"If only" is not a phrase to live by.
"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit...And you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia."
1 Thessalonians 1:4-7
Thessalonica, a church that changed the world because Jesus changed them. They imitated the Lord and became an example to their whole region.
I don't know a single Christian that would say that our lives don't change or don't have meaning when we come to Jesus. If that was the case, why in the world would we even decide to put our hope and trust in Him? The whole premise of the Christian life is that we follow the One who brings great change and who has given us the promise that we are a new creation because of Jesus. There is so much hope in that statement: We are a new creation in Christ Jesus.
One of the problems is that we don't actually live that life, the new life. I'm not saying the new life is easy; it might actually be getting harder. What I'm saying is that we often put our hope in the idea that the world around us will change instead of focusing on how Christ is changing us. Or maybe I will start to feel better when these other people change. One of the ways in which this comes out is in the blame game.
- "If they would only do this, or stop doing this, then...."
- "If we just had the right people in political power, then we could...."
- "I can't get ahead in this world because my boss/workplace is...."
- "You just don't know what they did to me; I can never forgive them for...."
- "My spouse does not satisfy me; I'd be better off without...."
- etc, etc, etc...
The blame game gives power and control to other people instead of allowing God to have control. If you can always blame other people well, then you never have to stick around, you don't actually have to change, or circumstances are always out of your control."
When we blame, we actually give control of our lives over to other people. And though we say we want to be able to make our own choices or live the way that we want to live, blaming is often easier because it always puts the ball in someone else's court. Blame gives us the right to complain without taking any action. Blame also lets us sit in the seat of the past instead of taking hold of God's promises for the future. And the promises are abundant!
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 8:36 - So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Philippians 4:19 - And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 27:1 - The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear?
Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 6:31-33 - So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Ephesians 3:16-19 - I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
And this is just a sampling of the promises found in Christ Jesus. What do they all have in common:
- Don't worry.
- He is working all things out.
- You are a new creation.
- Christ is working in you and for you.
- The Holy Spirit is providing the power to make it through your day.
What Jesus has done for you is to provide you with a new life in a new kingdom. God's kingdom, a kingdom that is going to last into eternity. Our life here on this earth is just a pinprick in the grand scheme of eternity. Why are we worrying or stressing about a pinprick?
I'm not saying that this life will be all roses and chocolates when we start to follow Jesus. I'm more of a realist than that! Christ bore the cross for us and asked us to bear the cross as well as we enter into his new kingdom. That's a pretty tough statement. Life might be tough because we will find ourselves on the "outs" with this world. The world acts quite a bit differently than God's kingdom. So we should expect some push back, and we probably should feel like we don't really fit in here. We must unlock ourselves from this world, unlocking our expectation that it will act like the kingdom of God or that we can "make it" the kingdom of God. This is just a good way for us to cast blame because "those other people won't get their acts together."
Blame says, "the problems in my life are because of other people." God says, "I've set you free from the hold of this world, and you can live as a new creation." We need to continue to have our minds renewed so that we can take on a more future-focused and solution-oriented direction in life. [Christ has given us a future and has provided the solution to the problems of this world!] We get to walk in that!
Can we stop giving control to other people and circumstances and allow Jesus to have that control? Now is the time to take our eyes off of this world and focus them squarely on Jesus and who we are in Him. Take hold of God's promises and claim them as your own because He has given them to you. You can live in the hope that Jesus has provided!
If you are having trouble with this, we would love to help. There are brothers and sisters who would love to encourage you on your journey in Christ. If you are really bogged down in the grief of this world, I would love to help you work through that as a pastoral counselor. Check out this link for more information on that process. FBC Hope
We know that life can be tough. It's a good thing that we get to lean into a Savior that proved Himself more powerful than this life.
Let me leave you with this prayer today found in Ephesians 3:16-19:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.