Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Enduring Trials

Trials typically feel like they will go on forever, don't they? They test us emotionally and spiritually in ways that physical exercise tests and matures the body...they both hurt! I must be honest here - sometimes I find myself hoping for a break from it all. But here's the thing -  neither good nor bad times last forever, no matter your philosophy on life. I do believe though that the source of where you get your hope triggers your worldview and our worldview ultimately feeds into every perspective you have. The right worldview and perspectives basically determine how you handle things, and how quickly you bounce back from troubles.

I know that many of you are suffering through something(s) in life just like I am and I am sure that we can learn a lot from each other. I don't claim to have it all figured out but I do believe that being a good ambassador of God's love means I must be willing to share my struggles and my lessons. Therefore I want to share the hope that I have with you along with some truths and perspectives that may help. Here are some things I try to remember when I am going through trials to help me to stay the course:
  1.  I am human, and none of us are perfect. If we were we wouldn't need God's precious enduring grace - and nothing is more hopeful than that. He stands ready to forgive me every time I do something wrong. He stands ready to help me up and put me back in the race. He isn't surprised at my failures and He doesn't stand waiting to punish me at every mistake I make. He wants to show us His unfailing love and grace. Hebrews 4:16 and I Peter 5:10
  2. Nothing can stop His love. Neither my sin or yours, not satan's lies or anything else can make Him stop loving any of us. He created us for communion with Him, and with one another. He hates sin, but He loves us so much that He offered His son as the one sacrifice that would cleanse and change us all if we believe. Romans 8:38-39
  3. Even trials are a form of grace. If it weren't for God using them to show me my need for Him, I would wander on in life never knowing the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. And if I never had trials, I probably would never be broken enough to trade in my own way for His. I would be the most self-righteous person ever, and Christ didn't come for the ones who had (or thought they had) it all figured out. Psalm 119:71 and 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. If it weren't this trial, it'd be some other one because everything on Earth is broken due to sin. Nothing works like it should. We all get hurt. We all experience struggles of one kind or another. How we view them ultimately determines our path. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
  5. I can learn something about myself in every trial. It's crucial that I learn my own heart if I am going to run this race. Do I really believe the stuff I say I do in the way I think, react and handle adversity? How easily I get discouraged tells me how much I hope in the Lord, and whether any idols have snuck into my life. 1 Peter 1:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 13:5
  6. I am expected to address what God shows me about my own heart. I can't do it alone but now that I know I have stuff in me that needs to go, I can ask for help and be conscious of falling into the same mental, emotional and/or spiritual traps again. 1 Corinthians 11:28 - 34
  7. Hope in Christ won't allow me to stay cynical. Once I see my own need for grace, I can't really be so shocked that anyone else needs it. I Corinthians 13:7
  8. Scripture gives truth but my emotions lie a LOT. If I get stuck on something, the best thing to do is search scripture for truth. Romans 12:2 and Galatians 5:16-24
  9. If I am not willing to have a teachable spirit, I will ultimately veer off course. And since He calls us to be willing to give it all to Him, what am I really giving up to Christ if won't give up my mindsets, ideas, perspectives and heart? Proverbs 13:18 and 2 Timothy 3:16
  10. God didn't create us to give up. He created us to be overcomers by His grace. John 16:33 and Revelation 3:21

If you have anything to add, please add it in the comments below. I really would love to hear about truths that help you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grace Enough

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9

No matter how much you love others, the fact that you are human means you will have times when you get discouraged over the actions/words/inaction of others. We beat ourselves up over the disappointment it but it’s inevitable. However, the more we search the scriptures for a more appropriate worldview, these times will occur less frequently and less severe. Life is a process.
People are going to disappoint us. We live in a world where everything and everyone is broken because of sin. Now I know that according to many people, the word “sin” is a curse word. It isn’t preached in many churches and many Christians don’t want to use it for fear of being thought judgmental and therefore, face persecution. But you can’t explain life or people at all without taking about the foundation of which it all started.

The thing about sin is this: We are all infected. Once we  1. See the nature of our own hearts, 2. See what’s been done for us to atone for it and 3. Begin a relationship with the One who can change us, we can begin to offer grace to other sinners like ourselves. We Christians are thought to quite the hypocritical bunch by non-believers, and many times we are. We tend to forget who we are, and what has been given to us. 

But here’s the thing -- being changed is a process that never ends prior to our exit from this world. We need lots of grace just to make it through a day, and even when we don't feel like we have what we need - we do. If we need grace so frequently, why would we think a non-believer wouldn't need it? Everyone needs it - no matter how spiritually mature they are. And it’s so critical for us to show others how precious God’s love is by offering grace to them.
Grace, according to Miriam Webster , is:
  • is unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.
  • a special favor.
  • disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.
  • a temporary exemption.
  • the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.

If you want people to see God, show them His love by showing grace. He has given the power to do so to those who believe in Him. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter that we don’t get what we want when eternity is at stake. It doesn't encourage anyone to follow Christ when we put our own expectations and feelings above showing them the very love God never deprives us of.
No matter what religion you practice, I’m sure you can agree that we learn by making some mistakes and seeing some real ugliness in ourselves (the need for change). That’s why Jesus said we must remain connected to the vine. You can’t see your true heart the way God sees it, much less change yourself without the mercy and power of the Lord. You can read and puff yourself up with knowledge all day long but it will never compare to the power of the Holy Spirit – never.

"But knowledge puffs up while love builds up." 1 Corinthians 8:1

The point I’m trying to make it this: give yourself and others a little bit of room. You are going to fail them they will fail you. The grace God has given you IS enough. He also commands you to show others just how He has empowered you by offering grace to others. And once you start practicing grace, you’ll start to see miracles happen in your life and in your relationships.

Fight the good fight, finish the race.