Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Everyday Life

There is much hardship in the world, even in the life of a Christian.  As I write this post, I am in the midst of trying to work what I am pre-approved for in a mortgage into a suitable home for my wife and myself.  At the same time, we have been praying for quite some time that God would bless us with a child, but so far it has not been His time.  I know He knows best, but patience is something I am far from mastering.  Considering we have no place to put a nursery in our current home, I rest in the fact that the time has not been right.  I have a job I am terribly thankful for as it provides amazing benefits for us, but it is a job that grows more and more frustrating.  We need the benefits as I have some health issues that require medication that would be unaffordable otherwise.  I just pray that where I am is not my life calling.  I do not feel it is, but for now I need to be thankful for what I do have.  Getting back to moving, it will mean leaving an area I love and taking my wife away from a job where she has been used of God for thirteen years and her family and friends that she has been close to her whole life.  My wife says she is excited about where God may be taking us, but, as a husband, it hurts me to no end to take her away from all of that.  We will be moving to a church family we both love dearly and we know that will be a tremendous blessing.  On top of all of that, I feel terrible that I these things hurt me because we have it so much better than so many others.  There are countless millions of people around the world who would give anything just to say they have my issues.  Please do not think I am writing all of this for some kind of a pity party.  I am just using myself as an example for all the normal day-to-day problems we all face in this life.  Some have them worse than me, some have it better than me, but we all have things that bring us down.  There is one verse, though, that really speaks to me when I think about these things.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.   John 16:33 NKJV
That really puts it all in perspective.  Any and all of our problems can be summed up in this passage.  Whatever it is we go through in this world, we can take heart because our Savior has overcome the world.  More than that, through Him, we will overcome the world as well.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 5:4-5 NKJV
It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that we will overcome the world.  There is nothing in the world that is bigger than God.  There is nothing in this world that can not be overcome by our faith in Jesus Christ. It is one thing to read that passage, but now let's see how to put it into practice in our own lives.

I think the first problem we have is our failure to see things from an eternal perspective.  We look at the here and the now and base our feelings upon that.  I am personally very guilty of this at times, as my wife would surely tell you.  It is easy to lose sight of eternity when a bill we can not pay is due tomorrow.  It is hard to focus on forever when some event we have been looking forward to for a very long time has been rained out today.  Sometimes it is even hard to take comfort in our Savior who will never leave us when the earthly one we loved the most has left us.  Our illnesses, home repairs, auto breakdowns, overdue bills, layoffs, and ever other kind of life tribulation seem so large that we just can not seem to see around them.  This is why we need to always have that eternal perspective.  If we keep our eyes on the here and now, everything in the here and now will seem so much larger than they are.  When we keep our eyes on eternity, everything in the here and now will be put in their proper perspective.  What does an overdue electric bill mean for eternity?  What does a lost relationship mean when you are the bride of Christ?  What does sickness mean when we know we will live forever?  Everything here is only temporary.  Money problems are temporary as we lay up eternal treasures in Heaven.  All illness is only temporary as one day we will have our glorified bodies that will never get sick, tired, or sore.  All emotional pain is only temporary as our God will one day wipe away all of our tears. 

The other problem that we have is that we have the wrong focus.  We focus on the ends and not the means.  We focus on what we want and not the One who will give it to us.  What I mean is that we want joy and peace and so we focus on those things.  Its not that joy and peace are bad things and it is not even that we should not desire them.  We should desire joy and peace because those are things that the Lord promises to give us.  The problem is that when our focus is on those, we will never achieve them.  We can not give ourselves joy.  We can make ourselves feel better for a little while, but the kind of joy that the Bible is speaking of is so much more than that.  We also can not give ourselves peace.  If anything, the very fact that we try to focus on peace makes peace an impossibility.  You can not be at peace when you are trying hard to attain it.  What we need to do is put our focus on Jesus and the rest will come naturally.  Think about it, when you are sad can you make yourself happy?  Can you just sit there and focus on joy and then feel it?  If you have a bill overdue that you can not pay, can you just "I need to be at peace about this, I need to be at peace about this..." and feel at peace?  Of course not, you can not frantically strive for peace as peace is a state of rest.  But if you are sad or you are stressed that a bill is due and you focus on the Lord then those things will come naturally.  When you pray to the one who can comfort you, He will comfort you.  When you pray to the one who can provide for you, He will provide for you.  A great example of this is Peter walking on the water.  There were waves and wind and even gravity working against him, but while His focus was on the Lord those things did not matter.  They were still there and they were still very dangerous, but they did not matter.  He walked upon the water as though it were solid ground.  It was not until he took his eyes off the Lord and put them on his present circumstances that they overcame him and caused him to sink.  Such is the same with us.  Jesus may not take the broken relationships, overdue bills, illnesses, and other problems of life away from us but as long as we maintain our focus on Him they will not matter. 

I know what you are saying: "Easier said than done."  I know because I have said it too and I will probably say it again the next time I let life's problems get the best of me and I lose my focus.  I will probably say it to my wife who tries to share with me what I just wrote and what she has said to me before. I know I sometimes struggle in this area, and I also know God is working hard on me to help me keep my focus.  I know He will do the same for you.  The fact is that it all comes down to one simple word.  Let me reprise a bit of 1 John from earlier "And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith."  That word "faith" is what it all comes down to.  We can not overcome our problems if we do not have faith.  We can keep our focus on an eternity we do not really believe in.  We can not walk upon the wavy waters of life if we do not believe the One who calls us.  We can not get comfort from our Savior if we do not truly believe Him to be the Great Comforter.  Ultimately, when we find ourselves sinking, we much reach up in faith for the Lord to save us.  How we handle life's problems is a measure of faith.  If you truly truly believe in eternal life, what can the trivial temporal things in this life matter to you?  If you truly believe our Lord is stronger than any problem we could ever face, then what excuse do we have to fear anything?  If we truly believe that there will come a day when sickness, pain, and stress will be gone forever then why do we let them get us so down now? 

I will close today with two verses.  The first is the heart we must have.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV
And why do we have that heart?  Because this is our hope. Because this is what it means to overcome.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them [and be] their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. " Revelation 21:1-7 NKJV

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