Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Cactus Flower Faith

From the archives....

   On our walk today, we saw the most beautiful sight.  A mature cactus plant had large white flowers with many more ready to open.  They only bloom once a year, but they are magnificent to behold.  I thought to myself that this seemed to be an oxymoron of nature.  Here is a plant with large needles that hurt if you come in contact with it; however, it produces the most beautiful flowers.  Then, I thought how life is not unlike a cactus plant.  We have our thorns that inflict great pain physically, spiritually and/or mentally, but when placed in God's hands, these painful circumstances can blossom into beauty as we are formed more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
     If anyone was acquainted with the thorns that life could bring, it was the Apostle Paul.  In his second letter to the church at Corinth (chapter 11:24-30) he writes:  "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And apart form other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
     As Paul goes on to describe his current thorn in flesh beyond all these other trials, he tells the believers that when he is weak, the power of Christ rests upon him.  He concludes in chapter 12 verse 10:  " For the sake of Christ, then, 'I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong'".  What a powerful testimony from someone who has been through the cactus patch and is now blooming as a result of Christ's power in him.  Not many of us would welcome all the trials that Paul endured, but his life produced a lasting fragrance in the service of His Lord.
     God's purpose in having us face hardships is not always clear.  However, we know "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  The key two words in that verse are "His purpose".  And what is His purpose?  If we read verse 29 in Romans, we see:  "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers."  God's purpose
for us is to be conformed to Christ, and this does not happen unless we learn to lean on Him.  When life is easy and untroubled, we take things for granted especially our relationship with God.  However, when the storms come, we run to His arms of strength and shelter.
     Paul understood that without the thorn in his life, the trials and tribulations he would have tried to do things in his own strength rather than leaning on the Lord.  It was through his weakness that he found the power of Christ.  The same is true for us.
     God's purpose is to conform us to His dear Son.  As a master sculptor, God must chisel away at our attitudes, sin nature and self confidence.  This process hurts, but the remedy is resting in the power and strength of Jesus Christ.  Remember the lesson of the cactus.  The needles hurt to touch just as our trials hurt, but from this painful plant comes a beautiful flower representing what God can do when our lives are fully yielded to His molding and remaking of our lives.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts.  How has God been working in your life to conform you to His Son?  How can you encourage others from what He is teaching you?


Christina said...

Thanks Barbara. I will remember the lesson of the cactus ...yes, it hurts but God has His purpose...to conform us into the image of Christ.

Thanks for sharing dear friend.

Barbara Thayer said...

Isn't it wonderful that God gives us so many examples through nature around us? I cannot help but see His hand reminding me of His grace in all that He has created. I thank you for stopping by and sharing. Blessings to you!