To read Part 1 (Parent Trap) click here or Part 2 (Helpful Hardship) click here. This will be the third and final post of this series. My first post recognized the gracious process of the Lord to humble my pride-filled heart over time through merely one example and facet of life (parenting), although I could have shared many others. The second post highlighted the transition that our lives made as God humbled us and we began to follow the Spirit’s leadership even into uncomfortable places. I wanted this third post to sum it up with our boast in the cross.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live (in the resurrection)! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Hebrews 12:4-12
Nothing drives the human heart to repentance and prayer more than suffering and trials. Our frailty and weakness is revealed, and we seek God for strength and grace. Moreover, God has designed death and suffering to inherently drive humanity to a place of groping.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia (cf. Acts 19-20). For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death (eternally, i.e. Gehenna). But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us (in the resurrection). On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
Trials and tribulations humiliate our delusions of control and self-reliance. When bad things happen to us, we are better positioned to abandon our attempts to run our lives and determine our own destinies.
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable…14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need…17 When he came to his senses, he said…18 ‘I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'” Luke 15:1-19
Tribulations bring wickedness and darkness to the forefront, which demands a response of repentance on our part. Afterward, we experience a liberty and maturity in our inner being—a sanctification and holiness that will be rewarded in the kingdom.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (in this age as you sojourn), 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (at the return of Messiah)…12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-12
In this (“an inheritance that is imperishable”–v.4) you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Not only do trials and tribulations establish humility in the human heart in preparation for the age to come, they also witness to the world of God’s unconditional love in this age. As God has been rejected, persecuted, and hated in this age—yet relentlessly responding in love and longsuffering—so also is the Church established in the love of God by enduring suffering and persecution for the gospel, which will culminate at the end of the age.
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death (as was the Messiah), because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake (functioning as he did), but you are wise in Christ. We are weak (not retaliating), but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute (by the wicked). To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat (imitating the longsuffering of God in Messiah). We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children (to imitate God). For though you have countless guides in Christ (teachers with words), you do not have many fathers (teachers with lifestyle). For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:9-15
The Church is called to show the world the longsufferings of God, not just in word but in deed. Our lives are meant to reflect the love of God demonstrated on the Cross. In this way we “fill up in our flesh what is still lacking in regard’s to Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24)
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church (cf. 2 Pe. 3:9). Colossians 1:23-24
SUM IT UP
Grace and I are well aware that some have looked at our family over the last several years and think that we go looking for struggles and trials. Or plainly put, that we have jumped off the deep end. :) We’ve heard it from more than a few people. This cannot be farther from the truth. Our only aim is to listen and obey. And we truly believe that listening and obeying will often lead us into uncomfortable situations. The lives of the apostles testify to that point.
Thus, we look as though we track down hardship and bear hug it. We don’t try and avoid every hardship that presents itself, but seek to be aware of God’s leadership while in it, knowing that sometimes it is Him who led us right toward it and other times He has asked us to avoid it. Some bend over backwards and are almost programmed to avoid any type of trial in order to make this life easier, leaving the leadership of the Lord in the dust. We desperately don’t want that. Ease of life is not our #1 priority. God’s leadership is. And especially while facing hard times.
We are convinced that He isn’t looking for our “best life now” (comfortability) but wants us to enter His Kingdom then (when the Messiah returns and reigns on this earth). There are endless things seeking to anchor life, reality and faith in this age. Especially in the West where marketing pounds on the door of our heart everywhere we turn and is geared toward your rights as an individual with a clear motivation of self-preservation unto a “better life” in the immediate.
As I continue to open the door of my heart to the knock of the Lord and trust Him with who I am, I find that there is consistently a cross with my name on it.
Would the Lord really lead me into a time of struggle or testing? The better question is did He lead those considered His in the Bible to hardship? If so, what was the result in their hearts from the struggle they faced?
The Spirit’s indwelling presence is such a key part of the believer’s life in this age and is a sure guarantee that the Messiah now sits at the right hand of the Father and will soon return. His purpose in our lives is to strengthen our faith toward the Messiah and all that encompasses Him (His coming, resurrection, return and reign), so that we are prepared to meet Jesus in person as He really is. The Spirit’s directive is that we might wholeheartedly follow the pattern Jesus set through the cross and ultimately receive a resurrection like His. Through the Spirit awakening me to the realness of Jesus and His coming restoration, my faith is anchored in the hope of His return causing me to sojourn now and wait patiently for the Inheritance He has to give upon His return. It isn’t by our might or power, but by the grace and gift of the Spirit accessed in prayer.
Needless to say, we as the Parks’ family have failed much in our everyday pursuit to follow the Spirit’s leadership, but He has not failed to lead us to the cross time and time again in His mercy and long-suffering. We’ve grown in repentance for sure over these last months and are acutely aware of Him as the Potter and us as the clay. We have definitely grown from just having language on our lips to a real illustration in our lives.
For all of us who would follow Him, may our boast be in Him by the weakness that is revealed in us through His pattern of cross-bearing leadership. May it drive us to Him as sojourners in this dark, evil age. For the grace of His Spirit is found to be sufficient in my weakness. For years my strength gave me nothing to boast in but myself, and nothing or no one to run to but the accolades given by others. My encouragement for all who read this is to sit down in the next day or so and read 2 Corinthians chapters 10 – 13. The entire book is great but my posts have been centered on the final chapters. Paul was dealing with “super apostles” who had sought to discredit his life and walk in the Lord but more than that, to discredit the way of the cross. Paul knew of it’s affects on the church of Corinth (which is much like the Church of the West) and out of love sought to address the false gospel that was being preached.
After traveling so many miles and seeing many facets of the Body, my heart aches related to this subject. I will leave it at that for now but I hope to post more in-depth on this in the future.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons (in light of the sufferings), the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:18-23