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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Let's turn this boat around!

Thomas Fuller said, "Abused patience turns to fury."  Are you mad at God because something you have been hoping for has not come to pass yet?  I run across individuals who seem so angry at God because they had "big dreams" of being this or that, having achieve some goal, but in the span between the imagining of that dream and the present day their dream just never came to fruition.  We all can have times when we dream of the big catch and actually catch little fish!  Imagine the day the disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee all day without any fish in their nets for that day's work.  When they returned to the shore with all their disappointments and frustrations for a day's labor without a great return on their investment, they were met with Jesus telling them to go back out and throw their nets in again.  Would you have obeyed? There are days when we just go for it, and there are probably others when "enough is enough".  To be "asked" to do anymore is just not in the cards for us and anyone asking us to do so is just going to be caught in the crossfires of our anger or frustration.

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4 VOICE)

Tests and hardships - two things most of us don't stand in line for!  Yet, in the midst of the test comes the proving of what is within us and probably more importantly - who is within us!  Tests reveal the "center" - they have a tendency to strip away all the facade we each muster on a daily basis and then what is left revealed is what we really rely upon.  It could be our own efforts, or it could be we rely squarely on Christ to navigate us through the test.  Once the facade is out of the way, it is clearer for us to see who actually is at the center, even when we proclaim it is Christ, it may not be.

Hardships have a way of wearing us down.  As the name implies, it more than a short-lived test.  It is a condition that has a great deal of difficulty that most of the time we consider hard to endure.  There is some kind of suffering, deprivation, or even oppression within it.  This simply makes it a little harder for us to stand strong in the self-sufficiency of our own strength or endurance.  In those times, we toil continuously, but seem to get nowhere.  In essence, the hardship is really testing our endurance and most importantly, where it is we find our strength to endure.

As Fuller implied, when patience is tested beyond what we can possibly endure, we can get a little bitter in the circumstances.  This is why it is so important to consider what James says about embracing them with the mindset of having our faith increased and our patience expanded.  Most of the time we pray for patience in the test or hardship - but if we read this carefully, it is the hardship and test which reveals or builds our patience.  Many tests have come my way which revealed a lack of patience.  As a single parent, there was no escaping the pressures of parenting - so my lack of patience was often revealed when that "last nerve" was frayed and finally hit.  If I stopped in those moments to just consider the blessing those kids were in my life, I began to settle into the peace God gave.  It often doesn't take much to turn your mindset around - it just takes a step of obedience.  

We might not recognize the test or hardship when it first comes, but as it gives full "blossom" in our lives, we know it for sure.  What we can know is that in the moment we become aware of the test, or increasing difficulty, we can look squarely into the eyes of Jesus and then lean heavily upon his arms to make it through.  The disciples on that log day of fishing complained a little - they explained they had been out all day and their nets came up empty.  We do that, too.  God doesn't mind our complaints as long as the next step is to "set back out on the water" to do as he says.  In that step of obedience of "turning the boat around" and setting out again, we find the way for our faith to increase and as we "throw the nets in again" we might just be surprised as to how much God reveals about his strength, provision, and protection over our lives.  Just sayin!