Wednesday, August 27, 2014

friction is traction

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 3
mark this: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3/NLT
We sent Timothy to visit you. He is our co-worker for God and our brother in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from becoming disturbed by the troubles you were going through. But, of course, you know that such troubles are going to happen to us Christians.
I'm in trouble all the time. I'm rarely out of trouble. But trouble and I have declared a truce.
I used to try to avoid trouble; or, if I couldn't evade him, I'd try to ditch him somewhere. But I never really succeeded.
I used to think that God would guard me from trouble, that he would deliver me from evil. Until I found out that evil isn't always friction, that oftentimes evil is traction.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 has some unsettling news for those of you who are--like I once was--waiting for trouble to blow away and never return. I regret to inform you that 1 Thessalonians 3:3 doesn’t say afflictions might happen; it says we’ve got an appointment with trouble:
We sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3/NKJV)
You've got a date with the devil. But so did Jesus, repetitively:
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luke 4:13/KJV)
Let's not be naïve about this forever. If the cross teaches us just one thing, let it be this:
God will use evil, if he must, to create good.
He allowed evil in Job's life in order to turn it into something much better. He turned the evil in Joseph's life into a redemptive good, which saved many people alive. (Genesis 50:20)
The other day I had a discussion with my son Eddy concerning an irony of physics. I conveyed to him that without friction, he would not be able to run; and that without friction, he would not be able to stop running! He seemed interested, so I pressed on. I told him that the ground provides the traction we need to go forward, while the very same ground provides the friction we need when we wish to curtail forward momentum. What stops us starts us.
We compartmentalize bad and good, but the mind of God does not. For those who have entered into his plan for them, he means it all for good:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
It's easy to sit here and dissect this biblical principal in the comfort of my air-conditioned office on Easy Street. When the evil day overtakes me, however, you can be assured that I will not be able to speak with such detachment.
It takes a great deal of Godlike faith to be able to see through evil all the way to its positive outcome. When I say Godlike faith, I mean faith like God's faith--who so believed in Jesus that he could send him to a far country, temporarily denude him of his supernatural capacities, allow (arrange?) his various temptations, surround him with apathy, rejection, and lethal opposition--and all of this on the way to his appointment with a horrific and ignominious death.
All of that friction was traction in the mind of God. It was the leverage that allowed him to lift us out of death's valley.
If you are a beginning believer, stop reading right here. You've learned enough for today…
But if you can hear and bear the things of God, I've got some grim good news for you: God believes in you, too. And he's shaping you into the image and likeness of his son, by whatever means that are left to him in a world that has been saturated--baptized--in evil.
Time was, when the only way to defeat death was death itself, he used it. When all that's left to fight fire is fire itself, he'll use it. When all that's left to fight evil is evil itself, he'll use it.
He will deliver us from evil, even if he has to lead us into temptation to do it.
But we are not to be disturbed. Though we are subjected to the storm, “even the winds and the sea obey him.” (1)
(1) (Matthew 8:27; see John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 4:12-13)

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