A Resurrected Savior
“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Romans 6:4 (NIV)
The story is told of an African Muslim who became a Christian and his friends asked him, “Why have you become a Christian?” He answered, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go. There at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive. Who would you ask which way to go?”
Personally, I’m going with the One who is alive—the One who is the very object of my Christian hope. At the bend in that road is a risen Savior who guarantees my reality by the power of His own resurrection.
We need to have faith and conviction that He has given us the ability to appropriate that resurrection power in our own lives until our faith makes us whole. Jesus is a resurrected Savior, and we literally live in the power of His resurrection. Because of that resurrection power, we are able to live our lives for His glory and work to establish His will on Earth as it is in Heaven.
The question each one of us has to ask ourselves when facing obstacles and fears and worries and opposition is, “What do you believe?” Do you believe in Jesus and the power of His resurrection?
If you want to live your life with greater spiritual power, then you need to feed your belief in Jesus a heavier diet. Death could not hold Him down. He is the living King. He is seated in majesty. He is reigning. Do you truly believe these truths?
I believe in Jesus, and I want to know Him in the power of His resurrection. I don’t just want to know Him as a healer, a sustainer, a provider, or a prayer-answering defender. I want to know Him in the power of His resurrection so that my belief, which accesses that power, can help me be a witness to the world, an example of His amazing grace, and a demonstration of His providence.
Strength in Pain
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:4 (NIV)
The culture says that we should seek pleasure and avoid pain at every opportunity. But there is strength in pain.
Our very salvation is secured from the heavy cost of pain in that God gave up His very Son, who gave up His very life. The pain of being misunderstood, the pain of being disbelieved, the pain of being misrepresented, the pain of being denied and betrayed, the pain of crucifixion itself—all these were the high costs for human redemption.
That’s why you can’t ever let anybody downplay the weight of our faith in difficult times. Don’t let folks in this culture make you believe that being a Christian is passive. The culture would say that loving your enemy is a passive response, but that’s because the culture wants only to embrace the pain-free emotion of rendering hate for hate.
Part of the reason the culture is trying to downplay the love ethic that is taught to us in Scripture is because it doesn’t take any emotional strength for you to respond to hate by giving hate. You’re not displaying strength when you match ignorance with ignorance, or you go guttural when guttural greets you. But it takes a whole lot of strength to love your enemies. It takes a whole lot of strength to be nice to people who you know have been wicked in your life. It takes all whole lot of strength to stay in the middle of a difficult place and know that those circling around you are always trying to plot your demise.
And yet God says that no weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every lying tongue shall be brought to condemnation.
Brothers and sisters, don’t go down the discount aisle of pleasure, but go down the full-price aisle of pain, because that’s where strength is.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection...
Philippians 3:10 (NIV)
Paul the apostle says in his letter to the church at Philippi that he really only has one aim in life, and it is this: to know Christ in the power of His resurrection. He speaks of his desire to know the fellowship of Christ’s suffering as well, but today I want this particular clause to really hit and settle in your life: that it is possible to know Christ “in the power of His resurrection.”
I’m talking about life-altering, kingdom-expanding, justice-creating power that you have because of your relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of being “strong in the Lord and the power of His might” and being “more than a conqueror.” It is a gift-possessing, conversation-changing, enemy-resisting kind of power. Jesus called it authority. And it was given with such grace and abundance that, according the Jesus’s words, you can tread over threats and bind in the natural what you bind in the spiritual.
I join with Paul in stating that I want to know Christ in the power of His resurrection. Do you?
Here is the great revelation and takeaway: this power is available to you and me. You have power in your life by your faith. Resurrection power. The same power witnessed by those who experienced a resurrected Christ.
God knows you and I need to hear this. We need to not just hear it, but become convicted of its truth, so that we don't become minimized by our circumstances, deflated by our experiences, halted in our paths, and adversely affected by what we think are our limitations.
No, you live with power.
The eternal significance of Jesus's resurrection means we have too much power to be halted by restrictions. We have too much power to be drained by an uphill climb or influenced by self-centered people. We have too much power to be limited because of negative influencers in our lives. No, we have power.
Child of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you. What are you going to do with it today?
God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Life opens up, options beg for attention, vision catches its second wind, energy is restored, and emotions experience a lift when you push past what you are experiencing and let God remind you of what you can expect.
And what exactly can you expect? God says you can expect that you will have what you need when you need it. Where will it come from? It will come out of the total sufficiency of Christ, who is able to give abundant grace out of that sufficiency to you. He is able to let that kind of grace flow in your life because He lives in a sufficiency that is eternal. He lives with such generosity of grace that you can trust Him when He makes this promise to you: whatever you are about to experience, regardless of the size or demand or threat, He will extend favor to your life to make sure that you have what you need, when you need it, in order to get things done.
Does that promise change how you think concerning what you're being required to face or motivated to walk towards? Does that infuse you with the will to fight through tough times and to face the demons that are raising their ugly heads? I'm sure, like me, you feel emotionally drained by toxic news about so many different things that it's hard to catch your breath. Listening to the divisiveness and corruption and absence of decency all around us can make you believe that there's nothing to feel hopeful about. But we must let God take us across the bridge and walk us up to the peak of the mountain to get a wider angle.
On the summit of that mountain, you can see things not only through the lens of your experience, but through the lens of what you can expect. You can filter all of the trouble and chaos through these words: “God will make all grace abound towards you so that you have everything you need to accomplish every good work.”
This one reality—God’s sufficiency of grace—gets far too little attention, but I'll tell you what it does: it sparks our faith and infuses us with the energy and the motivation to move forward.
For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
Isaiah 42:14 (NIV)
In Isaiah 42, God is about to deliver His people from exile and usher them into newness—into a future of grace possibilities. In revealing this message to Isaiah, God uses a metaphor to help the people understand the coming change. What picture does He give them to help them grasp the magnitude of His divine intentions? The image of a mighty army? An animal protecting its young? A rushing river? A shepherd leading sheep? Or a potter working with the clay?
No. Of all the images God could have inspired the prophet to offer the people, He chooses a woman in labor, crying and panting and gasping.
God’s images and parables and metaphors always have spiritual meaning, so we know that God has a specific intent for giving us this image.
Exile is about to be over; deliverance is surely coming. And to prepare them, God wants Israel to have in their minds the idea of a woman in labor, groaning to deliver. What is this image God inspires seeking to evoke? What is God telling the people through this picture? Perhaps God is saying, “What you've been through has been really difficult, and what's ahead of you is going to be so powerful, but the newness that is coming will not be pain free.”
The same is true for you and me. Progress and change and conversion and maturity and awareness and elevation and progression are not pain-free realities in life. There are costly things that you have to pay in order to grab what God has in store for you.
The newness that is coming in your life will not be pain free—but like childbirth, it will be worth it.