“It isn’t life that matters. It is the courage you bring to it.”
“What you need is a stiff upper-lip!”
“Shake yourself off, get back up, and start all over again.”
“It is time to move on, to turn the corner, and start a new life.”
These are good examples of stoicism. Good advice as far as it goes, but Christians have other resources than their own resolve. They can become more than courageous. They actually learn to master life and its hardships through their doctrinal beliefs and consequential spiritual experiences. Examples of this mastery of life are found in scripture and in Christian biographies. It leads to humility, not arrogance or self-assurance. Paul wrote about both,
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,…(2 Corinthians 2:14).
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way,…(2 Cor. 4:6-8a).
It is not the Christian’s strength or resolve that masters living, but the experiences he has of the power and glory of God. God enables him to feel conquering power even as the afflictions and troubles keep coming. Paul’s first experience of this was like a laser. A piercing light cut him to the quick and let him finally understand that Jesus was the promised Savior and his Lord. The experience was glorious and it caused him to face the facts about Jesus’s identity and resurrection. He came to understand God’s compassion toward him (Acts 9). As we enter 2017, we don’t want to be stoic, but oh the joy of being Christian! Afflicted on every side perhaps, but experiencing power and glimpses of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
These spiritual experiences don’t occur in a vacuum. Paul had to face facts and so do we. Seeking emotional and empowering experiences without believing doctrinal truths from the Bible is a frequent error. When writing to Greeks who were well schooled in philosophies of life, Paul brought up spiritual experiences only after grounding them in biblical doctrine in Ephesians 1.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19). (bold is mine)
Sometimes we say we know someone when we mean we say hi to them as we walk our dogs. But, we don’t really know them in the sense meant here. Adam “knew” Eve, and she became pregnant. That is a much deeper knowing. To know the love of Christ is to experience it in a deeply personal way. When this happens, it surpasses knowing the doctrines. It is to glimpse something of the glory and happiness of heaven. You are acutely aware of being loved and accepted. This acceptance is coupled with a personal sorrow for what you are really like…your own sinfulness. The overwhelming experience is of the glory and love of Christ for you personally. This is what happens in revival. It can start with one individual or happen to a whole community. Iain Murray of Banner of Truth publishers told of these type of experiences in his biographies of Jonathan Edwards and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. We can pray for experiences like this.
PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER LIKE THIS:
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might …(Ephesians 1:16-19).(italics mine)
It is possible to be quite satisfied by doctrine–studying, defending, contending for the faith. We can become comfortable with cold orthodoxy. Or we can mistakingly get caught up in seeking experiences without accepting biblical doctrine. Both are equally wrong. That is why Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened. Experiencing hope and strength and being conscious of what is in store for you touch the emotions. There won’t be cold orthodoxy when you are enabled to feel these things. Wonder what would happen if we would pray for one another like this?
If we get to know God in his fullness and glory, we will be more than conquerors; we will have peace even though we have troubles and may feel or look weak to others. The Stoic’s stiff upper lip won’t give him peace and “moving on” does not guarantee a happy life. Are you a living as a Stoic or a Christian?