weekly theme #23*
week containing the second Sunday of Easter
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch (Acts 11:23) he showed not a smidgen of self-focus. He rejoiced in what others had done and encouraged them. Then he went to get an expert for these kinds of situations – Saul (Paul). Verse 24 of Acts 11 is a wonderful testimony of him. “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.” In a sense, God used Barnabas to resurrect Paul. Paul was going through a personal, inner crucifixion – the death of his heart’s desire. Because of Saul’s zeal for Jesus, the apostles had sent him to Tarsus for his own safety, and they seemingly had forgotten him.
Waiting can be a painful, suffering time. Nevertheless, when my heart’s desire dies, it allows God’s desire to grow within me, and I am resurrected to his service. I am also given the promise of life everlasting where all things are new – earth, heaven, my body, even my way of living. I am unable grasp what everlasting life will be like, but I can believe in the concept of it. “That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) Sometimes belief in the next life sustains me during this life.
I cannot expect a “good” life now, at least not if I’m a warrior in the battle between good and evil. If I am on the sidelines, caring mostly for my own affairs, then I tend to expect a “good” life. However, the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians describes a life of spiritual war with terms like: pressed by troubles, perplexed, hunted down, knocked down, and suffering. Yes, I can experience all these things even if I’m not in the war, but if I’m not in the war I will not share in the rewards of victory available to me now and in the future. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
Sacrifices and suffering seem less intense, even ignorable, when they are for someone I love. Moreover, love can move my fear out of mind. (1 John 4:18) If a loved one is in a burning building, I can look past the source of fear to the one I love. It is love that propels me. It is not fleeing from where I am, but running to my love. The way through my crucifixion is not by more willpower or courage but by greater love for what is on the other side of what I fear.
*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections. I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used. It truly lives up to its title.