Home > Scripture Reflections, spiritual formation > Painful but the only way to live

Painful but the only way to live

My present day crisis usually means future opportunities will be coming.  In reading an old (over 25 years ago) sermon, I read, “Future recognition demands present renunciation” according to  Luke 9:23-24.  This particular sermon was one that I had given when I was a candidate for a pastoral position in a small East Texas church.  In the end, upon the advice of our big city church elders, I declined an invitation–which looking back saved me (and likely the church) from significant pain.

As I re-read the sermon, it reminds me of some thinking I did earlier this week.  My next sentence in the sermon, “We may have to say no to passions, possessions, and pleasures that keep us from living totally for Jesus Christ.”

My wife and I prepare to return to the mission field to begin what will soon be our twenty-fifth year, the Lord has been bringing to my mind the passages of Mtt 10:36 ff and Mtt 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”   And I might add to the list, friends and churches and other stuff. . .  Another passage adds, for the sake of my name and for the gospel. This is nothing less than dying to self, taking up the cross and following Jesus.

I needed to read and hear these words since it never gets easier to leave.  In fact, I would say this departure may be the most intense my wife and I have had since that first trip when I saw my non-emotional father-in-law crying at the airport and Doris and I began to sob as we buckled ourselves in our seats on the plane.

John Fischer in his catch of the day wrote the following that well summarizes what we are feeling these days,

It hurts to grow because growing usually means facing into some fear or weakness that has limited us. Though God saves us through no effort of our own, he asks for our cooperation when it comes to our spiritual growth. Real spiritual growth only happens when our effort to act upon God’s word meets the provision of the Holy Spirit in us.

Or as Paul teaches, “Put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).

This is always the spiritual principle of growth. We obey by stepping into our weakness or our fear, hoping in the fact that because it is something He asks of us, He will meet us somewhere along the way with the power to do it. This is almost always a painful proposition because it requires a step into the unknown. What if God doesn’t show up? What if this is all a hoax? I suppose we can ask these questions, but we will never get them answered on this side of the pain. We have to take the step, believing that there is something there that we can’t see. And if that doesn’t hurt, it’s probably not faith.

It’s hard to die… but it’s the only way to live.

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