being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts Hebrews 11:37-38
Afflicted – Affliction is the appointed destiny of the Christian. As of yesterday, we know why. Affliction is God’s endorsement of my involvement in the life of His Son. If I am living like Jesus, I should anticipate the crushing pressures of the world. It is part of the battle plan of redemption.
But there is a flip side. Most of us expect a different kind of life. We prefer comfortable harmony to bloody combat. If we knew that becoming a Christian would mean we were signing up to enjoy living in hell on earth, we might take a different road. It would be a foolish choice, no doubt, but we are not inclined toward sacrifice. It goes against the natural grain.
So God does not recruit us with posters of battlefield agony. He recruits us with images of lost and empty lives; of guilt and shame; of misery and despair. He demonstrates in word and deed that He is willing to resurrect us. I am captivated by gratitude. When I am overwhelmed by His grace, then I am able to voluntarily offer myself as a slave forever to the One Who thought me worthy of saving. I accept whatever God allows in my life simply because I am dead without Him.
When I become His slave, He begins the process of shaping my life like the life of His Son. That inevitably involves affliction. If Jesus learned obedience through suffering, why would I think I do not require the same instruction? So, here’s the barbed question: Have I been trying to avoid the very process that is required of me to become like Jesus? Have I set my life’s goal on everything except suffering in His name? God will not (usually) force me to learn this truth. He will present the opportunities for voluntary submission but He will not make me submit. I have to do that. But if I spend my life running from redemptive suffering, I will never progress toward the Christ. I will never be worthy to be called by His name because I will refuse to accept His burden and emulate His character. I can’t have it both ways. Either I enter into His suffering or I disassociate myself from His life.
I face the paradoxical decision. The more I move toward self-protection, self-accumulation and self-fulfillment, the less God will give me opportunities to be called worthy. The more I redirect my submission toward self-denial, the more worthy I become to suffer for Him. In other words, the closer I come to Jesus, the more I will experience affliction. If I want to really know Jesus, I will have to learn to live in hell on earth. But I will enjoy it.
Now how do you measure up?