What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dealing With Disappointment in Ministry

Is it hard to move on after someone has disappointed us? We grieve and we hurt, but how long should we stay there? I’ve experienced this bitterly when someone I was working with to help them grow deeper with Christ and excel at their work just stopped coming around. I contacted them. I wrote them. I prayed earnestly for them, but they had turned away from the Lord and me. I was heartbroken. It paralyzed me from seeking out others who might be interested in learning more about God. I felt I had done something wrong. Maybe my sense of pride at “my” accomplishments in that person was attacked.
Possibly, Samuel felt this way about Saul. In 1 Samuel 14 Saul didn’t follow through on God’s command to him. In 1 Samuel 15 Samuel confronts Saul and asks for him to repent and put God first in his life. Saul thought he knew better and refused to repent. In 1n 1 Samuel 16 we see how Saul’s disobedience and turning away from God affected Samuel. Samuel was grieving over Saul (vs. 1). In the New Century Version (NCV) of the Bible it says that Samuel continued to feel sorry for Saul even though God had said He was done with him. The New International Version (NIV) says Samuel was mourning over Saul. “Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul . . .?’” We don’t know how long Samuel was feeling bad for Saul. This verse seems to indicate that it had been awhile. Commentator Tom Bradford in his Torah Notes, thought that it happened pretty quickly and that there should be no chapter break between 15 and 16.
There are three possible lessons for me in this. First, I did not “make” someone follow God with his or her whole heart. Even if the person I’d been working with had continued to follow God, it wasn’t my doing – it is always God’s doing. As I didn’t make them faithful followers of Christ, I didn’t do something to make them make other choices. It’s always about individual choices. As a result, whatever happens with the people I’m working with, I need to let go and turn it all over to God. I need to let the Holy Spirit work in their lives and trust Him for the outcomes.
Second, whether it’s been a short time since a follower has wandered away from Christ or a long time, feeling some grief or regret is reasonable, even if it’s not desirable. I must use that grief to pray for those people. It’s okay to continue to love them, but a certain sense of detachment is needed, just like a parent with an adult child who wanders away from the Lord. (Side note: When opportunities arise where a parent can gently direct their child back to the ways of God, those opportunities should be taken. Key word: gently; not with heaping amounts of judgment.)
Third, God wants us to quickly take up His message again and push ahead with His agenda. I learned that there were others waiting and looking for some help in their relationships with God. If I stayed mourning too long, I might miss those needs. Staying focused on the past and on seeming failures, leads to depression or fear or discouragement, which lead us to inaction. Inaction is not God’s desire for His people. He expects us to be about doing His business. Doing so will lift our spirits and give us a new sense of purpose. We will be operating within God’s will. There’s still much to be done, and like Samuel, we need to be following God’s directives and keep moving ahead.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Healthy Fear

What do you think of when you hear the word, “fear?” Fearful? Afraid? Scary? Doom? Terror? Panic? Dread? Dismay? Distress? Horror? You might think I’m talking about watching horror movies or observing Halloween, but the way I think about fear is completely different.
I’m thinking about a different kind of fear – a Biblical definition of fear. There may be an element of feeling I need to fear the judgment of God, but that is a very small part of what it means to “fear God.” I once felt a dictionary definition when it came to fearing God. I knew I was a bad person who was unable to be the perfect person I felt the religion of my childhood expected me to be. Fear was wrapped up in having “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid” (dictionary.com). Yes, that was it. I was afraid of God and the sure punishment He would exact from me and toward me. That left me feeling hopeless, shameful, and depressed. I just knew that I could never please God.
The definition of fear does not end there when you look at it from a Biblical perspective. Online I found this quote by Robert B. Strimple: “There is the convergence of awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and yes, fear.” The article went on to say, “ . . . Some translations of the Bible, such as the New International Version, sometimes replace the work “fear” with “reverence.” Other translations use the word, “respect” instead of “fear.” A Biblical fear of God involves our recognition of His greatness. It involves recognizing His unique characteristics, such as omnipotence (all power), omnipresence (always present), and omniscience (all knowing). The Lord alone has these characteristics those (although some people may think they have these characteristics). God’s character is merciful and righteous at the same time whereas people sway between one and the other.
God’s characteristics create wonder in me. That wonder leads to the Biblical explanation of fear of Strimple’s definition above. I do have awe and reverence for God. I do adore Him and honor Him. I fall on my knees in worship and thankfulness. And, I have confidence in His love for me. That love that I cannot fully understand results from looking at God’s character and fearing Him. Each morning I pause and look at God’s character and fear Him. I worship Him. I give Him all the respect humanly possible for me to give. That’s a good place to start fearing God in the Biblical sense.