Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Beautifully Durable Truth About Enduring Suffering


Falling upon hard times is offensive to our innate humanity because we hate suffering. It could be presumed that God didn’t initially design us with the need to suffer. The world we inhabit now is nothing like the perfect home it was at the Genesis of creation. Then Christ came and showed us how to suffer. Whenever we look to Jesus, we know how to suffer, but when we take our eyes off the Lord, the reality of life makes us miserable.
Jesus and so many biblical examples before and after him show us the way, but it is only Jesus who best showed us how to suffer in the following way:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
— James 1:2-4 (NLT)
It seems irrational to our sense for life in a worldly reality. That’s because such an approach to suffering requires trust and we don’t like to relinquish our control like that. That’s because it’s offensive to our God-devoid sense for objective decision-making. Making anointed decisions comes very unnatural to us.
***
Suffering within the loving confines of a church community, however, makes it easier, somewhat, to endure. If we can endure, God has the opportunity to encourage us for our faith. The Holy Spirit will repay our faithfulness giving us the opportunity to grow. The fruit of such growth is a steadiness many people call resilience – that ability to bounce back quickly or to withstand what might really unnerve us.
Enduring what is suffered is helped in the company of those who have also suffered. Something inspiring happens when we share our sufferings and what we have endured with others. When we are able to share what we have endured others see how suffering has softened us and made us more compassionate, kind, and courageously vulnerable.
***
When we suffer patiently we learn to endure. Then we are destined to grow; in fortitude, in temperance; in wisdom; in justice. The more we endure – without complaint, insisting on a choice for joy – the more we experience the faithfulness of God to endure anything.
Nothing can defeat the Christian who maintains their focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They can endure and they will endure. They will understand God’s providence comes through waiting through the storm and exercising restraint so God may ultimately speak.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spirituality’s 3 R’s – Revelation, Repentance, Restoration


Being a pastor is a leadership role, and, as I learned recently, there is the threat that our roles might clash and the choosing of wrong priorities can get the better of us. A while ago, on a day when I had my own family concerns to think about, there were prevalent ministry pressures also. Sometimes I find that I have to discern the needs of two or more situations and then make decisions based on the urgency and importance of those differing needs.
It is always a choice what we do with our time, and we need to be responsible for the choices we make. Family must always come first, but it is easy to think that other people can’t survive without your ministry. Such an assumption is based in pride – that we are more important than we actually are, or that what we offer is indispensible.
On the occasion I’m talking about I decided to prioritise a ministry ‘priority’ whilst in the company of my wife, when my wife definitely needed my undivided attention. She was unimpressed and I was equally unimpressed that she ‘didn’t seem to get’ the importance of the work of ministry – pride!
My wife let me know in no uncertain terms that I was out of line. I provided quiet resistance, thinking she was the one who was out of line. But, then, the Spirit of God revealed my folly to me.
My wife needed me. Was I not a child-of-God first, husband second, father third, son fourth, and minister fifth? Sweet revelation. When pride is revealed, there’s a choice. Do we get stuck in the stubbornness of resisting God’s silent rebuke, or do we pour contempt on our pride and repent?
Revelation of sin should convict us to repent of that sin.
In my situation I quickly had to back pedal and convince my wife that I understood that she was right and that I was wrong; my priorities and choices were all wrong in this instance.
Once I had made a genuine and committed apology, and I had started to demonstrate more care for my wife, I felt God gently restoring me. It all depended on the care of my wife’s spirit.
God is deeply interested in how we care for others. We can never justify hurting people. If the Holy Spirit reveals us in sin, he gives us the opportunity to repent. Restoration should always follow repentance. It does with God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Credit for inspiring this article must go to Patrick Lencioni’s “The Most Dangerous Mistakes Leaders Make,” delivered at the 2014 Willow Creek Association, Global Leadership Summit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hebrews’ Call to Persevere

Life will tempt us, treat us, and test us,
All we can do is make our response in faith,
That or make nothing of God’s salvation,
It’s up to us to make sure we are safe.
Taking in the knowledge of Jesus, the Son,
We know that salvation’s work has been done,
Our spiritual task is to revere,
And through the Spirit of his Son to persevere.
***
The believer’s call is to persevere; in the midst of fear, discouragement, despair, broken dreams, the truth, reality’s harshness, and conflict. We don’t endure by taking the law into our own hands, but we do so in confidence, that we are able to endure by the power given us – through the direct authority and access we have as a believer.
We are granted a new and living way because of what Jesus has done on the cross, through his resurrection, and by his ascension to be with the Father. This is no fabrication of something that sounds real; it may truly be experienced.
Because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies have indeed been washed clean, we have the full assurance of faith, through integrity – a sincere heart to follow hard after God.
We hold fast to our hope, which is the confession of our faith. So we endure when life is despairing, to receive what is promised. And we are stimulated to love by courage to encourage others as they bear the strains of life. Love compels us to remain connected to our brothers and sisters.
But we are also warned not to go out of our way to sin. If we hurt people and create harm we spurn the truth and God does not know us. We stand there open for his judgment; what a fearful thing to contemplate! In earlier times, people were put to death for lesser things than we might contemplate for ‘fun’.
If we understand what we have been given, and we truly recognise the inner strength we have because of God’s holiness in us by the Holy Spirit, then we know we can endure patiently any temptation, treat, and test. Let us do just that! Whether we suffer directly or indirectly, or we suffer as we watch on in the presence of heinous injustice, we resolve to suffer well; to comprehend the call of God to endure, just as Jesus did on the cross of Golgotha.
There is just one way to please God; “my righteous one will live by faith.”
There is no pleasure taken by God in watching us stop or slow down halfway through the race. Keep stepping in faith. Keep life simple. Enjoy the grateful things and remove temptation to complain and become bitter. Stay clear of the enemy.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

One Day At A Time, Petal, One Day At A Time

Weak days, angry days, and days interspersed with sadness. Then there are days where we cannot get our heads straight; days when our feelings succumb to either annoyance or anxiety.
Then there are days where ‘luck’ abounds; joy seems real and thankfulness abides easily. We see how blessed we are and all along we wonder what all the fuss is about. We wonder why we get so entrapped by frustration and impatience on other days. Suddenly we fear that this joyous day may quickly fold up as quickly as it unfolded.
One day is seasoned in inextricable pain. The next day we feel fine. And then the third day there is boredom or manic fatigue. Life verily is a box of chocolates, as Forest Gump might put it.
As we take one day at a time, and we dissolve that day into an hour, we find we have much more control over our thoughts and feelings when we remind ourselves what God gives us through the capacity of mindfulness.
Any time we like we can psychoanalyse ourselves. We draw away from life, just for a moment, and we wander into the mental and emotional stance. Taking a moment out to reconnect with ourselves – to reconnect with our vital perspective – is the opportunity and appreciation that God is good, overall, and life is good, overall.
None of us will have lives that are 100% satisfactory, but we may choose contentedness as a state of mind and heart anytime we wish. Such is the power of God that we have to repent our will and choose his will. It really is truly very simple.
If we take one day at a time, Petal, we will experience life one day at a time. It’s all we may take of life. It’s all that God will give us. So why do we try to take more?
The terrible day shall pass. The wonderful day is a full day’s length long. We should thank God that our lives are not full of terrible days. We should praise his holy name that there are wonderful days to look forward to.
God is good in that life is relative for each one of us; none of us is as blessed as we wish to be, yet none of us is cursed anywhere near what we deserve.
***
Some days seem blessed; some seem cursed. We enjoy good days in humility, and we endure, with patience, the tests the bad day brings. Let’s be thankful all days.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Be Unto Your Name

These words have ever meant so much to me; since, at least, my regeneration in December 2003.
Verse 1:
We are a moment You are forever
Lord of the ages God before time
We are a vapor You are eternal
Love everlasting reigning on high
Chorus:
Holy holy Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises honor and glory
Be unto Your name
Be unto Your name
Verse 2:
We are the broken You are the healer
Jesus Redeemer mighty to save
You are the love song we'll sing forever
Bowing before You blessing Your name
Chorus 2:
Holy holy Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Highest praises honor and glory
Be unto Your name
Be unto Your name
These words reflect the sentiment of angels bellowing their praise – “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive (ξιόν στιν τ ρνίον τ σφαγμένον λαβεν) power and wealth and wisdom (τν δύναμιν κα πλοτον κα σοφίαν) and strength and honour and glory and blessing (κα σχν κα τιμν κα δόξαν κα ελογίαν).” These are the words of Revelation 5:12; my favourite verse in the Bible.

We cannot possibly ever hope to know God if we don’t see the need to occasionally fall to our knees in brokenness and thankfulness and praise.
***
For the Glory of God, alone. It is our sole purpose to work for the glory of God alone. It is for that purpose that we exist. We live to honour his name; to operate through his power; to bless and, through blessing, to be blessed.
When we ‘be unto his name’ all of life is in its proper alignment. All of life can then succeed because we have put first things first. We no longer condemn ourselves for our petty misdemeanours and we don’t disparage others for the things human beings do; we no longer hold any human being to the standards of God; yet we do strive, in ourselves, to attain, just a moment at a time, the hallowed behaviour of the One who is holy.
To ‘be unto his name’ is our sole focus if we know Jesus and want to be called his disciple; his and his alone. We are no one else’s pawn; not even our own. Yet our relationships will decree how close or far away we truly are.
Let us ‘be unto God’s name’ and go on past the elementary things of faith and life, into the broad expanse of love God has for each one of us!
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.