Salvation is instant, but sanctification is a process.
- Vlad Savchuk
Our salvation is a one-time event. Our sanctification, on the other hand, is a moment-by-moment process that does not end until we leave this earth. From the moment we receive God’s gift of salvation, He begins to work in our lives through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.
Do we remember the robber that was executed the same time as Christ?
The “Penitent Thief”, also known as the Thief on the Cross or the Good Thief, is the unnamed character mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. He was crucified alongside Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him, when he came into his kingdom, unlike his companion the Impenitent Thief.
In the Gospel of Luke, we are told that during Our Blessed Lord’s crucifixion, there were two other men suffering the same death, one to either side of Him. The one to Christ’s right has become known as the “Good Thief,” while the one to His left is referred to as the “Unrepentant Thief.”
While the Gospels do not mention specific names, tradition tells us the Good Thief was named Saint Dismas, and the Unrepentant Thief, Gestas.
While both men were suffering the same gruesome execution and were both in the presence of Christ, their reactions to their situation are quite different. Gestas reviles Our Lord and says, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us.” (Lk. 23:39) Gestas asks to come down from his cross.
But Dismas does not ask to be taken down. Dismas rebukes Gestas and proclaims Christ’s innocence, and in one of the most startling and beautiful moments of the Gospel, does not ask to be taken down from his sure and painful death. He asks, instead, to be taken up with Christ, saying “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Lk 23:42). Jesus replies to Saint Dismas saying, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
This is the lesson of Saint Dismas, who accepted his cross, and placed his hope not in this world, but in the promise of the next. Which of these two are you?
So here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you.
What Does the Bible Say?
In a practical sense, there are 4 things the Bible teaches on how to lay down the burdens.
Take a look at Philippians 4:67 (NLT). “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then, you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ, Jesus.”
How to Pray
There are four steps in these verses that give us clear direction on how to experience this precious peace and light burden that Jesus promised.
1. Don’t worry about anything. The Scripture does not say not to worry about anything, except if you have cancer, a really difficult life, a broken heart, legal trouble, a death in the family, financial challenges, or any number of other things. It says not to worry about anything. Now, this one is hard. Most of us have been conditioned to worry since we were small children. You likely heard your parents say things that exhibited worry and fret. It’s the way of the world and certainly what we’ve been conditioned to do. But the Holy Spirit gives us self-control. We can control our thought-life. When worry enters your mind, commit to training your thought-life to immediately respond, “Nope, this is not how I have been created. I am not a creature of worry. I am a creature of faith.” It must be your constant prayer.
2. Pray about everything. In Philippians 4:6, it begins with “instead.” In other words, in lieu of. Instead of choosing to worry about things, choose to pray about everything. Detail the nuances of your life before your Father. Tell Him about the challenges you face. Tell Him about the fears that keep resurfacing. He cares about the things that concern you. Bring them before Him. Pray about everything and then give it to Him in trust that He’ll handle it. Stop talking about it to others. Stop obsessing over it. Stop letting it consume your days, thought life, and peace. Mom, we can’t handle it. We aren’t big enough, smart enough, or powerful enough. But oh, how our Heavenly Father is!
In the midst of the chaos, and all of the things you may have going on the season you’re in, we are bringing light and praying for joy over each and every one of your lives. Check out Finding Joy Again by Jennifer Maggio today to start the process!
3. Tell God what you need. Be specific. Father, I need money for rent this month. I’ve been working faithfully, and the medical bills have mounted. Help me to see Your hand in this. Move a mountain. Tell Him and then have the faith to see Him do it. Be consistent, persistent, and insistent. You have access to the very throne of God. You are the head and not the tail. You are a city on a hill. Your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Is anything too hard for Him? Of course not. Keep talking. Keep seeking. Keep praying.
4. Thank Him for all He’s done. Begin to praise the past provision. Thank Him for His faithfulness, His sustaining power, His grace, and His death on the cross. Begin with the details of your life. Thank Him for your car, housing, children, friends, church, and safety. Thank Him for your health, your spouse, your family, and your job. The list of gratitude should be endless. Fill your spirit with that of thanksgiving and praise. Begin to worship Him in all His goodness. Despite the problems you face, He is good and faithful. Despite the heartache you fill, He is still the healer, the peace-giver, and the sustainer of all things. Despite your weakness and feelings of being unable to move on, He is strength. Keep thanking Him.
And do you know what the Bible says after all that? “Then you will experience God’s peace.” It is after those 4 steps that you experience that peace that exceeds anything we can understand. As we condition our hearts and minds to fully surrender to these four steps, we begin to see God’s hand at work in those difficult areas of our lives. Now, I don’t pretend to tell you that building this habit is an easy one, particularly if you’ve had decades to practice worry! But it is an attainable one.
As Believers, we have hope that the world doesn’t have. We have peace gifted to us through Jesus. If we are bundled on a floor somewhere like a woman with no hope every time challenges come, then what makes us different than the unbelievers?! We have the treasure trove of goodness before us! This world is hard, messy, and sometimes heavy. But the promise that as we continue to seek God’s will and His Kingdom, we will have special rest is truth for our lives. Begin to pray about this even now that God would give you the self-control to stop the worrying, the patience to wait on a solution to the problem, and the faith to continue pressing in and believing, even when everything around you seems to scream otherwise.
Be reminded that He, who promises, is faithful. Be reminded that the same God who rescued you from THAT thing – that thing in your past that was hard and heavy – will, in fact, rescue you from THIS thing. It won’t be in your timing or your way, but it will be perfect. And the best part? The end result is always beauty for the ashes of hurt, pain, and disappointment. The end result is always better than we could’ve orchestrated.