More and more, I am noticing people who give lip service to glorifying God--but they refuse do die. I am finding this meditation on the glory of God is inextricably linked to death. In fact, I now think that death to self is the necessary condition and glorifying God is the sufficient condition. To put that in logic terms, let me explain.
"If we have rain, then we have clouds." Clouds are a necessary condition for rain. No clouds? No rain. Clouds are the necessary condition. Rain is impossible without clouds. "If we glorify God, then we die to self." (see Mt. 16:24 above.) Dying to ourselves is a necessary condition for glorifying God. If we refuse to die, we choose not to glorify. It's that simple.
On the one hand, I see those who refuse to bend the knee, who refuse to die, but who delude themselves into thinking they can follow along on their own terms, much like Ignorance in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. On the other hand, though, there is a subset of the Church who are faithful rather than ignorant, who have been called to give much, sometimes to give all, and they are doing this to the glory of God.
In the excellent book How Long, O Lord?, author DA Carson says we must have a theology of suffering in place before we suffer. Don't give this book to someone in the middle of suffering, he warns. Read it before any suffering starts. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church near Dallas, says his young congregation was ill-prepared for suffering. But the reality is that there are stories going on all around us of believers suffering. And the inspiring ones are the ones in which they suffer to the glory of God.
Tracie Klicka, mother of seven, lost her husband, Chris, last October to a 15-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Now a single mom, Tracie walks authentically before the Lord. She pours her heart and her struggles out in her journal, and I am blessed by her determined trust in a sovereign God, despite her adversity.
Matt Hammitt, lead singer of the Christian band Sanctus Real, and his wife Sarah are suffering as their infant son, Bowen, walks through the trials of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Matt has been journaling through this journey, and in the midst of his suffering, he continues to build up the Church through exhortation and meditation on the goodness and sovereignty of God. Clearly, this is a couple who leans daily on the everlasting arms.
The Queen family just discovered this past summer that their son, Jeremiah, is now out of remission with leukemia, so back they go to the trials and heartaches of juvenile cancer. But as Sandi documents this trial, it is clear that her eyes are on the Father, rather than on the wind and the waves.
At last spring's Together for the Gospel conference, the most important message was on suffering. Matt Chandler tells his story far better than I can. This young preacher is finding that, in the end, all he has is Christ. I implore you to watch his 50 minute teaching:
Watch to the end. Watch John Piper's fiesty prayer of faith. Watch CJ Mahaney's wrap-up.
Compared to what these brothers and sisters have given up, my little sacrifices are so insignificant. In fact, I am more than edified. I am convicted. I am humbled. I examine my life and wonder if I could ever do what they are doing: suffering to the glory of God.