The Christian Life Isn’t for Sissies!

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just get weary trying to live the Christian Life. Think how easy life would be if we could just forget all the “do’s and don’ts”. You wouldn’t have to be concerned about temptation – you could do whatever you wanted. You wouldn’t have to worry about your own sinful desires – again, do what you want. You wouldn’t have to lose sleep over Satan because he wouldn’t care what you did. In fact he would be delighted in your spiritual indifference.

What may come as a shock to you is that God knows that the Christian life is like that. That’s why in the New Testament He compares the spiritual life to a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4), a marathon runner (Hebrews 12:1), a boxer (1 Corinthians 9:26), and a hard-working farmer (2 Timothy 2:6). All strenuous and difficult occupations.

The difficulty of the spiritual life and the ensuing weariness that we experience doesn’t take God by surprise. In fact you could make the case that He designed it that way. It’s one way to separate the true from the false, the wheat from the chaff, the “I’m in it for the long-haul” from the “let’s see if this works” crowd.

But to those who are in it for the long-haul, there is a word of encouragement from the pen if the Apostle Paul: Don’t grow weary in doing good (living godly), for in due season we will reap if we don’t lose heart (and give up!) (Galatians 6:9).

The problem for most of us is that we keep looking at how hard the Christian life is instead of looking at the goal.

How long do you think a marathon runner would last if all they thought about during training (and the race!) was how hard they were working? How long would a farmer work in his fields if he didn’t keep the harvest in mind?

The goal for the Christian is a harvest that comes out of a life lived in godliness and for the glory of God.

Sure we get weary. There are even days we want to give up. But as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, you haven’t yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood in your struggle against sin (Hebrews 12:4). In fact some of us haven’t even been bruised yet.

So when you feel like I do some days, keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and on the harvest. Do the battle. Run the race. Fight the good fight. Plant the seed. And keep telling yourself, in the words of the old hymn, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus!

If you need to be reminded again, you can listen to it hear.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

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Where is Your Journey Taking You?

I love missionaries. Missionaries are the people on the front line for God.

As a result I get a lot of newsletters, both electronic and the old fashion variety, from missionaries around the world. This week I received a letter from missionary friends, Jim and Marilou Long. Jim normally shares their news around a theme – this time the theme was Trips and Journeys. Since their previous letter their ministry has taken them to California, Delhi, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. I have to admit to a certain amount of envy.

At the end of the letter was this challenge: “Where is God taking you? What kind of JOURNEY are you on right now? Remember that God is always with you and leading you—even in new journeys and in uncharted territories. When the children of Israel were ready to cross the Jordan River and were probably quite apprehensive about it, God said to them through Joshua, “Then you will know the way to go since you have not been this way before,” Joshua 3:4. We take great comfort and encouragement in knowing that He is going before us in these new ventures.”

In the past few months I started a couple of those journeys into uncharted territories, so this got my attention.

But the reality is that for the Christian, all of life is a journey or perhaps a series of journeys.

You might not realize that you are on a journey – but you are. Your life is not a series of unrelated, random events. Things just don’t happen to you.

Your life is not even made up of decisions that you make from day to day.

Somehow God takes all of it – the daily events of life; the decisions you make and molds all of it into His sovereign will for you.

The writer of Proverbs had that in mind when he wrote:

The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1).

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33).

So where is God taking you on your spiritual journey?

God has you on a journey that is unique just to you. No one else has your journey. Even your spouse is on a different journey. While there will be obvious similarities in your journeys, there will also be some significant differences.

So how should you approach this idea of a journey?

There are several basic things that you should do.

1. Recognize that you are on a journey but ultimately you’re not in charge of this journey. This is a journey (a life) directed by God for His purpose, for His glory.

2. Ask God to show you the way forward on your journey. He might make your journey as clear as crystal (the Israelites were following the ark). He may not. Just keep following the ark (IE, Bible reading & study, prayer, church – all of the great spiritual disciplines).

3. Commit to the journey. Don’t bail out when you can’t figure it out. Be committed.

4. Decide that even if the way isn’t clear you’ll keep following (see #2) one day at a time.

You probably won’t always know where your journey is taking you but you do know the final destination.

And as the old song says, it will be worth it all when we get there.

Happy Journey.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Mysteries of God

I’ve been writing this column for almost six years now. Some of you have been readers from the very beginning – others may be reading it for the first time. My hope is that it is an encouragement and guide to you on your spiritual journey.

The longer I write, the more I find myself addressing what might be referred to as the mysteries of God. Let’s face it – God is not easy to understand. If He was, He wouldn’t be God. Be glad you have a god that you can’t understand. That means He’s more than the sum of your thoughts, greater than your problems and higher than your expectations. If you could understand all there is about God then He would be no greater than your IQ. I want a god who is vastly greater than my IQ.

One of the great mysteries related to God is why life happens the way it does. Why doesn’t God intervene in bad situations? Why does He allow/determine things to happen to His children that bring sorrow and pain? Why does He seem silent . . . uninterested . . . uncaring? If God is sovereign, isn’t He in control of life? And if He is in control of life, why doesn’t He solve our problems? Why doesn’t He remove all evil? Why doesn’t He just DO something?

No one has all of the answers to such cosmic questions, but as I have reflected on this issue some thoughts came to mind. I need to hear them – perhaps you do too.

1. It may be that God has intervened and you haven’t yet recognized it. We are dealing here with not only what we can see, but what we can’t see. Remember Elisha’s servant who saw the mighty army of the Syrians but couldn’t see the army of God until his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:17). Much of what God does in our lives is done in the realm of the unseen. Don’t think that just because you cannot see what God is doing that He has failed to act. Ask Him in His grace to help you to see.

2. Remember that God’s highest goal is His glory (Exodus 20:2, Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). We want God’s highest priority to be us. We want Him to spend His time (if we can even refer to God and time in the same breath) solving our problems. I know that God is the ultimate multitasker – I’m not making a reference here to God but to us. We need to keep the truth in front of us that when God acts, He ultimately acts for His own glory. That might mean that the trials we face are intended to enhance His glory in ways that we cannot understand. Ask God to glorify Himself through you.

3. God may use the bad in your life for the good in someone else’s. Life isn’t just about us – it’s about all of us. As Christians we are to live our lives for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the benefit of others (Galatians 6:10). Joseph’s trials were for the good of his family and ultimately the nation of Israel. Paul’s prison experience was for the good of the Philippian jailer and his family. Christ’s death was for the good of those who trust Him as savior. Good often comes out of bad – and if the spiritual good of another person can come out of your pain, well isn’t that worth it?

4. God may be trying to change you. Real spiritual change rarely comes from pleasant circumstances. It normally comes out of hardship (James 1:2-4). When life is good we tend to sit back and enjoy it. It’s when life is painful that we begin to examine it and search for answers. That process will lead to change. In fact the Christian life is all about change – changing into the image of Christ. Take encouragement from your trials – they mean that God isn’t through with you yet (Hebrews 13:21).

5. God forgives all confessed sin but He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our sin. We tend to think that when God forgives, He removes the sin and the results of our sin. It’s true that He removes the sin and puts it on His Son. It’s also truth that He removes the eternal consequences of sin. But He doesn’t always choose to remove the temporal consequences. The alcoholic may suffer the ravages of a diseased liver even after confessing his sin. Many of our problems in life fall into this category. We suffer even though we are walking with God because of choices made in the distant past. When that is the case, ask God for grace to handle the trials (Hebrews 4:16).

6. The actions of other people impact my life. It may not be fair but it is reality. What other people do; the choices they make can have a significant impact – often negative – on our lives. While we may not be able to control what they do, we can control how we respond. This is where faith comes in. As Christians we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is we choose to respond in a Jesus imitating way instead of how we would like to respond.

God is a mystery, however the Christian life isn’t. He’s told us how to live. It won’t be easy but it is possible. Ask Him for strength to get you through.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve