Saturday, March 12, 2011

Called According to His Purpose

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28 has been my favorite verse for quite some time. In fact, probably since the time that it carried me through a season of heartache during which I clung to the idea that somehow, in some way, at some time, God would use the pain I was enduring to accomplish something "good". God showed me during this time that "good" did not mean it would be for my health, or my happiness, or my financial well-being. It meant to conform my heart to the image of Christ - something that requires setting aside a focus on self in favor of a focus on God's will.

Today, after about twenty years of loving, quoting, and memorizing this verse, God showed me something new in it. It's not just that God works things for my good, but also according to the purpose He has for my life.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,"Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done,” God the Father had determined that this was the only way that Jesus' purpose could be accomplished. Had there been any other way, God would have granted this request. He would not allow His Son to suffer the abuse and torture that He suffered if there were any other way to meet the need. If there were some other means of salvation, God would know it. He would have chosen it.

Someone once commented that it was a shame Jesus' ministry was cut short - that if He could accomplish all that He did in just three short years, imagine what He might have achieved in a lifetime of ministry? But this misses the purpose of Jesus' ministry entirely. Jesus' did not come to heal people, to teach them to love one another, to bring respect and fair treatment to women, or to compel people to treat children kindly.

If that had been His purpose, He would not have suffered and died.

His purpose was to perform these miracles as a proof and demonstration that He was God Incarnate, and then to allow Himself to be crucified by sinful man as the final atoning sacrifice for sin. And then to be raised from the dead as a demonstration of His power and victory over death and sin.

Having accomplished that purpose, He returned to the Father.

I recall a few years ago the heartbreaking death of a student at our school. She battled cancer courageously for six years. Her faith was indescribable and the impact she had on those who knew her well, and even on those who knew her only a little, was powerful, tangible, and permanent. It was tempting to think that her life was cut short.

But that misses the point.

She accomplished more in her eighteen years than many achieve in eighty years! Her life was full because she served the purpose that God had given her. She demonstrated faith in God in the most terrible circumstances. She was a living lesson to all she met of finding joy in Christ, when you can find joy in nothing else.

Why would God allow this precious child to suffer so horribly? Only because He had looked at every angle and this was essential to her mission. Critical to her accomplishing her purpose. This was the only way.

Whatever we face today, no matter how bad it is, God has thought it through. He has looked at every possibility. He has examined all the options. And this is the only way for us to serve the purpose He has for our lives. After all, He called us according to His purpose.

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