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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is Life's Gauge on Full or Empty?

So, how's it going for you? Is life everything you expected it to be? Do you get up saying, "Good morning, God!" or "Good God, it's morning!"? Is your life boring? Do you hate going to work? Do you wonder how your marriage could get so mundane? Is church attendance more of a habit than an act of worship? Do you feel like you are merely talking to yourself when you pray? Do your children feel like more of a chore than a blessing? Are you tired all the time?

Would you like things to get better?

This is where I am supposed to tell you of the miracle cure that has been discovered by extracting the oils emitted between the toes of bats . . . or something like that. Let's see if we can use some good spiritual sense here instead.

Everyone's life has ups and downs. The idea that every day is going to be like winning the lottery is a myth. There is no one who has lived happily ever after without a few bumps in the road. There will be days that life will be hard. Jesus promised this. He said that we would have tribulation (troubles) in this world. We should expect it. We live in a fallen world.

This means everything in your life will have days when it is dull, mundane and a chore. This is not such bad news unless your whole universe is wrapped up in the moment you are in. Bad days will help us recognize God's goodness and yearn for His presence if we do not think that we have been condemned to only bad days. Things will get better no matter how bad the situation is. Even the believer who has cancer without any hope of recovery will have a complete recovery when he sees Jesus.

People who tell you that they have never had a bad day are just pretending. They have had bad days but they may have focused on their past good days or recognized that the bad days won't last. Jesus said that we should be a good courage because He had overcome the world. This means that there is nothing outside of His control to change. Positive people may simply be looking toward the good days but I assure you that they have had their share of bad days.

Everyone has days when their lives are empty. They may work to keep themselves busy so that they do not think of how things are really going but they would have to admit that their gauge is on empty if they would stop and think about it. Jesus did not come into the world to make life on this earth easy or pleasant. He came so that we might be saved. He came so that we might know we are forgiven. He came so that we would know the God who loves us. He came to teach us how to live our lives through these difficulties. He came to give us an abundant life.

Circumstances do not have to determine what we do. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should rejoice in the Lord always while he was in prison. We can rejoice while we are in the middle of a difficult time. This does not mean that the circumstances are less dire. They may be terrible but our rejoicing comes when we realize that God knows all about what we are going through and has a solution. We can rejoice and still admit things are less than optimal.

Your ministry is not determined by whether your life's gauge is on full or empty. Paul wrote much of the New Testament while he was in prison. I suppose he could have lamented that he would not have as much impact by writing letters rather than by preaching. Yet, we have no one who would attest to his preaching. We have millions who would praise God for his writing. The worst place you can be might be your most useful place.

So, your life's gauge may be full. Things are going great. You have money in the bank, the job you have always wanted, a spouse who loves you, children whom you are proud of, a nice house, two new cars and a dog that brings you your slippers and paper when you get in each evening. Good for you but it won't last forever. Life isn't like that. Even celebrities who have more money than they can spend have terrible days.

Maybe your life seems empty. Nothing is working out. You have debts past your eyeballs, a job that you hate, a spouse who tries to poison you at breakfast, children who have you, a falling down house, a car that uses more oil than gas and a dog that chews your shoes to smithereens every night. This won't last either. Life isn't like this.  Even homeless guys gather around a great Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army.

Is life's gauge on full or empty? So what?

I cycle. There aren't any hills in Virginia Beach but there were plenty when I was in Nashville. There was one hill that I would have to go into my lowest gear to climb. It even had a name--Red Hill. It was very hard to go up. I would have to stand on the pedals and my legs were screaming in pain as I slowly climbed that hill. Eventually, I topped the hill and had the most exhilarating ride down the other side. I couldn't have gotten to that part of the ride without climbing that hill.

Maybe empty is just a good excuse to be filled.

Philippians 4:4-5 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

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