Friday, July 31, 2009

Taking the Bad With the Good

I just returned from a great time at the biennial Campus Crusade for Christ U.S. staff conference. Our staff conference is always a great time and each year we have it I leave feeling refreshed and motivated for ministry. One of the main speakers this year was Keith Battle, pastor of Zion Church in Maryland and a popular figure at our Impact conferences for the past several years.

Pastor Battle offered a particularly timely message for me during one of the sessions. He preached on a well-known passage, from the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, but offered a perspective on it that ministered to me deeply. In case you're not familiar with the verses (Romans 8:28-39), here is what it says:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Verse 28 of this portion of Scripture is often quoted by others when we are facing a particularly difficult trial or tragedy in life. However, when confroted with suffering or tragedy or loss, we rarely desire to look for good in the midst of our grief. But Pastor Battle shared an interesting illustration to help me "get" this biblical truth.

Each of us know that in order for our car to run properly we need a battery that will give the car the power it needs to run correctly. We also know that the battery needs both "positive" and "negative" charges in order to work. If it only has positive charges or only has negative charges it won't work. But if it has both it will have the power it needs to run.

Our lives are really no different. I've found that although I appreciate the positive times in life, it is usually as a result of the hard times that I grow the most and learn more about God and my relationship with Him. When things are hard, as they are now, I'm usually at a greater place of brokenness and dependence on God. When everybody in my family is healthy, the bank account has a cushion and I'm not facing any major problems, I tend to "coast" and rely on myself.

The "negative" experiences in life are not easy and I don't enjoy going through them. But I also realize that these times shape me and develop my character. As I look over my walk with the Lord, I can remember specific seasons of life that were extremely difficult to go through then...but I'm grateful for how God used those instances to conform me to His image.

It doesn't mean that all things are good. Sin and death and suffering are not good in and of themselves. But God can work in these things for His glory and our good. It doesn't mean that things always work out the way we want or how we'd hoped they'd turn out. But if we have been called according to His purposes then we can take comfort in knowing that God is working for our good even when our circumstances seem to say otherwise.

No comments: