During the presidential campaign we hear a lot about tracking polls. These polls reflected the candidates favorability rating from one week to the next, or even day to day. Have you considered doing some “Faith” tracking?
The process of tracking your faith requires a starting point and a destination. And, neither of those points are really places. You might associate the starting point of your faith with a place or a day or an experience, but the place isn’t the marker; it’s the moment of personal connection to God, the moment of new life, of new direction, of new birth—it’s your point of genuine God awareness and. You might call it a Spirit invasion.
On earth we call the faith destination”death,” from heaven it’s called “Life.” The years between the beginning and the end is our faith track—our spiritual adventure, our collection of ups and downs. On the up side, we see what He sees, feel what He feels, do what He does. He is found living in us. But most of the up sides were immediately preceded by a downside, a wilderness time, a period of pain or discouragement, failure, and/or stored up resentment. Together, life is lived in the ups and downs. Faith grows there.
Paul says that our “hope of glory” comes from one thing, “Jesus in us.” Remember, genuine faith can be tested, “Do you see Jesus in you?” Yes! You pass the test.
Will you go…through trials? Yes!…through pain and testing? Yes!
Will you have mountain-top moments that thrill your soul and lift your spirit? Yes!
Will you go through the valley and the shadow of death? Yes!
All of these experiences will shape the ongoing awareness of Jesus in you.
Many of our faith track events are painful, some seem unjust, and a few are downright unexplainable. But, God uses them all to shape us and test us, redeem us, lift us, and transform us. Along the way, these markers redefine us.
Do you see Jesus in the ups and the downs, in your attitude, in the faces of your fellow believers? Each step brings you new opportunities to do just that.
When you’re in the middle of pain, however it’s tough to think of anything but you and the pain.
Decades ago I was on staff in a Southern California church. My ministry areas included oversight of the education and youth programs. Lyn and I were in our fourth year when, out of the blue, I was called into an unscheduled Thursday evening meeting with our church Board.
The chairman didn’t waste any time. After a perfunctory prayer he read a carefully scripted letter that asked for my resignation. I was stunned nearly speechless. On the surface there was no case, but beneath the surface was one deacon’s complaint about my perceived lack of attention to his struggling daughter. To this day, I can’t remember the words of the letter, but I can still feel the pain in my gut. After a period of heated discussion the Board agreed to modify the 30-day severance. I was to be paid till I found a new position.
As I walked out of that room, I felt betrayed, abandoned, misunderstood, embarrassed, powerless, and a concoction of other emotions that I didn’t words to describe. How could I tell my wife about this? I wanted to run far away, to disappear.
I drove around trying to come up with a plan. My best plan? “Just wait till tomorrow, maybe Jesus will come tomorrow and I’ll never have to tell anyone.”
Once I was sure Lyn would be asleep, I pulled into the driveway and parked the car. I prayed, “God make it go away. Make it all a dream.” I quietly entered the house, tip-toed into the bedroom and gently crawled into bed hoping for sleep.
“How was the meeting?” Lyn whispered.
“Just a meeting,” I replied, but my silent tears spoke louder than my words.
She sat up in bed and replied, “No, something’s wrong. What is it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it now. Wait till morning,”
“No, let’s talk now!”
There was nothing left to do, my plan had failed. In fact, it looked to me like my whole life was a failure. “They fired me tonight. We are supposed to announce it Sunday and say that I resigned.”
After an hour of reliving the meeting, Lyn asked, “Why didn’t you want to tell me this?”
“I want to be a success in your eyes. I want you to be proud of me. I didn’t want you to think of me as a failure.”
Then she said something that became the beginning point of a changed perspective. “When we got married we promised to love each other for better or for worse, when you refuse to tell me about this kind of pain, you are refusing my love. I want to love you now more than ever. I want to share this pain. Do you understand that.”
Within two months we found another church and a better house, but my heart was still carrying a load of resentment.
Then, less than a year after the firing, a totally unexpected phone call rocked my world. It was the wife of the Chairman who had read that letter, “Ron, Jimmy died yesterday, would you be willing to come back and help with his funeral? He respected you so much.”
Two days later I was standing in front of a packed house with a freshly emptied heart. God lifted my resentment, pulling it out by the roots. I was free to see beyond the unfairness and speak a blessing. It was a total God thing.
When you face unfair times, those painful experiences and out-of-control moments, talk about it. Talk to your spouse, a friend, a mentor. Call and share the pain and then ask God to lift the pain, to lift the root of bitterness…don’t let it grow deep, or it will rob you of grace (Hebrews 12:15).
When all the news in your life seems negative and frightening, look for God to show up, not to fix the moment, but to help you see past the pain, behind the words, and beyond the fear.
Then, get ready to feel the fingerprints of God.