What is Christ doing in his church? What are the ways that we should interpret the--sometimes dark--providences of God in building, reforming, censuring, or comforting the church? We are not as skilled as we ought to be in judging the work of Jesus in our midst; and that's always been the case.
Isaiah 53:4b says, "..yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." This verse demonstrates that when each of God's people first look upon Jesus, we misjudged the work. You saw the savior stricken of God, and yet it was for your salvation, because of your transgression.
Meditating on this verse, James Durham (1622-58) said that this verse stands as a great application, or use, when considering what Jesus is doing in his church. Sometimes we see things that are not there and we misinterpret what Christ is doing among us. Durham writes, this verse is:
"to teach us, when we are ready to pass censure on Christ's work, to stand still...to correct ourselves... [Christ] gets much wrong[ed] as to his public work, as if he were cruel, when indeed he is merciful; as if he had forgotten us, when indeed he remembers us still; and as to his private work in particular persons, as if he did fail in his promise when he is most faithful, and bringing it about in his own way.
It is a warning to us to not take up hard constructions of Christ; nor to misconstruct his work... How many think that he is breaking, when he is binding up; that he is wounding, when he is healing; that he is destroying, when he is humbling? Therefore we would suspend passing censure till he come to the end and close of his work, and not judge it by halves. And then we shall see there was no such ground for misconstructing of him, who is every day holding on in his own way; and steadily pursuing the same end that he did from the beginning... To him [be] praise forever." Christ Crucified, 22.242-243.
It seems almost weekly that discouraging news of comes from various corners of Christ's Church. Apostasy, discipline, closures, resignations, and divisions all cause much suffering in the heart and mind of the one who loves Christ. Has God cast off forever? Has he forgotten grace? Has his mercy been undone?
Let that not cause you to "pass censure" on Christ, for you only can "judge it by halves." Jesus is doing a glorious work, even in the midst of these discouragements.
Be mindful: when you first looked at Christ you saw a man that was disciplined of God; smitten and stuck. By the Spirit of God you saw that it was because of your transgression and your iniquity; you saw life!
You judged it by halves.
I look forward to seeing the church in all her glory. Sometimes I see "stricken by God" when I should see "loved beyond measure."
To him be praise forever.