March 25, 2010

Options: Choosing the Positive

I just got off the phone with my Mom. She had just gotten back from the hospital (routine test) and was calling to let me know that everything was OK. I am glad for her and my dad. Right now, the last thing they need is the possibility of further illness or complications with existing conditions. My Mom has been pretty healthy, and recently had cataract surgery. She had her knee replaced two years ago, and is doing fantastic. Overall, she is in good health (just a few minor issues for a person in her mid-late 70s). My Dad, on the other hand, has suffered with Post Polio Syndrome now for nearly 20 years. He was a polio survivor, having had a serious bout when he was a freshman in college. It left him disabled, but not unable to live a normal to very full life. Now, at his mid-70s, he is struggling with the effects of this horrible disease. He is getting weaker and weaker, and is not able to get around like he used to do so. It is a God-thing that my Mom is in such good shape, because I don't think my Dad could physically take care of her.

The funny thing is that now with my parents in the later years, I am privy to all sorts of "TMI" type information. I get the low-down on the bulk fiber, laxatives, colon, and other gastro-intestinal issues they are dealing with daily. I also get advice, loads of it, from them and their friends (who have similar disorders). Not a day goes by when I don't get a call telling me about some new thing, some new pill or procedure, or latest invention to stave off "such and such." I laugh about it, but in truth, it just is sort of annoying. I think I am like my son, who is all of 16.5, and who will wriggle up his nose when his Mom gives him advice. It is like he is saying, "Mom, that will not happen to me!" I am shaking my head and telling him to be wary of it anyway. My folks are doing the exact same thing to me, and I in turn, am doing it to them! LOL! "No, Mom, that will not be an issue for me."

As I think about this generational advice-giving, I am reminded of this old axiom on thinking: "is the glass half-empty or half-full?" How you view life will directly determine your willingness to accept certain limitations in it. If you are a "glass half empty" person, then you tend to see the boundaries and limitations every where you look. Yes, the economy is bad; yes, the housing market is slow. Yes, jobs may be scarce; but some people are actually getting hired. Not everyone is standing in line at the unemployment office, kwim? If you are "half glass full" person, then you tend to see the upside to everything. "Well, everything is bleak, but I am happy and contented. It will get better, you say to yourself. Just hang on, it will get better."

My Mom is definitely a "glass is empty" person. I love her dearly, but she does fear everything unknown. She worries about illnesses, viruses, and other ailments, regardless of whether or not they are really that worrisome. I am reminded of the invasion scare tactics used in the 1950s -- and everyone built a bomb shelter in their backyard. My Mom is sort of like that. She is the most caring and sensitive person ever, and she would literally do anything for you. She just accepts what people say as truth, and then panics over it.

My Dad tends to be more moderate in his views. He tempers Mom's worry and fear. He has always been so stalwart, such a good solid man, and a great provider. Mom has never really had to worry much over the course of her life. Perhaps that is why she worries about things she hears on TV or the news? Perhaps, I don't know.

I do know this...I used to be a worry-wart too. I get it -- you know, "the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree." LOL! Yes, I would characterize myself as an anxious and worrisome person. My personality is really not this way, but I have been habitually trained to be this way (if that makes sense). Some people are born as worriers, while others are made. I fall into the latter category. I learned how to worry partly from seeing my Mom do it; but also, partly from conditions in my adulthood whereby I was confronted with realistic situations that were fraught with worry. In short, I have spent my entire adulthood living with the fear of never having enough of anything. Though, the Lord has graciously provided, I have learned how to pinch pennies. I am a miser in all things, afraid to spend a dollar needlessly.

Over the course of the last seven to eight months, I have had to let go of my miserly tendencies and learn how to rely on the Lord for His provision. At first it was very difficult for me to do. I was given some extra cash, and I saved it all, still following my guidelines for buying the cheapest and most base things, just in case, I might need that $.50 later in the week. This is the truth -- I am that much of a miser, that I will not spend $.50 unless I absolutely have to do it.

The Lord has been working on my heart in this matter. You see, even though I have little, He has asked me to be a cheerful giver. I am not to horde the little I have, but to share it freely. Learning how to share freely has been one of the hardest life lessons for me to learn. I like giving things away, I like to help people...it has just been getting my hand to let it go, that has required the most effort on my part. I see the need, and my heart breaks over it. The Lord has said, "Let it go. Let it go, and I will provide you with more. Trust me."

Trusting the Lord has not been the issue, but rather the simple act of opening up my hand and letting the precious thing (whatever it might be) go. It is knowing that the Source of all things has plenty in His storehouse. I know this, I just don't act like I really believe it. The other day, the Lord asked something of me. I was willing to do what He wanted, but I couldn't let the thing go. I cried over it, prayed about it, and finally had to acknowledge that my fear of losing this particular thing was keeping me from actually obeying His will. I laid it down, gave it over to Him, and asked Him to heal me from my miserly tendencies. Just like that, I was healed. I wish I could say that I heard the peel of bells and such, but I didn't. I just felt like this incredible weight was lifted off of me, and I suddenly got it. I grasped the significance of the Lord's Abundant Life.

There are lots of "get rich" preachers out there, so don't get me wrong. I am not speaking about "wealth and health gospel" like some of the TV folks do. I am simply saying that there is some kernel of truth to the idea that wealth and prosperity are of the Lord. The Lord chooses whom to bless. He is Sovereign, and He has the ability to use whatever resources He chooses to bless His children. The Word says that the Lord chooses to exalt (lift up) some and to bring some low. The Apostle Paul said that he had learned how to be comfortable in all circumstances, to be happy in low times, and in high times. He had learned the secret of being happy REGARDLESS of his actual circumstance.

We tend to view this idea of contentment as sort of a way to deal with the ugly and unpleasant parts of life. We say "well, you can't always be happy." Or, "sometimes a little rain must fall." We like to think that the sun rises and sets on our happiness, that somehow God is up there in Heaven worried to tears about our well-being. In truth, He does care very much about our welfare, but His Word tells us that He has already taken care of our needs. Our Father already knows what our basic needs are, and according to His Word, He has already provided for them.

So if God is not all hung up over our welfare (above and beyond our basic needs), and we are told in the Word, not to worry about tomorrow (and not to worry about eating and drinking and going here and there); then, what exactly is God worried about (and by extension we should be worried about as well?) Ah, isn't it interesting to think that the Lord of the Universe is not worried about material possessions or wealth or health or anything of that sort. Nope, not one iota. He has that covered in spades. He worries about us, about our spiritual state and well-being. He worries about whether or not we are actually growing and changing and becoming more like His Son. He worries about people who are dying without any knowledge of a Savior. He is worried about the end of all things, and the fact that the end is coming very, very soon.

I use the word, "worry" here, simply because it is a word we can all understand. Does God actually worry (fret, fear, etc.) No, of course not. But He is concerned, deeply grieved, and deeply moved by the plight of humankind. The Lord Wept, says the Word. Jesus is deeply moved at the loss of life, the loss of hope, and the misinformation Satan and his followers are teaching people about Him.

The Lord has provided everything we need to live out our lives on this planet. He is well aware that we need a home, a roof over our heads, money in the bank, a car, and food/clothing. He knows our children need medicine at times. He knows that we often need more than what we have, and that we work very hard to try and provide a good and stable life for our families. Yes, He knows all this, and He is prepared to help provide all that truly is needed to us. If only...if only we would come to Him, and ask. The Word clearly tells us that the reason we don't have is because we don't ask. You may say, "Yeah, sure...I ask. I ask all the time, and I don't get anything in return." Yep, I know. I have been there and done that one too.

If we don't attempt to read more into the Word than what is actually there, we will find out that the key to receiving something from the Lord's hand is that we must believe He is able to provide it. The problem is not our asking the Lord; but rather, the problem is that we don't believe He will really answer our prayer. The problem is a mindset that is focused solely on the getting and not the giving. We want the Father to fix the problem, a problem that perhaps we created. We want the easy way out of a situation of our own making. We want. We want. We want. We want everything to go away, but we don't want to take any responsibility for the getting of it in the first place. Now, not everything is of our doing, some things do really happen to us without our cause. Most things, however, are simply of our own hand, and we want the Lord to make things right. We actually demand that He make them right, fix them, take the pain away. We plead, we bargain, and we cajole Him into helping us. The Lord doesn't work this way. It is always Him first, always.

My understanding has been changed in this point. I used to do the exact same thing, I used to bargain with the Lord all the time. I learned something of value and it has changed my entire perspective about Him and how He chooses to deal with us. It is summed up in this word only:

SOVEREIGNTY

The Lord is Lord of All. He is Sovereign. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is only Him. He is God, we are His creation. He owes us nothing, not one thing. Nada. Yet, the Lord of the Universe loved us, His creation, so much that He chose to not let us die in our sins. He chose to save us. He did this because He loved us ("yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.") You see, if you want your problems to reverse, your situation to improve and your life to miraculously get better...All you have to do is this: stop looking to the Lord as some heavenly ATM and start looking to Him as Sovereign Lord and Savior.

If you begin to see Him as He really is, as Lord, then you will realize that everything in the world belongs to Him. All possessions, all material wealth, all prosperity, all health and well-being. Everything is in His hand. Nothing is out of His reach. Moreover, as you look to Him in this way, you will begin to understand how much He loves you. You will grasp that He loves you so much, that He cares for you so deeply, that He wants you to understand the truth about your purpose for being created. He wants you to stop believing the GREAT LIE. He wants you to know that you were created for one purpose only. He wants you to know that even though you have a mind, a will, a heart, and many talents...your purpose is single-mindedly set (before the foundation of the world, your purpose was created in Christ Jesus). You may think you have a job, a family, a home, a career...all these things. Ultimately, your purpose includes none of these things. These are all blessings from His Hand, but they are not what makes you tick or what drives you to achieve. No. Your purpose is one and only and the sooner your realize it, and get about to doing it, the more quickly your life will change. Your purpose is this:

YOU WERE CREATED TO WORSHIP THE ONE TRUE GOD

There is no other calling, no other job, no other prospect, than this simple statement. You were made to worship God. Once you wrap your head around that little ditty, your life will change forevermore. You will no longer seek material things, long for things you really do not need. Your priorities, your goals and dreams and aspirations will conform to His Will. And, then...Something wonderful will happen. You will begin to be transformed into a creature of His own design and choosing. You will begin to move in the direction He desires. You will do the things He wants you to do. You will stop doing all those things you shouldn't do, and will start doing the things you should. Your life will sprout roots and fruit and you will begin to become like Him. You will be like Jesus. You will be His hands and feet. You will act and speak and think similar things. You will love what He loves, and hate what He hates. You will be mature and ready for every good work.

Then, and only then, will the Lord use you. You may be used now, or think you are being used, but unless your work is sacrificially laid at His feet...even Christian service is "wood, hay and stubble." No, you must do His work, His way. You go where He sends you; You do the work He provides for you to do. You are able to say as the Apostle Paul said: "I know how to live in both poverty and riches, in warmth and cold." Your mind and heart will be aligned with His, and you will be like the Word says, "You will have the mind of Christ."

Dear Brother or Sister,

Are you struggling with life? Are you trying to figure out how all this works together? Are things not so good in your life right now? Consider whether or not you are worshipping God as Lord or whether you are worshipping an idea, an image or a thought about God. He is God. He is and acknowledging His Sovereignty is the beginning of a life-long relationship of true worship. Consider His Kingship now, and watch what will happen. Your worries and fears will melt away as you finally grasp the truth that the King takes care of all those in His Kingdom. Are you in His Kingdom? Then you are under the Kings provision and security. Every need is met with His sufficiency. Trust Him today as Lord, and see what you will discover about Him. The King is in the House -- let all the saints Praise Him forevermore.

No comments: