“…those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29) 

“…we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) 

High Blantyre Baptist Church celebrates its 127th Anniversary this weekend. Our speaker is my faithful friend and one of my prayer partners, Nigel Heath (and former SBC Chair of Governors). The two of us trained for ministry together and between us have seven decades of ministerial service. We still meet weekly to pray for one another. I doubt that either of us could have survived as long in ministry without the discipline and support of that enduring prayer partnership. We have exhorted and encouraged and rebuked and challenged one another in ministry over the years.  

As we met this week we reflected together on where we have both come from and where we are both going, and on what we each were before meeting Christ and on what we yet want to become in Him. After all these years in ministry, we both still have the same goal: to be more Christ-like. We want to be more conformed to His image. We want to reflect Him ever more cleanly and clearly. We want to be more like Him in nature and character and essence and attitude. We want to be more like Him in our pastoring and preaching. We still want ourselves to become less visible so that He becomes more visible. 

As we thought about all we have come through, we began to reflect though on what that desire has brought us in our lives and how costly it has been and where it might yet lead us. We recognised that some of our most profound moments of becoming more Christ-like and of having His image formed in us have not been through our joys but through our sorrows. They have been less through our triumphs and more through our defeats. Less through seasons of success and more through seasons of failure. Less through days of pleasure and more through days of pain. 

Yes: we still long to be more Christ-like. But we both know enough to realise – and accept – that such a prayer and longing may actually be answered through a share in Christ’s sufferings. Pope John Paul, in an address on a visit to Australia in 1986, declared “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” How true that is. But to be truly Easter people, risen and triumphant, the route to glory may first pass through the cross and the tomb. So be it, Lord. My prayer is that you may share that same desire to be more Christ-like. (And that you are also blessed with prayer partners like mine!)