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"No Thorn, no Throne"

Apr 08 2011

Pragmatism is defined as: "An approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application."  In other words, something is true if it works.  How often when working with teens, talking to incarcerated persons, or even in my own moment of vulnerability, do I hear, "I tried Jesus (or prayer, or doing what's right, etc.) and it didn't work."  How do Christians come to grips with that, when, in truth, doing things God's way often doesn't seem to work?

First of all, we need to define what it means to 'work'.  We need to ask,"What is God's definition of success?"  Romans 5 tells us that suffering leads to perseverence, which leads to character, which leads to hope.  God's definition of success, then, isn't an absence of suffering or difficulties, but a hope that doesn't fail.  In truth, that kind of hope only comes as a result of suffering.  to quote William Penn, "No pain, no palm; no thorn, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown."

We also need to consider God's eternal perspective.  Success, even as defined by God, is very different from immediate success.  Did Joseph, in the Old Testament, see how things were working out when he was buried in a ditch in the wilderness by his jealous brothers?  It took many years before that incident came to 'work out' in the saving of the entire Hebrew race.  God is in no rush.  In fact, that same passage in Romans 5 seems to imply that there will usually be a passage of time between the trial and the resolution to the trial.  The word perseverence implies a long time of sufferings.  By definition, persevering for five minutes, or five hours or five days isn't really persevering at all.

Is God pragmatic?  That depends on whether or not we let God define 'success', or if we accept our cultures definition.  "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."

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