By Jonathan Shrader
I have, in the past, caught myself saying on my way to church on Sunday, “God, I want you to move this morning.” This in itself seems like a reasonable and honest request. I love to see God working and moving in lives around me. But, looking back, I realize that at times my motives were not always as pure as all that.
I was raised in the Pentecostal culture. Yup, those people you see on TV hooting and dancing, that was the kind of church I was used to (and no, there were no snakes harmed in the actions of my services). I have seen people healed and lives changed in the churches I have attended over the years. So, I am used to feeling those “Holy Spirit” chillbumps on my arms. Now, while I know there is a debate over whether that is really the Spirit or just emotion, I am not going to go into that. I will say that I do believe that the Holy Spirit moves even today among his people.
But, back to my point…in looking back, I realized that many times I have asked God to move was so that I could get that whole “feel good” experience. I didn’t really want to have God change me or others. I just wanted to feel warm and fuzzy.
As I admit to this, I am sure I am not the only one who has felt this way. I know there are many times other believers in churches just want to experience the “feel goods.” I mean, why not? We are joint heirs with Christ, so we should be able to enjoy the sweetness of the presence of God. But, as God has led me to study lately, I am being shown the other side of the “chillbumps.”
Lets take a closer look at Romans 8:16-17, the passage that calls us “joint heirs”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (emphasis mine)
This is the part that I have so often left out or overlooked. For us to share in the glory, we must also share in the suffering. It’s a package deal. And, as believers, we do encounter sufferings. Whether being ridiculed for our faith or our stance on moral issues, or just the normal sufferings that every human experiences, we will have problems. But, I do think there is a different kind of “suffering” we have to endure. Later on in Galatians we read:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
It is hard for me to wrap my head around that passage. I mean, if God wants good for me and such, why do these passages say I have to suffer and share in the crucifixion?
The answer may lie in the second part of Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” God is not out to get us or to hurt us, but rather have us become more like Christ. We become more like Christ by letting go of what we desire and going after what he desires.
This, I have found, can be painful. It says in John 5:2 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Now, I know that trees don’t have nerve endings, but imagine if they did. Those pruning shears would hurt, man! But anyone who has ever working in a garden will tell you it has to be done to make the tree bloom properly.
Again, this is what God will do with us.
God love us. He wants his presence in our lives. He wants us to pray that we are used by him. But, be aware that as we pray for this, God will change us and give us exactly what we are asking for.
And this is a wonderful, intense, experience.
Jon is a writer, occasional speaker and a all around nice guy. When not working, he enjoys playing his Fender Telecaster and programing mad beats on antiquated drum machines.