When I was pregnant with Abel, my dad gave me a chapter out of a Merlin Carother’s book titled “Good-bye Grumblings” which dealt with praising God for all things that God allows to come into our lives. I told Dad that it was a fairly bold move to give such a chapter to a very pregnant woman with a highly active toddler (me, grumble?). 🙂
The author talked about how God is all omni (knowing, present, powerful); everything that comes into our lives is allowed by God (as we are cupped in the palm of His hand, it passes through His fingers) and is for our good. The object/experience might not necessarily be a good thing, but if we accept it (without grumblings – oy, the hard part), God uses it to transform us more into the image of Christ for the sake of others. Graham Cooke says it another way, that “God allows in His wisdom what he could easily prevent by His power.” My head acknowledges this, but the heart is another thing . . .
What a beautiful picture seeing someone live this out! But the true beauty and value only comes as you know the journey . . . the hardship . . . the suffering that has been experience. I never watch The Office: it’s funny, but it’s SO awkward that I squirm before getting to the humor. Same with viewing someone who’s living out a normal (i.e. not normal) Christian life: it’s beautiful, but it’s so costly. Can I hold my gaze long enough to be transformed, or will I become to embarrassed or ashamed and avert my eyes?
Brother Yun shares:
We have also come to understand that the past thirty years of suffering, persecution and torture for the house churches in China were all part of God’s training for us. The Lord has perfectly fitted us to go as missionaries to the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu worlds.
Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, “I’ve been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.” This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “The government will be on his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6
God has used China’s government for his own purposes, moulding and shaping his children as he sees fit. Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God.
Don’t pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live ina way that reflects his love and power.
This is true freedom! (287)
When I share about how I see the current state of the church – Quaker, Emerging, or otherwise – I grumble. I complain, I accuse, I judge. But what if I started practicing – training – to see how God is using the state of my world to shape me? To shape my faith community? To shape the larger church? Conforming it more into the image of Christ for the sake of others?
During this political season, what if we took Brother Yun’s stance? That would be radical, eh?
So how do we train? He only mentioned it casually, but I think Brother Yun hit right at the heart:
When believers focus on serving the Lord and reaching the lost, God blesses them and the church remains sharp. When we become self-centered and critical of each other, Satan has won already and the church will become a blunt, useless instrument. (289)
A praising, sharp instrument, or a grumbling, blunt object. Hmmm . . .
How are you being trained?