Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What About Him?

 In John 21, Peter and the disciples went fishing. It's after the resurrection but the men seemed to be unsure what to do next. They caught no fish but Jesus appeared on the shore and told them to cast their nets again on the right side of the boat. They hauled in 153 large fish!

After breakfast Jesus talked with Peter. He restored Peter, telling him three times to feed the sheep/lambs. He also told about the kind of death that Peter will have.

Peter turned around and saw John there behind them. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord — what about him? (John 21:21) Peter had heard Jesus' words about his future. He wanted to know if John would have a similar fate. Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” Jesus reminded Peter that they were talking about Peter, not John.

We often ask a similar question: Why him? Why not me? Why is this happening to me? Why do good things happen to her and I get this? What about them? Will they face difficulties? Will they have it easy?

How tempting it is for us to spend our time looking at others--comparing circumstances and blessings and struggles. I'm having this problem but she's just skating through life. I'm looking for a job or working twice as hard but everything just falls right for him with no effort. Why am I facing this battle? Why must things always be so much more difficult for me than for him or her?

We may not know the whys of someone's story. We often do not know why a blessing or burden falls one way or the other. But also don't know another's struggles or challenges. Maybe that high level job is costing him time - away from his family. What seems like her good fortune may be a test of her faith or a way for her to grow spiritually. Maybe. Perhaps. We don't know the story.

But we do know that God is God. God's work in someone else's life has nothing to do with His work in mine. God's generous gifts are for Him to give. Why does God's generosity and favor on someone else make us feel cheated? God took nothing from us to give to them. He took nothing from them to give to us. Often we are too busy looking at what He's done for someone else that we overlook the generous blessings He is pouring out on us.

Is God faithful? Does He provide? Is He sovereign? Does He reign? Is He God?

Thank Him. Know that He is giving us what we need to grow. Trust Him.

Keep eyes on God and not on those around us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What We Gain

The good is the enemy of the best.
Sometimes you have to give up something good to get something even better.

Have you heard these types of things before? I have. I've even thought if not said them.

I've been thinking a lot recently about giving things up. I entered an essay contest and wrote about giving up my grandmother's piano. At a recent conference about a writing assignment, I had a wonderful idea for part of my writing; as I delved into it I had to give up that wonderful idea. It just didn't fit with what else I needed to do. I've written about giving up my classroom teaching dream - or releasing it, which for some reason sounds better to me.

In each of these very different circumstances, the things were all good. But as I look at them, I'm not sure I gained anything "better" as a result. I did lose some anxiety once I gave up the piano...but is that better? I think the content I'm writing will be more cohesive after giving up the other...but not necessarily better, just good in a different way. And my current freelance work is fun and good...but we've had some struggles too in this new way of living. And in some ways it's definitely not better than a regular job with benefits.

Is "give up the good to get the better/best" biblical?

I thought about some people in the Bible that were called to give up, lose, or change something.

Abraham was called to give up his son, to sacrifice him to God. (Genesis 22)
Job involuntarily gave up everything--children, animals, possessions, health. (Job 1-2)
The fishermen gave up their entire livelihood, the only professions they had known. (Matthew 4:18-22)
Paul changed his life, forsaking his position as one of the Jewish religious elite. (Acts 9, Philippians 3:4-7)

In giving up the good, did they gain better?

Abraham received a ram and did not sacrifice his son...but he didn't gain anything material.
Job regained more than he had before...after suffering greatly and bearing scorn from his friends.
The fishermen became wandering disciples of Jesus, learning from Him...and faced persecution from others.
Paul traveled the known world and preached...and was beaten, stoned, jailed, and mocked.

They didn't gain much more materially or physically...and in most cases had less or suffered a lot.

But they grew closer to God as a result of the change they experienced. Abraham's faith in God was strengthened and his covenant secured through his actions. Job stayed faithful to God and learned that God is in control even when things seem overwhelming. The fishermen received power and saw lives changed in Jesus' name. Paul spread the gospel and brought many souls to faith in Jesus, all while learning more and more about the Savior and writing to teach generations to come.

In giving up things we may not necessarily receive anything better, or even anything as good. I think we often look for that but it may not be there. God didn't promise that giving up things, even good things, equals a greater benefit in exchange.

But, if we are following God and giving up what we have to Him, we gain Him. The very Spirit of God is in us. We would certainly say that it the best. But it's not the point. We don't give up things to gain Him. We follow Him and drop anything that hinders our obedience to Him.

It's not about getting. It's not about giving up. It's about God.

It isn't what we have. It isn't what we do. It's who (and whose) we are.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)