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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spot the Differences?


Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; 
   then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. 
(Psalm 119:5-6 The Message)

What is it you compare your life to?  Is it another individual?  Perhaps it is a set of rules or standards you strive to adhere to.  Or maybe it is an illusion of perfection you set up as a "desired outcome".  Either way, you will be disappointed in comparing your "progress" in life to any of these!  When we compare ourselves to others, we can do one of two things - either we get really humbled by their actions (making us feel guilty), or we feel like we showed them up (making us feel really proud).  If we spend all our time trying to "live by the rules", we sometimes get so bogged down in the rules we miss the life that is happening all around us.  Most of us have had some type of illusion of perfection in our minds at one time or another - it does not take much to burst our bubble on that one!

David is very clear - the only thing worth "comparing" our life to is the Word of God (his counsel).  When we have a reliable standard by which to "measure" something, we are not disappointed with the results.  I began today with some pretty "unreliable" standards by which we can "measure" the course of our lives.  We have a much more trustworthy standard in the wise counsel of our Creator!  Who better to give us the directions by which to live than the one who did the creating in the first place?

As we digest these verses a little, I'd like us to focus on the word "compare" for a few moments.  When we understand what we are doing when we "compare", we might get a little insight into what it is that God has provided for us in his Word.

- When we compare something, we are examining it side-by-side with something else.  In other words, we examine it to see both the similarities or the differences between the two.  David says that when we put our lives up alongside the counsel God offers (the Word of God), it points out some of the similarities and differences within our lives.  That is a good thing!  When we know where we are the same - we can rejoice.  When we know where God needs to spend some time on those areas that stand out as "differences", we can take heart that his Word never returns to him without accomplishing what it set out to accomplish!

- The process of making a comparison is usually for the purpose of finding the quality or value in the object being compared.  For example, when we find a coin that dates back fifty or more years in age, we might go to the internet to find a coin collector's website.  Then we input the information about our "old coin" in hopes that when we compare what we are holding in our hand to that which is displayed on the screen, we will discover that we have something of infinitely more worth (value) than just the "stated" value of the coin.  That old "penny" suddenly takes on VALUE because of what the coin collector "reports" about the coin we hold.  The same thing happens when we compare our lives with the Word of God - God declares the VALUE of what he beholds as worth much more than the "stated" value of our lives!

David reminds us of the steps of a righteous man (or woman) - they are steady and they are progressive.  I have said it before - it is not in the beginning that we realize our path - it is in the finishing!  Value is sometimes not fully realized until a full examination is completed.  That old coin is turned over and over - examining edges, wear on the images displayed, the "mint" markings, and the period in which it was produced.  When we lay our lives out, making comparison of our walk with what the Word has to say about our progress, we soon find that there may be a little wear-and-tear on the "old coin", but the "mint" marking makes all the difference!  We are "minted" by God!  We hold the greatest "value" because of that "mint" marking!

The "period" in which growth is produced in our lives is often a telling feature of the value of the path we have walked.  Those "teachable moments" when God's Word was allowed to be the guiding force in our lives produce very specific "value".  Just a important as the "minting" mark is the "period" in which a coin was produced.  The coins of the greatest value are often those that were produced in times that were a little rocky!  The same is true in our spiritual growth - the rocky times produce some of the greatest rewards!

As you consider this passage today, ask God what "standards" you have been using to compare the similarities and differences in your life.  If it has not been the reliable measure of his Word - it may be time to consider a different "source" of measurement!