Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Get Out of Cruise Control, then Hand Over the Keys

When things are going well in our lives - when we are on cruise control be-bopping down the highway of life - we really become self-sufficient.  I mean, even if you are a Christian who follows the Lord, surely you struggle with really hungering and thirsting for God when all the stars are aligned in your world. I do.

I believe we have this tendency to use the same routine or formula that has been working for us, day in, day out. After is working. Why change things up?

So, we go about our lives, and because we love God, and we know He loves us, we sprinkle a little bit of Jesus here and there in the equation...just for good measure.  We think, "Things are peachy.  I love my life.  And, because I am a good Christian, I am going to give a shout-out to Jesus every now and then and make sure he's with me on this ride."

I don't honestly believe that we consciously THINK those things...but I do believe that is our approach most of the time.  When things are hunky-dory, our life looks like this: 

We Achieve Success >> We Experience Happiness >> We Have a Positive Outlook on Life >>We Thank God (sometimes).

But, when life sours a bit, and knocks us off the merry-go-round, the cycle looks a bit different.  Perhaps it looks like this:

We Experience Failure or Adversity >> We Experience Sadness or Anger >> We Have a Negative Outlook on Life >> We Desperately Seek God (perhaps after we have tried to figure it out ourselves).

It's in these arduous moments when we think and say things like, "I have never needed God more in my life than I do right now!"

And, while we certainly FEEL that way, it's not entirely accurate.  Even in the midst of our anxiety, sadness, dismay, and torment, we don't need Him more than we need Him when we're experiencing elation and accomplishment. 

We need exactly the same amount of Him all the time, regardless of what life throws our way.  Just because we FEEL like we need Him more doesn't mean we need Him more.  We just become aware that we need God when we cannot move forward on our own.

I challenge you today - whether you're at the pinnacle, or you're in the doldrums - to seek the Lord with all your heart, and ask him to be your Guide.  You'll find more peace when you hand over the keys and the Lord is in the driver's seat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Through Life's Ups and Downs, Giving Your Very Best is Critical to Perseverance

We live in our own little cocoons, where we see what we see, hear what we hear, and feel what we feel.  We are consumed with ourselves. As Donald Miller, in his bestseller Blue Like Jazz, put it: it's as though we are the star in our own epic feature film, and everyone else comes in and out of the frame as a supporting cast. We are the hero or heroine of this movie - our own story.

Like any well-written novel, our personal story will involve peaks and valleys, comedy and tragedy. Good moments and bad. And, we really like the good moments: when we get the girl, land the job, win the prize.

But what about when things aren't great? What then?

I tend to be even-keeled.  I don't have "high" highs, and I don't have "low" lows. I stay in the middle for the most part.  But, like everyone else, I much prefer for things to be going well. To be "in the zone." To be well-liked. To be appreciated and valued. To be praised and acknowledged. I really like for good things to come my way. It's so much easier, right?

There's a serious problem with this, however.  All of this provides a false sense of security and self-worth.  In looking to others (and things) for affirmation and adulation, we miss the boat. 

We are built (by society) for accomplishment. We aim to please. We do things in the hopes that someone will notice and let us know how great we are. We are attention-seekers and like to be rewarded for a job well done.

But, what happens where there is no tangible reward? What do we do when we give and serve and love, and no acknowledgement is offered? What if there's no "atta boy" or high five?

The answer is not easy, but it is simple: we keep giving our best. And, when possible, we give even more.

Colossians 3:23-24 says this: Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (NLT)

This is another element of faith - not seeing our reward, but being confident that the Lord sees our devotion to Him, and that He will reward us in His own way - which will be infinitely better than anything we could receive here.

If you find yourself in this place right now, I want to offer you some encouragement.  Your spouse may not see your efforts.  Your boss and co-workers may not appreciate what you are doing.  Your clients and customers may not understand the decisions you make, and are looking elsewhere for a place to give their business. But, if you are working with an attitude and heart that serves Christ, you will be at the head of the class.  He will notice, and He's got your back. 

Don't base your attitudes and work ethic on your feelings. Have confidence in the Lord and His abilities to provide exactly what you need, when you need it.