Friday, December 5, 2014

"Altars of Pain"

     Our dear Orange Moon friend Peggy reminded me yesterday of one of God's great truths regarding the challenges we face in our lives: "One of the reasons God determines or allows difficulties in our lives is to prepare us to genuinely minister to others."

    "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation" (II Corinthians 1:3-6). 

    Our faith began with the sufferings of One leading to the blessing of many others.  "God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:8-9).  The same Christ now lives in us by His Spirit, purposing to fulfill the same character and quality of a life lived for the glory of God and the blessing of others.  "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).  This includes the bearing of crosses ourselves, which leads to others experiencing the life of the risen Christ as we see and respond to the ministry that awaits us in our challenge.  As the Apostle Paul declared, our Lord's sufferings "abound in us" for the purpose of someone else's "consolation and salvation."

    The foundation of such a life involves prayers prayed from altars of pain, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Just as our Savior prayed for others while hanging upon His cross, He now leads us to see our own sufferings as opportunity to intercede for those who also hurt.  Ever and always, somebody, somewhere feels the pains we feel, or more.  Or they may experience a different challenge altogether.  Whatever the case, the altar beckons us to come out of ourselves, as it were, to seek God's balm for suffering brothers and sisters rather than sink into ourselves by dwelling on our own hurts.  The question, "Why is this happening to me?" dissolves as the indwelling Spirit of Christ births within us the greater inquiry of His selfless heart: "Who is this for?"  

    We may never know the "who?" in this lifetime, that is, the person or persons to whom the life of Christ flows from our altar of pain.  Sometimes we do, and we pray specifically.  Most of the time, we simply pray and trust the Lord to direct His answers as He sees fit to that "somebody, somewhere".  In this regard, I sometimes wonder if in eternity we will encounter some brother or sister along a heavenly path of gold who greets us with gratitude.  "Do you remember that prayer you prayed for me back in December, 2014 in our previous life?"  Perhaps we won't remember the intercession we offered.  "Well," our fellow believer will respond, "I was that "somebody, somewhere" for whom you prayed during that time of your own pain.  The Lord answered your prayers and saved me from my despair, and delivered me from my trial."  Doubtless in that holy hour, we will fall together before the Lamb to worship One whose bears such a heart of devotion to God and others that His presence within us enables us to "walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).

   This is "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27).  That we should "be like Him" comprises God's eternal purpose for our lives, and also His present purpose for this life (I John 3:2).  Thus, our crosses leads to resurrection for others as we recognize the honored privilege of the Lord Jesus living the same quality of life in us as He lived during His earthly lifetime.  He could bless us in no greater way or measure, nor could He lead us on any path of greater challenge.  Yes, somebody, somewhere awaits our visit to our particular altar of pain whereby the Lord prepares us for ministry in prayer, or by other means whereby our "deaths" become life, the life of Christ, to others…

"For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.  So then, death worketh in us, but life in you."
(II Corinthians 4:11-12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Every word of God is pure.  He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him."
(Proverbs 30:5)

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