Larry Sheehy-041711Listen to Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy - Life and faith not always pain free
We can't really blame someone for trying, if possible, to avoid pain, can we? Most understand that sometimes pain is unavoidable; in some cases, it is both necessary and desirable. Consider that the nerves in our bodies, in part, are designed by the Creator to warn us of hazards such as extreme temperatures and sharp objects. Without the initial discomfort or non-lethal pain, we would likely meet an early and rather unpleasant demise.
Some time ago, a popular so-called beauty treatment, applied by hypodermic injection in sensitive areas of the face, competed with a lotion treatment with advertising which promised, "No Painful Injections!" Now, that alone would probably sell me! We've seen this same type appeal in other personal appearance products. "Lose weight with no cutting back or exercise! Just take this pill!" Increasingly, the modern approach to personal improvement includes a strong aversion to pain - physical or otherwise. However, like it or not, the old saying is generally true: "No Pain - No Gain!"
The Biblical principle is simple this: spiritual growth is impossible without sacrifice. The apostle Paul encouraged Christians in Corinth with an illustration from the athletic contests of the Greeks and Romans: "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." Then he added, "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27)
This is why the New Testament writer James insists that we should be joyful in the face of all kinds of pain. "...you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. .... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1: 3-4, 12) In a vision given to him late in life, the apostle John heard Jesus give the church at ancient Smyrna, in what is today the country of Turkey, a wonderful promise. The reward for faithfulness during what was often deadly persecution, the Lord assured them, is eternal life. (Revelation 2:10)
Wise men agree that any worthwhile goal very often involves difficulty. Pain is part of life, and to know eternal life means dying to sin and self. (See Romans 6). It is the "goal" that makes the endurance of pain possible. That's why Paul claimed that "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
Christian discipleship calls us to the acceptance of pain. But the reward God has promised makes it worth it all. Praise God!