I’m sure some of you wouldn’t be too surprised upon hearing that I love to journal. Just about every day for the past four years, I’ve been writing down my thoughts, feelings, prayers, and accounts of my life in journals of all shapes and sizes. These are my sacred writings; I don’t dare show anyone what I dutifully write. But every now and then I find myself writing things that seem like they ought to be shared. Today is one of those days. I hope you are encouraged as I was just a moment ago when I found these words my hands and heart collectively turned into a declaration of hope.
May 6, 2014
“Therefore we do not lost heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
Lord, I want to live with faith in this verse. I want to believe that my momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory for me. It’s hard because I can’t see that glory in whole, but maybe I am being shown glimpses. Maybe part of the eternal glory is the tears and smiles of friendship bonded by wounds and struggles. Maybe it’s also found in the relief and rest that comes from being beautifully flawed and wonderfully accepted by another. Maybe that glory is also found in the cry of my heart to fix the pain of this world. Maybe it’s in the daily renewal of my heart and the way I’m still hungry for you each morning after all this time. The beautiful things of this world scream of you and of your grace. Would I have or appreciate any of these things without the momentary troubles or grievances?
And the best part is that these things don’t even come close to the true eternal glory only found in heaven. We’ve only just peeked at the surface of it all. If I can make it through today and the next day and then the day after that, then perhaps I really can make it to that eternal glory. Day by day you renew me and give me just the right ounce of strength to press on in this fight and messy life. I’m looking forward to the eternal glory, but the stuff that leads up to it is not a waste. There’s no need to lose heart when you’re gently leading me there. You are achieving that glory for me. You are truly a good, loving Father.
The scary question always on the tip of our tongues: What is God’s will for my life?
Can I just say here and now that I have maybe asked this question more times than any other question I’ve ever had? And things are still just as hazy as before I ever thought to ask. It’s not that God isn’t revealing things to me. He is! But that’s another issue in and of itself: what do you do when there are so many answers thrown at you and they all somehow feel right? I mean, there’s got to be just ONE right answer! Or maybe not…
Here’s the truth I’m being hit with today:
We have been given all we need to follow God’s will for our lives.
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ ” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
What if the wisdom we’ve been seeking has already been given to us? And that wisdom is in the form of Jesus?
I snooped around on Blue Letter Bible (excellent website that I implore you to try out sometime) for the original Greek translation of this verse in 1 Corinthians. Let me break down for you what I found:
wisdom = [supreme] intelligence, knowledge, interpreting, giving of sound advice, discovering meaning, skill in management, proper intercourse with non-believers, skill in imparting Christian truth, practice of godly living
These are various definitions of the word “wisdom” as used in God’s Word, and it’s interesting how much of those definitions remind me of the search for God’s will for our lives. Are we not seeking out supreme or divine intelligence? Are we not hoping to interpret and discover meaning? Do we not want the skills necessary for the management of our lives?
Wisdom is a vital part of discovering God’s will, and according to this verse, we have already attained it. Jesus has “become the wisdom of God for us.”
If you read further in 1 Corinthians, we are even told that we have the wisdom of God because we have the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-16)
What does this mean for our lives? This means that the supreme or divine intelligence we’re seeking is already found. The ability to interpret and discover meaning has already been given to us. We have already been handed the skills necessary for the management of our lives.
We know God’s will for our lives. We just don’t know that we know.
The next word I looked up the Greek translation for was “righteousness” (referring back to 1 Corinthians 1:30).
righteousness = acceptable to God, may attain from God, integrity, virtue, purity, correctness, justice
There’s a correlation between Jesus being our wisdom and Jesus being our righteousness. It is because we are made righteous (through Jesus dying on the Cross) that we are worthy of him being our wisdom, that we are worthy of knowing God’s will for our lives.
Furthermore, the things the Spirit reveal to us, the things that we are beginning to walk in (perhaps even unknowingly), are acceptable to God. They are virtuous and correct. We are able to attain these insights into God’s calling and will for our lives because we are now righteous.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
holiness/sanctification = purification, consecration (of heart and of life)
We are in a continual process of being purified and consecrated. That means we are constantly being made more sacred and holy. Through the doubting and the questioning and the seeking and the wandering, we are being purified. When we figure out where God wants us, we are standing on holy ground as sacred creations. When we DON’T know where God wants us, we are even still standing on holy ground as sacred creations.
Our heart and our lives are being pulled closer to God, which in turn makes us more holy and pure.
Even when you feel like you’re at a standstill and you don’t know which way God wants you to turn, your heart and your life are not at a standstill.
Is it audacious to say that maybe we are always in the right place?
redemption = releasing of need for payment, deliverance
We don’t have to pay God for anything. We don’t have to earn anything. We’ve been bought at a price and we are now free to worship, serve, live, and love.
I want you to hold onto that today as you continue the journey of finding your way.
You are FREE.
You are free from the expectation of having it all together and knowing exactly where your life is headed. You are free from the pressure of making all the right moves.
The right moves are in God’s hands.
Because of 1) Jesus being our wisdom, 2) Jesus making us righteous, 3) the ongoing sanctification occurring through Jesus’ work in us, and 4) the redemption we’ve been given by Jesus that enables us to walk in freedom… we don’t have to be afraid of not knowing.
And that truly means something.
How many people do you see aimlessly wandering, trying to figure out what to do or who they’re supposed to be?
We’re different. We don’t have to figure it all out and certainly not on our own. We already know who we are.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
As the world stumbles, we can stand strong and CONFIDENT because we already have the answers (the wisdom) we need. The answer, by the way, is Jesus. Keep your eyes on him and you won’t lose your way. Keep your focus on God and He’ll make sure you get to where He wants you to be.
Repeat this after me: I am wise. I am righteous, I am being made holy, I am redeemed.
I am not lost.
Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. (Jeremiah 2:31-32)
There is so much freedom found in the Lord and the love of Christ. Because of His blood shed on the cross, we are saved from our sin and the penalty of death. Because of His guidance and presence in our lives, we are never forced to face this life alone. We are showered with blessings, friends, family, and reasons for joy.
But at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves one very important question: how are we using this freedom?
In his letter to the church of Corinth, Paul addresses this freedom that is given to believers.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say— but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”— but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others… So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24,31)
I hear a lot of people say that because they are saved, they can do whatever they want. Yes… and no. It is true that believers have forgiveness of their sins and God’s grace is unending for those who repent. However, if true repentance means turning from our sins, how valid is our repentance if we continue to turn back? This is not to discredit the faith of those who are in bondage to sin. Rather, I’m referring to those who knowingly turn their back on Jesus and His teachings to pursue their own interests.
I think maybe the thing that hasn’t clicked in the minds of those people who continue chasing after things of this world is the concept of the freedom we truly have. This seems to be nonsensical because such people often use the idea of their unlimited freedom to argue for their sin, hence they appear to have a full awareness of this freedom.
But do they really? Because if they fully knew and understood this freedom given to them, why would they even want to live in sin any longer?
I believe that what Paul was really trying to say to the church in Corinth is “Yes, you do have the right to do anything you want. We are saved under the new covenant of Christ. But there is so much more to it than that. We are so free that we’re not even subject to this world. We don’t belong to this world. Our sole purpose here on earth is to glorify God- whether we’re eating or drinking or talking to friends or watching TV or reading a book. The point is that anything of this world holds us back- that’s why it’s not beneficial. We have a whole eternity of perfection and fellowship with Christ to look forward to. We’re so free from this world, surely we must act differently.”
My challenge for you is to rethink how you are using your freedom. Are you taking advantage of it to pursue your own selfish desires or are you using it to pursue the kingdom to which we are called?
I chose to begin this post with those two verses from Jeremiah to emphasize also who this freedom is for. Yes, it is for us, but it also serves to give us a relationship with God in which we can adorn ourselves with His grace and glorify His name.
Like the Israelites, we can argue that because of our freedom, there’s no reason to live solely for God. However, it actually is the opposite. Because of our freedom, we have EVERY reason to live solely for God.
And this freedom is a marvelous and beautiful thing.
A verse that’s really been on my mind lately is the second part of 2 Corinthians 10:5, which says, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
After reading this verse for the first time, I had to pause for a moment and ask myself, “What does that really mean?”
If taking captive means to hold something in confinement, such as a prisoner of war or an animal in a trap, then how do we take captive or hold in confinement our thoughts?
Furthermore, what does it mean to make these thoughts obedient to Christ?
If obedient means complying with the commands or instructions of one in authority, then how do we make those thoughts comply with the commands or instructions of Christ?
Here in his letter, Paul is simply stating, “Focus on Jesus, guys. Make every thought about Him. And even more so, focus on His commands for us. Focus on Him and then follow Him.”
“Set your hearts on things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
After realizing this, I then had to ask myself if this is what I do.
Often times, no. It is not.
I find myself distracted by the world throughout the day, thinking about this and that, without even giving a second thought to God. When occasions arise when I could do the right thing, the things we are commanded by Christ to do, such as love one another and be humble and patient, I find myself focusing on my own desires and my own feelings. I do the opposite of what Christ commands of me quite often.
I don’t want that to be how I spend this life.
I want to follow these instructions of Paul. I want to take my thoughts captive too.
When I have the opportunity to think something unkind about a person or obsess about material things, I want to turn all of that worthless stuff down, as if to say, “Nope. You can have the world. I just want my Savior.”
When I realize who Jesus is and I’m focused on what He’s done for me, I then want to conform myself to Him and be molded into His likeness. I don’t want to be God; I want to be like Him. In doing so, I’ll be able to show others who my Savior is too- how He is able to change lives and shape hearts, how He loves everyone around Him and came thousands of years ago simply to serve, with his greatest act of service being His incomparable sacrifice on the cross.
This is the concept of taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This is my goal.
And hopefully it will become a reality.
What I do know is that it’s worth the pursuit.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
Even though Paul was using the image of a tent to represent the human body when he wrote this in his letter to Corinth, I believe we all have tents of our own- things we put our hope in that will ultimately fail us. For some, it is a relationship or acceptance. Maybe even protection or riches. For others, it may be outward beauty or fame. No matter what it is, they take up a portion of our lives and consume a portion of our thoughts. We try to maintain our tents, make them more sturdy, build a better foundation, and even sometimes attempt to break down our old and used ones to start from scratch.
There comes a point when all of our time and hope is invested in our tents. And they crumble down.
What happens then?
If we put our faith and trust in God and build our foundation on Him instead of on earthly things or desires, we’ll find ourselves able to withstand anything. This is because while everything else may wash away and fall to pieces, our Mighty King never will.
Rejoice in the truth! We have an eternal life to look forward to. Put these earthly matters aside and focus back on the prize. Shift your effort and hope from your tents to your eternal house in heaven because we know that He never fails!