Lenten Devotion for April 6, 2019

Philippians 3:4–14 (NRSV)

4 If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Pressing toward the Goal 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

We all want to share in the power of the resurrection with Christ. Few desire to share in his suffering. And yet, in Paul’s words these two are inseparable. You don’t get the resurrection power without the suffering as well.

Part of this is a general suffering which comes with the world. Illness permeates the world. Natural disasters wreak havoc upon the earth as well. Evil exists in many forms and makes its impact. Yes, there is no denying the suffering that takes place all around us.

The other part is a more personal and, often, more difficult. It is one thing to say that illness exists and a completely other thing to say I am sick. The level of suffering grows as the closer it gets to us.

We live in between the already and not yet. Yes, Christ’s resurrection power is alive and at work all around and in us. And yet, so is the realm of evil from which suffering comes. To live in the world it is to live in the tension between the already and not yet.

The way through suffering is as Paul says to “press on”. The subversive act of persevering moves us, eventually, through by opening us to the power of the resurrection day by day. By pressing on we say that suffering is temporary.
Since suffering is not optional and pressing on is our way forward, we had better become good at what it looks like to do it well. That may seem odd at first. You probably will say, “But I don’t want to suffer well!” And neither do I. But if it is our reality, then we need to figure out our how.

God, in infinite grace and knowledge, has given helps for challenging times.

  1. A direct line of prayer. No need to go to middlemen to take our pleas up with God. We can go directly and know that God hears and is working.
  2. A collection of 66 books we call the Bible.The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. In it, we have all that is necessary for salvation for this life and the life to come. I dare you to read it regularly and not be floored by the words of hope that flow from God to you especially during times of difficulty.
  3. Each other.This world does give us more than we can handle alone. But God again meets us in our time of need and gives us each other. Turning away from relationships during trials is turning away from the very help God wants to provide.

Lord Jesus, whether today finds me on a high mountaintop or in a deep valley I know that you are at work. Your resurrection power is alive and impactful. I also realize that this world is not yet what you will make it. And for the days of difficulty we find ourselves in we cling on the handles of hope you give.