Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Magnifying The Value Of Christ In Our Suffering
Living a life that desires to magnify Christ in it, and to show His infinite worth, will cost a person everything. It will be the single hardest thing you ever do, should you choose to go that far for Christ. To paraphrase a wonderful quote from one of my favorite Christian authors John Piper: In our own lives, Christ is made most glorified to the world, when we are completely satisfied in Him, and in what He calls each one of us to do. Jesus understood that the best way for this world to see the full magnitude of what He was supposed to mean to it was to suffer on the Cross. He knew better than anyone what it was going to cost to pay the penalty for our sins. Without a shadow of a doubt, Christ understood what it meant to suffer for God's Glory. And He satisfied that wrath with His sacrifice on the Cross.
Whatever we discover in this world, whether it's a gift we figure out that we have, or something we find out that we have the opportunity to do that allows us to give God glory, we should run after those things. There is no greater joy on this earth than in experiencing the greatness of God. And if that means that in order to see that happen we have to undergo intense periods of painful suffering sometimes in our lives, then we should count that as the most beautiful blessing we could ever receive. I mean because, to be quite honest, knowing Christ and gaining Christ is all that matters. Everything else in this world is utter rubbish in comparison. The apostle Paul described for us in 1 Corinthians 2:2 his one, all-consuming and passionate desire in this world when it came to how he knew the world should know Christ and view Him; and it was "to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified". He also exclaimed a little later on in the New Testament, in Philippians 3: 7-8 that everything in this world, and anything he could ever gain or achieve was counted "as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord". You see, Paul understood that boasting in the glory of what Jesus did for mankind on the cross, that brutal and bloody death He had to die, will always be the biggest example we can look to in times of incredibly painful suffering that will inevitably occur throughout our lives. The way Paul saw it: not one single person that has ever lived or will ever live will ever know what it truly means to suffer, compared to everything Christ suffered through on the Cross for us. Because Christ, and the horribly bloody death He died, is the single most intense, highest-level of suffering that a person can ever experience. But what was even more amazing than the fact that Christ underwent that for us, was His willingness to obediently do it. Knowing what it would cost, and how terrible it really was going to be, and staring Sin straight in the face and knowing He was going to conquer it's dominion over our lives and our disgusting slavery to it. When Paul mentions time and again the cross of Christ, we come to understand that he could see that obedience in suffering for God's glory, to be willing to go that far for our holy God, was and always will be the best way to show the world who Christ really is, and what His significant importance as the bedrock and cornerstone of the Christian faith is supposed to mean to us. Because honestly guys, it's not necessarily always about how faithfully you share the Gospel or how you live out a Christ-like lifestyle; it's more-so about how true you stay to your faith in Christ, and how much you still want to show Him to the world when you're suffering; when you feel like your life is crashing and falling apart in front of your eyes. If you can stick that out, maintain your faith and stand the test of trial and tribulation, then you can truly understand what it means to give God glory. And you will experience the happiness of knowing how, when the going got tough, your faith and trust in God got stronger and more beautiful than ever before.
"So what does this mean for my life?" you might ask. It means this: in every area of your life, in every single thing God calls you to do for His Kingdom and for His glory, you run as far as you can, and you suffer as much as is laid upon you. Because in doing so, I can promise you that you're giving God true and faithful glory that He deserves. If the only thing we ever desire from Christ is to give us gifts, and to make our lives the way we want them to be, and we don't ever really truly want Him as our most-satisfying treasure, then the way we will always view Jesus is as a means to an end. This will mean that the magnificent glory of the cross that Jesus died on for us will become reduced to nothing more than a self-glorifying, self-seeking pedestal to climb up upon when there arises a selfish need within us that we need to reach up for to get for ourselves. The true essence of our faith, the most intimate desires of our heart, should be in trusting Him to give us what we want and need the most: and that's the presence of Himself in our lives, everyday. This means that, above everything else we receive in our lives, above everything else we suffer through or find ourselves struggling in a rough patch through, we are to treasure the value of knowing Christ and possessing Him as our Savior; and knowing that He's with us always. That we possess Him in our very hearts, no matter how bad we screw things up all the time. That He has never and will never leave us. And that suffering for His names' sake is a wonderful opportunity to give God glory and point other people to salvation in Christ, not a hindrance to our lives and a burden that prevents us from doing what we want. When our desires for our life match God's desires for our life then that will be the point at which we can begin to understand the supreme value of Christ and what the crucial importance of following Him daily really means in the life of a believer.
The brilliant philosopher-theologian St. Augustine, who's writings were extremely influential in the development of Western Christianity, said it best when he concluded "For he did not delay, but ran through the world, crying out by words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension-crying aloud to us to return to him. And he departed from our sight so that we might return to our hearts and find him there. For he left us and behold, he is here".
My prayer is that, when you experience painful and brutal moments of suffering in your life, that you understand who it is you're pushing through it for. Faithfully being willing to suffer for Christ, in the same way that He obediently suffered on behalf of the Father's Will, is the best way to honor God and give Him glory. And in the life of a Christian, it will always be the most powerful way to demonstrate the infinite value of Christ.