Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Does Life Often Seem to Get Harder?

John Piper began his eight-month leave of absence on May 1st. He and the other pastors and elders have been encouraging us to pray faithfully for the church during this time. One of the things that has been on my heart to pray for has been deep and lasting application. We have been blessed with extraordinary teaching and preaching over the years. But listening is one thing, and applying the teaching is another, as James points out: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like." (James 1:22-24.) Or in other words, he forgets the teaching and does nothing with it.

It seems that it is all too easy to just enjoy the experience of hearing great teaching and to end up taking a lot of the instruction for granted. So I have been praying that this season for our church would be one of application, where we take what we've heard and learned and experienced and concentrate on practicing it. At the same time, I have found that the past month has been one of the hardest I've ever experienced, and I am seeing a lot of suffering and struggling around me in my church. As I was wrestling with this today, the thought was laid on me that this may be exactly what the answer to my prayer looks like. If we pray for application, we should expect circumstances to come up that will challenge us and require us to apply what we've learned. God doesn't strengthen us for no purpose. He strengthens us to bear one another's burdens. Application has a goal, and the goal is to be more Christlike - and thus more generous in serving others.

If we want to grow, then we need to be willing to take on bigger responsibilities with the growth God gives us. This quote captures it beautifully: "Pray not for a lighter load but for stronger shoulders." (from Margie Miguel). When the trials seem greater, we should take it as evidence that God is making us stronger, and we should rejoice that He is entrusting us with more grace and more faith that will enable us to more deeply love and strengthen those around us.

I am taking comfort that this striving is not in vain, but is a labor that will produce greater blessing in the lives of those around us. "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:25.)

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