Tag Archives: courage

Stay steady and win the prize

Last night Marion and I watched a movie about Philippe Petit, who famously walked a tightrope between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center in 1974.

I was struck by his courage but also the extensiveness of his preparation for this feat. You don’t accomplish a feat like this without both attributes. Further, I noticed that he was completely convinced he could do this. He had faith – not in God but in his own ability. The pressure of maintaining this faith almost drove him mad because he was relying on himself and not on God. Still, he persevered and accomplished what he called his “coup”.

Petit said that he did this not only for the sake of the feat itself but also for the glory that would be his as a result.

To walk a tightrope you do need preparation, training, courage and faith. You also need incredibly good balance.

This morning I awoke from a dream about the Bride of Christ. The nations of the earth are being shaken in the time we are in, and the Bride of Christ is being shaken.

Although Jesus is called our Bridegroom in Scripture, and we are called his bride, the wedding is still to come. We are Jesus’ betrothed, but only those who stay steady through the shaking will get the prize.

The shakings are part of our preparation for glory. Many of us waver at times. We might even stumble and lose our balance momentarily. If we steady ourselves and get up again, we will make it. If we lose our grip and forget our hope in these moments, we will fall to our destruction.

As I was waking up from this dream the Lord also told me to get up and eat something sweet. I asked him, if I am being given this message about shaking, shouldn’t I be fasting and praying? He said no, get up and eat something sweet. So I did. As I did this I realized that God was saying that in the midst of shakings He sustains His people with the sweetness of His presence. We don’t have to maintain our balance and our courage by sheer force of will, as Philippe Petit did in his classic tightrope walk. We do need to fix our will on the prize, but we can abide in the sweet presence of the Lord. He steadies us so that we can finish our walk.

If you are going through difficult times know that you are not alone. The Holy One has his eye on you. Philippe Petit also had a team of people who believed in him and were cheering him on. We have a team as well. We need the Body of Christ to cheer us on to success. Even more than that – especially in those moments when we feel completely alone – we need to remind ourselves that the eyes of the Lord are on those who have put their hope in Him.

Yesterday evening was the beginning of the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles. This feast celebrates the abiding presence of the Lord with Israel as they were crossing the wilderness, when they lived in temporary shelters. For believers in Jesus it also signifies the beautiful, sweet reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit who refreshes us, renews us and empowers us to finish our race with joy. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a deposit or first installment on our  inheritance. Those who persevere in faith are destined to inherit an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken.

If your life sometimes feels like a tightrope walk between two towers, fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him steady you. You will get to the other side. Eternal glory awaits you.

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Nuggets of Hope 22 – How to Stay Safe

Stay safe.

It’s become one of the dominant messages in the COVID-19 era.

But how, exactly, do we stay safe? How do we protect ourselves?

Before we can really answer that question, we need to ask another question. From what enemy are we trying to protect ourselves?

If you’re trying to protect yourself from getting COVID-19, there are recommended precautions. But what if you have a sneaking suspicion that COVID-19 isn’t your biggest enemy?

Yes, COVID-19 is an enemy. But it can be a useful enemy. Like any crisis, any situation that we can’t control, the pandemic raises important questions for us. Where is my real hope? What am I living for? What do I really want? What is my life really about?

Many people are experiencing heightened anxiety during these times. But their anxiety is not only because of COVID-19.  That’s just the current threat. The reality is that we are all vulnerable to many possible harms. Death is a prospect that none of us can escape in this age.

Disciples of Jesus have a Master who has conquered death on our behalf, and set us free from the power of darkness. If we really believe that, we should be the happiest of people. But we also have an enemy who hates us and desires to rule our thoughts. He does this by planting thoughts which we can choose to accept or reject. But to recognize them and reject them, you need a good spiritual immune system. The contagion that I really want to avoid is that sneaky tendency to focus on myself, and the immune system I need is the good, old-fashioned blood of Jesus that washes me clean from sin, His Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, and His powerful Spirit who guides me in the ways of love and self-control.

Recently I studied the First Letter of John with a small group of friends. John is identified as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course Jesus loved all his disciples but he apparently had an especially close relationship with John. By the time he wrote this letter, John was an old man who had seen most of the companions of his youth put to death for their faith in Jesus.

For John, the issues were clear. He ended his message to his flock with these sobering but hope-filled and powerful words.

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

1 John 5:18-21

The safest place to be is close to Jesus. That’s where I want to stay. That’s where I’m placing my hope.

 

 

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Nuggets of Hope 4 – God’s Spirit in us

His Spirit lives in us.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on the good news that those who have put their hope in Jesus have His Spirit living within them.

Writing to the believers in Corinth long ago, Paul penned these words – whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17 NIV). As Jesus promised, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 ESV).

This is powerfully good news.

If you have put your hope in Jesus, if you belong to Him, then even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the daily onslaught of bad news, the Spirit of Jesus dwells within you. Your thoughts and feelings do not have to be ruled by the latest frightening report. He is willing and able to give you wisdom, insight, comfort and direction. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

My friends, those are not just nice-sounding words. This is truth to live by. We don’t have to be paralyzed by fear. Jesus is holding us securely. Each day we can get up and set our hearts to trust Him, and direct our hearts to listen to what His Spirit wants to say to us about the affairs of the day. I have found that Holy Spirit is ready and willing to speak to me about anything that concerns me. It’s an amazing blessing that has brought me peace and perspective more times than I can count.

Not only that, the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.  We have the hope of eternal life.  As Paul wrote to the believers in Rome long ago, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11 ESV). We don’t live for this life only. A million years from now, this current trouble will be only a memory, but how we respond to Him in the midst of it will have an eternal impact. He is developing our hearts, training us to trust Him, preparing us for glory. The rulers of this age quite clearly do not know what to do. They are making it up as they go along. I speak this with no disrespect. They are doing their best, and they are in need of our prayers, but they are clearly overwhelmed.

Our God, however, is far from overwhelmed. He is at work in this situation for the good of those who love Him. He is not worried or anxious. He is working in those who trust Him, preparing them for what is to come.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV

People of God, let us rise up in courage and seize the day. His Spirit lives in us.

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Going for the gold

The Vancouver Winter Olympics are underway! After months of anticipation, the games are finally a reality. Go, Canada, go!

Like most Canadians, I have been enjoying the games. The opening ceremonies were spectacular and did a good job at honouring Native culture. The fence around the cauldron is unfortunate, and the weather has been wacky, but the games continue, and overall most Canadians seem genuinely enthusiastic. Despite some negative press and complaints about the inevitable glitches, there is lots to cheer about. The accomplishments of the athletes are truly impressive, and their level of dedication to the training and preparation process is a good reminder of the value of discipline and sacrifice. Some of the contestants have had to overcome great obstacles to get to where they are. When I hear the stories of some of the individual athletes, I am struck by their willingness to sacrifice and endure pain and hardship for the sake of an opportunity to compete.

Many of the sports also highlight the importance of teamwork, and there can be high drama when a less-favoured but cohesive team scores an upset as a reward for their passion, perseverance and team effort. Thursday night’s hockey game, in which the Swiss team came within a hair of defeating Team Canada, was a prime example of this. The Swiss team had far less “star power” than Team Canada, and was not expected to win. They also had a hot goalie, a core of players that had been practising together for months, and that intangible element of desire and passion – and they almost pulled it off.

So was Switzerland’s almost-win a victory or a defeat? It depends on your perspective. I’m guessing that the Swiss are proud of their team today – as they should be. Even though I’m cheering for Team Canada, secretly I’m happy that the Swiss came so close Thursday night. Their near-upset was a good reminder for Team Canada that it takes more than talent to win a tournament, and that over-confidence (aka pride) can be costly.

The Swiss hockey team’s effort Thursday night was also a great demonstration of those intangibles – team play, courage, perseverance, giving your all for a great cause – that make the Olympics so exciting. The Hudson’s Bay Company has hit upon a very compelling advertising theme for the Olympics with their slogan We were made for this.  Just as significant is the Believe theme chosen by CTV and Rogers for the games. These advertisers have put their finger on the desire of the human heart to believe in something beyond ourselves and to give our best for a high calling. Events like the Olympics remind us that there is more to life than the everyday, humdrum routine of work, eat, sleep. There is glory to be won, there are prizes to contend for, there are great causes to embrace.

For most of us, though, Olympic glory can never be more than second-hand. When it comes to the Olympics – or, for that matter, the SuperBowl or the Stanley Cup, or American Idol, the Academy Awards, and so forth – the most I can expect to do is take pride in someone else’s accomplishments, not my own. I have no illusions about ever being a superstar in any form of athletics or entertainment.

This thought doesn’t worry me, because in the end, contests like the Olympics aren’t really that important.  The reason they are valuable is because they remind us of the contest that really counts. It’s the great cosmic battle between darkness and light, and the future of the human race is at stake. The good news is that the final outcome has already been determined. Heaven’s champion has already run his race and has won the gold medal for us. But unlike the Olympics, we get to do more than just watch – we get to run too. Amazingly enough, unqualified though we may be, we all have an invitation from Jesus, the Victor, to be on his team. If we run the race, we are guaranteed a share in His victory.  Everyone who joins His team gets the gold. In fact, we must run if we want to obtain the prize that is waiting for us. If we don’t run, we forfeit – to our eternal loss. But even though we’re guaranteed a share in His victory if we run the race, it’s no cakewalk. This race involves faith, training, courage, sacrifice, and life-long perseverance.

In the end, Olympic glory will fade. There is only one prize that will endure forever – the prize of God’s smile, His approval. Compared to this prize, nothing else ultimately matters. It’s the reward for turning away from the self-preoccupation that is so characteristic of our age, and choosing to live my life for the pleasure of the One who sacrificed His life for me.

I’ve made my choice – I’m going for the gold. How about you?

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