As hard as it is for me to believe, I have been offering my ‘musings’ every week for over five years. I am certain that in that span of time my posts have repeatedly touched upon similar themes – the constancy of change, the ubiquity of hardship and the realities of domestic life. Hopefully, I have been faithful in my appreciation of God’s amazing grace throughout all the ups and downs of life and the ever-changing challenges and joys of ministry in ‘hub of the universe’. I would like to think, having chronicled my thoughts for all this time, that the process has enabled me to glorify the Lord.
However, as soon as I think that I have made some progress in my reliance upon the goodness of God, I have mornings like Wednesday. As I was walking up to the church in anticipation of a great day at vacation Bible school, I noticed a caravan of DPW trucks stationed across the street from the church’s driveway. It seems that the sidewalk needed to be replaced and that Wednesday, July 26, was the day that the work needed to begin. I believe that I may have mumbled something under my breath that questioned if the cosmic forces were conspiring against me.
But nothing catastrophic happened: the work crew did their exacting work, the cars all navigated the serpentine route down Ashmont Street, and all the children who were planning on attending VBS arrived and enjoyed the program. In fact, some great things occurred, despite my initial fears to the contrary: God blessed us with a dozen children and more than a dozen volunteers (including a few new faces); the weather was gloriously mild (enabling the kids to play in the back lot); and I was utterly fascinated by the choreography of the ten DPW workers, each with a unique set of tasks, as they replaced the sidewalk when they returned to finish the job on Thursday. I was assuming that my glass was half empty and, as usual, God gave me the whole cow.
Over and over again, God grants me grace despite my ‘doom and gloom’ prognostications. I worry that the trucks will impede my plans, but God has something better in mind. Over and over again, God sends showers of blessings when I expect damaging rains. I question my circumstances, but God has answers I could never imagine. When I think to myself that the sky is falling, my ‘Chicken Little’ mentality only serves to discourage me when God seeks to encourage my soul. I must choose to trust in the One who causes the sun to rise and set with the details of my day.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV)
I suppose that the busyness of our street the other morning (and all the other things in life that are not going as I would prefer) has reminded me that I need to set my focus on God’s promises and not my problems. As I have been hearing at VBS this week, above the din of activity across the street, God is mighty. How foolish of me to wonder if God could still accomplish His will when a couple of trucks are blocking the way (He CAN!).
We live in a microwave society. We want instant satisfaction in every area of life. We are a culture catered to by fast-food restaurants, one hour dry-cleaners, and 15 minute meals. If we have a need, we want that need met and we want it met now. We hate to wait in lines, in traffic or in lobbies. When we need to lose weight or make financial gains, we need it this moment. We are a culture that indulges in impulse buying, on-demand viewing and immediate gratification. Unfortunately fast-food meals, get-rich-quick schemes, express diets and one-hour processes are, at best, suffer in quality and, at worst, can prove disastrous.
But what happens when that culture invades the church? A crisis strikes and people look for a quick spiritual fix for their immediate need. Is there a verse of scripture that can give grant us peace now or a prayer that will provide immediate positive resolution? We have all experienced people looking for simple answers, easy solutions, shortcuts to make spiritual sense of it all. If those rapid rewards are not immediately forthcoming, we tend to question the things and the promises of God. The problem is not our concept of God but our concept of time. The greater gifts of God take time to develop.
That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)
Are we doing the things – laboring and striving – that will develop a hope, a faith and a life that can weather the storms of life? Surrounding the above verse, Paul gives believers a three step plan for these sustaining qualities of those equipped for the long haul. First, we need to know God’s word. Next, we need to show God’s word. Finally, we need to grow in God’s word.
We need to know God’s word. The Bible reminds us that people will look for easy answers – godless myths and old wives’ tales – and neglect the truth of God that is proclaimed through all that is around us. We can better weather the storms of life and better embrace the sunny days if we truly know what the savior, protector, redeemer and keeper of all creation has said to us.
Next we need to show God’s word in the way we live. Paul likens spiritual training to physical training. No one enters the gym and expects to be the picture of fitness simply by walking amongst the machines and never exerting any energy. Neither can we expect to be the picture of godliness if we simply hang out with the people of God but never break a spiritual sweat. We can better face the dark clouds and their silver linings if we embrace discipline and increase in character.
Finally we need to grow in God’s word. We cannot remain where we are; we need to move forward. We must share the truth – reading it out loud, proclaiming it boldly and teaching it to all who will listen. We must use all the resources – our gifts, passions, abilities, preferences and experiences – to encourage those around us. Because we all have tough days and tough questions requiring tough solutions, we all need each other to keep us on the proper path.
That is why we will not accept easy solutions to the complex realities of life. We will hope in the living God who will deliver us over the long haul.