About two years ago, I went to my annual eye exam and was told that my vision required the use of bifocals. I found this to be an odd diagnosis because while my eyes were tired after reading, for the most part, I could see quite well. However, I went to an “expert,” and I figured he knew better than I. After I got my new glasses, however, I could not see as clearly as I could without wearing glasses. When I told people of this problem, they replied that I just needed to get used to them. So, I gave it about another week before going back to the eye doctor with my complaints. When I went back to him, I got a new eye exam, and he told me that he gave me the wrong prescription and that I did NOT need bifocals. I was both relieved and frustrated. I was relieved because it confirmed what I knew, and frustrated because it was costly for time and resources.
In reflecting over this experience, I cannot help to think that this is the process by which many of us develop our theology. The dictionary defines “theology” as the “study of the nature of God and religious belief.” Most of the time we are given a theology, like a prescription, by an “expert.” The experts that we rely upon are our family, clergy, media, etc. We rely on their "expertise" in helping us sort out our theology. Once we get our prescribed theology, we may not be comfortable with questioning the diagnosis. However, the prescribed theology is just like a pair of glasses, in that it can enhance or distort our view of the world. We are ultimately responsible to question and seek the right diagnosis, especially if we notice that there is not a good fit, regardless of our how others may want us to just accept it.
In thinking about my religious upbringing, I was not taught or encouraged to question matters of faith. It shouldn’t surprise you that I remember my pastor getting frustrated with me when I started questioning him in youth group. He replied to my questions that I was just “being difficult.” However, I did have questions that were not being answered. I was told to take the glasses of others and put them on to perceive matters of faith—and it just did not fit! Perhaps the “theological glasses” fit for them, but it did not fit for me. I had questions and continue to have questions concerning theology, but I have learned that I must challenge the lenses I have been given to understand theological matters—because the lens might not fit.
In Philippians 2:12, Paul instructs us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Theological matters are works in progress that requires us to work at seeing things clearer. It is always alarming to me when people are so confident in theological matters, especially given what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (AMP): For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. We are in the process of receiving progressive revelations of God’s truth and we do not see it clearly at first. It takes time to see it clearly and the only way for it to happen is for us to get closer to Jesus, who is our light and our truth.
Jesus is the LIVING WORD! Jesus illuminates the meaning of the scripture that shapes our theology. In Mark 8:22-25, we read about Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus heals him, but the change in his vision takes time. After Jesus spits in the man’s eyes and put’s his hands on him, the man opens his eyes and sees, but not clearly. Jesus lays his hands on his eyes again and it says, “Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” The man could have been content with being able to see distortions, after all this was better than being blind; however, he went back to the great physician to see clearly! Think about the stages we see in the passage: before Jesus the man was blind, the first healing restored sight, and the last healing truly opened his eyes! I can’t help but to think how we are like the blind man and how many of us are walking around with distorted vision, distorted theology, because we think we are seeing clearly because an expert told us that this is how it is. But what if we have the wrong lenses through which we are viewing God and His leading. The Pharisees had the wrong lens and it resulted in them missing out on embracing Jesus. He states in John 5:39, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” In other words, the only way to read the scriptures is through the lenses of Jesus.
One final note about lenses and theology. Most of us should go for an eye exam every year because our vision changes as we get older. The old glasses don’t work as well as they used to and we need an adjustment in our lenses. Likewise, matters of faith will change as we get older. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” It is good and healthy to challenge the lenses through which we perceive theological matters, as well as matters of the world. One of the things that I appreciate about international travel is to see the world through a different cultures perspective. I enjoy dialoguing with those of other faith perspectives because I value the opportunity for an “I” exam, as my beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes are challenged. I value my religious upbringing; I just wish they encouraged me to challenge “my vision” by openly questioning “their vision.” May we be a community that invites questions and embraces the mystery of faith. While we look at things through different lenses, we, like Paul, resolve to know only one thing with certainty--Jesus Christ and His crucifixion for us (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In John 20: 6-7 (NIV) it tells us of the account of Jesus’ resurrection. It says, “He,” meaning Peter, “Saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.”
As followers of Jesus, we receive His glory in exchange for our grave clothes. The grave clothes are in the empty tomb to represent our old self that was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Jesus didn’t take the old clothes with Him and neither should we!
One of the primary reasons that we do not enjoy the Christian life is because we are still carrying around the baggage associated with the old way of living. Either we cannot or will not give up the baggage. Sometimes, we are addicted to a victim mentality and we are scared of what might happen when we give it up. We can allow our wounds and scars to define us. It is impossible to be a new creation as long as we hold on to the old.
How did Jesus take off the old? Scripture records that the head cloth was carefully folded in the grave indicating that it was not removed in an erratic fashion; rather, it was removed intentionally and methodically. Likewise, we need to allow Jesus to remove our grave clothes in the same manner (Ephesians 4:22-32). We may be a mess, but Jesus can handle it! We just need to let Him work in our lives and daily make a decision to take off the old and put on the new. Rome was not built in a day, and we will not be straightened out in a day. But, thank God that as long as we are on our way, God sees the finished product!
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV): “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” No longer are we wearing our old clothes, but we are clothed with Christ. So God no longer says when He looks at us, “Oh, look at that mess.” Rather, He says, “Look at my Son, Jesus.” We’re clothed in Christ! Remember, your past does not define you- Jesus defines you!
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" -Colossians 3:1-2
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to set our minds on heavenly things and to pursue the agenda of the Kingdom. As followers of Jesus we are told to think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8). However, many of us allow our minds to focus on the temporary things of life, which distract us from focusing on the things that actually matter. This distraction is many times welcomed in our lives because it keeps us from examining the meaning of our lives. The old adage is: "Ignorance is bliss." We allow the tyranny of the mundane to keep us from pursuing heavenly excellence.
We keep ourselves from really thinking too deeply about the meaning of life and the meaning of existence; in dealing with the low hanging fruit in our lives, we hope to avoid addressing the questions that really matter about our existence. We allow the tyranny of the mundane to keep us from recognizing the truth in and for our lives. It is only when we are confronted with truth that we are able to be free (John 8:32). But with truth and freedom comes responsibility. We choose ignorance in an attempt to abdicate responsibility, but willful ignorance comes at a high cost. To avoid the truth is to deny it.
Without meaning, we are without purpose, and without purpose, we have no idea if our lives are off course. Generally, it is when we are facing a challenge to existence (life/death) that we finally begin to think about such matters. However, at this point, it is really too late to question the meaning of existence because we have already allowed a meaningful life to slip past us.
We do not like to think and so we welcome distraction. Our aversion toward thinking is rooted primarily in two things: laziness and fear. Thinking involves work--and most of us would rather leave that to others. But thinking also brings about fear because we realize how much we do not know. We have a desire for stability in the things that we do know. However, that security begins to weaken in the light of the impressive expanse of the things that we do not know. Rather than embracing the unknown, we cleave to our small worlds of what is "known." All too often, we are like those chained to the wall in Plato's "Allegory of the Den."
Real knowledge, coupled with wisdom, will humble us. This humility drives us to our knees in the sight of a God who knows it all. Humility is a stark contrast from the boasts of this world, which seems to believe that it has everything figured out. When I think of the depth of what I do not know, it drives to seek out the ONE who does know it all. I do not need to have it figured out if I stick with the one who does. He leads us into all truth (John 16:33), but we must first seek Him (Matthew 6:33) with all of our heart AND mind.
The Apostle Paul writes to the young evangelist Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Often we are seeking after happiness, only to find that it is a moving destination. While God, as a good Father, wants His children to be happy, He ultimately wants us to be content. Why? Happiness is circumstantial and temporary, but contentment is a firm foundation that will allow us to remain “strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). God wants us to build our life upon the rock of the Gospel of truth and not the shifting sands of feelings.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us of two builders, one builds his house on the rock, and the other builds his house on the sand. Both houses look great, but the storm comes! “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against” the houses (v. 25 & 27), and Jesus tells us that the house built on sand crashed. The storms come to both the wise and foolish builder. Storms are inevitable, but are we prepared? If we are basing the direction of our life on feelings, then it is the equivalent to building upon the sand. According to Dr. Ken Rubin of the University of Hawaii: “Beaches are temporary features. There is always sand being removed and sand being added to them. Often, they change drastically during the year, depending upon the frequency of storms. Ultimately, a beach erodes because the supply of sand to the beach cannot keep up with the loss of sand to the sea.” A life on a foundation of sands cannot expect to remain stable.
The question is not if the storms will come, but will we be able to withstand the storms of life. Jesus tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When the storms come, God wants to understand that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It is our faith, not our feelings, that gives us the ability to overcome the world (1 John 5:4).
In this world a simple principle exists: whatever you feed lives and whatever you do not feed dies. Are we feeding our faith or are we feeding our feelings? Are we maturing in our faith or “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6)? God wants us to be mature and strong in Him through faith. Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”
Maturity does not come with age but Godly wisdom applied consistently in our lives. Maturity is the ability to delay instant gratification for a desired long-term goal. Often times we stop focusing on the foundation of contentment for the quick fix of “happiness.” An addict will give up anything for a fix of drugs. Many of us have given up much for the quick fix of happy. We have traded away long-term contentment and joy to meet the “needs” of the moment. The writer of Proverbs states, "As the dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (26:11). How many times do we go back to the same thing or do the same thing and expect a different result? Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
My dog throws up from time to time, but she is always polite and cleans it up by eating it. While it is gross, what sickens me even more is when she tries to kiss me afterward. No one wants to be kissed by someone or something thing that has vomit breath. And yet, how many of us have the spiritual stench of vomit on our lives because of our poor choices? Our lives should not stink. Rather, we are told by Paul: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
God allows the storms to mature us so that we will focus on what really matters: the foundation. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." If we do not grow in our faith, we will return to what we once knew: a life without a foundation. God does not want us repeating the same pattern of behaviors; He wants us to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It is my prayer that we will begin to focus less on the storms and more on the lessons they can teach us about ourselves. Maya Angelou wrote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Irish writer, Frank O’Connor, told the story of two boys standing beside a tall orchard wall launching a small, felt, round object up in the air like a Frisbee. If you had been there to see them, it would have looked strange—even foolish. With the enthusiasm of a college graduate, one of the boys hurls his hat and you arrive just in time to see it leave the hand of its owner and travel high—up and over an imposing and significant wall. You might have wanted to call out and say, “Why did you do that? Now you are going to have to climb over and get it!” To which, the boys would reply with sly and knowing grins, “Exactly. That’s the whole idea.” I appreciate this story because it teaches us to not only dream big dreams but actually to dare to do the impossible. Often, our thoughts on focused on small matters, which not only depletes us of our energy and diverts our attention, but it keeps us from achieving great things for the Kingdom of God.
We worry over money, careers, current events, and even sports. Our worry may seem justifiable from a worldly perspective, but not according to the directives in Holy Scripture. Worrying robs us of our power to move mountains and is a sin against God. Jesus instructs us not to worry “about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matt. 6:25) because our “heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (v. 32). Our job is to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” and the result will be that the small matters will be taken care of by our Father (v. 33). God wants our trust as an expression of our faith (Heb. 11:6), but there is another reason that He tells us not to worry: it robs us of our daily grace. Each day we are apportioned an amount of grace (James 4:6) and that grace is to be combined with our faith to be used for great things. Worry diverts our energy from the great to the mundane.
What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom as Jesus commands? First, it is the recognition that Jesus is King and we are to do what He tells us to do through His Word and His Spirit. Jesus tells us to do what He did while He was here on earth. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). What an awesome responsibility and privilege to join in the redemptive work of Christ and do even greater things that He did while here on earth. What did he do on earth? According to Acts 10:38 (NLT): “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The Spirit came upon Jesus to do GOOD for others. When we worry then, we are using our spiritual energies on the futile and mundane. We are unable to change circumstances through worry and we are unable to be used to do the good work that God has planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Often our energies are exhausted on mundane matters because we do not see them as such. The dictionary defines mundane as “of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one.” Jesus tells us that this world will pass away. Therefore, we should be investing our energies in the eternal matters of His kingdom (Matthew 6:19). Kingdom focus puts this world in perspective. We lose perspective when we lose our focus.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to be distracted by the small things because it affords us a convenient excuse to ignore the larger matters. We actually welcome distraction and worry because we get the appearance of doing something while actually doing nothing. Here is an example: “I can’t serve right now because I have so many issues going on in my life. I just can’t do it.” This excuse is used so many times that I just do not even pay it mind because here is the truth: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is always going to be problems, but we have been given the strength to overcome them so that we can continue to work for the King rather than demanding the King work for us. Distraction leads to inaction or misdirected energies. We try to manipulate small matters because it seems to impossible actually to do something BIG. One commentator summarized Pope Francis’ message during a United States trip: “resist the tyranny of the unchangeable.” We should never believe that positive change is not possible. Jesus tells us “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God wants to do the impossible through YOU—are you willing to toss your cap over the wall?
The question that I continually face is “Am I willing to lay down my life so that others may live?” This is a terribly haunting and troubling question. What does it really mean to lay down one’s life? Is it just a matter of giving up a heartbeat for another, or is it also allowing one’s heart to break, so that others may live? I tend to think it is to be willing for both to happen, not only for our friends, but also for our enemies. The death of Jesus represents both concepts in regards to laying down one’s life. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
In 2013, God sent me two treks to begin to show me what this means. He sent me to Kenya to look into the eyes of the orphaned, and He sent me to our streets to look through the eyes of the homeless. Through these experiences, He broke my heart. He showed me how apart from His grace, that I too am spiritually orphaned and homeless. He then called me to give more of my life “so that others may live.”
Recently, I was led to the story of Esther, who was a Jewish queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus. She was out of place, and living between two different worlds—of the Jews and the Persians. Her uncle, Mordecai, informed Esther of a decree that would exterminate the Jews. Esther was reluctant to speak because of her fear of the King, but Mordecai replied to her: “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14). I believe I was led to this passage because I am frequently concerned about things, and yet, I do not speak up.
I am concerned that we as a corporate “Church” are shutting the “door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces” (Matthew 23:13). The church is quick to recite John 3:16, but neglects to understand the amazing teaching found in the next verse: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This verse is further illuminated in John 12:32, when Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Notice that the message of God’s son is not condemnation, but acceptance for everyone! The Church, which bears the name of Christ, must share in dispensing the amazing grace and unconditional love that He demonstrated in His life, teachings, and death.
The love of Jesus is incarnational and we are called to model it! Incarnational love means that we model the spirit of Christ as found in Philippians 2:1-11, and engage in the ministry described in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus did wait for people to come to Him, but He came to us! He came not to condemn, but to love and to show us the Father. He came to heal us and to sanctify us! Jesus tells us:"Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus came to tear down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14), and to “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). And, Paul exhorts us to be Christ’s ambassadors as we continue in the similar ministry of reconciliation! (2 Cor. 5:20).
“Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” –Job 11:7 Many of us enjoy a good mystery novel, television show, or movie because we enjoy the suspense and intrigue this genre has to offer. It is my guess that most of us revel in trying to figure it all out to see if in the end our suspicions prove correct. Our enjoyment of a mystery is predicated upon the conclusion of the mystery—we want to know what happened! We want an end to the mystery that will help us make sense of the story’s journey. Sometimes, if you are like me, we will seek to know the conclusion before we reach it because we just cannot take the suspense of not knowing.
Our human nature is not comfortable with mystery and ambiguity. We are addicted to reasoning and to understand the: who, what, where, when, why, and how of situations and circumstances. Job was a man who lost so much and asked many questions. His friends and wife were of no comfort. His wife told him, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" (2:9). His friends sought to rationalize through blame because there had to be something that Job had done to be on the receiving end of so much pain. Finally, Job gets an audience with God, and we think, “Now, Job will get some answers.” But Job does not get answers from God, rather he gets questions posed by the Almighty in Chapters 38-41: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers” (38:2-3 Message).
God uses the questions to allow Job to reach this conclusion:
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” (42:1-6 Message)
Job does not get answers to his questions, but a revelation of truth!
Humankind’s first sin was to rebel against God and eat of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. The serpent tricked us when he said: “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). The serpent exposed a divine curiosity within us that when coupled with pride could have disastrous consequences. Since the garden, we have attempted to use reason to put God into the box that fits comfortably within the limits of our rationality. As much as we may try, God refuses to be placed in a box and refuses to allow us to remain comfortable with what we think we know about Him. In Isaiah 29:14, God declares through the prophet: “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
Our curiosity is a divine spark within us, but only when handled properly. God frustrates us by opposing our pride so that we can be in the best place to have a revelation of the truth. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). God wants us to seek wisdom and knowledge in Him and through Him, but we must remember that He does not work for us rather we work for Him! In Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) He invites us to reason together—with Him! But we must exercise humility recognizing that truth in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Curiosity combined with pride lead to destruction; whereas, curiosity and humility lead to revelation. We must seek truth when we seek Christ (John 14:6). But we must let Jesus, be Jesus! We will receive revelation—that is the truth for us and for this time—when we seek God with all of our hearts and minds in love and through faith. We must be prepared for unanswered questions and respond in faith (trust and obedience in action). Keep asking questions, challenging assumptions, and the status quo, and allow yourself to be open to a fresh awakening of God’s movement around us. We may not know all the answers, but we know that in the end—LOVE WINS!
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:22-33
There are two characteristics that should not be part of the Christian life: anger and despair. And yet, many of us as followers of Jesus are consistently plagued by these two emotional states. Despair is prevalent in our society today, and it is especially prevalent also within God's chosen people, which should not be.
There are many problems facing us that make cause the feelings of anger and despair. As a community, we are facing unprecedented times. We're facing financial difficulties. We're facing spiritual difficulties. We're facing physical health issues. We're facing family issues. We're dealing with all kinds of issues. We all have problems. We're all messed up.
A Christian is not one that has it all together. A Christian recognizes their brokenness and the healing and fullness of Jesus. Thank God that He loves us just the way that we are, but He's not going to leave us that way. God is always at work within our lives even when we don't see it (John 5:17). We know that the Father loves us, that He has a good and perfect plan for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28).
The reason we get a downcast soul is because we get our eyes off of Jesus and we look to the problems and troubles of our lives. In Psalm 43:5 we read the Psalmist reminding himself, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” The Psalmist is recognizing his brokenness, but also reminding Himself of the promises of God. Sometimes we need to give ourselves time to have a pity party, but then we need to move on.
When we are meditating on our problems, rather than His promises, then our problems start to overtake our faith. We start looking at our checkbook over and over and saying “Lord, how am I going to pay the bills?” We look at how big the giant is or how big our storms and this begins to overwhelm us. We become overwhelmed because we don’t necessarily have the emotional and spiritual depth the be able to recognize what the real problem is: lack of perspective (Psalm 46:5). When we face despair, we need to turn our direction toward Jesus; rather than continuing to focus on our problems.
Hebrew 6:19 tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” You know why we need an anchor? We need an anchor because the storm is going to toss us about. We do not need an anchor for calm water; we need it for the rough water. Jesus tells us: “"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John16:33). The storms are going come, but Jesus is always in the boat or He's on His way to the boat. Jesus always knows what's happening in the storms of our life and He promises that the storm does not have the last word!
God allows the storms in our life not to destroy us but to grow us! Unfortunately, it is only through adversity that we truly are able to mature in our lives. There are some people that can hear the truth and apply it, but they are few and far between. The rest of us listen to the truth and then we do it our way. Then we say, "What happened?” We have all been in this situation at one time or another in our lives.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4
A parent that shelters their child from the problems of this life has done the child a disservice by not equipping them to overcome the challenges of the world. As a society, we now reward children for only trying, without concern for effort or outcome. We have created a trophy generation of people characterized by self-entitlement. The self-entitlement mentality believes that somehow someone is always going to be there to take care of the problems, even when they are a result of our own poor choices.
As a professor, I hear the self-entitlement mentality often when students demand an “A” grade because “they tried really hard.” I remind the students that grades are measures of the final product, not the perceived or real effort put forth by the student. A lower grade is not given because I seek to be punitive, but because I want them to learn the lesson of their mistakes so that the next time they will deserve an “A.” Whether stated explicitly or implicitly, the message is clear that we want all the glory, without the effort.
God is the best parent and teacher and He wants to not simply have the appearance of maturity and completeness—He wants it to be a reality! The only way to grow us in our faith is by allowing adversity in our lives. The storms in nature cause the roots of the plants to go deeper and the same holds true for us spiritually. The storms in our lives will not remain, but the lessons learned can be of eternal value.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17
Dr. Rob Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Business Studies/ Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder and President of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Cumberland County, NJ. He is also the Founding Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ.
In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind.
This weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various thoughts running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.
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