January 15, 2017

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

This is a very succinct but potent blessing/prayer. The more we know and grasp God’s love, the more we will be lifted out of the swamp of this world’s values and temptations. However, that can be a “long row to hoe,” as the old expression has it. That’s why we need Christ’s patient endurance. Jesus may have been on the earth physically less than 34 years, but He still put up with a great deal. As it says in Hebrews, that’s why He can intercede for us so accurately. (Hebrews 4:15) Life in Christ has joy and peace and many other good things that can be had no other way, but even so, sometimes we just have to “grin and bear it,” to use another old expression. Jesus Himself famously said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We miss out on a great deal when we fail to hang in through to the end. The movie of Shusaku Endo’s book, Silence, which is about Christian persecution in Japan, has just come out. The novel is historically based, but to me the whole story is tragic in ways a non-believer can’t understand. The persecution in Japan was the most successful, from the standpoint of the persecutors, of any persecution in Christian history, because it drove the believers so far underground that for many, their faith became unrecognizable from a Biblical perspective. Everywhere else, persecution has caused the Church to grow as it has stripped away all the nonessentials. I can’t be sure, but my impression is that the difference in Japan was that people saw salvation from too much of a temporal perspective. There were certainly many who valued Christ more than their physical lives, but too many saw things the way a major character in Silence did. According to the story, a missionary priest apostasized in an effort to spare his flock from physical suffering. Endo saw that as very noble, but to me it is tragic. That priest, and too many of the Japanese, didn’t believe that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) It indeed takes a great deal of faith to see being tortured to death as “light and momentary,” but from an eternal perspective, that’s what it is. Jesus chose to see His own crucifixion that way, and Paul is here praying that his readers would be able to do the same.

I’ve done my share of grousing about transient circumstances, so I have no high horse from which to look down on others about this. I too need more of the love of God and the patient endurance of Christ! I know without question that God makes available everything we need, whether it’s material, emotional, or spiritual, but we have to be open and available to receive it. God seldom supplies very much ahead of time, because if He did, we’d tend to think what we hold was ours and not His, and so forget our dependence on Him. This whole issue of endurance under persecution reminds me of the tradition of Peter’s martyrdom. We are told that, not only did he consider himself unworthy to die in exactly the same way as Jesus, and so at his request was crucified upside down, he also had to endure seeing his wife crucified before he was. To me, that would be the greater torture. It is said that he cried out to her, “Remember Jesus!” He was not about to place anyone’s physical situation above or ahead of their eternal salvation. I need to maintain that perspective myself, exercising patient endurance because I know the love of God.

Father, I’ve let some really minor things make me irritable recently. Forgive me. Thank You for making it clear to me what I’ve been doing. Help me indeed exercise the patient endurance of Christ so that Your love may flow through me unhindered to all around me, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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