Three Keys to the Christian Life: Part 2
- Three Keys to the Christian Life
Romans 12:12 shows the three keys things in a life that is pleasing to God, satisfying to us, and a defeat for God's enemy
Rejoice, Endure, and Persevere
"Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer" (Romans 12:12).
There are three basic keys to a victorious Christian life shown in this verse: Rejoicing, Enduring, and Persevering. In my last post I expounded on the matter of rejoicing in the Christ who lives in us, who desires to grow in us until we fully express His glory. Such a hope causes us to rejoice even in the most troubling circumstances. This is foundational. If we are not enjoying the resurrected Christ who dwells in our spirit, we cannot endure in affliction.
Affliction is the condition of the universe. My profession is teaching, and my field is ecology. Ecology is about how living things interact with their environment. Environment shapes all species on earth. There are only three strategies for species when dealing with harsh environments: flee, adapt, or die. The same is true for Christians today when we are faced with afflictions. First, consider these verses on afflictions:
"...strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into God’s Kingdom" (Acts 14:22)
"...[God] who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor 1:4)
"For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17)
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit...that no one would be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. For most certainly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know" (1 These 1:6; 3:3-4)
Flee, Adapt, or Die?
How do you handle these promised, God-ordained afflictions that are part of the normal Christian life? First, some may flee them (see Jonah 1:3; Matt 26:56; Acts 13:13;15:37-39). This is not God's way. To flee is to avoid and run away. God has predestined afflictions as the environment for Christian growth. Every life needs the right environment to grow. There are many types of seeds for example, that will not germinate unless they experience a harsh, cold winter. Likewise, our own body, in the weightlessness of outer space, will start to experience bone and muscle loss immediately. We need the force of gravity to strengthen our body. Physical exercise is basically an affliction we willingly and knowingly pursue because it helps our body. Avoiding exercise makes our body weak. Consider the Lord's parable of the sower:
"Behold, a farmer went out to sow. ...... Others fell on rocky ground, where they didn’t have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away." (Matt 13:3-6)
In this second example, the seed fell on rocky ground, and the plant did not produce deep roots. When hot, dry, afflicting conditions arose, the plant withered. Jesus explained later that the sun, which is essential for any plant to grow, symbolizes affliction:
"What was sown on the rocky places, this is he who hears the word and immediately with joy receives it; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while. When oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles." (Matt 13:20-21)
Thus in God's plan, oppression and persecution, which are clearly unpleasant to us, and something we may want to flee, actually are a healthy sunshine that is designed to make us grow. The growth depends on deep roots. What are the roots? It is the rejoicing and enjoying of Christ who dwells deep in our spirit! This is the foundation I expounded on in the first part of this series. Without our tapping into the well of water deep in our spirit, which contains the gushing and supplying resurrection life of Christ, we cannot endure in persecution (see John 4:13-14; 1 Cor 12:13; Philip 1:13; Psalm 87:7; Isa 12:3).
Even if we do not flee persecution, perhaps because they are unavoidable, we may waste our time actually praying that they go away. Many a prayer meeting I have spent listening to dear believers asking God to end their persecution. This is like a plant praying to God to stop the sun from shining. It is interesting to me in my travels around the world to note that the healthiest Christian communities I have seen are among those with the greatest persecution. In the United States, where religious activity is protected and bibles are common, most congregations seem apathetic and weak. In China, where it is more difficult because of a government that has been opposed to Christian gatherings, I saw more vitality and joy. Indeed, history shows Christians during the first three centuries, under Roman persecution, were strong in faith. Christian decline really became pronounced after Constantine embraced the faith. We need afflictions!
Adaptation means we grow deeper into God
Unfortunately, afflictions without the supply of living water, the Christ welling up in our spirit, will be fatal, and our Christian growth will stop, as the Lord's parable of the sower of seeds portrayed. The only option is adaptation. When afflictions arise because of our pursuit of the Lord, adaptation means we grow deeper into God. This is what it means to endure. Endure is the Greek word hypomeno, which has two parts. "Meno" means remaining, dwelling, or abiding. It is to make a place our home. "Hypo" is simply an intensifying modifier. Thus hypomeno means "I am not going anywhere!" It is a spiritual virtue of bravely bearing misfortunes and ill treatments because we realize the big picture: God is forming and growing Himself in us for His glory. We will not flee, and by God's grace, we will not die. Rather we will grow. Consider Peter's two epistles. The theme of his writing is bearing with persecution so that we will grow. Read them yourselves, but as a brief synopsis, here are some verses from the beginning and the ending of his writings:
"Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7)
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18)
- Hymn: I’m pressing on the God-man way
Christian hymns and spiritual songs with wonderful truths and music.}