Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day Six: Persistence

The WORD of the Day:

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations. But take heart; I have overcome the world." --John 16:33

Let Me Give You a Lift:

The first half of John chapter 16 is not what we would call encouraging. In it, Jesus explains the persecution that Christians are going to face, and foreshadows his own death. At the end of it all, his disciples are alarmed.  In fact, in verse 12 of that chapter, Jesus says "I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now." Even though Jesus' ministry was about good news, he still wanted his followers to recognize that life is not a cakewalk. Life is tough. 

But in the middle of the chapter, He shifts the discussion to how we get through life's troubles: the Spirit. The Spirit is a help, a guide, the voice of God whispering the truth to us.  Jesus' message to His disciples was this: the world is hard; you're going to face trouble in this world. But take heart in the fact that ultimately, victory is already ours through Him.  And in the meantime, the Spirit will guide us. 

When thinking about the first part of that message, what came to my mind was Finding Nemo. It is one of my son's favorites.  At one point, when they are in the dark and all seems lost, Dori says, "when life gets you down you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming." (I'm sure some of you are singing along at this point; for everyone else, see link).  It is really that simple. Life is going to have its downs.  To get out of the downs, we have to keep going. 

The second half of the message is not one for Pixar.  It goes back to the message from Day Five: Humility.  When we recognize that we cannot do everything on our own, that sometimes we need guidance in the right way to go, when we are listening for it, that is when we hear the voice of God.  Not necessarily a literal little voice inside our heads (although some people have told me that's what they experience; God has never reached out to me in that way.) For me, it's that moment of peace and clarity when I've been struggling to make a decision. Or the sudden unexplainable feeling that I really need to do or say something, or reach out to someone. Or a million roadblocks preventing me from taking the path I want, or unavoidable signs pointing me down the one I don't want to take. However we experience it, when we are looking for it the Spirit comes down to something simple: hope and certainty we have help. And, ultimately, victory. 

One final thought for today. Sometimes we think we have chosen the right way, and it turns out we were wrong.  That's okay. We can always course-correct, and if we are seeking God's guidance (even if we originally ignored it) we will always find it.  C.S. Lewis said it very well. In talking about living a truly good and right life, he said:
[it] will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.
Victory is already His. How do we reach it? Just keep swimming.

Give it a Listen:

The song for today is Rise by Shawn McDonald. The song is about this idea of persistence: getting back up again, and moving forward from the rubble we sometimes find ourselves in.  The reason? Because God is greater than the falls, and He is in all of us. "Because he who is in me is greater than I will ever be, and I will rise."


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