Sunday, August 4, 2013
I know a lot of discouraged people these days. If not for God's grace, I would be one of those people too. And I am sure I will be at some point in the near future, and then I will need someone to encourage me. As I was considering all these hurting people, it made me think back to a time in my life when I had a friend who was deeply discouraged - she was burdened for the salvation of her children (as any mother should be), she was trying to help several people around her who were deeply distressed, and she was facing some frustrating concerns in her ministry. At the time, I was away for a few weeks, pursuing my master's degree in California in a summer intensive program. When I returned, I gave her a letter summarizing some of what I had been learning from my professors. I need these reminders myself as I seek to encourage those who are currently hurting. Here is a portion of that letter.
When I was at school, one of the main things I remember hearing from one professor over and over again, was in regards to the cross. We often tend to think that the cross is all about our salvation and about acquiring heaven. And it is, but it is even more about being transformed and restored to the image of God (which is how we were created) day by day. The “new man” Paul speaks of putting on in his letters is Christ – Christ is the new man! We are putting on Christ every day. We know the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. That should be your priority at all times. And when you evaluate your life and how you are progressing, it should be in regards to those two commands. In causing you to be dissatisfied with some of what you see when you examine your life, God is giving you an opportunity to find your complete satisfaction in Him. When you wish that you could be more diligent or have more time to minister to various friends and to teach specific things to your children – He is showing you that it is only in Christ that you can minister effectively at all. Take heart, you are ministering when you simply love others, even if you can’t give them all the particular time or attention that you would like. These are opportunities for us both to be saturated in the Word, because that is truly the only comfort we can give to others. Reason with your friends and your children from the Word. May it be on the tip of our tongues in every conversation we have with these dear ones. Here is one brief “nugget” that I think might be helpful in your conversations with both your friends who are struggling with hard providences right now, and even in your communication with your kids:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)
Jesus had truly become the Satisfier of Paul’s soul. And I know He is your Satisfier – now teach your friends and your children to find Him most satisfying! All men will sacrifice most willingly for that which they find most satisfying. Ask your friends, ask your children – what are you zealous for? What do you value most? What are you living for? (and don’t let people get away with the cliché response of “for God’s glory”) Get practical, especially with the kids. For instance, you could ask if they are finding more value in their friends or a certain toy than in Christ. Obviously as lost souls right now, they can’t find Him most satisfying. But by pointing those things out to them, Lord-willing they will begin to see that nothing else can satisfy them permanently, and so they will cry out in need of a Savior. We are so well taught with doctrine that we can recite these answers flippantly without dealing with our hearts. Asking ourselves these questions is how you and I can see our own sin more clearly and flee from it. And we aren’t just fleeing from it; we are fleeing to Christ, the Satisfier!