4 weeks left here in Brazil. Crazy, isn’t it? Seems like only yesterday I was bawling my eyes out in the airport while saying goodbye to my parents…I’ll never outgrow that, I don’t think!
My time here so far has been one of extremes. Extreme growth. Extreme emotions. Extreme chaos and confusion inside. Extreme understanding. Extreme lessons. Extreme challenges.
The more I’m here, the more I realize the importance of having my team for support. This week, we studied the book of Philippians. Paul wrote it while in jail. Here’s this guy who has all the reason in the world to have a bad attitude. Yet, he doesn’t. Content in his circumstances, he chooses to encourage fellow brethren instead of dwell on his own situation and emotions. What an example.
We lived out the book of Philippians this week. While I can’t go into details, I can say that I gained much greater insight and a respect for Paul’s position and hope to one day achieve the same mindset he had.
That’s one thing I’ve craved since the day I’ve been here. The word that keeps coming to mind is immovable. Unshakeable and undeterred from my direction. I hope to become a woman so set on Christ that the circumstances around me have no influence on my attitude and behavior. The other day, I was studying and ran across this verse in Acts 20:24- “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” I think I found my life verse : )
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” If I’ve truly been crucified with Christ, my flesh doesn’t exist. My earthly desires are put to rest for a heavenly gain that cannot be beat. But, I find myself still living for the pleasures of this world- for comfort and for security that don’t last. If I’ve been put to death, then nothing should shake me, because I’m dead already! What can the world do to me? How can Satan defeat me? He can’t, I’m dead already.
Contentment seems so easy to discuss when everything’s going good. It’s so easy to say “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. It’s even easy to claim that you will say that when bad times come around. But the true test is when the bad times do come around. Is that really what you say? Is that really what your heart overflows with…praise?
I wish I could say I’m there, but I’m definitely not. God is growing me a lot in this sense, and I’m learning to become more flexible, more at ease when everything is crazy. Don’t get me wrong- I’m nowhere near Paul’s attitude, but the first step in correcting it is to recognize it.
The biggest sign to me was when the challenge this week was called off. Many of our faces changed from faces of sadness to faces of joy. Shouldn’t it be purely joy the whole time? James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, making you perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Count it ALL joy? Our faces didn’t reflect that, yet they should have. If I really trust the God behind that promise, I would count it all joy. The testing of my faith produces patience. Patience makes me perfect and complete. I lack nothing. Nothing. Why would I trade temporary satisfaction for lack? I shouldn’t.
Do you see what I’m saying? What will we choose to do in the midst of our trials? Will we choose to dwell in our circumstances, with negativity and pessimism? Or, will we choose an attitude of joy, remembering that Christ has us where we’re at for a specific reason? This all sounds so cliché, and that’s not where I wanted it to go, but it’s what God laid on my heart. For once, I feel like I’m really TRYING to live it out.
He has ordained all of our days. He goes before us and prepares the way. Why do we have reason to fear? He will not give us anything we cannot handle. Why are we afraid?
This coming week is supposedly one of the hardest weeks in Patmos. I’m not gonna lie- I’m nervous. Yes, you heard me. Here I am proclaiming the truth of God’s presence, yet scared of what lies ahead. And that’s exactly what the problem has been the whole time in my life. Instead of trusting God to do what He says He will do, I make my own plans and decisions. I should be waiting on the Lord, but somehow I’ve tricked myself into thinking that if I’m “in control” of the situation, it’s better because I “know” what’s up ahead. In reality, the more I lose control, the better off it is.
So, what has God been teaching you lately? How has He been molding and shaping you? Anyone else’s toes a little bruised? Yikes…but “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).