Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
One of the most awe inspiring encounters that people have had with God is when Paul encounters the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and is profoundly touched by the experience. For three days he is left blind and goes without food and drink. And while he has been touched physically by this encounter we do not want to overlook the likelihood that in those three days Paul must have been doing a great deal of soul searching as well. Everything he had poured himself into - the persecution of the church and so on - was being stripped of it's veneer of righteousness and being shown for what it really was.
In the midst of this physical affliction and inner turmoil the Lord sends to Paul a Christian by the name of Ananias. The Lord speaks to Ananias, telling him to, "Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16). Not quite what we expect to hear, is it? God is going to use Paul's life powerfully, He's going to use him to reach hundreds and thousands with the Gospel message, but Paul will suffer as the Lord before him suffered. This is just a partial list of Paul's sufferings as recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 ...
He has been imprisoned, flogged, and beaten. He has been stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and hungry and the list just goes on and on! Yet he did not waver in his committment to the Lord nor the task set before him. Instead he was able to rejoice in the midst of suffering for he knew he suffered for the sake of the Lord's name - he suffered on behalf of his king, his Lord, his soveriegn, his savior and his people. Paul was able to rejoice because he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus and saw the big picture.
Our first inclination when trials, hardships, or opposition arises is to pray and ask God to take them away. If we constantly focus on the trial rather than Christ we will miss the blessing that the Lord may have for us in the midst of these things. I came across these thought provoking questions the other day which I would like to share with you and which might help us to each view the trials of our lives a little bit differently.
"Which is the greater demonstration of God's power - changing something around me or changing something within my heart?"
"Which is the greater faith builder - seeing God's deliverance from every difficulty or experiencing His presence and strengthening in the midst of trials?"
"Which reward is greater - immediate relief from discomfort, or tested and refined faith that will result in praise and glory when Christ returns (1 Peter 1:7)?"
"Which answer to prayer is greater - that God has removed something and given me external peace, or that He's left me in a trial and given an internal peace that nothing can steal, not even my circumstances?"