"...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death..." Philippians 3:10
Two people have taken this passage of Scripture, and lived it out in front of me. Through their own suffering, they have taught me more about it than all the other commentaries or communicators combined. One has been my father, Don Miller. The other has been my wife, Dana. Let me explain.
Every January, Dad and Mom select a "Verse for the Year, as a guiding light for their lives from God's Word. As I prepared to return to resume my seminary studies in Fort Worth, Dad shared with me that Philippians 3:10 was their focus for 1975.
Dad and I were having a cup of coffee together at the breakfast table in the parsonage of their home on Long Island New, York. I was about to leave to get a jump on the heavy commuter traffic through NYC. Before I headed out the door Dad read these words and prayed for me. They didn't become significant until a was back in Texas.
Not long after my return, I received a call from one of the Deacons reporting that Dad's colon had burst, and he had been taken to the ER. This would be the first of five life-saving surgeries that would take place over the next two years. The next time I saw Dad was Easter Sunday. In just a few short months he had dropped down to less than 90 pounds, and his condition left him unable to preach for a year. His appearance was shocking when compared to the robust, healthy man I had seen in January.
Over the the next two years of incredible suffering, Dad invested his pain into intimate communication with The Father. Prayer was not an adhesive band-aid he put on the crisis of the day. Prayer became his blood transfusion for courageous living. His personal fellowship with Jesus in prayer, fanned the flame of his love for The Father, and launched one of the most effective prayer ministries this nation has ever seen. Thanks Dad.
My wife, Dana was diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer in March 2008. Her willingness to embrace Jesus as her constant Champion and maintain consistent companionship with Him, gave her the courage to engage in hand to hand combat with this ferocious and relentless enemy. She has called this six year war her "Great Adventure." I have been humbled to walk by her side through this battle. I have not risen to her level of courage or positive perspective, but I am proud to call her my "Great Lady." Thanks Dana. I want to be like you when I grow up.
Watching my Dad, and my wife deal with incredible suffering by investing it in intimate communication with The Father has made this verse of Scripture come alive for me. Each of them, in their own way, turned to prayer as the world class weapon in the battle against the evil they were facing.
Rather than allow pain to rob them of The Presence of Christ, they invested their pain to gain a new level of intimacy with Christ. This fresh fellowship with Him is available to all, but released only to those who pray their way to The Father in the name of The Son.
There is a field-tested athletic slogan that has inspired millions to play through the pain, "No Pain. No Gain." It is not without merit, and those who pray through the pain of life will find it surprisingly applicable to their experience.
Note to self: Life is not a game where the competitors are urged on by their coach to, "Play with pain!" Life is spiritual warfare. You can count on this. it is not painless. Don't play with pain. Pray with pain! The first effort squanders it. The second effort invests it. To get your second wind, pray with pain.
Suffering is rooted in a Greek word that becomes transliterated in English as pathos. It is the passion of the soul that is released by external or internal affliction. Nothing fans the flame of intimate communication with The Father quite like suffering. Nothing gains the ear of The Father quite like the cry of His child. Praying in pain is not a waste of time, and it is not lost on The Father. Those who do it find themselves empowered and refreshed.
Prayer is the "honest to God" expression of pain that every child has the freedom to make known to The Father in the name of The Son, and through the power of The Spirit. Paul found that suffering did two things in his life. It released the dynamic, explosive life-giving power of the resurrection, and developed a fresh fellowship with Jesus that left him with heart-warming affection for his Savior.
God save us from preachers and people who want the power of the resurrection, but don't invest their time in intimate fellowship with The Savior. Cold-blooded preaching and man-made churches may be death-defying, but they will only be life-giving when the blood of Jesus not only saves them, but it warms their heart with a love for Him and an affection for others.
"The power of the resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" are evidence of a prayer warrior properly aligned next to The Champion, and personally infused with a blood transfusion for courageous living. Prayer focuses the warrior on a code of combat that embraces death without fearing it. Victory comes by..."Being conformed to the image of His death."
Talking about the enemy and the battle only increases the warrior's fear of both. Praying brings prayer warriors closer to The Champion in the line of battle, and strikes fear in the enemy camp. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!