To experience why the gospel is good news and answers life’s most foundational questions about identity, destiny, and purpose, we must understand what it means to become united with Christ, by faith in His propitiatory death on the cross on our behave.
If you are a Christian, the Bible says that Christ has united his life to yours, that the Holy Spirit indwells you, and you are now in Christ and Christ is in you. This almost unfathomable truth is the central theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Yet new Christians today are not always taught to expect and enjoy this reality. Union with Christ reveals the transformational power of this ancient doctrine while addressing the basic questions of the human heart:
Who Am I?
Why Am I Here?
Where Am I Headed?
How Will I Get There?
Nothing is more necessary for living the Christian life than union with Christ. The recovery of this reality provides the anchor and engine for your life with God - for your destiny is not only to worship Christ, but to actually emulate Him.
James 1:2 (NKJV) "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,"
The key word in Hebrews 12:5-11 is "chastening", used both as a noun and a verb. It comes from the Greek piadeia, which in turn comes from pias, which means: "child" and denotes the training of a child. The word is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought. It is used 9 times in these 8 verses.
“It is hard to want to suffer; I presume the Grace of God is necessary for the want,” a young Flannery O’Connor wrote in her prayer journal in 1947. But this raises the question, “Why would anyone want to suffer?”
In the years following this journal entry, O’Connor’s short stories and letters, not to mention her own life, would be filled with adversity, and sometimes suffering. O’Connor came to see suffering as a disguised blessing, even a sign of God’s favor. “The friends of God suffer,” she observed in a letter.
To be able to see suffering because we are Christians as a gift from God, a mark of God’s favor, even a sign of his friendship, seems far removed from the common expectations of our day. We may hear distortions of God’s promises, such as:
‘Jesus suffered so that we wouldn’t have to’ is a platitude doled out in prosperity-gospel circles, where health and wealth, not pain and deprivation, are seen as the signs of God’s favor and approval.
But I’m also referring to the more widespread, often unspoken assumption that suffering is unusual—an imposition on our lives, an interruption of God’s good purposes, even a sign of His displeasure. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Most of us take suffering to be a rude, uninvited guest — an attack from Satan, God's adversary, not a grace disguised.
And yet the pages of the Bible, and the very life of Jesus, show us that suffering is not only inevitable for all but is, in God’s wisdom, the necessary path that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. To experience the freedom and rest Jesus promises to give us (John 10:10), we will pass through the crucible of suffering.
The Bible tells us that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not God's priorities for us (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). In terms of economic, academic, and social status, most Christians do not come from the privileged classes. Clearly, then, abundant life does not consist of an abundance of material things. If that were the case, Jesus would have been the wealthiest of men. But just the opposite is true (Matthew 8:20).
Abundant life is eternal life, a life that begins the moment we come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, and goes on throughout all eternity. The biblical definition of life — specifically eternal life — is provided by Jesus Himself: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
This definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, or occupation. As a matter of fact, the only thing it does mention is knowledge of God, which is the key to a truly abundant life.
In this World, Suffering Is Inevitable
“Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you . . . as though something strange were happening to you,” Peter writes (1 Peter 4:12). He tells us not only to not be surprised by suffering but even to choose to rejoice in it. It’s a strange encouragement, to be sure, but one echoed by Paul (“we rejoice in our sufferings,” Romans 5:3), by James (“Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds,” James 1:2), and by the psalmist (“It was good for me that I was afflicted,” Psalm 119:71).
“But is it necessary? Must one go through a time of extreme distress, a wilderness wandering, a valley, to experience a new and better life?” Behind the word “necessary” lurks the assumption that we are in control. But we’re not. “In due time” God will lift us up (1 Peter 5:7), but we must surrender to the reality that our times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15). As it was for Jesus, so it is for us: the world hates us as it hated Him.
Jesus, being God, the perfect image of God and the perfect human being told us that our fully human life will include suffering, and that as we become the man or woman God intends us to be, we will experience trials through suffering. Jesus, who was without sin and never did anything to deserve his Father’s displeasure, was made “perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10).
The author of Hebrews dares to say that Jesus “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8), and that this is part of what makes Him our compassionate high priest (Hebrews 4:15), able to help us in our time of need.
Far from being something Jesus saves us from, suffering is listed in the New Testament as the guarantee that we belong to Christ (Romans 8:17).
If Jesus, fully God, and fully man, the perfect child, had to learn how to trust and obey through suffering, how much more necessary is it for you and me?
Discipline Is Beneficial
No one enjoys suffering (Hebrews 12:11). Yet our good Father allows and uses affliction to wean us, train us, and transform us.
“Like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131:2), we have to be weaned of our idols, those counterfeit gods that can never give us the joy and security we seek from them. Suffering weans us from our incessant schemes to find our joy in anything or anyone but God (Psalm 4:7). Being pushed far beyond our ability to endure also trains us to rely not on ourselves but on God (2 Cor. 1:10). Finally, our God uses discipline to transform us into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28–29).
Jesus shows us that a beautiful life always entails chastening. He models for us how to go through it (1 Peter 4:12–19), and he causes us to abound in hope in the midst of it. Because of Jesus, we can know we’re not suffering to pay for our sins — the penalty we deserved has already been paid in full. But we can also know that when we suffer, we never suffer alone.
God in Christ stands beside us, as the Holy Spirit indwells us, especially in times we’re too weak to stand. Jesus shows us that our suffering, in God’s hands, always has a redemptive purpose. If God can use His worst defeat, in history, in the eyes of the world to bring about His greatest triumph — the salvation of the world — then He can be trusted in our lives.
God the Father allows and uses chastisement to wean us, train us, and transform us.
The idea that Jesus suffered and died so that we won’t ever have to experience pain or persecution is profoundly mistaken, because if your theology tells you that you will never suffer, then when suffering does come upon you — you will feel utterly alone, and will not seek the consolation and comfort of the Man of Sorrows, who is well acquainted with your grief.
Suffering is not just something that happened to Jesus; suffering was integral to His mission upon earth. If we would come to know Him, we must take up our own cross and follow Him down the path He walked on our behave (Phil. 3:10).
Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Those who are in Christ Jesus are in this world, but not of it; No one can have both.
"If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were before the Flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh." (Joshua 24:15)
Loc: Heart in W Texas - feet on the beach in Al.
To experience why the gospel is good news and answ... (
Good morning Zemirah,
This is the perfect message for this coming New Year! As Christians, we must remember this message when we are faced with the problems of just living, especially as we get older. I have to admit that there are times that I feel overwhelmed of the onslaught of life’s journey! I’ve never been one to blame God, just the opposite, I blamed myself for disappointing my Lord and Savior! Thank you for this reminder of the never ending love of God and His forever presence right beside us.
Perhaps this will be the year that we are called to meet him in the air!!!!
Wishing you a Blessed New Year!
Come Dear Lord, Come
Good morning to you, TexaCan,
...and may you, your husband, and family, experience the best of New Years.
Thank you for your kind words.
Sometimes, it's good to remember that God doesn't promise us a rose garden, not while we are here on earth, and especially not when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who love the world, and everything that is in it, and do not know God, or He whom He sent.
Becoming "seasoned" does have it's disadvantages, for a trip, via my walker, or transport chair, from my computer desk by the fireplace, into the kitchen now requires the same careful advance planning that a family auto trip to and from a football game at the University 75 miles away, or a week-end bass fishing trip,with fiberglass bass boat in tow, to a favorite lake 200 miles away used to demand (items to take with - to be returned, items to bring from kitchen).
That may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much, and the unforeseen can and does occur, just as it did when I was out on the highway; I picked up a package of fresh cranberries preparatory to making cranberry sauce a few days ago, after reaching the kitchen, only to have the net bag split open and cranberries roll in every direction.
Picking them up required an extended mechanical gripping device, time, and great skill and precision, not to lose my balance and find myself in the floor with the cranberries...
I thank God for allowing me to retain my mind
and to be able to actually enjoy the adventure of the unexpected on a daily basis, as I enjoy His presence.
We are doubly blessed by prophetically, living in exciting times.
Good morning Zemirah, br br This is the perfect m... (
Loc: Heart in W Texas - feet on the beach in Al.
Good morning to you, TexaCan, br br ...and may yo... (
I absolutely love your sense of humor! My brother-in law died last week. When my sister called me she was absolutely sobbing! I couldn’t understand her words, but I knew what had happened. My sister is a very strong, controlled woman! She doesn’t sob! It shook me to my very core to hear her pain! I was unable to fly to Canyon,Texas because of my little health thing going on, so I waited a few days to call her back. When I did, she was again my very strong big sister! We talked about so many memories of growing up on a ranch and our many adventures for almost 2 hours! I then told her that I would tell her something that she could laugh at me for......... I’m going bald! She said, “But that was your crowning glory!” We both laughed so hard we cried! Nothing like a big sister! The right kind of humor can get us through some really trying times!
Without the ever presence of my comforter, life would have been intolerable many times in my life! I look forward to going home, our real home! Until then.......We live each day appreciating the blessing of another day to serve Him!
Thank you for your uplifting and always thoughtful messages to all of us that call you our Friend!
I'm so glad you were able to have that conversation with your sister. It was surely great comfort to both of you.
My youngest sister's husband, my brother-in-law, passed out of this world to an infinitely better one in October, bringing home my older sister from Florida for that week.
We reminisced over all the things we would now ask Mom and Dad if we could... questions about their youth, their upbringing, so many questions that just didn't seem relevant while they were with us.
The day will arrive for all of us, when we can have those conversations, but when that time comes, the magnificence of His glory will make it all irrelevant.
God has blessed us, every believer, with His salvation.
I absolutely love your sense of humor! My brother... (
To experience why the gospel is good news and answ... (
Great post. Thank you!
When I read this this hymn popped into my mind by Isaac Watts (1707) -
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
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