Thoughts which drive me to the cross….
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT2)
The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.
751 Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.
I came across Luther’s words first this morning and thought that the words for those enduring temptations apply to those facing trials. A long theological discussion could be had on linking the two, but they both are thought to challenge our ability to remain closely intimate with Christ Jesus.
The irony is that the benefit is exactly the opposite of the goal of Satan. Rather than break us away from Christ where we can be devoured, the trials and temptations of life should drive us ever more to the cross where we were crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).
The challenge, whether trial or temptation, is the realization that God is at work in our lives, that we benefit from these assaults when we realize God uses them (not causes the) to draw us back into His care. That is why the Psalms are filled with words like refuge and fortress and sanctuary, for that is who God is! He is our fortress, our refuge and sanctuary.
This is a mystery, how things Satan and his minions use to set in our path God will turn into blessing beyond compare, as we find ourselves hidden in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:1-3). While we can’t explain the mystery, we live and experience it, some of us over and over.
This then leads to some of the most powerful ministry in our lives, for while suffering is beneficial, the lack of it may not be. That is why Paul talks about freedom in view of its benefits. His bottom line is sacrifice for others is beneficial, and focusing on what we think is good for us. This is the same thing St. Josemaria speaks of when he suggests we pray “use me as you wish!” No matter the cost, for as we grow in Christ we are sure His benefit outweighs what we must endure.
God is with us. We come to know that more, when He opens our eyes in the darkness, and shatters it.
Undergoing trial and temptation? Run to God, and give thanks when you find yourself in His care. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT)
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 (NLT)
1008 In the hour of temptation, practise the virtue of Hope, saying: For my rest and enjoyment I have the whole of eternity ahead of me. Here and now, full of Faith, I will earn my rest through work and win my joy through suffering. What will Love be like in Heaven? Better still, you should practise your Love by saying: What I want is to please my God, my Love, by doing his Will in all things, as though there were neither reward nor punishment—simply to please him. (1)
We all have temptations.
Some involve things we desire. Chocolate, desserts, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex in any form other than marriage, gossip, slander (especially those people we don’t like). We can even be tempted to whine and throw a pity party, confident that no one has ever been challenged with what we face.
There are also temptations to avoid things: confrontation, suffering, discomfort, having to sacrifice things that are important to us, even martyrdom. We may not like reality as we perceive it, and the temptation is to believe that perception and hide from that which we cannot control or enjoy.
We pray to God that He would strengthen us against such things, but we fail for so many of them. You aren’t alone in this dear reader, I fail as well, so does every priest and pastor you encounter. Every saint was tempted, and of all History, only Jesus was tested in all points and never succumbed.
Does that mean we stop striving for it and give it up? Do we just enjoy that which damages our bodies and souls? Do we just find our cave, and hide from anyone who might do us harm, including ourselves?
For if we can’t overcome temptation, if we can’t live the perfect, holy life, then why try?
Does God really expect us to live miserably, failing over and again?
The answer is seen in the quotes above, in the description of our lives, found in the Book of Revelation. Yes, the description of our lives, pictured as those who have overcome, (the word nike in Greek – we just did it!) How?
By the blood of Christ – the promise of our being rescued from this life and the damage caused to it by sin. We count on that; we have confidence that God is doing exactly that in this wearying life.
We trust in what God reveals! We know it so well that we are willing to testify to it, testify to it, even like the martyrs who died, rather than give up the hope that God instills in us…
The last comment is perhaps the hardest; we don’t cling to this life so much, that we face anxiety and fear in view of death. This isn’t easy, to not know this life, the only life we know. It is hard to focus on the future. We have obligations and pressures. We have to keep in balance so many different things.
I love Escriva’s two-step approach to this. The first, to have the ultimate sense of delayed gratification. To know what God awaits us, and press on like Paul – to reach that which God has already made it possible to enjoy. That challenges our perceptions, which our sacrifices are complete, that our commitment goes over and above what should be expected.
The second phase is where Christian maturity is revealed, where we have started to understand the depth of God’s love, the blessings He pours out on us, by loving us like that.
To endure life, to work through temptation and trial, to sacrifice things in this life, because doing so frees us to do something that brings God joy! When we got to the point where we don’t do things for the rewards of heaven, but simply because of love for God.
This attitude only occurs when we realize first His love.
Realizing His love puts this life with its trials, temptations and sacrifices into perspective.
I pray that as we deal with the trials and temptations of life, that first and foremost, we look to God and know His love and promises.
For then we know the Blood of Christ, we see it at work in our lives, we treat life in view of eternity, and because of God, we overcome.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3553-3557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” 16 God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children….. 26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:15-16, 26 (TEV)
“The Cry to God as Father in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgment of a universal truth about God’s abstract fatherhood. It is the child’s cry out of a nightmare. It is the cry of outrage, fear, the shrinking away when faced with the horror of the world. Yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well.” ( From Celtic Daily Prayer, meditations Day 3)
He responded generously to Christ’s invitation to “take up his cross each day.” Escrivá’s aspiration, “In laetitia, nulla dies sine cruce” (In joy, no day without the cross) was a reality in his life.
In the last couple of days, i have had people marvel at the medical story of my life. For readers that don’t know, I grew up knowing I live with a genetic time bomb. Most died from it back then, without knowing they had it. Marphans turned you into a timebomb. All of a sudden one day, their aorta disconnects from their heart, ti either tears or blows off, and they are dead. Because they knew of it, and when the surgeries developed, I have had defibrillators put in , and replaced. I’ve had two artificial valves put in, and my aorta has a sheath around it.
So I tick. Which on Sunday led to people listening to the tick and saying “Crazy” (over and over – each one entering a room was made to listen to me – and that was each person’s response)
Last night, at a banquet for a crisis pregnancy center, several of the women wanted to touch my hand, because they considered me a walking miracle.
I’ve considered y situation over the years, more akin to a walking nightmare. I’ve had many a night where I couldn’t sleep, and others where I ranted at God like a wolf baying at the boon. I’ve dealt with every emotion common to man. There was a break for a few years, then my son was born, to whom I passed on this struggle. The pains and heart came back again, worse than ever, as I see my son examined every year.
If there is any depth to my prayer life, if there is any strength I have in facing these trials, it is because of the effect of prayer. Not the recitation of prayers that were written for sharing on Sunday morning together. Not the pious prayers of daily devotions. But the prayers that arise out of my brokenness, out of my despair, out of my frustration with God, and with the complications of life.
No, the depth of prayer comes from those cries, begging for God to help us in this life of nightmares. It may start like jeremiah, with a cry of anger, of protest, of WHY GOD!!! But that cry in all of its honesty, in all of its broken and barrenness is where we find the truth of Romans above. That God is at work, that the Holy SPirit is comforting us, and conforming or translating our prayers, even with groanings that go beyond our ability to bring to our mind, to release from our hearts.
It is in those times when peace goes beyond our expectation. When love fills our soul, when we know God is with us, caring for us.
I hate those dark days of the past, and I know some are coming in the future. My body is broken, patched together and bionic, my soul suffers with it at times. But I wouldn’t trade the one’s in the past for anything, for the result is, as described in the third quote – joy, and peace. I will try to embrace the one’s in the future – with that hope, with that expectation.
For we know the heart of God, and He will sustain us.
Lord, have mercy!
Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 2110-2112). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
Wow, it’s post 100, averaging some 20 hits, plus those 40 that are subscribed by email. Every continent has seen my blog – including countries that are amazing to me. Some blogs have gotten a ton of hits – the most about my death 20 years ago, some have have only received 3 or 4. I guess, as I look back – some were good (praise God for those) and some…well sucked. (Blame me.) What to talk about on #100? The following quote stuck out in some reading yesterday.
“To follow Christ—that is the secret. We must accompany him so closely that we come to live with him, like the first Twelve did; so closely that we become identified with him…. But do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon his cross. When we abandon ourselves into God’s hands, he frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, ridicule, coming both from within and from outside. This is because he wants to mold us into his own image and likeness. He even tolerates that we be called lunatics and be taken for fools.” de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-18). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume III, The Divine Ways on Earth (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 7632-7638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
There are days I wish that our Lord wouldn’t permit so many trials in the lives of the people I pastor (whether they are part of my congregation or those…that would be..yet…) TO be honest, it can get very tiring to watch, to spend time in prayer for, to try and stand by their side, (when they let me know they are going through it.) While our confidence is in God, it is in such times that such confidence is shaky, not in God, but in us. Yet the closer we are to Him, the more dependent it seems the more burdens we have to endure, the more challenges we come across…..
As I serve and observe people going through such times, as my heart breaks for them, I have found something out. Theologically speaking, this becomes a “first commandment issue”. Can we let God be God? Can we give to our Father the recognition that He does reign over us, but to accept that in His reigning, it is His responsibility to make these things a blessing, something good for us, even as we do not see it? Can we say, not my will, but thine, realizing that it means we are not just ceding what we are going through, but as well – ceding complete control over how it works out?
That is what Jesus had to do at the cross – ultimately – in His humanity He had to entrust Himself to the Father, and know that it was the Father’s plan to do something wonderful.
In trusting the Father, in the midst of trials, in hearing the Holy Spirit’s comforting voice, in realizing we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection, the outcome of the trial is one thing we don’t have to concern ourselves with.
And trusting in the Father, knowing His promises, we can dwell in His joy and in His peace…
Knowing that He has promised us life, we can cry, “Lord have mercy!”… and rest in the sure knowledge of His love.