Monday, January 26, 2009

MMM: Subjugation

Day 26--here we are at the last Mega Memory Month Monday check-in before our final celebration on the 31st. How are you doing? I'm still on track, though for some reason I am finding that the last few days' memory work aren't flowing quite so easily as the first two weeks. In God's kindness, the truth I am memorizing dovetails perfectly with a wonderful book I've been reading--it's always a blessing when He hits me with the same message from several different places!

Today I'm marveling over this line (yesterday's sentences):

"God's grace abounds to me even through trials. Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me."

Subjugates. I had a general sense of what that word meant, but just to deepen my understanding, I looked it up. To subjugate is "to bring under control" or "to forcibly impose obedience or servitude."

Jesus is the Conquering King. And when trials come to me, He is not wringing His hands, dismayed at this turn of events. He is not scrambling to try and salvage His plan. He is on the throne! And even Satan and all evil must bow to Him. He actually ordains trials in my life, because He wants me to grow in trust, in joy, perseverance, character and hope. And by His abundant grace, I don't merely survive these trials--in fact, it falls short even to say that I overcome or conquer them.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35-37).

To conquer a trial sounds like ultimate success, but in Christ, I am MORE than a conqueror. How can this be? It's because God doesn't just defeat evil. He subjugates it. He makes trials His slaves; He forces evil to obey His will, to carry out His good purposes in my life. John Piper explains in his book Don't Waste Your Life:
...a conqueror defeats his enemy, but one who is more than a conqueror subjugates his enemy. A conqueror nullifies the purpose of his enemy; one who is more than a conqueror makes the enemy serve his own purposes. A conqueror strikes down his foe; one who is more than a conqueror makes his foe his slave.

Practically what does this mean? Let's use Paul's own words in 2 Corinthians 4:17: "This slight momentary affliction is preparing [effecting, or working, or bringing about] for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." Here we could say that "affliction" is one of the attacking enemies. What has happened in Paul's conflict with it? It has certainly not separated him from the love of Christ. But even more, it has been taken captive, so to speak. It has been enslaved and made to serve Paul's everlasting joy. "Affliction," the former enemy, is now working for Paul. It is preparing for Paul "an eternal weight of glory." His enemy is now his slave. He has not only conquered his enemy. He has more than conquered him.

Affliction raised his sword to cut off the head of Paul's faith. But instead the hand of faith snatched the arm of affliction and forced it to cut off part of Paul's worldliness. Affliction is made the servant of godliness and humility and love. Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The enemy became Paul's slave and worked for him an even greater weight of glory than he would have ever had without the fight. In that way Paul--and every follower of Christ--is more than a conqueror.

And yet I question God when hard times come. In my arrogance and ignorance I assume that because *I* see no immediate purpose in the suffering, there isn't one. Or I believe that the cost is too high, the collateral damage too great--forgetting that He has in mind not only my ultimate good, but Steve's and Elijah's as well, and that He knows far better than I do what will serve them, too.

I don't know anyone who longs for trials. Wouldn't we all, if left to ourselves, choose lives of comfort and ease and abundant blessings (blessings that are obviously blessings, not blessings-in-disguise)? Yet the hard truth is that the deepest growth comes through suffering. With the clarity of hindsight, I know that my most profound lessons have come in dark seasons. And I've seen others grow more beautiful through their grief and pain. Just this morning I was reading the blog of someone I met recently and seeing the beauty of Christ in her--beauty that has come through unimaginable sorrow.

Trials don't just serve us personally. Think about which makes God look more glorious, more satisfying: a believer who praises Him for a godly spouse, wonderful children, food and shelter and an exciting job--or a believer who praises Him from a prison cell, widowed, cut off from family, shivering and starving?

I'm not suggesting we should wish for prison (or that we shouldn't praise God for His good gifts). But I am exhorting myself to embrace the trials God sends my way as opportunities to grow, opportunities to find deeper satisfaction in Him and see His name magnified through me. I pray that He will forgive me for failing to trust Him in trials, for crumpling in unbelief instead of standing firm in my identity as His daughter, in the promise that I am MORE than a conqueror.

Stay tuned for another Mega Memory Month post coming later today--as well as an exciting giveaway later this week!


Anonymous said...

Wow. You can preach it, Amy! Testimony-meets-teaching in this excellent post. I appreciated everything from the Piper quote to your own admissions of how you both celebrate and struggle with this passage.

I'm so honored to have your posts associated with Mega Memory Month. You provide such thoughtful entries and depth as well as encouragement and joy. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I think this is the best (and maybe only) explanation of a phrase I've never understood ('more than conquerors). Thanks.

Wouldn't ya know, though, when I read the title with "Subjugation" written by you, I was immediately thinking, "Conjugation" and said to m'self, "Yay!
Another English grammar post!" What a nerd I am.

Amy said... KNOW I am your grammar girl, Zo :) unfortunately I must confess that I would have to look up "conjugation." I have a foggy idea what it is...but I never had a formal grammar class, so although I have a great understanding of grammar, I never learned some of the technical terms!

total credit to Piper for the explanation of "more than conquerors." I had never really understood it, either, until I read DWYL a couple of years ago and was blown away by the way he explained it. it has really stuck with me ever since. glad it was helpful to you!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Amy. I'm on verse 11 of Ps. 19, so I should be done by the 31st!

Esther said...

Amy, I'm so glad you are a part of MMM. I swing by whenever I need an uplifting kick in the pants...thanks for your insightful post this week. Very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Very encouraging post. I was thinking similar thoughts as I read Exodus this past week. God said it was for His glory, but the suffering was too much and the Israelites preferred slavery. I need to remember that I could be that close to big glory for God, if I can just rest in Him and keep going.