference in the scale or the bank account, then it’s worth it to sweat or save. But these are outward changes and, if we’re honest, it’s our pride that drives us to work toward these goals. To really seek the Lord, though, the opposite is necessary. We must seek Him out of humility. We must die to ourselves, as He did, and suffer as He suffered if we are to share in that great resurrection. He was meek and lowly as He faced death, and He suffered without complaint or bitterness. We must do the same, leaning on Him and His strength to help us honor Him even in our pain.

My friends, as we are suffering in pain or disability, our goal must not be only to get relief or physical comfort, but to know Him more. I would like to challenge you today to study how He suffered. Reread the Gospel accounts of His persecution and trials, His death and resurrection. Ask Him to supply the strength you need to imitate Him in His suffering. He was a Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). He knows what suffering is, and He is able to help you through yours.

A new year is fast approaching. What will be your goals for 2016? My prayer for you is that you will  fix your eyes on things above, where Christ is, having finished His suffering (Colossians 3:1-3), and press toward the goal of knowing Him.