Dear Coffee Clubbers:
I know assuming is not something of which to make a regular practice, but I'm going to do it and assume that the fact that it is Labor Day weekend is the reason no one showed up for small group this morning! Well, no one except for myself and one other person, at which point we both pulled out our textbooks and proceeded to do homework. Boring student-types.
But regardless, I didn't want to neglect the opportunity to share what was on my mind about this weeks discussion.
I have to admit that last week, as I sat listening to Brad's message, I couldn't help but think to myself, "I really don't want to hear this. I know I should hear it. And I know that I should want to hear it. And absorb it. And really take it all to heart. But I don't wanna."
The whole point of the message being 'FAITH IS BELIEVING GOD DESPITE THE OBSTACLES'.
During this stage of my life, every fiber of my being just seems to revolt against every word of that statement, even though I know it is true. You know the feeling, I'm sure.
I know that FAITH is right up there with hope and love as one of the main christian virtues. I know that believing God is the only sane thing to do. But the obstacles are so great, it seems. At least to me, right now. And I often feel that my faith has been DESPITE for so long. I know that deep down inside I want to press on. I want to believe in the music (pardon the shameless reference to the August Rush, get with the program, ok?). I want to keep pressing forward. But every time I take one step forward, it seem I am hurled three steps backward.
Please understand, I'm not trying to dwell on my troubles here, I'm just sharing where I am in an effort to illustrate the point.
To quote Brad last Sunday evening,
"Isn't it true? ...that life has a way of knocking our dreams and our aspirations out of us?
Right now, You're trying to move forward but life has just knocked it out of you..."
I couldn't have put it better.
But he went on to describe the challenge of faith:
Faith is Believing When No One Else Does. August held on to his belief staunchly that he would be able to follow the music to follow his parents, even when the bullies tried to 'knock some sense into him,' or 'knock the dreams and aspirations out of him,' whichever way you want to put it.
Faith is Believing God for the Future. Abram and Sarai clung to God's promise that they would indeed have a son, even though it was humanly impossible. But sometimes, it appears, clinging to that belief does in fact sometimes involve ignoring a bit of that common sense. You know? Even when it seems straight up impossible, faith is knowing deep down inside that fulfillment will come.
Faith is Believing God Despite the Obstacles. This is the biggie for me. The obstacles to faith include doubt, enemies/doubters, discouragement, weariness, circumstances, toxic environments, sin, failure, etc. The man or woman of faith learns to walk by faith in the midst of obstacles. They trust God so deeply that they cannot give up.
Think about all this for a minute. What is one vision or dream of yours, a passion, if you will, that has been delayed? What hope do you have that seems just out of reach?
I'm not talking about fame and fortune. I'm not trying to walk you through the steps of achieving you life's fullest potential as you see it. More than anything, I'm trying to walk myself through the discouragement that seems to haunt me at every turn.
And after I left church last week, I knew God was not going to let me off the hook. He wasn't going to let me just drive away and leave the whole subject behind. And He didn't.
As the week played out, I can't say anything changed. The circumstances of everyday life were just as difficult and trying as ever. The "toxic environments" Brad mentioned seemed to keep on poisoning me. If anything, the disappointments just kept building up.
But the one thing that God kept impressing on me was this: to look for things about which to be grateful; to not focus on the downs, but on the ups; to truly give thanks in everything.
I wish I could say that that was the silver bullet of building faith. It's not. But it did change my perspective over the last week. I found myself on the phone talking to a friend, recounting the events of my day in the most whiney, complainy tone ever. But then I was reminded to be grateful, and I turned it all around, saying, "...but you know, there were two good things that happened today! In fact, I DIDN'T get in that wreck, no matter how narrowly I avoided it, my car is still fine, and so is theirs! And the other thing...I can't remember what the other thing is, but something else happened that was good!" (by the way, I still hate having to take 81st in rush hour...it is the devil's own road.)
So keep thinking about that dream of yours, that aspiration or hope. What is it that is knocking it out of you, so to speak? What makes it seem so impossible?
When you stop to think about it, and just take the moment to remind yourself of the entire universe that God created, and the ongoing care He exercises to keep the earth spinning on it's axis, and the intimate concern He takes with each one of our lives, no matter how trivial...you cannot but admit that if He is so great to be capable of all that, what is so great about your personal obstacle that He cannot change? Who are we, after all, to assume that we know everything about the circumstances we encounter? When in fact He knows everything, is in control of it all, and has already promised to work it all together for good...
And another great quote from Brad, this is one that really got me: "Faith is seeing what God sees for us."
Faith is what says, "I know there are missiles coming my way, and these God given dreams in my heart, they're going to be obliterated, unless, of course, you put up the shield of faith, and remind yourself, 'Who is God, and can He be trusted?'"
Think for a moment about the words of St. Augustine: "Faith is to believe what you do not see, but the reward of this faith is to see what you believe."
Look at the parallelism there! Isn't it beautiful? and incredibly profound.
I can't exactly say my week totally balanced out. There were still a good many missiles fired my way. But I kept reminding myself to be grateful for the little things. I kept reminding myself to refuse to let go of those goals I'd set in the faith that God was working on my behalf. Saturday morning, I sold the car I'd been trying to sell for weeks. That was one goal I'd placed out there. I knew I had to get rid of it in order to take action on other things. And after several false promises by would-be buyers, a family came along who really needed it, and I was happy to sell it to them. And they even gave me the full asking price for it! Can you tell I'm excited?!?
Sometimes, that vision is just so far off, but don't forget that "the vision is yet for an appointed time...though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Habakkuk 2:3)
Wait for it. Wait for it. Aren't those simply the three hardest words to take to heart? Those three words are the essence of faith. The greatest challenge that we will likely experience.
So, what is that God-given dream that you have all but given up on? Do you really Trust Him? Are you willing to wait?
Or, on a more basic level, are you wanting to be willing to wait for it?
Please consider these things deeply. And since we didn't get the chance to sit down face to face this week, feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in a reply. I would love to hear the encouragement of how He is building that faith and trust in your life. I think we all would, right?