Saturday, March 13, 2010

Joy in Weakness: Refining the riff raff

Isn't it amazing how God knows exactly how he needs to refine us? Wouldn't it be nice if he only gave us challenges that were easy to handle, where our character was already strong? Yeah, he doesn't work that way most of the time. It's exactly in our place of weakness that God throws us in the fire. Like he said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Isn't that the heart of the gospel? God's power in our weakness. This apparently was a lesson God drove home for Paul often. Elsewhere, Paul says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:12-13  We often use this verse as a way to say we can accomplish anything we want through the power of Christ. But it seems to me that this passage is talking about the power to suffer, to be in "unfavorable" conditions. Paul's confidence in the power of Christ gives him endurance, peace, contentment. He doesn't have to strive through the affliction, worrying about how to get out of it or fearing for himself. He knows Christ will give him the power to endure. Oh, that I had that same contentment! That same faith...

God refines where we are the weakest. And he goes back and back again until we learn. God put Abraham in situations that constantly challenged him to have enormous amounts of faith in God's provision and protection. Leaving his country, going into foreign lands where he feared for his life, waiting till he was about 100 to have a child upon which hinged all of God's promise for descendants and a nation blessed by God, then being asked to sacrifice that son. As we see his journey, we begin with a man full of fear, needing to control his circumstances, not trusting in God's greatness, but by the end we see a man who willingly offers up his son, trusting God's power to even raise him from the dead. But it was a journey, and it took God's constant refining.

I have one of those. One of those areas that God keeps refining, and refining and refining. I guess (I hope) I grow a little each time, but it is never easy. I always like to think I've learned to trust God in that area, but then the refining comes, the pain, trying to take control, and I realize I still have not. My hope is that, just like for Paul and Abraham, God's grace will be sufficient for me. That the more I mess up, the closer God gets in there to reveal my weakness and work in His power. The weakness seems overwhelming. Lord, work your power in me. Give me the contentment that comes in knowing that you are, and that you will give me the strength I need in every situation. And may my joy come not in what I do or do not have, but in knowing and being with you.

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