Tuesday, January 1, 2013
My new years resolution; a year of surrender and faith
I attended a conference last month put on by the Christian Camp and Conference Association for all camping professionals in the country and Canada. It is a combination of professional development, relationship building, and spiritual renewal. The theme this year was Strong and Courageous. This was taken from:
Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
I was asked to speak briefly about my experience with cancer and my perspective on Strong and Courageous. As I prayed about it the words surrender and faith came to mind.
Since the conference I've had this rattling around in my head and I can’t get loose of it.
Strength come through surrender, courage comes through faith.
At first it sounds like courage is something I’m supposed to “do”. Go out and conquer the world no matter what. Before cancer I probably had that approach. I could go and do anything I wanted to. There was nothing I put my mind to that I couldn't accomplish.
Now that’s totally different. I’m a shell of myself. I’m weaker and more worn down than I've ever been. I know I’m commanded to “not be terrified, do not be discouraged” but the more I try not to be the more I am some days. Some days “terrified” is exactly the word to use to describe how I feel. So what am I supposed to do?
I don’t have the strength to overcome right now. I can’t cowboy up and push through. I've tried. These emotions aren't fake or a figment of my imagination. They’re real. It’s proof that I've got a long ways to go in my walk with the Lord. If my faith was greater, maybe I wouldn't struggle... but I might make a speculation that Jesus himself was afraid and weak the night he prayed for mercy and relief in Gethsemane. His humanity shines through in that moment of pure vulnerability.
First, in order to gain strength and “be strong”, I must surrender all that is dear to me. Maybe it’s money like the rich young ruler, maybe it’s family like Abraham, maybe it’s comfort like Paul with his thorn in the side, maybe it’s your children’s decisions like David. Whatever it is, the more I cling to the things that I don’t want to lose, the quicker they slip through my fingers.
We’re all familiar with:
2 Cor 12:9-10
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This makes no sense. The weaker we are the stronger we are? It’s 100% opposite what our culture tells us. When you fight cancer everyone comes and tells you to “keep fighting”. I know what they mean, and that they mean well. However, ultimately I don’t think one lives or dies from cancer solely because they choose to keep fighting. I won’t deny that attitude and determination play a part, but I know that I may very well choose to buckle down and fight like crazy and still lose this battle.
I think that’s like life. We are so afraid of losing the precious things in our lives, we hold onto them tightly. Then when we face adversity we buckle down and fight like crazy to “overcome, persevere, or get through”. We’re called to do the opposite though. It’s only through our weakness that God will take those things we once held dear and use them for His glory in a way that we never imagined.
Being willing to submit yourself to the will of God - no matter what it might mean in your life - is a scary idea. Deep down in our hearts, most of us have things we’re hiding, holding onto, or avoiding. If we want to be strong, we must be willing to truly surrender those intimate and vulnerable places we’ve been keeping God out of.
I was forced to surrender a lot in my life. So that was out of my hands. I’ve learned more about how to willingly surrender things along the way, such as Colton’s future, my wife’s future, the ministry goals I’ve had, and more. I wouldn’t say I have that lesson down, but like I said, I’ve been forced to learn this one. The lesson that I’m struggling with is courage.
I’ve always thought of myself as a courageous person. I rode unbroken horses, I wasn’t afraid to have hard conversations, and I’d like to think I would do what was necessary to defend my family or my country if called upon. There was a lot of bravado wrapped up in that, though. That kind of courage is about me, what I can do, how brave I am. The object of the courage is the individual.
As I read through scripture though there’s an overwhelming pattern that when one is told to be courageous it’s almost always in the context of, “the Lord is with you, the Lord will guide you, the Lord will provide”. I haven’t done a study to know if it’s every time, but it’s a lot. For instance:
New International Version (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I’m told to “do not fear”. That’s great but I still do. Why am I afraid? What causes me to fear? Well right now the circumstances of what I’m facing are greater than my perceived capacity to overcome them. In other words, I can’t get out of this jam.
I’m told that God is with me, not to be discouraged, for He is my God. He will strengthen me, help me, and uphold me. So what am I afraid for? Again it has to do with my faith. Do I really trust that God is in control when life feels so out of control? Do I really trust that God’s still got a plan for me when all my plans have fallen a part? Do I really believe that God is still MY God, when it feels like He has abandoned me?
When I’m afraid, the answer is no. I’m not trusting that God is God. I do not believe He is still sovereign.
When I am at most peace is when I’m most dependent upon Him and I’ve chosen to surrender and trust Him. These moments are indescribable. It feels like a high of thanksgiving, peace, and hope. I haven’t found anything that compares to this feeling. Not only that, but God has used me in ways I could’ve never imagined before cancer. He’s opened doors for Kendra and I that we’ve dreamed of only now it’s happening and bigger and better than we dreamed.
So as I look to this New Year my goals and my encouragement to you is let’s be a people of surrender and faith. Let’s be a people that commits to being brave enough to let God into the recesses of our hearts and use our weaknesses to His purposes. I may not make it through the year, but whether I do or don’t, if I live my life like that - it won’t be wasted.