But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
1 Peter 5:10
Several years ago I began running on a regular basis. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am no svelte ubertrekker paddling along meandering mountain trails or sprinting around the local track with nary a drop of sweat puddling on my forehead. I never run just for the joy of going out into the countryside and taking in the rolling pastoral vistas or waving to neighbors working in their gardens. I don’t run to the office. I don’t even run to get the mail. For me, running really has nothing to do with the destination. It’s not that it couldn’t, but it just doesn’t. Like millions of other thirty-something people, I know that if I don’t get moving I’m going to die. Pretty simple, huh? For me, running has more to do with the process – I want to keep my body from sliding like room-temperature jell-o into an early grave. To use the old cliché, “no pain, no gain.”
Similarly, most of us have jobs or ministries that focus on the destination, or perhaps the product, waiting at the end of the arduous labor that goes into them. In ministry, for example, we can become enamored with important products like seeing people saved, seeing our kids go into ministry, having the biggest VBS ever, or, let’s face it, producing a Christian women’s magazine. It’s like running in order to “get there.” However, the Lord spoke through the destination-oriented Peter (remember, “Lord, bid me come to thee on the water?”) to send a wake-up call to His beleaguered servants down below: “no pain, no gain.” Who doesn’t want to achieve the product of perfection? I sure do. Who doesn’t want to be the “rock” that everyone needs in crisis? Who doesn’t want to be the strong one standing on the sure foundation while the rest of the world blows by in a vortex of anxiety? I’m in – let’s do it! The Lord’s answer to those high ambitions is, “then it’s time to suffer awhile.” He’s just as interested in the process as the product.
I remember the day that I realized longsuffering involves suffering, usually at the hands of other imperfect people, for a long time. Profound, isn’t it? Is someone standing in the way of your getting where you want to go? Perfect! Are circumstances crowding in with no relief in sight? Wonderful! You’re on your way to being the “perfectly joined together, stable and strong believer” that God will use to do great things in the lives of others. When the infant first church faced the looming prospect of physical persecution, imprisonment, or even death, they turned to God in Acts 4. The remarkable thing is that they never asked for relief – they knew the trials were the making of them. They asked for power. They asked for the Spirit! Instead of fussing at the obstacles, trash, and tree limbs that everyone has left on your path as you try to “run the race,” why not call out to Him who can enable you to “mount up with wings?”
Written by Colin Richards. This article was published in the Spring 2008 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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