We spoke yesterday about how the Lord always, ALWAYS, disciplines us out of love, and with redemption in His heart. He always disciplines us with the intention of bringing us closer to Himself, and our destiny to become more like Jesus day by day. Sometimes we have a difficulty receiving that love, and accepting ourselves as learners, (disciples). We can be very perfectionist with ourselves and find it hard to get past a mistake we have made, or a sin we have committed.
In the second chapter of second Corinthians Paul gives us a personal, vulnerable, and interesting insight into an aspect of his journey with the Lord. He tells us that when he came to Troas with the gospel of Christ, a door was opened for him in the Lord, presumably a great opportunity to share the gospel. Nonetheless he had no rest in his spirit because he could not find his brother Titus. So, notwithstanding the great opportunity, he took his leave of the people in Troas and went on into Greece. 2 Corinthians 2:12,13. On the face of it seems as though Paul had missed a great opportunity to preach the gospel. Surely, one would think, taking that chance to preach was more important than finding Titus!
So what is Paul’s response (verse 14)? ‘But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.’ NASB. Now if I am honest, I find it hard to imagine doing that myself. I think on past experience, that there is a real risk that I would have gone into a decline of regret, or have even beaten myself up for a missed opportunity.
So how did Paul deal with this situation? Not by rationalisation, self-justification, multiple excuses, or self recrimination, but with thanksgiving. And not just thanksgiving by rote, or thanksgiving because he ought to do it, or thanksgiving because he had read all of our blogs and knew what a good Christian should do! No he moved into thanksgiving because he saw God was bigger than he Paul, in his humanity and frailty, and therefore he could trust God to continue to lead him in triumph in his daily life.
He was going to continue on his journey expressing all that God was to the people that he met. In fact, if we read on in two Corinthians, we find that Paul says quite a lot about his weakness and vulnerability as a man, but also about God’s greatness, God’s strength made perfect in his weakness, and the treasure of the life of Christ that was in the clay pot of his human life. He knew that it was God who speaks and makes ‘His light shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’. 2 Corinthians 4:1-7.
When we ‘miss it’, or think we have ‘missed it’, we can easily become disappointed with ourselves, but not if we get a vision of the greatness and the grace of God, and the awesome truth that He has put the treasure of His life in the clay pot that is me. If I see that, then I can begin to follow Paul’s example of moving into thanksgiving, even on the days when I feel I may have tripped up.
I’m sure this thrilled the Lord’s heart as He saw Paul grasping the greatness of his grace and power, and his forgiveness if he needed it. Thanksgiving for this powerful grace also prevented Paul going into decline. I’m sure it resulted in Paul continuing to be in faith that the Lord was indeed ‘leading him in triumph’ to bless other people. It resulted in him fully sharing the gospel when he arrived in the next place. In fact Paul was practicing what he preached “One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13,14.
I think that thanksgiving is also a very powerful way of putting into practice ‘the leaving the past behind’ that Paul advocates here. Let’s be honest it’s not always easy to forget what lies behind, especially if I feel that I didn’t do too well; but thanksgiving is a very practical help in doing this. And importantly it’s not positive thinking or whitewash, because you are thanking God for real facts, including that He is the Lord and is working all things for the good of those who love him. He is full of grace and able to continue to flow through us, because it was His idea to put His treasure in these common clay pots – us! ‘Christ in you the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1 verse 27.