Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Light Affliction

By Dr. Wilfred A. Bellamy

The Apostle Paul, writing in II Corinthians 4:17 reminds us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
But have you noticed? Our prayer requests, both public and private, always seem to focus on the afflictions and inconveniences of life. Our attention is primarily drawn to our sufferings and our felt needs, and we overlook the rich grace and mercies of our God who loves us and is ever concerned for us.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon puts it this way: To the wicked there are many sorrows, but to you there are so many mercies that your sorrows are not worth mentioning."

Faith’s Checkbook 
Let’s try another analogy. If we were to put the mercies of God, His many blessings, on the balances before us, and then put on the other side our afflictions and/or sorrows, would we not prove that His rich grace toward us far outweighs our disadvantages?

How often we appeal to the difficulties we experience in serving the Lord, surely the minor portion of our total walk with Him. These are the things we write about, advise about, and when we are with others, we talk about how hard it is, how we suffer for His sake. There is nothing of encouragement for anyone in such a focus and yet we do it without much forethought. How much more affirming it would be if we counted our times of trial “pure joy” as James has it? What a lift it would give to all if we carried about in our person the overwhelming delight that we experience in knowing and serving the Living God.

We all have our illnesses and other needs from time to time, some more serious than others. It is right that we ask for prayer on such occasions. But if that is the only time when we offer reasons for prayer how imbalanced life becomes. The witness we bear is to the grace of God in Christ. He fills us with joy and gives us just cause to praise Him. We are new creatures, we leap and abound in Him. Should we not share our praises, our sense of gratitude, and spread the sheer delight all around?

I was recently challenged because I had taught that missionaries are not to be recognized by their “sacrifice” but by the riches that they gain while humbly serving the Lord in a culture other than their own. Yes, there are times of difficulty, and, yes, there are challenges, but the net effect is that in discovering one’s inadequacy one leans hard upon the Lord and finds “grace to help in time of need.” That’s when the blessings exceed the suffering, and that’s why the sorrows are not worth mentioning.

In the service of our Lord we are called to a sublime optimism that is both realistic and expectant. Realistic because it is rooted in the promises of God, and expectant because what he has said He will do, He will do.

“So we fix our eye not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal” II Corinthians 4:18.

“O happy band of pilgrims, look upward to the skies,Where such a light affliction, shall win you such a prize.” -John Mason Neale

--Wilfred A. Bellamy, Ph.D. is a former missionary and an ordained pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. 

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