Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beware of Cynicism

"For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord" (I Thess. 3:8)

No one could ever have accused the Apostle Paul of being a weak, easily impeded man. After all, he suffered beatings, stoning, hunger, shipwreck, and misunderstanding by the brethren; and he withstood Jewish hierarchy and leaders in the early Church. Yet we see in this verse a tiny glimpse of the "chink in his armor," so to speak. In this chapter in First Thessalonians he shares with those believers what a comfort their faith was to him amid all the affliction and distress he was suffering. He then candidly admits in verse 8 that, should their faith wane, it would be like a mortal blow to him. We can be sure, of course, that God would have sustained him through even this; but I think we see here that along with a great analytical mind, Paul possessed a great heart of love that was vulnerable to his brethren.

Years ago, when I was a young pastor's wife, there were those in our church who rose up in anger against my husband and me. To me, their grievance was not justified, and it seemed so very unfair that I was crushed. An older Christian woman, who had worked in churches longer than I, said to me, rather cynically, "Oh, you'll get used to that," to which I vehemently replied, "No, I won't!" And, by God's grace, I haven’t. I have managed, for the most part, to expect the best from God's children.

When I hear that someone has fallen into sin, I want to be the last, not the first, to believe it. I never want to say, "I’m not surprised at that." And although no one else may be conscious of it, when someone near to me pierces the heart of God, I want my own heart to bleed. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col.1:24).

Am I in the succession?

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