“If we want to know the life of Christ, we must be willing to die.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – August 14, 2021
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, NKJV
On the Holy Mountain of Mt. Athos, a home of prayer and devotion to God for centuries, one finds this inscription over the door of one of the monasteries: “If you die before you die, then you won’t die when you die.” Disorienting as a sentence like this may be at first glance, I believe it has the potential to unlock for us the heart of St. Paul’s vision of the Christian life. If we want to know the life of Christ, we must be willing to die.
In a culture that celebrates affluence and abundance at every turn, we have few categories for the redemptive power of suffering and trial. In fact, when difficulty comes our way, rarely if ever do we stop and ask the Lord if it could be sent for our good, for the sanctification of our souls and bodies? In our rush to be rid of the pain, might we miss the purpose and potential it carries to shape us more and more into the likeness of Christ?
As Paul endured many sufferings for the name of Jesus, he was, in his own words, “hard-pressed on every side.” I imagine this is a phrase that many of us can relate to! Though the details seem to be always changing, pressure is a constant reality in our lives. We feel financial pressure, wondering if we’ll be able to pay the bills, get a raise, or have enough money to retire. We live with relational pressure, learning to navigate life together with our friends and family. And we learn to navigate health pressures, seeking to remain healthy while staying sober minded about the reality of our frail mortality.
In each of these cases, our default mode is to ignore and avoid the pressure, hoping it goes away as soon as possible. Yet like grapes in a wine press or coffee grinds in a pour over, pressure is the process by which something beautiful is formed and brought into the world. Though difficult in the moment, Paul knew his pressure and momentary pain was not meant to crush him or lead him to despair, but was a way to share in the death of Christ, so that he might be able to know the glory of Christ’s life. May we have the faith to do the same, learning to die in the present to our need for comfort, pleasure, power, and success, so that we may be set free to know the abiding life of Christ for eternity.
Father, remind us that every challenge in life is an opportunity and invitation into surrender, learning to die so that we might truly live, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
What is the greatest challenge you face in this season of life? How might that pressure that presses in from all sides be reimagined as an opportunity for growth and a deeper life with Christ?
Trinity Music – Christ Lives in Me
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