Hebrews 12:10b ….God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
2 Cor 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Does it surprise you to consider that God has designed both specific pain and specific pleasure for your holiness?
The verses above clearly indicate purpose with lead-in phrases like:
- in order that…..
- that was to make us…….
In a previous blog I reflected on the truth that God’s will for our lives is our holiness, our sanctification (same word in Greek).
And if we accept that God is sovereign over every molecule in the universe, then Romans 8:28 brings both truths together. God not only CAN work the bad and the good for our benefit, He designs all things to increase our capacity for holiness and Christlikeness (these two are one and the same).
Two brothers in Christ I know are struggling with different issues that trouble them deeply. As I’ve been praying for them and specifically reflecting on the pot-holed and often painful path God has proscribed for me, I am beginning to feel some liberation that I want to pass on to these men and to others.
From numerous examples in the Bible we can ascribe afflictions like cancer or a car accident or anti-Christian persecution at work to God’s directing hand:
Isaiah 45:7 –I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
In fact, if you don’t subscribe to the idea that God controls these events, you’re left with a powerless God who just sympathizes with you, but can’t direct/stop/influence the universe. That’s Deism, not a god worth worshipping or one in which to rest and seek refuge.
What has been a hurdle for me to get over is the idea that God might have ON PURPOSE designed me with and allowed to develop in me certain:
- sin patterns
- unhealthy tendencies
- wrong ideas
- harmful dependencies
I’m not saying that God is evil, wrong or even unloving for doing this. But if He is sovereign, then He created you and me with these flaws for His good purpose. Since His goal for each of His children is holiness, it follows that you and I would receive a tailor-made plan, designed in love by this perfect Father for His perfect ends.
My main sin struggle has been with food/body image/weight as idols. I’m 58 and that issue blossomed when I was 16. I have suffered years of pain. Yet, I am beginning to see that over these years God has been using my disgusting eating/vomiting/compulsive exercise patterns and embarrassing self-absorption to wean me off of myself and on to Him for everything.
I could also describe my runner-up sin, that of a clutching need for ‘enough time for Maria’, but I’ll spare you. Just know that God is getting lots of mileage out of THAT particular design feature.
The very GOOD …….NEWS (new to me) is that the bad stuff I’ve done and still do is part of God’s ‘individual education program for Maria’. And you have such a life-long plan, too, if you are one of God’s born-again children!
So what’s uplifting or encouraging about that? Glad you asked!
I was out on an overnight experience with the 8th grade class this week. We ate camp food. The oatmeal tasted REALLY good! So I ate 2 big bowls at breakfast (plus some fruit, an egg….)
As soon as I did and felt FULL, my default ‘beat-up on Maria/self-absorption shtick’ kicked into high gear.
But THIS time, I talked about IT to myself and said:
- What’s done is done. And God knew, allowed and even ordained this. He is sovereign over each sin/lapse/mistake. It’s part of His plan for me. Sure I have to deal with the consequences, but ‘good’ is being worked IN me right now. As I repent and rest in His wisdom, I’m growing in holiness.
- and even more important (Listen up, my two brothers in Christ!!!) we don’t have to be grim and beat ourselves up. These painful days are ordained for a beautiful end. You might protest like I have, ‘But I thought I was better than this!….I hate my sin and the fact that I’m letting myself and others down when I wrap myself up in X’!
Believe me, I understand. But where did our idea that we would NOT be dirty or a slave to something or able to control our behaviors come from? Why are we surprised at our junk? I think it’s a line straight from Hell:
Satan: How can you be a real Christian if you are doing THAT!!!!
Before I call it quits on this post, I want to go back to my declaration that God has designed our pleasures, too, for growth in holiness. Paul mentions that he has LEARNED how to be content in Phil 4:12 – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Having what we want, enjoying prosperity can be burdens, too. We have to gain God’s perspective on success, material well-being and happiness. Just think of the suffering that befalls lottery winners! I’m not saying that all the beautiful and pleasing circumstances or gifts are meant as trials. Just beware that the good stuff can lead to sin, too!
How’s THAT for something to chew on!