Sunday, February 24, 2013

The New Leaf

Pride is at the root of all sins, and it is pride that often keeps us from carrying things to God in prayer.  We imagine we can handle things quite well on our own, or we fear that God is likely to tell us to do something we don't want to do.  The whole Christian life is a process of bringing the self-life down to death in order that the life of Jesus may be manifest in us. "As he grows greater, I must grow less, "said John the Baptist (John 3:30).

"Let us remember that it is not God who makes many of the crosses that we find in our way, such as we commonly call 'crosses.'  Our Heavenly Father makes 'straight paths for our feet,' ...But when the path that God points out goes north and south, and our stubborn wills lead us east and west, the consequences is a 'cross' --a cross of our own making, not that which our Master bids us 'take up and carry after Him,' and of which it has been well said, 'He always carries the heaviest end Himself'" (Annie Webb-Peploe, quoted in Mary Tileston:  Joy and Strength, World Wide Publications, Minneapolis 1986, p. 354).

To a heart willing to be shown, God will reveal the self-inflicted causes of trouble.  There are many examples given in Scripture, such as receiving the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11:27-30), persistence in sin (1 Pt 4:17), and --this is the reason for prolonged and terrible miseries-- a refusal to forgive (Mt 18:34-35).

In a wrong-filled world we suffer (and cause) many a wrong.  God is there to heal and comfort and forgive.  "It was not you who sent me here but God, "Joseph said to the brothers who had meant to get rid of him altogether.  "You meant to do me harm, but God meant to bring good out of it" (Gn 45:8; 50:20).  Here is consolation for us when someone sins against us:  God sent it, and God meant it --for good.

When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread,"  an angry retort from someone may be part of the answer, for it may furnish just the occasion we need in which to learn not only longsuffering and forgiveness, but meekness, gentleness, fruits not born in us but borne only by the Spirit in us.  Amy Carmichael wrote, "A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred."

All this is part of the process of separating us form the old life and forming in us the new.  Painful it must be, of course, but look to the purpose!  Look to the glory God has in mind, accept it, and say with the psalmist, "I, thy servant, will study thy statutes.  Thy instruction is my continual delight; I turn to it for counsel....I will run the course set out in thy commandments" (Ps 119:23-24, 32).

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

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