Sunday, September 25, 2011

"It Is Not Your Business To Succeed..."

"It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God."  C.S. Lewis
Too often we are overly goal oriented. What I mean by that is that our society lauds setting goals and doing everything we can to reach those goals.  The is fine except for one very important aspect; namely, we too often forget that our success is not dependent on our effort.  Our only part in the equation is the willingness to do the “next right thing.”  The success of any endeavor is dependent on God.

Do not misunderstand me, it is important to have goals.  We must never believe, however, that we have any control over achieving success.  “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above…”  James 1:17.  God is the source of all that is good in our lives, of every success.

God is just as interested in the process as the result.  If you are anything like me, we focus too much on getting there, rather than enjoying the journey.  Enjoying the journey is such a key to our Christian lives. When we are not so focused on the goal, we are able to be more fully present in this hour, we are able to see better all that we have to be thankful for, and we eliminate so many of our anxieties.

Let’s stop striving so hard toward goals, commit to living in the present, and trust that God will bring about success.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Why Love If Losing Hurts So Much?"

"Why love if losing hurts so much?  We love to know that we are not alone."  C.S. Lewis

When we love, we become vulnerable.  We can badly hurt by those who love us, either by things they do to us, by divorce, by rejection, by abuse, or even by death.  It can hurt so bad that we begin to wonder if we should love at all, if we should really leave ourselves so vulnerable.  We are tempted to withdraw and want to live in a cocoon.  We genuinely question whether Tennyson was right when he wrote, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Well, Tennyson was right.  Yes, loving people leaves us open to great hurts.  Yet, the alternative is worst. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference or irrelevance.  There is no greater pain than the feeling of being completely alone.   If you have been hurt by someone whom you have loved deeply, do not give in to the temptation to withdraw.  In the long run, it will be even more painful.  

And, to put a spiritual spin on this, I am going to commit blasphemy and say that C.S. Lewis is not quite right.  We do not only love to know that we are not alone.  The real reason that we love is because God has loved us.  We are able to love and to be vulnerable because we have the faith that He loves us, we are never truly alone, and ultimately He will heal every hurt and dry every tear.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Forgiveness

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  This is hard.  It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single person great injury.  But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life -- to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son -- how can we do it?  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say our prayers each night "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us."  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves."  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "On Forgiveness"
Forgiveness is not always easy.  In fact, forgiveness can at times be among the hardest things as Christians we are called to do.  When we have been hurt deeply or repeatedly, it can be next to impossible to forgive.  How do you forgive the person who has abused you?  How do you forgive the spouse who cheated on you?  How do you forgive the person who stole from you?

In this quote, C.S. Lewis says that the key is keeping in mind the consequences if we do not forgive.  God will not forgive us if we do not forgive someone else.  And why should He?  He offers us a priceless gift.  No matter who you are, you have been forgiven much. It is true that some of us have been forgiven more than others, yet, we all have been forgiven the unpardonable; namely, we all have been forgiven for turning our back on our Creator.  Accordingly, if we refuse to forgive others we are rejecting God's mercy that has been freely given to us.

God does not "command" us to forgive because He is masochistic and because He wants us to do the impossible.  The opposite of forgiveness is bitterness and bitterness eats at your soul. The person who refuses to forgive destroys their own soul.  God wants us to forgive others because He knows it is impossible for us to lead healthy lives without forgiving.

There is no magic bullet to be able to forgive easily. However, the person who refuses to forgive has not readily accepted how much God has forgiven them.  God will always give you the strength to forgive if you willingly ask for help.

Let's be people who are quick to forgive and extend grace to those in our lives.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Care For The Next Minute Is As Foolish As Care For A Day In The Next Thousand Years"

"The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God's care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is as foolish as care for a day in the next thousand years. In neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything." C.S. Lewis
Stop and think for a moment. Is there anything in life that you actually control?  Anything?!?!?  We can eat healthfully and exercise consistently, but truthfully, we do not control our next breath.  We can plan for the future and save our money, but through thievery or some other diabolical scheme, financial disaster could be right around the corner.  We may drive safely, yet we have no control over the driver who doesn’t and we could be killed in a car accident on our way to work.  We certainly cannot control relationships.  I think mankind naturally has a tendency to try and control everything in his life.  Yet, how foolish that is!  As C.S. Lewis says, “the next moment is beyond our grasp…as that a hundred years away.” 

If you are a Christian, rather than depressing you, this should actually free you.  The Christian has no reason to fear any calamity in the future.  The sooner we stop trying to control our future the more peace we experience.  Valleys will come in life, but we have a Sheppard who will lead us through.  We are sure to experience sickness or disappointment, but God is at work in every situation, for our benefit and His glory.

This is not to say that we should not plan and be wise in our daily choices.   It is important to be wise with our money, to exercise and to eat well.  Yet, we must always keep in mind that God is the Source of all that is good in our lives, that health is a gift from him, or the money we are able to save is really a gift from Him.  We need to hold our plans and our futures loosely in our hands because ultimately He is the one controlling our futures.

For whatever reason, God has given us only one thing which we can control, namely our will.  The only thing we can really control is our response to life situations.  It is so much easier to respond positively to life when we understand that the Creator of all is at work.  Chuck Swindoll wrote, 
“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”
What have you been trying to control?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Path to Sainthood

Sainthood lies in the habit of referring the smallest actions to God. - C. S. Lewis
Most of us who are Christians want to be saints, those people of immense holiness who do amazing things for God.  We are righteously “jealous” of such people, but we do not know how to be such people.  As this quote from C.S. Lewis indicates, the pathway to sainthood is found in the grind of every day life and being willing in the midst of that grind, to continually submit everything to God –even the smallest small things. This idea reminds me of the of the quote from Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, 
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 
Christ put it this way:
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Luke 16:10.

Just like a parent will slowly give a child more and more responsibility and freedom as they demonstrate their ability to handle it, God will give us more and more responsibility in His kingdom work.  If we want to do great things for God, we need to be willing to submit the mundane to God.  If we want to be a saint, we need to be begin with the small things.

This concept contains the element of Christ permeating everything in our lives, of dying to ourselves.  As we willingly die to self, Christ's reign becomes more evident in our lives.  It is then, and only then, that God will be able to use us in great ways.