These Present Troubles

Jesus is clearly a champion of the poor, hungry and needy. Yet when a woman pours a year’s salary worth of perfume on him, and the disciples criticize this move as being too extravagant (“That should have been sold and the money given the poor”), Jesus says this: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:8)

Jesus isn’t being callous and uncaring about the poor. He’s being realistic. This world is always going to have problems. There will always be trouble. You’ll always have something that needs fixing. Don’t use that as an excuse not to worship God.

I have several issues that I’ve been presenting to God repeatedly for a couple years, basically crying and saying ‘fix it!’

But God hasn’t snapped his fingers and made all the issues go away. What I have come to realize is that if God solves my current problems, I’ll just end up having different ones.

He wants me to seek him, follow him, worship him where I am. Israel wasn’t told to worship God once they got to the promised land. They were called to do it in the desert, before they ever got their promised inheritance.

If, no - check that, WHEN we have problems; health, money, relationships, school, career - we can’t get to the attitude that once God makes it better, we’ll really do a better job of loving him and living for him.

Jesus said that it’s okay, not to ignore the poor or forget about them, but to prioritize them. God is more important that our present troubles. We can lavish our love and affections on him, even from a place of brokenness and imperfections. Heck, what could be better than genuine worship in the midst of situations that try to rob you of your passion?

Jesus even says in John 16:33 that we are going to have trouble in this world. But that we should take heart, be encouraged. Because he is greater, and it’s all going to be okay in the final analysis.

God cares for the poor, desperate and needy; and he wants us to care as well. But if we are going to help restore this world, we’ve got to keep our priorities straight.

We need not feel guilty about giving God the best of us.

Spiritual Superstars

When I was in little league baseball as a child, there were certain kids who were far and away the best players in the league. Usually, they were bigger, stronger and faster than the vast majority of the rest of us. It was easy to look up to these players, and to envy their prowess. But something funny happened. By the time I was Captain of the Varsity team in High School, playing American Legion ball (a step up from Varsity) and being recruited by colleges, none of those guys were around anymore. Many of them didn’t play, and those that did were simply ordinary.

What happened was that, while they had physically developed a little faster and gained an edge, the rest of us caught up. They didn’t have to work hard to succeed as kids, it came naturally because of their advantage. The rest of us had to work hard to find ways to compete with them. By the time we caught up physically, we now had more tools in our repertoire to go along with the physical abilities. They didn’t develop those tricks and tactics, so they no longer held any advantage.

I read a book called Seal Team Six a while back that talked about this issue. The guy who wrote the book mentions the fact that many of the All American football players who enter training drop out the fastest. They’re not used to having a situation where their superior physical talent can’t get them through. But the guys who are used to having to scrap and fight to keep up have what it really takes: a never say die attitude.

I like to run adventure races like the Tough Mudder. The only way you finish a race like that is to have the attitude of “Screw this race, I’m gonna finish if it kills me.” I know they’re going to throw really tough obstacles at me over and over and over again. My approach is to get by each one when I come to it, no matter what.

I do these races to find my limits, and then push beyond them. To become something greater than I am.

When you see people who are your same age that seem to have it all together while you’re struggling not to fall apart, don’t get down on yourself. Realize that you’re getting stronger. You’re learning how to handle adversity. You’re gaining wisdom and perspective that will help you in future situations.

There’s no need to be angry at people who seem to have it easy. God knows what is coming toward each of us in this life, and he knows when and how to prepare each of us.

The goal God has given us isn’t to look better than everybody else, to look like we have it all together. The goal is to fight the good fight, to run the good race. To keep the faith, and receive the reward that he will give us when all has been said and done.

Don’t try to be a Spiritual Superstar. Be a Spiritual Tough Mudder.