Musings of Seasons

seasonsHere we are. Fall is fully upon us. A change of seasons means a change of focus. School is in full swing bringing with it the consistency and craze of its schedule all at once.

We often talk of the change of seasons. The change of high-school to college life. The change from single fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants to marriage and sudden responsibility. The change of a loved one passing away. The change of a close friend moving to another city, or perhaps you yourself moving. Seasons come and go. The only thing consistent with seasons is that you know that they will change.

No one says it as well as King Solomon:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (emphasis added).

He goes on to give examples of what there is a certain time for; living, dying, laughing, weeping, the list goes on. However we might wish it, we cannot hold on to a season forever. No matter how much we may love spring, it will always turn to summer. Children love the Christmas season and are always sad to see it pass so quickly.

In these musings I turn to the Scriptures. One might ponder on the lives of some of the heroes of our faith such as Joseph, Paul, Moses, Elijah, Daniel; even some of those less well beloved but that can be learned from: Saul, Samson, Aaron, too many to list here. Every character that we have enough information to study more than merely basic details of their lives have recorded of them different seasons of life. These include good and bad, easy and hard, trial and temptation, victory and joy.

You will notice with me the lack of one thing in these accounts of our heroes. The season is not exalted. The time that they go through is not highlighted so much as their response in them. It is shown recorded for us on many accounts a) how they heard the voice of the Lord and b) how they responded to it. In the instances that God did not speak directly to them, we are only given their response to what they know to be right. What made them either a champion to us or an example of what not to do was how they responded in the season they were in.

Solomon responded well in the hard time. His father was dead. He was given one of the greatest kingdoms of all times to rule. God came and spoke with him. All he wanted was to rule his people well. But by the end of his life, when things were perhaps a little too easy, he turned from his God. His response was less than desirable and he is one that is said to have not “finished well”, to use a Christian colloquialism. (1 Kings 3,11)

Daniel is one of our great champions. As a young man he is dragged from his home. Quite possibly, his family was killed before his eyes. He is taken as a captive and put in the palace of a foreign ruler, his fate yet to be decided. What does he do? He holds to the high standards of Judaism that he was so carefully taught even within his own corrupt society. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 (emphasis added) It would have been SO easy for him to have put his head down and done whatever was told him, but he refused.
Later in his life when confronted with death or a mere change of daily habit (prayer). He chose the former. Why? Because to him  his response to the Lord in a season of hardship was of far greater weight than anything man could do to him. (Daniel 6)

We spend so much of our time talking about the season of life that we are in. We make excuses for ourselves and allow other to do it for us as well. Could you imagine if Daniel had made an excuse for himself? “I just lost my family.” “I don’t know the customs of Babylon.” “I’m just emotional.” That last one makes us smile to ourselves. Yes, our greatest champions of our faith were human just as we are. A thousand emotions barraged them in their darkest hour. Doubt, condemnation, discouragement, even hopelessness is recorded on more than one occasion. But what was their ultimate response?

David turned to his great Shepherd and sang (Psalm 57:1). Daniel turned to his King and prayed (Daniel 6:10). Elijah turned to his God and requested fire and rain (1 Kings 18). Paul got up from the pile of stones and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

What will your response be in this season? Not to your pastor. Not to your spouse or children or roommate. Not in your wishful thinking. But in your heart of hearts to your God. What will your resolve be? How will you choose to respond in the hard seasons? The good? Some of us know how to respond when its hard but as soon as the pressure lightens, we go our own way. Some of us do really well as long as it is smooth sailing, but when the storm blows we sink.

Choose to respond to the Lord. Choose to finish well. Don’t long for another season. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. What if tonight you stood before your Lord and Maker? How would you give account of the life you have lived? Would you hear the coveted words, “Well done!” or instead, “I never knew you.” Hear the call of your Lord. Run to win! Run to finish well. Don’t let there be dark seasons that you don’t want to give account for. Turn your eyes to Him and give Him your heart.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” I Corinthians 9:24

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

Advertisements

Remember…

I’ve been reading in Genesis this week. And I have been so encouraged by the stories of great men and women of God. Abel’s faith in God, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph; the list goes on, but there is so much courage and faith to be taken from these stories.

Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Take Noah: he was an old man. He gets a word from God to build a boat. This could quite possibly be the first boat in history, and it’s a big one. He tells everyone that it is going to rain. Rain? What is rain? The earth had been watered by a mist up to this point (Gen. 2:5-6). It is debatable whether there had ever been any water to fall from the sky.

People thought he was crazy. But Noah was a righteous man in his generation (Gen. 7:1, 2 Peter 2:5). He kept his heart in line with the Word of God and didn’t allow popular opinion to make him question it.

Abraham was the father of faith and yet he laughed at the promise of God (Gen. 17:17). God called him blameless and he is remembered as the father of faith. Far from perfect, he had his fare share of mistakes. But he kept his eyes on the Lord.

There are so many stories like these of fallible man that an infallible God used to achieve His purposes. Be encouraged that you are not alone. It’s not the doubt and discouragement that takes you out, it’s what you do with it.

Let the Word of God build faith in you. Go and read the stories of the great men and women of faith. They are there for us to remember (Deut. 32:7). They are there for our encouragement. The people in these stories were normal people that faced incredible odds. Some of us will not face odds so large. Some of us will, but that is why we remember the stories and take courage in faith and the incredible awesomeness of our God.

Remember…

Thankfulness-Joy-Strength

ImageAfter a two long days with a short night in between, it can be so tempting to let your guard down. “I just had a long day.” “I’m so tired.” “I just am not feeling well.” “You don’t know what my week has been like…” like somehow people really should just understand. But reality is that they rarely do, especially when you work in customer service.

My job can be draining both physically and mentally. And there are days that it’s all that I can do to be civil to customers. The Bible says that there is only one thing desired of a man and that is kindness. (Proverbs 19:22) What does it take to simply be kind after a long day or week? One of my favorite excuses is, “I was at work at 5 this morning.” This is supposed to justify my lack of grace toward people.

I believe that we have a higher calling because we represent the Lord Jesus Christ to those around us. It is easy to forget. It’s easy to ignore. But that is the truth of it. The good news is that we don’t have to do it on our own.

Nehemiah 8:10b “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

His joy is my strength. When I’m grumpy or irritable or just plain tired, He has strength in the package of joy. When I am short of strength or temper, I have Him to turn to. He is my Friend, my Daddy, my number one Fan, my King. And He is always there for me.

Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy isn’t something you snap in and out of. But it is a choice. And the choice is to step into His presence. Fullness of joy is there. That joy strengthens on the hardest of days.

Psalms 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

This is the progression for me on rough days. I have to decide to be thankful. (My strategy is to find 5 things that I am thankful for.) That alone goes a long way for me in changing my attitude. Thankfulness ushers me into the courts of my King. The place where He lives. His Presence. In that throne room is the fullness of joy that I seek.

My remedy for a long or hard day?

Thankfulness
Image

Picture this. You are riding your moped at 5:45 in the morning. It is COLD!!! A balmy 34 degrees with wind chill, you are sure that your hands will never work again, they are so numb. When you arrive at your destination 20 minutes later, your fingers are so stiff you can’t get your helmet off.

This was me this morning. When I left the meeting at 8:15, the temperature had only increased by 2 degrees. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to put my helmet back on. I wanted an easy way out. I wanted to make the cold go away and to have a car with a heater. Maybe I’m a little melodramatic. But seriously, what made me get back on my scooter and keep going? The hope of the sunrise. The unshakeable knowledge that it would rise and bring warmth with it. The faith in my weather app that said it would be 60 today.

Romans paints a picture of this for us.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Why do we go through hard times? Why do we endure situations that try our patience? Why get back up and keep going and not just find an “easier way”? The hope of heaven. The unshakeable knowledge that this is only temporary. The faith in Jesus Christ who promises us a mansion in heaven and intercedes for us along the way.

Strong’s defines tribulation as pressing together, pressure; metaphorically – oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.

The definition alone makes one want to hide under the bed and not venture out. Tribulation is those hard days. They are seasons that are hard. Sometimes long, sometimes short; they bring the press of life. But what is the purpose of them?

Perseverance. Again, Strong’s helps us better understand this word, defining it as steadfastness, constancy, endurance, the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings, patiently, and steadfastly waiting for, sustaining.

So, those cold mornings before the sunrise work a steadfastness that helps Christians hold on during the hard times. The trials work an unswerving spirit into us that refuses to be deterred from its purpose. Who doesn’t want that? Everyone wants the strength that says, “I made it through, though I have scars, I am stronger for it.”

Character – in the Old King James this word is translated experience. Strong’s digs a little deeper: proving, approved, tried character, a specimen of tried worth.

Trials lead to endurance, which in turn makes a ‘specimen of tried worth’, proving character and building into our hearts the Kingdom of God. This leads to hope that does not disappoint. Hope that is unshakeable, given to us by the Holy Spirit, that this is not our home. Life is temporary. We are here only in training for heaven. This alone lends the courage to learn through the tough times and let the Lord do His work in our hearts.

Endurance