Friday, June 09, 2006

Embrace hardship

Two helpful quotes on the place of weakness and hardship in the Christian life:

I’ve learned to embrace the suffering, the criticism, the failure and the pain as probably the most productive work of God in my life… What I can’t do is refine myself, I can’t break myself, I can’t crush my own pride, I can’t bring failure into my life… In a sense, the best things that have ever happened to me are the mutinies that have occurred in my church, the disappointments, the misrepresentations.
(John MacArthur, in an interview with Mark Dever here)

Do not fear weakness, illness, or a sense of being overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is that such experiences are often the occasions when God most greatly displays his power. As long as people are impressed by your powerful personality and impressive gifts, there is very little room for you to impress them with a crucified Saviour. ‘I came to you,’ Paul confesses, ‘in weakness and fear, and with much trembling’ (1 Cor 2:3) – so much so that he needed special encouragement from God Himself (Acts 18:9-10). But Paul knew that God’s strength is mostly greatly displayed in connection with our weakness (2 Cor 12.1-10). Although he suffered fears, illness, weakness and a tremendous sense of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, he did not fear the fear; his weakness was not compounded by focusing on his weakness. Far from it! He could write, ‘That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12.10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister under the cross.

(Carson, D.A. on 1 Corinthians 2:3, in (1993) The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker), p.39)

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