Saturday, October 5, 2013

Where is Your Prize

This morning I went with my son Jon to sell Boy Scout popcorn outside a local store. It was a bit cool and the response at first was not terribly warm from his perspective. He quickly got discouraged and wanted to give up. We spent some time talking about his need to stay in there and do his best while guarding his attitude in the process. We also talked about why he was there and what he was accomplishing in being there regardless of the eventual sales outcome. In general, I was trying to encourage him to stand strong, and when the encouragement seemed to wane, it even came down to a simple instruction that he wasn’t going to quit, which he didn’t. It wasn’t but a little while later when he had a few sales that he was bouncing around with a totally different attitude. I think the hardest thing for him, and for many, is the sense of rejection—even rejection with a very kind and apologetic smile. It is so easy to miss-take a ‘no’ as a rejection, when the ‘no’ is nothing more than a simple ‘no.’

Jon is not unlike most other kids (and even adults) in this area. It’s much easier to do something when the positive benefit is right there in front of them, but there is so much of our life where that positive benefit might not be so apparent and seems even more apparently absent. Times like these can frequently lead to discouragement or becoming dis-encouraged and losing any positive incentive and even the courage to move forward which can be accompanied with a loss of ‘happy’ feelings, leading to a deeper internalized loss of joy. It is a spiral that leads nowhere but into a dark pit, unless we do something to put a stop to it.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:12–17, ESV)

It is in times like these that we are living with a circumstantial focus—our focus is determined or guided by our circumstances, and since our circumstances often change so does our focus and subsequently so does our joy in life. This is not how God has called us to live. While it is true that we live in the world and that we are subject to the circumstances of living in the world, Scripture also reminds us that we are not of the world and that really our citizenship is somewhere else—in heaven.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 3:20–4:1, ESV)

And as we stand firm and as we endure hardships of various forms, Scripture tells us to do so with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ, keeping in mind to what length He went for us, and being encouraged to endure likewise, knowing that He will bring us to completion.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1–3, ESV)

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, ESV)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/5)

Remember that joy is not dependent on your circumstances. Some of the world’s most miserable people are those whose circumstances seem the most enviable. People who reach the top of the ladder career-wise are often surprised to find emptiness awaiting them. True Joy is a by-product of living in My Presence. Therefore you can experience it in palaces, in prisons … anywhere.

Do not judge a day as devoid of Joy just because it contains difficulties. Instead, concentrate on staying in communication with Me. Many of the problems that clamor for your attention will resolve themselves. Other matters you must deal with, but I will help you with them. If you make problem-solving secondary to the goal of living close to Me, you can find Joy even in your most difficult days.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:17–19, ESV)

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” (1 Chronicles 16:27, ESV)

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