Sitting with the Shepherd
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NKJV)
The Christian life is not hard, it is impossible! When a person first comes into faith in Christ and is regenerated we may find ourselves feeling invincible. We suddenly have great ambitions of what we will do for Christ in return for what He has done for us. And while this naïve, exuberant mindset may be exhilarating, especially around Christians who have lost some of their own personal zeal, it can be deceptive as well.
Even the Apostle Paul, who accomplished great things for the kingdom of God in his lifetime had to learn the insufficiency of fleshly effort. There is a saying that goes, "God will never give us more than we can handle." But the reality is He will allow us to experience trials, much like the one written about here, that we cannot handle, at least without His help. Part of the sanctification process that brings us closer to God, is dependent on God allowing us to come to the end of ourselves. Paul accurately described the purpose of this particular trial when he said, "we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God..." The Apostle Peter learned this when after his heartfelt vow not to deny Christ, he denied Him not once but three times in front of a mere servant girl. God couldn't use Peter mightily until Peter wept bitterly. Jesus in His humanity said "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself…"
One of the most difficult lessons to learn and yet an essential one, is that followers of Christ must learn is that failure is not the end of God's plan for our life, but an integral part of His process. Actually it is usually a stepping stone to take us to the next level of spiritual maturity. As we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must be mindful not to think more highly of ourselves than need be but to think soberly. We can do all things, not in the flesh, but in Christ Who strengthens us.
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." (Romans 12:2-3 NKJV)
Questions for Meditation or Discussion
1. How have the circumstances and challenges of this life tempered your enthusiasm for God?
2. Why does God sometimes allow us to be tried and even to weep bitterly?
3. What has helped you to realize that failure is not the end of God's plan for your life?
My Lord and my Redeemer Jesus Christ, You are the author and finisher of my faith and I am confident that You are working all things together (even personal failure) for my good and my continued spiritual growth. I confess that there are times that I need to experience failure and the inadequacy of my flesh that I will trust more fully in You rather than myself. Thank You Lord for allowing me to be placed in situations that are greater than my ability to handle that I might know the sufficiency of Your grace. Thank You Lord that You never fail me or forsake me. Amen