Friday, February 12, 2010

Pain Hurts

This is not exactly new information to anyone out there. There are lots of ways we people experience pain. The pain I am talking about is that which comes with growth. Any new pursuit causes incredible pain. Start a new work out and you will know exactly what I am talking about. I recently acquired the elementary skills required for Biblical Hebrew. It was humbling to sit at the kitchen table and do the exact same homework that my first grade son was doing.

Frankly, I am better at languages than I ever thought I would be. My last experiences were failing German in college and squeaking my way through Latin in High School. When I was a young idiot I thought that if you were talented in something that you did not have to work at it. Therefore, I must not be good at languages because I did not know Latin and German even though I never actually tried to learn these languages. Let me tell you, I finally tried really hard at both Greek and Hebrew. I did this with a determination where failure was not an option. I was going to pass these classes no matter what. With God’s help I succeeded, and succeeded well.

Well, I started Advanced Greek today. I am in this class with mostly PhD students. I feel like the little kid at the big boy table, and could have never thought myself “gifted” enough to participate in this class. Why did I ever believe that lie in the first place?

I say this not to glorify myself, only to ask the question: What lies do you believe about yourself? And how are these lies holding you back? The truth is most of us lead cowardly lives. We are so scared to do anything outside of our comfort zone. We are scared of many things, but I think many of us are scared of the pain.

You see there is pain in life with every new endeavor. When we start a new job we have go through the pain of learning a new responsibilities and new people. This pain prevents us from doing the things that God wants from us. The truly great people of the faith said emphatically, “It was worth the pain.”

Consider 2 Corinthians 4. This does not paint the rosiest of pictures. Paul is telling people that the life of the Christian includes pain. I love the way he wraps up his thoughts on that pain in verse 17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”(ESV) Really Paul, you are calling your afflictions light. There really is a sense in which Paul seems to be enduring the light “weight” of affliction for the eternal “weight” of glory.

I am not trying to compare my tiny amount of pain to Paul’s. That would be ridiculous. However, the Corinthian church was not being persecuted like some of the others. Paul was talking to a church that had been taken over by divisions and sin (thankfully those do not exist anymore). Paul is touching on an eternal point. There cannot be advance without pain. We can bear any amount of pain when we realize that there is a glory attached to it. I watched my wife give birth to two of our children naturally, she had the anticipation of future glory. Here is the little secret, when God calls and you answer with absolute, unequivocal obedience, there is glory at the end.

Frankly, our talent without God’s development goes to waste. God is not static, He is initiative, and He initiates with us. God has given us talent and without Him our talent can never be fully actualized. I guess the lesson I am learning is that only through God’s stretching can we truly grow.

It encourages me to no end to here the various stories of how my friends are going for it. I have a friend who risked it for Jesus and things did not turn out quite like he thought. I asked him, are you mad at God. His honest reply was something like, “I went through that a little, but I have learned so much about God through this situation, I am thankful.” Praise God, this faith inspires me to take on the challenges that lie before me. After all this pain is nothing compared to the future glory.

God made us human beings, not turtles. We were not given a shell to shrink into. So while I am enduring the pain of growth at this seminary and in my spiritual life, I will not shrink back and I will not give in. I will lean into the will of God for my life. I am surer of this now than I ever have been. Hebrews 10:39, one of my favorite passages, speaks to this, “For we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, we are of those that believe and are saved.” Amen.

When I am on God’s path, I will not back down, I will not give in, and I will not give up. For nothing compares to the future glory. Lord please give me the strength to live this.


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