One Day at a Time
It is good to be back in the fight. The last few weeks were tough and spiritually bloody but I am back on my feet and in training again. Personal set backs are difficult. The first one at the scene of the accident is always the enemy and he is quick to pile on blame when I slip backwards to old patterns of living. He is so quick to fill my head with the thoughts that I will never change and I should stop kidding myself, that I am an old dog and can't learn any new tricks. When will I learn to realize that we all experience set backs and disappointments with ourselves?
1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
I share this not as a discouragement but to encourage you. After bouncing off the bottom (or hitting the mat) the Lord is always gracious enough to give me time to recover and the strength to get back into the fight. Getting back into the fight is the key. We can never stop getting up of the mat no matter how many times we are knocked down in a round, keep getting. Time to turn the page to a new chapter.
Recently I was listening to one of Jim Ramos's podcasts in his series called Men In the Arena. As a side note, if you haven't listened to Jim's podcasts I recommend them and think you will find they offer effective tools to operate as a godly man. Back to the podcast, Jim was interviewing a young (age 31) author who posed the question to Jim, "what is one thing you would do differently if you had the chance to do it over again?" That question resonated in me and my personal response surfaced quickly. If I could do life over again I would live more for each day and less for the future. I am not talking about my future in eternity, I am talking about my future on earth. You see as I look back on life I realize that I have always looked to the future to give me motivation, a sense of accomplishment or a sense of achievement, True, I did look ahead and strive to do my best and was motivated by projects that had a potential future payoff and the opportunity to make my efforts worthwhile and meaningful. Unfortunately, most of the time I reached the end of the journey and whether or not it was successful I rarely, if ever, stopped and celebrated the achievement. Instead, I checked the box and immediately looked down the road at what was coming my way next.
Matthew 6:34 'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'
As a business owner, I found it easy to justify that I was always looking down the road to see where my next provision was coming from was rooted in my being responsible. That argument works in the world but in God's kingdom we are to learn to trust in Him and that He will provide for all of our needs. This is where my pendulum regularly swings too far in the flesh rather than in my faith. What causes me to go through the entire process of planting seeds, doing the hard work and then at harvest time I quickly gather the crops, cram them away in the storehouse and go back to working the fields again? Harvest time is meant to be a time of celebration and reward for the hard work that has gone into producing the crops.
I like how Benjamin Corey of World Vision describes the harvest in reference to Matt 9:35-38
"Harvest then isn't something that we experience once a year, but something that we experience on a daily basis. This is where those words Jesus uses are so important: The harvests we experience on a daily basis don't actually belong to us — they belong to God because he is the Lord of the harvest, not us.
Our jobs belong to the Lord of the harvest.
The money we earn belongs to the Lord of the harvest.
Our spouses and children belong to the Lord of the harvest.
It's all his.
When we put God in his place — his rightful place — we recognize him as the Lord of our harvest. We recognize that he is the one who gave us hands to work, that he is the one who supplies our provisions, that our family is actually his family … that it rightfully belongs to him."
As I look back on my walk with Christ I recognize that I knew in my head what Benjamin describes above was true but in my flesh I lived like the responsibility and resources were more mine than His. Did my efforts actually produce more than what God would have done on His own to date, absolutely not? Now as I look back upon my journey I recognize how the seasons of harvest were often lost, robbing me of the joy of celebrating God's great provision for my family and the lost enjoyment of the works of my hands. I realize that not only did I rob myself of this joy but I also robbed my family of it and that was wrong. They supported me during the entire process and put up with the demands placed on the entire family, they deserved to experience and celebrate the harvest with me. There are times I think, I alone am caring the weight of the world on my shoulders and that just isn't true. First off, it's all His and my family does carry a lot of the emotional burden through their support and having to walk through the journey by my side. Furthermore, there would be no purpose in my efforts if it weren't for my family. They are the reason for my efforts and toil. If I am painfully honest with myself I recognize the root of my actions really stems from a lack of faith. A lack of faith that God truly wants to bless me for my efforts not because I performed at some exceptional level but merely because I am His son and He wants the best for me. No high bar to clear or performance standards to surpass. It is just because I am His son.
I don't know about you, but I find it is so much easier to recognize this type of mindset in someone else than it is in myself. It is much easier to encourage others that God is working in their lives and that they are worthy of His care than it is to believe that about myself. For me I always apply a stricter set of standards to earn the Fathers love and care.
It has certainly helped to have 2 adult sons who are experiencing the demanding lifestyles required to be military officers. I get to experience second hand the demands placed on them and as a father want the absolute best for them every step of the way. The challenge now is that I am a father of adult children and can do little or nothing to help change their situations other than offering them consistent support. As I do so, I am learning to understand much more clearly the Father's heart towards me because of what I feel in my own heart towards my own sons and daughters. I have found being a father of adult children is much harder than being a parent of young children. As a parent of young children I was able to intervene and help insulate my kids but as a parent of adult children my ability to intervene is almost non-existent. This forces me to become more dependent upon my faith in the Father and my need to pray for their protection, provision and own trust in the Lord. Raising young children is certainly more physically demanding but I find being a parent of adult children is more emotionally taxing.
Now, as I meet with young men who are on their own successful journey in their careers and business pursuits I strongly encourage them to stop along the way and celebrate the victories and seasons of harvest when they come. For myself I am learning it is never too late to learn how to recognize there are different seasons of life and God puts the harvest seasons is our lives because He intends for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Working the fields is second nature for me but I am learning to enjoy the harvest.
Below is a brief video encouraging us to always continue to press on and never give up: