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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Suffering: a rose among the thorns . . .

Dear friends and faithful prayer partners,

A long time ago an old Greek philosopher wrote:

“The way up and the way down are one and the same.” – Heraclitus

Several millennia later T. S. Eliot, the renowned English poet, in one of his Four Quartets took up the same refrain when he penned,
“And the way up is the way down.”

Reflecting on that, I thought of a verse of Scripture found in James 1:2 and following in which the great Apostle of practical Christianity writes,

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.” James 1:2-8 (Phillips)

Allow me to explain.

Often we rejoice in our triumphs. Success in so many ways seems like a blessing—and it usually is; however, not always if it distances us from Christ. We also love the euphoria—especially, we Pentecostals—of a heightened worship service. Yet, we fail to see the hand of God in failure or when Heaven turns to brass, or when the doctor looks us in the eye and says, “I’ve got bad news. The tests have come back and you have stage 4 cancer. There’s hope, but the chemo is not pleasant, and there is no guarantee.”

Now, granted hard times are hard times, and there are times when God does hand us a bouquet of roses and the thorns get in the way. But, it is a bouquet of roses none-the-less. The fragrance is just as sweet but it is hard to get past the pain prick of thorn. It hurts, and it hurts badly. So, we cry out. We react. God, we say, why in the name of commonsense did you hand me roses instead of daisies? Then it surprises us when he replies, “Because I know you love roses, and roses don’t come without the thorns.”

Solomon once wrote, I believe speaking of Christ figuratively,
“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”
(Song of Solomon 2:1)

Although this interpretation is one of many thoughts among commentaries, it does nonetheless fit the analogy. Christ is indeed a rose, a beauty to behold among the thorns and trials along our path as we trudge through the valleys of our journey towards our Heavenly home.  

Yet, strange as it may seem, Our Lord, too, has walked along the same paths, as He continues to do each day with us as we struggle through the briar patches that conceal that one eternal rose, the Rose of Sharon.

I must admit that perhaps I am carrying the metaphor a bit too far so please forgive me when I suggest that our journey along the path that leads up and over the mountain tops and down through the valleys is all the same because the joys of the mountain tops and the struggles in the valleys are all in pursuit of that Rose, the Rose of Sharon.

Paradoxically, however, the experiences that we enjoy or endure are all in the pattern of His purposes for us. The Apostle Paul, reminds us that:

“[God] causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Romans 8:28-29 (NASB)

Notice he said all things. And all things mean all things—the exhilarating mountain top experiences, our Mount of Transfiguration moments as well as our Gethsemanes. Both are the same, there is no purposeful difference; and we should never let either blur our image of the prize, the Rose of Sharon which lies just ahead for the way up and the way down are one and the same.

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,

P.S. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.