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It’s Not About Me: Part 2

If you didn’t catch the previous post, read It’s Not About Me: Part 1.

Max Lucado’s book It’s Not About Me calls into question the human tendency to believe the universe revolves around us. “We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy,” Lucado writes. “Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me.” 

The book demands honest re-evaluation of both self and God, but what particularly spoke to my heart was the chapter on life’s struggles. Lucado makes the case that even our sufferings are not about us.

When his friend Lazarus fell ill, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Instead of immediately going to his friend’s aid, Jesus waited. He stayed where he was until Lazarus died. How could he allow such suffering? Because he knew it would bring greater glory to God if Lazarus not only recovered from illness, but returned to life.

At another point, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples assumed his blindness was punishment for sin. Jesus then replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

If Jesus could use the suffering of Lazarus and the blind man, then Lucado asks, “What about your struggles? Is there any chance, any possibility, that you have been selected to struggle for God’s glory? Have you ‘been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29)?”

By Rennett Stowe from USA (His Light Shines on Us Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Rennett Stowe, Wikimedia Commons

One of the most difficult arguments against Christian faith is: If a good God exists, then why does pain? Suffering leads us to question God’s character. If God is loving, then he must not be almighty, otherwise he would prevent tragedy. Or if God is almighty, then he must not be all-knowing, because only ignorance can explain his blind eye to grief. Or if God is both almighty and all-knowing, then he must be indifferent. 

Lucado responds, “Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end–the glory of God.”

It may appear like the world is full of senseless pain, but God uses it, bringing good out of evil. He does not waste it. Sometimes it’s used for God’s discipline. Sometimes he’s teaching you to rely on him and not your own strength or ability. And other times the testimony of his people under suffering brings more children to him than could have been saved by a prosperity gospel.

Lucado encourages his readers to discover how their problems can be used for God and his glory. But I would add that we should not be content with saying, “It is God’s will.” I don’t believe it is God’s will for anyone to suffer. Pain is a derivative of evil. We suffer because we are separated from God and live in a world that has been corrupted by sin. Jesus won over evil at the cross, but the war wages on with the world caught in the crossfire. Because suffering will continue until Jesus vanquishes over all, we should turn suffering in God’s favor, as an opportunity to reveal him ever more to this world. At a funeral of a loved one, we can show other people our assured hope of life after this one. When bed-ridden by illness, we can display how we trust God for his comfort and control.

What sacrifice are our temporary sufferings when we have an eternity to look forward to when there will no longer be grief or pain? Revelation promises, when God is finally reunited with his people, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). The Apostle Paul adds, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

As long as we have God with us through these painful days, what more can we ask of him? Contrary to popular belief, he owes us nothing. The reverse is true; we are the ones who are indebted. What right do we have to complain when life really isn’t about us?

We are like the child who just begins to feel the hunger pangs before dinnertime. He complains to his father, crying that he will die of hunger. The father knows better. Can anyone blame the father for making his child wait half an hour until dinner is served? The child may at first think the father is cruel. But if the child trusts his father, he might go outside to play with the neighbor kid while he waits. And he might tell that kid, “I’m hungry now, but I know Dad will call me for dinner soon.”

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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Books

 

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It’s Not About Me: Part 1

Sometimes I imagine myself as the star in a movie about my life. I’m the main character in a novel of adventure and romance. I’m the heroine, the protagonist, the leading lady. No one can steal my spotlight, because this life is my story.

The funny thing is … God thinks this way too.

If you study the Bible closely, you’ll realize the primary goal of missions is not about saving people. Salvation and redemption are secondary motives that contribute to the first, which, believe it or not, is about God. The Great Commission commands us to spread the gospel so that God may be known and worshiped. God wants everyone in the world to hear about him and praise his name. 

When I first heard that God’s highest priority is his own glory, I rebelled. My immediate thought was, God’s a narcissist. I admit it: the idea repulsed me.

But God isn’t the narcissist. I am. 

I didn’t want to hear that God’s primary objective isn’t about me. In my mind, Jesus was entirely loving and selfless for my sake. Jesus died to save me, right? Days before his crucifixion, though, Jesus declared, “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” And a voice from heaven answered him, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-8). Jesus was on a public relations campaign, amping up the masses to praise God. By his death and resurrection, he planned to honor God and show off his Father’s greatness. This is what he was all about. He didn’t come for my sake, but for the Lord’s. Jesus knew what I didn’t: life isn’t about me.

Mt2abpFmUTQCMax Lucado makes this case in his aptly titled book “It’s Not About Me.” He references how people used to believe the sun, stars, and planets all revolved around the earth. When Copernicus disagreed, no one wanted to listen. Lucado argues that our self-centered nature has not progressed much since. We admit we are not at the center literally, but our lives would say it’s figuratively true. “Could a Copernican shift be in order?” Lucado writes. “Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe. God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.” 

We are not the sun in God’s universe; his son is. Jesus is the star of the show. The rest of us are supporting roles. To resist taking center-stage, Lucado recommends less navel-gazing and more looking upwards. The universe is a massive expanse of solar systems and celestial bodies, and here we are, just pinpricks on an orbiting rock somewhere in space. If staring into the night sky has a self-diminishing effect, how much more does meditating on the greatness of God?

God is powerful where we are weak. He created the universe and maintains it. He exists outside of time and is unchanging; we are time-bound and fickle. God’s love saves us when we cannot save ourselves. His love is limitless; ours runs short. The appropriate response to such greatness, like when meeting a mighty monarch, is to bow down and praise him. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:24-25). 

If life isn’t about me, then how does that change the way I live? Lucado compares our role to the moon. We have no light of our own, but we reflect the light of the son. Everything that we say, do, and are–it’s all for God. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our message should proclaim him. Our salvation should praise him. Our body should honor him. Our struggles should magnify him. Our successes should exalt him. Lucado details in his book how each of these life areas can and should bring God glory. 

Lucado writes, “May God rescue us from self-centered thinking. May we have no higher goal than to see someone think more highly of our Father, our King.”

Jesus’ job on earth was for God’s glory. Just before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, he prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). If Jesus lived for God’s glory, and died for it, then why should I do any differently? If I claim to follow Christ, then I must live and even die as he did. My problems become insignificant, just tiny threads in the greater tapestry. My life is a subplot in God’s story. I am less than a single brushstroke in his masterpiece. I exist to serve his pattern, his plot, his vision.

Note: “It’s Not About Me” gave me so much food for thought that it can’t be fit in a single blog post. Keep watch for another post coming soon. I will zoom in on the idea that even our struggles are meant to glorify God. How does this work and what does it mean for how I bear my suffering?

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Books

 

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