In the faint light from the tall street lamp on the lawn in front of my dorm, he slowly revealed what was on his heart. He explained how he’d asked God to give him a wife, a partner in ministry, and he felt like perhaps I was the answer to that prayer. That was the first hint my future husband gave of his intentions. His proposal of marriage several days later was the most intimate earthly invitation I’ve ever received.
But an even deeper level of intimacy lies beneath Jesus’ overture.
This week we’ve been looking at Jesus’ invitation for us to come close and find our rest in Him. He opens that invitation with the precious words: “Come unto Me . . .”
Coming to Him is the most secure resting place imaginable, yet it isn’t without discomfort at times. Yesterday, we considered that difficult, but sacred place, of climbing into the “Gap” with God. Today we’ll explore two more aspects of Jesus’ invitation to intimacy.
Anytime I think about really “knowing” Christ intimately, the Apostle Paul comes to mind. I think Paul knew Jesus at a level few ever experience. But Paul’s intimate relationship with Christ came with a price.
Remember how Paul equated “knowing Jesus”?
To really know Jesus at a deeper level, Paul says we must experience this aspect of intimacy:
♥ The Fellowship of Suffering
Not an event that gets a lot of volunteers. I cringe at the word or the thought of a long season of suffering. But apparently Paul had reached such a level of maturity, that he embraced the suffering aspect of Christianity because he appreciated the intimate relationship available through that venue.
Of all people, Paul understood suffering. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul describes some of what he endured: multiple beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and death threats, in his service for God. In addition to those challenging events, Paul spent a chunk of his time in prison, and while there, he penned this beautiful description of intimacy with Christ:
[box]But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death . . . (Philippians 3:7–10)[/box]
Wow, Paul is equating “knowing Jesus intimately” with suffering. Heavy stuff. But before you check out, or move on to a more “comfortable” blog post, if all this talk of intimacy is getting you depressed, let me share with you Jesus’ invitation from the book of John and the benefits of intimacy with God.
Jesus described intimacy with Him as a beautiful, life-giving relationship. He uses the metaphor of the branches that draw their life from the vine, which enables them to produce new life.
Jesus’ invitation to intimacy involves the life-giving aspect of:
[box]Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:4–5, 8)[/box]
What a privilege, to receive life directly from Jesus, and from that new life produce fruit for His glory. There is no greater joy or experience than this. This is the place of intimacy that brings the reward of knowing we are bringing God pleasure.
But even nestled in the sweet place of abiding in the vine, there is the aspect of pruning. Painful pruning is necessary for the health and growth of the branches.
About now, you may be taking issue with all this “suffering” stuff and ready to yell at me:
“Intimacy isn’t sounding so inviting, when you describe it like that . . . branches being pruned . . . and what about the weariness? What about being heavy-laden? I thought the “yoke” was going to be easy . . . the burden “light.” But pruning, weariness, and heavy burdens seem to be zapping all my spiritual energy!”
Where does the “rest” part come in?
REST happens when I embrace all aspects of His Invitation to Intimacy.
Rest happens when I rest in the fact that God is sovereign, that He has a plan, and that all He does is good and right. Rest happens when I accept the fact that doing God’s will can involve suffering, pain, long sleepless nights, unjust accusations, abandonment by loved ones, betrayal by friends, and loss of health.
Rest happens when I climb into the yoke with Jesus and settle in for the ride, knowing that intimacy is worth the price of pain.
Intimacy is worth the price.
Are you in a “Gap” of your own making today?
Or is your painful season a sacred space because you know you are in God’s will for your life?
Are you in a season of suffering?
Are you willing to abide in Him and grow healthier through this “pruning” season?
Do you believe intimacy is worth the price of suffering?
Image courtesy of Tanatat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net