Do you ever feel like you're racing against your own thoughts?
Like, if you don't get them down in writing or at least unintelligibly spoken somehow very soon you'll lose them forever, and you are convinced that this is actually the only chance you'll ever have to articulate them so you better call one of those trusty people you process through things with before these thoughts wander away into oblivion never to be tamed again?
...Yeah, me either.
However, I do have about 43 lines from other people running through my head right now. (Not to mention the constant to-do list I can never manage to put down on paper and the list of people I want to call and questions I want to ask them...but I digress.)
I'll just narrow it down to three great thought-provoking lines for now.
And I'm going to attempt to express some of these unruly thoughts by tying them all into a single, foundational truth I am beginning to grasp right now.
"Do not despise your pasture." -J.D. Greear
When David of the old testament is chosen to be king (1 Samuel 16:14), he is called out of his third-class job as a shepherd, anointed by God's prophet Samuel...and then sent back to the pasture.
Can you imagine? "Hey, listen, God told me to pick the next king of Israel, and I've already checked out all of your far-more-qualified older brothers, and it's not them. It's you. God wants you to be the next king. Now, go on back to those sheep, mmk?"
Right. You just told me I am going to be a KING and you expect me to go back and hang out with the dumbest animals on the face of the earth in a very under-appreciated, very un-glamorous, very lonely job?! Not likely. Gimme dat crown.
But that is not how David responds! David knows this is all absolutely insane. David knows he is not capable of being a king on his own. David knows his place--and that is wherever God tells him to be. David knows God has put him in this pasture for a purpose. Maybe he doesn't see it happening while he's there; maybe he's even frustrated with God for putting him there. But he does grow while he's there. He learns the things that God needs to teach him to make him a great king. His character is formed so that he can fulfill the role God has set apart for him and the tasks that God has planned for him.
And if seminary isn't a pasture, I don't know what is.
Being called to care for people spiritually, then ripped away from the abundant opportunities I had just 6 months ago to fulfill that very idea of calling, and then being plopped into a place where I am challenged, where my circumstances are less fulfilling than I had hoped for, where my very way of thinking is disrupted, where my desires are required to change just so I can continue onto the next lesson...this is my pasture. This is concentrated sanctification. It is not easy, it is not particularly pleasant, but man, I have to believe it is good.
"Unity is one of the hardest things you will ever do." -David Dwight
The sermon at Hope this morning really spoke into a lot of unresolved thoughts I've just been sitting on. And by "sitting on" I mean one step short of ignoring.
But the sermon boiled down to the fact that when we give our hearts to Christ, we can no longer reconcile the cultural ideas of individuality and independence. Christ's prayer for His church in John 17:11 is unity. And in order to embrace a lifestyle of unity in any relationship, we must be willing to sacrifice whatever we think we are entitled to have from the other person. He talked about how this unity is manifested in marriage, and how the couple who has been through 50 years of fighting through tough times and sin patterns and wondering if they're even going to make it--the couple who has spent those 50 years working for the relationship--they are an image of unity. The belief that the commitment is worth fighting for. That is the unity Christ calls us to allow to permeate through our whole lives.
We must not be willing to walk away when things are hard. We must not think there is any relationship worth sacrificing in lieu of humbly working through problems, even if only for the sake of unity.
"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." -Jesus
Now you might be wondering how in the world any of these are going to tie in together.
Hold on to your hats.
This statement Jesus makes in John 10:10 is a reminder of His person and His purpose.
What I mean by that is this:
Jesus came to do something! He came to give us life!! So that must mean that in order to have this abundant life He's speaking of, we have to get it from Him. If He came so that we can have it, there is nowhere else we can get it. Not from ourselves, not from others (read: not from making it through the pasture, not from achieving unity in relationships).
And Jesus is good. This is hard to believe a lot of the time, but He promises here that if we want this life, He came to give it to us. He is for us, and He deserves to be trusted.
So how do I get through the pasture? How do I find unity in relationships? By looking past myself and straight to Christ. I am not naturally patient enough to get through a season of waiting and growth, nor am I selfless enough to make sacrifices for the sake of unity and love. Those things only come from knowing Christ and seeking Him.
My growth and my service and my ministry are all for naught if they are the goal of my life. Jesus is the source of abundant life, and when I shift my focus to other things, it's no wonder I grow discontent. Technically I shouldn't even know when/if I've "gotten better" at something in my life with Christ. If the journey through the pasture and the lifetime of relationships are Christ-centered, the growth will happen without my even being aware.