Reading: Mark 10:35-39; Matthew 26:27, 28, 39, 42; Luke 22:20; John 18:11; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:26
already kindled! But, I have a baptism to undergo, and how
distressed I am until it is completed! (Luke 12:49, 50 NIV)
Read these passages then read the last passage. In it the Lord marries the cup and the fire, and what He has joined together let no man put asunder. There is no way to get around the indication that the scattering of the fire is linked to and dependent on the drinking of the cup. In these words we can find a spiritual law which can be viewed through time, and that is, that where there has been no cup there has been no fire. Where you find the cup you will find the fire. Start with the very first assembly of believers and trace through history the persecutions, the sufferings of God’s people and you will find the progress of His Word and His Body, the Church. It is apparent that in the Church today there has been a divorce between the cup and the fire. But, in the very heart of God’s purpose there is a cup and it is only by drinking this cup that there is any real Spiritual maturity. If we drink the cup we can be assured we will mature. It is a spiritual law.
It won’t take you long to see where I’m going with this, if you haven’t guessed already. Do you see the conflict with the average Christian today? “What is all this stuff about a cup that we have to drink?” “Is this suffering he’s talking about?” “Ha? I signed up for peace and love, and joy and hope, and life and liberty!” “I was told I could have it all, today, without all that old fashioned modernist view of suffering.” Today we have given birth to millions of Christians who are near sighted. What they see is the short view of abbreviated Christianity, but that is the new improved gospel of our day; it is another gospel, not the Gospel of the Apostles. On the other side of joy and love and peace and hope is another realm which does not contradict the first, but is characterized by suffering. Jesus took the two and married them. “He took the cup and gave thanks”—it says, “He gave thanks.” He blessed the cup and wedded joy with sorrow; we have that fellowship with His suffering. We can have rest and peace and hope in the presence of our enemies; isn’t that the message of the 23rd Psalm?
It is important that we clear away the fog on this matter or we will be in big trouble later when our ill conceived house falls on our heads. Many more make a mental assent to suffering but really think and often argue that Christianity should be an unbroken chain of happy events; one continuous, long playing, lighthearted, joyful, tiptoeing-through-the-tulips, never frowning, always smiling, kind-of-life. If it isn’t all of this and more then Christianity has obviously failed, and something has gone wrong somewhere. If this is how you think, then you have misread your New Testament! On the opposite side there is the farsighted Christian who thinks that the righteous life is all about suffering, and this view is wrong also; it’s a marriage, a mingling of the sweetness and the sorrow. Don’t be afraid of joy; make the best of those times of great joy and laughter; it’s like a spiritual R & R.
This cup, along with sweetness, is an apparent contradiction, but we must realize that it is not a natural thing; it is not something to be understood by those looking in from the outside. It is not for them, it is for you and for me. We can understand, when the Spirit pushes back the veil, parts the fog, and we gaze upon the One we love and we say along with Paul—“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10), or Peter—“rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:6-8). Some way, some how, we must get to this point; we must recognize the quality of the material, the pricelessness of the weave of the garment of which we are being clothed, one continuous, seamless garment called the Church. This Christian life is not superficial or shallow, it is vast, and it has a cup right at the core, it is the very heart of the matter. We must not look at those who sorrow with downcast eyes, as if they were intruding on our pleasure, for that is their time of sorrow and ours. If we are having a cloudless day and all is well don’t look down on the person who is having a tough time, his darkness is only temporary, there is nothing wrong with their Christianity. If we are the ones having the hard time, be patient with those who are not. Bring these together in your heart and know that they are different sides of the same coin; they are not two different things, they are one.