"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." Romans 12
Tiger Woods was in the news again, more back problems and a new DUI. President Trump just can't seem to find where he put his humility... if he ever had any to begin with. The tabloids continue to point out all the flaws of the idol people we worship in our culture, and every time I try and point my finger at popular people who have fallen, there are three fingers pointing back at me. I hate to admit this, but these stories often make me afraid to stand up and boldly profess what I believe about Jesus Christ and his Church because the human story always seems to be about the struggle to get on top and then a well reported fall. It's like the moment we "arrive" there is often a well polished fall from grace waiting for us the moment we do.
Earlier this summer we wrapped up a study on the story of Gideon and the topic has really been on the subject matter of idols. We enter the story with Gideon being called by God to destroy the idols that have removed the goodness of God from the life of the Israelites because of their constant disobedience, which led to constant war, poverty and a general demolishing of God's chosen people. Gideon shows his weakness time and again, fearful to lead God's people to victory over their enemies, but God delivers despite his weakness. God wins the battle, Gideon rightly deflects the praise to God as he refuses to be their king, but... then he asks for a reward from the people. A gold earring that he eventually makes into an "ephod" that eventually became a new "god" that turned his family, and the nation, upside down. He takes many wives, has many children, and in time, he eventually names one of those kids "Abimilek", which means "My daddy is king". He arrived and then he fell.
Want another? How about David and Bathsheba? He had established his kingdom and finally built his palace as was custom to do when men had "arrived". In that season, instead of doing his job as king as his troops were in battle, he stayed home in his palace with time on his hands and an imagination that was overactive to the point of lust. He arrived and the moment he did, the temptation seemed to be on, and he did not have accountability around him, or at least chose not to listen to it. He arrived and fell horribly.
So this is a bit depressing for a fan blast I suppose, but I would rather talk about things that are real than just the headline that looks cool. I don't have it all figured out, I'm still on a journey, but this idea of never arriving has me thinking. The passage from Romans 12 is a constant reminder to me (though I don't always remember it), to remain humble and to remember who actually wins the battles and who actually pours out blessings and open doors. It is my faithful God, who calls me his child through the gift of faith in Christ Jesus. The passage encourages me to think of myself with "sober" judgement since drunkenness doesn't only come from alcohol. There is something about "arriving" that settles in the ugly places of the human heart if we're not careful, the place where pride, conceit, selfishness and arrogance reside. It is good to celebrate victories, something we should do more often quite frankly, but it is important to beware of the human tendency to "arrive" and the dangers that come with it.
In spending time in scripture in Judges 6 through 8, these were some of the encouragements I found that I hope may be helpful for you too.
1. It's OK to ask God why difficulties are happening, he's not afraid of our questions and even our doubts. Gideon himself asked God face to face quite plainly why they had been abandoned; if God was "with them". One thing I'm seeing more often is that when we ask God hard questions from our limited perspective, don't be surprised when he pulls us right into his rescue plan. He often uses us to answer our own question. (Read Judges 6, it's pretty interesting)
2. Walk with the measure of faith that God has given you. Gideon didn't seem to have a strong trust with God based on all the doubting questions he had. He just didn't have much relationship with his God. But God's response was beautiful - patience and step by step walking with Gideon. That step by step is what relationship is all about, so if you're struggling to trust God with the big picture... then trust him with the baby step - he'll be right there building relationship with you.
3. When you WIN... you need mature Christian accountability to celebrate with you, but also to keep you humble, to remind you how God's hand is the hand that saves. When you LOSE... you need mature Christian accountability to mourn with you and to hear your repentant heart so that they can remind of you God's great faithfulness to forgive and restore. Be careful of the moments you and I feel like we've "arrived". Don't fear them, but when success comes, be sober and surround ourselves with people that will keep us from getting drunk on our own egos.
4. Finally, in this world, whatever you are pursuing: marriage, a job, a relationship, a college, a grade, a sports goal... whatever you are aiming your efforts at - remember that you Never truly Arrive. Our home is heaven in complete relationship with Jesus Christ. COMPLETE relationship is what our hearts were made for and we only find that when we close our eyes in faith and open them in heaven as we see Jesus in perfection who has always loved us perfectly. Celebrate the mile-markers in your life's journey. Don't arrive until you really do, finishing the race in the arms of Christ!
I hope some of these might be an encouragement to you as my Pastors have been to me. Until next month, here's what else is going on!