I’m a Grace Focused Optimist. I live with The Christian Attitude toward life. That’s optimism . . . the optimism that through Jesus my life is a grace G.O.O.D. A God orchestrated opportunity for development (into Christlikeness) through disposition (optimism) for doxology (giving God glory).
Today we conclude our series on the O in our acronym, which stands for orchestrated. It reminds us that God is ultimately behind everything that happens to us. Even our pains.
The Value of Christlikeness
Let’s think this through.
1. God loves us the way he loves the Lord Jesus. It’s Jesus himself who gives us this mind-blowing, heart-exhilarating, set-your-toe-to-tapping Valentine truth. He prays, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). The Father says of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love” (Matthew 17:5). Christian, he says of you, “This is my son . . . this is my daughter . . . whom I love the way I love Jesus.”
2. God’s Jesus-like love for us governs all his dealings with us. I set this table with feast words from J. I. Packer. He writes, “’God is love’ is the complete truth about God so far as the Christian is concerned.” This means that “Every single thing that happens to us expresses God’s love to us, and comes to us for the furthering of God’s purpose for us.” Nothing less than this is Paul’s point when he tells us that God “in all things God works for (our) good . . . God is for us . . . (nothing) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:28, 31, 39).
3. Because he loves us God wants us to have abundant life. Jesus didn’t come on a self-originated mission. He was sent by his Father to do his Father’s will: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus tells us his Father’s will for us when he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
4. God knows that the only way we can have abundant life is by abundant likeness to Jesus. “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales, rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
Godliness is a shortened form of Godlikeness. Jesus pictures what God’s like. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). So, the way to be God-like is by becoming Christ-like in character (who we are) and conduct (what we do).
Christlikeness “has value.” It’s really the only Bull Market there is because it’s the only investment paying the dual dividend of being good for us in this life and in the next.
Christlikeness has “promise for the present life.” For example, become like Jesus in childlike trust in God and you’ll avoid anxiety’s corrosive influence on our health. Become like Jesus in self-forgetful service of others and you’ll know the walk on air joy of “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Abundant life now (John 10:10) is found in abundant likeness to Jesus.
5. God knows the only way we can become more like Jesus is by experiencing pain. You can’t become like “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) without any sorrow or grief. Christlike traits like love . . . gentleness . . . patience . . . humility . . .—to mention just a few—don’t grow in the summer of a pain free existence. They grow in the bitter winter of difficulty and disappointment.
So, because God loves us . . . and wants us to live . . . and knows the only way we can live is by becoming like Jesus . . . and the only way we can become like Jesus is through pain . . . therefore, out of love, God sends us pain.
This is why the writer of Hebrews assures us, “The Lord disciplines those whom he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6). You can translate that “The Lord helps those whom he loves to become more like Jesus by sending them pains of all kinds, even some that are severe.”
The Goal of Christlikeness
What this means for us practically is this: we’ve got to make God’s priority for us our priority for ourselves by making Christlikeness our ambition and aim. We do this by grasping the fact that increasing Christlikeness is better for us than having more than enough money for a golden retirement and being able to enjoy it by living to be ninety without spending a day in the hospital.
The moment you begin wanting Christlikeness most of all, your attitude toward pain will change as much as a first time father’s changes as he holds his newborn. You will begin seeing pain for the gift it is. A gift of God’s love. In fact, a God orchestrated opportunity for developing into the kind of person Jesus is.
Abundant living is found in abundant likeness to Jesus. Abundant likeness to Jesus comes only through pain. So, one of the best ways God can say, “I love you” is by sending pain.
“O” is for orchestration.