Friday, April 27, 2012

No pain, no change, no gain


When I was much younger I played in a variety of sports including baseball, football, basketball and wrestling. I didn’t have natural talent, so I had to work hard to find any success. I know all my coaches meant well, but what I hated most about practice was the constant challenge to move from what felt comfortable to what would bring out my potential. They wanted me to hurt.

They all said the same thing but in different ways:
  • “No pain, no gain!”
  • “It will hurt, but it will hurt so good!”
  • “Exchange short-term pain for long-term fame!”
In “The Problem of Pain,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain; it is his megaphone to arouse a deaf world.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap (pain) to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down but what he did in fact was push me to my knees. No danger then of me walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift and begged God to remove it (my pain). Three times I did that and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap (my pain) and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”(2 Cor. 12:7-10, The Message)

When I started in ministry in 1973, I was fired from my first three churches. My college training had ill-equipped me for the challenges of serving on a church staff, trying to make ends meet and being the husband I needed to be. Everything seemed so hard and so painful. But the pain of my circumstances actually led me to a place where I understood that I needed to change and that I could not do it alone. Christ became my strength and began to lead me into a process that would transform my life and world. And this transformation is continuing to this day.

So like many before me, I have learned the hard way that pain is where your potential and destiny collide. You can’t move forward without it. Like my coaches, we can shout from the megaphone:
  • God allows pain in your lives according to your needs.
  • God is more concerned with what he is doing in you than with you and through you.
  • God knows if he can change your heart he can change your life and so your destiny.
  • God uses pain to transform you into the image of his Son, so don’t fight it when you should embrace it.
The facts are clear: If there is no pain there will probably be no change, and where there is no change there will be no eternal gain. Pain is the process God uses to transform us and so transform our world. It really does hurt so good!

Where do you need pain? Where do you need change? Don’t fight it, don’t flee from it, embrace it and imagine the possibilities!