Fill ‘er Up
by John UpChurch, crosswalk.com
“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” – Colossians 1:24-26
Right after I got married, I gave up computer software updates and PC troubleshooting for something a bit more… down to earth, you could say. I needed work in my new hometown, and since employers weren’t tracking me down and forcing jobs on me, I gravitated toward the only available option: construction. With a booming housing market at the time, finding enough to do wasn’t a problem.
But finding motivation was a problem. Going from a specialized, higher-paying job in computers, where I mostly sat at my desk all day, to cleaning up cinder blocks, wrestling with insulation, and scrubbing windows—that was quite the humbling thing. Honestly, I’d never had to do any real manual labor in my life before that (yes, I was coddled). The heat and pain and bloodied hands were all new to me.
The first few weeks, after a particularly arduous day of gophering around the jobsites, I’d come home and crash on the living room floor. My muscles weren’t used to the beating they took, and they made sure I knew about it.
Slowly, however, with all the wood slinging and nail pounding and putty slapping, things changed. The nights of carpet collapses became less frequent, and my hands didn’t split open nearly as often (unless you count the numerous times I stabbed myself with a chisel). In fact, I came to enjoy the process of seeing something come together, seeing a house take shape.
My spiritual growth has come in a similar fashion—just without the splinters. At first, the failures dragged me down and beat me up. The rejections when I tried to share my newfound faith stung. The transformation cut deep. But as I grew and as God worked in me, something changed. The pain still stings and the transformation still cuts (that never stops), yet I began to see the pain as an important part of the overall process. Christ is building something in me—and in His Church.
As humans, we all suffer. But as Christians, we fill up on suffering. Sounds bad, but the point is that instead of us letting the suffering go to waste, God uses it for the good of other believers (and our own). He takes the pain and makes it passion, passion that spills out as love for our brothers and sisters.
Psalms 63:1-3 1O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
David had an all-encompassing desire to be close to God, to be in His presence. In the sixty-first psalm he said he wanted to live in God’s tent forever. In this passage he compares it to being thirsty and not being able to find water. He knew what that was like, living in Judah. The hill country had long dry seasons, and if the cistern you were counting on was dry, it was a long way to the next one. What is it we seek? What do we long for and how desperately?
He longed for the presence of God, because he had encountered God in worship in the sanctuary. At that time the tabernacle was still in use. The temple would be built by his son Solomon. That tabernacle is probably referring to God’s tent that David said he wanted to live in forever. There in worship, he had an encounter with God that so captivated his soul that it became all he longed for. It was a vision of the power and glory of God. Have you had an encounter with God that has captured your desires? You can find it in His Word. You can find it as David did in worship. If you ask for it, with a motivation of wanting to desire God in a greater way, He will answer. You are praying His will.
What did David understand when he beheld the power and glory of God? He saw God’s love is better than life itself. He saw the love of God that passes understanding. As we see His love in a greater way, it births in us a greater love for Him because love begets love. His response to that revelation was to glorify God. The Apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know the love of Christ in all its dimensions so that they might be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).
Prayer: Lord, help me to know your love in all its dimensions.
Stumbling Blocks – Streams in the Desert – October 16
- 202116 Oct
- Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, (Heb 12:1)
- There are weights which are not sins in themselves, but which become distractions and stumbling blocks in our Christian progress. One of the worst of these is despondency. The heavy heart is indeed a weight that will surely drag us down in our holiness and usefulness.
- The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began in murmuring, or, as the text in Numbers literally puts it, “as it were murmured.” Just a faint desire to complain and be discontented. This led on until it blossomed and ripened into rebellion and ruin. Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever.
- We can set our will against doubt just as we do against any other sin; and as we stand firm and refuse to doubt, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and give us the faith of God and crown us with victory.
- It is very easy to fall into the habit of doubting, fretting, and wondering if God has forsaken us and if after all our hopes are to end in failure. Let us refuse to be discouraged. Let us refuse to be unhappy. Let us “count it all joy” when we cannot feel one emotion of happiness. Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real.
- The devil has two master tricks. One is to get us discouraged; then for a time at least we can be of no service to others, and so are defeated. The other is to make us doubt, thus breaking the faith link by which we are bound to our Father. Lookout! Do not be tricked either way.
- Gladness! I like to cultivate the spirit of gladness! It puts the soul so in tune again, and keeps it in tune, so that Satan is shy of touching it—the chords of the soul become too warm, or too full of heavenly electricity, for his infernal fingers, and he goes off somewhere else! Satan is always very shy of meddling with me when my heart is full of gladness and joy in the Holy Ghost.
- My plan is to shun the spirit of sadness as I would Satan; but, alas! I am not always successful. Like the devil himself it meets me on the highway of usefulness, looks me so fully in my face, till my poor soul changes color!
- Sadness discolors everything; it leaves all objects charmless; it involves future prospects in darkness; it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains all its powers, and produces a mental paralysis!
- An old believer remarked, that cheerfulness in religion makes all its services come off with delight; and that we are never carried forward so swiftly in the ways of duty as when borne on the wings of delight; adding, that Melancholy clips such wings; or, to alter the figure, takes off our chariot wheels in duty, and makes them, like those of the Egyptians, drag heavily.
SPEAK the TRUTH
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:33-37
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” — Matthew 5:37
Oath-making isn’t common in many cultures today.
But have you ever taken a “sick day” from work when you were not sick? Have you ever told your friend that you forgot to do something you said you would do, although you really just didn’t feel like doing it? Have you ever told a coworker that you have finished a project—and then you hurry to finish it quickly, hoping they won’t notice?
We bend and stretch the truth all the time. Pastor Tim Mackie of the Bible Project calls this “airbrushing” the truth. Just as a photo studio might airbrush a person’s photo to remove blemishes or wrinkles, so we tend to “airbrush” the boring, inconvenient, or incriminating parts of our lives in order to make ourselves look better.
We do this out of our insecurity. We don’t trust that we will be liked and accepted the way we are—with all of our faults, inconsistencies, and boring stories.
But Jesus is clear in this passage. Our yes should be yes. And our no should be no. As God’s distinct people in the world—as salt and light—we know that our words are part of our witness.
Jesus is calling us to be people of integrity, knowing that we are secure in God’s love for us as his children.
Father, forgive me when I fail to honor my word, or when I stretch the truth to try to appear better than I am. Help me to rest in your love and to speak the truth in every situation. Amen.