For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus’s last words were, “What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood.”
Ever notice that to try something out, is easy. To fully commit, and go for it, takes everything you’ve got. Couple of years ago, I experienced a mild stroke driving home from work. Blacked out at the wheel on the highway. Amazingly, I came to on the grassy median between the four lanes. Called my wife, and headed into a walk in clinic to discover what had happened. Blood pressure 200/150 meant I needed some meds, and to make some radical life changes in work, diet, exercise, and had to learn a whole new way of living. For a year or so, I simply worked on getting to the gym four times a week, drinking water instead of soft drinks, energy drinks, and gallons of coffee each day, and to add fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods back into my life, instead of simply driving through whatever was close to the job, and chowing down on the meal deal of the day.
Then, I was introduced to P90X! Thought I would do the 90 day gig with my wife just to humor her, and after a day or two was so sore I could hardly move. Tried to start it again with fresh resolve, but man, that program is tough! So, I sat down, read through the program, bought the vitamins, and recovery drink, and then aggressively decided to nail the diet down. This time, I committed!
Took everything I had, but I finished the 90 days! Lost 40 lbs, and bench pressed 315lbs for the first time in my life. Not bad for a 50 year old man! Ended up doing the program 2 more times over the next year and a half, and even ran a bunch of 5km runs. (Now, 2 years later, I need to get back into it…)
Read this quote today, and thought about my radical commitment to Jesus and His calling upon my life:
Suffering is the heritage of the bad, of the penitent, and of the Son of God. Each one ends in the cross. The bad thief is crucified, the penitent thief is crucified, and the Son of God is crucified. By these signs we know the widespread heritage of suffering.
Oswald Chambers in Christian Discipline.
In this life, there are things we go through that are hard. Yet, when we are strong, they are less difficult..usually.
In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.
Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 134.
Today’s exhortation is for those of us in the fight. Perhaps this is the long dark night of your soul. Today, I am fighting a health challenge and some personal struggles that are excruciating…Yet, I am not dead, therefore I will not quit!
On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it: “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “It is no mean thing to be chosen of God,” he wrote. “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men…We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice.”
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 223.
Are you in the furnace today? The place where all of our vanity, strength, and foolishness gets destroyed in the flames, and what emerges is the pure gold character of a sanctified life, fully committed to Jesus, with power from heaven that clearly demonstrates to all, that Jesus is fully committed to us….
I still drink coffee in the morning. Thought about quitting, but it brings back many good memories on cold mornings before work, where dad and I would take a fresh loaf of bread out of the bread maker, and drink a pot of coffee together, as we headed out the door in the dark before work. Guess I could quit, but I like my coffee. As I looked at my cup, I saw this quote, and it seems to fit my rambling today:
A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.
Mildred Witte Struven, in Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 6.
I still remember crossing the Atlantic under sail, aboard a 65 schooner named ‘The Illusion’, when I was 21. We were determined to cross the ocean, fully under sail, and 26 days after leaving Key West, Florida, we heard the welcome sound of ‘land ahoy’ as we approached the Azores islands off of Portugal. As the youngest crew member, I always drew night watch, and so we would set our heading, and under the star lit night, swish through the waves in the darkness. Yet, there would come Venus, the one sailors call ‘the morning star’, in the deepest darkness of the night. When we saw her, we knew that soon, the sky would begin to glow, from black, to deep blue, to orange, before the sunrise lit the horizon each day. I remember the dread, and sense of responsibility that I felt, as I struggled to stay awake, and on course as the safety of the other seven sleeping crew members was in my young hands, and the old saying took on new meaning for me:
‘The hour is always darkest before the dawn..’
I am not sure who I am writing for today, but I know it for someone…Don’t give up on your dream!
‘Father, You see us, You know where we are at, and how we feel, and Lord Jesus, You are touched by the feelings of our weaknesses. Yet, You are with us. You will never leave us, nor forsake us. Bring Your encouragement, your gentle whispers to our heart that we so need to hear today, that we, straight as an arrow, would fly true to the mark of the high calling upon our lives, without compromise. Cause us to hear, and do, Your perfect will today, Amen!’