Friday, 9 July 2010

Whatever he ordains is right

What should we desire in life?

The Bible's answer is simple: to know, love, serve and please God. To fulfil his will.

But it's a plain fact that only One man was ever born with that always central in his heart. The rest of us spend our lives struggling against our own desires - our plans, our way - and getting frustrated, saddened and angry when they go wrong.

Of course, some of this may not be wrong. God gave us the "cultural mandate", to advance in every area of human existence. And when that does not work out, there is a right kind of disappointment.

But often, our frustration is simply ungodly - it is because we had our plans, and we value them more highly than we do God's. Our plans were not part of God's plans - but we wanted them without any further conditions, regardless.

"Thy will be done" is the first petition for ourselves that we are taught to pray. It is a fundamental of all true prayer, and will be until we cross the river. It is a lesson that we will never have learnt fully, until all sin has been purged from us.

I can't be happy when I preach the word without seeing fruit, in and of itself. I can't be happy to see sin, disappointment, failure or disaster, for their own sakes.

But there is a rejoicing which should always be with us; because if we are walking with God and obeying his commandments, then the outcome is all part of his plan - that plan which is infinitely holy, infinitely wise and infinitely loving, with the gift of Christ for our sins right at its heart.

This is why Paul could tell us to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). The words "in the Lord" are crucial. Whatever happens, it is part of God's eternal will which progresses without delay or diversion from Calvary to Consummation. Even the pain is meant to be joyful pain. Nothing can separate us from Christ's love; and the "deaths" we are called upon to die in taking up the cross and serving Christ are only temporary. "Whatever he ordains is right" is not a hymn-line to be sung with dreary resignation, or Stoic fortitude - but with gladness and joy.

It's such a basic lesson - but oh, what a different witness we would present to the world if we learnt it better!

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