“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” Philippians 3:10
This article is not about heaven. That’s not what I mean by “the other side.” I have in mind what a friend said to me about a particularly difficult time she was going through. With a heavy sigh she said, “I just want to get to the other side of this.”
We all understand that sigh and sentiment. In the middle of a stormy blast we long to get to the safety of the shore. The real challenge, and what I suggested to her, however, is that on “the other side” inevitably lies another problem. Our lives are a series of storm fronts moving through. It’s as natural as nature. Good and bad endlessly follow one another.
Our initial impulse is to pray for deliverance, and that is good and right. The Bible, the psalms in particular, are full of prayers for deliverance and full of illustrations of God’s deliverance (see Psalms 34 and 118 for example). Paul wrote Philippians while imprisoned, and no doubt prayed for deliverance. So when you are pressed, pray to get to the other side. God grants that prayer more often than we acknowledge (most problems do get solved to some degree, if not completely).
But what about that chronic and persistent problem, or series of problems? You’ve been looking for a very long time to “get to the other side.” No shore is in sight.
On this Monday after Easter I want you to consider an important part of the answer. It lies in the difference between victory and vindication. We normally think of Easter as victory, which it certainly is in many ways. God conquered death and sin. “O the glorious victory!”
But the New Testament gives us another vital perspective we tend to overlook. Many years ago as I was teaching teenagers in a Bible study, I posed a question I hoped would take them to the heart of this insight. I asked, “When did God show Himself to be most powerful?” As I recall, they suggested the Exodus and the parting of the sea, raising Lazarus from the dead, stilling the storm, etc. Finally one girl named Rachael, said “what about the cross?” And I said, “you’ve got it!”
The cross was the victory. Easter Sunday was the vindication, God’s stamp of approval, for the way Jesus lived, served, and gave His life. The victory you should really seek is not a solution to all your problems, but a way to love and serve others every day. In Paul’s words, you only know the power of the resurrection when you share in Christ’s sufferings and become like Him in death.
In the garden, Jesus prayed for deliverance, “let this cup pass from Me.” But God did not take away the problem. The cross remained as the ultimate illustration of love and sacrifice. The cross is your goal. The needs of the person in the office next to you, the clerk at the store, the family member, these are your priorities. If you make solving your own problems the focus on your life, then you will miss life every time. Devote yourself to praying, encouraging, performing acts of kindness for others and you will experience victory and then God’s vindication.
Again, prayers for deliverance are fine. They are neither selfish nor shallow. However, life becomes much clearer, and in many ways much easier, when we realize that deliverance from problems is not nearly as important as His presence during the problems.
Dr. Terry Ellis
April 9, 2012