December 6, 2016

Drained and Poured Out

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Yes, it is Tuesday, my 14th-week at GCU (16th at ACU), and I am absolutely worn to a frazzle. It is always this way, right near the end. I simply expire! I mean, I just go, go, go, and then ker-plunk, I crash. I am so very weary right now, and I have so much more to do before I can really call it quits and enjoy my blessed winter holiday. I woke up this morning with a massive headache. It was a cluster headache, caused no doubt by tension and stress. Thankfully, since this is my bi-weekly day off, I was able to go back to bed and simply rest. With Advil, and now some caffeine, I am feeling better.

My day today is full. I wish it were a “rest” day, but I have grading for all three schools, essays to read, and class maintenance to perform, all in preparation for finals. I need to make sure every student has a grade for every assignment, no ungraded errors, and rather than wait for finals to do this, I thought it would be wise to do it now. Avoid the rush, so to speak.

My dissertation is waiting for me, and I honestly do not know how I will finish it. Yet, I have this sense of peace and calm about me, and right now, I am not worried. I mean, I have a bit of a “worried” concern when the thought pops in my head, but then it quickly diminishes, and I feel fine again. It is like the Holy Spirit simply snatches those thoughts away from me before they settle in too deeply. The work I have to do is significant, and frankly, I am not sure how I will do it in the remaining time. I know the Lord has me well-covered, and praise be to God, I am good, so very good. Still, I think, “Lord, I need to be working on this project rather than resting!” The Lord reminds me that I need to rest, and that He has the details all worked out. I can relax, I can rely on His judgment and determination, and in the end, I can rest in His ability to complete this very difficult and time-consuming work. He is so good to me, so very good to me.

Waiting for His Hand

I am finding it difficult to wait. I am in this waiting mode, sort of waiting to see what will happen next. In context, I am working while I wait, which I believe it the biblical principle that most people overlook when they are in need of a life change moment. So often, we want the Lord to simply evacuate us from whatever trouble we are in, yet most of the time, the Lord doesn’t do this for us. He lets us wait, lets us sit, and while we do, He expects us to keep busy. We are to work while we wait, and in this way, we keep ourselves busy. Busy is a good thing, when it is kept within the context of waiting. Sometimes, people use busyness as a coping mechanism, for loneliness or heartache, as examples. Busyness that keeps us from engaging in the world, from impacting our little sphere of influence, is nonproductive. It simply keeps us away from the very people God wants us to influence. Instead, busyness while we wait, in context with the waiting, allows God to position us in places where we can minister to others, listen and encourage others, and help others in ways that wouldn’t normally happen because we would be so active doing other, non-important things. Consider it this way, the situation you are in — YOUR WAITING SITUATION — might be for the expressed purpose of ministering to others who are also in your situation. Think of your coworkers who would not have the blessing of your presence day in and day out, who would not benefit from your prayers or your help when they need it most. Think of the people you know who do not have hope, have not responded to the Good News, and as such, are trying to make sense of their world WITHOUT JESUS CHRIST.

Waiting in context then is a blessed condition, but often we see it as punishment, as payment for our former sinful life and choices. Rather, Paul reminds us that we are to live our life as redeemed people, bent on following the Lord, and working out our salvation according to His glorious riches. We are to live as though we are with Christ, actually living and walking with our Lord. We read in Colossians 3:1-2 (Message),

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

I love this last part where it says “see things from His perspective” because it reminds me that as new creatures in Christ, our vision, our eyes, have been opened to the things of the world. We now possess the Holy Spirit who helps us choose wisely, to understand the world around us, and to distinguish between the old way and the new way. Yes, our Helper, helps us to adopt a new frame of reference, and with that adoption, we begin to see life as it really is — with all the horrors, hurt, and heartache — and then with His motivation and encouragement, we become His co-laborers as we seek to comfort, console, and communicate the love of God through our daily interactions with those around us.

Furthermore, as we wait, while we wait I should say, we are to ACT and DRESS like we are waiting for something, someone special to arrive. Paul says it this way in verses 12-14,

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The Message translation really brings the sentiment home and beautifully describes how we are to act now that we are in Christ and no longer in the world. Think about it. Think about your current situation, no matter how awful it feels, how tight the perimeter is that binds you to it, and imagine if you clothed yourself with these Godly and Christ-like characteristics, day in and day out. What could come of your waiting period? What might happen to your relationships while you wait for the Lord blessed “next steps” or provision for those next steps?

Lastly, as we read Paul’s exhortation in this chapter, it becomes clear that while we are waiting, while we are busy at our work (whatever work that may be), we are to work with a certain attitude, a certain appreciation of the position we are in. In this way, we give God the glory, that while we are brought low, patiently experiencing hard times or difficult ways, we are working unto the Lord. We are working for God, doing what He asks of us, and in this way, He is given all glory, praise and honor. 

In verses 23-24 (Message), we read:

Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

Yes, our real master is God, and whether we receive our “rescue” now or later, there is a reward for faithful service waiting for us at the end of our journey. Our “ultimate Master” is Christ, and when we live as though He is here with us, present, active, and alongside of us, we realize that we are no different then the first disciples. We are like them in that we spend our days doing whatever work is necessary in order to fulfill our calling and our mandate. We work heartily for the Lord, choosing to humble ourselves and do work that is boring at times, difficult, and sometimes even hostile. Yes, we work for our Master and our Lord, and by clothing ourselves (dressing up) for the occasion, we bring Him honor and praise. With a proper perspective on life, as a Child of God, we should come to know and to recognize that we no longer work for ourselves, and we no longer determine our way. We are now following the Lord whole-heartedly, and by that, we must understand that we are no longer able to go where we please and do what we want. Rather, we are led by a yoke, and in this way, we must go where our Master goes, we must stay in step with Him. 

It has taken me a long, long time to see myself and my life through this new lens. I think the reason why I struggled so with it was because many people who say they are Christ followers are not. They believe in the Lord as Savior, but they do not follow Him. They go their own way, worship when they feel they must, but generally they live worldly and white-washed lives. They are forgiven for their sins, but they haven’t surrendered to His call. 

I learned the hard way that true followership requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice is not just my time, but it is every part of my life. I lay my life down, ownership of it, and I pick up my cross and I follow after Him. I take on His work, His burden, His call, and in this way, my life is no longer my own. I do not call the shots, I don’t go where I want to go, but in everything I do, I follow His plan, His path, His purpose and His passion. Proverbs 16:9 (NASB) says, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps,” which clearly tells us that while we may make plans, it is the Lord who actually leads us, guides us, and provides for us as He directs our way. 

Waiting Patiently for His Provision

As I wait for the Lord to provide for me, I realize today that I am in a most blessed position. I am tired, yes so very tired, but I am also in a place where I can rest. I realize that often I let my situation get to me, and in this way, I lose my perspective. I stop seeing the matter from His vantage point. Instead, I start to see it, to look at it with disgust, with dissatisfaction, and with disappointment simply because it doesn’t seem to be working out for me. My plans aren’t coming to pass as I had hoped, and even though I know He is directing my steps, I want my plans — my way — to come to pass now.

I read Psalm 140 this morning, a Psalm of David, where he cried out to the Lord while he was in the midst of great adversity. David begged and pleaded with the Lord to vanquish his enemies and to give him the victory over the evil of his day. I thought, “How odd, Lord, that you would lay this psalm on my heart this morning.” I mean, I am not in the heat of battle. My enemies are not seeking to destroy me. For goodness sake, I work at three lovely Christian schools, and I am finishing my PhD at one of them. I am in such a sweet, wonderful, and blessed place right now. I said, “Why this psalm, this day, Lord?”

In verses 1-5 of the Message, we read:

God, get me out of here, away from this evil;
protect me from these vicious people.
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
speak venomous words that maim and kill.
God, keep me out of the clutch of these wicked ones,
protect me from these vicious people;
Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up,
determined to bring me down.
These crooks invent traps to catch me
and do their best to incriminate me.

David was in a difficult spot. Clearly, his circumstances were far more serious than mine are today. He was dealing with people who wanted nothing more than to destroy his life. His heart was torn as he had to live amidst such vile and wicked people.

In verses 12-13 (Message), after David has poured out his complaint to the Lord, he remembers the goodness of God, and in a like manner, he shifts his perspective from his current situation to a more heaven-centric one. He focuses on who God is rather than on his present discomfort. He says, 

I know that you, God, are on the side of victims,
that you care for the rights of the poor.
And I know that the righteous personally thank you,
that good people are secure in your presence.

As I read this psalm this morning, I sat there thinking to myself that despite my discomfort, it is in no way as serious or sinister as that of King David’s. In truth, I live a modest, yet comfortable life. I am in a good place, and I have a good future filled with hope ahead of me. I struggle, this is no lie, yet my life is blessed, favored, and well-guarded. I am in a good place, praise be to God, and in this good place, I am safe. In many ways, I am secure in His presence (v. 13). I am secure. I am safe. I am sound. I know that God cares for me, and that He understands — knows and is aware — of my present need. He knows me well, and He knows my next steps. He has my life all figured out, so while I may feel overwhelmed today, unwell in some ways, I know that my God has this — this life — well directed. I can rest in His presence this good, good day.

In Closing

I had a rough start today, but here it is mid-morning, and I am feeling better. Thanks to the Lord’s provision for me, I am in this very safe place. I am living in this very controlled and wonderfully comfortable place. I have no reason to complain, to gripe, or even to find fault because the Lord has dealt generously with me (Psalm 13:6). Yes, He has made a way for me, and while I wait and must keep busy until He provides my next step along the path, I can take comfort in knowing that He has me well-covered, so well-secured, and that I am safe within His presence this good, good day. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

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