Nakedness and Brokenness ~ part 2

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        Following up on yesterday’s post… I’m preaching this weekend from John chapter 21 on the "Nakedness and Brokenness of
Following Jesus."
        In my own life, I’ve been struck over the past 11 months by a stark reality that I knew but was afraid to admit.  It’s a reality of faith that many Christians, if not most, are afraid to embrace.  Often times, Christians have given people the idea that "everything works out for
good" for those who believe in Jesus.  While that’s ultimately true, it does not
mean that our problems go away now or that our kids stop rebelling now or
that our boss starts liking us now or that our health issues go
away now.   Following Jesus does not exempt anyone from trouble.
        From wading in and waiting on the words written in the last chapters of John, I’m
coming to believe more and more that following Jesus will involve a very painful
process.  Jesus walks a very difficult road… and asks us to follow him. Definitively, salvation is secure… but an immediate remedy for suffering is not.   And this is the testimony of faithful believers throughout history.  Even in recent history, faithful followers of Jesus have embraced the uncertainty of the path.  CS Lewis said that pain produced joy.  Henri Nouwen said that it takes incredible courage to truly follow Jesus where he wants to go.  Gene Edwards has said that God is looking for broken people.  The Bible says that a sad face is good for the heart.  Jesus said that whoever wants to gain his life must lose it.
        Six-hundred years ago a monk named Thomas Kempis wrote this:

   

Jesus hath now many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his cross. 
    He hath many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. 
    He findeth many companions of his table, but few of his abstinence. 
    All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him, or with him.
    Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion.
    Many reverence his miracles, few follow the ignominy of his cross.
    Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen.
    Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.
    But if Jesus hide himself, and leave them but a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too much dejection of mind. [1]

    It’s mind bending and burdening stuff.  Our Savior was a Suffering Servant.  Our Lord wept.  Our Lord bled.  I struggle to share this truth… let alone embrace it myself.  How do we begin to share this with others
evangelistically?  It’s not the most attractive of invitations is it? 
Imagine saying this to someone:
"Hey, you know what, you should follow Jesus.  He loves you!  And there’s a great benefit package: You get to share in
suffering and persecution and meekness and selflessness and your family
might get divided up and the government might harass you and you’ll get to carry your own cross…"  We
don’t usually say that do we?

[1] Kempis, Thomas.  The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), pp.114-115.

7 Comments

  1. Recent discussion and reading on the topic of brokenness, particularly that of leadership, has streched my mind a little as I try to decipher life. The truth is, I am a little confused. I do not know how many people have read it, but “A Tale of Three Kings” has really changed my view on what a true leader really is. Leadership found not in authority, but obedience and suffering, but trusting that God’s purpose is bigger than our own and His plan will pull us through somehow. This, however, leaves me in a bit of a snarl. What is suffering? Is it possible for me, middle class North American, to really suffer for and with Christ? What is the distinguishing feature between God’s punishment and retribution versus the ‘ordinary’ suffering? Is one worse? I don’t rightly know how many people regularly read this website like I do, but those are just my questions of late.

  2. Thanks James! We have an amazing God who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Through every struggle, whether we are able to comprehend it or not, God is near us in some way. This reality has encouraged me in tremendous ways over the years. Philippians 4:4-13 have uplifted my heart on countless occassions. No other scripture have I embedded into my soul quite like this one! Except maybe Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesians 3:14-21- this is becoming the prayer of my heart more and more every month it seems.
    I’m also encouraged greatly by Romans 8:31-39 and 2 Corinthians 4:7-10- The truth is that we are but jars of clay. Do we know how fragile we are?! Do we know how much we are at the mercy of the one who fills us?! The great truth about our preciousness perishable-ness though, is that God fills us with treasure. It is God’s power within us, not our own, that enables us to shine.
    Thanks for the reminders, James!

  3. Thanks Paul for your thoughtful post. I pray your transitions are filled with ease, my friend! But more than that, I pray you and your family will be filled with the joy of Christ. I think going through some struggles of faith and life has helped me discover some of the sweetness of faith and life that I hadn’t known before. Sweetness for me has become a savoring of wonderful moments. And with God and with my family there are many. That’s probably a truth too many people leave until the later years of life. I don’t want to grow up too fast… but I want to miss the sweetness either.

  4. Ken,
    We have some wonderful truths to share.
    The first truth about suffering – is the military imagery of discipline in Hebrews 12. From an evangelism perspective we can teach the great paradox that by surrendering our lives to Christ we become the person we were truly meant to be and created to be. The process of becoming that person may be painful and involves discipline (just like losing weight, or training our kids). But God is motivated out of love (just as us parents sometimes are).
    The second truth is that God does not forsake us through the transformation, or through the trials of life – We are not alone. In John 21 – Jesus addresses them as “friends”. Jesus meets their temporal needs. Jesus cares enough about Peter to talk to him. Who else would show that care, that tenderness?
    Hebrews 4:14-16 reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
    The second part of not being alone, is that we are one body, and although we may do it poorly, we share together in each other sorrows, pains and joys. The non-Christian carries their pain alone – separated from the God who cares and understands, and separated from other people who can help carry the load.
    So the good news that we bring is that our Creator loves us enough to want to transform us into who He meant us to be when we were born. The process main be painful, and difficult, but is motivated by Love. Through it all we will never be alone or forsaken.

  5. well ken…i think i might be tagging along after you as far transitions reminding us of what a real blessing is: to suffer for and with Christ for others.
    I admit that the coming months are looking complex…hopefully our house sells before we leave (this is huge!), finding renters for our basement suite of the house we’re renting (weird!), transitioning into a new (renewed) vocation, and adjusting our family patterns to a less flexible lifestyle…many things could happen in all this to bring about doubt, confusion, questioning, guilt, second-guessing, fear, and much more…
    I hope I can be mindful that happiness is different than joy in these circumstances; that happiness is dependant on happenings (what’s going on in my life), whereas joy comes from the heart (that which the physical cannot touch). I can be happy and joyful when times are good, but it’s likely that i wont be happy when times are rough…but hopefully my heart will find joy within the chaos, the storms, and the unkown.
    How this applies to evangelism…i’m not sure…maybe being real and not fake around and with those who do not yet know the true joy that is found and experienced in Christ.
    thanks for sparking a moment of heartfelt preparation my friend…i needed that.

  6. Andrew, you’ve epiphanized things for me! (No, that’s not an official word, just another Ken-ism). Thanks! Your right- The world is broken and so are people. Jesus wants us to admit that fact and then dive into it. In this way, we don’t just enter into people’s lives deeply, we are already there. And from there we can point to Jesus… who leads us out of it towards restoration. Thanks Andrew. I’m uplifted. -ken

  7. How to share it? Well, as much as I would agree with you on all of those points about Christians suffering and being broken and even finding peace, healing and Joy in their brokenness, I do not believe that we have the trump on the world’s suffering. We are meant to suffer along with the world, take up our crosses, etc. However, unlike those who do not know Jesus, we have that knowledge that He will never leave us and we are not alone. Even if it is just in our head we can be aware that He is taking care of us. I think that is what we can share. So many people in the world travel around day by day feeling like they are falling apart inside and yet their strong outside would never reveal that hurt they feel inside from those comments from a boss, or coworkers or schoolmates, even spouse. I think this is the way this world is, fallen, broken, pieces. I think we need to stop pretending we have no pain, share our burdens to make them lighter, act like the church and carry some of those burdens for those around us and ultimately share the peace and joy of our brokenness with those suffering in bitterness and rejection. Hope that makes sense.

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