Friday, November 30, 2012

Blessing of Persecution

Thanksgiving is a joyful time of counting our blessings.  This last verse in the Beatitudes tells us we are blessed through persecution and suffering.  While it is a concept we can grasp in our minds, grief typically blinds our hearts to the blessings.  Scripture admonishes us ‘Give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’  Trusting that will in the face of heartaches raises our faith to new heights.  Believing in the power and love of God as we confront situations that rip our hearts apart exercises our faith in painful degrees.  Like athletes who must strain their muscles to develop them, the faith of the Christian must be stressed to grow.  Faith cleansed of impurities and strong in its integrity is the blessing of persecution and struggle.    It is such an impressive blessing, three verses discuss it!  Inheriting the very Kingdom of heaven is the glorious summation of this blessing.

“It will be worth it all” proclaims the hymn, and God confirms it.  The world resents the message of the Gospel for it carries with it the truth that sinful humanity needs a savior.  Accepting our lack offends our human nature.  Choosing to live in the light of that Truth requires us to rely increasingly on that Savior. Every trial in life—whether an attack generated by hatred of the gospel or a crisis created by living in a world broken by sin—becomes a tool for increasing righteousness in the child of God.  The reward is greater than our minds can fully grasp, but let’s try.

Imagine:  the Kingdom of Heaven.  We often long for the Paradise of Eden but heaven has even more allure to me.  Adam and Eve, in innocence, knew nothing of the glory of God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Understanding His love was ‘limited’ to a glimpse of His generosity and creativity.  In the protected confines of Eden, the depths of God’s goodness were obscured.  In this broken world where we encounter suffering—and sometimes persecution for His glory—the ‘filling up in the flesh of His suffering’ starts to enter our understanding.  We begin to see shadows of the excruciating cost God foresaw and accepted before He ever created humanity.  He knew what creating and loving us would require of Him, and He created and loved us anyway.  Our suffering carves into our souls a tiny awareness of the magnificent beauty of divine love.  That is a blessing that heals the deepest wounds; may our hearts overflow with thankfulness.

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