We’ve had Good Friday and then a Saturday. Some call it sad, or silent, and for some it’s just Saturday–that day of getting things done. But Sunday comes and with it the recognition and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. There’s sunrise services, pancake breakfasts, and coffee. Kids and candy. We sing songs celebrating the cross and hear sermons centered on Jesus.
But what happens Monday? We drag ourselves out of bed still half drugged by all the delicious food we ate the day before. We stumble and bumble as we take one wobbly step after the other.
Do you forget the power of Resurrection Sunday and turn to the power of caffeine to make it through your morning? I stumbled through my Bible reading today and didn’t feel awake until I gulped that cup of steaming coffee. How does the resurrection change your life? Or does it?
I’m sitting here, slouched low with a blanket tossed over my lap. The skies are laden with hidden snow and a wind that slips through the cracks of this old house. I wonder how quickly bedtime will get here and I sigh as I wonder where that resurrection power went. Today felt less than powerful.
Is God’s grace only good for when I am full of energy? Is it grace when I’m on top of my game, but have I lost my hold on grace when my speed is that of a sloth?
Could it be that we have our understanding of grace misconstrued? What if it’s grace to embrace moving at a slower pace? What if it’s grace to snuggle a little longer with your babies or linger over that cup of coffee as you listen to the birdsong?
It’s the start of a new week and we experienced the climax of Christiandom this weekend. The betrayal. The sorrow. The beatings. The grief. And the wonder. It’s all grace because it was part of God’s plan to bring us to himself through his son Jesus.
And if grace can include the hard then we must look at our hard through the lens of grace.
Remember that morning where you longed for an intravenous line of coffee and it took all day to get your engines going? There’s grace in it because Christ is in you.
Yes, we have responsibilities that call us. And we’re going to eat too much and pay for it the next day. We’re going to be irritable and snap at our co-worker, our family, or our friends. That doesn’t mean grace has left us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:7 ESV
It’s in those moments, when exhaustion sets in or irritation rules us, that we need to remember that it’s not our actions that prove grace is in our lives, but it’s God’s mercy that he washes us and renews us by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t ebb and flow based on your mood or energy or what happened to you today. It’s our response that ebbs and flows and the more we relax into God’s transforming, amazing grace, the more we’re changed.
The Takeaway for Grace
As we surrender to the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit our wretchedness gets exchanged for grace, our lost-ness for found-ness, and our blindness for sight.
On your next bad day, take a perspective shift and ask God to show you the grace in it. It could be developing perseverance, endurance, maturity, or hope. Today, I knew God as my strength, not just to help me with the physical exhaustion, but emotional strength as I dealt gently with my people.
“Where there is life, there is hope,” is an old Roman adage. But it’s not a certainty. It’s not a guarantee that just because you’re alive, you have hope. Hope is so much more than being alive–it’s nebulous and concrete–it can’t always be explained, but must be experienced.
Hope makes a way for us to touch life with tenderness, taste life with delight, view life with optimism, and hear the song of life. It’s in our most devastating moments that we can experience the highest hope. But how?
How do we transition from devastation to hope and furthermore to a lifestyle of hope? Is it possible to make hope our first reaction instead of our second or third or last?
The words Peter writes in 1 Peter, resound with the sound of hope in my ears. It’s a guidebook for living hopeful in this devastating world. Peter walks us through the definition, the defining nature, and the determination of hope.
Peter defines our living hope as the resurrection of Jesus and the future glory of his return. He shows us to live defined by hope by getting rid of the things that hinder it, and how to be determined in hope.
As believers we live future minded. Our present choices and actions are governed by the expectation of seeing Jesus face to face. There are three things that we can do in the here and now that will grow our hope.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
A disciplined mind.
Have you seen those toy sticky hands? My kids will occasionally get these plastic, gelatinous hands with a stretchy string attached and they slap it on the windows, the doors, and the sofas, and as it gets used it picks up dirt, debris, cat hair, and crumbs. And pretty soon it’s filthy. Sometimes walking through life can be like that hand. We’re reaching and touching lives and getting a little dirty. Things start sticking to us and pretty soon we’ve lost our hope. If you can center your thoughts on the return of Christ and live accordingly, then you will be effective in the world, spreading hope wherever you go. Outlook affects outcome and attitude determines action.
A sober mind.
Sober doesn’t mean serious. It means a calm, steady, and controlled mind by weighing the things you watch and listen to by God’s word and being secure in it. It stays aware that satan is on the prowl and staying alert to his tricks. Our cat is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We call him Sunny, but he is anything but sunny. He purrs and then bites. He prowls and then attacks. And when we forget his tendencies, we become prey to his tricks. He jumps at us and our hearts race and we remember his nature. Satan is like that. He prowls around attempting to distract us with despair, disappointment, and discouragement. But you have no reason to fear: Christ is coming! And for that reason alone, your mind can stay calm and secure.
An optimistic mind.
Positivity comes easy for some people. It’s like they ooze glitter and sparkles. It’s easy to look at that type of person and wonder if they understand that pain exists. As a positive person myself, let me assure you: I’m aware of pain. Pain has stolen my breath and turned my world dark. But I’m also aware that God is in all and over all and that he has my back. His heart is good and trustworthy. When the outlook is gloomy, have an up-look.
I took a hike along the Northshore of Lake Superior this fall. The beginning of the hike deceptively hid the strenuous middle. At one point I faced 275 stairs. In a row. I have a funny knee that doesn’t laugh at stairs. I knew the view at trail’s end would provide me with a beautiful reward, but I needed to stop in the middle to catch up and to look up. To pause and take in the beauty of the forest, the curling birch bark, and the way the clouds skidded along the mountain. Life is like that trail. It’s starts out innocent enough and then morphs into difficult challenges and the only way through is through. Look beyond your circumstances and see God. He’s there.
A disciplined, sober, and optimistic mind creates a spiritual mind-set that allows us to experience the grace and hope of God in the day to day grind of life. We have the assurance of seeing Jesus face to face at his second coming, but we have the ability to see evidence of him in our todays as we fix our minds on him.
The New Year is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The snow covers everything brown, at least in my neck of the woods. It sparkles in the sunlight. The coyotes have left their mark. The little sparrows leave charming tracks. And then there’s me–frozen in indecision–do I really want to mar the beauty? What if I take a wrong step? What if my snow angel ends up unrecognizable because I’m a klutz hauling myself to an upright position?
That fresh new year use to find me creating a long list of resolution. But I stopped making resolutions years ago. I couldn’t take the discouragement January 15 brought when I looked back and saw the mess I’d made out of the New Year. There were no cute paths or snow angels, but a chaotic effort at creating change.
I appreciate all the tools out there to help set goals rather than resolutions, but I still struggle. I adore planners–to look at–not implement. I’m still looking for the perfect system that will help me corral all my thoughts and hopes and dreams and what I actually need to do in my actual life.
Psalm 33:17-18: “The war horse is false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
A fully trained warhorse in medieval times was able to carry a fully armored knight, respond to the legs of a rider rather than relying on the reigns, and bite and kick on command. In our times of modern weaponry, the idea of using a horse for war is incomprehensible, but they were part of the valuable team of horse and rider. A knight could not have accomplished what he did without his partner, the war horse.
You can imagine with me the deep reliance a knight or solder had on his horse. And how easy it would be to place their hope in this well-trained animal. One would feel invincible.
Sometimes, our systems and goals become our war horse. We begin to rely on the plans we have in place to carry us through. And plans, goals, and systems are good things, and we should discover what works for us so that we can fully step into God’s purpose for us. But those systems won’t save us. They cannot rescue us.
God can. Our hope needs to be placed in his steadfast love rather than our resolutions. Only his love can keep us secure when our plans fall down or a storm erupts in our life. Build your systems, but place your hope in God.
It is good and right to make plans. But when we turn to our goals to control our life, we have placed hope in the very thing that will disappoint us. Our goals then become a source of discouragement because goals cannot rescue us. Goals guide us because they become a tool that God uses to bring about his plans for our life.
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
1. Consider what’s going on in your life: are you caring for aging parents? raising a young family? juggling ministry and vocation? Your real life affects your goals.
2. Pray and seek God for his direction.
3. Choose 1 or 2 goals to work towards rather than half a dozen. It’s so tempting to wake up January 1 and decide that your life needs a revolution. And for some, this might be the year for that, but for other’s the revolution comes about in one small step at at time.
4. Make your plans, but let go. Let God establish you. Place your hope in him and not your effort.