I recently heard a pastor say, "Fail fast and forget about it."* It made me smile and think about what Paul wrote to the Philippians, the scripture I used in my last post, where he said,
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:12-14
I know I'm stating the obvious, but we all fail. Everyone of us has failed in the past, and more failures are sure to come to us in the future. Failure, after all, is a given. We are imperfect sinners in need of God's grace and mercy. And while I certainly don't want to give the impression that I think it's okay to sin, I do believe failure has its purpose.
Quite simply, if God wanted us to be perfect, I think He would have made us perfect. But He didn't, and we're not. Now, I don't believe God intended for us to be sinners––He hates sin––but for whatever reason, in His sovereign will, God chose to give man the freedom of choice and with choice comes a propensity toward fallibility––the very thing that shows our need for God.
In the verses above, Paul writes of his imperfections. He freely admits that he is not a perfect man, and if you read the verses directly before those quoted, you'll see that what Paul was pressing on toward was righteousness through his faith in Jesus. Not through his works, not through his religious resume, but through his faith. What we see Paul continually strive toward throughout all his writings in the Bible was to move past his imperfections toward the goal of knowing and loving his Savior more.
Paul made plenty of mistakes in his past. He persecuted Jesus' early followers, even to the point of murder. But when Paul gave his life to Jesus, he knew what we all need to know in the depths of our heart––that he was washed clean by the blood of Jesus and that he was made new. No mistake, no sin could condemn him any longer. They were gone. Paid for and reconciled by God, Himself. This is why Paul could tell the believers in Philippi with complete assurance that he could forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead. He failed fast and forgot about it, trusting and believing in the One who took the toll on his behalf. And with Paul as our example, we need to lose our ties to our past sins. We need to realize that we have been washed. That we stand before God forgiven, white as snow because of our Savior. And if God forgives us, I'm pretty sure we ought to forgive ourselves as well.
Fail fast and forget about it.
* I listen to so many sermons by several different pastors on podcast, and I wish I could give credit, but I honestly can't remember who it was! I can tell you, however, that it was either Steven Furtick, Clayton King, or Matt Chandler.
If you're anything like me, your faith is not static. You may have times of great faith––faith so strong you're absolutely convinced your unwavering trust in Jesus will quite literally move mountains. But oftentimes, that very faith seems to diminish over time. It goes out from you, like the air of an untied balloon when let go.
Seasons of great faith are simply amazing, and I always think I ought to stay there. I seem to measure my level of Christian-success by how audacious my faith is, but I'm starting to think I have it all wrong. Downswings of our faith can be frustrating, alarming even, but I'm not entirely convinced these challenging seasons are a bad thing.
I think we're all bound to experience moments of failed faith. Times when we seem to be holding on by a thread. When we feel weak and discouraged by our lack of faith. But ultimately, every challenge, every trial we encounter is intended to bless our socks off––even those that seem most ominous.
A life of faith is a battle. But that battle is not bad. It's purpose is to birth God's blessing and will in our lives. It strengthens and grows us.
Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" ( 2 Timothy 4:7). And that's what it's all about––fighting to keep the faith. Amidst all the trials and temptations this life brings, we are to endure. We are to hold fast to the Lord, refusing to let go, to the end.
I was reading a book about Billy Graham recently. It's a fascinating narrative portraying the early years of Mr. Graham's life and ministry. Now, this is something you may already know, but Mr. Graham's faith was challenged greatly at one point. He struggled to keep the faith and fought the greatest spiritual battle of his life after his conversion, after he had given his life to Christ, after he began pursuing his call to ministry, but right before his big breakthrough at the Los Angeles Crusades, the event that launched him to national prominence. And I don't believe that was any sort of coincidence (in fact, I don't believe in coincidence at all).
Our greatest struggles often seem to come right before our greatest breakthroughs. Satan's most lethal darts come when we're perceived to be a significant threat. He has seen faithful saints pledge their hearts and lay down their lives for Jesus time and time again throughout the ages. He seems to know when we're being prepared to be used mightily for the Kingdom. And this is precisely when the battle is waged. When our faith is attacked. When we're tempted into complacency.
And I must admit––I've been there. I'm kind of there right now, in fact. I've been feeling a bit stagnant lately. Stuck, if you will. I think I've allowed the busyness of life to get in the way of my relationship with Jesus. But what's so amazing about our God is that He always provides a way back. All I keep hearing from Jesus is keep the faith. His words resound in my heart. "Refuse to let go of me until I bless you," He says. "Persevere in prayer and faith. My word will not return void. I have brought you out of Egypt to bring you in to the promised land." And I'm pretty sure I'm just stubborn enough to hold on. To fight for faith. I am German-Irish, after all.
I once heard a pastor call it sanctified stubbornness. I like that. Everyone of us must stubbornly fight the good fight of faith. Paul, who seems a bit stubborn to me, once wrote, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, emphasis mine).
So, let's press in and press on. Let's fight the greatest fight of our lives. And for goodness sake, let's hold on to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, refusing to let go until we're blessed. Remember, His Word does not return void. His promises are true. We were not brought out of our Egypt for naught, but to be brought in to our promised land.
Are you ready for a history lesson? Alrighty here we go. Stick with me. I promise, I've got a point coming!
Heroes or Criminals?
On July 4, 1776––two hundred thirty-eight years ago today––56 colonial men signed a document challenging Great Britain's rule over the thirteen colonies. The Declaration of Independence declared these "United Colonies" to be free, independent states. But the war had not yet been won. In fact, it had just begun.
Touted as heroes by many colonials, yet deemed criminals by the British crown, the signers "pledge[d] to each other [their] Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor," confidently assured of "the Protection of Divine Providence" (Declaration of Independence).
Yet, with the signing of this document, each of them effectively signed their own death warrants as they opposed the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world.
And for what?
As we all know, freedom was won. In 1783––despite unfavorable odds––the colonies won their freedom.
Our Founding Fathers
Then came the Constitutional Convention. Of the 55 delegates of the Convention, 49 were Protestants and 2 were Catholic, which means there were only 4 men who did not profess faith in Jesus.
Fascinating, isn't it?
Being a history major in college and a prior history teacher, I knew our country was founded upon Christian principles. But I never knew just how many of our founding fathers claimed to know Jesus.
Now, I'll spare you the rest of the history lesson, but here's the point I'd like to make: Our Founding Fathers risked their lives for freedom. And once they were set free, they inscribed God's truths into the foundation of our country.
Our country's foundation has Jesus written all over it.
If you take a moment to read some early writings of our Founding Fathers, you'll find many––if not most of them––believed God's providential hand was guiding them throughout the creation of the United States, and I believe they were right.
I believe they were called to declare, fight, and win our freedom. So, let's not waste it!
What do we do with freedom?
Scripture says, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). Now, of course this verse refers specifically to the freedom we're called to in Christ––let's not take it out of context––but I do believe this verse can apply to the freedom we have as American citizens as well.
Scripture again points to the topic of freedom in 1 Peter 2:16. It tells us to "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."
All who are in Christ are free, but living in America provides us with an opportunity to allow our freedom to flourish. As American Christians, we are free both spiritually and politically to love others and serve God. Now, I know I'm stating the obvious, but this is not the case throughout the world. According to Christianity Today, "An average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year." Christians are persecuted and martyred every day because of their faith. But we live in a country that allows freedom of religion––a freedom many of us take for granted when one we ought to be immensely thankful.
So, what do we do with freedom?
There are many who believe faith should be a private matter. I disagree. I believe we're called to share our faith with others that they might come to experience the grace and joy found in Jesus. I believe God led our Founding Fathers to fight for our freedom that His people might proclaim His name throughout the world.
Jesus tells us, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). With today's technological advancements, we're experiencing an unprecedented opportunity to minister to others. We live in a time like no other. And I believe it's time to use our freedom to free others. I believe this is the purpose of our freedom. To love others. To serve them. And to serve God through intentionally living out the Great Commission.
So today, as you celebrate this fine holiday, be sure to ask yourself this very important, potentially life-altering question: How might God be calling you to use your freedom?
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1
Happy Forth of July!
Laurie Coombs will be featured in Billy Graham's new film, "Heaven," (November 2014) part of the "My Hope with Billy Graham" series broadcast nationally in an effort to reach people with the message of the gospel. She is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com and is currently working on first book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A journey of forgiveness (Kregel Publications, Spring 2015).
With a background in teaching, Laurie is a passionate speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the blessings associated with following Jesus. She and her husband, Travis, make their home in Reno, Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery.
For more information about Laurie Coombs or to book her for a speaking engagement, please visit her blog, LaurieCoombs.org. And be sure to connect with Laurie on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27
Everyone of us wants to be wanted. We all want to belong. But all around the world, there are children left to fend for themselves––orphans. Over 147 million of them, not to mention countless others who live on the street.
My family and I have been in the process of adopting from Ethiopia for close to four years now. The process has been an incredible one, but it's been long and difficult for numerous reasons that I won't get into here (for the sake of brevity). What I will say, however, is that our difficulties have largely been due to bureaucracy that could be streamlined and resolved if our lawmakers were informed of the current issues. Our world need leadership in the area of orphan care, and there is currently a bill proposed to do just that called Children in Families First (CHIFF).
All children everywhere deserve to have a family, and I believe it is time to stand as advocates for these children through supporting this bill. The problem is that most lawmakers will not take notice of the bill unless they know it's important to their constituents. So, I'm asking for your help.
What is the CHIFF bill?
CHIFF––Children in Families First calls for the redirection of a modest portion of the $2 billion the United States currently spends on children living abroad toward ensuring that all children grow up in a family. What’s more, it calls for programs funded with US tax dollars to focus on reducing the number of children living without families and increasing the capacity of other governments to better protect their own children. The best protection for a child is a family. The CHIFF bill will protect children by preserving families, reunifying families, or creating families through adoption (both domestic and international).
For more information, visit Children in Families First Frequently Asked Questions. And be sure to watch the video below.
If you're having trouble viewing the video, click here.
How you can help!
Problems this large can seem hopeless, but together, we can make a difference. Below, you'll find five easy (and quick!) suggestions on how you can help advocate for these children. For additional ways to support CHIFF and examples of social media posts, view the Action Plan PDF. To access the petition and receive convenient (and quick!) ways to contact your congress person, click here.
These children need a voice. Please, let that voice be you!
Any thoughts? Share in the comments.