"Moreover, [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation." Romans 5:3-4 AMP
My accountability brother warrior gave these verses to me at the beginning of last week as I faced the intensified struggles currently storming in my life. He said that another brother, praying for me, gave him the reference. We discussed it, and I jokingly concluded that I had enough character already to run for President and win. Sometimes I speak too fast, thinking because I'm usually attuned to what God has to speak to me that I will hit the homerun on the first pitch, but sometimes I go down swinging. And so it was this week. Tuesday, I spent time with brothers that I know and respect and the anger was so intensified by the end of it that I resented these men whom I know I respect, honorable and loyal warriors all. The oscillation effect started, between my emotions and logical faith. By Thursday, God must've thought that the ground was pliable enough to get some deep seeds planted because He brought me to my knees in the parking lot (I think I spoke of this in prior blogs). And by Sunday, with my heart sufficiently agitated and the groaning so loud surely all around me could hear, knowledge flowed into the wounds I've discovered.
Looking inside, knowing what my reactions to the situations today come from a wounding in my past that was covered and never given the opportunity to have Holy Spirit healing, was what I had already done and I spent the rest of the time wondering why the pain was still there, why nothing was changing, and how much more endurance did the Creator think I needed to be "joyful of my salvation."
My struggles are not uncommon, and it is the commonality of the struggling that brings frustration and despair into the landscape of my soul. We all want to feel respect, to be involved with someone who accepts us deeply, agape love, and we all pursuit those goals of love and meaning in the varying degrees to which we related to people. These are common to each and every one of us. We expect fulfillment of Christ's promise of an abundant life, not just a common existence that even the unsaved can experience. And we wind up, based on what the Church today is preaching, lied to by the very Creator that tells us that He is good. The paradox between reality and our promised joyful, abundant lives crashes against sharp rocks of what we experience.
In a group this weekend, God made my eyes open more to the unrealistic faith I had imposed upon myself and the box in which I had placed Him. Dr. Larry Crabb's discussion, "I don't want to admit it, but something's wrong", he discusses this very paradox. And God used him to speak to my heart, battered, broken and pliable to instruction.
We want to be respected, and we want to be deeply accepted by someone are the points Dr. Crabb makes in his book and video series, INSIDE OUT. I've spoken of the book before, in previous blogs. These are called thirsts, those deeply held desires of our hearts that we all feel and yearn for fulfillment of. Christ tells us, in John 7:37, for all who thirst to come to Him and even this instruction for fulfillment echoes in the Old Testament as Isaiah speaks of 'coming to the waters, all who are thirsty' (Isa. 55:1-2). We have all experienced that calling of our inner most desires and the promise of fulfillment in Christ, to a life abundantly lived.
And it is at that point where most preaching fails to reach our hearts and those we related to cause never-ending disappointment; in our home, work, and even church relationships. We seem to forget that people are people; broken and fallen, sinful and bruised. We expect fulfillment of our inner most desires and look to the wrong place for fulfillment, others. Be it the husband to his wife, the worker to their boss, or even a member of the church to its pastor; all are guaranteed to fail to give us our most intimate desire to be loved and shown we have substance (meaning).
But you are probably where I was…..no, not looking completely to those around you for that fulfillment that you've started to acknowledge as you seek to know Christ. You have studied and taken to heart John 7:37 and other verses where Christ talks about being able to fulfill us in ways we can never fully understand. And when the tempest rages, and the waves swamp your fragile little boat, your heart probably rages as mine does at the injustice and the unfulfilled promises. Which is why our faith ebbs and flows and our inner conflict between the old man and the new seem to never end, because they never do.
We are taught by the Church today that we have to accept Christ to gain what only Heaven can provide (joy, peace, abundant life) and we gain it now. All we have to do is seek meaningful activity, in Christ, and we will be fulfilled. And when the storm crashes upon our imaginary shore, we are swept away into the unforgiving sea with cries of 'not being faithful enough' or 'punishment for sins' echoing in our ears…….
We never realize that, as Larry Crabb puts it, "Something's wrong with everything!" The world is broken and cannot be fixed. And the more we realize that, the more conflicted we become with the message of the Church and reality. Christianity doesn't fit the model presented to us in a world realistically drawn. That is why so many Churches who seek to be culturally sensitive attract so many 'seekers', because the traditional Church hasn't changed it's tune. The world is broken, Christ is the answer, and we'll suffer from duality living until we die.
Who wants to hear that???????
But, Dr. Crabb points out that it isn't until we admit that, that no one (our spouse, our children, our bosses, our friends, our church leaders) can fulfill the thirst of our souls, we don't gain wisdom from relying on Christ; not to give us the fulfillment of our thirsty hearts upon this world but the endurance to deal with the realization that we long for what we cannot gain upon this planet and have to wait for the slaking of our soul's yearnings. Christ is the solution to our thirst, but as Paul points out the satisfaction of our thirst doesn't lie available to us in the world but in the " joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation." Our salvation won't come until Christ returns….until then, we are of this world but not part of this world.
The mature Christian, those who we look at in wonderment, has reached this understanding that they have expectations of what they know should be that are corrupted by the disappointment of what really is in a broken, sinful world and they stop demanding fulfillment of that desire, that thirst, in this life but rather trust in the hope given through salvation's gift. These are the ones who trust God fully and are often strong in a storm….swaying only a bit to the tempest winds.
Because they love everyone unconditionally, no longer demanding fulfillment from those around them but accepting the limited sips of contentment that are given. They groan loudly for Christ's return, seeking the slaking of thirst only He can give.
When we achieve that understanding, we work closer to the God we love and serve. And we realize it isn't the journey's travel that gives us reward but the focus on the journey's end. Where we will swim in the waters of life.
This is my thoughts on what I've learned from the video presentation of Dr. Larry Crabb's book INSIDE OUT.
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