Sunday, October 21, 2007

Disappointing Presumptions

Over the years we have all had to go back and reexamine events that have taken place in our lives. Perhaps they didn’t turn out the way we believed they would or even thought they should have. Thinking back on some personal disappointments makes me wonder about the line between hope and presumption. I believe if you recognize that line you will realize how you can better align your hopes, dreams and expectations with God’s will and direction for life.

Most of us hope bad things will not come our way in life. We hope our marriage will not fail. We hope good things will come our way…with no difficulties attached. We hope our children will grow up to love God and to serve Him. We hope that we will live a long time. We hope we will not have to bury a child. We hope our children will be born healthy. We hope that we will get the job we always wanted. Our list could go on and on.

However, many of us live beyond our hopes. We live in presumption.

The dictionary defines presumption as “overstepping due bonds”. We become presumptuous when we believe that life will indeed turn out just as we hope and the primary reason we believe this will be true is because we want it to be. We presume success, happiness, or prosperity; therefore, it should come our way. For Christians, then, when those things do not arrive with a gold bow around them we are left to doubt God and question our faith.

Where does that problem truly rest? With God? With us?

James 4:13-17 is the passage that deals with people planning their business ventures without consulting God. The IVP Bible Background Commentary says, “The sin here is arrogant presumption – feeling secure enough to leave God out of one’s calculations.” The last phrase really grips me. My disappointments usually come because I have failed to bring God into the equation. Over the years I have been shocked when I realize that most of my greatest disappointments come when I have not worked to align my plans or actions with God’s will.

I am learning to hold my own hopes and goals loosely. It is not wrong to try to make plans to be a good steward of what God has given us. In fact, we are given examples of faithful stewardship in Scripture (Matt. 25:14-30). Yet, we have been called to be ready to surrender our own will to that of God’s. And that should be viewed with joy because if we truly trust God we will realize that He is working for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28) and that His ways are truly higher and better than ours (Ps. 61:1-3).

It is certainly easier to write this or to read it than to actually do it, but I wonder how you are doing? Are you submitting that success or failure to God? If you are disappointed with the situation around you, I wonder if you are really quietly disappointed with God whether you will admit it or not? Christians don’t want to acknowledge that, but it is often true. Are you trusting God with your plans, hopes and dreams or have you kept Him out of the equation?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Considering Every Thought

Have you ever been guilty of "speaking before you think"? You know, those are the words that we wish we could pull out of the air and shove back into our mouths. When we say things that we quickly regret we are often left just waitung for the fallout. Paul takes a wiser approach as he calls the Corinthian Christians to take growing in their faith seriously.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...and take every thought captive to obey Christ..." In this he is calling these young Christians to grow in their faith and to consider impure thoughts an enemy. Further, in verse 6, he says they ought to punish every disobedience so that obedience (to Christ) will rule supreme.

That leads to a question -- what is the best way to punish a disobedient thought? I would say that it is to ignore it.

How do we learn to discern between obedient and disobedient thoughts? By taking them captive.

We are left, then, to find ways to take our thoughts captive. Let me offer some questions that I use as an example:

Will this honor God?
Will this encourage others?
Will this tear others down?
Am I doing this so I will look better?
Am I doing this so I will receive praise?
Am I really trying to serve other people?
If I follow this pattern of thought, will I be a good witness?
If I follow this pattern of thought, what will I say to God when I stand in front of him?
If I follow this pattern of thought, how will it affect others? (family, friends, church, workplace, etc.)
Will this fuel my pride?
Will this cause me to sin?

Those are just a few examples of how I try to hold each thought captive. As I typed that list, I can say that I certainly thought of times I have failed miserably. There are times that I knew the right answer but went ahead and did the wrong thing anyway. Thank God for forgiveness and the opportunity to make wrongs right.

Will you work today to take every thought captive?