Every day is memorial day for me and my family. I wrote the following the day before Jacob died and thought I would re-post it. We texted back and forth that day about the words to a song he sang in his lead role in the Music Man. It has been a tough stretch of life for our family in the last 3 years. Every day we remember, we keep swimming against the current, leaning on the grace of God.
The Steelhead spawning run has begun in the Betsie River. The trout begin their difficult journey by leaving the solace of the great lake Michigan to enter the difficult river current, swimming ahead through many dangers toils and snares (and hooks!) to reach their goal.
I have a reminder on the wall in my office that reads, “Any dead fish can go with the flow, it takes a live fish to swim against the stream.” In our study of pastoral patterns I was reminded of this quip and how Paul was no dead fish, flip flopping with every wind of doctrine but was a man on a mission, passing through many difficulties on his journey to win the prize of the upward call of Jesus Christ his Lord.
The journey of Paul was prophesied by Jesus Himself as a ministry that would bring him much suffering because of the name he proclaimed (Acts 9:16) Suffering will come on any faithful servant who desires to live godly in an ungodly world. If Christians want to follow in the wake of Paul’s example we can expect difficulty in this life, just as Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Knowing the hostility that is to come we need the grace and patience in our lives to love our enemies and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. (Matt. 5:44)
Saul began as a church terrorist; he was a blasphemer a persecutor and a harsh proud man. But the mercy and grace of God touched the chief of sinners and saved him, demonstrating to us that the worst of men are not out of the reach of the grace God. God could have chosen to destroy him for his unbelief but instead he chose him and used him to bring glory to Himself, and make him an example of patience for us.
Life without faith is full of trouble, lets face it, if we live out our faith as the patterns outlined for us, we will be in need of much grace and patience because of the added trouble it brings to our lives. Paul is our pattern for patience in life’s many troubles. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!” (1 Tim. 1:15-17)
There is a chorus line in the musical, Music Man, that sings, “Yes we got trouble, right here in River City with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! Yes we surely got trouble, right here in River City, gotta figure a way to keep the young ones moral after school!” We as Christians have entered River City, and there is certainly trouble with a capital T that flows our way on a daily basis. We need grace and patience, especially when it comes to suffering for what is right and good.
How do you react when you are mocked for your faith in Christ? Are you suffering for your good conduct in Christ? If we flow with the stream like a dead fish we can expect that we will never give glory to God by suffering for His name. This is our calling, it is a privilege to suffer shame for his name and it actually provides joy for us when we suffer it. (Acts 5:41)
Peter and John left a beating rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Why would they suffer shame for Jesus? Because Jesus suffered for them, providing atonement for their sin and in loving response they would most gladly suffer for the one who suffered for them. Peter commenting on suffering for doing that which is good said this is commendable behavior to God. ” For to this we were called, because Christ also suffered for us (past tense, Christ suffered only once for sins-(Hebrews 9:26-28) leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness- by whose stripes we are healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter2:21-25)
Jesus is our divine example of patient suffering; Paul is our earthly example of patient suffering.
Follow their examples Christian, swim against the current with all grace and patience to the glory of God our Savior! But may the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, (1) perfect, (2) establish,(3) strengthen, and(4) settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever. Amen!” (1 Peter 5:10-11) Patient suffering yields a fourfold fruit- can you see this fruit in your life? We shall as we abide in the vine of Jesus. Finally, beware of those who, “desire to make a good show in the flesh, these try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:12) Beware of the fishes who go with the flow!