Tag Archive for whatever is easier

Overcoming the World: Part 7–Up There

Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone.  (Colossians 3:2-3a VOICE)

 

Why is it that we dwell on things that we know aren’t good for us?

 

How many times have you caught yourself starting a sentence with “I really need to” or “I really ought to,” but then you don’t actually do what it is you really need to do?  It’s as though we think we’ll at least get partial credit for simply acknowledging that we have fallen short of what is necessary.  I really need to eat a salad, but I’m going to have pizza instead.  I really need to go to the gym, but I seem to have grown butt roots here on the couch.

 

Or how about these.  I really ought to pray more.  I really ought to read my Bible more.  I really ought to get off the Internet and pay attention to my kids.  I really ought to put my phone down and talk to my wife.  Can you relate to any of this?

 

You could say that acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it, and it is, but one step does not a journey make.  You have to take the next one.

 

The thing is, the next step is usually not anything difficult.  We just. . .don’t. . .do it.  How hard is it to make simple choices like ordering something different at the restaurant, standing from a seated position, or simply TALKING to someone?  So why do we make it so much harder than it is?

 

I would chalk it up to a combination of habit and fear of change.  We do what we do because we have always done it, or if not always, at least for long enough that it has become automatic.  Habits are comfort zones; therefore, breaking them makes us uncomfortable.  And we will always gravitate toward comfort if left to ourselves, no matter how obvious it is to us that a change would do us good.

 

Christians do not have this luxury though.  When we turned our eyes toward Christ, we also turned them toward heaven, where He is.  Once you have seen a glimpse of the eternal, the things down here lose their luster a bit.

 

The problem is that the things down here are the things we are used to and that we continue to be surrounded with every day of our lives.  We love our stuff.  We love being in control of our own schedules.  We love our dreams and ambitions.  Even if they no longer satisfy us as they once did, we have claimed them as our own, and we defend them.

 

We can not forget this simple truth though.  When we made Jesus the Lord of our lives, we signed a spiritual quit claim deed for all of that stuff.  Our possessions are not ours, because the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.  We are not in control of our lives, because we have no idea what the next day, or even the next hour, may bring.  And all of our dreams and ambitions die with us when we die.  From a spiritual standpoint, they have already died, because we surrendered them when we surrendered to Christ.

 

When we talk about “overcoming the world,” we are usually focused on all the evil bad things that we wish we didn’t have to deal with down here, and that we know won’t exist up there.  However, if we are serious about overcoming the world, then we also must focus on overcoming the pleasures down here along with the pains.  This is much more difficult, because while pain usually catches us by surprise, pleasure is something we continuously seek.  We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.

 

Now is it bad to do things that feel good?  Not necessarily.  The point of this is that we need to realize that eternal life with Christ will feel, and indeed be, better than anything we have going on down here.

 

The thing we have to learn then is to be patient for the reward that is coming for us up there instead of being consumed with rewarding ourselves down here.

 

Overcoming the World: Part 3–Living by the Spirit

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

 

I am a very task-oriented person.  I am all about the to-do lists.  I get pleasure when I check something off, and I get stressed when I get to the end of the day, and there’s still 12 more things on my list that I didn’t get to.

 

Because of this, I have a tendency to turn almost every facet of my life into a sort of mental to-do list.  Everything feels like a competition or a performance to me, in which I will emerge as either a winner or a loser.

 

Most of life really isn’t supposed to be that way, though.  I am learning that it’s actually OK to simply live life as it comes and to appreciate moments as they’re happening.  I am learning that it’s more important to start each day with gratitude than to finish it with a gold medal.

 

So what is it about us that we keep wanting to go back to the things that we know didn’t work the first time?  Are we just addicted to futility?  Or is this just part of the natural state of being human?

 

I think that the problem lies in our tendency to define ourselves by what we do or by what we fail to do.  If I win, then I am a winner, but if I lose, then I am a loser.  Nobody wants to be a loser though, so we do everything we can to win at life.  And if we find we can not win, then we start doing things that are truly ridiculous.

 

Some people try to downplay life’s natural consequences by attempting to eliminate the concept of winning and losing, a concept that I call the “participation trophy” mentality.  You’re a winner just for showing up!  And if you didn’t even show up, we’ll try to find an excuse for you, so that you won’t lose.  After all, you deserve to win!

 

Then there are the “glory days” people (I tend to fall into this category).  These are the people who used to be the best at something, but then they either went somewhere else where there were other people that were better, or maybe they just got old and weren’t as good as they used to be.  If a person like this is focused on the winning, and he isn’t winning anymore, bitterness takes over in a hurry.

 

A person in this kind of a rut can’t let go of the past, can’t be happy for anyone else who wins in the present, and is bleak about the future that he sees for himself filled with nothing but losing.  Because if you lose, then you’re a loser.  But you can’t be a loser, because you used to win.  But now other people are winning, and keeping you from the victory that is rightfully yours.  So if you can’t beat them, then you have to tear them down, so that you can be on top again.

 

Both of these misguided worldviews lead to the same error—trying to put everybody else on earth at the same level so that we can feel good about ourselves, either by having no distinction of greatness, or by declaring ourselves great by attrition.  Both of these philosophies fail, because they are both built on the foundation of defining our worth by what we do, rather than who we are.

 

God gave us a better way to live.  In the Bible, Paul calls it “living by the Spirit.”  This is a churchy way of saying “getting out of your own way and letting God do His work through you.”  Living by the Spirit isn’t about checking things off of a religious checklist.  It is more about being aware of God’s influence in our lives, and allowing ourselves to be led away from our own plans and deeper into His.

 

Notice in the verse at the beginning that it is the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, not us.  We don’t overcome the world by accomplishing all nine of those things on our own.  Rather, when we yield to God’s leading in our lives, these fruits are the natural result of the change that He works within us.

 

 

(So what does that look like?  Come back for Part 4—Keeping in Step.)