Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
He's discouraged as his church continues to decline.
She's frustrated by the people she helped; they returned her generosity with resentment.
He poured his heart out for a friend in need and it seemed to make no difference.
What do you do when you want to quit?
I write this as I prepare for a daunting task: confirmation camp. Three days of 7th and 8th graders at a summer camp. Swim time and campfires. Juvenile flirting and smelly boys who have yet to apply deodorant with any consistency. Somewhere in the middle of all this, my team of leaders must impart our deepest held beliefs and convictions.
Impacting the lives of young people is a great responsibility. I don't take it lightly, and I tremble a little every time.
Am I effective?
Am I making a difference?
Is there more I could do to connect with these kids?
Whenever I freak out over a big challenge, I refer back to a quote by Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
“The Christian should work as if all depended upon him, and pray as if it all depended upon God.”
"Everybody sees how you seem. Some know who you really are."
In a world of posing, posturing, and posting, we have a million ways to put up a front. From our clothes to our profiles, we present ourselves as we want people to see us. But the reality behind the mask is very different.
Who sees behind the curtain? Who knows the real you . . . and still loves you? Who knows about your blemishes and still wants to stay with you?
The first One is your God. The rest are gifts from God. The dearest friends. The parents. The spouses. The loved ones that God has placed in your life to know and love who you really are.
"Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected."
I often worry about having enough for tomorrow, next year, or in retirement. How much is enough?
I am in favor of prudent planning. But I have often found that accumulated wealth can be a barrier with God. Hoarding is idolatry. In our treasure, we too often find our security, trust, and consolation.
What good are my goods if they are only stored? Aren't they given to me so that I can give them away? Do I see my blessings like a classic car that is stored but never driven? Or do I put my blessings to work? "Earthly goods are given to be used, not collected."
"The task of the leader is the ability to be out of control comfortably."
The longer I lead, the more I see how chaotic leadership is. When you lead people - whether family, church, business, etc. - it is never swiftly managed. People are not simply numbers on a page, manipulated like an Excel document. Decisions are rarely cut and dry. Issues will always arise. There will always be a level of uncertainty. Life will never be fully settled. The "to do list" will never be entirely checked off.
Life contains enough chaos to keep us regularly uncomfortable. We must understand this lest we set the expectation that life is about exercising complete control over our circumstances. Life is out of control, and this is the ideal place for faith. Faith - a confidence that there is One in control, standing above and over all that seems uncontrollable.
"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."
Yes, I am loved for who I am, right where I am. Yes, even when my track record is hardly worthy. Yes, that's called grace.
But I dare not linger in this place. No, I cannot stay here. Change is necessary. There is a man I was made to be. Yes, there is an imprint I have not yet realized. An "image of God" to more fully reflect with each day I'm given.
There are some things I must leave behind. That's called repentance. Yes, to become the man I'm called to be. I cannot remain where I'm at.
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
It is easy for preachers to use an abundance of words. I contend that long, boring sermons are a result of inadequate preparation. If you would ask me to preach for two hours, it would require very little work. I can expound a topic very easily if given an unlimited word count. But tell me to preach in 5 minutes. Then I must prepare. What can be said in five minutes? How can I get to its bare core? Now I must really study the topic, meditate on its meaning, and come to terms with its implications.
Many Americans find Christianity to be either too complex to access (elitism) or too simple to believe in (fundamentalism). A large part of my job is to convey the gospel's simplicity. Not to water down, nor to over-complicate. But in illuminating the gospel's core, we actually get to its profound depth. It's a bit of a riddle. The more you seek simplicity, the more sophisticated it gets. The more you dwell on the cross event, the more you find God's compassion to be a well whose floor has never been discovered.
Prayer is a conflict and wrestling with God, not simply sunning one's self in God. There is no reality without wrestling . . . Serious prayer is not a sweet devotion at the day's dawn or close, but an ingredient of the day's work.
Peter Taylor Forsyth
"Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning."
May I be so bold as to edit a C.S. Lewis quote? I might insert wisdom for imagination.
In our modern world we have unparalleled access to information. The internet has made knowledge a democratic enterprise. Everyone has access to anything. What we lack in this era of information privilege is wisdom. What do you do with the information? What does it mean? How do we act on our knowledge? Not just act, but act well - justly, compassionately, joyfully?
Wisdom is not just the right answer; it's doing right with the right answer. It couples meaning with the truth.
Psalm 11:10; Proverbs 9:10; I Cor. 3:19
"Everything looks like a failure in the middle."
Everything that's worthy of being done will encounter a moment of failure. Every significant task that God calls you to will be met with resistance and challenge. The prevalent reaction is flakiness. Many will choose to give up.
But if God has called you to do it, the apparent failure is only in the middle. Every good work progresses toward an end. And in the end, we trust that God's will is done. (II Cor. 4:16-18).