Dear Friends and Family,
We are one month out from Resurrection Sunday - does your heart still sense the Resurrection Life in Christ? A few weeks ago, I mentioned that death has no power over you or I. But, what are we to do when the power of the cross and the resurrection of Christ feels as if it has lost its luster?
My first of three suggestions included: Number 1 Hope in God, building on Psalm 42:5.
Today, I want to finish Part 2 by pointing us to two additional ways we can respond to the crush and the blow that sin and suffering can have on our hearts even though we know Christ is Risen.
Number 2: Find a Friend
And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.
1 Samuel 23:16 (NIV)
I think we all need a Jonathan-David type friendship in our life; someone who sees us like no else does and pursues us in Christ with the love of Christ.
Jonathan and David's friendship was quite unique from the very beginning. When our souls are downcast, the burdens of life overwhelming, and the Resurrection doesn't move us, we need someone who will strengthen us in God.
The Hebrew word ḥāzaq translated as strengthen contains everything you might imagine: Building up esteem, encouraging with words, reciting the promises of God, pointing to the Savior, reminders of our calling and praying with and for us in the midst of trouble. You might easily recall verses like 2 Cor 13:11, 1 Thess 4:18, 5:11, but one additional passage I hope to bring to mind is Hebrews 3:13.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
The body of Christ functions as a means of helping prevent hardness of heart. The pathway to prevent hardness is not doubling-down on legalistic-driven modalities; rather, it is based explicitly on the encouragement that comes from others in Christ.
When the resurrection of Christ loses it's luster; consider who in your life needs to know so that they can encourage you in Christ; so they can help intercede any degree of hardness building up in your heart.
Sin deceives us into thinking we don't need our friends - that we can do it alone.
Sin's deceitfulness echoes lies like: No one will understand me; I am going to overwhelm them; no one really cares...or worst of all...God doesn't care.
But a friend who loves us will not allow the enemy a foothold in our lives. We when make known our need, they are able to pray new prayers for us that we couldn't have done on our own. They invite us back into the fold of God's grace and mercy where we can finally lift our heads, and as we look up to heaven once again, we like David, are strengthened in God.
Number 3: Define the new prayer for your soul
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
Philippians 1:9 (NIV)
This is Paul's prayer...what is your prayer?
At the end of many counseling sessions, I try to make use of our momentum by pointing even further to Father through prayer. But not just any prayer per se. When we've waded through the hardships of life, and we can finally see glimmers of hope taking shape where the future is not as gloomy as it initially seemed, a new prayer for the soul begins to emerge.
When our friends are engaged in true soul care, our prayers ought to be different than when we started. They are different because the Spirit who was at work in our friend to lift us up in our need causes us to see Christ anew.
Rather than seeing Christ's resurrection as a mere theological truth we confess, it becomes renewed invigoration for life, purpose, meaning and hope.
When we see the risen Christ as he is meant to be seen, no amount of suffering can infiltrate our joy.
With joy stirring in us like never before, we formulate new ways of thinking about our pain and hardship. We consider them differently. We're able to regard them as merely sitting in the shadow of the Cross and then completely engulfed by the power of a resurrected Savior.
Suddenly, a more refined prayer emerges from the purifying and sanctifying work of the Spirit. In these moments we see anew both our sin and God's grace. The greater our awareness of God's grace inevitably proves our awareness of our sin, brokenness and the myriad of weaknesses inherent in the flesh.
When this occurs, we can't help but pray for more of this. When this occurs we learn to pray less and less, God take away my pain but more and more, God thank you, help me worship you no matter the pain.
When the excitement of the resurrection of Christ loses is luster, these three things in response to your own hearts' condition will serve you well as you forge ahead in your Christian pilgrimage: (1) Hope in God; (2) Find a friend (3) Define a new prayer for your soul.
Looking to the risen Christ,