When I first began to pursue God in humility and awe, I was plagued by my past and found myself dwelling on my past mistakes. My terrible track record of sin and shame was tied around my ankles like heavy weights. How can I move forward with all this baggage of guilt and shame? But I continued to move forward, seeking God’s truth and fixing my eyes on Christ and His love. I would read often of forgiveness and His unconditional love for each of us. This gave me hope, but in times of everyday life, my past would creep into my mind like a cancer. Who am I fooling? I am the sum of my past, my actions, my mistakes, and the wake of people behind me whom I hurt. These people in my life were real people and this faith of mine may be some type of escapism from the past. How does my new belief affect these people? Who has the time and wisdom to go back and try to fix all the problems I have created in my past? Plus, it would take me the rest of my life to even scratch the surface of making right what had been wrong. The task seemed so overwhelming; if I allowed myself to dwell on the insurmountable pile of crap right behind me, I would surely sink into despair. How selfish of me to move on in my life with this new-found grace, and leave the skeletons spilling out of the closet onto the floor of the room I just shut the door on. Precious are the people that I hurt! How can I help them now, and why would they listen to me anyway. Who would take advice from such a mess as I? What gives me the right to revisit the pain and scars left by my actions in the past? Surely, this is holding me back from true freedom. But Christ promises me freedom; but I could not understand what freedom really was. I was to put others before myself, but in the past, I had always put myself first. What do I need to do to set things right? But then I realized, quite unintentionally that God is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That sounds like some warm and fuzzy notion that only exists in my own mind. Do I really believe that notion? I can only hope that this is indeed the case.
Now I find myself in a another conundrum. I am trying to live by faith and putting God and His kingdom first in my life. The problem here is that my direction is unclear. What about my bills, my family, my peace of mind? How do I respond to society when it asks me, “Where are you going, and how are you going to fulfill your responsibilities?” The fear of leaving more bodies in my wake as a result of inadequacies is another weight tied around my ankles once again. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? Walking by faith looks strange to most folk; that’s why you don’t see too many people doing it! Oh, they will say they are walking by faith, but are they really? Jesus tells us not to worry about life’s challenges, but to only put Him first and He will help us take care of the rest. When He sent His disciples out to spread the “good news”, He told them not to bring money, food, or even a change of clothes! This seems a great mystery to me, especially in our country where what you own and where you live is the defining of your success and your legacy. I know that this earth is passing away and that life is about loving others in a way that leads them to Truth. But here I am and here you are. It is inescapable, isn’t it? Shall I be defined by how I live here on earth or will I be defined by how I didn’t live on earth? I am yearning for the eternal and the light deep within me; I seem to have lost interest in worldly things altogether. So how do I function?
Haunted by the past and plagued by the future, I set out today to do the right thing. I put my trust in the One who promised me that He would make all the wrongs right again. Do I really believe this truth or am I just fooling myself into believing? Do I really have faith? Or am I just hoping that God will step in and do what He says? What part do I play in His plan? It can be overwhelming at times, no doubt about it. But this is the very substance of faith: that God wants us to know that we are helpless without Him. The key of humility opens the door of promise. That sounds just terrible. I have to bring myself low to look up; what a principle to live by: it makes no sense to our feeble little minds. Surely there is a better way or a happy medium! Why must I feel like crap for God to lift me up? I think I am learning that the key is to not dwell on myself, but rather to dwell on Him. Sounds great, but how do we do this?
No wonder Christ told His disciples that “narrow is the path that leads to salvation”. Who can walk this path that requires us to deny ourselves completely? Deny worry, deny your past is unsalvageable, deny that fact that you are useless to Him, deny the cloudy vision of what is to be, deny desires of this world, deny the comforts of life, deny, deny, deny! Living in a state of perpetual dependence on His grace is not easy to do; I don’t care what others say, this is not a trip for the weak of heart. But someone says, “You are weak, but He is strong!” O.k. but I don’t know how to tap into that strength at will! Stop talking and preaching at me and get your butt over here to help me and then we can talk. Oh, the phrases and verses that are tossed around like bacon bits to hungry dogs. I know everyone feels this way from time-to-time if not all the time. The reality is that hearing is not the key; doing is the key, if we have not been rendered frozen by inaction and confusion. But what motivates us is the grace that we live in, yearning to be with our King, but understanding that it is not about me, it is about those whom Jesus loves and has put us in charge of reaching out to for His sake. We need to let our light shine, but how can I shine in such a state of poverty both physically and spiritually? It is all about the condition of our hearts and understanding the nature thereof.
Just by observation, we can understand this wisdom: when people set their hearts on riches, they are never satisfied; when people set their hearts on misery, they are never satisfied. It is just fact that people can never have enough; they always want more. When asked how much money was enough money, Rockefeller answered, “Just a little bit more”. This was coming from one of the richest men on planet earth! The drug addict always needs just a little more. The sexually immoral person always seeks a little more perversion to be satisfied. The same is true of negative thinking. Personally, when I am having a pity-party (this can last for weeks or months), I forget God’s answer to my prayers. He has been faithful, but it never seems to be enough! I take for granted the fact that He has not only delivered me from a hellish prison, but also has blessed me. After He answers a prayer and blesses me, I forget after only a short time and begin to dwell on our next mission. How arrogant is that! “Ok God, thanks for that, now I need this”. My addictions have been removed from me, You have delivered me from death, You have taught me in the secret place, now what about my finances, now what about my marriage, now what about the “big picture”? I have prayed this prayer: “Dear Father in heaven, bless me with success so that people around me can see that You are blessing me. Why would people want what I have when I am so pitiful? You should bless me so Your name can be glorified!” But the reality is that maybe I’m not ready to be blessed in that way. I have not done a good job with financial success in the past; why should this time be any different? Christ my Savior knows me much better than I know myself; maybe He knows what He is doing. I say I trust in the Lord, but then want to tell Him or expect Him to do things my way. How foolish is that? I have learned that humility is a life-long journey. Just when you think you have pride nipped in the bud, God sheds light on new and interesting frontiers of pride. I wish I knew the entire battlefield that is pride; but I venture to say that it would probably overwhelm me and cause me to give up. When a person is walking in the spirit, he is learning about a whole new world. And just as children, we have to be taught the basics first and then move on to more advanced learning. You can’t take a month’s worth of basic addition and subtraction and then move on to calculus the next month! We are so impatient today; God must just sit and laugh out loud at our perceived need to hurry up. All things in life are processes and take time. Why would we think that the things of God are quick to understand? We all must have patience and there is where the trust in the Lord lies: in the humble position of a young son learning patiently from his loving Father. And even if God decided to answer my prayers to bless me my way, it would only inevitably lead to another harsh lesson to be learned. He would eventually show me that I wasn’t ready. But in order to appease me, He grants the prayer request, rolls His eyes, and probably thinks, “Well, this child will eventually understand his limitations. Let this be a lesson to him.” I would then be humbled even further. But why put myself through all the pain? Why don’t I just trust the Lord and ask Him that His will be done? His will is ironically our complete happiness because He loves us more than we will ever know. So trusting in the Lord means not only that His will be done in our lives, but also that His complete blessing of peace, joy, love, and wisdom is in that will. Why do I have such a hard time seeing that?
But the puzzle remains: how long do I wait on the Lord? This is a faith walk, not a faith sit. How do I move forward without making another mistake? The answer lies in this: focus on today. Christ taught His disciples to pray daily and to seek Him first. If I don’t focus on this now, then when life comes at me 100 miles per hour, how will I be able to keep focus then? Disciples of Jesus Christ are compelled to “take up their cross daily”, not every now and again or when we have time away from our own lives! Paul teaches us that we battle very powerful foes on a daily basis. We have no choice but to prepare ourselves for spiritual warfare on a daily basis or we will get our asses kicked. Plain and simple: if you step into the light and become a light in this dark world, then you are easily seen by the enemy. If the enemy can keep you busy with the world, then he wins. If the enemy can throw you a curve-ball and divert your attention away from Christ, then he has won the battle. That curve-ball is nasty: sickness, depression, addiction, imprisonment, death of loved ones, poverty, marital problems, church or pastor betrayals, catastrophes (the ‘ole’ if God is so loving, then how can He allow this ___________ tragedy to happen?), the list goes on and on. People underestimate the power of evil in this world. Mostly, evil has become sexy. Idolatry rules America. I won’t take the time to prove it here, but think about all the obsessions we are subject to: from rock stars to politics to Star-Trek conventions. From experience I can definitively say that Lucifer and his angels and his power are greater than any human could imagine. Listen to what Jesus said: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12. Satan was and is warring against the Almighty God? His battle has shifted to focus on the earth; this is where he walks. So from experience and researching other disciples’ paths, one needs to “put on the whole armor” daily or risk the consequences because the enemy is damn smart. You can always just “check out” and not worry about Jesus and spiritual matters. Then the enemy will pretty much leave you alone; you can keep yourself down without any help from them! Our hearts are ripe for an easy going life. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Because God is all-knowing, He knows that one of life’s greatest challenges is the enemy of fear and especially fear as it relates to worry. That is why Christ in so many words tells us to live for today and to prepare for each day. “Love casts our fear”. We must understand our place in each day by bringing ourselves to Him first and foremost. Focusing on His love for us and yielding our whole being to Him in thankfulness is the key. God is most powerful; Christ promised that power to us, He even tells us how to do it. But the enemy is very powerful as well; we stand no chance by ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord will finish what He has started. If you have given your heart to Christ, He won’t give it back. But being a disciple is a long journey from being a believer. God’s plan for each of us is a process; all of His work has been, is and will be a process. Where am I today? Am I a believer tucked away in the stream of life’s lullaby or am I a soldier for Christ? There is no middle ground unfortunately. I sometimes wish it was like the National Guard: report to training at a scheduled time, serve when needed, and just stay prepared. But alas, for me this has proved impossible. I always end up very far from Truth on my own adventures. If I don’t focus on just today, I get lost in worry, regret, and selfishness. Plain and simple, but maybe there are people out there much different than I in this respect. Some people may have the ability to go much longer without re-charging their spiritual batteries. I am not one of them, but sometimes wish I were! So today I confess that God is the god of yesterday, today and tomorrow; and that He wants me to choose Him today. Forgiveness has overcome yesterday and wisdom is her gift; God equips me for the day; and tomorrow is His alone.
Prayer: Oh, Heavenly Father, praise Your Name and praise your glory! Dear Christ Jesus, the Name above all names, praise the Savior and Messiah! Praise the Holy Spirit, the Power of God in us, how marvelous Your gift to men, and that You are mindful of us! Who are we Lord that you grant us your unconditional love and favor? We bow our hearts to you in awe of Your glory and wisdom. Thank you, Lord for your gift of salvation and a chance to even pray to Your ear! Incline Your ear to my plea. Hear me, oh God of Israel, my plea for a closer walk with you. I forgive all as You have forgiven me and I will not be a slave to resentment or guilt. Search me and show me if there is any darkness that I may rebuke it in Your name and ask for forgiveness, let there not be anything between us. Teach me patience, humility, and strengthen my faith through Your Holy Spirit. Grant me Your wisdom for doing Your will today Lord, keep me from pride and the evil one. I lay my life down to You today my God, count it a worthy sacrifice, take all of me and mold me to Your will this day. I take up my cross as an easy yoke and praise You for it! Guide my steps and words today for Your name’s sake and in Your name I pray, Amen.
Peace be with you,