This past week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had with the Lord in a long while. You know how sometimes you are so stuck in yourself and your situation that you can’t see clearly where the Lord is taking you? All too often that is the state of my heart. I allow my heart to get caught up in all of the “what ifs” and “I can’ts.” Maybe it’s just me that’s this hardhearted, forgetful, and stubborn, but I’m so thankful that the Lord is willing to continue to speak to my heart and reinforce His message everywhere I turn. After going through a season of confusion and doubt, I can often see proof that the Lord’s been working on my heart for a long while but I haven’t had ears to hear or eyes to see what the Lord has been working to reveal.
I often identify with Jesus’ apostle Peter. This is the guy who Jesus referred to as “a rock” in Matthew 16:18, but who though he was willing to get out of a boat and walk on water to Jesus, eventually faltered as he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the situation surrounding him. The cool part of these stories to me is that Jesus didn’t call Peter a rock and say He would use him to build His Church BEFORE He saw all of Peter’s weaknesses in Matthew 14. No, Jesus’ statement about Peter came in Matthew 16, even after he faltered on the water. Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows my heart’s tendency to wander. He knows my tendency to take my eyes off of Him. He knows of my desire to stay safe and dry in the boat. And He still wants to use me.
I had a startling revelation on Monday. I was watching C.J. Mahaney’s T4G2012 talk “The Sustaining Power of The Gospel,” and the Lord made so many different things click into place in my heart. I realized that all of the confusion I’ve been feeling lately is a direct result of unbelief that has taken up residence in my heart. Like the Israelites of old, I’ve made myself comfortable with where I am and I’ve become unwilling to venture out, even in response to God’s call. I’ve forgotten the perfection of God’s provision. I’ve convinced myself that suffering isn’t inevitable and that security lies exactly where I am right now. I’ve let fear of the future and the failures of the past convince me that God isn’t faithful. Me, the girl whose favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness. I took my eyes off of Him and didn’t even want to venture out. I desired comfort more than I desired Christ.
Mahaney’s talk was phenomenal. If you are in ministry, you MUST listen to it. If you’re close to giving up, you MUST listen to it. If you need to remember His faithfulness, you MUST listen to it. If you need an eternal perspective, you MUST listen to it. The entire sermon was phenomenal but his second point was the one that penetrated my heart – the Apostle Paul understood that the context and condition of Christian ministry is suffering. His text was 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and he referenced verses 7-12 as he stated that “the proclamation of the gospel, by definition, involves persecution, suffering, trials, afflictions, bewilderment, being struck down, etc.”
And this sentence is the one that changed everything: “You need to have this theology of suffering in place, before you experience these things, or you will be blindsided.”
It’s not supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy, just as marriage isn’t easy (see Marriage is Nothing Like a Hallmark Card). We’re not called to the American dream. And God made it this way on purpose. Despite my desire to be safe, secure, and comfortable, God is calling me to suffer. And what makes it all worthwhile is that “these realities have a divine design. They are purposeful. Each of these times of hardship is an opportunity to show His power… when [others] watch you in suffering, they want to see if the Gospel makes a difference.” He is developing our character, building our witness, and bringing Himself glory.
It is the grace of God that enables us to follow His call. His Spirit can penetrate even the hardest of hearts, strengthen the weakest of knees, and illuminate the darkest of paths. This week I’ve been encouraged by Paul’s theology of suffering, his expectations of ministry, and by his eternal perspective that is captured for us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Take heart today! Be willing to step out in faith to follow God’s calling on your life. Our current (or future) suffering, when compared with future glory, is completely worth whatever hardships may come our way. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that there is no comparison with the eternal glory that will come as our reward!