Monday, April 14, 2014

For My Wife's Birthday

Image source here
An excellent wife who can find? I have found one, and she is far more precious than all the money in the world. My heart trusts her fully, and as much as a limited human can she gives me all that I need. She has always been good to me and will be for the rest of our life together. She works hard and diligently to take care of our family, and she ensures we are well-fed (including a baby that keeps her up most of the night). She frugally handles our money so that we may give generously and enjoy God's creation. She shows her strength spiritually and she works our her strength physically. She understands the value she brings to everyone she meets, and she cares deeply about people--enough to sacrifice time and sleep for them. The Light inside of her shines brightly. She even knows how to sew! She is a generous soul both with her time, talent, and treasure. She ensures her household is protected and safe from the storms of life. She dresses modestly yet beautifully. She makes toddler towels and other creations to sell. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at whatever may come in the future because of her deep trust in God. She speaks wisdom in teaching and modeling kindness. She places her family's welfare second only to Jesus and works tirelessly to look after us. Her children (both biological and spiritual) rise up and call her blessed. I call her blessed as well and want to proclaim this to all who will listen: "Many women have done excellently, but she surpasses them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her what she is due, and let her life and works praise her in the city (and on the internet).
(adapted from Proverbs 31:10-31)

I love you, Emily.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Suffering in the Life of a Christian

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At a recent weekly breakfast meeting with a couple of our guys, we discussed suffering and its role in the life of the Christian. Romans 5, James 1, and Paul Tripp's blog here were extremely helpful, but one guy shared the seeds of the following insight.

We were talking about how a person would thrive even in the midst of suffering, how they would walk through suffering well. What kinds of things would they need to remember? What are some practical actions to take? First Peter 5:6-11 helps us here:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Notice what Peter does here. He begins with a call to humility. Like Paul writes in Romans 9, we (not equal to God) should recognize our position and rejoice in the fact that He is God and we are not. He has the dominion forever and ever; I do not. His hand is mighty; mine is not. That mighty hand is humbling, yes, but it is at the same time a comfort, since that righteous hand upholds His children (Is. 41:10). And whether we receive deliverance in this life or not is up to Him, but we are guaranteed that exaltation will come "at the proper time"--even if that means at death or when Jesus returns.

This proper perspective of the powerful, compassionate "God of all grace" allows us to cast every anxiety in the midst of suffering upon Him because His eternal purpose in believers is secure, it is restorative, it is strong, and it is our firm foundation. Plus, not only does God stand firm with us but other believers are walking through these things as well. Our sufferings are never identical but our suffering is universal. It is God's grace to have brothers and sisters with whom to walk through these times.

But Peter warns us here, as well, that our response to suffering is not all passive. In light of God's power and compassion, and in light of our shared sufferings, we are to think clearly about, watch diligently for, and resist firmly against the enemy of our souls. The devil is the "father of lies" (John 8:44), and many times suffering stems from his temptations and our struggle to turn away. So Peter commands us to identify with Almighty God and with our brothers and sisters and to resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:6-10). Even if he tempts us with simply an attitude or a lack of trust toward God in the midst of the trial, we are to actively resist the enemy's attacks.

Ultimately, suffering is designed by God to conform us into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29)--just like everything else in a believer's life. In that moment/month/decade of suffering, whether it is betrayal by a friend, or sickness, or financial struggles, or thousands of other things, we have choices to make in our beliefs which will directly affect our actions. We must fight to believe that God is good, He is righteous, He is in control, and He is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Bluntly, we have no other lasting or fulfilling option. So run to Him in your suffering. His mighty hands are open wide for you. And He promises to uphold you.