I came across a book called Not Bartlett's and it is a compendium of thoughts on life, love, etc. One quote caught my eye.
"What a wonderful life I've had - I only wish I had realized it sooner." Collette
That is true for most of us. But for some reason we tend to dwell on the disappointments, failures and hurts instead of the blessings most of us have in abundance. One reason was articulated by the Church Lady on SNL.
"Could it be (echo) SATAN?"
Yes. Without question that is a factor for followers of Jesus. I wrote last week about Satan's threefold battle plan. To cause us to dwell on past disappointments, to focus on current problems and to fear future events. Falling prey to any or all of those strategies robs us of joy and distracts us from the solution.
I love this passage written to the church at Colossae and I quote it often in my blogs.
Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus… (Colossians 3, NLT)
Ouch. And amen. Here is a very uncomfortable pop quiz:
- Do I live like Christ is all that matters?
- Do I put on mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience each day?
- Do I make allowance for other's faults?
- Do I forgive those who offend me?
- Do I understand how much I have been forgiven?
- Do I let the peace of Christ rule my heart?
- Am I always thankful?
- Do I let the message of Christ fill my life?
- Do I teach and counsel His wisdom to others consistently?
- So I sing to God with a thankful heart?
- Is everything I do or say predicated on being a representative of the Lord Jesus.
- Does Jesus still love me?
My answers. 1. Not always, 2. Not consistently, 3. Sometimes, 4. Usually, 5. Yes, 6. Most of the time, 7. No, 8. Not always, 9. Not consistently enough, 10. Usually, 11. Nope, 12. ABSOLUTELY!
The answer to number 12 is the mystery of grace and Christ's work on the cross. If God graded me on the honest answers to those questions I would be in deep trouble. What grace God demonstrates to me that He loves me and calls me His child in spite of my mediocre results to the quiz above. But Satan does not want you to experience that grace. The enemy does not want you to realize that Christ is all that matters.
We must not allow Satan to win this battle. Life is difficult. Relationships are often hard. Church goers do things that are wrong and indefensible. When viewed through the lens of the culture you have every "right" to be angry. But the Holy Spirit is prompting us to see through a new lens. I need to have Jesus "laser surgery" on the eye of my heart so I can see through that new lens that Paul describes above. Easy? Hades no! But it is possible when we focus on how much we were forgiven when we were unforgivable and how we were accepted when we were unacceptable.
There is a huge risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in Christ. It is especially tough when we have been once or twice burned by life or by others. But it is a risk not only worth taking but I believe necessary to grow more like Christ. There is a song from Martina McBride that talks about the risks of life. Here is a sampling of the lyrics from Anyway…
You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach and you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway, I do it anyway
This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe that tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart, for all the right reasons, and in a moment they can choose to walk away
And that is my desire as I follow Jesus. Sometimes life ain't so good. I believe it is a dangerous teaching that Jesus will make your life all green lights and blue skies with good health always and riches untold. Jesus gives you purpose and significance. Eternal hope. Peace. Security. But there are no guarantees that life with Jesus will be trouble free. Au contraire. Difficulties refine us in our faith and reveal our spiritual state of the union with Christ. "Consider it all joy", James says, "when you encounter various trials."
Choose to dwell on the blessings. Choose to build it anyway. Dream it anyway. Believe it anyway. And even if I get hurt along the way I choose to love'em anyway (that does not include abusive relationships). My reason for making those choices is very simple. God chose to love me anyway when I did not deserve such love. My prayer for every follower of Jesus is that they never have this realization late in life.
"I have had a wonderful life with Jesus - I only wish I had realized it sooner."
It can be wonderful now.