Joy is a Conviction
In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul the Apostle writes, “I am content with weaknesses, hardships, and calamities.” Had Paul’s perspective been so radically transformed, he actually was content in his difficulties and struggles? It’s a truly “unconventional” thought! Paul actually found the cure for a shattered life! It’s a three-letter word: It’s called “joy”. Based upon my knowledge of Scripture, and living the Christian life for 45-years, I would define “joy” as: “a deep sense of inner elation and satisfaction that comes from seeing your life from God’s perspective, and responding properly to the challenges and suffering of life.” Joy is more of a conviction, than a feeling. That’s why Paul wrote “Always be full of joy in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:4)
Of Right and Wrong Responses
Do you believe that everything that happens to you, even the most difficult experiences are uniquely prepared for you, and have exceptional value if you can learn to see them from God’s perspective? Challenges are actually “opportunities in disguise”. Every irritation is a divine invitation to go to the next level. That’s why, how we see our lives is always a matter of perspective, not circumstance. Two people can go through nearly identical situations, and yet respond totally differently. The truth is, the right perspective will always produce the right response. Likewise, the wrong perspective will always produce the wrong response. Ask Jesus to help you unpack the value of the experiences in your life. For only then can you truly understand and even enjoy the life He’s given you.
Loving Your Life
What if I told you that God’s will is that you would love the life He’s given you. Would you think it was overstated? Is there any parent who wouldn’t want their child to love their lives? Imagine, if you were an all-powerful God, how you could use Your limitless power to make that a reality for all of your children. But, as God’s children, He has not designed us as mere onlookers. Here are three essential, long-term strategies we need in order to love our lives. Loving life is given to those who learn to embrace the setbacks in their lives, and see their hidden value. Loving life is given to those who develop an overcoming strategy to handle failure. And lastly, the ability to love your life is given to those who praise and thank God, even when things don’t appear to be working out.
Winston Churchill and Success
Want to know the best way to handle success? First learn how to handle failure. With that said, none of us will have a shortage of opportunities. In World War I, Winston Churchill, planned and lost the Battle of Gallipoli. Because of his poor decision making, many thousands of Allied soldiers died. He had failed miserably. Yet, 20 years later, during World War II, he led Great Britain to victory. He said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” For his extraordinary leadership, many consider him the “Man of the Century”. Proving, once again, the best training for handling success, is to first learn how to handle failure. The Bible encourages us with this principle, “Although a righteous person may fall seven times, he gets up again…” (Proverbs 24:16, NET)
Is God Throwing Stones at You?
A little boy was playing with his toy sailboat on the shore of a quiet lake. When the wind pulled the sail boat away from the shoreline, he began to cry as it went farther and farther away. An older boy came upon the scene and began throwing stones at his tiny boat. The young boy cried, “Why are you throwing stones at my boat?” The older boy said, “I’m throwing stones on the far side of your boat to create some waves to bring the sailboat back to you. Trust me; I know what I’m doing.” Whenever you feel like God is throwing stones at your life, realize they are meant to draw you closer to Him, not to drive you away.” He says to all of us, “Trust Me, I know what I’m doing!” That’s why the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
Your Tests Are Your Testimony
Do you wish you didn’t have so many tests and trials? At a certain point, each of us do. But I’ve learned, after following Jesus for over 45 years, that the trials specifically created for me, bring out the best in me. The primary issue is whether we genuinely believe God’s promises and trust Him. If we do, shakings will eventually bring out the best in us, and are actually essential for each of our lives. We must go through shakings in order to become unshakeable! Our tests give us our testimony! Even our mess . . . gives us our message! God’s promises are greater than our problems, and a godly perspective will conquer any predicament. Rather than asking God to stop the struggles in your life, ask Him to reveal His grand purpose for them.
The Rationality of God Liking You
Perhaps you find it easy to believe that God loves you, but harder to believe He likes you. God liking you is the only rational, reasonable, explanation for His actions. He’s omniscient (All Knowing). He sees your past, present and future. Whatever opinion He has about you, He’s always had about you. He’s the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) We are God’s beloved! We are God’s friend! You would never say to a best friend, “I love you! But, I don’t like you!” A best friend is someone who has seen you at your worst, and still loves you & still “likes” being with you. Do any of us have any question that God has seen us at your worst? I fail a lot! But, God’s promise is: “There’s nothing you can do to make Me not like you!”
What American’s Think About God
What American’s think about God is quite revealing. A recent survey determined 28% believe in an “Authoritarian God”, who is angry at humanity’s sins. 24% believe God is “Distant”, and is more of a cosmic force that launched the world, and then left it spinning on its own. 21% say He’s “Critical”, having a judgmental eye on the world, but is not willing to intervene, either to punish or comfort. Surprisingly and sadly, only 22% believe in a “Benevolent God”, who is forgiving and accepting of anyone who repents. So, the challenge for all of us who have a relationship with the “Benevolent God”, whose name is Jesus, is to represent Him in an authentic and genuine way. Because the only way someone can see the Person of God…is in His people.
She Called Him “Daddy”
One of the most amazing examples of a father loving a daughter that I’ve seen was with my wife, Suzie, and her father. When Suzie was twenty years old, she was arrested for carrying marijuana across the Canadian border. She spent a sleepless night in a felony cell. Suzie thought her parents back in California, who she was very close to, wouldn’t hear about it. But they did. Not knowing they had, she called home a few days later, and her dad said, “I heard about the problem you had in Canada.” Totally embarrassed, Suzie froze on the phone. Her dad quickly followed up with, “That’s water under the bridge honey. We just want to know if you’re OK!” She called him “Daddy” her whole life. It always makes me emotional when I tell the story, because “…the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)
In the Book of Genesis, when young Isaac asked his father Abraham, “Where’s the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So, when Abraham bound his son and placed him on the altar, it demonstrated an incredible trust relationship between a father and his son. He laid his 12-year old son willingly on the altar, and Isaac completely surrendered to the will of his father . . . just like Jesus! How about us? When we’re in trouble, do we run to God as a trusted Father, or away from Him. God knows if we’ve completely surrendered or not. We can’t fake it! He knows if we really trust Him or not, and there will always come opportunities for us to show Him.
Nothing demonstrates how much God loves us more than Christ’s death on the Cross. By crucifying His Son, God chose the most difficult alternative, out of all possible options. Jesus became what He hated the most…sin. It was the greatest torture of all. Jesus had to be God, and not some created fall guy sent down to do His dirty work. God gave us His best. He didn’t have an ace up His sleeve. It cost God the Father the life of His Son. The two great Christian ordinances: The Lord’s Supper and Water Baptism, both remind us of the Cross. There’s a poem I heard as a young Christian that sums it up well. “What giving again I asked in dismay, and must I keep giving and giving always? No, said an angel piercing me through. Just give till the Savior stops giving to you.”
There has never been an age in need of authenticity more than this age. Our generation has been hyped to death. Therefore, the critique of many non-Christians about our seeming hypocrisy is a devastating indictment. As a teenager myself, it was hypocrisy that drew me away from Christianity into atheism. But, the problem is not just hypocrisy. The problem is the air of moral superiority many Christians carry around. The word hypocrite is taken from an old Greek word that refers to the wearing of a mask. In Ancient Greece, actors often wore masks according to the character they played. Their character’s appearance on the stage was a façade…it was an “act.” If our faith is not genuine, no one wants it, not even God. While there is breath in us, may we each represent Jesus well.