Working Through Fear
We can learn a lot about fear from Alex Honnold, the elite rock climber who scaled the most difficult rock face of all, El Capitan, without ropes. His epic climb was featured in the Oscar winning documentary, “Free Solo.” Alex was asked, “When you’re 2,000 feet above the ground, hanging on by your fingertips, are you scared of falling?” He responded without emotion, “I work through the fear until it’s just not scary anymore.” Hmm? “…until it’s not scary anymore.” Though few, if any, of us would dare to climb a rock wall without ropes, the Bible commissions us to learn to face our fears until they eventually evaporate. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV) You can face your fears, if you let God’s love for you drive them out.
I’ve heard it said, “The salary you make will be the average salary of your six closest friends.” Perhaps it’s true. But what I unequivocally believe IS true: who I am friends with will resemble who I become. Therefore, I choose my friends very carefully. If I don’t want to become like them, I won’t spend a lot of time with them. Unless, of course, I am capable of influencing them in a positive way. But the amount of time spent with them will be guarded. I have way too much to lose to let my spiritual life deteriorate because of an unhealthy relationship. The Bible even warns us, “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” At a time in my life, sad to say, I had been the corruptor. But, thank God, for a near half-century I have tried to be and have healthy friends.
Snowflakes Aren’t Eternal
According to Wonderopolis, “Meteorologists estimate that there are 1 trillion, trillion, trillion different types of snowflakes. That’s 1 with 36 zeros! When several ice crystals stick together, they form a snowflake. As snowflakes tumble through the air, swirling and spiraling, they each take a different path to the ground. Each snowflake falls and floats through clouds with different temperatures and moisture levels, which shape each snowflake in a unique way. Even though two snowflakes may form in the same cloud, their different journeys to the ground will affect their shape and size, giving each snowflake its own identity.” Whenever you think you’re not that special and unique, remember the God who made one-of-a kind snowflakes to merely melt away, made you to live forever.
Losing Your Intelligence
I often ask my wise wife, Suzie, to review my K-LOVE radio spots. She always has profound insights that make them better. Recently, I asked her to read one, and her comment was, “I would change that last sentence because it sounds like you lost your intelligence.” When she said it, it made me laugh, and so I repeated it back to her, “…because it sounds like you lost your intelligence?” We then both roared with laughter. It reminds me of how important it is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, because re-listening to the overstatements we say to one another may not just give us a good laugh, they may actually bring us closer to the ones we love. A merry heart is sometimes the best medicine we can ever receive and, likewise, give. (Proverbs 17:22)
Respecting Your Life
Do you respect yourself? Let me phrase it this way, “Are you proud of who you are becoming?” It’s a critically important question that will determine how healthy your life actually becomes. Sure, I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, or everything I’ve become, but I long to be proud of every part of my life. Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary, said, “If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of his life.” I believe the word “respect” would be an accurate substitute here for “reverence.” So, let me say, “If a man loses his respect for any part of his life, he will lose his respect for all of his life.” If you would not want the person you respected the most to know about a part of your life, then pray to Jesus to transform this part of you.
I believe each of us are called of God, but it will take character to fulfill that calling. Howard Rachinski founded the organization CCLI that distributes music to hundreds of thousands of churches around the world. In his book, “Life Seasons,” Howard writes, “I see (our) Life Seasons as divided into two categories – “Calling” and “Character.” …the Calling Seasons are Preparation, Productivity, Transition, and Impartation…God cultivates our mission…advancing us into His purpose. (While) …the Character Seasons (are) Despair, Famine, and Refreshing. They are those times when God works on our internal nature (including our integrity, honor, moral fiber, discipline, [and] ethics) – advancing us into His image.” Charisma (your gifting) may get you there, but it will take character to keep you there.
The Curves of Nature
Are you having a difficult time figuring out God’s will for your life and where He is leading you? That’s not surprising. Though, at times, very painful. If you study nature, you’ll observe it has very few straight lines. So, too, with the God of creation. His will for us is never as expected. His purpose is often obscured. Our lives are filled with twists and turns, designed to keep us dependent upon God alone, and not leaning on our own understanding or preferences. It is true, as Jesus said, “…the narrow way leads to life,” but it is never a straight line. It zigs and zags and makes us wonder where God is, and where we are, as well. Don’t tire of being dependent upon God. Instead, recognize you are helpless without Him, but He promises you will be completely fulfilled with Him.
Of Big and Little Dogs
Did you ever notice, some small dogs don’t know how small they are, while some big dogs don’t realize how big they are? What’s the principle? How victorious we are in life will depend, at some point, on how we see ourselves. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel sent 10 spies into the land who, with trepidation, exclaimed, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33, NIV) Had they courageously gone forward, they could have defeated their weaker enemies, but, instead, they cowered and caved. Do you know how mighty you are in God? With Him, you are undefeatable; but without Him any victory will be short-lived. Let your identity and confidence be based on how God views you, and not upon how you view yourself.
Accountability and Rock Climbing
The number one thing I pray for those I love is that they would “live safe.” So much can be lost in a foolish moment. That’s why ropes are the lifeline between rock climbers. Without them, they could fall to their death. In the same way, accountability is the lifeline between Christ-followers. The Bible says, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) And, “Woe to the man who falls and has no one to pick him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10) We all need others. None of us are islands to ourselves. Likewise, this scripture challenges a foolish confidence in self, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Following Jesus is not an exercise in learning how to get along without Him; it’s a growing understanding that without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value.
Who Are You Clapping For?
All of us have been jealous of others. There’s always a reason to be jealous of someone else. But there’s always a better reason to appreciate what we have. Recently, I was rocked by this sentence, “Pay attention to who doesn’t clap when you succeed.” Though I initially reflected on those who, throughout my life, have not appreciated who I was, my mind soon fixated on those I have failed to applaud and affirm. I soon realized my jealousy toward others was far more painful than the jealousy others had demonstrated toward me. I was grieved and humiliated that I, at times, had been so small minded and hard hearted that I failed to affirm the value of others. It still makes me sad. May I learn to be more excited when others succeed.
The Power of Habit
Each of us know how difficult it is to break a bad habit, and how hard it is to keep a good one. The book, “The Power of Habit,” describes how, in gambling, the addicted loser can’t pull himself away from the game because the reward center in his brain doesn’t fire until he’s lost everything. When I was 17 years old, while on a date at a festival, I began to play a game which seemed incredibly simple. All I had to do was knock over a pin with a ball attached to a swinging pendulum. The man in the booth showed me over and over again how easy it was, but I couldn’t tear myself away until I lost everything I had: $75, which, in 1966, was a lot of money. I knew then what Adam and Eve had learned as well: gambling on the losing option will only lead to unspeakable loss.
Good and Bad Suffering
We all suffer. It’s Earth’s guarantee. But the Bible proclaims the reason we suffer will hold the key to its true value. It says, “If we suffer for doing good, rejoice, while if you suffer for doing wrong then just repent.” (1 Peter 3:14,17) So, why are you suffering: because of something foolish you continue to do? If so, then repent, and ask God to give you the power to change your mind and behavior. Your pain is pointless. Quit it! If you, on the other hand, are suffering because you are doing the right thing, then rejoice and give yourself a hug! Your pain has marvelous purpose and eternal value. Embrace the biblical promise and true value of godly suffering. God’s Word guarantees, “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:12)