Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enduring versus living

There was a time, not so long ago, where Twitter was something I was only vaguely acquainted with; it struck me as another one of those things which had managed to overwhelm the lives of people in a trivial way and I wanted little to do with it, he said as he checked Facebook for the thousandth time that day. But over time I ended up on there, and God has used it as a blessing on my life as I have been able to follow some of the greatest thinkers and preachers in Christendom today, as well as witness in my own, 140-characters-or-less way to friends and followers I've gathered. I on occasion have encountered those who disagree or oppose, but so much the better as it's provided opportunities for me to refine my own thinking--or, in the case of many whose own attitudes result in an inability to break the 140 character mark of critical thought, knowing when to pick my battles, although I don't always do so well at that.

Twitter has served as encouragement in times of pain and difficulty, which lately it's been for me. It's been a struggle to do life on a day by day basis when my general mode is to think in the long-term, and confronted with things like bills that I don't know how I'll pay, career questions I don't have the answer to--in short, the sort of things everyone has to deal with in life--I want to dig into either fear and anxiety or simply shut my eyes and hope it all goes away. Both are equally destructive choices, as one leads me to a dead stop in life and makes me useless as a person and as one who seeks God's plan for his life's ministry, while the other makes me useless because I become dishonest with the men I do life with, and I end up being another Christian who does the act, puts on the good face and goes to church and homegroup so he can mouth all the right platitudes before he goes home to a house that's on fire.

So it was encouraging for me to see a tweet from my friend and brother Clint Crawford of a Desiring God blog post from John Piper, whose philosophy and theology inspired this blog's name. He wasn't dealing with the same problems I am, but in his post I recognize the pain and the struggle against the unseen yet ever-present opponents of joy, despair and anger. To me it has been a battle 1) to come to know God as He is rather than as I would have Him be, 2) understand what it means to live a life in Christ when so much of my being that way is dependent on His mercy, and 3) what it really means to have joy in that. God has been so gracious in putting me around people who not only speak and teach well on this, but live it themselves, and I continue to pray that He will grant me the ability to live so well.

My own sins and temptations still loom large and through them both despair and anger grab hold of me--despair that I would ever be free of the lusts and brokenness that blacken my soul and distract my mind, anger at my lack of self-control. Thanks be to God for His immense grace, love and mercy, and I pray every day for more of all of it as well as a humble spirit that I might never be cavalier about my salvation. I thank God for Paul, who struggled with his thorn in his flesh and who accepted in joy Christ's answer to prayer, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Only in incredible arrogance was I able to live as though I controlled my own life, and it made the forgiveness and peace God showered on me in the moment He showed me His true self all the more sweet--no anger, no punishment, just Him, and in coming to know God I was able to worship "in Spirit and truth." But it's so easy to forget and it's so easy to go back into a "I have to control this" mode. God forgive me for those times.

There are times still now where I wish I could bail out on life. Struggle, toil and work for pain and little else in return appeals little, and the enemy blinds and smothers with life's difficulties. But the joy of growing, one day at a time, into knowing God and walking with Him, being filled with the Spirit, strengthens me as I dig into the Word and as I seek solace and reflection with other men who struggle alongside me. Christ paid my bill already, covered my sin, and in the joy of freedom I walk forward, one step at a time. I pray each day for the next one, that I would be able to reflect God's love all the more, though He knows how often I fail. Thankfully, He's also there to pick me up again. He has transformed my life from enduring pain until the next brief instance of joy, into true life in His Son.

The humanist looks at the biblical promises of life in Christ and sees nonsense. "We're already alive, and it's a known fact that Christians die just like non-Christians. Where is this 'real life' supposed to be?" And truly enough, for even Jesus died--but He also rose again, and into the fullness of life as God intended it to be, not in a weak body that gets tired or sick or hungry but into real eternity. I don't pretend to understand the fullest implications of that, but I do know that every day I know a bit more, and that one day I shall know it fully. I pray that today will be a day that new people have their eyes opened to the truth that is Christ, to the reality of His life that extends beyond what culture has appropriated and into real, lasting life.