From Weakness To Strength

How many storms must we go through before our faith breaks through and we are not concerned about what other people say about our weaknesses? If the truth be known, we are weak in various ways that all too often we are afraid to admit, because we fear that we will be scorned, rejected, or taken advantage of somehow.  But that’s not what needs to happen, and normally it doesn’t. Rather, if we allow our faith in God to break through, God’s power will come to us and help us in the way that we need help. Most of the time that help comes in the way of changing our way of thinking, from a physical point of view to a spiritual one. Pauls’ letter to the Romans (12:2) encourages us that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…” Recently I had a dream about a previous event that caused great pain in my life. When I awoke for a moment I thought I was still in the dream. I looked around and realized that I was safe, but I also realized that the event would forever be like a thorn in my side, except without the fear, without the frustration, without the power it seem to have in my life. My weakness remains, as Paul’s thorn remained, but with God’s power inhabiting that weakness, he has turned it into his strength to do what I was meant to do and in fact need to do, that I may inherit the joy, the love, and indeed the very life, that God wants to bestow upon me. The dream served to remind me to depend on and have faith in God’s mercy and his grace. Understanding that this is very different from depending on one another, which as we all know can be risky, particularly since we are all imperfect in some way; the good news is that because of our relationship with Christ, God takes on that risk if we just allow him by our faith to be in control of our lives and we learn to forgive one another as God has forgiven us.

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Worth Waiting For

In spite of it all, our history, traditions and reasoning, God seems confident that we, his creation are worth waiting for. Yet we make him wait for our affection, compassion, commitment and ultimately our love. Perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a risk at all, at least not on God’s part but rather a challenge. Dare we open our hearts as children, that we may receive it fully and completely so as not to allow the obstacles of the storms, fears and doubts, overwhelm our desire to travel this Christian journey in peace? The alternative of course is to do what many of us have done and receive it conditionally and with restriction in our lives, in that as long as we experience the good without disturbance we are all too eager to acknowledge it’s power and authority. Soon afterward mistakenly believing that it doesn’t matter what we do or whether we do anything at all the spirit is favorably guiding us. Subsequently, when the storms come (especially the the sudden ones) we tend to feel as if they are a personal attack specifically against us resulting in the all too well-known disparaging thoughts; “Why me? and Where is God in all of this?” While the Holy Spirit has no respect of person, the reality is that neither do the storms. Whether we walk into the storms willingly or whether they come upon us without warning, we are the ones who happen to be in its way. Either way the challenge is to hold fast to the power and authority of the Holy Spirit while in the midst of the storm, which historically and traditionally submits to that over which it ultimately has no authority or power.

Risking the Holy Spirit

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the gift of the spirit was specifically anointed on certain people. Not until the New Testament is the gift of the spirit poured out on the world both Jewish and Gentile. In retrospect, from a human point of view, making the gift of the Holy Spirit available for anyone seems to me a huge risk on God’s part. For those who believe in its power and authority, such a gift in the wrong hands can prove devastating to the one who possesses it, if not properly used. Certainly in biblical times there were many who did just that, using trickery, and false witness to convince others of their authority thus causing people to turn away from God’s truth. (And) Even now when storms, distractions or disillusionment happens we become vulnerable to the trickery, and false witness of this day as well, and we turn away from what God has promised. But what about God’s point of view?  Though we can’t presume to know God’s thoughts, the fact that Pentecost occurred and given the gift of the Holy Spirit through his son; who does such a magnanimous, and some would say awesome, philanthropic act as to make available a free gift with such power and authority? I have to ask of myself, how is it that a gift so generously given, when received is either selectively used or used with severe abuse? Surely God already knew at least by that point that the risks were at best 50/50, some believing, while others just shrug it off. As time moves on, of course the risks become greater as some, believers and non-believers, now claim to possess the spirit without evidence of really having it. Surely today with all of the distractions and disillusionment of what we see and what really is; the thought of the Holy Spirit reconciling our hearts to the mind of God in the midst of struggle (storm, distractions, doubt, fear etc.) seems like an overwhelming task, yet clinging to the hope of this ultimate goal continues to live on today. As the world turns and we become more attached to tangible things, our journey toward reaching the intangible seems harder and longer to reach. Perhaps however, in God’s way of thinking, abandoning this hope even if only for a few was never an option and it seems that Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit) perhaps, is not God’s ultimate act towards his creation. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of taking the risk?