The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways…” (Jer 17:9-10, ESV)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2Cor 4:6-11, ESV)
No matter how sweet we might have been as infants, we eventually show that there is something broken within us, something that wants to lie, cheat, manifest anger, steal, and do everything that the ten commandments tell us not to do. The heart within us is desperately sick! No matter how hard we try to be “good people,” we find ourselves doing the things that we would not and not doing the things that we would. In short, God knows we need help!
I thank our Father that He commanded His light to shine in our hearts and expose the darkness that He sees there, but not only that, He has chosen to replace our darkness with “the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” What a gift! How does this happen? Is it an instant bit of magic that our Father does in us when we get saved? I remember when I first started to experiencing trials after coming to Christ that I wanted Him to be like Tinkerbell and use His magic wand and, “Chwing!” instant super Christian! I was soon to find out that this is not His way.
As we read further down in the above quote from Paul we see that we still have this treasure of Christ in clay vessels which are weak by their very natures. God has chosen to let us see that we have no power in ourselves to live godly lives in Christ. By making us live with the weakness in us, He gets us to cry out to Him to do something about it. We soon discover that we are helpless in and of ourselves and that all power belongs to Him. We go through a process in which we are afflicted in every way only to find out that we have no strength in us to change. He allows us to be pressed upon, but not crushed; afflicted with all manner of suffering and pain and be rejected by this world and its people to the point of despair, only to find out that He has not forsaken us and is very much in it all. Paul wrote that we are “always carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus Christ so that the Life of Jesus might be what is manifest in us.” Little did we know that when we “asked Jesus into our hearts,” we also asked His suffering and death to come in to deal with that old Adam within us that Christ’s resurrection and Life might also be made manifest in us.
As this body of mine gets older, I am discovering how fragile this clay vessel really is! Where once I was healthy and self-asserting, I seem to come in contact with one affliction after another that keeps me weak. Did you notice that word “always” in what Paul wrote above? “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus.” Yikes! I seem to go from one source of pain to another. I go to the doctor with each new symptom and he sends me from one “specialist” and another! What it comes down to is that you can’t fix what God fixes to fix you. Is it any wonder that for every “miracle drug” they prescribe for us, there are even more nasty “side effects” that take the place of the “cure”? He seems to be teaching me to leave it all in the hands of the Great Physician to deal with me as HE wills.
God is myopic! He has a singular focus on one thing, the perfect manifestation of His Son in us. Early on in my Christian walk I prayed as Paul did, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection. It has taken years for me to pray the rest of that verse with sincerity–the fellowship of His suffering and be made conformed unto His death. To be conformed unto Christ’s death by suffering is also to be transformed into His resurrection life! You cannot have one without the other.
In Pentecostal circles I often heard people quoting this verse hoping that they would become great in the eyes of others, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men” (Prov 18:16, NKJV). We all love the way that God called Paul to go forth with the gospel with resurrection power and even appear before kings, but let’s read the rest of that call…
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16, NKJV)
“For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Giving our lives to Christ is a “full meal deal.” We don’t get to pick and choose which part of that life we get to have manifest within us. In the gospel of Matthew we read this:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Matt 16:21-22, ESV)
It is the very nature of the carnal man to reject suffering. Jesus embraced the will of His Father and the cross that was set before Him. Notice how the flesh in Peter reacted to this “bad news.” “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” The fleshly man has no place for suffering in his life or the lives of his loved ones. Now look at how Jesus responded to Peter’s outburst:
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:23, ESV)
He spoke to Satan that was manifesting in Peter’s fleshly mind trying to get Jesus to disobey the will of His Father. If He had turned away from the cross and become the new earthly King of Israel as they all wanted, none of us would have ever been redeemed! The flesh is an ally of Satan and to embrace our suffering that our Father has willed is to reject the devil in our lives. The will of God is just the opposite of the wills of many of my Pentecostal friends who want to rebuke demons anytime someone is suffering.
Dear saints, don’t be robbed of the fellowship that is ours as we embrace His sufferings. There is more to fellowship than to meet, eat and retreat one day a week in a warm and fuzzy church meeting. Paul wrote, “but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1Cor 12:24-26, NKJV). How often do we see this depth of fellowship within our “seeker friendly” and easy believe-ism churches of today?
You see, dear saints, suffering is very much a part of the plan of God as He conforms us into the image of Christ. Embrace the fellowship of His suffering as Paul did for it is part of His resurrection power working in us.
Father, open our the eyes of our understanding that we might see the depths of our salvation and fully embrace all that you have for us to walk in together as we follow Christ in our lives. Amen.
Yes getting old brings on the suffering however we are getting closer to the bliss.
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This is the part of the Christian message many Christians would prefer to ignore. Thank you for the reminder, Michael. ❤
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Yes, you are right, Anna. Thanks for your comment.
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Qué preciosa enseñanza Michael y muy apropiada en este momento de mi vida. Abrazar la cruz es abrazar al Señor Jesús, es recibir todo lo que tiene para darnos, los dulce y lo amargo.
En estos días hablaba con un misionero un poco confundido con respecto a este tema y ahí pude evidenciar lo difícil que es al hombre natural abrazar el sufrimiento. Nuestra naturaleza se resiste con todas sus fuerzas a ser llevada a la muerte absoluta de nuestra propia vida, para alcanzar la Vida de Él. Que el Señor abra nuestros ojos a esta verdad y nos permita abrazar el sufrimiento como parte del plan de Dios para cada uno de nosotros.
Un abrazo mi hermano.
Se me olvidaba preguntarte, si te acuerdas de una enseñanza que colgaste en este blog, que habla acerca de que en nuestro compañerismo con otros cristianos, nuestra conversación debe estar centrada en Cristo y no en cosas vanas. Es que no recuerdo en qué fecha fue y cómo se llama 😦
What a beautiful teaching Michael and very appropriate at this time in my life. To embrace the cross is to embrace the Lord Jesus, it is to receive everything you have [He has} to give us, the sweet and the bitter.
These days I was talking to a missionary who was a bit confused about this issue and there I could see how difficult it is for natural man to embrace suffering. Our nature resists with all its strength to be led to the absolute death of our own life, to reach the Life of Him. May the Lord open our eyes to this truth and allow us to embrace suffering as part of God’s plan for each one of us.
A hug my brother.
I forgot to ask you, if you remember a teaching that you posted on this blog, that talks about our fellowship with other Christians, our conversation should be centered on Christ and not on vain things. I just do not remember what date it was and what it’s called 😦
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Thanks for your encouragement. Your story about the missionary and his difficulty with accepting suffering reminded me of the conversation that Job had with his wife,
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:7-10, ESV)
So many Christians are not prepared to go on following the Lord when evil things come their way. Satan had permission to smite Job with sickness, but was told that he could not kill him. How many of us cast blame on the Lord in our trials and sin with out lips?
For they [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:10-11, ESV)
Suffering is the Lord’s path given us that we might also share in His holiness in the image of Christ. “Later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness…” I think He knows that our suffering has begun to do its work in us when it drives us ever closer to Him, and we bless Him in ALL things.
As for which article that was, I am afraid my sister that I don’t remember.
Your brother IN Christ,
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Amen Michael. Esta mañana leía “Ventanas Abiertas” de Austin Sparks y estas palabras hicieron mella en mí: “El fin de Dios por el cual Él trabaja de mil maneras, es para que Cristo sea Todo en todos”.
Y esas maneras por las cuales Dios trabaja no son agradables a nuestra carne.
Hace unos años estaba en mi pueblo de nacimiento en la época de Navidad, yo estaba sentada tomando un refresco, porque este lugar es muy caliente; de pronto veo a una familia que entra una ternera para sacrificarla, me imagino que para la cena de navidad, pero este animal se resistía y no quería ser sacrificado, se agachaba y no se dejaba entrar; el Señor me dio una lección, que así es nuestra naturaleza, se resiste con todas sus fuerzas para ser sacrificada en el altar de Dios.
El camino de la cruz es voluntario y muchos, lamentablemente, no aceptan el costo.
Un abrazo mi hermano.
PD: estuve de cumpleaños el 12 de Junio.
Amen Michael. This morning I was reading “Open Windows” by Austin Sparks and these words made an impression on me: “The end of God for which He works in a thousand ways, is for Christ to be All in all.”
And those ways that God works for are not pleasing to our flesh.
A few years ago I was in my town of birth at the Christmas time, I was sitting drinking a soft drink, because this place is very hot; suddenly I see a family that enters a veal to sacrifice it, I imagine that for Christmas dinner, but this animal resisted and did not want to be sacrificed, it bent down and it was not allowed to enter; The Lord gave me a lesson, which is our nature, he resists with all his strength to be sacrificed on the altar of God.
The way of the cross is voluntary and many, unfortunately, do not accept the cost.
A hug my brother.
PS: I was born on June 12th.
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That story of the lamb was quite an object lesson of how our flesh resists all the way.
Happy birthday, Patricia!
Love in Christ,
OH MICHAEL! I wept as I read this and again as I read it aloud to my Sweetie. It is rare that I read what someone writes that I can identify with everything that is written. Physical, emotional, financial, spiritual woes of every ilk, color and type. I know you are aware of the cardio issues I have had over the years we have know each other as well as some of the financial stuff. You may even know about the assault IRS has launched against us over a ten year period in which they demanded an ever increasing amount of money until it totaled over 2.5 million dollars. The one thing they said they would not seize was our beautiful home to settle the debt. Well, last September they auctioned it off for a fraction of the value. We were allowed to live in it for 6 months but had to move out on March 18th of this year. We have stored what we did not give away and are living in our RV nearby. During the entire time we experienced many physical problems that come with aging. On March 13th we had a car wreck and my wife’s car was totaled. Michael, I believe you and Dorothy know Darnella and I well enough that we have looked to Jesus at every turn in the road in this marvelous journey.
To say we are weak is an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. Almost daily we cry out to HiM for grace, mercy, peace, healing and strength. And ya know what brother and sister, HE has never let us down. Not one time. Do we miss our home? Absolutely, every day. But we still rejoice in HiS love, provision, goodness and HiS perfect plan that is continually unfolding.
Thank you dear friend and brother for sharing your amazing gift of writing with the body. I love you more than you know. Even though we haven’t spoken in awhile I still feel your nearness in your writings. It is my sincere prayer that what I have shared, though extremely personal will bless many who are making this journey into the depths of our amazing Fathers’ heart. Praise Jesus for the cross and thank God for HiS amazing love.
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Dear Ken and Darnella,
Well, my dear friends, I am at a loss to comment on all that you have gone through. I know that our loving Father uses suffering and loss to do a deep disciplining work in us because He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are and fall short of the glory of His Son. As it says in the NKJV, “AFTERWARD it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Oh, how we long for the “afterwards” part to kick in gear! Yet, Paul said he had learned to be content in no matter what stated he found himself in. Many of us have sat under teachers that told us that “gain is godliness. But the real truth is “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Godliness with holy contentment… what a blessing to come to the place where we can receive all these things as from the hand of our Loving Father for our eternal maturity IN Christ. I am so grateful you two are seeing this. We truly are “MORE THAN OVERCOMERS IN CHRIST JESUS.”
As I write this my back is racked with pain so if it my words seem out of sorts pleas forgive me. I am still a work in progress.
I remember how gracious you two were to share your home with us and others on many occasions. But there is a more perfect house that God is building, one made from Living stones and those stones have to be shaped with a lot of hammering before they will fit in the place HE desires. In Hebrews we read,
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later [afterwards] it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11, ESV)
Oh, Lord how we long for the “afterwards” to get here. Paul wrote, “No matter what state I find myself in, therein I am content.” Holy contentment seems to be the goal our Father is after in us, a contentment that can not be shaken. Yes, only that which is unshakable will remain… those lives securely resting in Christ. Dear Father, make it so.
It was good to hear from you again, my brother,
Ever so timely for me. Weather we like it or not, pray for it or not, if you are His, you WILL endure the fellowship of His suffering. My last trial lasted almost 10 years and it was so dark and harsh, I pretty much lost my faith. Though coming back ever so slowly, some days I still find it hard to believe in a loving God.
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Mark, my time of intense wilderness (the dark night of the soul by another name) lasted 14 years. During that time, to me He was the God who was not there. Like Joseph in prison, no matter what I prayed or who I appealed to that it might end… NOTHING! I can tell you that the turning point for me was when I finally prayed and meant it, “Lord, you are God, not me. I belong to you. If you want to leave me in this lifeless state the rest of my life, so be it. I yield to you.” Up until that time I was always trying to find a way to make it end, just as Joseph did in that dungeon. To the butler who was being released from prison he said,
“But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.” (Gen 40:14-15, NKJV)
You are right, though, going down into that pit happened rather quickly, but Him bringing me back up out of it was a very slow process. Toward the end of that time He told me, “You have not been this way before.” And, “That which falls into the ground and dies is not the same thing which springs forth.” He was right, I had never dreamed that He would use me as His scribe and write about the things He has been showing me (and taking me through) for the sake of others who are on this journey. This has been a lonely walk since He ended that dark night and fellowship with true saints has been rare. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Mark, I am sure that Joseph never thought that He would be the number two man in the land of Egypt so he could be used to deliver his people from famine. God did not take him through all that dying for him to get all puffed up, but rather to prepare him be used to deliver his own people from the coming famine and end up in Egypt. As we read in Hebrews ch. 11, even in all these dark times with His hand heavily upon us, we find our victory in walking by faith through it all. Even that is a gift from our Creator.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. HE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL; HE WILL SURELY DO IT. (1Thess 5:23-24, ESV)
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