Monday, April 9, 2018

His Pain Our Gain

We’ve heard the slogan: No pain, no gain. I have one that says: No nappy, no happy. We know it means without effort you won’t get the results you’re hoping for. If the exercise doesn’t strain you, you won’t benefit. If the experience doesn’t challenge you, you won’t grow.

When Jesus faced the cross, even though He knew what He would gain for us, He became distressed about the pain. The night of His betrayal, He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray.

Matt 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." What cup?

Later that night when the mob came to arrest Him, He said to Peter: John 18:11 "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" What cup?

Earlier, Jesus had been approached by James’ and John’s mother. Matt 20:21-22 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" What cup?

It’s obvious we’re not talking about a literal cup. It was a metaphor. Dr. King used the word when he said: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” What’s in the cup affects the life. By drinking from it, we are surrendering to what’s in the cup.

That’s what Jesus was praying for—surrender. Stanley Jones said: “Prayer is surrender to the will of God and then cooperation with that will. If I throw out an anchor from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to God.”

In Jesus’ case the cup was a symbol of identity with the Father’s will. The cup represents the moment we are presented with the challenge to accept what God wants to do or carry us through and by drinking we give ourselves to it. For Jesus His cup held the cross.

Paul used the word when telling the Corinthians not to compromise themselves: 1Cor 10:20-21 The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons…

They were compromising their commitment to God by adding an allegiance to idols. They wanted to belong to both God and the world of paganism. Just add God into the mix. Paul drew a line between the two. You cannot be in two places at one time. You cannot ride two horses with one saddle. You can’t accept God’s will and keep the will of some idol in your back pocket in case you don’t like what God has in store. They were going to have to choose.

Elijah told the people on Mt. Carmel, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." 1Kings 18:21

They were straddling the fence. One leg dangling on each side with no real commitment to either side. He asked them: On which side of the fence do you belong? Then get off the fence and go there. “But I’d like to keep my options open.”

That’s called hedging their bet.

Hedging your bet is trying to protect yourself against loss by supporting more than one possible result or both sides in a competition: not burning your bridges by choosing only one way. Cheering for both teams so whatever happens you’ll go home a winner.

Drinking the cup of the Lord means we decide what God has for us is best and then we abandon ourselves to it. No contingency plan. No hedging. No keep my options open just in case I want a way out.

In 1519, Captain Hernando Cortes of Spain conquered Mexico and the Aztec Empire. He was going against a nation of 5 million people with less than 1000 soldiers. Cortes was so committed to winning, that he ordered his soldiers to destroy their own ships so they could not retreat, fall back or escape. It was a case of succeed or die. This strategy created total commitment, high motivation and it worked.

Drinking the cup means we must let go of the life we prefer to enjoy the life we have been given.
·         It’s going all in, no reserve.
·         It’s playing the hand dealt you.
·         It’s dancing with the one who brung you.
·         It’s a boxer answering the bell regardless of what stands against him.
·         It’s a shepherd boy going into the valley to take on a Goliath.
·         Or as our Israeli guide told us: A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.

It’s saying, regardless of how I feel or how things look, regardless of what I’d rather do, regardless of the fear I have for what’s ahead…nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. I will drink the cup of the Lord and trust Him for whatever comes.

But drinking the cup doesn’t bring instant results. There is a meantime. Just like Jesus, the clock starts running but it may take a while before the answer comes. That’s the time between agreeing, submitting, asking, crying out and receiving God’s gain. The meantime is often where the agony starts. Not always physical but often more emotional and spiritual. I have entrusted myself to God and nothing’s happened yet. Why?

Old Vance Havner called it the Great Not Yet. The great not yet can be filled with pain, darkness, sorrow, misery, questions, disappointment, doubt. But even within the great not yet there is the anticipation that what God intends is on its way. Even in exercise, pain is often a sign that gain is coming.

God had Paul write Phil 1:6 so we’d know what was going on during this Not Yet time: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to the right conclusion.

What is God doing while I’m in the Great Not Yet? Bringing about the right conclusion.

When Jesus took the cup, He knew what it meant for Him: pain, humiliation and the spectacle of His torture. But He also knew what He would accomplish for us when He drank of the cup. His day of pain would produce our lifetime of gain. He knew the Father was working through His pain to bring about the right conclusion.

We probably won’t know what our suffering is all about until it’s over. A former professor at Dallas Seminary was in a private airplane crash. He was badly injured and bruised beyond recognition. When his wife saw him, she didn’t even know who he was. After he recovered he said, “I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn from that crash.”

The Great Not Yet is our waiting room. It’s like the hospital where we sit, expecting them to come in at any moment and tell us we have a new grandbaby.

We use the word wait when we refer to letting time pass because we are expecting something is going to happen. It is the gap between promise and fulfillment, question and answer. But it’s not empty time.

Ps 39:7 And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. God, I’m waiting for you to deliver, save, heal, restore, complete, mediate, answer.

Our incredible definition of faith: Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is belief that expects, trust that anticipates. It is our response to the truth that God is coming through for us.

Rom 8:24-25 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

That’s the Great Not Yet. The meantime where we build expectation for what’s coming. We’re not enduring or outlasting the delay. We are living in anticipation. We aren’t killing time. We are longing to see what’s next. It is where hope becomes the motivation to look forward to tomorrow—because tomorrow may hold the answer.

What do we hold onto?

1Ch 28:20 Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you…

Isa 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sometimes stuff goes on in the Great Not Yet that feels like the lawn guy has mowed down our hedge of protection, but it’s still there!

So I can assure you today:
·         God keeps what we entrust to Him. Our lives, our kids, our grandkids
·         He will not drop the ball.
·         He will not forget about us.
·         He will finish what He started.
·         He will do what He has promised to do.

What are you facing? What’s in the cup God has handed you? Whatever it is, consider it good, because in it you will learn: the will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not sustain you.

Ps 30:5 His anger is but for a moment but His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

Lam 3:18-23 So I say, "My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD." Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. But this I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope: The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Like Jesus, don’t live in the defeat of Friday. Nor in the darkness of Saturday. Live in the anticipation of Sunday.

1.       If God is good then everything that comes from God is good.
2.      Accepting God’s good often places us in a season of waiting for that good to show up.
3.      Waiting is a great time to strengthen our faith by reminding ourselves to keep looking to the Lord.
4.      Within a speck of faith you’ll find more hope to trust God than a whole mountain of challenges.

5.      God never pours more into our cup than He can handle.

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