Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Believer's Half Life

I f, as Christians we could read life from the end backwards, we should all be much happier than we are. We can do with this with the saints in the Bible, and count them blessed because they all come to their happy ending. The patriarchs had to go through their lonely wanderings, but in the end they all got to the 'better country' (Heb 11:16). The heroes of the faith went "through fire and water', but at length God brought them to a 'wealthy place' (Psalm 66:12). The prophets too, after delivering their heavy burden of prophecy and pronouncing their inspired oracles, all passed over to their place of rest. Like Daniel, they finished their course and stood 'in their lot at the end of their days' (Daniel 12:13). The Old Testament saints got safely home, and so, when we read of their many sufferings, we feel comfort for them because we know the end of their history and we remember that 'their latter end is peace' (Psalm 37:37).

The believer's life is a type of parabola in which the curve first goes down, but then goes up again at last. All God's people, more or less, have to go through this parabola experience. It is the life pattern of God's elect. They first suffer with Christ, and then they reign with him (2 Tim 2:12).

This pattern is seen in the life of our Savior himself. He expresses this fact to his disciples in this way: 'Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?' (Luke 24:26). Peter's way of stating the same truth concerning Christ is in the words, 'the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow' (1 Peter 1:11). James likewise explains this parabola experience in this way 'Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy' (James 5:10-11). Similarly, Paul declares 'that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us' (Romans 8:18). Christ and his people have a state of humiliation before they arrive a their state of exaltation.

The problem with us as Christians is that we regularly forget the last chapter of our life because we cannot read it. If we could read the last chapter of our life and then see our present miseries in thee light of it we should 'rejoice in the Lord alway' (Phil 4:4). The secret of present happiness is to see our life as a whole and not merely to see it a page at a time.

If the Christian is to live above his fears and above his feelings, he must learn the art of seeing his life in light of the last chapter. Well did a good old Puritan say, 'he who rides to be crowned cares not about the rain.' We are riding to be crowned with Christ. We ride on the King's highway towards privileges which beggar all our thoughts. If our path is rough and the weather rainy, it cannot spoil our hope of sitting on Christ's throne at last.

Though for a short season Rachel must weep for her children....she will at last know why the Lord has said, 'Refrain they voice from weeping, and they eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded....and there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord.' (Jeremiah 31:16-17). When Job said to his wife, 'Shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?' (Job 2:10), he was still ignorant of the good which the Lord planned to do him in this life. He spoke by faith, knowing that God can do us more good by our sufferings and miseries than by our outward blessings. Job's miseries and sufferings had to to still intensify before he got his eventual comfort, but his soul retained its grasp of the moral purpose in a believer's afflictions: 'But he knoweth the way that I take when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold' (Job 23:10)

It is not an accident that spiritual eminence is closely related to sanctified affliction. God sharpens our souls on the grindstone of pain and disappointment. Joseph's feet were in fetters, 'the iron went into his soul' (Psalm 105:18). These experiences were later preparatory to his later eminent service to God and his generation. Hannah's early disappointment served the same moral purpose. When God had later dried her eyes, she saw a divinely wise method in God's dealings: 'The Lord killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory' (1 Samuel 2:6-8)

God puts a thorn in the believer's nest to teach him to fly upwards on the wing of prayer. Those who have little affliction have little prayer.... The wrong way to look at the Christian life is to look at the things we now see, feel, and suffer....The believer's sufferings and labors for Christ are 'not in vain' (1 Cor 15:58).

In God's glorious and good providence there is a correspondence between the first and second half of the believer's life. Moses saw it to be so all those many centuries ago: 'Make us glad according to the days thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil' (Psalm 90:15). The trials and tribulations of the 'first half' of our life are to be proportionately balanced by a comfort and rest which correspond to them."
Great God of Wonders by Maurice Roberts

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1