7/14/10

The Choice to Glorify God

Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 7)

Recuperating from a fractured ankle, my thoughts have turned repeatedly in past weeks to a precious woman God, Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and director of Joni and Friends. Struggling in my rolling walker, I thought of the difficult circumstances surrounding Joni's paralysis, and the endless hours and days and years and decades in her wheelchair. As I watched my husband Bob serve me, I thought of Joni's Ken (shown here with Joni). How she must thank God for him. People came to my assistance, and I thought of Joni's faithful lady helpers and prayer warriors. As I endured pain in the middle of the night, I thought back to True Woman '08. We "saw" Joni only by video, because she couldn't attend the conference. Her new physical pain was terrible then, and continues today.

In recent days, Joni had breast cancer surgery, an event that caused many in the Christian community to pray for her health. But I've had a special connection with her, reading her chapter in Voices of the True Woman Movement. Joni's chapter is appropriately titled, "God's Jewels." Joni is a rare jewel. As I mentioned her breast surgery to my husband, he remarked, "That woman is going to have an incredible reward in heaven!" What he meant was not that she would be rewarded for her suffering, but for her spirit and determination to glorify Christ through her suffering.

Joni talked about God's description of those who love Him. They are His "jewels," His treasures (Mal. 3:16-17). God wants to refine His treasures to make them sparkle and shine (Zech. 13:9). Joni said, "I long to be a jewel that does not cringe when God chooses to give my soul a hard scrubbing every now and then." She doesn't glorify the suffering that it sometimes takes to polish our faith, but she glorifies God whose image is reflected through our struggles. "If you want to shine with His glory," she says, "it will be on His terms.

Sometimes that process is indeed tough. God takes us where we might not want to be, but He can be trusted. Jesus said we would have troubles (John16:33), but "Trouble is the textbook that teaches us who we really are," Joni said. "Trouble is what squeezes the lemon inside of us, revealing the stuff of which we are made. And it's not always pretty."

We like to think that God will indulge our sinful attitudes ~ but no. As Joni said, "The core of God's plan is to rescue us from our sin." The sanctification process is "bent on conforming us to the image of [God's] Son." He is concerned about our poverty, pain, frustration, and brokenness, yet "God cares most, not about making us comfortable, but about teaching us to hate our transgression and to grow up spiritually."

I have to confess that I don't like the process. "God takes," Joni said, "one form of evil (my suffering) and turns it on its head to defeat an even worse evil (my sin and self-centeredness)." God won't let us stay comfortable with our self-focus for long. He loves us too much to let us enjoy sin. He wants us to "glow" with His glory.

Suffering is a chisel, she says ~ one of the tools God uses to chip away our pride. He desires to destroy our stubbornness and rebellion, and He's not going to let up on the "chiseling" until we go home to heaven! We may feel battered, but His goal is that we will be better. That we'll be changed. Transformed. Sparkling and mirroring God to a needy world. "It's through obeying in small, yet great ways," Joni said, "that God miraculously changes you."

Joni's chapter in Voices details how God uses our suffering. Certainly, God is the One wielding the chisel, but as I see it and draw from Joni's words, we have some powerful choices involved in our transformation, too.
  • Trust the Master Craftsman; yield to the chisel. God knows what He is doing. What you may consider unnecessary or injurious, He sees in light of the masterpiece He is creating. Trust the sovereignty of the Craftsman.
  • Stop fighting change. God may not want things to remain the same, for a reason. See your life as an adventure with God. A rewarding adventure is full of good, but often unexpected events.
  • Obey God each time He speaks, whether in small things or large. You will experience "freedom from the bondage of sin and self," Joni said. So strengthen your "drooping hands" and "weak knees" as you make "obedient paths" for your feet on your way to healing (Heb. 12:12-13).
  • Expect God's grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds; and His grace is evident throughout His childrens' lives. God is more than sufficient for our suffering (Rom. 5:20).
  • Remember that Christ is with us, even in the fellowship of suffering (Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 2:21).
  • Consider others who have greater needs than yours. Serve, give, encourage, and love. Use what you have to bless others.
  • Keep eternity in mind. Guard a biblical perspective. (Rom. 8:18). Remember that suffering and struggles are temporary, but our attitudes toward them can yield eternal fruit.
Matthew 13:43 shows the result of God's work in us through all the circumstances of life: "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Zech. 9:16). We will be His jewels, reflecting His glory. I want to sparkle, don't you?

I don't know whether Joni will appear in person or by video at True Woman '10, but I do know that she will describe how God has taken her to a deep place of trust and worship. I am so glad I'll be in Indianapolis to hear that message. I hope you'll join me there, or attend in Ft. Worth.

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