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April 21, 2008

The Cross

Last week, as I was preparing to teach Sunday School, I came across this little verse of poetry:

When telling Thy salvation free

Let all-absorbing thoughts of Thee

My heart and soul engross;

And when all hearts are bowed and stirred

Beneath the influence of Thy word,

Hide me behind Thy cross.

-in the vestry of Hatherleigh Parish Church in England

We have been studying about ministry and Paul’s joy in serving the church and proclaiming the gospel in spite of intense suffering.  Why was Paul able to have this joy?  Because he knew that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Paul did not lose heart.  He knew that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16b  He reminds of us of the treasure we have–that God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6b

Then Paul comments that “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-11

So why do we have the treasure of the knowledge of God in our weak and frail bodies?  That Christ might be exalted as the world sees that it is the power of God in us that has victory over all our difficult times.  Why do we have difficult times?  That Christ may be exalted every time He brings us through and overcomes our difficulties.

May we all be encouraged, like Paul, to maintain joy and not lose heart during difficult trials, knowing that God is with us.  He has already secured our victory, and our suffering is but a second in comparison with our eternity.  May we all, like the author of this poem, desire that we be hidden by the cross and that the world see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” as we share the message of the cross. 

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