Monday, June 15, 2009

never, never, never in vain

Earlier this evening, after a cluster headache episode ended, I stopped pacing and plopped down on the tile in the center of our living room half crying and upset because of the pain, half ticked at the family cockatiel who took that exact moment to start chirping "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty bird" as loud as his amazingly tiny vocal chords can screech. The phone rang, and I let it ring. It was an altogether pathetic fifteen minutes. I had been home alone for over seven hours, and at the time, I didn't feel like getting up or studying or cooking or moving at all. I wanted to sit on the floor with my oxygen tank and enjoy my private pity party. I realize my problems could be so much worse, but it was a very melodramatic fifteen minutes for me. Like I said, pathetic.

I heard my cell vibrate against the tile signaling a new text. I flipped open the phone and read a Twitter update from John Piper: "Never, never, never in vain: 'Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.' (Ephesians 6:8)."

Never, never, never in vain. Not the right actions we choose even when they're hard, not the physical pain we pray will end, not the continued fight for God's glory when it feels like we're stumbling around and only making mistakes. Never, never, never in vain.

Ephesians 6:10, a few verses after the one Piper references, starts the well-known description of the Armor of God: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." Through verse 17 is a list of all that you 'put-on' in order to "stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

This chapter brings up various, deep theological topics, but when my dog crawled onto my lap as I sat on the cold floor this evening, my sleep-deprived brain jumped instantly to 2 Corinthians 9:8, and in so doing, started processing the central ideas of this random rambling of a post. Now it's nearly 1 AM, and any attempts at intellectual brilliance have been stifled by the sleeping pills that are telling me to get back in bed.

But back to 2 Corinthians and, hopefully, my point. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." He tells us to be strong in Ephesians, but if you flip back to Corinthians, it's clear God specifically gives us exactly the equipment to use. He doesn't throw us onto the battlefield with a laugh and a good luck. "All sufficiency in all things at all times." Sufficient, according to Mr. Webster, means "enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end." But taking that a step further, Romans 8 says "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." So it's not just a matter of meeting our needs, a one-size fits all dose of strength. I may be wrong, but "intercedes for us with groans" gives the impression that the help we receive is incredibly personal. Awesome, right?

This present world, this present darkness that surrounds us, hurts. No denying the days aren't always blue skies and sunshine. The person who believes becoming a Christian immediately makes one immune to grief is an idiot. Just sayin'. But we do have confidence that even when our actions seem pointless and our pain, futile - they're not; it's not. We serve a God who works through us to use our weak, ordinary, measly human state so He's magnified.

"Now may the God of peace... equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever." Hebrews 13:21

Our God has our back (and our front) and is constantly supplying us with all that we need to serve Him. Plus, in serving Him with what He has provided, we're also giving Him glory. Which when it comes down to it, that's ultimately our life purpose, correct?

Somewhere between the chant of "I can't do this" and "It's too much" comes Christ's promise, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” I love that His power is the same power from Ephesians 6:10 from the beginning of this post: "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." I've always read Ephesians 6 with the initial mental image of a glorious, well-built war hero. But His "power works best in weakness." The scrawny, sick, distracted, wounded, well-meaning, average, terrified soldiers are supplied with the strength to conquer and keep on. We tend to act as if we have to pull ourselves together before we are able to serve. Surrendering to Christ starts now, in our current condition, to be used immediately, especially in the hard times. And we know that we have all sufficiency at all times, having enough to meet the needs of our proposed end.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

So let's stand up in the strength of His might, wipe away the tears from the pain and fear of what we feel we can't handle, and start moving with the knowledge that in the pursuit of Christ, our actions - heck, our lives - are never, never, never in vain.

"He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27)


Abby Fields said...

Ah Katie, you are such an encouragement to me. Thank you for always bringing me back to the real purpose of our lives. I love you!

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