Category Archives: God’s Will

Marking Success and Failure

How do we mark our lives? How do we note the successes of it? How do we mark the triumphs that come with it?

Last week we talked about the feelings of failure that we can have. We talked about those gnawing senses that something just isn’t right. It was a question of when you look around and you can’t help but feel yourself overwhelmed and even a bit overshadowed as this sense that something just isn’t as it should be comes to dominate over you, leaving you with this lingering feeling that you aren’t as you should be.

It’s a difficult challenge that we can face, one that can wreak a special sort of havoc on us. Yet sometimes it’s not a matter of how we understand success or failure. It’s a matter of how we understand life.

You see, for as much as we want it to be sometimes, life isn’t something that’s just black and white. Situations, circumstances, they don’t make it that simplistic. Yes, perhaps we want it to be. It would, in most cases, make everything a lot easier for us. There wouldn’t be the conflicts and the struggles that cause the deeper questions to arise within us. We would know who we are, what we were meant for. No one and nothing could take that from us, because we would see the path’s that are in front of us just so much clearer.

It’s why we need to understand that though God has plans for our lives, plans that He has set out since the moment of our conception, since the time of our birth, (Jeremiah 1:5) it’s never quite as simple or easy as we may like it to be. This isn’t because God is somehow confusing. Our Heavenly Father is anything but, making Himself apparent in all things if we choose to look and to see it. (Isaiah 40:21) The problem is we don’t necessarily live in a world that’s that cut and dry, in a world that is solely guided by His hand and His influence.

Perhaps this is why we are called His workmanship, created anew in Christ for the works that He has intended for us. (Ephesians 2:10) Note the fact that isn’t that it doesn’t tell us that we are completed. No, it tells us that we are a worked by the hand of the Master Craftsman Himself, molded and form, shaped for the things that He has intended for us and for our lives.

What needs to be remembered is that though God’s design for our lives is towards the divine, He sets out His plan for our life with a deep knowledge of this world and our nature. He understands that to the person who everything is given, nothing is really valued, and to those who are never challenged, nothing is ever enough. It isn’t a matter of testing us, it is a matter of teaching us all that we need to know, never giving us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) while showing us the path, showing us the road and the journey that we need to be on.

God uses this, whether it is our failure or our success, to guide us. They don’t define us, not even our greatest success or most tremendous of failures. They are intended to be nothing more than the deeper lessons that we can learn as we are directed towards the people we need to be. Even as one failure grips us, a success is waiting around the corner, and just as one success satisfies this need in us, chances are there are more failures still waiting for our lives. It’s because our Heavenly Father, He knows us. He knows that there are certain things we are only going to examine, that we are only going to question, and to actively seek the answers for, the answers He is waiting to give us (James 1:5) in these situations. Sometimes we need to be humbled to find where we need to be, while other times He elevates us because these triumphs are meant to show us a view that we need to have.

In all of this the question the Disciple needs to ask themselves is why? Why has this happened? It’s not a question to be taken lightly, or out of a sense of pity or arrogance. It’s a question that is meant to lead them towards the sense that they are supposed to make out of it, so they can find what God is trying to show them for their lives.

Once you see your successes and your failures as nothing more than markers on the road of life you can set about really living your life, moving through the journey that it’s intended to be to become the person that you need to. Each one step, it tells you, teaches you a little something about yourself as it shows you not who you are but directs you, in love, hope, faith and compassion, towards the person you need to be.

As we understand that we understand what is intended for us better than we ever did before dwelling on nothing more than the challenges, and the successes and failures of our lives.

That Feeling of Being a Failure

It’s hard, at times, not to feel a bit like a failure, isn’t it? Sometimes we know exactly where these feelings coming from, we tried something and it didn’t work or something in our lives just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a lot easier in those moments because we know what the problem is, and, even if we don’t necessarily know how to fix it, we can pinpoint it, we can put our finger on it and we can try to figure out how to make that change, even if we know it’s going to be slow going.

The real challenge is when we feel like that failure and we don’t necessarily know where it comes from. It’s when this darkness seems to just twist and turn around us, and we can’t quite manage to put our finger on what it is or why it’s there. It could be a combination any number of things and yet nothing at the same time, just this lingering feeling that something isn’t right, and you’re the one to blame.

Have you ever felt that way? Looking around, kind of questioning what’s wrong with your life as you know it’s something but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Slowly you start to feel overwhelmed and overshadowed until finally it becomes this inescapable feeling that dominates so many of your thoughts as you wonder what you’re even doing, trying to define your life, trying to figure it all out, but not entirely sure where to go or where to start.

In a sense there is no simple answer to this question, except life itself.

You see, by its very nature, life and living is an act of faith. It is an understanding that it is going to be wrought with challenges and adversity, with struggles and things that we just don’t seem to understand. Yet it is also a question of living for the moments of joy and peace, knowing that whatever darkness may surround us, they do come and they wrap around us in ways that bring to us a hope that we can feel devoid of in our lives at times. Perhaps we don’t even realize we are living in that faith, but, by living and breathing, by taking those steps forward we are seeking out the answers that we need to find our place.

The beauty of it though is that it is nothing that we have to go through alone. To live in faith is never to walk a solitary or lonely path. It is to have a constant companion with you, a confidant who doesn’t only know every unspoken place within you, but who doesn’t need for you to say it to see it. As our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, reminds us, even when we feel the most alone, we never are because God, our Heavenly Father, is there to carry us through the most difficult of chapters and the most trying of times. (John 16:32-33) In this love, and commitment to us, He never fails us or forsakes us. (Joshua 1:5)

Yes, there are perhaps going to be times in our lives when it feels like the world, when it feels like our world, is just nothing that we quite understand, and we feel like a failure in it, unable to necessarily do anything right. Yet that’s never just the end of the story for us. There is a plan for our lives, one that has been set out from the day in which we were conceive, appointed by the Great Architect and the Grand Designer of the Universe (Jeremiah 1:5), the Creator who has made all things small and large, who takes not only an active interest in your life, but whose hand guides it.

For whatever other struggles we may know, for whatever failures we may think have taken hold of our lives, that is nothing more than the beginning of the story, a story of self-discover and self-awareness that shows us our true worth and value beyond anything we ever quite knew. It just has to come with the understanding that though God answers all questions for us, giving to us freely of His knowledge, (James 1:5) not all answers we feel we need are the ones that we need right at that moment. It’s a matter of relying on His understanding, His timing, more than our own, knowing that it will come. (Habakkuk 2:3) Revealing itself in its own time, in His time, it comes when we need it most.

Failure, for however it might feel, for whatever challenges it may bring, or wherever it may come from, is nothing more than a path towards a greater end if we let it be. Yes, perhaps we don’t necessarily even know why we feel like a failure, but then, whatever those feelings are, or wherever they come from, they need not weaken you if you understand they are not meant to drag you down, but rather push you forward. The struggles that it brings, it is meant to teach us more about ourselves, about who we are and what we want, about the intrinsic value of success that could and would otherwise be lost on us.

We are defined by what we let define us. We can define ourselves by what truly matters if we look at each day of our lives as a deeper journey into our faith, and understand that these feelings, they are not defining feelings, but tools to help us build the path, to lay the brick work that will lead us down the road of our greatest possible success, a success that our Heavenly Father wants for us to have in our lives.

The High Priestly Prayer

John 17:1-26  

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.t 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,t that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Before the world was created, Jesus was.  Before time began, Jesus was.  And then, the Eternal One who holds all things in balance did something extraordinary – He stepped into time and took on human flesh.  He gave up all the glory of heaven so that we could know God.  He gave up many of His rights as God, but one thing He did not give up – His love for us.

While on this earth, Jesus loved His own just as He loved them in heaven.  In His last hours, He prayed a beautiful prayer, first for His close followers and then for you and me.  He knew He was betrayed, He knew He would die, and He knew that you and I would sin against Him.  But He prayed a high priestly prayer for our joy in Him, our unity in Him, our sanctification in Him.

Then Jesus gave us an idea of what salvation is all about.  He died that we might be where He is, that we may see His glory and therefore glorify the Father.  This was the plan before time began.  He’s always loved us, before we even existed.  And though we have sinned against Him, He chose to die in our place, taking our sins onto Himself, so that we can experience eternal life with Him.  Oh what love He has for us.

Faith as Love

If, as James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17) then it must be remembered by the disciple of Christ that faith, in its purest form, is an act of love. After all, “saved by faith, through grace, and not of our works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), what is our redemption and the sacrifices that give it its power but an act of love strengthening and preserving us even unto life everlasting?

Considered rightly, in accordance with the teachings of our blessed Savior that admonishes us to love one another to show our life given to Him (John 13:34-35), the two are intrinsically bound together. In this what it offers to us is an understanding that teaches us that without love there can be no faith.

In this relationship love is more than a feeling. It is act, a commitment, a sense of duty that only really and truly exists through actions, through thought and deed that strive towards the individual call to do more with the gifts that have been given to us by the blessings of our Creator. It is the hope that we offer in the lives of others, hearing the words of Christ, living by His example, each and every step of the way seeking to uplift and edify others according to their needs as we hear the call to service.

You see every one of us, we have something to offer. The God who fearfully and wonderfully created us did so that our lives could and would be in service, offering to us strengths, talents and abilities that are meant to be used. (Luke 12:48) The question then for the disciple, living amidst a world where there is so much need, is what will I do to meet it? If our faith lives within us then, in love, we must ask ourselves what will I do to ensure the betterment of others?

Perhaps, in a busy and hectic life, we think to ourselves that we just don’t have the time. After all there is so much that could be done that to worry about it, to try and take it on, would be overwhelming. Yet the truth is that hope and love, it begins one life at a time. We don’t need to take on the world. If each disciple took it upon themselves to take up one cause, to effect change in one life that is in need, working to truly help one person before moving on to the next, true and lasting change could be made to significantly help others. All it takes is a little sacrifice on our part.

Consider, for a moment, the life of Christ, the one whose example we, in our faith, are to live by. (1 Corinthians 11:1) There was never a time He took on more than He could handle. Most of time He healed one or two at a time, He worked on the individual spirits and souls, body and minds before that great, encompassing sacrifice that saved us all. For us it serves as a lesson that teaches us that no person is expected to do more than they can, but they are expected to live according to a love that heals, that strengthens, and that calls others through the love that they have.

Look around, consider the lives of those who surround you and the need that is there. Give of your time and yourself to those who are struggling and find themselves in desperation. Be the disciple that God knows you can be, the disciple that He calls you to be. Take the time each day to consider the world around you, to think of those in your life who are struggling and how you can help them. Look for causes, worthy causes, that you can donate to, volunteer with, and help those who live in a constant battle find some sort of sense in their life.

In faith, our lives can be given to love that the blessings we have been endowed with can bring happiness, joy and strength to others. This can be our testimony that shines forth from hearts and souls if we are so inclined to hear the calling of Christ. The only question then left to ask is what sort of disciple will you be and how will your life offer of the love that saved you?

Is There An Answer

There is nothing harder for the Disciple than the feeling that God, He just isn’t listening. When we put our trust in verses that tell us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) there are few stumbling blocks like the sense that our prayers are going unanswered. After all, isn’t this the Lord who promised us that He would never fail us or forsake us? (Joshua 1:5) Why then, in our hour of need, do we struggle, wondering to ourselves if we are alone in our plight?

How can we trust the promises, the assurances of our blessed Savior, ones that tell us, when we are weak and heavy laden, to lay our burdens at his feet to find peace, to find comfort through him (Matthew 11:28-29) when it seems as if our Heavenly Father is so far from us?

That though, for as much as the thought runs through our mind, isn’t the question. Rather, the more dominant question we need to ask ourselves is who is God to us, and who are we to Him?

Through Scripture we learn that we are children of a Heavenly Father. (Hosea 1:10) This is a relationship that we have to consider carefully as we come to God, as we ask of Him, seeking His divine grace and His wondrous love in our lives. Are we the humble who wait in patience and reverence for all to be revealed or are we the spoiled children demanding of God, asking for signs and miracles that are not part of His plan, impatient to the point where when it is not as we would like we question His love for us?

Since the moment of our conception God has known us and has had a plan for our lives. (Jeremiah 1:5) Sometimes it’s a plan that is one that we don’t necessarily understand, one that takes us on a road that is different than anything we had planned. There are moments when it is going to be confusing, where it seems like it is going to be harder than it should be. These are the times when we pray and, yes, it is going to seem as if our Heavenly Father is far distant from us, far removed from our lives. Yet just because we don’t comprehend doesn’t make His presence any less real, any less viable in our lives.

Yes, like Saul of Tarsus, we would all like the ground to shake, the earth to move, and the heavens to open with the voice of God cutting through to show us the way. The truth is though that God often chooses subtler ways to move us, we need only then to watch for the signs and to let ourselves be open to the gentle guidance that comes through His hand.

You see God’s timing, God’s wisdom, His direction, it may not be perfect to us, but it is perfect nonetheless. It takes into account our strengths, our weaknesses, our hopes, and even the battles we know not yet we are going to face in the trials of life. What that means is that sometimes we have to wait on an answer, hearing what we want not to hear, that we don’t need to know right now, or this is not what we need. Every loving father who cares for his children needs to say no now and then, not because he can’t but because he knows it is not right for them. God, our Heavenly Father, is no different.

Trust in faith that abides in the knowledge of the love of God, dear disciple of Christ. It may, at times be hard, in a world wrought with challenges, one day longer is not necessarily what we want to expect in the troubles or the struggles that we face. Yet God never allows us to face anything more than we can handle in the journey we are on. Perhaps, at times, it may feel as if He has and like we have been left. Yet this is our attempt to understand the trials before us, rather than a firm understanding of the true nature of God’s grace and love for us.

Whatever the struggle is, whatever the question may be, God is there to listen, and to answer. Open your heart to it, and you will find the answer you are looking for.

The Disciples Paradox of Hate and Love

The price of discipleship seems as if it would be a high one, doesn’t it? After all, it was our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, who admonished, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) In a sense it almost seems contradictory to the nature of God, who is love, who taught us, for example, to honor our mother and our father, (Exodus 20:12) and who tells us that to live in hate is to live in death, devoid of the His grace. (1John 2:9-11)

How do we reconcile this to find the true nature of Christ’s calling? How do we look past the inherent ambiguity of this teaching, seeming so inconsistent with all that we have learned otherwise sitting at the feet of our Redeemer?

When Scripture speaks of the believer, it speaks of a person who is free of the yokes and the burdens of this world, telling us where the Spirit is, there is the truest of liberties. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Freedom, in its most basic sense, in its most fundamental of forms, does not and cannot exist in any form of hatred. Hatred is a chain that, when placed around our neck, strangles the life from us as surely as it kills faith itself. The healing that we have been called to is no longer possible, because, in the weakness that it brings, we have forsaken all that was meant to preserve sacred and strengthen life.

At the core of Christ’s teaching is not hatred, nor could it be if he truly is God, as we know him to be. God is, after all, love (1 John 4:8) and love itself is what is at the heart of the matter.

The two greatest commandments that fulfill all aspects of the law are that we love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, and souls and minds, and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36:40) Yet, even as we consider that teaching we must remember that Christ did not put these on equal footing. The first was to love the Lord, while the second was to love others. At the heart of the matter is that if we are to be faithful to God, if we are to truly follow Him with our whole heart, willing to be led as He would lead us then we can love nothing more than we love Him. Even in the context of the original Greek this is the meaning that lies behind the use of “Hate”, not as we so often think about it, but rather in terms of loving less.

Discipleship means that we must be willing to sacrifice. In love, it means a willingness to give everything and anything in love and hope for others. (John 15:14) When we love God, when we love Christ more than we love anything else, we are willing to give up what is necessary to serve our risen Savior in the hope, the faith, the strength, and the love he first taught us. (John 13:34-35) It means we are willing to offer all of who we are in healing as we find ourselves able to let go and let God lead us.

Perhaps this may be a burden for us, a cross that we must take up and carry. But, in a sense it is a trade, for when we trust God, when we look to Him, holding Him first, we cast the heavier burdens of this world, the self-doubt, the uncertainty for the future, the hurt of lose and the pain of longing far from us, and we take upon us the yoke of service that shines in hope, and dwells in a faith and a knowledge that though we may be affected by the course of this world, nothing will affect us much as it teaches us the value and the worth that truly rests in His creation and His plan.

As you are called to be a Disciple of Christ, God will never ask more of you than you can give, more of you than you can offer. Understanding that we must be willing to lay all of ourselves on the altar of God as a sacrifice, knowing that, as much is given to us in the grandness of His design much will be asked of us. Yet that price of discipleship should be one we are always willing to pay.

Judging

There are few greater controversies for the disciple than the question of judging others and the proper nature of it. After all, to read the words of Scripture, to read the words of our blessed Savior himself, we come to understand that there is an inherent evil that can come with the application of our judgment as we assess the nature of sin and apply to it our own understanding.

Does this mean though that we do not judge? What do passages such as “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her…” (John 8:7), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) or the ever popular “Do not judge or you too will be judge…” (John 7:1) truly inform us of in our walk with Christ? What do they teach us of the true nature of discipleship and the way we observe others?

As with all things the truest measure of our judgment and the nature of our faith must be tempered with love. It must be met with a generous spirit given to hope and the edification of others, bearing the fruits of faith to nourish and strength the lives of others. The controversy itself was never meant to steer us away from assessing and evaluating the actions of others. It was meant to ensure that we look to ourselves, that we understand ourselves so that, in all that we do, we act in steadfast devotion to our brothers and sisters, not out of condemnation but out of affection for them.

You see, of the two greatest commandments given by Christ himself, the second is to love our neighbor, to love our fellow man, as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40) What this means is that we must not be like the Pharisee, the hypocrite who deems himself righteous without a careful examination of himself, while condemning those around us for wickedness. (Luke 18:9-14) Our lives, they have to be given to a close and studious scrutiny as we daily inspect our own walks with our Savior as we are given to the Spirit of the Lord. With this this though also comes the understanding that we must hold others to the same level of accountability as we hold ourselves.

What we must remember is that, if given in the right spirit, if shown with the right heart, there is nothing more loving than to look at others, and to help them get back on the right path. If done with in faith, and charity, guided by a hope for them, it is done in a manner that does not seek to judge but that wants nothing more than to ensure that they are right with God even as we try to ensure that we are right with Him ourselves.

In hope and love for others this never comes in the form of an attack, nor should it be intended as a condemnation. The thought of stoning others, of casting them away, despising them for whatever offense they may have caused should never cross our mind. There is, after all, no means of spiritual death that we can heap upon the lives of others quite like the hurt and the sorrow we can bring with harsh words on our lips, haughtiness in our hearts and hatred in our eyes.

As a faithful and devoted disciple of Christ, given in a life of service, we cannot falter in our love for others, in our hopes for them, just as we hope for ourselves. Look to your life as a means not to judge others but to equip them for the righteous path, to nourish them for the long road through this world. This, at times, means helping them understand errors so that they can learn from them. Yet any help offered must be given in a clean heart and a right spirit that you may serve them for their greatest growth in a testimony to God’s love for them.

When this is done, when this is our nature, there is no controversy, there is no challenge, there is only the strength we can find in unity with others, rather than the pain that comes in the division of scorn.

The role of obedience in fellowship

Fellowship

John 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

In order to remain in fellowship with God, we must “abide” in Him, but how do we do this?  If we speak to God in prayer and hear from God in His Word, what do we do with we’ve said and heard?  How do we walk in this fellowship?

Sin separates us from God.  Any sin.  But it’s not about the wrong acts of sin, it’s about the broken relationship.  A perfect, holy God can’t tolerate sin and still be in fellowship with the sinner.  We have to be righteous, just as He is righteous (Matthew 5:48).  But a problem exists.  We’re not perfect and we can’t be!  So we come back to the question of how we can be in fellowship with God if the requirement is perfection.

First of all, just as sin is a broken relationship with God rather than wrong acts, righteousness is a right relationship with God rather than good acts.  We may not be capable of perfection, but we have been given the righteousness of Christ, who is perfect, if our lives are submitted to Him.  Only then do we have any ability to obey God.  You see, obeying doesn’t lead to righteousness.  Imputed righteousness (look that up, it’s a great word study) empowers us to obey.  Jesus’ work on the cross frees us that we might be able to obey God, because we love Him.  Obedience based on love can only lead to loving fellowship.