2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
What is God Doing With You?
I had such a rough time of it a few weeks ago! I was the substitute teacher for a high school geometry teacher and it did not go well. Several of the kids refused to put away their cell phones, students refused to do the class work and instead talked loudly with their friends. Two tried to guess what my other job was and listed several that clearly were intended to insult me. A number of the kids laughed openly at me for insisting that they become quiet because others were working. I spoke with a few kids just before class was over and they told me that despite how bad it was, the class was much worse and far noisier when the regular teacher ran the classroom. Somehow that did not make me feel any better. It seemed so oppressive, so purposeless, this work of going into classrooms where the students have no interest in learning and did not respect the authority of the teachers. What was the point of that? Who chooses that kind of life?
I have asked the question and perhaps you have too. What is God doing with me? Maybe as you sit at home and reflect back upon your day, you wonder about God’s plan for you. Is there really something He is doing with you or are you just a number in a huge crowd of wandering souls? Perhaps you have read books about finding the purpose in your life but still wonder about where God is taking you. You have had good moments and tough ones and everything seems awfully random and disconnected. So what is God doing with you? Can you make sense of what has happened in your life?
Many teachers cite the example of an obscure figure found in the Old Testament as the pattern for how God deals with His favorites. Tucked away in 1 Chronicles 4 is the much loved account of the ephemeral Jabez. All we know about him is that the Bible says he was more honorable that his brothers and that his mother gave him the name “Pain” or Jabez because she had a rough delivery giving birth to him. Famously, Jabez at some point begged God to make him prosperous. "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." (1 Chronicles 4: 10) Hasn’t nearly every one of us prayed similar prayers? “Dear Lord, improve the lot of my life and take away all this bad stuff I face! Make me successful!” What is so wonderfully delicious about this account is that we are told, God granted his request. Isn’t that uplifting! Our Lord made Jabez’s life pleasant and strife free. He was promised success and prosperity. That is what we all want. No wonder so many Christian writers have taken this story as the blueprint for God’s plan for us. Despite the fact that nowhere in the text does the Lord say this is His universal way of dealing with people who are “good”, it is touted by a number of popular Christian teachers as the expected life plan for those who live decently and follow the Bible.
Not surprising, few promote the central figures in the New Testament as examples of how they want God to work in their lives. Paul in particular is on almost no one’s top ten list of experiences they want for themselves, not when you take into consideration his own account of what he faced. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NIV)
Rarely do you find someone who says, “I want to be beaten with rods and whipped nearly to death.” We would much rather have it like Jabez without health problems and living comfortably. Yet again, the Bible does not say that Paul is the expected blueprint for each life. Let us consider Jesus’ actual words of what He plans to do with every one of His people. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 NIV) There it is; God’s plan for you.
We discover in this prayer of Jesus that there are two parts to where God is taking you. First, He is going to make you united with God’s people. Just as close as the Father and the Son are, He plans on making you with every other born again man, woman and child. Regardless of station in life, national or ethnic background, God is going to develop trust, love and holiness in your relationship with the rest of the Church. This is a monumental task and will take quite a bit of re-working in us. He must cleanse us and purify us for this to happen because we are prickly and self-centered but it will be done. Nothing short of a miracle can make us as close to others as the Father and the Son are to each other but that is of course God’s will and our Savior’s prayer.
The second part of this prayer is a stunning revelation. God is going to make you as close to Him as the Father and the Son are to each other. For this to take place, our Lord is not going to build on the strengths you possess. He is going to completely re-work you so that there is not an inch of rebellion in you, not a gram of disobedience. That will take some doing because we are doubters who question the Lord at every turn. We think we are far wiser and more understanding of what we need to be happy and it pains us sometimes to follow Him. All of that is being worked out of you. You will grow to trust Him completely and love Him devotedly as God works in you.
The Apostle Paul summarizes perfectly God’s plan for you. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV) It is not God’s goal for you to be successful although that might take place. It is not God’s goal for you to make a great income although that might take place. It is not God’s goal for you to be healthy although that might take place. His goal is to do something with you that will last forever; that will purify and perfect you so that you can live with God and other Christians in complete unity. If that means that you lose all you have, lose your health, lose your friends and live without what the world says is important to be happy, then that will happen. It happened with Paul. It happened with Job too. Every experience you have, every circumstance you face has one goal to it. God is using it to make you perfectly fit to live with God and His people forever. Nothing will stop our Lord from accomplishing this with you.
Every evil strand of selfishness and pride must be removed from you if you are to be in perfect unity with God and His people and our Lord will do what it takes to get them out of you. Greed and arrogance must be taken out of you too as well as complacency and independence. Christ will move heaven and earth and give you every experience and relationship needed to make you fit for your life with God and His people and each of us is unique and God’s way of working into us His love and peace and faith is dependent upon what He sees must be done to complete His work of salvation in us. Never fuss over how your life is going. God knows what He is doing with you and in the end, you will be perfect in every way that matters to the Lord who died to save you.