A few thoughts coming off a quick coffee chat with dad…
No question, it’s been a crazy month – probably the most intense, unpredictable 2-3 week stretch I’ve ever endured. But somehow, someway, I’ve unlocked a few secrets on how to overcome anxiety while operating in stillness. While a second post will debut later this month, I figured I share a few breakthrough breadcrumbs for now:
1) Slow It Down – When we sense the target on our back, human nature is to panic and accelerate to resolution. Unfortunately, this is where many of us trip up. While prayerful proaction is ideal, when we’re striving for answers to stay ahead of the arrows, we tend to create more stress for ourselves. We beg God to know ‘why’ to justify the cry as if there’s no silver linings in persevering; however, when we surrender amidst the chaos and still ourselves in the face of uncertainty, only then can we truly embrace that James 1:2-4 joy.
In my case, there have been many problems of late. Yet, I’m grateful for them as they’ve helped me learn how living in slow motion can be a bridge to calmness. Granted, it’s a paradox to any cultural definition of pace. Then again, we’re called to run the race, not race the run. Given the latter doesn’t even make sense, I’d say all the more reason to stay cool when…
2) Defer Worry – When we feel stuck in a rut, like the cosmos is out to get us, the temptation to worry (and the emotions involved) is completely valid. I know for me when the break I crave seems far out of reach, I often cater to self-preservation as a means to sanity. Yet, as the Juby journey has taught me, when we acknowledge our weakness as an extension of worship, we find God’s perspective scaling our issues to the point deferring worry makes more sense than yielding to it.
To use a football analogy, the next time you feel sacked by negativity, invite God into the fear, press into His promises, and punt the worry away*. As Psalm 57:2 says, “[We] cry out to God who fulfills his purpose for [us]”. We may not understand the timing of them or the reasons for them; however, when we silence our ego, we enhance that still small voice reminding us how God’s faithfulness is far greater than our ability to see how it applies in any given situation. Put another way, our contentment and dependence does not have to be rooted in knowing how God works but rather knowing God, especially through the ups and downs of life.
Going back to Psalm 57:2, this makes perfect sense. Check out this context:
“Be good to me, God—and now! I’ve run to you for dear life. I’m hiding out under your wings until the hurricane blows over. I call out to High God, the God who holds me together. He sends orders from heaven and saves me, he humiliates those who kick me around. God delivers generous love, He makes good on his word.” ~Psalm 57:1-3 (MSG)
This tells me even though I don’t know what the future holds with Juby’s health, even though I don’t know if my car’s radiator will bust again, even though I don’t know how work and home life will balance out for the foreseeable future, I can count it all joy as I ride out the storm.
‘Cause frankly, I’m so weak right now, I have no margin to do otherwise.
*More specifically, as you rely on God, punt worry to the point it becomes obsolete the next time it makes sense
“…the Spirit of Truth…will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears, and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].”
“Be on guard; stand firm in your faith [in God, respecting His precepts and keeping your doctrine sound]. Act like [mature] men and be courageous; be strong.”
Fusing these contexts, we find powerful truth regarding God’s intent for our employers. As we act wisely towards clients making the most of our time (4:5) with solutions seasoned with salt (4:6), let’s not compartmentalize prayer as an extemporaneous exercise; rather let’s integrate it with expectancy into all we do from procedure and protocol to communications and collaboration.
‘Cause truth is: While popcorn prayers are perfectly acceptable within mind and with colleagues, to be watchful for God’s unfolding purposes, we must also be sensitive to what we should ask the Holy Spirit in terms of corporate direction. For many are the meetings we set to plan our course, but fewer the ones we set for God to establish His steps.
“The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, And He delights in his way [and blesses his path].” ~ Psalm 37:23 (AMP)
“A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.” ~ Proverbs 16:9 (AMP)
Granted, these exchanges can be one and the same but that, in part, is my point in writing this: As much as we chart and map our goals, for them to be set apart as anointed strategies, we must be steadfast and watchful in meekness, in praise, and the effort in between. Only then can we discern how to communicate the mystery of Christ through our work (v. 3).
As for today, my friends, uphold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, spiritual maturity, and the belief that as your hearts are encouraged, you’ll be able to understand the doors of opportunity (4:3) God opens for you to proclaim that mystery. Remember as you seek the Lord with a pure heart to ask Him to make His intentions known and His ways straight. In this way, even during your darkest days, you’ll be in position to stay alert and be watchful in prayer when you engage God at work.
As for next time, I will aim to build off this post with some more practical, baseline ideas on how we can abide in watchful prayer and thanksgiving during our daily routines.
I don’t emotionally invest in global events. I don’t turn on the news unless I have to.
And for good reason: Growing up, not only did the evening news proceed family dinners but often added stress to the dog days of school. Like most, I could appreciate the voice of Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw on a Taco Tuesday. But given the choice, younger me would rather comb through a newspaper by a fireplace than channel-flip through the five stages of grief.
Fast-forward to today and the bombardment of information is at a fever pitch. Precipitating our lives is a paradox full of silent scrolls, constant noise, and souls desperate to press ‘mute’ on what they can’t resist: The world at their fingertips. I know I’ve been there and am still there in some ways. After all, the quest for a distraction-less life will always be an uphill battle.
But I suppose that’s why I writing this: To remind us how in all things, there’s a right way to stand, a right way to contend, and a right way to honor.
Even when the news is disturbing, there are ways to walk in our priestly identity as messengers with purposed mouthpieces. The million-dollar question is: What are the ways and how do we walk them when the world around us is falling apart?
Imagine waking up to two powerful armies raging war against you. The future of a reformed country, not to mention your life, hanging in the balance. I don’t care what side of the bed you rise from. There’s no coffee in the world strong enough to offset that brutal awakening.
Yet, for our protagonist, Jehoshaphat – a devout, God-fearing king, that’s exactly where he finds himself. Contending with a stirred Judean ecosystem (thanks to his efforts in ch. 19*), the foreign foundation is fragile. The Moabites are ticked. The Ammonites are incensed. And the result is v. 2:
“Then it was reported to Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude has come against you from beyond the [Dead] Sea, out of Aram (Syria); and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is, Engedi).”
Hearing this news, Jehoshaphat could have easily yielded to fear and doubt. After all, when you learn a nation’s fate is at stake, staying calm can seem like a tall order.
However, it’s here where Jehoshaphat makes a critical decision: Rather than panic into premature prayer, he seeks the Lord with determination, proclaims a fast and a gathering for His people to do the same (v. 4), and inspires unity ahead of the victory to come.
Following his prayer in v. 5-12, we see the evidence of Jehoshaphat’s faith through the response of his people (v. 13-14). Not only do they stand and receive from the Lord but discern God’s battleplan through worship and thanksgiving. With corporate praise an official banner, Jehoshaphat’s army charges into war with confidence and is delivered from the men of Ammon and Moab – a thorough breakthrough epitomized in v. 21:
Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can blend courage with community and perceive conflict without overreacting. Especially in trials and tribulations, the way to stand is never an individual exercise. If you want to lead, you must first learn to lean, dependently with God first, interdependently with people second.
And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
…the structure is notable for a couple reasons.
Before Jehoshaphat requests of God, He acknowledges who God is. More specifically, Jehoshaphat declares God’s sovereignty and strength into his situation (v. 5-6) and in humility recognizes God’s dominion as infinitely greater than his.
While Jehoshaphat believes God will be faithful, He praises God for having been faithful (v. 7). This flavor of hope not only allows Jehoshaphat to contend through worship and prayer but anchors his trust in God’s character as opposed to his track record.
Jehoshaphat pleads in meekness and transparency. He knows God is aware of what’s going on but is still explicit in conveying his concern. To the extent Jehoshaphat resists fear, to that extent he spells it out knowing he has nothing to lose being honest with God.
Jehoshaphat concludes his prayer with a timeless mic-drop: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” With past victories in tact, Jehoshaphat could have easily relied on winning formulas, proven communication skills, even ally relationships. Instead, he boldly professes his weakness and seals his petition in a spirit of expectancy knowing this prayer was key to helping his people stand firm.
Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can surrender to God ahead of evil’s surrender to Christ in us. When you feel overwhelmed by clients, colleagues, and/or workload, don’t deny your helplessness but rejoice in the fact you can call on God to go before you.
3) The Way to Honor
While much attention is given to Jehoshaphat’s prayer and victory in 2 Chronicles 20, the epilogue is also worth noting. For starters, Jehoshaphat’s prioritization of consecration over celebration (v. 26) is indicative of a leader who cited his honor correctly. Had Jehoshaphat’s pride surfaced, he could have fallen victim to the same vice he was rebuked for in chapter 19. Yet, as we find, rather than fall into idolatry, Jehoshaphat maintains holy reference by blessing the Lord with his troops. The spoils of war now altars of gratitude with legacy ties to this day.
After exalting God on site, Jehoshaphat and his men return to Jerusalem to commemorate their freedom (v. 27-30):
“Then they returned to Jerusalem with joy, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, led by Jehoshaphat, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres, and trumpets to the house (temple) of the Lord.And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest on all sides.”
This conclusion tells me two things:
As an appointed leader, Jehoshaphat accepted conflict with courage, went into battle with assurance, and conquered his enemies with humility.
As an anointed leader, Jehoshaphat accomplished these things in the joy and fear of the Lord.
Essentially, whatever Jehoshaphat set his mind to, it prospered because he cared more about what God said than anything else. Like today, the man encountered much in terms of noise and despair; however, as a man of valor, he kept his eye on the prize at all times – never wavering to ego, consensus or past strongholds. As such, it’s no surprise the rest of Jehoshaphat’s reign was marked by peace, tranquility, and rest.
Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can honor God through victory and achievement. While celebrations have their place, remember gratitude must dictate your gladness not the other way around. If you desire to serve the Lord in holy fear, start with joy rooted in thanksgiving.
Fortifying cities from idolatry towards holy reverence
They can be tough to handle. As one who has endured his fair share, my heart is sensitive to those wrestling with identity, to those struggling in the shadow of slander and prejudice. While some people know the truth of who you are, the fact is many are in the dark to what makes them unique. And if we’re to mature in wisdom and influence within our communal arenas, how we stand firm when assailed by this demographic is worth discussion.
Regardless of what we do or where we’re at, whenever vulnerability strikes, having a game-plan is vital in our quest to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Accordingly, here are three ways we can bust the boxes people put us in and prevent their labels from becoming our tags.
1. Anchor Your Belief
Before we take any action, the best way to deal with backbiting is to resist fear through the Scriptures. While how we respond as follow-through is important, how we react in the moment is just as, if not more, crucial. Here’s a check-down of some verses I quote when I sense typecasting, favoritism, or neglect:
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” ~ 1 Timothy 2:7 (AMP)
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4 (ESV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
Note how this is merely a shortlist; obviously, you can customize your ‘fear resistant’ prayer guide however you please. Just be advised when you’re on the clock in real-time, our tendency to misread and misjudge what we observe is constantly tested; hence, why it’s important not only to know what you believe but also how to take captive what doesn’t align.
Bottom line: When you suspect attitudinal shifts, be slow to believe what you perceive. Don’t be afraid to resist unnecessary judgments, labels, and deceptions. Even if all you can do initially is defer, defer in faith with the hope of casting all anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
2. Pray into the Offense
When we suspect people are labeling us, it’s hard not to take offense. Even if we can’t prove a typecast, the temptation to rationalize what we’re sensing is real, sometimes tantalizing. I know for me, when I perceive a relational distancing from colleagues or co-workers, I start to crave reconciliation before it’s necessary. On one level, I feel a surge of self-perseveration desperate to find a reason why; on another, I’m frustrated to have to own anything in the first place. It’s like a winless tug-of-war: I want to be heard, understood, and not given up on, but in case those fears verify, I want to, at least, be the next best thing…to be right. Not exactly a sustainable formula if community is to be a pure pursuit.
For those wondering why the transparency: I have no problem being vulnerable because I know I’m not alone. The fact is in most cases, insecurity fuels our offenses and if we don’t acknowledge and repent of them, they can pollute our view of relationships, identity, place and purpose, etc.
So what then? If people are nice one day and suddenly stop acknowledging our existence the next, we’re supposed to keep our mouth shut and be okay with it? Well, no, I’m not saying we neglect the opportunities to bridge divides. Conversely, I’m saying if grudges or walls emerge, we must first lean on God’s understanding to accurately see the situation. From there, we can take rest knowing we’re proactively sowing peace as opposed to reactively striving for peace. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Through Him, we can persevere in prayer and thanksgiving that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5).
Bottom line: Seek correction before direction. Let God be the space between your hurts and emotions. Release the want to control, manipulate, and be a victim. All the while, pray into the offense and don’t be overcome by the absence of good. Rather be the good in the voids you sense, real or imagined.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is . But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
While the general meaning of this passage is to approach evil in the opposite spirit, the concept of turning the other cheek can still be confusing. Is Jesus suggesting we tolerate the presence of malice, gossip, passive-aggressiveness, even silos in our workplaces? Is he hinting we embrace suffering and survivalism as socially acceptable? Not at all. Au contraire, he’s implying we encourage all people through a double portion of his nature.
For instance, if we encounter a void of good, when people are intentionally forsaking us, don’t respond by doing the same. Why lower your standards and behaviors to a level outside your faith? Instead, know your power source and abide in the current of his grace. In this way, you defuse offense, inspire virtue as a contagious overflow, and preserve what needs to be said in a spirit of love.
Bottom line: In the presence of evil, in the absence good, you can’t turn the tide if you don’t turn the cheek. Don’t live in defeat in a moment’s heat but be true to what is right as you stir others to do the same.
Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive back into my ‘Trinity as Structure‘ series to discuss the Trinity’s influence on teamwork. For now, I bid you adieu with an inspiring video from New Hope Church:
Note: Usually I separate the observations and applications when writing these SOAP Bible studies; however, I believe the following observations are better attached to their respective applications in light of the content. While normally I flesh out marketplace implications, due to word count, I’m allowing the pod above (and future pods) to cover this piece.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!“
1. I like how the Message captures Paul’s heart in v. 1: “Strength is for service, not status.” For one thing, it quickly defines what strength is designed for while contrasting it to the contrary. I might even add ‘skill’ to the ‘not list’ given our culture’s way of synonymizing strength to societal contributions. Still, it’s imperative we grasp what Paul is stating: We are strong in Christ meaning we’re strong in faith and in our conviction to persevere in weakness. Internally, this can mean accepting God’s grace without debate; externally, this can mean patiently enduring with shortcomings outside of our control. Regardless of how this looks, we must be thorough in translating faith to action since many practice truth in theory without it correlating to tangible care. For instance, some forgive without saying the words while others are easily content being willing to help without actually helping. Perhaps this is why in v. 2, Paul is straight-up straightforward: “Let each one of us [make it a practice to] please his neighbor for his good, to build him up spiritually.”
2. If there’s one main concern I have about the church (and the Christians in them), it’s how we have programs to reach people, yet avoid people’s troubles in fear of not being able to handle them. One could say we want to win souls for the Kingdom without having to address their warts and worries along the way.
Yet, as Paul emphatically states, in v. 3, “That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Put another way, He took on the troubles of the troubled and that in a nutshell is how we should approach the communal aspect of our evangelism and discipleship.
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”
3. The dance between the Message and Amplified translations in v. 4 is fascinating:
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.“
“Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.”
For starters, we don’t just endure through the Word; we encourage through it. Likewise, we don’t just read the Word to stay alert; we study the Word to inspire diligence and vigilance. After all, for counsel to exist, there must be a community of ‘two or more’ gathered (Matthew 18:20) where confidence and trust can be shared maturing in God’s promises. Furthermore, while it’s important to be ready for the ‘next’, we can’t get there if we’re not loving in the now with apparent hope. This is why trust isn’t an individual exercise, but a corporate pursuit. To be on mission with Christ is to co-mission with each other. All the more reason we should embrace weakness as our endurance, encouragement, and counsel strengthen and builds up the body.
4. Finally, in v. 5-7, we see the purpose of endurance and encouragement captured in one word: Harmony. To have harmony is to have unity. And like the early church in Acts, God desires these gifts to help us be of one mind and one heart…according to Christ Jesus. But how do we achieve this in a way the words resonate at our core? In short, Paul gives us a template in these verses:
“May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as Jesus gets along with us all…so reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.”
Again, it’s interesting to note how many facets of God’s nature can’t exist in a vacuum or isolation. Case and point: “glory” – the very last word of this passage reminding us why all of this matters. As for how we experience glory, many would say righteousness, walking the walk, living out the truth we declare and believe, etc. But honestly, this is more how we posture ourselves to glory. To encounter it, we must seek the Lord as we reach out and welcome one another to where He is. Doing this implies love and as we know from 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins and seeks the best for others. Accordingly, as we’re inviting people to glory one step at a time, let’s embrace weakness as pressing into Jesus regardless of our circumstances. If we’re actively pursuing freedom and healing from strongholds and helping others do the same, no question we’ll inspire Scripture to come alive in people.
“Lord, we thank you for your goodness, your grace, your capacity to redeem and restore. We thank you for the golden opportunities and divine appointments you’ve been setting up around the world in recent months. We declare our joy and satisfaction in your ways and purposes. But now, Lord, we ask you to forgive us for not taking our faith seriously, specifically in the areas of relying on your strength and for helping others as we see fit, not as you see fit. We say it is you, God, who makes us fit, who equips us for good works and establishes our steps for them to happen. I know in my case I have hidden behind the quarantine at times and avoided being available to lick wounds from past resentments. I admit there have been times I’ve prioritized my perception of healing, basing it in distance from people and the absence of personal errors and wrongdoings toward me. But I’m gripped, oh God, by how you pursue us regardless of the trouble we’re in. I’m amazed how you’ve orchestrated the Scriptures through the passage of time for our benefit. As such, we choose to wait for you as you wade in for us and choose to lean on you as the rock of ages who never forsakes us. Even though we may not see the evidence of maturity and growth in every place in our lives, we ask God you help us rely on your steady counsel as our source, our refuge, and our strength. We choose to make peace with our brothers and sisters, with those who disagree with your ways and who criticize without compassion. We choose to not be disheartened by the evidence of disunity. Instead, show us the way to harmony and maturity in dealing with those who are lost, whether by faith, in character or in their understanding of you. After all, at every point in our lives, we are lost without you one way or another. Why not be warm in our correspondences with one another as we humbly seek your heart, your strategies, and your invitations? Why not say ‘yes’ to your unfathomable joy as we hand out those invitations to those who really need them for such a time as this? Be with us as we go forth from this moment and this place. To yours be all the glory, forever and always. Amen.”