Life is joyfully terrible
Before reading any further, take a moment to read and ponder Matthew 5:1-12.
Say "no" to arrogance, be humble before God and others.
It is in our nature to swell into a mountain of pride following success. When I was in high school, our football team won the state championship against the Vale Goliaths. Truthfully, I cannot recall their mascot, but they looked like giants. Winning the title was a hand of God victory for our team, and a first for my hometown.
One day after the big win, one of our players who sat on the bench a lot during the game (he had no reason to boast) was busy cleaning the mud from his cleats. With swelling self-importance and arrogant tone, he said, "This is Vale mud!" I retorted, "Did you get all that mud sittin' on the bench, Jeremy?"
Jesus wants us to say "no" to the temptation of pride (self-importance), like He did. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:3). We obtain Jesus' kingdom through humility following the pattern He left for us. Through selflessness and death, He was victorious. This is profoundly opposite from the way of the world, nevertheless it is the way of Jesus. Let's give God the credit for any success.
Say "no" to fearful discouragement when life goes horribly wrong.
If anyone in the world knows discouragement, it's me. You might think that I've had a hard life. Nope, my life's been good. The problem with most of us who need to fight for joy and put off despair is that our hopes and dreams are in the wrong place. If your hope is in your health, you'll become depressed when it fades. If your dream is your children cooperating with you, you'll be discouraged when they rebel. And for those whose hope and dream is to be liked and treated well by others, you've got another thing coming.
Jesus teaches us we're blessed when people "insult" and "persecute" us, and "falsely say all kinds of evil against." (Matt 5:11). In fact, He says, "Rejoice and be glad" when mistreated because your reward is not in this life. This is NOT your best life now. To be sure, "your reward [is] in heaven" and it "is great" (v 12).
According to 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, Paul was imprisoned numerous times, was beaten countless times, had many sleepless nights, went hungry, was cold and exposed to the elements. But on the other hand, I'm afraid many come dangerously close to being the seed that fell among the thorns. This seed symbolizes a faith that has died, it was choked out by the worries of this life (along with wealth and pleasure, Luke 8:14).
So, what is one way to put our hope in God alone when life is going terribly wrong? One way is by rejoicing in the Lord with psalms, hymns and songs that reflect sound theology.
"Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever." A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name." The Solid Rock
Another way to boost hope in God alone is to discipline yourself to carefully read the Bible at least every morning. Take time to let the precious words of God feed your soul so you hope only in Him.
As our pride shrinks, we pray that we will grow in an unwavering hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When life is going well, He alone is to be praised. When life is going terribly, He alone is to be our hope. The wonderful thing about God is that He never changes, no matter who we are or what our life is, He is the God who has made us and is always One that we can trust.
Chris Cookston is the pastor at Prineville Community Church. He can be reached at 541-447-6315.
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