Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Not worth comparing

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18, TNIV).

That phrase "not worth comparing" always gets me. The difficulties we endure now are "not worth comparing" to the glory that awaits the followers of Christ. If this is true, what does it mean for us today?

Years ago I read an article on Richard Baxter who has been called "the most prominent English churchman of the 1600s." Baxter suffered from a physical ailment that caused him nearly constant pain from the time he was a teenager until he died. Because of his efforts to reform the Church of England he was persecuted fiercely. He was imprisoned at one point and his property was confiscated. On one occasion the bed on which he was lying sick was taken from him by the state church authorities.

Even with all his suffering Baxter accomplished a great deal. He sought to find common ground among squabbling Christian factions of his time. Baxter is probably best known for his prolific writing. He wrote hundreds of books some of which are still widely read today, over 300 years later.

How was Baxter able to accomplish so much in service to the Lord while suffering constant physical pain and enduring intense persecution? For one thing Baxter said that it was his practice to meditate upon heaven for at least a half-hour every day.

How could a guy who produced over 200 written works, many of which are very long, find time to meditate on heaven for a half-hour every day? Could it be that such meditation is more productive than we may tend to believe today? Could it be that Baxter's discipline of thinking of heaven helped him to remember that his trails, though they were fierce, were "not worth comparing" to the glory to come?

C. S. Lewis once wrote to his friend Malcolm, "The hills and valleys of Heaven will be to those you now experience not as a copy is to an original, nor as a substitute to the genuine article, but as the flower to the root, or the diamond to the coal."

I have heard the saying that one can be so heavenly minded that he or she is no earthly good. It could be that the reverse is more accurate. Maybe the more heavenly minded we are the more earthly good we accomplish.

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