Amid this global pandemic, many negatives come at our hearts and minds daily. Negatives such as, “Will I lose my job”, “will I get sick”, “will my loved ones become sick”, and on and on. Not only are there a lot of negatives being broadcast all around us through the media, social media, and even other people, but there are also the negatives inside of us. These “inside” negatives often come against our identity. These types of negatives sound like, “I am not good enough”, I am unlovable”, “I am all alone”, etc. It is tough enough to navigate through all the negatives going on around us, but when the “inside” negatives bombard our hearts and minds, we can easily become overwhelmed.
I experienced a good dose of inside negatives on Monday. Our neighbor had a new internet line installed this past weekend. During the installation process, our internet connection was accidentally disconnected. Being the weekend, another technician would not be available to repair our line until Monday morning. This meant that, at the last minute, I had to move my Sunday duties from my home office to the church. In the midst of this, our provider worked with my wife, Julie, to reset our system, including our user name and password. After a stressful Sunday, the internet line was fixed first thing Monday morning, but of course, neither the new or old usernames and passwords worked. I, again, was stuck, unable to host my work meetings. Feelings of frustration flooded me. I was frustrated with my neighbor, the first technician, the second technician, the customer service rep, our modem, the internet in general, the pandemic virus, myself, and even with Julie (although it was not her fault). Although minor, this situation illustrates the very real daily battles we face within us. What was happening to me? I realize now that the Lord was developing patience in me and I was cooperating very well.
In essence, I was fighting the wrong battle. I was battling the negative things happening around me. I was focused on the negatives I saw in others, how it was impacting me, and frustrated with my inability to resolve my internet problem. This led to my frustration level rising. I was then trying to battle all my feelings of frustration, and trying to behave better. Yet, God was not working on the negative junk. He was not worried about removing the things causing my negative feelings nor was He focused on me being frustrated. This would be focusing on my old self, my old man. Instead God is revealing the patience of Jesus in me and allowing me an opportunity to let that patience grow. My sin had already been dealt with on the cross (2 Corn. 5:21). Father was seeking to grow the new person I am in Christ (2 Corn 5:17) by revealing the patience of Jesus within me. Instead of battling frustration, I needed to engage relationally with Jesus and partner with Him in the development of patience. How does this happen?
First, I realize is that God is so patient with me where emotionally I am immature where I wanted to just throw a temper tantrum. Second, I have to believe, that I have been freed from frustration, impatience, and blame because these things died with Jesus and they do not make-up who I am anymore. Third, I am to explore with Jesus what it looks like to grow in patience through connecting with Him relationally. I do this by asking what it looks like for the patience of Jesus to inhabit those places in my heart where I formerly was feeling frustrated, impatient, and inadequate. The key is to understand that all of this growth happens relationally, not simply through logic, mechanical or behavioral changes, or by my power. Grace is the empowering Presence of God. I can only live out of newness of life by grace, not by some form of a set of rules, performance, or self-effort. Too often we, including myself, start with trying to deal with and fix the negative (our old man/old woman) when God is not focused there. The old man/old woman is, after all, already dead (Gal. 2:20).
Instead, what would it look like for us to enjoy the journey with Jesus and the different dimensions of His character being developed within us daily? I often ask people how much time they spend arriving at the destination in life versus how time they spend on the journey to the destination. I believe 90%, or so, of life is spent on the journey with Jesus. So, what if we were to be like James in James 1:2, when he said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, ….. “ Instead of focusing on all the negatives around us, let’s ask Jesus what He is doing in our lives in every situation and enjoy the growing. Let’s enjoy the journey to embrace more of Him. Jesus loves being in a relationship with us and developing His character in us, especially in those places where we feel we are lacking. Bless your growth!!!
Brett has been an Associate Pastor for the past 7 years and is a member of the Senior Leadership team. Did you know…Bret spent 3 years living on a commune?