When I got to high school, I started getting more serious about playing sports. I thought the best way to get better was to start working out, so I started going to the weight room at my school.
I would try to do different exercises, but I was so weak I could barely lift the bar. As time went on, I got a little stronger, and I started to be a little more bold. One day, when I was doing the bench press exercise, I added more weight than I had ever done. I was by myself on one side of the room and some of my teammates were all the way on the other side. I thought I could handle it (You might be able to tell where this is going).
I took the bar off the rack. I held it above my face and took… three… deep… breaths. I slowly brought the bar down to my chest and when it touched, I began to push it back up… but nothing happened. The bar was stuck. It wasn’t moving. I was buried under the weight and I was panicking.
I began to squirm under the bar and call for help. My teammates couldn’t hear me. And then out of nowhere, my coach came walking up to me and I heard him say in a loud voice, “Men! This is why you always have a spotter.” And with a swift motion, he grabbed the bar with one hand and yanked it up to the rack… and saved me from my torture.
I was weak. He was strong.
I was using my own strength and thought I could handle the weight. And isn’t that the truth for us today? Many times we have a lot going on in our lives and we think we have the strength to handle it. But the truth is, we don’t. And we can’t.
And that’s OK.
We need to be OK with admitting we are weak. The Apostle Paul had no problem with this. In 2 Corinthians, he talks about having a thorn in his side that tormented him. He says, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Most of us don’t like to admit we are weak and not many of us “delight” in difficulties. But Paul is giving us this great wisdom that we are to be proud weaklings! We need to know that it’s not our strength, but Christ’s that gives us power. We need to know that when we can’t do it all that it is OK. It’s actually good. And we should be proud when we don’t have it all figured out… delighted, even!
So this week, don’t get buried under the weight of your problems and hardships. Delight in them because then you’ll get to see Christ’s power at work! Share them with God and others. And always remember that His grace is sufficient for you and His power is made perfect in your weakness!
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14
A lot of times most of us would like to be in control of our lives. When we plan something, such as where we will live, what school we go to, what job we will have or what kind of family we want to have, we want to make sure things are going the way we want.
We may think we know what is best for us. It is good to have goals, but they can disappoint us if we leave God out. When things are going smoothly, it is easy to have the illusion that we are in charge. The truth is, ultimately God is the only one who is in control of our lives.
None of us can predict the future, not even tomorrow. Our lives are just like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). We never know when we will return to our home to meet with our Father. How would you live differently if God told you today is your last day on earth?
I am not saying that we do not need to plan anything ahead, but we must hold on to our plans loosely. We need to keep in mind that sometimes it is not worth all the stress to plan for our future as it is already in God’s hands.
As Jesus says, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
If we could let go of control and rather trust in God in the midst of uncertainties, we know that our Father is already there in the future just like He is with us now and the past. We will be able to have peace in our hearts and minds.
Let us stop boasting about tomorrow by:
Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? 2 Chronicles 1:10
Earlier this month I celebrated the birth of my second child. In the midst of adjusting to this newborn phase of life again, I was asked whether being a parent has caused me to feel less care-free and more burdened with responsibility.
My immediate response was to say that being a parent entails more responsibility and has caused me to assess my choices more carefully because the consequences of my decisions impact more people.
As I reflected upon my response and also my typical reaction to increased obligations (i.e. stress levels rise and anxieties increase), I was reminded of Solomon’s request for wisdom when he was tasked with leading the Israelites.
What a difference that request made in Solomon’s life. He realised the enormity of the undertaking and knew it required God-given wisdom in order for him to govern well.
While my orbit of responsibility has only increased by one person, Solomon’s story is a great reminder for me to keep my focus first and foremost on God and to seek wisdom and strength from Him no matter what circumstances lie ahead of me.
Let us take some time to:
Hallowe’en seems to have become more and more of a dilemma for believers over the years. Growing up in a non-Christian family, it was always something I looked forward to. Now with my own family, we wrestle with the question of what to do, and our stance and responses have varied.
Like “Trick or Treat,” sometimes we feel the choice has to be an either-or response to Hallowe’en but as with many cultural and societal issues, it may not be so binary – black and white. A good first step is to begin with thorough reflection on the matter.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Think critically – not just about what you will or will not do on Hallowe’en, but in all situations with all your choices. Don’t be passively carried along by the tide of culture and don’t mindlessly buy into it (literally). Ask some questions to help you decide how to respond specifically to your context of Hallowe’en: What is being celebrated or glorified? What values are being upheld? What am I saying by my choice of costume? Do I see any evidence of evil or the occult? Do I want to give my money away to something that is celebrating darkness?
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened. Matthew 13:33
Notice that the leaven needs to be taken up by the woman and put it into the dough. The Kingdom of God works its way into culture to transform it through believers redemptively engaging in society. There might be aspects of the holiday that are okay, or even good. Hallowe’en allowed us to get to know many neighbours in our 17-tower apartment complex and there was a great community connection in organising the different families and homes who would give out candy. The pagan roots of Christmas and Easter have lost their power. Maybe one day Hallowe’en will go the same way.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:11.
Sometimes there is no way to rationalise our involvement in an activity or situation “in the name of ministry,” and it is better to simply avoid it altogether. Some contexts are thoroughly depraved with nothing at their core to redeem.
Trick or Treat? Respond to the question without guilt, with your freedom in Christ, the one who has disarmed the powers of darkness.
For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13
I was at a tech conference the other day where this emotion-detection gadget intrigued me. The exhibitor told me that this gadget was meant to promote mindfulness, helping people become aware of their emotional state so they could address it. I put this gadget on for one minute, and the result was unpleasant.
As a matter of fact, I had been having unpleasant feelings for the past couple of days. The exhibitor was a bit embarrassed, probably thinking that his pitch made me feel unpleasant. He nervously suggested that I should do more sports, sleep earlier and listen to more music. I have since tried his suggestions over the past few days, but my miserable feeling has remained.
Humans are born of flesh and we seek earthly solutions instinctively. We all have our own go-to ways to tackle our unpleasant feelings, such as going on a hike, drinking with friends, playing computer games, sleeping through the day, shopping, etc.
And we have all experienced that these cisterns are broken and will never hold water that can satisfy us entirely. By going to these cisterns that we build for ourselves instead of going directly to the fountain of living waters implies that we are forsaking Jesus.
It’s easy to go back to our earthly way of dealing with feelings and emotions. In doing so, we unintentionally deny Jesus for what He has done for us. Therefore, we need to constantly evaluate and examine our heart, and give everything to God before trying to hew out cisterns for ourselves.
Let us practice this: