About Matthew R. Olson


Posts by Matthew R. Olson:

What Matters Most

We all believe in certain things, but not all of those things carry equal weight. This is especially true when it comes to our theology. There is a big difference between what you believe about the resurrection, and what you believe about the timing of the rapture, or how the polity is going to be structured in your church. Many things may be important, but not equally so. When we value everything we believe equally, we soon find ourselves dividing over secondary issues and neglecting matters of much greater importance.

This is why Paul said in I Corinthians 15:3, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance….”

So, on a particular belief do you draw a hard line, dotted line, or just give a person space? While there may not be a perfect illustration, I have found Al Mohler’s “Theological Triage” very helpful as I process my own thoughts. His original post on the topic can be found here, or a newer abbreviated article is in this issue of Southern Magazine.

I would agree that there are at least three tiers/categories to this discussion:

  1. The first/top tier is orthodoxy. What doctrines are necessary for a person to truly be “Christian?” Sometimes we have referred to these as “the fundamentals of the faith.” While five of these were distinguished in the early part of the last century, I do think there are more. These would be beliefs that are necessary to have a true gospel, an orthodox faith, and an authentic Christianity. I believe it is very clear that Paul draws a hard line here with orthodoxy when we read Galatians. If we don’t get this right, we don’t get anything right.
  2. The second tier is one of functional distinctives. These teachings are necessary for a local church to function effectively—such as mode of baptism and church polity. We may have great fellowship with a Presbyterian and even have him preach for us in our church, but we probably won’t be members of the same church. We differ because we interpret certain texts differently. I see this as a “dotted line.” We can both be Christians who love the Lord and seek to please Him in all we do and we can enjoy times together in and out of the contexts of our local churches.
  3. The third tier is personal convictions. These are matters of conscience or preference. These are important, but believers should be able to differ and still enjoy fellowship within the context of the same local church. Love and respect will “give people space.” It is a Romans 14 spirit within the body and does not prohibit a healthy functioning of the local assembly of believers. In fact, the differences can be a strengthening characteristic.

Over the next few weeks I would like to speak to the implications of our theology and “What Matters Most.”

On Controversy

A good friend passed along something he read from John Newton not all that long ago. Reading this was a great challenge to my heart and I found it quite appropriate when considering many of the controversies within Christianity and the world. The original source of this post can be found at the Ligonier blog.

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”

A Perfect Pastor

This past weekend Diane and I had the opportunity to visit Brookside Baptist Church in Milwaukee and see Ken Keltner installed as senior pastor. Ken and Kathy have been our friends for many years and partners in two different ministries (Denver and Northland). Diane and I have also been friends of the Brookside family since its earliest days. We have such great love and respect for Ken and believe him to be the perfect pastor for Brookside at this time in its history. I say a “perfect” in the sense that he is God’s choice manifesting itself through the working of the local church there. Even superstar status (perfect in the eyes of men) in no way substitutes for the true realization of God’s appointed servant. It is a beautiful thing to see take place.

Here are the things that I have appreciated most about Ken:

  1. Integrity: He has it in his character and in the way he functions.
  2. Love: He has a love for God and His Word, a love for God’s people, and a love for every lost soul on earth.
  3. Servanthood: He leads in humility.
  4. Disciplemaking: He pours into the lives of others.
  5. Family: The ministry is a family thing… Ken, Kathy, Kyle, Kevin (and new wife Becka, yes, she does have a K in her name :)), Keith, and Kurt.
  6. Joy: This would describe the experience of working together with Ken—a lot of fun.

Congratulations to Ken and Kathy as well as to the folks at Brookside!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Coming Under Attack

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (Psalm 143:3-4). Have you felt this way?

Over the course of time all Christian leaders and ministries will come under attack, especially when the gospel is making significant advances in this world. It is difficult and it is painful. Often these attacks can derail us or move us into a “defensive posture” severely limiting our effectiveness. I have come across many such hurting people over the last number of years. Sometimes the victim is a mature and seasoned leader in an established ministry, and other times it is a young church planter just getting off the ground.

We must not think it strange when we come under attack. We can see this all throughout the past, not only in the biblical accounts, but in church history. Sure, it’s not easy, but it’s the common reality. We can also see how people responded—good and bad. Somehow we tend to think that if we love God, obey Him, and follow Him, life will be easier for us than it has been for others. Not so!

Most often the attacks are aimed at the things we value most; our family, integrity, motives, work for the Lord, or our reputation. Satan knows what will cut the deepest and that is how he crafts his plan against us. He is also cruel in the way he uses people to carry out his work, using those who have been close to us, should be close to us, or those we have poured our lives into. If we understand this it will make it easier to respond properly.

Remember, we can’t control what people say about us or what they do to us, but we can control how we respond. The best way to expend our energy is not by fighting back but by praying for our antagonists and then looking for ways God is working. Even though an attacker may be carnally motivated, dishonest, and hurtful, God is still sovereign over all and is working in our lives and all around us. Don’t miss that!

Here are a few things I try to keep before me:

  1. See a sovereign God as He is, surrender your burden to Him, and ask for His help.
  2. Keep your focus on what you are called to do.
  3. Assume the best motive and give the benefit of doubt to those attacking you.
  4. Pray for them.
  5. Leave justice with God. He knows all the facts, we don’t.
  6. Do your best to reconcile, but also realize it may not be possible.
  7. Don’t speak negatively about anyone, speak directly to them in a spirit of humility.
  8. Look for ways that God is at work and join Him in it.
  9. Don’t lose your joy and peace. No one should have the power to take these from you.

You have probably heard the expression, “hurt people hurt people.” The next time an attack comes your way remember these words: “Remind the people…to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Meeting with Good Brothers

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC, where Stephen Davey is pastor. While I have known Stephen for many years, and still remember when he planted this church, we have not done a good job in staying in touch. This was a great reconnect and a very encouraging day for both Diane and I. We were extremely impressed with the ministry of the church and were also surprised with how many people we knew! It was especially encouraging to meet up with a number of Northland alumni.

Sunday evening we drove up to Virgina Beach, VA to spend a couple of days with my parents. I was able also to enjoy some good fellowship with my friend Daniel Davey (Stephen’s brother). Daniel is pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Virgina Beach. It was another uplifting time. As we head home, my heart is full of thanksgiving to God for two brothers who have great passion for Christ and His church.

Here is what I found common with both of them:

  1. A high view of Scripture, theology, and expository preaching
  2. A serious and meaningful approach to worship
  3. A commitment to Great Commission work both at home and abroad
  4. A demonstration of servant leadership
  5. A serious and intentional approach to preparing young men for ministry through seminary training.

I am thankful for these brothers!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

The Fall of Jack Schaap

When the Jack Schaap story first broke, we all had initial reactions. For me it was a feeling of great sadness. Over the past few days I have contemplated a few things.

First, this could be you. Yes, it could. While it could be legitimately argued that poor theology, abused polity, and a distorted philosophy of ministry set the stage for this kind of tragedy, there is more to it, and if we don’t see “the more to it” then we are all in trouble. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (Corinthians 10:12). “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We must face the fact that every man has the same rotten flesh, lives in the same fallen world, and has the same common enemy (Satan) who is out to destroy. We should beware, lest in our criticism and evaluation we fail to see our own vulnerability.

Second, it is more hurtful than we realize. There is no getting around it. It is difficult to comprehend how much carnage has been brought about by one man’s sin. The destruction is so widespread and the pain so deep. People’s lives are shattered, families ripped apart, innocent children victimized, the name of Christ dragged through the mud, and now not a few will turn from God in disillusionment and anger. It is lose-lose. Everyone loses—the victims, the families, the perpetrator, the cause of Christ, and anyone who calls himself a “Christian.” It is initially so hopeless. We hear again the desperate cries of the psalmist, “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3).

Finally, there is hope. It will be hard for a lot of people to get to the place of hope, but it is true. The good news is that our sovereign God still reigns supreme. He is all powerful, all wise, and good in all that He does. He will bring all things to justice and reconciliation through the work of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to the praise of His glorious grace. He is working toward eternity where all of us will have the opportunity to live with Him in peace and joy forever. That is the truth. That is the reality. But, for so many people it will be a struggle to believe this. Yet… “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” (Romans 8:36-39).

It is time to bow down in brokenness and humility and cry out for His grace. All of us.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Free to Live

Institutional rules, regulations, guidelines, and policies can serve a purpose. We all have them as a functioning part of life—whether home, church, or institution. Rules have the ability to protect, structure, and control behavior but they cannot produce spiritual life, real growth, or lasting fruit. Authentic Christianity can only be realized through Christ, by means of His Spirit and His Word, as faith is exercised. There is nothing to add. If you do, you have another gospel. Having rules and standards does not make a person a legalist,  but making rule keeping as a means or a measure of spirituality does. That is the point.

There is another danger that should be discussed. Some, in their fear of driving into a legalistic ditch, can easily swerve off course and into another ditch. It is called license. Satan is out to destroy our lives and if one thing won’t work, he’ll attempt another. We can be snared and enslaved by legalism or license. Both of these are attractive to our sinful flesh and we are so easily seduced.

We, however, are called to live free! Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Some Galatian believers, who had been saved by grace through faith, were now turning back to their “works of the law” as a means of growth (Galatians 3:1-6), and others Paul had to warn about a return to the “acts of the flesh”(Galatians 5:19-21). When we say that these problems are in all of our churches it is because these tendencies are in all of our hearts! Only by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ can we stay true to a life radically centered in Christ and avoid the ditches.

So, what does “living free” look like?

  1. “Living free” does NOT look like this: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
  2. “Living free” DOES look like this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23a).

That is what it looks like. It is the “means” that I am most concerned about. It is possible to end up in “self righteous legalism” or “self indulgent license” and both are results of giving into the flesh and not living by the means of the Spirit. Neither will ever lead to a life that pleases God. Pleasing God can only be accomplished through Christ, by means of His Spirit and His Word, as faith is exercised.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). Few times in history has there been a greater need or opportunity for a new generation to rise up and “live free.”

Recommended reading: Tim Keller’s book Prodigal God. It is simply outstanding!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

The Attraction to Legalism

Why is legalism so attractive? It is attractive because it feeds the sinful flesh. It may not feed the flesh in the same way that sexual perversions, alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity do, but it does feed the flesh. And, I will argue that it does so in a more dangerous way, because it deceives a person into thinking he is doing the right thing while in fact he is destroying his life and the lives of those around him. Legalism feeds our fleshly bent toward self-righteousness.

The problem is that we can’t see it. We see it in others but not in ourselves. Who has ever said, “I am legalistic” or “I am a Pharisee”? No one. But we sure are good at pointing out people who are—proving the point that self-righteousness is like bad breath (everyone notices it but you).

Legalism preys on orthodox, well-meaning, passionate, committed, fired-up young people who want to live for God with all their hearts. They get attracted to legalism because:

  1. It is something they can do. Quick and easy.
  2. It is an image they can adopt and manage. It is a “look” they can quickly establish.
  3. It allows them to write more rules that protect from sin and make them even “better Christians.”
  4. It provides a checklist that helps them feel good about themselves when they check it off.
  5. It provides a checklist for them to measure how other people are doing.
  6. It brings clarity with new rules that show how to separate from others when they are “disobedient.”

I have heard the argument, “I am not a legalist, because I believe that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works.” Wrong. Legalism is more than just a false doctrine of justification; it is also false doctrine of sanctification. Paul made this very clear in Galatians. They had begun “by means of the Spirit” and were now attempting to live their lives “by means of the flesh.” It is possible to be an orthodox Christian and still be a legalist. The same error that plagued the Jews, and early church, is alive today—in all of our churches.

Paul said in Galatians 3:1-5;

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

What makes our own legalism hard to see is that on the surface we can be doing a lot of things right. Remember that the Pharisees were also highly regarded in their day. They were very committed to orthodoxy, teaching, fellowship, evangelism, tithing, charitable deeds, separation from the world, etc. But underneath they were motivated by the law and not by grace. That is all the difference. Keeping the law cannot please God, but “believing” does. Only grace can produce real fruit. Everything else is plastic.

How do I know this? I have seen it it in my own life! Sadly, as a young man, I was attracted by legalism because it played into my zeal for God and my desire to be used of Him. I didn’t see it until I started teaching new believers about the Christian life. Being in the business of training young people has forced me to dig deep and to be honest with what Jesus is saying in the Gospels. I began to see that many of my rules, regulations, and guidelines could not be supported by Scripture and that was why new believer’s weren’t “getting it.” However, the things that were there and the things that really mattered they did get! Then I began to see with real clarity that only grace through faith produces what is holy.

Have you considered that what you have been doing just might be self worship coming through the back door? You just didn’t see it? It does happen to good orthodox, and well-intended people. I think the seeds of it are in all of our hearts.

For further reading on this subject I would like to recommend a book that has really helped open my eyes to my own condition: Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees by Tom Hovestol. It is out of print right now, however, there are used copies available through many used book stores.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

People and Pain

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a family camp in Forest Glen, Nova Scotia, Canada. While I really do enjoy ministering the Word of God through preaching I probably feel I make a greater contribution afterward in the “one on one” settings with people. It gets personal. We go deeper. People open up and tell their stories. And almost without exception their story is filled with pain, struggle, and the working of the grace of God.

As I think back on my own life, I cannot remember a time that I enjoyed any measure of growth without a significant amount of accompanying pain. It seems that pain is what really gets my attention. I think it is true for all of us. Pain sends us on a search for answers. Our first response is to escape. If that doesn’t work we try to “suck it up” and “endure to the end.” When it comes to be more than we can bear we are broken enough to take the first step in real spiritual growth. The only place things get resolved are in Christ and His super-abounding grace.

Honestly, I wish there was another way. It’s hard to hear stories that are told through tears. And yet this is the way that God has chosen to grow us and to communicate His grace to the world. You can hear it in Paul’s voice when he says, “… I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b, 8) I love Paul’s writings because so often I find myself right in the same place – then he helps me work through it. He doesn’t leave me hanging. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in pesecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

I do hate pain. But it has become the stimulus that drives me to Christ and His grace and it is what sets the stage for Him to write “another story” that tells the world about HImself. So, I thank Him for the pain. And, I lift my eyes in hope.