Knocked Down Not Knocked Out

They say that there are two things guaranteed in life, taxes and death. While taxes may seem like death, there is a third that isn’t in this saying, struggles and pains. Struggles and pains are sadly a part of this life and there is no getting around this fact.

Sometimes our struggles and pains are financial. We live on a budget, yet there are times that our money is funny as we get further away from our last pay check. Sometimes the struggles and pains are with relationships. Maybe there is a disagreement with a friend that has divided or broken ‘your relationship. There are also times that trust is broken with a family member and you just don’t know if you will be able to trust them again.

Our struggles and pains can be in the form where we just can’t seem to catch a break. Murphy of Murphy’s law becomes your new and unwanted friend, where what can go wrong, does. Sometimes the struggles and pains are physical, with an injury or a painful diagnosis. Sometimes these struggles and pains are with the loss of a loved one. Struggles and pains are sadly a part of this life.

These struggles and pains can cut us deep, knock us down, and at times they can even deliver a knock out blow. My friends, there is no preventing the fact that these struggles and pains do cut us deep, they hurt and the pain stays with us for days or years, and at times a life time. In like manner there is no preventing the fact that these pains and struggles can knock us down with the blows that are either significantly hard or the blow catches us off guard and sends us to the mat, dazed and confused. Yet, these pains and struggles do not have to knock you out. A.A. Milne the creator of Winnie the Pooh once stated, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

How can you keep these struggles and pains from knocking you out? First, if you are a believer, you have an anchor in Jesus Christ. Psalm 31:2-4 states, “Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength (NASB).” What an amazing passage that gives us the promise that we can hold tightly and confidently to the Lord, as a ship holds tightly and confidently to an anchor in the midst of a storm, as the passage tells us that the Lord is a ‘rock of strength’, ‘a stronghold’, and ‘my fortress’. Not only are we given this truth, but we are given a second truth in this passage, the Lord will lead and guide you through life’s ups and downs.

Second, you need support from loved ones. We were not meant to go through this life alone, so we need others in our life. This is especially true in those times of life’s pains and struggles, where we need those words of encouragement, that shoulder to cry on, and that pat on the back. We simply need those loved ones around us, to help us remember that we are not alone. If you are that loved one, can you be there to be that presence, that word of encouragement, or that pat on the back to remind them that they are not alone?

Third, you need to refocus on your purpose. Each of us has a purpose in our life, yet when we are in the crucible of life it is easy to loose track of that purpose. I am reminded of Elijah after he is threatened by Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. As a result Elijah runs, yet the Lord restores him by refocusing him on his purpose as a prophet.

Simply we get distracted and detoured by pains and struggles. The problem is when we loose our purpose because of a pain, we get lost in the pain. When we get lost in the pain we go down the rabbit hole and the way out is to refocus on our purpose.

My friends, you may find yourself in the midst of pain or struggle, remember to hold on to the Lord as the anchor of your life, that you are not alone, and that you still have a purpose. You may be knocked down, but you are not knocked out.

Chasing your Lions

Here is an article I wrote for the local newspaper here in Asheboro, NC. You can find it over the next couple of days in the pastor’s column at http://courier-tribune.com/faith-worship.

 

I know I’m a little different, that is ok. One of the unusual things I personally do is at Christmas my attention moves to the cross and at Easter, you guessed it, my attention goes back to that first Christmas with the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Luke 2:8-11 states of the birth of Christ, “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

In this passage we are introduced to some shepherds and we have an angel who delivers a message that will forever change the course of humanity. When these shepherds saw this angel we are told that they were “terribly frightened”. Yet what I want us to notice is this simple message from the angel, “Do not be afraid.” I wonder how many of us are buffeted by fear? How many opportunities do we let slip by because of fear? Your fear may be that conversation you know you really need to have, yet your fear keeps you from engaging in that conversation. Your fear could be a situation or some type of circumstance that you see as your Goliath that is too big or impossible to overcome. In the end your fear keeps you from being a lion chaser, a conqueror, a giant slayer.

Some time ago I came across a manifesto of sorts from Mark Batterson in his book In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In this manifesto he states, “Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Take a flying leap of faith. Chase the lion!”

Paul tells us this same truth in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” We can enjoy the journey of life, we can set God-sized goals, we can blaze new trails. We can take that leap of faith because we have been given power and love and boldness, not fear. My friends, we are not called to fear and worry, but we are called to be lion chasers, conquerors, and giant slayers.

You ask, how do we overcome our fear? First, you overcome your fear through prayer. I truly believe that everything should begin and end on our knees in prayer. You need to seek the source of your strength, to give you boldness to overcome. Second, you need to trust in our Heavenly Father, because He wants the best for you. There is an insurance company that has the slogan, “You’re in good hands.” When it comes to your Heavenly Father, you are truly in good hands. Third, there comes a point where you have to take that step of faith. It may be uncomfortable, yet you have to make a move.

The question remains, what lion or giant is God calling you to chase?

Faith that Needs CPR: Part 1

I have been wondering what does a faith that is alive look like? To put it another way, what does a life that is radically connected to and worshiping King Jesus look like? As I have thought, the solution is simple, a life that is radically worshiping and connected to King Jesus is a faith that is action producing. In fact I would say that a life that is radically transformed by Christ must be action producing. Here is what I have discovered:

Faith + the outpouring of works because of faith = a living and vibrant faith

Faith – no outpouring of works = a dead faith, a faith that needs CPR

Now please hear me, I am not saying that one can be saved through simply being a good person or doing enough good things (works-based salvation). Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) clearly says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” What I’m saying is that the natural result of our faith in Jesus is godly works or actions.

Over the next 3 post I will give three reasons that our faith in Jesus must be exemplified with actions.

What do you think? Is this discovery true or untrue? What stories have you seen whether good or bad when it comes to this issue?