Wednesday, November 10, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Chris.

Hi Friends. As promised, throughout the month of November you will be reading from many of my friends. I have asked them to pray and seek of the Lord what He would have them share with you. Today, you will be reading a very encouraging post by my friend Chris, from The Stoph. Enjoy!

Trying Growth
Too often am I focused on the future or drowning in the past, that I often forget the present, what C.S. Lewis refers to as “the point at which time touches eternity.” What he meant by that is that in the present time, we are given freedom and actuality, and in the present is where our decisions can affect our eternity.

In the case of a Christian, we are driven by our convictions and our morals, things that God works in us through the process of sanctification. However, sometimes we lose sight of it, the present I mean. We often spend countless hours focused on the “would have beens” and the “should have been” that we forget the currently being. Or we can get swallowed up by the idea of the “going to be” and the “what if” that we again forget the currently being.

It is a dangerous game to forget the little things in life happening around us in the right now. To forget the mundane is to often forget life itself. To me, there are more mundane moments then there are major moments. However, too often do we live for those major moments in life. We like going from major event to major event. Yet we forget that major events are like puzzles, made up of hundreds of small otherwise mundane pieces of a huge picture.

If anyone in the bible had the right to ask why me, or focus on the past and the future, it was Joseph. I wonder what Joseph felt like when he sat in his jail cell in Gen 39 alone in his undeserved circumstance. I wonder if in those moments, Joseph plagued himself with thoughts of a distant vision given to him by God through dreams? Or, if he sat motionless remembering the past where his beaten body lay at the bottom of a pit awaiting death? I would venture to say that he did neither of the two. Instead, I think Joseph did something different. According to Gen 39:21 Joseph found favor in the sight of the Lord, “He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Why was that? We keep going on to verse 23 and we see that “whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.” I wonder the kind of attitude that got Joseph such favor?

Moving into Gen 40, we see Joseph presented with something familiar to him, dreams. It was dreams that got him in trouble in the first place,well really it was dreams combined with a premature, trigger happy mouth that landed him in the center of his brothers’ contempt. However, something had changed in Gen 40, no longer was Joseph so quick to speak, rather he was “slow to speak,” he showed self-control. In verse 8 after listening to two men, he tells us to whom interpretations belong to, that it is not by his power or his words, but by God’s word alone, would any sense be made of the dreams. We start to see maturity in his demeanor and this continues despite the fact that he spends another 2 years in prison (41:1) and was forgotten by the man whom he helped (40:23).

Finally, in Gen 41, Joseph gets his big chance, and rather than squander it as he did back in Gen 37:5-10, he gave all glory to God, he was humble (41:16). What I find so interesting is how the very thing that got Joseph in trouble, was the same thing that got him out of it. What changed? Was it Joseph’s circumstances? Well they only went from bad to worse. If anything, his circumstances should have driven him to anger. And as it is for many people today, a disdain for all things holy, because after all, “How dare God allow this to happen to me?!” or worse, “How could God DO this to me?!” As if God is some cosmic bully out to push people’s buttons and line things up like a game of chess for His own personal fun with complete disregard for having a relationship with His creation.

While his circumstances did change, his attitude changed as well, and it went in the polar-opposite of his circumstances. Why was that? Joseph did not allow for circumstances to govern his actions as the disciples did when they were scattered. He did something a good friend of mine said in the beginning of what I would say is my favorite letter ever written: Joseph “Counted it all joy when he fell into various trials, knowing that the testing of faith produces patience.” Joseph also let “patience have its perfect work, that he may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

The word perfect in the Greek is the word teleios, used twice in verse 4. In both cases, teleios, describes something that has been brought to its end, completed, a finished work. Coincidentally, this word is also a root from which we get the famous word teteleiosti, the word Jesus uttered from the cross when the propitiation for our sin had been finished.

What then does that say to us about what we go through? Oftentimes, we are presented with situations in life and we are inclined to look to the past. We easily regret the mistakes and the mishaps or we look to the future and become consumed with some vision we received or some end we wish to reach. In doing this we become useless in the present. We become the very thing we are trying to avoid: being idle. Rather than focus on the present task or otherwise mundane things before us, we look behind us or in front of us rather than around us. We forget the purpose behind life’s trials and tribulations. We forget who it is that controls the ocean, the seas, the winds, and who put the earth into motion.

Sad thing is, many of us know all of what I said above. In fact a lot of us like to throw around that axiom of “It will all turn out for good" or "everything has a purpose.” However, our actions and our response to life’s issues tend to tell a different story. We’re great at loving these reminders when we read about them, but when we experience them, everything changes. And like any student, reading the information is one thing, but no one likes taking the exam.

I think Joseph knew very well who his God was. He understood that while he may not understand the current situation, he focused on what he did know, or better put, Who he knew.

Circumstances aren’t permanent, they are subject to change; what we need is to stop focusing on the things that change, and start focusing on the constants. It makes little sense to look at those things that change, we end up wasting time and eye sight.In the midst of our trials, our eyes must shift back to and remain fixed upon those things which are constant. I can think of only One thing that is, and the beautiful thing is that it isn’t a thing, but rather, a person. “Jesus Christ IS the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8). If you won’t find comfort in James or Joseph, find it in God, because after all, His love is what compelled both men to do and write as they did.

James in the midst of Nero and Pharisaical persecution did not back down to remind the Jewish Christians to consider it joy. Joseph did not forget who his God was. I am almost sure that He was quick to remember the success God had brought his fathers before him. Both these men understood one thing about their problems. Their problems would produce in them spiritual maturity, spiritual growth, and the patience they would receive from enduring said trials would work in them a more perfect faith, or better put, a more complete faith, one lacking nothing.

God is sovereign, and for that I am thankful. If anyone else were in charge, I would be dead by now. Nevertheless, because the all loving, all knowing, all powerful, all present God is in control, I can be sure that He will work all for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28), I can be sure that like Joseph, what was originally evil, He will use for good (Gen 50:20).

Ultimately remember this about God, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, have created it.” Isaiah 45:7. Pretty harsh words at first glance, however, this drips with love. When God spoke these words, it was to a people who were going to be attacked by Cyrus. They were spoken so that when the people asked “Why me?!” they would be reminded that it was God who had allowed it and that it was God that would use this king to humble His people. What was a horrible situation, God would use to better and grow His people. I call it true love, because it isn’t just about pampering, it is about causing growth. Remember that “…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2b)

Am I saying that you are being punished? No! Am I saying you deserve it? No! I can’t answer those questions. Regardless though, know this, whatever the situation, whatever the problem, look to the constant, look to the cross. I may not be able to tell you why it is, but I will be able to tell you what it isn’t and it isn’t that He doesn’t love you. It isn’t that He has forgotten you. Our suffering, our trials, when compared to the cross and the One who suffered on it for you, are but seconds in time in comparison to the eternal pain felt in that moment of separation. God knew what He was doing when He made you. He knows what He is doing now. And you can rest assured that if not one sparrow hits the ground apart from God’s will. You are worth more then they are. And God, who knew you before birth, knows what He is doing, and He always will. (Matt 10:29-30, Psalm 139:13).

To the past I say, keep God your omega point, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)

To the future I say, don’t despise the day of small things (Zech 4:10) and remember that “each day has enough trouble of its own… seek first His kingdom” (Matt 6:33-34)

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