Thought for the Week - 24th AprilLloyd Hopkin
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…
I’ve been reading a book called “Five English Reformers” by JC Ryle. It focuses on the Christians martyred in Britain in the 1550’s, when Henry VIII’s daughter Mary became Queen. She started to persecute Protestants, burning them at the stake, ending up burning approximately 300 people, including 55 women and 4 children.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time to die at the stake – upwards of twenty minutes in absolute agony. Latimer and Ridley were Bishops – one of London and one of Worcester. They were stripped of their titles because of they went to the people to preach about Christ and what He meant to them. Ridley took 45 minutes to die, remaining in the fire all the time. In the book you read about how cheerful they are, despite everything.
While at the stake, Latimer turned to Ridley and said: “Be of good comfort, and play the man, because we shall this day light a candle that shall never be put out”. He was essentially saying, that as they were dying, they were starting something in this country that will never put out! Even today, as Christianity is in decline, we are still benefiting from the times when we were Christian as a country. Look at all the security we have – health, education etc – all can be traced back to when we were a Christian nation. It happened because of the sacrifice of people like these martyrs. Through these people, God turned his country from a superstitious wreck to a growing country that spread Christianity across the world.
Half of Korea is now Christian and it happened because of missionaries who were hacked to death on a beach. Their bibles, strewn across the floor, were recovered by local people who used the paper to cover their walls. They started reading the text and that is how the gospel first spread in Korea! These men and women suffered pain for Christ, but this seems to do things in spiritual places. At one point, over 20,000 people became Protestants because they saw the cruelty inflicted. When people die, God starts to move!
These people were coming to their cross, but God was able to use them. In the same way, God calls us to our own cross – to suffer our own pains and problems. But when we come to that point, He is able to do something with us that He wasn’t before. Christ is at the cross… so if we don’t go there, can we find Him?
In Corinthians we read “My grace is enough for you”. God gave them and gives us the strength! His grace is sufficient! Even though we are weak, God’s power is made perfect in that weakness. No matter how bad it is, He is able to do something with it… because He is God, because He is great. We can sometimes feel weak by doing the right thing (whether it’s biting your tongue or dying to self), but it’s only when we stop relying on our own strength that God can fill us with his! As Paul wrote “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”. If it’s for us to go through something, then God will give us the strength we need to go through it. It’s only when we fight against it or look at ourselves and our problems that we weaken.
Real power can only come through the cross. We often think of Christ bearing our pain. However, we forget that it was Christ’s first… He bore it before we were born! He bore your sin and the sin of every thief, rapist, and paedophile; the pain of every childbirth, every cancer, every problem. He bore all that existed from the beginning until the end of time. He hung there and didn’t give up. He didn’t squeal or complain. He hung there and bore it. We have nothing of ourselves to offer, and yet he hung there and died. I encourage you to come back to that cross. Every pain and problem we can face is worth bearing for him.
Focus on what He’s done – it’s there that we begin to find that love grow in us. We are strong in Him when we come close to the cross.