Blog 117: 3.8.4 - 3.8.10
Christians are crucifers, cross bearers. The cross is laid across the back of the spiritually obese. We are "fattened and flabby" wrote the lean and spare Genevan reformer. We might say, keeping Calvin's universe of discourse but employing a contemporary idiom: the cross is the spiritual lap-band surgery which alone curtails our appetite for this world.
But the Christ-forming shaping of the Christian life by afflictions serves other functions. It tests our patience and presses us into the way of obedience.
Only when our own natural desires for ease and pleasure are crossed will we learn fully to look to the Lord who sovereignly governs all things. Only by bearing the cross do we learn the kind of patient waiting that is the hallmark of the seasoned believer. This means both waiting on the Lord in humble devotion and self-abandonment, but also waiting for the Lord who works when, how, and where he pleases.
True, it is our calling to make responsible decisions about the will of God. But this we can do only when the sovereign purposes of God are ripe for the decision. In the meantime we may have to "bear patiently the cross of grief or pain." In due season the harvest will be reaped, if we do not faint.
The cross is laid on our shoulder at different angles. Sometimes the friction on our skin will be caused by chastisement. Thus we must learn to see afflictions as child-training. Grasp this and we immediately begin to feel that there is something kind and gracious about the Lord's dealings with us.
But believers sometimes face persecution--"stripped of our possessions by the wickedness of impious men . . .." Where lies our consolation then? Here is the tender answer of a man who in his early twenties had to flee his native land as a wanted man, never to enjoy again extended residence in his beloved homeland: "If we are cast out of our own house, then we will be the more intimately received into God's family. If we are vexed and despised, we but take all the firmer root in Christ" (3.8.7).
Such a strong prescription for the Christian life can be safely accepted from a soul-physician who spoke from such experience, and who, in his life, had instructed and then strengthened young men who gave their very life-blood for Christ.