Thursday, January 24, 2013

You are HIS ~ Stacy

I wanted so much to matter to the world at large... As a young woman, I saw people whom I deemed important being treated with attention and respect, and I longed to be important enough to deserve those things as well. I look back on that young woman I was with a little sorrow. Wishing I had known -- not just understood logically, but really known and wholeheartedly believed then what I do now. The truth about my value. The truth about the life I was created to live.

Do you ever feel invisible? Unworthy? Do you find yourself sneaking glances at everyone else in the room to make sure you’re fitting in -- or at least not standing out? Do you ever assume that everyone else is in closer relationships than you, has more self-confidence than you, is better put-together than you, feels less needy inside than you?
“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.”
Peter’s there, riding up and down in a boat that was “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”
The figure coming toward them wasn’t a ghost. It was their Savior.
“ ... then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”
Then he did what I do every single day. And what you do every single day.
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14).
He took his eyes off Jesus.
When I yearn for the respect and recognition of others, I have taken my eyes off my Savior. When I burn with embarrassment over a silly mistake, reliving my bumbles and shortcomings over and over, I have taken my eyes off my Savior. When I ache for an earthly love that cannot satisfy the true longings of my heart, I have taken my eyes off my Savior.
“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Ps. 16:8)

Amy has in the past set an empty little doll’s chair on the podium as she speaks at her conferences. The exhortation is to live for an audience of One. Who or what sits upon that chair in your life? For whom (or Whom) are you performing? Whose opinion of you drives your actions, thoughts, and purposes? Which conversations do you allow your mind to dwell upon, rehashing what was said and wondering how it made you appear? When my audience is Christ, I am focused on bringing Him glory, rather than preoccupied with fears about my reputation, desires, and future plans. When my eyes are on Christ, I see how I am valued and cherished by Him -- not how I look next to you.
The wondrous, awe-inspiring part of this is that living wholeheartedly for the Lord and in constant focus upon Him is the most fulfilling of paths we can follow. It brings the most joy, the most satisfaction, the most (the ONLY) peace, and the most contentment for the span of our lives!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

The world -- and even our own hearts -- will give us countless reasons to pursue things that bring earthly reward, pleasure, and security. Some would have us believe that it’s a careless or radical thing to consider ourselves slaves unto Christ. But the truth is that we all serve someone or something. When we choose earthly masters, we’ve thrown our allegiance behind that thief whose hidden purpose is to kill and destroy. When we instead “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we choose to serve the only One Who gives life to the fullest!

But how do we do this? How do we turn what we know into how we live?
“Read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow ...”
Could the complicated questions of the Christian life really boil down to the basics we sang as kids in Sunday School? I have long struggled with how very much NOT ABOUT ME this is. God simply asks me to be in relationship with Him. I am to learn about His character, to seek His forgiveness for my sins, to study the life of His Son, to surrender to Him, to apply His truths to my heart by His grace. And He will do the sanctifying work in me? How great and loving is this God, to make this provision!

As to our part, here’s what it has looked like in my own life:

Replace “better” with “best”
Music is my favorite language, and for years I have enjoyed several kinds -- but there was specifically one kind I allowed myself to indulge in throughout my teens and twenties. A few years ago, however, I was convicted that, while they seemed innocent and very well could be to others, these songs had a way of drilling so deeply into my brain that I would literally lie awake at night trying to quit rehashing them. I’d wake up in the morning already singing them in my head. They colored what I thought about and what I meditated on. I had slowly allowed myself to settle for something second best.
When God revealed this as an area in which I needed to yield to Him, I initially grieved the loss of hundreds of “best friends” in the form of songs I loved and knew by heart. I then asked Him to begin to replace the time they occupied in my mind with thoughts of Him and praises to His Name instead. Not surprisingly, it was a prayer He was delighted to answer, and I now awake as David proclaiming:
“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love ...” (Psalm 59:16)
My mind is freed up to listen to His promptings, and my heart spontaneously sings praises to Him throughout the day -- sometimes even unconsciously! Something does not have to be overtly evil in order to be a sin or distraction in your life. Invite the Lord to test and try your heart and your habits, and prepare to be delighted by the best He’ll use to replace the better!

Give yourself the gift of time with Him
Several years back I decided I wanted to start running. I talked with “real” runners, read about running, researched the best shoes and sweat-wicking gear, and started a training program. The problem was that, after jogging a couple of blocks, I thought I was going to die. I had heard many times about something referred to as a “runner’s high,” where the runner ceases to feel any pain from the exertion and instead just experiences a heady thrill -- sometimes for mile after mile. I could never get far enough to transition into that stage, though, and started doubting it was even true. Until one day when I was preparing for a 5k -- my first “real” run -- and decided I’d push through no matter what it took. That day I experienced it. That day, I believed.
Sometimes I think of that experience in relation to reading God’s Word. I used to read my Bible out of a sense of guilt. I couldn’t believe that I would ever “hunger and thirst” for it as David did. I met Jesus and was forgiven of my sins when I was a very little girl. But I really met Jesus when I opened His Word. And opened it again, and again, and again, pushing through when my heart wasn’t in it. It didn’t take long before I anticipated that time. Then needed it. Then required it. And now, long for it as for nothing else.
I have a friend, a young mother, who has five children. She found it a constant struggle to spend time in God’s Word. One day He prompted her to pray that He would wake her before any of her kids woke up in the morning, so she could spend that time with Him. Her flesh screamed, “I need sleep!” But she made the most astute observation. Did Jesus not take the meager loaves and fishes and make them “enough?” Could He not also make whatever sleep she did fit in around 2 a.m. baby feedings enough?
When I applied this same commitment, I was astonished by three things:
The Lord DID “wake me” before my alarm went off. Every day.
I was never exhausted for having woken up to spend time with Him in the early morning.
He returned countless blessings to me for the meager offering of my time.
Think of it -- that the God of the universe values you and me enough that He longs to spend time with us!

Stay committed to your pursuit of Him
I’ve learned the hard way that we can’t store up spiritual health for tomorrow. Yes, we can learn and grow and draw nearer to the Lord, but we can’t do double devotions or extra prayer today and hope it will carry us into tomorrow. The times I’ve been neglectful of my daily time with Him, I’ve been astonished at how quickly my heart has grown colder to His voice. It’s not worth the lost time.
I wish I could go back to the young woman I was and invite her -- implore her -- to remember who she really was. Her intrinsic value as an heiress to the very sufferings and glories of Christ Himself (Romans 8:16-17)! All those insecurities and fears seem pretty silly now, knowing what I know, because what I know now is the truth from God's Word. I didn’t get more important when other “adults” were suddenly required to defer to me. Nor was I less important when they brushed past me, making me feel invisible and like just another kid.
How precious the truth that, when it comes to God and me, there’s no “just” before my name. I’m not “just” another hurting soul on his already too-full plate. I’m not “just” another seeking heart in a world full of wanderers. I’m not “just” another fearful, excitable, overextended, under-qualified, always-falling-short, earnest, eager being whom He is obligated to watch over. Indeed, I cling to the same promise Israel’s only Savior spoke to His children’s troubled hearts generations ago:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b)
Three words that change both my life on this earth -- a mere blip across the landscape of time -- and my very eternal destiny:

I am His!

That is the life we were called to live.

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