Context is King. But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.
Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:
“I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
“It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”
Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?
The End That Satisfies the Means Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.
Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.
So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:
Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?
If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5.7)”
Ever think that? Ever been in one of those moments where the hammer is about to drop on your life, your job, your deal, your carefully orchestrated plans and all you can think of is how “this is just not going my way”, or better, a four letter word or ten cross your mind or lips? When I’m in the middle of an anxious moment – everything’s falling apart, the deal is unraveling because the CFO’s got a buddy who’ll do it cheaper, the finance company’s moved from phone calls to foreclosure/repossession – I’ve had friends email me or text me or even tell me “cast your anxiety on Him…”
Being in the moment, the hardest thing to think of is anything other than the moment. Last week, in discussion with a group of men the question was raised “How can a man take his own kids into his home, whack them in the neck with a hatchet, fire off an email, and then burn down the house, killing himself and everyone in it?” I thought about the story of Josh Powell and immediately could only think of another, nearly unrelated story that happened 5 years ago – when my younger brother pointed a .380 at his own chest and pulled the trigger on a Monday morning in January.
The answer to the question came swiftly “That guy would have to believe that this was his best or only exit from the situation he was in.” In conversation with my brother even a week or two after he tried to take his own life it was clear that he was weighed down by the anxiety that comes from believing a lot of lies (over a long period of time) about what’s possible, what’s probable, and what the most “viable” outcome of his situation (pre-gunshot) would be. Josh Powell had to believe that his best option was murdering his own kids and taking himself out in the process. But, both my brother and Powell were at the far end of a very dark tunnel that neither of them had to go to.
Today, consider this – if you are “in Christ”, you have a very large target on your back, just like me. You have an enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He will lie to you every chance he gets and he has no friends, only “servants”. He will plant seeds of deception in your life and do everything he can to keep your focus on what’s now, what’s not possible, and a very limited menu of viable outcomes. However, you also have an ally: the living Christ, whose Spirit lives in you to confirm truth and comfort you in your fears.
It’s trite to say “this too, shall pass”. Though it be banal, its cliche cannot take away its truth. Time will pass, this situation may leave marks and scars. But, it cannot last forever. Jesus never wanted us to ignore our troubles or trials, rather to grieve our losses, seek His comfort, and “let endurance have its perfect result so that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” As my friend Greg Ford says – “I wrote it on the inside windshield of my truck – trials are necessary.”
My prayer for you this morning is that if you’re in a “limited menu” moment, you will heed any or all of what scripture says regarding anxiety. Don’t minimize the moment or the fear, rather press in to God with your concerns and pray He helps you unravel the lies before they begin to grow like kudzu, strangling your hope.
“If you hold to my teachings, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32).”