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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Challenged

 8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world."
(Matthew 5:8)

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
(James 1:2-4)

We all have differing responses when we are "challenged" - some rise up, take the bulls by the horns and plunge right in - still others withdraw a safe distance, consider their options and seemingly take forever to respond to the challenge.  Regardless of how we face life when we are "challenged", it is important to keep in mind that each challenge carries a purpose.  As Jesus taught on the Mount that day, he turned to his disciples (those closest to him) and reminded them that true blessing in their lives comes when heart and mind are in alignment.  It is the "purpose" of the challenge to assist us in identifying where our heart and mind may not have that "perfect alignment".

If you have ever driven a vehicle that is "out of alignment" you can relate to the "challenge" of controlling that vehicle.  It is a rough ride!  What you soon realize is that the vehicle has a tendency to "drift" to one side of the road without any real effort on your part.  You have to truly "work" to keep that vehicle centered on the lane!  That is how you know you might have an "alignment" problem - when there is continual "drift".  

Guess what - it is pretty much the same in our spiritual lives!  We begin to take notice of the fact that when faced with challenges, we often "drift" to the path of least resistance.  When we try to "counter-act" that drift, it becomes a little difficult to control mind, will, or emotions.  It takes effort - sometimes beyond what we seem to have left to invest in staying on course!

The truth is that the automobile "stays on course" much better when we routinely have the alignment checked.  As long as I have those tires rotated every 5,000 miles and request that mechanic also "check the alignment" with those rotations, I enjoy a much easier ride!  Take this idea into your everyday living.  It is in the continual focus of our "God-mechanic" on our lives that we can enjoy the alignment of our mind, will, and emotions with what he knows will produce the best "ride" in our lives.

My mechanic does not automatically check my tires for alignment - I have to request him to do so and I have to be willing to pay the price for that service.  The same is true in our spiritual lives - we have to make frequent requests of our Lord to "test our alignment" and then we have to be willing to pay the price in order to be "realigned".  

God sometimes points out that we are "out of alignment" much as my mechanic might point out uneven tire wear as a sign that my automobile needs an alignment.  God's way of "pointing out" our lack of alignment is often in the challenges of the day.  He often lets us "struggle through" the natural pull of our emotions, will, and thought process until we become aware of the lack of alignment.  Yet, there are times when we have been drifting long enough and he just simply sits us down and points out the "results" of our lack of alignment - the wear and tear the drift has taken on our being.

When challenged by the drift - take time to realign your mind, will and emotions.  You will save yourself a whole lot of unnecessary and expensive wear and tear!