Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Strength of Patience

I married an amazing man. I write that unequivocally because not only its it verifiable but it also has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God's undeserved grace in my life. While there are many wonderful things about my husband, one of the greatest things is his surreal amount of patience. Oftentimes I am the beneficiary of this virtue, for which I am very grateful, but even when I am not, I am blessed by the lesson that his patience teaches me. Lately this education has consisted of this truth - sometimes the greatest strength is found in waiting for God to work. When we are patient for what He wants we often get unexpected results that would never have been achieved on part of our own effort and strength.

The reason this lesson may have come later in life to me is that because it goes against much of what we've been taught in life. "God helps those who help themselves" is one example of counter-wisdom. We have been conditioned to believe that although we might acknowledge God is in charge of the universe we have to strive to arrange the details of our live to achieve that which we believe is His will. Its as if we think that somehow God abdicates the details in favor of our poor efforts at achievement. How untrue this is! We know He counts the hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30), why then wouldn't we trust Him to handle the difficult job situation, the family conflict or the challenging friend? We want to jump in, muddy the details and work for what we think is rightly ours. We display our abilities through our efforts and think its is demonstrative of our strength when reality those that wait for God to work demonstrate true strength. Strength that comes from waiting for God to work, from relying on Him as a refuge and for knowing what He will accomplish will far exceed what we ever could.

It would be as sailors tried to combat a storm. With all their might, they fight the waves, struggle against the wind and strive for peace. Regardless of their efforts, the sanest thing for them to do is to wait out the storm. They can prepare, they can do what's asked of them, but no amount of work is going to abate the tempest. Only when their patience has born fruit, will they have the calm they desire. Only then, will the seas be safe to sail.

Perhaps this truism of patient strength is this best displayed in our relationships with others. When we recognize how patient God has been in our lives with our repeated sin, we become more amenable to being patient with others. While we may think that those who are strong are those who direct conflict and challenges head on, oftentimes those who are strong are those that endure injustice, take the personal hit, and appear to be a doormat, in favor of showing love. Their unwillingness to fight for what they deserve may be perceived as weakness but in reality its in recognition that their strength is insufficient for the task. By relying on what God is going to do, and knowing that the call to love is not contingent on the person's response, their patience portends of a strength that most can not fathom. Its the strength of patience.

On this side of heaven, we may never be able to fathom while the weak are strong (I Cor. 1:27), the last will be first (Matt. 20:16) or the humble exalted (Luke 14:11). In the same vein the strength of patience over the fervor of action may never make sense while we remain in this world. But for those that can hold on to this truth, regardless of what the world throws at them, comes a security that those who work on their own can not imagine. It is this security that allows them to sail through whatever the world brings on.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You're Gonna Pay for It

In a time of bailouts, loan motivations, and foreclosures, the questions of who is liable when a debt is incurred if often a muddied one. For many, it may seem self-evident that the person who incurred the debt is also the person who should pay it, but we have seen many instances lately where this is no longer the case. Debt forgiveness, subsidy, and acts of Congress has modified that once clear-cut connection.

However, the poor economy is not the only culprit in this lopsided equation. Recently, I heard a message from Steve Lawson at the Resolved 2008 conference (for information on the 2009 conference, click here). In it, he articulated the biblical point that every sin demands a payment. The question is not whether or not sins will be paid for, the question is who will bare the cost.

It was a point that this Sunday School graduate had probably never considered to its fullest extent. It is easy to think of the fact that Christ has made my sin "white as snow" than to realize that the only way He was able to do this was to exchange my righteousness for His (for a great sermon on this topic, click here - March 1, 2008, Mike Fabrez). Because I accept Christ it doesn't mean that my sin is no longer accounted for, it means that the penalty for it has been poured out on Christ. It's just as if I accepted my own personal bailout for the debt I've incurred against God. When I accept Christ as my Savior, I in effect tell the Lord of this Universe that "I recognize the guilt of my sin and I'm accepting your payment for it." To do so lightly or without a recognition of the costs to the King, is a perversion of the awe and magnitude of Christ's grace.

However, this transaction also recognizes something else. When I say to Christ that I accept His payment for my sin, I also recognize that I am unable to make reconciliation on my own. To ever attempt to do so through the paltry offer of my good works, would be like offering monopoly money on the national debt. It's not only inadequate, its not even the right type of currency.


Cast Off

Sailing away often sounds appealing to me. In fact, in one of my all-time favorite books, A Severe Mercy, has an entire section recounting the adventures at see that the author and his young wife experienced. It sounded romantic, not just in that "boy meets girl and falls in love type of way", but in the "life is an adventure and should be experienced and not just lived" type of way. The sea seemed like a world without care. Once that boat pushed off from the dock, all the troubles were cast away too.

The analogy seems apt because the Bible says that "perfect love casts off fear" (I John 1:18, NKJV). While this verse is oft-quoted, it is only recently that I have begun thinking about the action verb associated with it. In my minds eye, I think I considered the verse to be saying, "perfect love supplants fear" or "perfect love is greater than fear." But neither of these are in fact what God's Word contains. It says "perfect love casts off fear." Just like the boat pulls up anchor, casts off, and sails into the open sea, perfect love does away with the weight of fear. It not merely overrules it, it repels it entirely.

This is a concept difficult to grasp because fear, anxiety and worry is so embedded into our day-to-day life. From worrying that we won't arrive on time, to fearing that we won't be able to pay our bills, we are consumed with that which we can't control. Love, and the rest that comes from God's perfect love, renders this fear ridiculous. Just as the anchor has no place on a boat that's sailing on the open sea, fear has no place in a life redeemed by God's love. For if God's love has overarching prevalence in our life, then it is absurd to be afraid of all that's less than it

Casting off for the blue skies and tranquil waters is promised as the pathway to peace. Real peace comes from casting off fear and trusting in Christ's love.


Better Things Ahead: March 2009

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Better Things Ahead