I wrote here about what it takes to grow faith, and here about what it takes to get to know the character of God. Today I want to talk about a benefit that comes of those things, besides the benefit that it is to you, personally.
I haven’t always known how, but I have always known that I wanted to help other people, no matter what I did. All my life I have prayed that God would make me useful for His Kingdom. I assumed He would answer that prayer by making me wise and insightful…brilliant, even—I mean if He wanted to, because that would be Ok with me… Maybe He would also make me important and of some notoriety, you know, so that I could have a bigger impact with all that wisdom and insight. Or maybe I would run a charity for orphans, or be a writer or a speaker…. I didn’t know what, but I knew that whatever it was I wanted God to use me to reach a lot of people…and that I wanted to help them (which, of course, for me anyway, meant helping them in their relationship with God in some way or another). I just knew it was going to be big and it was going to be great…and I was going to be great in it—I mean, not that I would ever really say it that way or even think it that way, but I kind of did, deep down… maybe you did too, or maybe it was just me….egotistical overachiever that I was (and may or may not still be).
The path to that life of impact and greatness I dreamed of was a hateful hard and twisty path (and clearly I’ve not yet arrived…so I’m hoping that the impact and greatness part is still coming…). Somewhere along the way though, I began to realize what God was doing—He was teaching me who He was…because how on EARTH (or Heaven) was I going to point people to Jesus if I hardly knew Him? I mean, sure, I knew a lot about Him—I’d studied Him all my life, but I hadn’t really had to get to know Him in the way that you do when you have to depend on Him and lean on Him…in the way you do when He is ALL that you have. God was answering my prayers, and I’m just glad I couldn’t take them back once I was all the wiser and realized what I had really asked for.
Except, I wouldn’t have taken them back. Why? Because I actually meant it when I said I wanted to be useful, even when I began to realize this hateful hard and twisty path was the only way. I thought about some of the people who had blessed and encouraged and challenged me the most… authors mostly (that’s not to say that it was mostly authors who had blessed me and to discount the actual, physical people present in my life who have blessed me as well…just that I was mostly thinking about authors and it’s true that authors have blessed me a lot, but so have people I know…but I digress)… Those authors were able to bless me in areas because they, themselves, had lived them. George Müller lived a crazy, radical, risky faith, trusting in God to fully provide for EVERY need. His story is amazing, and it inspired and encouraged me to take a leap of faith and trust God to provide. Elisabeth Elliot wrote one of the best books I’ve ever read on loneliness—a topic she knows intimately, as a single woman, as a widow (twice), as an empty-nester, as a lonely married woman…you name it. Arguably Beth Moore is at her best when she is talking and writing about how she had to forgive her abuser and break free from her cycles of bondage…because she lived it.
I began to realize that, in the same way that if I wanted to know God in those ways, I had to need Him in those ways, if I wanted to be really helpful to the body of Christ, then I would have to overcome the things that they are going through. This is why Jesus came in the flesh. He came so that He could identify with us, in every way. So that He could say that He was tempted in every way that we are and that He could identify with our sorrows and struggles. This was the path of Jesus, why would I think it would not be mine?
I’ll be honest—I’ve never been that motivated to do things for my own sake. I’ve always been far more motivated to do things for other people than I have for myself. So for me, this was incredibly inspiring and hopeful. I wasn’t just going through struggles for the sake of making me better, though that was part of it. I wasn’t just going through them so I could know Jesus better (although that should have been the BEST part of it). I was also going through these struggles so that I could overcome, and so that I could help others overcome as well—and THAT was incredibly motivating for me. Any struggles I faced were for someone else’s benefit—strange, as I write that it sounds unbelievable to me that it would be such a joyful thought, but it was…It IS! And it makes me all the more determined to get through them well…because, after all, I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
It seems Paul felt the same way. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he writes about the incredible hardships and persecution he and the disciples had been facing.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Cor. 4:10, emphasis added.)
Did you see that? He faces death, literally and in a metaphorical, dying to self kind of way…in every way you can imagine, really…and as He does so, not only does he get to know the life of Jesus as it’s revealed in his own life, BUT, he has the joy of knowing that life is at work in the Corinthians and other believers who are watching. As the life of Jesus is revealed in Paul, it’s at work in those who see it.
If you feel that you are being given over to death, don’t despair. Christ will reveal His life TO you, and He will reveal it IN you if you will but let Him…and if you do so, know that He will also reveal it THROUGH you. Christ will be glorified, you will both know Him and be like Him, and others will be helped…all because you allowed yourself to be given over to death.