Enduring to the end

July 8, 2007

As I reflected on some of the things I have written and talked about in the previous blog entry, I realised that I hadnt provided much sense of hope or guidance on how to be dealing with some of the situations that people I have been spending time with over the past week, have been living with…so this morning’s thought for the day from Max Lucado provides a little bit of help maybe…

“Those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved.”
Matthew 10:22

Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it. Are you discouraged as a parent? Hang in there. Are you weary with doing good? Do just a little more? Roll up your sleeves and go at it again. No communication on your marriage? Give it one more shot…

Remember, a finisher is not one with no wounds or weariness. Quite the contrary, he, like the boxer, is scarred and bloody. Mother Teresa is credited with saying, “God didn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.” The fighter, like our Master, is pierced and full of pain. He, like Paul, may even be bound and beaten. But he remains.

The Land of Promise, says Jesus, awaits those who endure. It is not just for those who make the victory laps or drink champagne. No sir. The Land of Promise is for those who simply remain to the end.

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The weekend has arrived.  At some points this week it felt as though it would never come…

It has been an unusual kind of week…one filled with many conversations, divine appointments and catch-ups with a range of different people…and each conversation has left me feeling challenged, convicted, saddened, joyful, and impatient…all in varying degrees.  Here’s a brief insight into some of the conversations…

Work continues to be a challenge, requiring an ever changing attitude as each day brings new adventures, new pressures, new situations in which I could choose to blow a gasket, or I could choose to take a big deep breath and act with grace, compassion and patience.  It is not easy.  And I have messed up as per usual on numerous occasions.  I have failed over the last three months to take time to reflect on my experiences…I have forgotten to listen to God each day on what He wants me to be doing, how He wants me to be acting, who He wants me to be reaching out to…instead I fear I have got consumed in ME – what am I getting?  what am I achieving or not achieving as the case may be?  why am I not being listened to?  what am I not able to change things for the better?  Me, Me Me…And then I have a meeting with my business mentor and friend – an amazing man who is experienced in the business world, who is a passionate Christ follower, and who has a gift to ask the right questions (albeit pointed at times), to listen for the right amount of time, and to give guidance and space for me to reflect…and the result?  A challenge and conviction to change my attitude, to trust God more, to lift my gaze from my belly button and look to heaven, to start doing something about my quandries and difficult situations, rather than taking a tail spin downwards into self-pity and me-centred griping.

I had an amazing meeting with an old friend that I hadnt seen in about 7 years – a true blast from the past this week!  And the more I think about, it has been a real divine appointment.  I had the opportunity to spend a good couple of hours with this guy, listening to his successes and adventures in life, sharing a wee bit about where I am at, and enjoying some engaging conversation about my faith, my belief in Jesus and the need to be living for Him.  And it was then that I was introduced to the concept of agnosticism (is this the right way to spell it?), the view that Christians are just positive thinkers, that the Bible is made up of many wonderful, but grossly exaggerated stories, that there could be a heaven but definitely no hell, and that church is actually more like a middle-class club, where you are judged, where masks are firmly in position (never allowed to drop) and where you have to put on an act to fit in….I was deeply saddened and challenged by this conversation as well…it definitely got me thinking about what I believe and why I believe it…and it also provoked a deep desire within me to reach out to this guy, who has been very successful thus far in his young life, and share with him more about the reality of being a Christ follower, and what a church of believers should be about.  It got me thinking about my own church – are we a bunch of middle-class, mask wearing, judging, hypocrits?  It scares me to think that we might be?  What impact is that having on those that might want to step into the church, but are too scared about what they might come across?  We have a lot to do.

Today I met up with a guy that I knew from university days.  We chatted, we caught up, we prayed…and we discussed everything from working life to church life, from our spiritual journeys to the challenges that women can pose, from the thorns in our sides that can so easily entangle, to the need to keep faithful to God and his leading.  This young man, a teacher – has served God faithfully during his first full year of teaching…he set up a men’s bible study for teachers, he was not afraid to have conversations with students and his fellow colleagues about his love for Jesus, and he was determined to make a difference to the lives of many that he was interacting with on a daily basis.  I was encouraged and challenged to do likewise.

And then I have also been struck by the number of people around my age that are deeply struggling with illness – I have questioned at times why this can be so…and than have had to catch myself on – who am I to ask such questions.  Major illnesses, mental pressure, stress and anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, unhappiness…so many hurting people…so unsure as to how to help all of them…so much to do…where do we start?

I guess the Sunday School answer is right at the foot of the cross…laying all of these things before our Father God…for only He can give us the strength to get through each day, to give us guidance and direction when we’re not sure where we are headed, to give peace and rest when health begins to suffer…but it’s difficult sometimes.  My hope is that we will all become more real than we have ever been before, not being afraid to drop our masks completely, sharing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, loving one another wholeheartedly…

So much to do…

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 I wonder if Jesus was here on earth, and as he looked around and remarked on how unhappy and troubled many of us are, I wonder what would he do to bring encouragement, to put a smile on our faces, to help lift our gaze from the ground to heaven?  I just wonder amidst the grey-ness and monotony that sometimes pervades our everyday lives, would he buy us a brightly coloured windmill, stick it in our gardens and let the wind have its way…and in so doing, give us a fresh perspective on life, give us encouragement and strength for the day ahead, and give us a smile on our faces that says to a grey world that with Jesus, we have hope.

I’m just wondering who are the people in our lives who need a bit of encouragement right now, who are struggling with personal stuff, who are unhappy with the way their lives are going, who are silently screaming and crying out for someone to listen to them…and I’m just wondering what are we going to do about it?  What small act of kindness that speaks volumes of Christ’s love can we do to help someone?  Who needs a windmill of encouragement right now?

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.  The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.”  Matthew chapter 11, verses 28-30