I’ve made more mistakes and bad decisions than I could ever possibly count. I could probably list a hundred or more without any trouble, but I’d probably be forgetting thousands of others.
Most of my wrong choices and failures could be lumped into the major categories of career, finances and things I’ve said.
But the top 3 mistakes are all wrong beliefs, which then effect every area of my life…
1. I’ve had a wrong view of life.
For some reason, I got it in my head that life would be easier than it has turned out to be. I feel silly even saying that, because on a whole, and compared with most of the world, I have a great life. And an easy one.
I’ve never missed a meal. I never worry about having access to clean water. When I’m sick, which isn’t very often, I can see a doctor. I’m married to an amazing woman. I have four incredible kids, two sons-in-law (with a third coming in six weeks) and two wonderful grandsons.
I live in a great house with heat and air-conditioning right across the street from the University of Arkansas. Robyn and get to minister to together and see God use us through the ministry of Young Life.
I could go on and on about the blessings in my life. And yet, there have also been many failures and disappointments. I’ve failed where I thought I would succeed. I’ve had hopes and dreams that haven’t come true. Things I thought for sure would work…didn’t.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:15-17)
Do you ever wish the Bible would stop sooner? I mean just read those three verses again and stop before you get to the last sentence.
Sounds pretty good, right? Adopted as God’s children. We become heirs and we share in God’s glory.
But that last sentence is just as true as all the others. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”
That’s not the only place in the Bible where we see the reality of suffering. Actually, it’s all throughout the Bible. Suffering, difficulties, setbacks, failures, disappointments and consequences of bad choices are everywhere. No one is immune.
And yet, somehow, I missed it. And so I’ve had this mistaken belief that things would be easy or at least easier, especially when walking with God. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. And that leads to the second mistake…
2. I’ve had a wrong view of God.
I allowed my failures, hardships and disappointments to cloud my view of God. Because I didn’t anticipate suffering as a normal part of being human and even of being a child of God, I began to doubt God’s character.
I concluded He wasn’t good or loving or faithful. At least not to me. And that wrong belief distorted my view of Him, myself and life. It effected my thinking, my emotions and my decisions.
It really effected how I prayed. Because I doubted God’s goodness and faithfulness, I stopped truly trusting Him. I didn’t pray boldly or confidently, because I didn’t want to be disappointed when an answer didn’t come.
My wrong view of God lasted for many years. And if I’m honest, it’s only been in the last few years that I’m making more of a “complete” recovery.
So what’s the truth about God?
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)
God showed His great love on the cross. Now think about that for a minute. Not only did God Himself die in our place, while we were completely undeserving, this verse also reveals the fact that the Son of God suffered. How did I miss the obvious? Those twenty words reveal God’s true character as well as the true nature of life: God loves us and suffering us part of life.
As I’ve endured some personal hardships and have been careful to not make the same mistake I made in the past by doubting God, I’ve instead made the third big mistake…
3. I’ve had a wrong view of myself.
When I’ve experienced failures and disappointments, I’ve allowed them to define me. I’ve allowed them to effect my identity. Failure has meant I’m a failure. Suffering must mean there’s something wrong with me. Rather than seeing failure as a normal part of business and life…and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow…I’ve pointed a finger inward.
I love what Rocky said to his son in the movie Rocky Balboa about all of this…
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (If you want to watch the entire scene, the video is below.)
Maybe you’ve wrestled with some of these wrong beliefs like I have. If so, let me simply encourage you to keep going. Keep wrestling. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick and easy answers.
God does love you though.
And failure and suffering are a normal part of life.
And you’re not a failure just because you’ve failed.
Have you ever wanted to know God’s will beyond any shadow of a doubt? I mean no wondering, no second guessing, no trying to figure things out? Well, keep reading…but let me start with a few more questions…
Would you describe yourself as “grateful?” Are you thankful for what you have? Or do you feel entitled to not only what you have, but what you don’t have?
Until recently, I would have told you I’m grateful and that I do not have an entitlement mentality. In fact, the way so many people expect the government to provide for them really, really bothers me.
But I’m afraid I’m not quite as grateful as I thought. And while I don’t expect the government to give me things, I do expect God to.
Now I realize God makes wonderful promises regarding our provision. Matthew 6:31-34 says:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
We were not made to run after the things we need. Jesus said that’s what those who don’t even know God do. Instead, we were made to run after God. To seek Him. To desire Him.
But have you noticed that God’s timing and His ways aren’t usually like ours? I expect things to happen right away. Seek first His kingdom? Check! Now where’s my stuff, God?
It doesn’t work that way, does it?
There’s almost always a delay. There’s a season of waiting before we see God work. And in the waiting, we must trust, which God enjoys. Hebrews 11:6 says:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Faith pleases God. In other words, He likes to be trusted. I believe He gets pleasure when I choose to not panic, but instead believe that He will come through for me.
So let’s get back to the issue of gratitude.
When we experience an unmet need or desire, it’s very easy to feel discontent. And without even realizing it, we can become ungrateful. And if you’re like me, it’s also easy to become resentful.
Rather than trusting that God is good and faithful and rather than seeing my current circumstances as an opportunity to know Him better and be conformed to His likeness, I become angry or discouraged. I become tempted to give up. I begin to doubt God is really all that good. I can feel like He’s treating me unfairly.
Of course, when my kids were younger, I never let them get away with saying things like, “That’s not fair!” Why? Because life isn’t fair, so there’s no sense in whining or complaining about it. And when it comes to God, you and I really don’t want Him to be fair. Fair would be we all get to pay for our own sins. Unfair is Jesus dying in my place. Let’s be glad God isn’t fair.
So here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. Am I willing to be grateful for whatever circumstances I’m facing? And are you?
Whether we’re dealing with a health issue, a broken relationship, problems at work or a financial crisis…we have a choice to make. We can thank God for whatever it is we’re going through or we can complain and whine and grumble about it. Like me, the Israelites were grumblers and it never turned out well for them. You can read about one of those times HERE. So why in the world would I think my grumbling and complaining about my hardships would turn out any better?
Think about this way…if God wanted to change our current circumstances, He could. He could do it in an instant if He wanted to. But if He hasn’t done that, then just maybe He’s up to something much greater. Something that takes more time. And something that takes our cooperation rather than our complaining.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:
Rejoice always,pray continually,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
So there it is. As clear as it can be.
God’s will for us is to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Even the ones we don’t like.
Maybe once we start doing that, we’ll start to see things change in the direction we’ve been hoping for.
If you want to grow in your faith and believe God, not your circumstances, then check out my 40-day devotional by CLICKING HERE.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation that was so far from what you’d dreamed of, hoped for, prayed for and worked toward that it’s hard to understand how you even got to where you are now?
And now that you’re there…are you doubting yourself? Wondering if you really have what it takes? Are you at a loss to know what to do next?
Are you doubting God? Just when you need him most does He seem to be absent? Silent? Checked out?
Maybe it feels like you’ve given it your best shot…and your best shot wasn’t enough. You tried, but your marriage hasn’t gotten better. The relationship with your child is still strained. Your job search hasn’t yielded any results. The business you felt sure God called you to start has been more of a drain than a blessing.
Are you out of ideas? Not even sure how to pray? Is your hope hanging by a thread?
So where is God when we really need Him?
I’ll be honest, I have more questions than answers today. If you’re feeling discouraged…I get it.
I don’t know why you’re having to endure your current circumstances. I don’t know why God doesn’t step in sooner. I mean I know the “correct” answers. I could give you those…but today…
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”