by Mike Ratliff
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 ESV)
Christians should view this life in the temporal as the preparation or training that will develop Christ’s character in them prior to them going home to be with Him forever. However, many false prophets lead their followers into just the opposite. To them, it is all about the here and now. Instead of viewing hardship and sickness as implements or tools in the hands God to shape and form His children, these are seen as things out of His control that we suffer because we don’t have enough faith. Perhaps God is using our sickness or hardship to bring others together in prayer for their spiritual growth. Perhaps He is allowing these things to drive things out of our lives that separate us from Him and keep us from obedience. Our Lord said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
No one is in Christ on their own terms. They are regenerate because God broke into their lives to draw them to the Son (John 6:44). Christians are such according to the grace of God and for no other reason. These children of God have had God’s truth revealed to them while these same truths have been hidden from those who are not of God.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-27 ESV)
25εν εκεινω τω καιρω αποκριθεις ο ιησους ειπεν εξομολογουμαι σοι πατερ κυριε του ουρανου και της γης οτι εκρυψας ταυτα απο σοφων και συνετων και απεκαλυψας αυτα νηπιοις 26ναι ο πατηρ οτι ουτως ευδοκια εγενετο εμπροσθεν σου 27παντα μοι παρεδοθη υπο του πατρος μου και ουδεις επιγινωσκει τον υιον ει μη ο πατηρ ουδε τον πατερα τις επιγινωσκει ει μη ο υιος και ω εαν βουληται ο υιος αποκαλυψαι (Matthew 11:25-27 WHNU)
The Greek word Matthew used that is translated here as “have hidden” is αποκριθεις, which literally means “to conceal” or “to keep secret.” This is a sovereign act by God to hide the truth from those who were opposing the ministry of our Lord Jesus. Our Lord sarcastically called them “the wise and understanding.” These are the ones who are wise in the world’s eyes, but are unrepentant and stubbornly refuse to accept the gospel. How did he conceal the truth from them? Who believes the gospel? The only ones who believe the gospel and receive Christ as Lord and Saviour are the ones who are given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). According to our Lord in v27 these who are given this gift of faith are the ones “to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father.”
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
28δευτε προς με παντες οι κοπιωντες και πεφορτισμενοι καγω αναπαυσω υμας 29αρατε τον ζυγον μου εφ υμας και μαθετε απ εμου οτι πραυς ειμι και ταπεινος τη καρδια και ευρησετε αναπαυσιν ταις ψυχαις υμων 30ο γαρ ζυγος μου χρηστος και το φορτιον μου ελαφρον εστιν (Matthew 11:28-30 WHNU)
The word translated as “come” in v28 is δευτε, which is a command to “come hither.” Who is being called to come to the Lord? It is “all who labor and are heavy laden.” This is referring to those who are being heavily laden with the legalistic burdens of those “wise and understanding” in v25 from whom God was concealing the truth. What is the promise to those who δευτε to Jesus by obeying this command? He promises to “give you rest,” which in Greek is αναπαυσω υμας. The root word for rest here is ἀναπαύω, which refers to “taking a refreshing rest.” This is a contrast between trying to keep the law in order to please God and what our Lord is getting ready to share about those who truly “come to Him.” Those who become His disciple take up His yoke and learn from Him. The contrast between keeping the Lords commandments and the crushing burden the scribes and pharisees placed on the people was huge. In our day and time, there are still people who believe that the only way to please God is to keep His Law. The Law cannot be a remedy for sin. Its function is to expose our lack of holiness in contrast to God. It drives us to the Grace of God which is freely given to those to whom the truth has not been concealed by God.
The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden but was believed by the people to be of divine origin. However, Jesus’ yoke of discipleship brings rest through simple commitment to Him (1 John 5:3 which I placed at the top of this post).
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
We are not saved by keeping the law. We are not saved by anything we have done. It is a gift of God, not a result of works. There are still people today who believe that they are Christians according to how well they obey a set of laws. No, according to God’s Word, we are made Christians by God Himself according to His will, according to His grace. We are changed at that moment. We are His workmanship. He has broken through to our lives and we are never the same because we have been washed by regeneration (Titus 3:1-8). In this life we will never be perfect, but we will grow in grace and become more and more spiritually mature. We will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and walk in repentance. We will persevere to the end. These things do not make us Christians, they are what reveals our Christian authenticity to us and others.
What about Christian suffering?
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)
What about temptation?
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ESV)
My brethren, I do not know why God has brought back a very old illness to torment me at this time. I suffered several seizures in the late 1970′s, but have had none since then until a few weeks ago. I have had two over a period of 10 days. They were very severe and I am in a lot of pain in my joints and my back. Why has God allowed this? Why has He given me this thorn in the flesh? Well, I don’t know, but I do know that nothing happens to us that is not according to His will. I am still here. He has not taken me home nor has He removed this ministry from me. Therefore, I will continue to serve Him with my all and seek to walk in repentance the rest of my life as I rest in my Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!