Confidence Game

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him:” (2 Timothy 2:11)
I like how Paul opens with the first part of the above. A “faithful saying”. Put differently you might say it’s something you can “bank on” (how interesting). Perhaps you might word it otherwise as a “trust issue”, yet another finance-oriented term, depending on how you look at it. But think of it as a game, something taking place within the confines of a set space and a set of rules. Rules that, God the Father Himself, however omniscient/omnipresent/omnipotent, abides by.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us:” (2 Timothy 2:12)

But Paul here is talking to Timothy about Jesus Christ. Think about the Trinity. Jesus is a human, like you and I. But the Father is His own class of Being. One of a kind, actually. And yet He chose to reveal Himself to the world in the person of Jesus in order to both show love and atone for sin. These are the rules of engagement. Seen from the perspective of the Father (His vantage point—way up there where the light is a constant orange/blush color and it’s freezing cold—absolute zero—but you don’t feel it, the clouds drifting lazily by) it might look as if life’s a game. And the only reason I say this is because of what Christ has already said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He has won this game, the game of life. And yet, moving forward, it very well may look to be something the exact opposite of rule-based (seriously, how much of life is out of your control?) and, also, fun. What kind of God is this (see Psalm 115:3)? Who flouts convention and throws around lives and circumstances like so much dead weight, looking for someone to worship and love Him in return? Sounds like your garden-variety dictator/voyeur, shallow in personality and callow in real-world exposure. But this is what Paul points to when He references Christ’s sufferings. I mean, who doesn’t want to be up there? Free from the trappings of gravity and time? God is holy. He must “[abide] faithful”, as it says below, in order to keep this plane functioning correctly. Yet Jesus came and got His hands dirty, so we could experience a pleasant eternity. And all He asks that we do—whether we are entering the Kingdom for the first time or continuing on in a life of love—is “believe” (see John 6:29).

“If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

If you’re reading this and perfectly content with your lot, your space—without God, more power to you. But know that Jesus and the Father are One. Along with the Holy Spirit, they form a complete picture of existence-as-a-sentient-being. While we are not God and never will be, we were created in His “image and likeness” (see Genesis 1:26-28) and the sufferings of Christ, provided you accept Him as the only way back to the Father, will ensure you get to taste what might be described as the purest Out of the Box experience a human could ask for. God cannot deny Himself, as it says above. And He cannot deny us when we deny ourselves under Christ. This is the source of all true confidence. Where the prize is under each of the shells, all the time. God reached down from His throne on High through the person of Christ so you could be up there with Him. Where the only air you need is the Holy Spirit.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

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Nothing to fear, but…

Well, which one is it?

Perfect

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote a short story. A first person narrative called “Underground”. It’s the first part of a (slightly) larger work called “Notes from Underground”. In it, the unnamed narrator is monologuing to you—presuming to know everything you think in response. His voice is one of utmost certainty, having lived forty years underground and surfacing now to spew his diatribe at those who’ve kept him under. You realize very quickly that not only is he intelligent (he admits as much), but that there’s something lacking in his introspection. Namely that very thing: the capacity for objective and impartial introspection. This warrants more than I have time to elucidate here, but suffice it to say, when one doesn’t view things from the right perspective, their vision is skewed and everything following after will be askew, as well. Inwardly and outwardly. One point on which I agree is where he speaks of man’s capacity to create, his proclivity to creativity. He reflects also on man’s innate tendency to destroy. And in referring to both states (creation preceeding destruction), he makes an interesting comment: “he (a man) is himself, instinctively afraid of acheiving his goal and completing the edifice (building, monument) he is constructing.” Because, he later goes on to say, once the thing is done, he will feel the need to continue on and either create something else, or destroy that which was created. In other words, true satisfaction is not acheived from doing either thing. When I was a kid, I’d get a new Lego set and it would stay built for a day or two at the most. I’d take it apart and let my imagination run. Nothing wrong with that, I’d say. But…

“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17) What Paul is saying here is that the things we do on the outside do not make for a life well lived. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15) Nor does creativity that’s devoid of God’s touch. Creativity is certainly one of the best things that we as humans can do. To bring to life an invisible notion that rests—unseen by everyone else—on our insides. But! None of these things bring true, lasting contentment in and of themselves. And I think this is what we fear. This is what the unnamed man in Dostoevsky’s story is trying to explain.

Love

Marianne Williamson writes in her book A Return to Love: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I think I see what she’s saying though I can’t say I agree a hundred percent. To feel empowered to overcome the obstacles of daily mundanity and every other foul tempest that life and the world tries to throw at us is certainly one of the greatest desires of life. But please understand, fear based on our inadequacy and powerlessness is borne by not viewing those two states from the right perspective. Paul in his temptation, encounters Jesus, who tells him, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) The truth is, as Jesus says in John 15 (verse 5), “for without me ye can do nothing.” It would seem that Paul is dealing with this very declaration. He was powerless to deal with his “thorn in the flesh”. So after Paul suffers a little, he declares the truth as he’s experienced it when he writes to the Philippians (4:13): “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” We very well may be powerful beyond measure, but it’s only when we see that power as having come from Jesus and to be used as He shows us. To love, to listen, to learn. And to bless others. Jesus makes us adequate. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, emphasis mine)

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Casts Out

Anyone who has submitted to the teachings of Jesus for their life, and continues on learning from Him is His disciple. He didn’t have just twelve. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Oswald Chambers tells us what he says that the disciple’s greatest fear is. Listen: “The greatest fear a disciple has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for—love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men—will not win out in the end.”

I suppose that is a concern. A slight nagging doubt that flares up every once in a while. When you look out at the world and how so many people wallow in their unbelief. Wanting them to see the beauty of God and to reject the blindness they don’t realize they’re inflicted and infected with. But again, without seeing things from the right perspective, fear is understandable. But fear is not the right reaction. When Jesus tells Paul that His “strength (power) is made perfect in weakness” it’s understood that it’s God’s desire, not just our own, to see the world come to Jesus. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men (and women) unto me.” (John 12:32) Our responsibility is to remain connected to Jesus. Through worship, fellowship and communion. Let the fears and concerns inherent to life come and go. Like water under the bridge or over the dam. His “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18)

Fear

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Order Out of Chaos

When I was a kid, I read the word “chaos” and understood what it meant. In other words, I was able to use it in a sentence correctly. I could spell it too. What I didn’t understand however, was the pronunciation. I took the intital digraph (ch, sh, th, etc.) and instead of pronouncing it with a hard ‘c’ sound, pronounced the ‘ch’ as in “chapter” and probably made a fool of myself (“CHOW-ohs”). I think I came to the realization that I was mispronouncing it on my own. Which is good. There were other words however (awry, ciao, duodenum), where I was informed with derision that I was mispronouncing them. Kind of embarrassing. But that’s only two-thirds of the battle right? Maybe less (I really couldn’t care less now). I mean if you can spell it and you know what it means, you’re already on your way right?

Hmm…

In Genesis, God brought order out of chaos. The reason I say this is because I don’t know why God would create the earth (Genesis 1:1) and have it be automatically—as if by default—covered in water. “And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

“O Lord, Thou knowest.” (Psalm 40:9)

But I’m not here to talk about these things. I am here, however, to talk about what it takes to bring order out of the chaos of our lives. About chaos theory

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16, emphasis mine)

What do you think of when you read that? If you were to search your heart, would you find some vestige of envy for something or for someone? I’m talking to myself here too, you know. If envy, as James is saying here, is a precursor to confusion—or chaos as I’m going to term it—could it be that we’re participating in envy? God forbid that something so outmoded and impercebtible would be at the root of the mental torment and confusion that we experience. Sometimes on a daily basis. Maybe, just maybe, are we doing things that inspire envy in other people? Literally causing someone else to envy us? And what does he mean by strife? The Strong’s definition for strife includes such descriptors as intrigue and contention. What would be the motive for doing these things?

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Paul writes Timothy and says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7, emphasis mine) Paul identifies the counterpart of a sound mind to be “the spirit of fear”. Confusion, chaos, fear. All three qualities are the opposite of a “sound mind”. And when we are afraid that God won’t meet our needs or see to it that we get what we want or what we deserve, then I can see how obtaining said items by envy or strife might seem like a reasonable proposition. But it always leads to confusion.

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20)

God wants to move by His Spirit upon your waters and calm them. Upon mine. I find this to be one of the main points of tension in my life. When I think that what God has given me is not as good as what someone else has, let alone thinking that I don’t have anything at all, then I’m dipping my toes in the water of envy. Stirring up the “mire and dirt”, as it were. Why should I spend my time worrying about what other people have when clearly I know (do I?) that God Himself has taken the time to answer my prayers and meet my needs. And this isn’t enough? That’s ridiculous. “And if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” (2 Samuel 12:8)

“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and He to whom the Son will reveal Him.” (Luke 10:22)

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And I think this is where things break down. Forgive my wide-angle, free associations here. With reference to my childhood mispronunciations, it would seem I’m doing the same with God’s word. I might know how to spell it and how to use it in a sentence but when I really apply it in conversation, is it being mispronounced? Is it in your life? This is why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us with the pronunciation of our conversation.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:5-6)