Would you consider that as one of the best, or worst things that have happened to you?
I realize that I tend to see life as an idol or a burden, depending on my current circumstances.
All along I find I've been evaluating life based on the happiness it gives me. If great things have been happening, if everything has been going well, oh, Life is good, and I love it. But if the opposite is true, if my world is breaking apart and my heart is disintegrating, I feel so weary--I can't wait to leave it all--to throw off the burden that it has become to be alive.
However, I was challenged by a Jim Elliot quote--Jim Elliot, who surely lived an amazingly full and gloriously well-spent life--to love Life 'simply because I have thee from God.'
'Failure means nothing now, only that it taught me life.
Success is meaningless,
only that it gave me further experience of using the great gift of God,
And Life, I love thee.
Not because thou art long, or because thou has done great things for me,
but simply because I have thee from God.'
I was challenged to rethink how I saw the gift of life that was given to me, and that's how I realized I tended to treat it either as an idol or a burden.
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How many of us truly live by that?
I love the way Jim Elliot described success--not an end in itself, as we tend to see it, but a process as well, which will have continuing effects even after that one particular project is done.
More importantly perhaps, this view of each failure as a reminder that successes aren't the big deal about life. God didn't put us here to tick our boxes, even if they have His name in the task description. Life is a gift, but just as a lover's present is never equal to the lover Himself, (well or it should be!) it is not the big deal in itself either.
Being a task-oriented someone who functions on box-ticking, I can't imagine how desperately one-minded I would be about bucket lists and ambitions, or how devastated when inevitable limits or failures stopped me, if I truly believed that this life was all I had, this breath was all that was me, all that defined me. What is the point of life, if it's merely a one-off opportunity to do everything we want--but we don't manage to do everything we want? We've failed our reason for living.
Life, however, for Christians, is truly best understood as a gift. We will never appreciate it fully, and will easily abuse it when we don't. See each success not as affirmation of your merits, but as a lesson learnt in being a good steward, an experience in what you can do with this gift you were entrusted with.
What's the point, really, of a Christian doing anything, one could argue, if Christians believe that this life on Earth is only the interim, the temporary ride/existence in the subway before you get off at your true destination and 'real life' continues? Aside from the fact that this argument applies equally poignantly, if not more, to a worldview in which there is no afterlife, perhaps one should consider that belief in an afterlife enables one to see success, or endeavour, less as an end in itself--which it must be if there is no afterlife--and more as a process, a development, which will continue to transform and affect us. I once heard an opinion that the sole importance in life for a Christian was simply to be converted. After which, since this world was so flawed and sinful, you just had to hold on until the Second Coming or your death, whichever release came first. My initial response verged on the impolite; until I realized that from my own insignificant experience, this was actually more or less what I saw Christianity as before I was saved. You need to get saved just so you won't have to go to Hell, right? Pretty much the reason why I first began to seek salvation, I'm afraid.
As I think I've written about before somewhere else, this was, thank God, only the first step.
As Greg Gilbert said in his great little book (what an oxymoron!) What is the Gospel?--
'The Christian life is not just making sure you avoid God's wrath.
Far from it!
It's about being in a right relationship with God,
and ultimately enjoying Him forever. '
And we first learn to enjoy Him, grow in knowing Him as our relationship deepens, through this gift of Life.
Being one year older is an immense responsibility, all the more so because we don't realize it is.
God having given me another year makes me wonder whether I'm worthy of it; whether I've used His last gift to me well.
As I get older, strangely enough, I feel like I'm getting more foolish. Hopefully not because I haven't learnt anything--I believe I've learnt a lot, am learning a lot with every year--but because I get more and more aware of my innate foolishness. Oh dear. With every year I feel I'm discovering my mental age is less than I thought it was the year before; another prick to the balloon of self-esteem!
On a serious note, a great fear which springs from this is that I will stumble others through my foolishness/weakness. There are so many dreams and aspirations I have, within the desire to glorify God. Yet, with very human cynicism--and I've been told that I'm astonishingly cynical--every one can also be potential to stumble others or be a bad witness. And based on my track record, it seems quite likely I'll do just that.
Reading Psalm 69, my heart uttered a great 'amen!' when I came to verse 5 and 6:
O God, You know my foolishness;
And my sins are not hidden from You.
Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts,
be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel...
My prayer for 2015 is Philippians 1:9-11, which has long been a favourite verse of mine and also a prayer for dear friends.
And this I pray,
that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,
that you may discern the things that are excellent,
that you may be sincere and without offence in the day of Christ,
being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are in Christ Jesus,
to the glory and praise of God.
I want a heart enlarged to love others more and better...'in knowledge and all discernment.'
The temptation is to become more cynical, more selfish, more unloving, as you see the sin in others, meet more unlovable people.
I want eyes that can see true worth, help me to fix my priorities on worthwhile things, and not be distracted by what merely seems or feels attractive.
I want to be sincere. In our culture, superficiality and hypocrisy are doing very well, thank you; not just in institutionalized religion, as most of the hype focuses on, but just as much in secular life. It characterizes our social lives and we've been deceived into thinking that's the norm--I won't bother to mention social media platforms, which could quite accurately be renamed superficiality centers or hypocrisy hubs.
Whether about faith, feelings, or opinions, I want to be sincere--but 'without offence.' Gentleness. Humility. Above all, love. Truth, which can be devastating without love--as the truth about our sin and rejection of God would be--will become transformation, if there's love; just as Christ's love changed the whole equation, making the bleak truth of our sin into a truth full of hope, hope in His love and power.
I want my life to be fruitful and useful. A life of blessing. A life of investing in people, of living purposefully, of working hard and dreaming hard. Of serving. Of creating beauty and bringing joy. Of Christ-likeness....
A life, 'to the glory and praise of God.'
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are