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on righteous suffering…

18 Aug

Parts of an email I had the privilege of writing earlier today…

Yesterday at church, Halim talked about the first 18 verses of chapter 9 in 1 Corinthians. In those verses, Paul defends himself for his ‘inalienable’ right of being supported by the church to which he gives all of his own money, time, and efforts. Paul validates himself as an apostle, and then asks relentlessly, “since we [Paul and Barnabas] have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?” This seems like a rhetorical question and I read it and want to scream, YES! Paul, you have done so much for the church…you are surely entitled to so something to eat…you spend your days writing and preaching, instead of working in the town, but that doesn’t mean you should be depraved of food or shelter…I would surely feed you.  And then Paul goes on, “If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported?” Again…yes….. But also again, Paul goes on.

“But…” – But what, Paul? I said I would feed you! Come! Sit! Eat! But Paul doesn’t want to eat, he says “But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.” Ahhhhhh…and there it is, suffering for the gospel. Suffering? Yes. Suffering. But this…is not suffering for our own Glory, or for our own demise or selfish sorrow, rather, it is suffering because whatever that particular suffering is, will bring more glory to God that not suffering.

This made me think about some dear friends. Childbirth. The beauty in the unrequited suffering that is childbirth. My God was brought sweet glory when my friend endured and brought her daughter into this world, as family and friends sat in awe, anxious in excitement. She and her husband have taught us so much about living wholly for God. They’ve poured resources and wisdom into us and then challenged us to figure out how it is that we think God wants us to live. Their pensive thoughtfulness through medicine has led us to think carefully – not to effortlessly negate simple sufferings with a quick fix, but to endure them, and to learn from what God is telling us.

And in conclusion, Paul finishes, “If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.”

Right now, as suffering is endured, preach the Good News in your joy for your family. Encourage with your genuine care and love, and your restlessness and determination not to wallow in your suffering.


On Prayer

1 Nov

Jon and I spent a long time talking about prayer last night. We have not experienced the day-to-day emotional and mental wearing of some of the things burdening our friends, but we have experienced whole loads by praying for these things weighing on friends. I told Jon last night (humbling myself to realities of my life and walk with God) that I have never prayed for something for so long, seen a change, and so accredited the glory to God not just with attribution, but in rejoicing…until now. I have always stopped praying, whether or not I really realized it, or stopped being frequent and persistent on my prayers for something, and then when God’s work actually came to fruition I have been so detached from the prayer that I failed to accredit the glory to God. I can look back through life and see times when God delivered me from things, but never in relationship to my prayer. So here we are, in Austin, and God has lessons for us in diligence and devotion and perseverance. I am joyful that we can be open and transparent and pray with others so that we can rejoice with them.

Be confident your prayers and requests are from God and not in vain, because God is using you to teach all of us something.