This morning i woke up with all the adrenaline of a new dad ready to protect his family from the dangers and toils that the world will bring to my innocent daughter. With ferocity a felt such love and care for her. Something I feel up to right now, and no doubt for many years to come. At the same time, I also woke up realising something equally sobering. I’m not the saviour, I cannot be all powerful, omnipresent and perfect for my daughter and family at all times. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, my crutch as a father living this side of eternity. Praise him for his kindness in blessing us!
Do I need tragedy to grow my character?
With all this talk of tough times building our character, a question some people may be asking themselves is this: what if nothing tough is happening to me, am I not growing or becoming mature?
It’s not a difficult conclusion to come to after reading the bible and listening to any decent gospel preachers, but is it an accurate conclusion?
I suggest it’s not a wise conclusion and that in fact tough times must be maximised for what they are – as opportunities to trust in and depend on God. But you must also realise this:
- God is sovereign, and what he brings your way is what he knows you need to grow and develop in your stage and season.
- Life is tough, so no matter what your challenges are, it is inevitable that you will be faced with many things that develop your character even if they do not have the dramatic appeal that other people’s stories have.
- Following Jesus means growth, because Jesus promises us that if we follow him he will make us into people or great character (Mt 4:19). Don’t compare with other people’s stories, simply trust Jesus with your story, that’s where the growth happens.
- Don’t compare, it’s not about the perceived size of the challenge that matters as much as the sincere faith that you express within that challenge. Growth happens because you personally trust Jesus for yourself in the circumstances you’re in, not because they’re seemingly tougher or easier than others.
- Jesus is more interested in your maturity than you are, so no matter what, as long as you maintain a sense of faithfulness and obedience to Christ, he will be sure to bring to completion the work he began in you.
- So don’t live in dread of a tough time, live in faith and gratitude for the season you’re in, ensuring you personally are living a life of brave trust with all the inner realities that surround your soul and mind.
Jesus cares for you sincerely, let him bless you and enjoy him through all seasons!
It’s my experience that whether I like it or not, I lose heart, I drop habits, and I dry up.
If you weren’t aware, it’s very discouraging. I mean, seriously discouraging. Why can’t I keep up the things I want to do. Why do I lose heart for the things that ignited me not long ago? Why can’t I keep up habits that were so fruitful and useful? Why does my life dry up from time to time?
Who knows? There are a few reasons, but I’m not going to get into that, just know that it happens. To all of us, I think.
But one thing I do know – I can keep getting up without giving. It’s all for this simple reason; when I hate myself for failing or falling, my opinion of myself is less powerful than God’s love for me. And when I want to give up on getting up, I can know that even if I do give up, the author of my life, cannot by nature give up on me.
The other night I was challenged – thanks to Julie Williams – in a way that I haven’t been in some time. Not rubrics cube style challenged, I’m talking about something that covers more ground than just the hand eye co-ordination required to solve one of those simple puzzles.
I was asked this question, do I want a life that works or do I want a life that is well lived for the glory of God. it’s easy to jump at saying that I want a life lived for the glory of God, and that’s where I went first, until I got a little more honest with myself.
The hardest things in life are the things that look so similar and yet are fundamentally so different. Think about 2 presidential speeches of two different state leaders. Both presidents say much the same thing yet one country flourishes whilst the other one languishes. Why? Things look so similar until you dig a little deeper.
It’s no different in our lives. One man worships God with his life and things seem to work well for him. His relationships flourish, his family face hardships with joy and his career is enduring and effective. Another man desires much the same, and claims to worship God just the same. He too seems to be getting similar results from his life, but if you scratched a little deeper, you’d find more anxiety, less joy, and some cracks in the foundations.
Two things that look so similar have some fundamental differences. These must not be missed. What you worship will determine the outcome of your life, whther you like it or not. The man who worships God, will get contentment in all circumstances, because his satisfaction is God, not the outcomes of his life. The other man worships a life that works, and the outcomes are evident. This man sees hardships as opposition, he sees tough times as nothing more than annoying and useless – they fluster him. He serves the things that serve a life that works, and if God will help that happen, then he’ll take some of God.
However the cracks begin to show in the life that lives for the sole end of ensuring that it works. Because life doesn’t work, and a life that works is not something for us to engineer. We’d be much wiser to become the kind of people who can live well in a world where life seldom works the way we want it.
We should settle a few things up front:
- Life won’t work the way you want it. it may be better at time and worse at other times, but it won’t work the way you want it to. So…
- Embrace the present with faith. God is with you, cares about you and will give you what you need to deal with the challenges at hand, so…
- Face your challenges head-on. Don’t run away from challenges, because they will chase after you until you develop capacity to handle them, so…
- Grow your capacity to face and endure increasing levels of difficulty in life. Don’t run after difficult times, but don’t pretend they’re not happening, rather…
- Make the most of your challenges by using them to deepen your trust in Christ. Christ is expert at supporting us in our weakness so embrace him in moments of weakness.
- Remember Jesus. The biggest temptation is to believe that there is something similar but not as difficult as trusting Jesus wholeheartedly that will get the same results. Don’t believe the lie. Only Jesus will deliver longterm, eternal peace and joy that will bear the kind of fruit you’ve always wanted your life to bear!
Remember Jesus! Don’t be fooled by things that look the same but aren’t, Jesus makes all things authentic and real if we let him handle them…
Ok… here goes… I’m going to explain 2 types of basic Christian beliefs in under 5 sentences and then explain the beauty of something that we must all be aware of.
Some Christians are categorized as Calvinists by people who think about bible stuff lots; they basically believe that God initiates his love towards us in his sovereignty and that our salvation cannot be lost and that once we are born again as Christians we cannot be unborn no matter how hard we try!
Another group of Christians are categorized as Armenians, and they essentially believe that Gods greatest gift to us is our free will and that free will trumps God’s sovereignty. They also generally believe that a person can lose their salvation through intentional backsliding and renunciation of God and Christ.
What Armenian believers generally have in common are high levels of commitment and active faith with potentially low levels of assurance of salvation as they can or could potentially lose it if things go really wrong for them.
What Calvinists have in common are generally high levels of assurance and some at lower level of active faith and to a lesser degree commitment.
Both of these camps have strengths and weaknesses and if you’re wondering where I stand; I err on the side of a Calvinist in the assurance of salvation issue but I learn much from my Armenian friends in their high levels of active faith and commitment and passion.
What’s the beautiful thing I want to tell you? Its this, that the true beauty of our faith is not how we get God, nor how we keep God in our lives, nor how we find God, but rather that we get, keep and find God!!
The key to a joyful and fruitful faith is not your siding theologically but your reality presently; you have God!
Fruitful and joyful and passionate Christians have this in common – they understand that presently they are in relation with their maker who knows them, loves them and has a plan for both them and the people in their world and He is actively involved in making this a reality in the lives of those who they share this message to. He relates to them like a perfect father, he forgives them like a perfect saviour and he teaches them like a perfect life coach, all the while he is the sovereign king and creator of the universe.
The true joy is in God…
So you look back on your life and you wander, “why it is that I’ve chosen options that have really hurt myself and others.”
Let us pray…
Prayer is powerful because it disarms people of their capacity to control the future, orchestrate their lives and initiate the necessary change. What happens when we pray is that we are found to be alone before God; with mostly fragility and weakness in his sight where our lives are laid bare before him.
I realized whilst praying this morning that I am a control freak on a monumental scale and this leaves me needing to hold the reigns in most areas of my life, particularly in the areas of my future, my calling, my relationships and my needs. When I am in control of those things I feel relatively secure, but if that’s not the case, then I feel deeply insecure. Prayer is the bridge that connects insecure anxiety ridden control freaks to the God who cares about us and our situation and knows how to shatter our idolatrous notions of control!
When we pray we surrender control, we essentially say to ourselves and to God that is better to stop doing much that will shape my desires and I will do something that has nothing to do with any of the pressing needs of my life, but will in fact in faith shape and determine all of those pressing needs.
Prayer is like a pit stop in Formula 1 racing. It requires that the driver get off the race track that he on, stop driving which is the very thing that is causing him to win the race, to stop working hard on performing well around each turn, to cease looking ahead and behind for potential danger and opportunities and instead to go do nothing but receive actively. Instead the driver intentionally goes into the pit lane, stops his car, listens to the pit crew and receives sustenance, all the while cars on the track are driving, taking ground and possibly even his position in the race. That is prayer; that we would cease what is getting us where we need to be and see who it is that is actually getting us there as we feel the desperate need to resume yet enjoy the deep satisfaction of knowing that in fact this is exactly what we need. The irony of prayer is that it is counter intuitive in a productive world where outcomes are the pressing need, that we should cease the common forms of production for a while and do something that feels and appears unproductive in that it requires that we focus mentally on nothing but the conversation with our invisible God, that we stop doing physical activity that helps produce or create or source a visible outcome but rather in faith we center on the provider of all of our need for the long haul of life in His universe!
Prayer is a gift to the busy hard working man in it’s capacity to bring rest to his soul, and also to the sluggard for whom proactive thought and consideration upon our precious God is a much needed call to begin to move in the name of God!
Let us pray!
Too many Christian’s including myself, prefer to know that they must need God than to actually need God. This means that people use the correct language, the correct actions and even purvey the right prayers so as to do what is spiritual and correct in regards to the expectations of a culture in relationship with God.
However this cannot last, because every human being has a real need and that need in it’s deepest form is the love of God made real by the power of the Holy Spirit and expressed in the every day happenings of life. This means that every time something happens in a person’s life and their response is “I must need God” they find their souls shrink and their lives feel the weakening power of their authenticity and integrity in relation to God. But more so even than that, they lose true fellowship with God and instead enjoy fellowship with the God of their making, who happens to sound very much like the God of the bible, except for one fundamental problem; it’s not the God of the bible, because that one true living God does not encourage religious duty but real relationship with him which at a deep level deals with the daily heart attitudes that determine our genuine need for him.
How does one get out of this religious cycle? Believe in the powerful God of the bible at a heart level. Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus describes religious people as white washed tombs, things look good from the outside, but on the inside is nothing but death and decay. Jesus was correct about such people like you and me however he was also the one who wept when he saw the people dealing with Lazarus’s death and then went to the tomb. When he arrived he requested that they move the stone from in front of the tomb at which stage they warned him that things would have begun to stink, as he had been dead for 4 days. But Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” they then proceeded to open what would have been a possibly stinky tomb and Christ looked into the tomb and called out, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus still wrapped in his grave clothes emerged from the tomb and Jesus commanded that the grave clothes be taken off of Lazarus.
Religious people are in a tomb and they are beginning to fester in their hearts, and the contamination of comparison, secret sin, bitterness, depression, anxiety and many other similar symptoms are beginning to show in their lives. The answer is to hear the voice of Christ, the life giving voice, the voice that comes and graciously calls you out of your selfishness and self righteousness and reminds you that He is the lord and he loves you and he can only give you life, but you must step out of the dark tomb into the light, renounce your religious pride that has caused your depression, bitterness and comparison and return to Jesus who can save you from it all. Repent of your self-righteousness, step into the broad daylight that Christ calls you into and live. Begin to live, free from yourself and your constrictive self-belief. Forsake unforgiveness by walking into Christ’s forgiveness.
Believe in Christ and step out of the tomb in belief in hid grace to redeem you from yourself and your religious tendencies…