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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another gift horse?

There are times in our lives when we might just look a gift horse in the mouth.  If you know anything about horses, the condition of their teeth and gums has something to do with the general age and health of the horse.  To look a gift horse in the mouth is to evaluate the "value" of the gift rather than being excited to have received it.  In the old days when it was the bread and butter of a farmer to have a good horse to assist in the farming, the value of a good horse was very significant.  Today, our vernacular might just say something like, "Don't look a gift car under the hood."  We all know having a horse not able to pull a plow, or a car not able to get us to our destination, is pretty much useless to most people, right?  So, why is it we are told to not look the horse in the mouth?  Isn't it important to know what we are getting? Yes, I think it is, but when we begin to consider the things God allows into our lives as "gift horses" - something we must constantly weigh the value of compared to the expense we might incur - we might just be doing a disservice to the "giver" of the gift!

Consider 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 MSG)

Rarely do we consider life's troubles as opportunities for joy in our lives.  In fact, we likely would rather turn the "gift" of troubles away!  If you read "between the lines" of this passage, you will realize troubles are assured, not something to we somehow avoid because we love Jesus.  They are part and parcel with the gift of life.  As I have often said, the purpose of the trials is to build our endurance and to test our faith.  They both put to the test and then help us build up the endurance we need for the next.  It is like when you test a roof to see it is water-tight.  You put it to the test and test the endurance of the shingles.  God's hope - endurance to go the distance.  Our hope - just make it through!  What we fail to recognize in the midst of the trial is the preparation for the next steps we shall take in life.  The trial today prepares us for the challenges of tomorrow.  They are making us ready for what we have not imagined or dreamed.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.  (James 1:5-8 MSG)

Many of us don't ask for the wisdom to know how to face the trial.  We simply look it in the mouth and reject it as something we'd rather not face!  James reminds us wisdom is available - we just need to ask.  Truth be told, I wouldn't want to go through the trial without the wisdom God provides!  The limited wisdom I have pales in comparison to what he provides when I finally stop long enough to just ask.  God does not resent us asking - but sometimes I think we believe he does.  So, we clam up.  We don't ask because we think it will "bother" him if we do, or he will roll his eyes and say, "Not again!  You asking me this again?"  The thing about asking is the results!  The reason for a trial may be hidden for a short time from us, but in the course of time, as we consistently ask for his wisdom, he will reveal what is needed to make it through the trial.  We have to ask with a sincere and seeking heart - this means we also are willing to be obedient, for sincerity involves the commitment of heart.

Whenever doubt is in control, we are likely to look the "gift horse" in the mouth.  Doubt leaves us feeling unsure, a little unsteady, and easily redirected by whatever seems to have the most pull on us at the moment. God wants us to be single-minded, not easily enticed or redirected by the stuff we might take solace in as a means of escaping the trial.  If we are honest with ourselves, we'd admit we already know this.  God looks for a people who do not waver in their convictions and who do not flit about from one "answer" to another.  

These might be familiar passages for us from the book of James, but I think they bear repeating from time to time.  There is much to be said about "not looking the gift horse in the mouth", but the most important thing for us to realize is even the "old horse" has a purpose.  Maybe we'd do better to ask God what it is he designed by bringing this particular "horse" at this particular season in our lives.  The "second thinking" of many of us is what gets us into the greatest amount of trouble in life.  We "second think" way too much.  I think we might just do a whole lot better in the midst of the trial if we'd stop long enough to do the "first thinking" a little better!  Just sayin!