January 29, 2009

a crushing mercy

Quotes from Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas

Chapter 9 - A Difficult Road: The Christian Life

Those who have gone before us have left a clear witness: We may seek God or we may seek ease, but we cannot seek both.

Our surgical and medical advancements lull into false security, causing us to forget that we are one missed heartbeat away from heaven... The physical and social luxuries of our world also make it more difficult for us to face the hard internal issues because we don't have to -- there are plenty of escapes... We can literally hide from the truth of the Gospel and our responsibility to serve God by filling our lives with noise.

Former saints had nowhere to turn but to God; we can take our pick.

How do we talk about the cross to a generation that finds unfluffed pillows intolerable?

Scripture says the disciples "strengthened" or "encouraged" each other with the words, "we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22) Notice Scripture doesn't say they "threatened" each other with the possibility of suffering. No, they encouraged and strengthened each other.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus chose twelve disciples who would naturally have problems with the beliefs, attitudes, or dispositions of the others. If I were seeking peace and harmony, I certainly wouldn't put a tax collector with a zealot -- two natural enemies. But Jesus knew that real spirituality is proven in our relationships with others and He was willing to call people into relationships that would put them beyond their comfort level.

How many of us have used a gift God has given us to serve Satan's ends rather than build God's kingdom? How many of us have been given the gift of making money and then let that money waste away on selfish pursuits? How many of us have been gifted with serving, but perverted that gift of service by trying to make others feel indebted to us? How many of us have been given the gift of leadership and then turned that gift into a tool of manipulation and control? If we forget the law of sin in our lives, if we forget how very difficult it is to obtain mastery over it, Satan will have a field day with our self-righteous carelessness. Even our strengths can become weaknesses if we're not careful.

The most dangerous Christians are those who have forgotten their tendency to sin -- and Satan's agenda to capitalize on that tendency.

Difficulty teaches us to be pastoral people, something that does not come naturally to us. If we deny our own pain, we must also blind ourselves to the pain of others. We also need difficulty because without it we become proud, self-centered, and uncaring monsters who are full of ourselves.

I used to be a vicious discipler. I never missed a quiet time, and if someone I was working with did, I questioned the sincerity of his or her faith. Then God in His mercy crushed me for eight long years. Sins I had never faced before came roaring to life. Prayer became difficult. Ministry felt strained and awkward; there was no sense of God's power coursing through me. At the end of this period a door flew open, the darkness was lifted, and I was changed. I realized God didn't need someone who could preach better than anyone else or who could fast longer, pray more or evangelize more. He wanted somebody who would love His people. I knew a lot about discipline and commitment, but I knew nothing about love.

The sweetness of pain can woo us from the world if we are determined to learn from it rather than complain about it. Teresa of Avila wrote, "The soul is left with greater contempt for the world than before because it sees that nothing in the world was any help to it in that torment and it is much more detached from creatures because it now sees that only the Creator can console and satisfy it."

Chapter 8 quotes
(You can follow the link trail to prior chapter notes from there. Or you can go to our November 2008 archives and start with the first post on Chapter 1.)



Kate said...

Wow, this really answers the question of the commited vs. contributer from Isaac's sermon at the meeting.

G.L.H. said...

I finally made my Normal Cake. Rejoicing with you!



Anonymous said...

I love Gary Thomas, but I'm not familiar with this title. I'll definitely have to look into this one!

Sherry said...

Lots of quotable sentences and lots of wisdom there.

The sweetness of pain can woo us from the world if we are determined to learn from rather than complain about it.