There will be days where we do a better job of keeping our eyes fixed firmly on him, and on those days we will provide a powerful example for others. And there will be some days where we need to desperately look around for the “Paul” in our lives that is facing challenges with bravery from who we can borrow strength. That is the power of community.
Paul was not just speaking to them about the time he was imprisoned 10 years ago and telling them to hang in there because it eventually gets better. He wasn’t saying, “Listen, in a different life, I struggled with that too. I can relate!” Paul was saying that this is an ongoing battle. We are still facing the exact same challenges that you are facing today, and we will most likely continue to face them. We have full expectation that God will continue to be faithful and the fact that we are still in the midst of our struggle will be a testimony to God’s unfailing love and others can then see the manifestation of the power of their prayers as they lift us up in our battle!
For the longest time these gifts scared me. I didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility that I could ever hear from God, receive physical healing, etc. What if I decided it was truly possible, put myself out there to God, and believed completely that God had given me a spiritual gift beyond things like leadership, teaching, or service…and then it didn’t happen? What if I prayed with all of my heart to hear from God…and was met by silence? What if I prayed over someone for healing…and it didn’t happen?
If you give an infant solid food, it will wreak havoc on the poor baby’s digestive system. If you attempt to help a non-believer see how they might potentially be out of step with the life God had planned for them before they have even come to know and accept Jesus, it wreaks havoc as well.
Frequently I am standing there with a staff and God invites me to strike the stone, but I hesitate. He invites me to strike the rock, but I still want to do it under my own power. I insist on turning to other distractions to fill up my cup instead of turning to him.
I frequently catch myself falling into a common trap we see today in our Western World, where I would rather live in a world where bad things don’t have to happen for God to get the attention of his people. I want to create God in my own image instead of remembering that I was created in his. I want to say things to myself and to others along the lines of, “Well, a loving God would…” and then philosophize about how I would do things if I were God and project those items onto my heavenly father.
The world desperately wants us to live according to the flesh. We are bombarded by stimulus that encourages us to stop worrying so much about loving God and loving others, but instead to focus on our own status, wealth, appearance, social life, material possessions, etc.
God says, “Trust in me fully. See what happens. If you would just turn over your entire day, week, month, and year to me, you would feel my love absolutely surrounding you throughout the entire day. Let me shower you with my love. I just need you to trust me fully and not just with an hour or two before becoming distracted by your normal worries, stresses, and anxieties you have been allowing to control your day. I am right here with you. I just need you to turn and embrace me.”
I love being able to share Christ with folks that are struggling in their life and already know they are missing something. So many of them are ready and willing to hear the truth. I love planting seeds in this fertile soil that Jesus talked about in Matthew. I struggle, however, having the desire to go after the intellectual skeptic. I am nervous chasing after the person I know is going to try to pick my argument apart. I have complete confidence in my own faith, but will I be able to articulate it well to them? Will I be able to answer their questions effectively enough to win them over? What if they ask tough questions I am not equipped to answer?