Tuesday, November 18

How can we be compassionate in a broken world?

Can we be a people who form compassionate convictions about God, people and life which gives us categories to listen/direct people to places other than relief when they talk to us about 'undeserved' suffering? Is there something we can believe in very deeply that allows us to freely move in the direction God is moving in as we listen to the disappointments and tragedies of another man's story? In the midst of real hurt, is it possible to really get excited about something bigger that God is doing?

Job was a moral and blessed man, but full of human-born fear. He was blameless, without consistent sin in his life, practicing good deeds, and shunned evil. He had good relationships, possessions in abundance, and was afflicted with no real pain; either health-wise or spiritual.

Yet he feared for his children, sacrificing for them on a daily basis and operated under the assumption that God’s kindness coupled with his moral carefulness would not cause him to lose his blessings.

God has a development plan for His children, one borne of suffering beyond our human endurance, to cause us to question our very faith, which relies upon the assumption of the unverifiable, the illogical, and the absence of provable reliance.

Satan’s agenda, challenging our belief that God’s promise that He loves us, is used by God to bring us into stronger belief in those things; in essence God uses the evilness of the fallen one to bring about His desire for us to know Him.

This is where the prosperity, emergent, and work doctrines fall into the false assumptions, placing human understanding and characteristics upon a God that is beyond our feeble and corrupt human comprehension and will in fact perform the opposite of the desired effect; such doctrines deny us the ability to grow in the furnace of suffering to greater understanding of who God is and what purpose to which His agenda is served in such brutality.

It is not wrong for us to want to end suffering, to bring about peace and joy within the corruption of the world, until it becomes our mission; to reduce suffering by bringing about blessings through servicing the needs abundant around us.

In the absence of blessings, we too often turn away from God’s agenda for humanity and ourselves individually. Life is unpredictable, simply because we try and control it as far as we humanly can and it refuses to cooperate, being under the temporary authority of the fallen one.

It is when we reach the vision of how God sees us that we can walk into the world of suffering and tribulation with joy and loving mercy, and the outer influences of the broken world cannot reclaim our hearts. Thus, the agenda of Satan is thwarted and the furtherance of the Kingdom is promoted.

“…for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” (Philippians 2:30 ESV)

Epaphroditus, who had fallen deathly sick during his time with Paul, was grieved when his brethren learned of it. Not because it seemed that he was weak, rather because of service for Christ, Epaphroditus had recklessly hazard his life for that service….not caring for his own welfare but placing the welfare of another above his own.

Such early Christians were known as ‘parabolani’, or reckless people.

It is in such service, as parabolani, that Christians can find such compassionate convictions regarding God, people and life that causes them to reflect upon the larger agenda of God within ‘undeserved’ suffering. It is within the ‘sphere of mystery’, as discussed by Dr. Larry Crabb, that we truly find movement towards that agenda despite unpredictable and unharnessable order because we rely solely upon God to guide us into the midst of the storm, trusting that if the ship sinks that it is because of God’s best plan for us even as we disappear beneath the waves.

We lash ourselves to the solidness of God’s promises and laugh in the face of the unpredictable chaos of an unforgiving world.

In such recklessness, we cease trying to explain undeserved and indescribable pain that haunts our journey as we walk closer to God. We stop trying to ‘grasp’ control to never be hurt again, by people or circumstances, and become uncaring of the ‘damage’ that happens to our hearts as we are buffeted by the harsh waves of a world increasingly violent.

And, in the movement into unexplainable and undeserved suffering, we truly realize God’s promised rest; the rest gained in salvation for the journey in this life, and the eternal rest that awaits us in the heavenly realm of our home.

As Parabolani, we rejoice in suffering –albeit a weaker suffering than Christ was visited upon by the rejection of this world. Christ suffered….to the point of death, not so He could fulfill His own agenda but rather that He would fulfill the agenda of His Father, to be a perfect sacrifice therefore eliminating the penalty for sin that condemned all of mankind.

Through our ‘eager’ suffering, however it manifests itself in this world, we promote the welfare of another and become the means by which the Holy Spirit can affect true repentance and salvation for the lost, which we once were and for which Christ died upon a Cross of wood and iron.

Adam Clarke reflects in his works that “The humiliation and exaltation of Christ are subjects which we cannot contemplate too frequently, and in which we cannot be too deeply instructed.

Our faith is about humility, and humility is ‘the effect of the action of God, circumstances, other people, ourselves, or of any and all of these on our lives.” It is freedom from pride, and is despicable in the world of control, management, and self-service. In the humility of our faith, we find ourselves reliant upon God’s favor, not our own understanding.

Christ’s humility and passion were a vital component of His sacrifice upon the Cross, otherwise it would not have been necessary and another way would have been affected in the plan of God’s redemption of His children.

Without our own process of humility, by which we cast ourselves upon the righteousness of our sinful condemnation, punishable by death, we oppose God’s agenda and rely upon ourselves for freedom from that justified punishment; pride and self-confidence which are the cornerstone of humanistic religion. God destroys such notions with the requirement of the opposite extremes; humility and self-denial.

As Christians, called to bring understanding of God’s hidden agenda to those who truly seek it, we must understand this theology of suffering that Christ exposed us to in His ministry upon this earth.

If we consider that Christ’s suffering and death were sufficient in the eyes of God as payment in full for the punishment of man’s failure to trust and rest in God’s purpose, we can contemplate the unlimited power, glory, and authority of Christ and God in the undeserved and undesired suffering to which we are called to experience in true joy and expectation.

Through this realization of ‘joyful suffering’, we develop the inner spiritual eyes to see ourselves as God sees us; redeemed and restored.

Then sin has no lasting claim upon our human flesh.

We realize that by the authority of God, we are cleansed and made perfect, and walk within a manner that Christ walked as He spoke to a world that did not hear Him.

Then we no longer give voice to the human desire for the reduction of such suffering and an increase in blessings as we define them.

We become true lights in a world darkened by man’s desire for such things and give not an answer to suffering deserved and undeserved, but give release that is eternal, because the suffering one is experiencing becomes something both unexplained and yet understood.

It is then that we become a walking testimony, for we lack the prideful boast of our own wisdom and prudence and shun such labels as ‘wise’ or ‘esteemed’ men. We face reproach and persecution with the eagerness of fulfilling God’s agenda for such causes and embrace such labels as ‘fool’ and “unworthy’ because we are called such for the sake of Christ.

“We are made to seem foolish for Christ, but you are wise in Christ; we are feeble, but you are strong; you have glory, but we have shame. Even to this hour we are without food, drink, and clothing, we are given blows and have no certain resting-place; And with our hands we do the hardest work: when they give us curses we give blessings, when we undergo punishment we take it quietly; When evil things are said about us we give gentle answers: we are made as the unclean things of the world, as that for which no one has any use, even till now.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13 BBE)

We stop looking at our brethren and those still lost within the Body, or outside the body, that may suffer less (though not in their own estimations) than we do. We stop trying to control through our actions and words the agendas of others that come within our sphere of life; seeking only to show constancy and patience that confounds and entices others to seek out what we have found.

We rejoice in the ‘poverty’ of our possessions, finances, or persons and understand with proper prospective the contempt of others for what our faith is. We stop promoting our own agenda, that of relief of suffering and the promotion of blessings either for ourselves or others, and rest upon the understanding of God’s authority and wisdom for those we once held so close.

And in the midst of suffering, in our own eyes, at the level of Job; where we would be blameless, upright, abhorrent of sin, and fearful of God; we find God revelation of Himself to us.

A God who is much larger than we can humanly realize, who is more powerful than we can ever emulate, and who has no reason or responsibility to explain Himself to us.
It is then, as Christians leaders, that we realize the fullness of God through the denial of ourselves in service to others, despite the agendas to which we are exposed.

We can then answer the question that should haunt the minds of the elders as they hear the stories of others;

“What is God up to in this person’s life that led God to allow this painful cruelty to happen with or without His intervention?”

We no longer offer theological excuses for the undeserved or understood suffering of those we face with compassionate relationship, but offer instead the promotion of understanding God’s ulterior motive.

We seek not our own agendas or become entrapped in the agenda of another as we hear the pain in the story told. We become excited by the opportunity presented to guide our fellow brethren into the deeper understanding of God through the representation of Christ’s ministry.

We seek in those circumstances not to be as The Corinthians were presenting themselves….wise, strong, and giants amongst men but rather seek the glory of foolishness, weakness, and shame for the sake of Christ.

To suffer those things to which we are allotted in our journey for the greater benefit of representing Christ to a fallen and broken world of lost souls.

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