Game On!

  How do we respond when life knocks us down? As the fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa once said, “it’s not how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward that counts“. Sounds good, but admittedly, there are those times, we simply don’t feel like we can move forward. For it seems like we can’t catch a break as troubles surround us, and we feel consumed by them. However, as we know, these are the unfortunate realities of a fallen world, but we never are without hope. For God promises, that even though we will have trouble in this world, we don’t have to worry because He already overcame them all. We simply need to trust and rely on His promise to turn our troubles into treasures for His glory and our good as we pursue three primary roles in faith:

To Lead: No matter what roles we have in life, as disciples of Christ we are all equipped to help point and lead others to Christ. Many times, it’s how we respond to the troubles in our life that serve as this gateway. People see how we respond, how we handle them and see Christ work in and through us. Then of course, we get to share the good news driving our reasons for hope. Thus, serving as the Godly leaders He calls us to be (Matthew 5:16).

To Love: Without Godly love, both trials and triumphs are empty. Yet when His love propels our motives, we are able to look past our personal biases and preferences in order to share Christ’s love with all, even those who persecute us (John 13:34). For many of us, this kind of love is difficult because it requires a level of sacrifice and vulnerability on our part. For we may get hurt and even rejected – and none of us like that. However, when we trust God and allow ourselves to love as He calls us too, even the hardest of hearts can be transformed, including our own. For sharing love with others does something to us, it changes us as it impacts others – expanding our capacities and our abilities beyond anything we ever imagined possible.

To Lift: As we serve as Christian leaders in our homes, communities and workplaces, we begin to seize more of the opportunities God sends our way to love others in ways only God can empower us to. As a result, we find that a lifting occurs -a lifting of Spirit whose Holy hands reach out through ours to encourage and bless lives with the Lord our hearts boldly raise and praise (Ephesians 4:29).

Application: “Fruits Of Forward Focus” – Philippians 3:13-21
I am thankful for my loving parents and step-parents. Yet, I still recall the impact divorce had on me as a young child. It created barriers in my heart I didn’t even realize were there until God began peeling them away. I was afraid to love others. I doubted love and questioned what true love was. However, God began breaking these chains that surrounded my heart as He revealed His love to me and began empowering me to love others – despite my feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and mistrust. Over the years, I now see how far He has moved me and has moved others because I was willing to trust the Creator of love. I still have much to learn, but today, I am eager and trust in where it leads. Thus, may we always submit to allow God to dictate the way we lead, love and lift others.

Undertow

For anyone who has been caught in an undertow, it can be a scary experience. However, even though at times the current can be strong, there are other times it can be subtle. Slowly drifting you farther and farther from shore. Likewise, there are distractions we face in life that can cause us to drift farther from our calling in Christ:

Self-Sufficiency: Many of us don’t like admitting we need help. We want to be self-sufficient and not be a burden to others. This of course can be a good thing, but it can also slowly drift us away from God if we aren’t careful. For we might begin thinking we don’t need to bother God with our small and/or petty problems. We may also attempt to pursue dreams and goals apart from Him. The problem with this of course is what if those plans and dreams aren’t what God plans and dreams for us (2 Corinthians 3:5)?

Self-Reliance: Similar to self-sufficiency, self-reliance teaches us to not rely on anyone but ourselves. This too can be good, but can also quickly lead us away from Godly fellowships, relationships and discipleships. For we begin to feel we can accomplish all things on our own, rather than doing all things through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 12:3). We are not to be isolated islands, but rather integrated members of His body.

Self-Interest: Naturally, we are all interested in our best interests, but this too can drift us away from Godly interests. For we become consumed with what we have, what we want, what we do and what we need. A powerful remedy to this undertow however is remembering the acrostic J.O.Y., which reminds us to prioritize Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last (Philippians 2:4).

Application: “Crisis Point” – Exodus 33:15
Once when my daughter was little, she got caught in a slight undertow at the beach. It frightened her and she screamed out for my help. Naturally, I quickly ran to pick her up and carry her safely to shore. Likewise, may we be wise enough to call to our Heavenly Father for help when we sense we are being swept away by the temptations of self. When we do, He too is quick to respond and return us to safety. For He thankfully has Godly plans and purposes for each of us and when we surrender to Him, acknowledging we don’t want to do anything, or go anywhere outside of His will, He sets our feet on back on steady ground.

Rising Above Rejection

No one likes rejection. It’s discouraging, painful and even embarrassing, but learning to deal with rejection effectively is a powerful benefit to be acquired. For example, our Lord, Jesus Christ, faced rejection beginning with His earthly birth. For there was no room in the inn for His family. Then, later in life, His own brothers rejected Him and did not believe in His deity. Of course, He was also rejected by the religious leaders and eventually crucified. Truly, rejection was a major part of His life, but so was His rise above it. For He never allowed any of it to derail His purpose and/or His connection with His Father. Instead, it flourished and He was able to successfully proclaim, “It is finished“! As believers, we possess His spirit and through Him, we too can overcome and rise above the rejections we will continuously face in this life:

In The World: The world does not appreciate those who do not conform to its standards and ways. However, our lifestyles are to be determined by God’s standards and not the worlds (Romans 12:2). Therefore, this may cause us hardship, but one of the most powerful truths is God is greater than our hardship and when we obey Him, He is responsible for all outcomes – and His ways can always be trusted to be better than our own.

In Relationships: No one enjoys being rejected in relationships, but unfortunately, most of us have felt this deep pain at some point. It can be especially painful when it comes from a family member and/or friend. The pain may even make us want to reciprocate. However, like Jesus, we are to love and pray for those that hurt us – which in turn, grants us His power to rise above any ridicule that may come our way (Luke 6:28).

In Work: Our work can also stimulate rejection. For clearly, Jesus’ work was rejected by many. Therefore, we too may find ourselves and our work confronted with attacks. Perhaps, we find that our work inspires some, but irritates others. However, when we surrender our work to God and give our best for His glory, there is thankfully no dilemma too great to be resolved for His purposes (Colossians 3:23).

Application: “Making Room” – Matthew 6:33
Have we made ourselves so busy with daily demands, there is no room for anything else? Likewise, do we allow the opinions and approvals of others to dictate our behaviors? Many times, our fear of rejection and failure are the very things that lead us to our busyness and ruin. Therefore, may our various duties and the opinions of others never sway us from our highest calling – for in order to truly rise above any rejection and/or challenge, we must first make room for God and prioritize our lives with our risen Lord.

Troubled By Truth?

  Mark Twain is quoted to have said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the parts I do understand“. Of course, this is humorous because we may have felt this same way at times. However, rather than letting truth trouble us, when we surrender our lives to Christ, His truth actually liberates us. What makes the difference is what we choose to do with the truth we know:

Sin: The truth is we are born with sinful natures and are naturally pulled towards it (Psalm 51:5). However, we don’t have to remain in bondage to sin. This is a powerful freedom God offers us through Jesus. We may not be perfect once we’re saved, but the difference is our desires change. For we don’t want to sin, and it disgusts us if and when we do. Therefore, as the expression goes, “never wrestle with pigs, for you both get dirty and only the pig likes it“. Likewise, sin is for the pigpen, not God’s children.

Spirit: Truth states our struggles are not against the physical and material, although many times, it feels like it. Rather, our struggles are spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). It may be disturbing to think of a spiritual battle taking place, but the Bible states this fact. However, we can take comfort in knowing Christ has won this battle through the cross. In addition, when we rely on Him and His ways, rather than our own, we never fight alone and don’t have to be victims, but can rest in His victory.

Surrender: God has graciously given people so many gifts, talents and resources, that at times, we might falsely assume we are self-sufficient and independent – that we don’t need anyone, or anything. In other words, we got this! However, the opposite is true. We need Christ desperately, and no one can remain apart from Him and possess true peace and joy – for these gifts come solely from Him. Therefore, complete and total surrender of our life to Christ is an awesome truth we must face. We can continue to cling and hold tight to portions of our life, but true freedom only comes with our full release, trusted assurance and reliance on Him (Luke 9:23).

Application: “Keeping It Underground, or Letting It Abound?” – 2 Timothy 1:6
We have a choice. We can either bury the truth we know and the gifts we’ve been given, or apply and share them in all we do. For again, the trouble with truth is not whether it’s true, but what we choose to do with what we know.