Christ Exalted in My Body

How do we respond when going through difficult or frustrating situations? Where is our focus during those dark times? Is it on escape or the exaltation of Christ?
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net


In the midst of difficult situations, do we cry out for God to deliver us or, like Saint Paul, do we cry for sufficient courage and spiritual strength so that Christ will be exalted in our lives? 

After St. Paul’s dramatic encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, he came to faith in Christ. In that encounter, he was struck blind by God, where he remained in that terrible condition for three days. During this time, St. Paul fasted and prayed to the Lord, so shaken and distressed was he over Christ’s appearance to him on the road. Equally distressing was the complete loss of his eyesight, as well as the fact that he had been persecuting his fellow Jews for belief in Someone whom He had been convinced was not the Son of God. To find out that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be had to add to St. Paul’s shock and distress.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias, whom the Lord called out to in a vision. The Lord instructed this man Ananias to go to the place where the Apostle Paul was praying in order to lay hands on him and pray so that he would be healed. Ananias was afraid. "Lord," he answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your followers in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your Name." [Ac 9:13-14]. Perhaps Ananias was hoping for a divine change of mind, but such was not to be. "Go!", said the Lord. "This man is My chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name." [Ac 9:15-16].

And suffer he did. Later, in a letter written to the Corinthian church, St. Paul himself testified to the terrible ordeals which became his lot in life as a result of his obedience to carry out the commission given to him by our Lord:

"I have worked much harder [than other servants of Christ], been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen [the Jews], in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. [2 Co 11:23-28].

When this beloved Apostle wrote a letter to the Philippian church sometime around A.D. 60, he found himself imprisoned once more for the defense of the Gospel. At this time, he was in Rome, where he was awaiting trial, not knowing whether he would be released or executed.

One of the things that I have noticed whenever I read any of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the different churches is his attitude, focus, goal, and concern in everything he faced, whether good or bad. For example, in his letter to the Philippians, he wrote to them as follows: "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. [Php 1:20].

Notice what the Apostle’s chief concern was. His number-one goal was not getting out of his situation; it was the exaltation of Christ in his life in the midst of that situation. Instead of crying out to God night and day for deliverance, St. Paul cried for sufficient courage and strength so that Christ would continue to be exalted in his life just as much as He had been before the Apostle found himself in prison. This was a man who knew how to surrender to the will of God! This was a man who knew how to take up his cross and die!

How do we respond when going through difficult or frustrating situations? Do we cry out for God to ‘deliver us,’ or, like St. Paul, do we cry for sufficient courage and spiritual strength so that Christ will be exalted in our lives in the midst of that difficult situation? Our level of spiritual maturity will determine how we answer this question.

There is nothing wrong with asking the Lord to remove unpleasant, difficult, or painful situations from our lives. After all, St. Paul himself did this, did he not? In his second letter to the Corinthian churches, he wrote to them as follows: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassingly great revelations [which the Lord had given to me] there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." [2 Co 12:7-9].

What was the Lord saying to St. Paul? Simply this: "My son, I know you’re hurting because of what you’re going through right now. But by leaving that difficult situation in your life, this will force you to depend upon Me. It will teach you how to rely upon and walk in My power instead of your power. If I remove this difficulty from your life, you will never reach this new level of ‘power walking’ where I desire to bring you. So I’m going to leave it in your life, son. I’m going to do this because your ability to walk in the power of My Spirit means more to me than the comfort of your flesh.

It’s not that St. Paul didn’t cry out to God for deliverance from hardships in his life; he just didn’t make that deliverance his chief focus.

When Christ spoke to him and told him that His power was made perfect in and through the difficulties He allowed to enter St. Paul’s life, that was enough for our beloved brother. From now on, the Apostle’s focus would be on that power, and not the difficulty itself. He wanted Christ to be glorified and exalted in his life. He wanted to walk in the power of the resurrection. He realized that the only way he could experience this is if he was willing to go all the way with Christ by completely surrendering His will before God in each and every situation he faced no matter how difficult or painful.

St. Paul’s words to the Philippian believers can also be applied to our daily lives as well. Let’s take a few minutes to ‘fill in the blanks’, shall we? "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether facing:

(1)    life or death

(2)    good times or bad times

(3)    prosperous times or lean times

(4)    sickness or health

(5)    good experiences on the job or bad experiences

(6)    good times in my marriage or bad times

(7)    good times with my children or bad times with them

(8)    peaceful times or stressful times

(9)    days when everyone is there for me or days when everyone seems to flee

(10)  days when everything goes right or days when everything goes wrong

(11)  times when I’m well rested or times when I’m physically exhausted

(12)  times when I’m feeling peaceful or times when I feel afraid

The list goes on and on, but I’m sure that by now you get the point. The Apostle Paul didn’t like ‘going through the fire’ anymore than you or I do. Who likes to hurt? Who likes discomfort and miserable situations? No one does! But getting out of those situations is not to be our chief concern. Rather, the exaltation and glorification of our Lord Jesus in and through those situations is to be our primary focus.

Like you, I face days when my flesh wants to scream. I face painful times when I feel like I’m never going to be happy again. I face times when I’m so afraid that I become senseless. We’re human. But when facing those times, the Lord wants us to rely upon His power to take us through them instead of walking in our own feeble human strength. Anyone can love like Jesus, speak like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and walk like Jesus when things are going well.

But how Christ-like are we when our co-workers exclude and reject us? How much do we reflect our Lord when our children continually hurt and disappoint us, when neighbors gossip about us, or when friends betray us? To what degree are we radiating Christ and fully obeying His Word when our husbands come home with the news that they’ve been laid off or our marriages go through tense and difficult times?

When we find ourselves failing and stumbling in our walk with God during those times, this is the Lord’s way of lovingly and gently exposing to us just how weak we are and how little we have learned how to walk in His power, the power of the resurrection. Because He wants us to move up to the next level by learning how to ‘power walk,’ He allows us to face those situations, and will sometimes deliberately keep us in them, so that we will continue to walk in that way.

Sometimes, when we have mastered the principle that He is trying to teach us, He will remove that situation from our lives. But other times, as in the case of the Apostle Paul’s thorn, he will purposely leave it there to keep us relying on His power for the rest of our lives. Therefore, we don’t want to make ‘deliverance’ from our situations the primary focus in our lives, for the very reason that Christ may keep that situation before us until the day we stand before Him in Heaven. Rather, like St. Paul, we want our focus to be on the exaltation of Christ in our lives no matter what we face. We want our focus to be on the ability to walk in the power of Christ and His resurrection in the midst of that situation, not escape from that situation.

If our focus is to be the exaltation of Christ in our lives even during difficult times, it is imperative that we spend time each and every single day with God in prayer as well as in the study and meditation of His Word. If we refuse to do this, we will not have the spiritual strength that we need to submit to God’s will during those difficult times.

Attending Mass is yet another way in which we receive tremendous strength and encouragement from the Lord. When believers come together to pray, sing, hear the Word, and remember the Lord’s death and resurrection through Communion, the Spirit within us is revived. Have you ever gone to Mass depressed only to come out encouraged and strengthened to go on another day? Coming together with other believers in order to worship is vitally important in our walk with Christ, especially during dark and difficult times.

Reading novels, watching television, or playing golf may be enjoyable activities, but when it comes to strengthening the believer in his or her walk with God, these activities have absolutely no value. They do not profit us spiritually.

If you are going through a difficult time in your life right now, take a quick look to see exactly where your focus is. Is it on deliverance and escape from that situation, or like the Apostle Paul, is it on the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life in and through that situation?

The latter, and not the former, is where Christ wants each and every single one of us to be. Perhaps you aren’t facing any major hardships in your life right now. I once heard someone say that we are either in the midst of a trial, coming out of a trial, or about to enter into one. Therefore, it would be wise for us to keep in mind the example of our beloved brother Paul so that no matter where we find ourselves, the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ will be our primary focus.

If we truly want to learn how to walk in the power of the Spirit, even in the midst of trying times, we need to change our focus from deliverance and escape to the exaltation of Christ in and through those trying times. Instead of crying out to God for a better job, cry out for power and grace so that Christ will be exalted in your life at the place where you work now. Instead of crying out to God for your spouse or children to change, cry out for Him to change you in the midst of your family situation so that Christ will be exalted in your life in and through that difficult situation. When we have learned how to change our focus, brothers and sisters...

...We have also learned how to overcome.



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Published by: Kathryn Cunningham
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
This is great article with a well focused point. We get too easily distracted from our primary goal.

Published by: Kathryn Cunningham
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
This is great article with a well focused point. We get too easily distracted from our primary goal.

Published by: Kathryn Cunningham
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
This is great article with a well focused point. We get too easily distracted from our primary goal.

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