Through It, Not from It

When I pray for God to help me with a problem, I want Him to grab me and throw me on the other side of the problem. Then, I want to pick myself up, dust myself off, and run as far away from the problem as I can.

In my experience, God has never dealt with me that way. In fact, it’s been just the opposite.

Whenever I ask for God’s help with a problem, He takes me directly to the problem. We don’t avoid anything. By His leading and in His power, we are led to face our issues head on.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say I have falling out with a friend. (I know, with my gentle personality you’re thinking this would never happen. Like I said, it’s just an example.) But let’s say it did happen.

And I pray, “Lord, help me restore my relationship with my friend.” I’m hoping Jesus will just give me a good feeling in my heart. You know, a deep warmness in my chest filled with good feelings toward my friend.

That’s not what happens. Nope, God will lead me to all kinds of situations where I will find myself with that friend. The Lord will then open the door for an honest conversation about our friendship, what happened, and how we move forward. And yes, it usually involves an apology from me. God won’t let me run from it. I can’t escape it. He forces me to deal with it.

It took me a long time to understand this, but I finally got it. Do you know why God does that? He does it so you never have to be afraid of it again. You’ve dealt with it. You’ve done what you needed to do and said what you needed to say. It’s over. You’re now free to move on.

Did you know there was an early teaching in the church that claimed God tricked Satan in the crucifixion and resurrection? The story goes that God promised Satan the body of Jesus in exchange for all of the souls of world, and then, at the last minute, He snatched Jesus back. Like I said, it was a heresy in the early church, but if Jesus only tricked death, then what happens the next time death finds us?

No, the good news of the gospel is that Christ defeated death. That’s why we don’t have to be afraid of death anymore. The battle’s been fought. The victory has been won by Jesus. It’s over.

The Hebrew children went through the Red Sea, not around it. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not close by it. In each moment, God in Christ Jesus saves us through it, not from it.

That way, we never have to be afraid. We can move on. It’s over. That’s why Jesus always saves us through it, but never from it.

Kindness is the Key

Do you remember the story of Abraham looking for a wife for his son, Isaac? The story is found in Genesis 24. A servant is given the task of going back to Abraham’s family and finding a young woman who would be suitable for Isaac. The servant, obviously overwhelmed by his assignment, begins to pray.

Do you remember what sign he told God he was looking for? Let the young woman not only draw water for me, a common and expected gesture of hospitality, but also draw water for my camels. Drawing enough water for tired and thirsty camels is certainly beyond what is to be expected in any culture, but that was what the servant asked for.

Why? Because he was looking for a woman who was kind.

Kindness? Really? Ask any single person about the person they’re looking to marry, and they’ll give you a long list.

Kindness won’t be on that list.

There will be a lot of descriptions of how the person will look, dress, or even the career they will have, but if kindness is on the list at all, it will be way on down the list.

Now, ask that same question to a couple that’s been married for a very long time, and kindness, if it’s not the first thing they say, will be near the top of the list. The long-married couple has learned some things about how marriage actually works day in and day out. The world would have us think we spend every day of our married lives in the throes of passion. We don’t. We spend most of our time taking out the garbage, getting the kids to school, washing clothes, going to work, and coming home again.

We spend most of our marriages in “like.” By that I mean we spend most of our time doing life together, and kindness—doing the little things that make the other person’s life easier—is one of those little everyday things that ends up making a big difference.

You don’t have to have a big house to be happily married. You don’t have to have a lot of money to be happily married. You do, however, have to have a lot of kindness to be happily married. The days get too long without it.

So, ladies, the guy you’re dating now, is he kind?
Guys, the girl you think is so beautiful, is she kind?
For those of you who are already married, are you kind to each other?

Ask any of us who’ve been married for a while (Jeannie and I will be married 38 years next month) and we’ll all tell you the same thing. You want to know the secret of a happy marriage?

“Be kind one to another.” It is, after all, in the Bible.

Theology of Abundance

According to the experts, regardless of what areas of concern, we are slowly but surely running out of everything. Our sun will burn out in a few million years, and we’ll be left on a cold, dark planet drifting in space. Our fossil fuels are approaching exhaustion. We’ll have to find new sources of power. There’s only so much time, so much food, so many places to live, and so many cars to drive.

In other words, you’d better get while the getting is good because soon there won’t be anything left to get.

Or so the world tells us.

And because the world tells us that we’re running out of everything, we develop a theology of scarcity. This theology of scarcity causes us to start grasping for things in our lives. We have to grab our stuff and hold onto it with our lives. Not only do we have to get our stuff, we have to keep others from getting their stuff. If someone else gets something, that means we can’t have it because there’s only so much to go around.

This of course leads to lives of pettiness, jealousy, shallowness, and frustration.

Yet, Jesus promised us life and life more abundant. A life characterized not by shortages, but by overflowing goodness and joy. How can this be true?

First, God loves you. Now, you’ll read that as “God loves everybody.” While that’s true, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Do you understand that God loves you? You. All by yourself you. He likes the way you’re put together. You were, after all, His idea. He likes the way you think, the way you laugh, and the friends you hang around.

He loves you—in particular you.

Because of that, every blessing He desires to give you is designed only for you. Your blessings won’t fit me. My blessings won’t fit you. He created us uniquely. He loves us uniquely. He blesses us uniquely.

Second, God never runs out of blessings. He’s eternal. That means He never changes. He’ll be as rich and generous tomorrow as He is today. You’ll never be empty handed in His presence. His goodness will always fill your life.

Now, just a quick warning. Being blessed doesn’t mean you get everything you want. Why? Because some of the things we want aren’t good for us. Why would God give you something that wasn’t good for you? We can trust God not only to be good and generous in our lives, but to also know us well enough so He won’t give us something that would hurt us.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. They’re not you. How God blesses them doesn’t have anything to do with how He blesses you. God created you uniquely, and He loves you the same way.

What Would Jesus and You Talk About?

Sometimes, when we’re confronted by unexpected trouble or a deep evil in the world, we’ll say out loud, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Jesus about that.” For some reason, most of us seem to think that we have to die to have a conversation with Jesus.

But the unique teaching of Christianity is our founder is alive. Yes, Jesus was crucified, but He was raised from the dead, and through His Spirit, He is present with His people.

He is present to lead.
He is present to comfort.
He is present to forgive.
He is present to listen.

And He is present to speak. He teaches. He corrects. He confronts. He explains. He’s there.

The radical teaching of Christianity is our Rabbi is alive, and He has promised that if we’ll stop long enough to give Him time in our lives, He’ll meet us and teach us to be His disciples.

So, what do you want to talk to Jesus about? Your dreams? Your hurts and disappointments? Your purpose and calling? Questions about evil? The mysteries of being? What would you talk about?

You don’t have to wait until you die to talk to Jesus. You can do it today. Right where you are. The next move is yours.