Praise Him in the Process
To start, I just want to give a massive thank you to this congregation for the support and love poured out on Lauren and I. Your thoughts, cards and prayers are cherished. It’s amazing to me what good can come out of dark moments. For those of you who are unaware of what has occurred, in late October of 2015, a CT scan revealed a mass in my third ventricle which would later be diagnosed as an ependymoma (a lower grade cancer). Two brain surgeries later, I’m still here and nearly 100% recovered. God has allowed me return to full time ministry and for that I’m thankful.
Prior to and after both surgeries, I was regularly asked if I was afraid. A nurse at Harborview even asked me this, to which I responded, “there’s a verse in the bible that essentially says, to live, is to live like Jesus- to die, is to be with Jesus. Either way, I’m winning.” For me, resurrection hope changes everything. Death isn’t something to be feared for the Christian. Is it heartbreaking? Absolutely! Should we fear it? No. In the weeks leading up to my first emergent surgery, I know God had been preparing my heart for the days ahead.
Maybe we have heard someone say, “thank you Lord… it wasn’t cancer,” and we rejoice with that person. The flipside of this is also saying, “thank you Lord, it is cancer.” Cancer in and of itself is a wretched killer, with zero beneficial qualities. Cancer is just one of the natural results of humanities separation from a life giving God. This is not to say that cancer is a punishment for something we did to offend God (I’d deserve far more than cancer if that was the case!). Christ absorbed all the punishment I deserved on the Cross when he died for the sins of the world. Because of resurrection hope, we know that God can bring good out of the most hopeless situations for those who love him and are called to His redemptive purposes. Before whatever trouble comes our way, we should resolve in our hearts to say, “thank you Lord,” knowing that He will bring good from whatever he has allowed to occur. He’s completely in charge. Nothing catches him by surprise.
One of my favorite quotes is from Lesslie Newbigin. Newbigin states: “I’m neither an optimist or pessimist, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” To me, it summarizes the heart of what we as a Resurrection Community live out. Our Lord and Savior said to his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” These statements aren’t meant to minimize our sufferings but give us resurrection perspective. Never say, “because I don’t have… [fill in the blank situation] like that person over there, I should just cheer up.” Never compare your suffering with another’s. When you do suffer though, look to Christ and say, “help me to praise you through this process.” Know that he will bring glory unto Himself through it even when the darkness surrounds us. This is a resurrection perspective that will shine resurrection hope on a dying world.
Easter Changes Everything
Easter changed everything. Prior to Easter, no one actually believed in Jesus. Ponder that for a second. He had followers who fled, but not believers. We know this from the scriptures that none of his disciples were outside the tomb with a stopwatch counting down the days to observe him rise in person. When the women showed up with spices, they came prepared to lovingly doctor a corpse the best way they knew how. No one expected Easter. Easter changed everything. Even if you think this whole Easter thing is a figment of Christians misguided imaginations, you must recognize that in the first century, the proclamation of a mans resurrection from the dead exploded across the Middle Eastern landscape. Also keep in mind that no one believed in him while his body lay in the tomb.
Easter is the highlight of the Christian calendar. I feel it gets overlooked with all the commercial pomp ascribed to Christmas and I believe we as the Church need to reclaim and celebrate it in a bigger way. Some years ago in New Zealand, I was riding my bike home from my congregations Easter celebration. Passing by a local park I discovered a group of Hindu’s celebrating color. They did this with food, festive music and dancing. It dawned on me that their celebratory joy about color, externally dwarfed what I mustered that day for the defeat of death and ultimate hope for the world. However you celebrate Easter, may it resonate in our beings that this day in time changed the world.
A man who hated and persecuted the first century resurrection community had a radical encounter with the resurrected Christ and later wrote these words:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
The context this verse comes from is 2nd Corinthians 4. I urge you to read it after finishing this article and praise God for it. Remind yourself of its truth daily as you pray. When trials come for yourself or those you love, approach them with a resurrection perspective. As devastating as they feel now, how might you feel in 10 years about this same situation? Perhaps in 10 years it will still be heartbreaking… but what about in 10,000 years? How will we feel about our earthly trials and sorrow 10,000 years from now when we are standing next to our resurrected savior in all His glory? If you’re reading this right now, it means you’re in the same spot I am at the moment of writing. Alive. We are people in process, experiencing all the joys and sorrows this life brings. To know Jesus is to know life, life eternal. May we daily live out our resurrection hope through the strength of Christ.