What doesn’t kill me. . .

Go ahead, finish it.  You’ve all heard it.  “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”  Now, that seems to be an encouraging idea.  But is it correct?  James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:1-2, ESV)  Other translations say patience or endurance.  So a good grasp of the shades of meaning (from a quick perusal of dictionary.com) might include synonyms such as lasting quality; duration; quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment.  The overall impression is one of quiet and confidence.  “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15, NKJV)

So yes, there is strength.  But is the strength my own?  Where does it originate?  In returning and resting?  Quietness and confidence?  Who invites us to come and rest?  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28, ESV) Jesus doesn’t seem to equate laboring and being heavy laden with getting a good spiritual workout.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).  In fact, getting stronger isn’t the point.  Paul BOASTS in his weakness.  Try finding someone doing that at your local health club!

So what is this perseverance, patience, steadfastness that comes through trials?  Is it not the testing of our FAITH?  And what do we do when our faith is tested?  We either cling to it in obedience or live in unbelief.  So patience has its perfect work as we LEAN on Jesus (not a particularly athletic posture) or as we CLING to Him (much like an infant clinging to its mother).  We lay down in green pastures.  We are still, and know God.  We remain in the vine.  And the power of Christ rests upon us.


Philippians 3:8-11

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

That I may know Him… that is the beating of my heart.  And the fellowship of His sufferings?  Not so much.  I certainly cannot say with Paul that I have suffered the loss of all things.  Today I was in east Fort Worth at the Union Gospel Mission.  There I saw a MULTITUDE of people who have suffered far greater loss than I even care to comprehend.  Yet, here in America, even their loss pales in comparison to the Haitians, so impoverished that an enterprising, yet starving young woman is able to sell butter mixed with dirt and dried into cakes for people to eat.   Do I want to suffer like that?  No, I do not.

But what does Paul say?  All the things of this world that I would like to have around me to increase my comfort, he counts as loss.  Even relationships with those I love are to be laid on the altar and replaced with the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  I wonder then, how highly DO I value knowing Him?

The beautiful thing about sanctification is that God doesn’t really ask us if we’re ready for it.  We sorta signed up for that when we made Him Lord.  What a blessing, then, is the suffering that comes to us!  It’s as if God knows that none of us comes to the altar with our hands full of our lives and willingly lays everything before Him to be burned up.  So, when He knows we’re ready (but before WE think we are), He gently opens our hands (or, depending on our grip–He sometimes has to pry mine open), and says, “It’s time to give Me that.”  And it HURTS. And it feels like part of our very soul has been ripped from us.  And that’s when we have to remember that we aren’t the Designer.  God knit each of us uniquely together while we were still in our mother’s womb, and anything He removes is not a part of the design.  If it feels like it is, it’s because we have become too attached to this world.  Sorta like barnacles on a ship.  After a while they look like they were part of the ship’s original design.  But no ship builder would ever do that.  Why?  Because those little buggers destroy the ship and keep it from moving through the water as effortlessly as it ought to.  Barnacles.  Rubbish.  Garbage. Other versions use even more colorful language.  (http://bible.cc/philippians/3-8.htm)  To really get rid of the filth, Paul minces no words in telling us what has to happen. “being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  How can we know the power of His resurrection unless we first die?  And in that death, we gain the righteousness which comes from God through faith in Christ.  And we are found in Him.  Is there any safer place to be? I leave you with the lyrics of a VERY old song, of which I could barely find the lyrics.  It’s called Bring on the Chisel by Michael James Murphy.

I thought that pedestals were for heroes,

But I can tell that’s not what you’ve got in mind

To me this looks just like a potter’s wheel

I thought I was already designed.

But now I see, You’ve just gotten started

A vessel takes a long time to make

I’m not sure I know what I’m saying

But whatever you must do I will take

Bring on the chisel if that’s Your desire

If You think I need it, I’ll go  through the fire

If I’ll be like Jesus, then this is required

Father, I want the chisel

I know you’re shaping me in Your image

I’m being fashioned by Your hand

I never thought it would be this painful

God, this pain is not what I’d planned

But my desire to be a vessel of honor

Is greater than the suffering I feel

I am the clay, you are the Potter

I’ll let You do the work of the wheel….

Bring on the chisel if that’s your desire

If you think I need it I’ll go through the fire

If I’ll be like Jesus, then this is required

Father, I want the chisel.