Death, Hockey, Suffering, Sanctification, and Contentment
Two weeks ago I went up to Atascadero and attended a memorial service. “Memorial service” could be better described as “party.” Believers can celebrate death like no one else, for we know our eternal destiny. This man’s last words were “I love you” to his wife, and he died immediately after reading his Bible for the day. Though death was sudden, he was ready. Two days before he died, he called me out of the blue and asked me to lunch. He was famous for driving cross-country to visit people he knew and cared about. Biblical community and encouragement was what he lived for, and his last action toward me was reaching out to encourage a college student far from home.
Tonight several of us from Oak Manor scrimmaged the Santa Clarita Special Olympics floor hockey team. Floor hockey is played on a basketball court, with normal hockey goals. A felt buck approximately 6 inches wide with a three inch hole in the middle is used, and the sticks are like broom handles. You move the puck by setting the stick in the hole and dragging the puck around at high rates of speed. We played the AAA and AA teams (the highest level) back-to-back. All of our hands and shins are pretty beat up. Competition seems fundamental to human beings, and even those handicapped play to win!
Here are some thoughts I’ve gleaned and meditated upon from conversations, books, and chapels during the last two weeks.
(1) God sometimes leads His people through the hardest circumstances imaginable simply because they are His people. If Job was not righteous, he would not have suffered as he did, for Satan would not have targeted him. The faithful will suffer because Satan hates them and God loves them enough to let them suffer for His glory.
(2) Most authentic Christians will unhesitatingly die for Christ. Most authentic Christians (myself included) won’t often make the small sacrifice of the esteem of others and charge a hill with nobody behind them. Why is it easy to die for Christ, but hard to live for Him?
(3) Reading the Bible is not done for self-improvement. Application is important, but it is not the motivation for spending time in the Word of God. Knowing God provides the motivation, and application comes from understanding His perfection and my sin more. Reading the Bible doesn’t jump-start the Holy Spirit to increase my sanctification.
(4) Knowing godly people can be dangerous to spiritual contentment. It is very easy to read the biography of Jim Eliot, have a great conversation with a discipler, or see a man’s undying faithfulness to the Lord and then covet their spiritual gifts and wisdom. This is something I constantly wrestle with, especially lately. I want to have the impact of a Jim Eliot, the ability to preach like a John Piper, and the faithfulness of Pastor Steve at Placerita.
It is easy to get discouraged by thinking “Jim Eliot wrote (x) at age 21. I’m 21 and not writing anything so profound. I must be behind him spiritually. How do I catch up?” Spiritual life is not a competition. Passionate pursuit of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is both what God desires and what God will bless. This is the frustrating balance between waiting upon the Lord and being zealous toward spiritual growth. There should always be a godly pressure toward growth in life, but there also should be a restful contentment and pleasure in the work the Lord has already accomplished.
I’m not sure if this is very clear, but I need more time to wrestle through the paradox of spiritual contentment and spiritual hunger. God’s grace is truly spectacular that I, a sinner, could even write this post, and yet I want to be less of a sinner and more of a saint. This isn’t a nice, tidy end for a blog post, but I don’t think this is a nice, tidy issue.