Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Choosing the hard

"apart from your Father's will"
Matthew 10:29

Have you ever heard that wonderful illustration about the butterfly, and the man who thought he was doing it a favor by helping it out of the cocoon?  He watched the butterfly struggle for awhile, and then he carefully cut through the rest of the cocoon, but then the butterfly wasn't able to fly.  The process of making its way out of its cocoon would have forced unneeded fluid from its body, into its wings, giving him the body he needed to fly.

It's a very effective picture, that I've heard many times, about the reasons for our trials, and the growth and benefits of them. 

Have you also ever heard of the Book of James?  I'm sure you have...

When you read that book, you know right away that James is going to give it to you straight ~ tough love.  As a matter of fact, the very first thing that James says, after the one-verse opening of his letter, is "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials..."

That's a hard one.  It's one thing to have faith that suffering has a purpose, as James says in the continuation of that sentence:  "... knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."  But it's another thing to take joy in that suffering. 

Gotta work on that one. 

But recently, I got to looking at the concept of suffering from another angle.  Our pastor was talking about satan's temptation to Christ in Matthew 4.  The third temptation ~ verses 8 and 9 ~ was the devil taking Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain, showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

Now, Jesus will have all that ~ the kingdoms of the world, and their glory.  All will belong to Him.   In Revelation 11 we are told that when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, there will be loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" 

So one of two things was happening when the devil was tempting Jesus in the desert.  Perhaps he didn't know of Jesus' victory that is to come, in which case he would have expected that temptation to be very... well, tempting. 

The alternative ~ and I think this is the case ~ is that satan did know.  I think his true temptation was not the power and glory he was offering Jesus, but the chance to have that power and glory without going to the cross. 

We know that Jesus dreaded going to the cross.  Matthew 26 uses words like "exceedingly sorrowful" and "deeply distressed" and tells us that He prayed three times, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

He didn't want to have to go through the agony of the cross.  But choosing to avoid it wasn't an option for Him.  It was His Father's will that mattered.

I'm not saying it's not okay to ask to be released from a trial.  Jesus asked to be released.  But I think maybe it will help me to approach suffering with joy when I remember how Jesus approached His temptation. 

If what I want is to be in His will, then sometimes that means walking through the difficult.  But not alone.  And I'll come out the other side more beautiful.

~ "In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted,
    He is able to aid those who are tempted." ~
Hebrews 2:18

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