Monday, December 15, 2014

Cross and Crown

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬ NIV)

This is Paul's cry. He has much confidence in Christ and no confidence in his flesh. But he feels the pull of his fleshly desires to do what he shouldn't and not do what he should or even wants to.

He "wants to know Christ." He's probably talking about abiding or remaining in Christ relationally here. (John 15) His desire is to know Christ--not just know about. When you've come face to face with the living Lord Jesus, just knowing facts about him is not nearly enough. You want to spend more time with him. You want him to further transform you to the core of your being. This seems to be where Paul is.

What does he specifically want to know about Christ? Two things that would deepen his faith in Christ:

1. "The power of his resurrection." He wants to know this power that delivered Christ Jesus from sin and death. Honestly, we all do. Who doesn't want to know and access this kind of power. The thought is comforting.

2. "Participation in his sufferings." Want this one? Not so much. Few of us would and we'd think those who did were crazy.

But wait, Paul isn't crazy. He's onto something here. 

Paul sees a relationship between God's transforming power and surrender to suffering. 

Paul certainly isn't advocating that we seek out suffering. He didn't. He even ran from it and tried to avoid it. 

But he didn't use it as a cue to change course from God's mission. For example, he didn't say, "I must not be in God's will on this mission trip. Every time I turn around someone is trying to kill me. I should just go back home where it's safe." No, Paul embraced suffering because he believed it was part of the battle. 

Paul was convinced that he was walking with the Lord. So he must have concluded that the Lord allowed it or even directed him to it. (Rom 8:28) This isn't different from sending his son Jesus to live with us knowing that we'd crucify him.

Paul finishes with a further explanation on suffering. He says he wants to know the power of the resurrection and participation in his sufferings, "Becoming like him in his death."

This would point to dying and then being raised from the dead. But be willing to die for crimes you're innocent of starts with fully surrendering to God. 

Jesus prayed for his Father to take away his cup of wrath. And then he prayed, "Yet not my will but yours be done." Surrender. Trust.

This is surrendering to a God you fully trust. Jesus trusted his Father and put his life fully in his hands. He calls us to follow him and do no less.

I've heard it said that Jesus didn't receive his crown until after he carried his cross. Cross before crown. Perhaps that's what Paul sees here. We must surrender our lives to a loving, trustworthy God knowing that this world will feel more like a cross than a crown. 

Our reward will be much more than a crown. But there is a connection between the two.

Do you try to live life avoiding suffering--or even discomfort--at all costs? Are you constantly shopping for more comfortable clothing, seeking more comfortable job situations, or regularly indulging in comfort foods? Perhaps comfort is becoming your idol. Discomfort is mild suffering. 

On the surface it seems like the way to go. But Paul knows first hand that the sufferings in this world are nothing compared to the surpassing glory that awaits us.

What is God saying to you?

More importantly, what are you going to do about it?