The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed. -Oswald Chambers
Just after being diagnosed with Takayasu’s Arteritus, I kept telling everyone that I felt like I was awake for the first time in a long time. Why? My Christianity was in hibernation, only to be awakened in crisis. I have learned that if we don’t use our “faith muscles” everyday they will be sluggish and sleepy when we need them. We will have to dust off our Christianity like a long-forgotten tool and hope that we remember how to use it and pray that it
will “start on the first pull.” I see so many people in the same place that I just was and want to scream at them to wake up! I have come to think of the Holy Spirit as caffeine for a drowsy spiritual life. Today, I am living my life steeped in God’s word and close communion with Him. But it’s only because it took a crisis to wake me up. The problem that I know I struggle with is that I get too easily complacent and self-sufficient. It becomes a slow fade from utter dependence to “Oh yeah, hey God I could use you today.”
Let me break down my walls of pride and tell you that God isn’t interested in my eloquence as a speaker or a writer. He is only interested in my surrendered life. I am no good to Him, my message holds no weight, unless He, and He alone, is the author of it. And if I am brutally honest, with myself as well as the rest of you, without a diagnosis of Takayasu’s Arteritus, and the continuation of battling an incurable disease (which means no miracle) my pride and self-sufficiency would still be running my life. And my fear is that with a miracle, those worldly crutches would begin to eventually, over time, creep back in to their supreme position.
Life hurts sometimes, no doubt about it. When it does I have learned that I need to step past my pride and self-sufficiency and have the confidence in my weakness to ask for help when I need it and then have the humility to receive it on God’s terms so that his perfect strength can be displayed. I don’t need to understand it, I don’t need to agree with it. In fact, I don’t have much choice in the matter if I am going to be obedient.
Helplessness and weakness…I used to hate them but God loves them and because of them God is able to use me. Maybe this is my miracle…
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14 NIV)
Moses is telling the Israelites as they faced the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other side, do not be afraid, stand firm, don’t give up, just get out of the way and watch God work. I love that! Do you feel caught between an army and the sea today? Quiet your battling mind, hand over the struggle to God, no matter how big or how small, believe He will fight for you, and then get out of the way and watch Him work!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly? Not in a plane, or on an amusement park ride but fly like superman. I think that would be one of the most amazing experiences ever! The freedom, the exhilaration of soaring above the trees, the view from the air! But I have to confess I am terrified of heights. It isn’t so much being up high
that scares me it’s the idea of falling. So if I ever wanted to fly I would have to let go of that fear of falling. I can promise you I will probably never know the experience of skydiving because I don’t know that I would ever be able to get past the door of the plane, let alone the free fall at the beginning. Isn’t that what holds so many of us back, fear? A fear of falling, a fear of failing? What if you didn’t have to be afraid? What if you could let go? I will never be able to fly if my feet stayed planted on terra firma. If I want to know what it is to fly, I will have to let go, I will have to jump.
I am only truly beginning to understand what the cost of being a true disciple of Christ is. This is where you begin to move from one in a crowd of nameless faces to someone who stands out, stands up, and says “Hey wait, there has to be more than this!” It is where you begin to move from what can God do for me to what can I do for God.
I love how Joni Ericson Tada relays this idea…
“God extends His hand and offers you life abundant and joy unspeakable, for here and eternity. But do you ever wonder how much it could cost? The answer is short, simple, and painful. “It will cost you everything,” God replies.
To understand life abundant, joy unspeakable, you have to be ready and willing to lay everything, everything, down and walk away. You have to be ready to stand on the edge of a cliff and jump, with no Plan B. This is where it is so easy to get tripped up. I am a sucker for Plan B. Plan B represents safety but another way of saying that is that Plan B is your failure plan. It is where you say, okay God Plan A is yours, but just in case you let me fall, I have my back-up parachute packed. How easy does it then become to pull the emergency cord as soon as we jump. We never get to experience the freedom of flying because we react to the fear of falling. I love how Woody puts it in Toy Story when he is talking to Buzz Lightyear (for those who are familiar) “that’s not flying, that’s falling, with style.” I, for one, am tired of living this way. Tired of hedging my bets, tired of looking over my shoulder, tired of living afraid to fall even if it is with style.
Joni goes on to say, “Most of us trifle with the cost of Christianity. We slap our sins on the table and, for the price of Somebody Else’s blood, happily walk away with an asbestos-lined soul and a title deed to heaven. With “eternity” taken care of, we get back to living life as usual, offering the obligatory gestures to God on Sundays and holidays.”
Will that work? It’s definitely not Plan A. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)
We are creatures of habit, creatures of comfort, and that too easily becomes the driver of our daily lives. I have begun to understand that I need to get over the idea that Christ died for me so that I could live comfortably, allowing Him into my life on Sunday during church or when I find myself in need. We need to understand that we cannot live however we want day to day, knowing that we have our insurance policy of salvation covering us when we die. We will never know life abundant and joy unspeakable if this is the route we choose.
God has a great plan for all of us and I am pretty sure it doesn’t involve the view from inside the plane, the comfort of the couch, or the safety of the sidelines.
Do you want to fly? I do! So, no more being afraid of failing, for greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. If God is for us who can be against us?
If you want to fly, first you have to jump! I think its time.
“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” Mother Teresa
This week’s challenge…be the change.
There are a lot of songs I love to run to. One song in particular is called Undignified and is always sure to get my feet moving a little faster when it comes on. The version I run to is actually from the children’s worship team cd at our church. The first time I heard it I couldn’t help but want to sing along, and maybe even (gasp!) dance. It is very simple in lyrics but the message is a good one.
I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my king.
Nothing Lord is hindering the passion in my soul.
And I’ll become even more undignified than this.
Some would say it’s foolishness
But I’ll become even more undignified than this.
This song is based off of what David has to say about dancing in front of the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:22, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”
When I run to this song I can’t help but think of the Friends episode, The One Where Phoebe Runs. Here is a quick clip
We all need to be a little more Undignified in our walk (or run) with God but being undignified can also mean being embarrassed. I don’t like to be taken out of my comfort zone let alone going even further, as David says, to humiliated in my own eyes. But outside of my comfort zone is where I can find God because I stop relying on myself and begin relying on Him. This is the reason we don’t like to run with the Phoebe’s of the world. It is embarrassing to us, as fine upstanding formal “runners,” and people are certainly watching us and the fear that someone might see us and then judge us for our unorthodox style, is very humiliating. That isn’t how “runners run,” so instead we opt for the straight laced approach and avoid those “free spirits,” just like Rachel did. We have taken God and religion and made it clean and neat and in a much larger sense unapproachable to the Phoebes. That is what we have done though, not what Jesus did on his days here on Earth.
The disciples didn’t always get this either so we are in good company. They were found throughout scripture saying get these kids out of here, get these sick out of here, get these sinners out of here. They completely missed the point of why Jesus was here in the first place. When Jesus was at Matthew’s mingling with the “scum” of that time period he was rebuked by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ response… “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he added “Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture. I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
We often have the spirit of the Pharisees. We shush those “Phoebe runners” shouting for the help of Jesus, we look the other way when they run by, because we are so caught up in ourselves and appearances, so caught up in our own “Jesus thing” that we are missing it! And not only that, if we associate with them we might be confused for being one of them. Totally missing what we have been called to do. Go and make disciples…Be the salt and the light.
So here is to running with a little less self-consciousness and a little more self-confidence in how we are called to run the race in the first place, flailing arms and legs and all! Here is to getting undignified!
Now that we have that out of the way, here is the deal today. I wanted to post something and had nothing. I also was past due for my scheduled run and have been wanting to hit the roads but it’s HOT so I started up my hamster wheel (aka treadmill) and instead of being struck with inspiration I hurt. Every step of the first two miles.
Before I even made it through the first mile, through gritted teeth, I said “Ok God. I have nothing here. Please pour your Spirit out and fill me. ” I had nothing to give physically and no divine inspiration. I was ready to quit and then my mom’s favorite song came on and I closed my eyes (you can do that when you are running on a treadmill) and just took a deep breath and let the song wash over me. It was like a fist that had been wrapped around me was releasing and when the song was over I played it again.
As the miles continued to pass my brain was lighting up with ideas like fireworks on the 4th of July and I was trying to type and run and be sure I didn’t forget any of them. I had been trying to force this, trying to do it on my own and I should know by know that every time I try to do it that way I will fail. This is what happens when I try to take the reigns. But as soon as I stopped and asked God He was right there. When we ask for more of Him, He will never disappoint us.
Today I just want to encourage you, take a deep breath, then close your eyes and let the grace of God wash over you from the song that saved my run (and my writing) today. I hope that it blesses you as much as it did me.
Has anyone ever quoted you this bible verse as if to say, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. God will take this situation and make it all better. He will fix whatever (insert sickness, grief, problem here.)” This bible verse is very often quoted by Christians as a band-aid, as a promise that everything will work out for good. I have had my world crumble around me in death and in sickness and many times questioned where the goodness was in that.
Today I am not going to tell you that everything is going to be ok but I will instead share with you the lesson that I have learned about this bible verse and challenge your way of thinking.
Roman 8:28 isn’t a promise that the bad will go away, or even that you will be protected from the bad. Instead it is a promise that everything in our lives, the good and yes, the bad, will come together for good. You may be asking, how can God take what I am going through and make it good, there is no way that this can end well. You don’t understand the depth of my loss, the magnitude of my hurt. I have been there and I would tell you that when you find yourself at that threshold of helplessness and hopelessness, if you choose to turn to God as your source of comfort and strength, your source of help and hope, you have found the good. If, in your losses you can learn to trust God for everything, you have found the good. The situation may not end immediately but in the very act of turning to God, you have found the good. In leaning on God and allowing His grace to carry you through you have found the good. This is a choice we must make, it is an all-in attitude. Because I have chosen to live this way in spite of the curveballs life has thrown me I have come to personally understand God’s purpose in our trials. He desires to create Christ-like character in us, to bring us into harmony with His will for us. He is interested in a “better us,” not in providing an easier path.
Notice how this works though, God causes…this is not about us. This is about God. He is the one who takes the bad and makes it good, takes the ugly and makes it beautiful, takes my mess of a life and creates a story that glorifies Him. We can’t do any of this on our own. This is a position of total surrender, of dying to yourself, when we stop wrestling with the will of God and start walking in it, whether we like where the path is leading or not. If we can just let go we can have so much more. Much easier said than done, I am the first to admit. I am a work in progress…
David Jeremiah said that “God is up to something when He sends trouble our way…When you have the wisdom borne of suffering, you begin to have the tools to accomplish something in the world.” This is how when things are falling apart, they may truly be falling into place.