Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Resolutions... Edwardsean & Thabitian (5)

The problem with blogging on these resolutions is that you need time to process the implications of what Edwards proposes and to evaluate your own life in light of scripture and with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Blogging seems to participate in that peculiar rush to judgment/print that so afflicts most news media. But I'm finding in Edwards' resolutions a good periodic reminder to slow down... to meditate... to examine... to repent... and by God's grace, to change.

Well, Edwards' 10th resolution is one that has this slowing effect. It grips you and causes you to think. Here it is:

10. Resolved, When I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom and of hell.
Whoa. You see, when I feel pain I'm tempted toward bemoaning my lot... sinning by murmuring and complaining really. You know the tune... "Nobody knows...." I've been fighting actively against this sin for some time, and I've discovered that the fight is most intense when I'm tired and not taking good care of myself physically. That's when I'm most tempted to complain of pains and discomforts. But, by God's grace, I've been experiencing some victory in this campaign.

Enter Edwards' resolution.... Edwards pushes me beyond a mere fight against murmuring and complaining. That's merely the negative side of the battle, the prevention. He pushes me toward a positive strategy, to do something affirmatively.

He calls us to turn our momentary and light afflictions into an occasion for considering pains of a far greater sort!

On the one hand, there is martyrdom. How many of us have read about the martyrdoms of the Polycarps, the Jan Husses, the Apostles of our Lord, the meanest Christian slaves of Christian history. And how often we have silently wished that either (a) we would not know such pain or (b) if found in the situation, that we would be every bit as faithful as these saints.

Surely, one means for preparing for persecution has to be to reflect on the pains of martyrdom as though they were our own. I'm not sure we can realistically expect to stand for the faith if we don't prepare our hearts and minds to make such a stance before the time comes. As one friend put it, "It's hard to develop character in a pinch." Edwards' resolution is an invitation to develop the kind of character that stands--whether flinchingly or like granite--in the face of demonic opposition against the people of God and the Lord himself.

I suspect that if I thought more often on martyrdom I'd be more willing to risk for the kingdom. After all... what is the pain of martyrdom but a foretaste of glory with our Lord? What loss does the Christian suffer in martyrdom? None. Absolutely none! We only gain if we die in the Lord, and we gain immeasurable if we die for His name's sake. Did our King not say: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." My problem is that I too often think of the pains of martyrdom as if the pains were the most enduring aspect of dying for the Lord. It's not! The most enduring aspect of dying for the Lord is the blessedness we delight in when in the kingdom of heaven face-to-face with our King!

And then there are the pains of hell. How would meditating on the pains of hell help me?

I would be more careful with my own soul knowing the agony of that place. I would be more urgent about the souls of others, persuading them to repent and believe, knowing the terror of the Lord. If I thought more about the pains of hell, I would long more for heaven and an unending life with the Savior. If I thought more about the pains of hell, which corrupt so much of this life, I would hate this passing world with a godly hatred. I would oppose sin--my own and others as best I could depending on God's omnipotent aid. If I thought more about the pain of hell, I would weep at the sin-blinded foolishness of those who reject the free offer of salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I understood more the pains of hell, I would be zealous for the glory of God in missions. I would give more to the work of missions. I would find more ways from the text of scripture to impress upon the minds of men the unending scorching and sting of hell's torments. I would work harder to prepare young people in the church to invest their lives in heaven and to not waste them on vain, fleeting, flesh-gratifying, soul-destroying trinkets and pastimes.

If I thought more of the pains of hell when I felt some physical pain, I would rejoice more fervently in the blood of Jesus Christ who saves me so completely from the pangs of hell by making me one with himself! I would look beyond the physical pain, beyond the taunts of hell, to the Savior who promises a new body, a new home, in New Jerusalem where all things are made new and where there shall no longer be any pain, death, sorrow, or crying (Rev. 21).

This pain in my knee should make me more heavenly-minded. It hasn't yet. But Edwards gives me a resolution and a way of reflecting on the aches of this life that transports me to heaven with my Jesus, despising the pain as He did, and pressing on for the joy that is set before me!!

1 comment:

Shawn Abigail said...

We live in a society that thinks pain has no purpose. But even from a worldly point of view it should be clear that pain has a purpose. If our body is hurting and we take a pain killer and then continue on just as before, we risk worse damage. Pain is designed to make us change our immediate and long term behaviour.

Have you read John Piper's thanksgiving for getting cancer? Most helpful.

None of us should seek pain, but while we have health to pray that we would learn lessons through our pain (and weakness) and that we would be strengthened by it rather than being torn down by it.