Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Peace, rest & holy tension


Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

The Bible contains passages that present seemingly conflicting ideas. For example, on one hand, Christians are promised rest and peace while also being assured of a troubled life.

Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

Yet, in an earlier verse, He said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34, NIV). And in Matthew 11:12 (NIV), He says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

This doesn’t sound very peaceful or restful! Nor does it jibe with certain popular teachings and books promising peace, comfort, prosperity, and smooth sailing on the quiet river of the happy Christian life. Here's where the first-rate intelligence of a Christian comes into play: We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and we have the Holy Spirit to open the Word of God to us (John 14:26, NIV).

What’s being presented is not an either/or proposition: to have peace or to not have peace. Rather, it's both/and; we will BOTH experience the peace of God, AND we will experience the lack of peace in our lives. This creates a spiritual tension, to be sure. But it is not a contradiction.

We may have trouble in this world, but we serve the risen King who has overcome the world (John 16:33). Along with all creation, we may groan in our spirits under the burden of life, but it is because our spirits long for the greater glory of heaven (2 Cor. 5:4). And, we may struggle daily with a variety of issues, situations, and people, but we understand that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12, NIV).

But the more significant piece is this: Our ultimate goal is not a rested life now, but rather a glorified life later.

In this life, we’ll have good days and bad days. But, we give thanks no matter what (1 Thess.5:18), knowing that Jesus is with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20, NIV).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV).
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How do you manage to endure the tension inherent in the Christian life? Or do you believe there is no tension? Please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights in the comments.

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