I don’t believe there is a born again Christian on the face of this earth who does not desire to know Jesus, God the Father more intimately, to have the confidence to proclaim as Paul did in Phillipians 3 v 8:
Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
What a statement of love and commitment!
But one that causes confusion at times. There was a time, a long time if I recall, where I thought I could work my way into God’s favour, and that the more I suffered while doing it, the better chance I had of getting to that extraordinary oneness that I sought in and with God.
When it didn’t work out the way I believed it would, I thought the resultant ‘suffering’ was it, the same trials and agonies as Paul, Peter, John and others went through.
Like Peter, I didn’t really get the message. I had the cart before the horse. We cannot reach Him by causing ourselves to suffer. We suffer because of our relationship with Him, and until we understand that and start seeking His company, we aren’t going to experience that extraordinary joy, that certainty of knowing that He is, no matter what our circumstances
Paul goes on to say in Phillipians 3vv9,10
… be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith,
10. that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death,
Paul desired Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own, and he did not count the cost of seeking Him. As Stephen Fry says in the notes of the New Spirit-Filled Bible, He was a lover of God, not a user of God. Whether he moved in Christ’s resurrection power, or was stretched to his last ounce of endurance, it mattered little in Paul’s journey to truly knowing God.
It is that relationship of total commitment, total yielding, that marks the lives of the great men and women of God. The more they were persecuted the closer they drew to the Lord, until they could say with utter conviction: “count your sufferings as joy.” The pain they went through was as nothing compared to the pleasure of serving Him, and Him alone.
Without understanding and embracing the full measure of God’s plan of grace we cannot get to this place. Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we struggle to find the courage, strength and wisdom to achieve the goal of the full measure of Christ, rooted and grounded and built up in Him.
It is in this place that we can exercise our faith to do the works we are sent to do. It is here that the words of James begin to make sense:
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith with deeds.
James 2 v 18
If we try to perform Christian duty in any way other than as a response to our love for Jesus, then as Paul says in Romans 4 v4:
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
Empty works. It doesn’t mean that they were not good works. But works that are powered by our motives, our flesh, and not in submission to the will of God, are just that: works.
1 Corinthians 3 vv 13-16
Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
14. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
15. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
16. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Work that you your works may endure, do as the Holy Spirit directs, and you will find yourself coming into that inexplicable relationship, where we take comfort in knowing that no matter what we may have to endure, our Father is constantly on hand to help us through the challenges. We are not left alone as orphans.
So, draw near to your Father. He promises that as you do, He will draw near to you, and as He does He brings the glow of His peace into the essence of your being, and to experience even a minute of that Presence, is worth the suffering that at times must be a part of this process called life.