Monday, November 19, 2012

Peace Like a River

Conversion of St. Paul
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"We are AffLiCted in every way, but not CrUsHeD, perplexed but not DrivEn to despair, peRsecuTed but NOT forsaken, struck down but not DesTroYeD." (2 Cor. 4:8)

Paul had every right to make this claim. St. Paul the Apostle, the author of 2 Corinthians and 12 more epistles of the Bible, was once the Roman Pharisee named Saul who tortured and killed dozens of Christians in the world's attempt to wipe out the early Church until Jesus -- recently resurrected -- knocked the wayward soldier to the ground and blinded him on the Road to Damascus. Henceforth, Saul came to be known as Paul. During his 30-year ministry, Paul endured famine, an unnamed "thorn in his flesh," multiple arrests and imprisonments, stoning (not quite to death), flogging, and even a shipwreck until he was finally beheaded for the sake of the Gospel. Suffering enough to drive anyone mad. (Acts 22, 27)

But Paul rejoiced in his suffering. He "boasted of his weaknesses" and considered himself "rescued by the LORD" even as he sat in jail awaiting his execution. He didn't assume his trials were punishment for the sins he'd committed against the Church as Saul, nor did he claim they were the means by which he attained a greater heaven. Paul saw the trials that befell him as an opportunity to share in Christ's suffering and His comfort, and he suffered gladly for the sake of Christ and his brothers' salvation, always hoping and looking toward the heaven his LORD had already won for him (see numerous citations below).

I'm not as Paul-like (Pauline?) as I ought to be, however, countless Christians follow in the Apostle's brave and humble legacy. One such person is Horatio Spafford, a 19th century lawyer from Chicago. Spafford lost his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire, his four-year-old son to scarlet fever, and all four of his daughters (11-yr-old Annie, 9-yr-old Margaret, 5-yr-old Bessie, and 2-yr-old Tanetta) when the liner they were aboard sank. All this occurred within a span of 3 years. Legend has it Horatio wrote a poem as he sailed to meet his grieving wife the night he passed over the very spot where his daughters had drown. The poem was later set to music.

While it appears that Horatio and Paul never wavered in their faith, we can be certain they both had their dark nights, too. The lesson we ought to take from these brave men is not that we must never be discouraged, but rather that we must always come up swinging... in Christ. So remember: even if you're crying so hard that you can't say, "It is well with my soul," aloud, the statement still holds true--for your soul, if not for your heart. Here's part of that infamous hymn. Borne of such terrible tragedy, it's gotten me through more than a few dark nights of my own. All things work to the good.

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is from "It Is Well With My Soul."
PRC buddies, remember to breathe!
"It is well -------> 5 count inhale
with my soul." -------> 5 count exhale

* * *

The following citations are by no means comprehensive, but it's a start in case you're wondering where I got all this from. Take a second or two and go to put in the search "hope" to see how many times that word appears in the Bible. Wow.

thorn in Paul's flesh................2 Corinthians 12:7-10
rejoice in suffering.................Romans 5:3, Colossians 1:24, 1 Peter 4:13, Philippians 1:18, 4:4-6
boasting of weaknesses..........2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:5, 9
contentedness.........................2 Corinthians 12:10
forgiveness of sins..................1 Timothy 12:17, 2 Timothy 4:6-8
separation from Christ............Romans 8:35
sharing Christ's suffering........Philippians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 1:5
suffering for another...............Philippians 1:21-26, Ephesians 3:13, 2 Cor. 1:6, 2 Cor. 4:7-12
HOPE......................................Romans 8:18, 24-25, 15:13, 5:1-6, 1 Cor. 13:7, 2 Cor. 1:10, 3:12, Phil 1:18-20

It Is Well With My Soul
(full text)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

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