Would rather have a grandchild

Just came across a quote by Herbert Spencer, who first posited the theory of Social Darwinism and coined the term “survival of the fittest.”  Spencer never married, but devoted his life to study and writing.  Much of his later years were consumed with the publishing of the epic Synthetic Philosophy–18 volumes which essentially represented his life’s work.

A few days before his death, “Herbert Spencer had the eighteen volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy piled on his lap, and… ‘as he felt their cold weight wondered if he would not have done better could he have a grandchild in their stead.” (from A Treasury of the World’s Great Letters, p. 360)

Ouch.  May I put into practice what I tell my students–relationship is more important than anything else.  And no other relationship is more important than the one we can have with the Lord.

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Does suffering lead to greater revelation?

I’ve been reading through Matthew, about a chapter a day.  I am seeing the larger designs of the book more clearly than I have in the past, and I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern in the life of Jesus and the disciples.  Check this out:

In Jesus’s life in chapters 1-3, you see Jesus’ identity and relationship to God explained and established, then he immediately experiences opposition in the form of testing by Satan in the wilderness (chapter 4).  Once he has passed the test of suffering, he begins to call his disciples and preach, highlighted by the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  A pattern is introduced:  identity, trial, greater revelation.

Now the process seems to begin anew, but this time for both Jesus and the disciples.

Identity: Through Jesus’ calling, teaching, and exercise of authority, the identity of the disciples is established—they are identified with Jesus and called to exercise his authority.  In chapter 8, this authority of Jesus is established.  First, he has authority over disease; the natural world and weather; the spiritual world and the demonic; and finally (beginning of chapter 9), he demonstrates God’s authority in the ability to forgive sin and to correct the religious leaders of the day.  Witnessing these events and experiencing the following of the crowds likely firmly cements the identity of the disciples as followers of Jesus.  They probably thought, “Hey, this is awesome, and I have a front row seat!”

Trial: But in chapter 9 things change.  Jesus’ claims to authority bring conflict with the teachers of the law and opposition ensues.  This opposition continues through chapter 12, in which the religious leaders accuse him (for the second time) of using Satan’s authority rather than God’s.  Meanwhile, the disciples are sent out in chapter 10 to exercise their new identity and authority in Christ, and no doubt experienced trial and opposition.  Imagine yourself as a disciple: you step out in faith and follow this Jesus, but then all of the religious authorities you have been under your whole life essentially accuse you of following a demon.  Many of them were likely ostracized from their families and friends.

Greater Revelation:  But after passing this test, three significant events provide greater revelation for the disciples, particularly Peter who seems to have emerged as the spokesman/leader of the bunch.  First, Peter’ walking on water in chapter 14, then Peter’s confession of “Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God” in chapter 16, and finally, the Mount of Transfiguration experience in chapter 17.

I am not suggesting that the point of Matthew’s gospel is to present this pattern, but rather that this pattern is somewhat self-evident in the life of faith and Matthew is simply an example of it.

So what?:  So what does that mean for us?  It means that we can trust the Lord, even in the midst of trial and suffering.  He will lead us to greater revelation, more intimacy and deeper faith if we don’t lose heart and we keep walking with Him.

Father, bring your peace to those who are suffering.  Encourage them with the knowledge that you will lead them to places of deeper fellowship, intimacy, and revelation.  Jesus, you said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Thank you for not abandoning us in our trials, but rather using them for our good.

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