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Easter's relevance: Self-reliance or God-reliance

March 22 2016
March 22 2016

As we journey towards the resurrection this Holy Week, it's important to acknowledge that this passage is not always easy. The pastel painted eggs of Easter belie the difficult burdens we bear, and which will persist long after Easter passes. Their presence is not the only thing that's hard either. What's their purpose? If you're like me, you want to know what God is up to in the midst of the struggles. No matter how special Easter is, sometimes it's hard not to ask, "God, why am I going through this?"

Now, I know there are silver-tongued, false teachers out there who promise deliverance from all of our struggles if we will only "believe enough" or "think positive thoughts" or "get pumped-up." Yet, these strategies ultimately fail because they teach us to rely upon ourselves. In this way of thinking, I'm the key to getting to a better place.

According to Paul, however, sufferings-even sufferings that stretch to the very edge of death-ought not to be unbearable if our confidence truly shifts to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes, "For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Let's notice two things Paul asserts about God's purpose in our sufferings. First of all, God is using them. Sufferings are not things that are merely to be escaped or conquered; they are meant by God to be endured. By their very design they have a sanctifying value. Just as Jesus Christ could not escape the cross, so we cannot escape the sufferings he has purposed for us in this life. Even as Christ suffered, so we will suffer (Phil. 3:10-11).

Secondly, at the heart of God's purpose in sufferings for Christians is redirecting the focus of our trust. According to Paul, God is using trials to teach us to rely upon him-the "one who raises the dead"-and to stop relying upon ourselves. Paul's logic is that without such trials, he  would not be the God-reliant disciple that God means for him to be.

Though we often experience trials as mysterious burdens, they are not mindless ones. Through a deepening God-reliance, Paul wants us to see that God is at work in the burdens we bear to lead us to a deeper trust in him. We were never meant to live life and negotiate its struggles in our own strength. God always intended for us to rest on his strength. And, it's the resurrection of Christ, which guarantees that confidence.

So, Easter's relevance is not just that the resurrection is historically true or that we too will one day-in the distant future-be resurrected. Rather, Easter's hope is a present help that ought to guide every single day of our lives-especially when we feel as though the struggles have gotten the better of us-because we know that God is using those same struggles to deepen our reliance upon him who raised Jesus and will raise us!

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