As a film-lover, I have a short list of favorite movies. I watch them repeatedly and enjoy them a little more each time. My very favorite movie is A Few Good Men. Every line, every shot in that film has a purpose. Rob Reiner, the director, did a great job of leaving all the fluff out and telling the story wonderfully. Over the probably 40+ times I've seen it, I still see something new each time I watch it. The same is true for other things. The more I listen to a song, the more lyrics I know. The more I read, the more I can anticipate what's coming and understand where the story is headed. I've applied this principle to God's word and even sermons.
Lately I've been reading the same section of scripture everyday for a week. It sounds boring and repetitive, but I learn something more about God and myself each day. I often will listen to a sermon over and over, then come back to it in a new season to listen to it again. We see things differently as we walk through different seasons of life. Today, I was re-listening to a sermon about The Pain and the Promise of Obedience. I'm walking through a tough season, a place I know God has guided me to, and it comes with a lot of pain and discomfort. I listened to this today to re-embed the Truth in my mind: God will take us through the pain of obedience on the way to His promise. Both Paul and Jesus taught us this.
It was painful for Christ to suffer for me, but that was necessary in order for me to have a relationship with God. It was painful for Paul to suffer to spread the gospel, but that was necessary in order for the gentiles to come to know about Jesus. And this season I'm in is painful, but it's necessary if I'm going to glorify God in His way (and not my own)--because I cannot do His will in my own power.
And all of those things were really good for me to hear today, but God highlighted something else in this sermon. A passing, almost fleeting, remark by the speaker. It was about this verse:
And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide His garments. - Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Luke had just finished accounting all that Christ had gone through: the lashes, carrying His cross, being nailed to it, and hung from it. Then he tells us about the compassion Jesus had for the men who had been doing all those things to Him.
Immediately I was convicted. When life is good, or at least I'm feeling good about life, I search for people who are hurting and go out of my way to encourage them, but when I'm in my own pain and struggle, I have a tendency to put up hedges around myself. As though I need to be protected from others' struggles since I'm in my own. But Jesus, our Lord and King, in the most humiliating and painful state, had enough compassion and others-focus to petition God on behalf of others--specifically, the ones causing His pain and humiliation. He certainly prayed for Himself, but He didn't neglect praying for others, too.
Now, I know that this kind of compassion does not come naturally to me. I'm not able to do it on my own. But as I spend this season covering myself in Truth in order to drown out everything except what God is telling me, I'm actually in the best place to allow God to work through me to encourage and lift up others. But He can only do that if I let Him do it through me; if I try to do it on my own, I'm going to fail or even bring discouragement instead; if I don't let Him, I miss out on seeing His power work through my weakness.
So, today I'm grateful for a God Who is capable of compassion even when He's experiencing the most pain and humiliation a person can endure. And Who is willing to pour that kind of supernatural compassion into me--and out of me and into others--as I walk through my own comparatively tiny season of pain and humiliation.
Thanks for reading,