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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Is it a "Happy" New Year?

When life pounds you and you face a series of difficult life events, beware the threat of "Attitude Shift." It can be subtle at first, but then you get to a place where you suddenly realize: "Hey, this isn't really me. It's not the me God made me to be." I have found that what happens in the face of multiple hardships is a growing distrust for God, coupled with an increase in personal pleasure seeking, ie: eat and drink, for tomorrow, we die.

It's a kind of mental equation that you don't literally verbalize, but it's there in your attitude. It goes like this: "God, I no longer believe you have my best interests in mind; I'm no longer certain that you love me; and I'm not even sure that you really are good. So, I'm going to take care of me, myself, and I."  Painful to read because it's so obnoxiously wrong. And yet, as life beats us down, it is all to easy to let it erode our faith. All too easy to return to that which comes most naturally: the pleasing of self. So what do you do when you find yourself there? I'm not certain. First step, of course, is becoming aware of the shift.

The next step *I think* is to do a reality check. In other words, ask ourselves, Is our life really so awful? Really so much worse than others? In most cases, the answer to Q1 is NO. Most of us could count on our fingers and toes all the blessings in our lives and run out of digits long before we run out of blessings to number. In most cases the answer to Q2 is also, NO. What we deem "hardship" might be nothing to someone else. But what if the answer to Q1 or Q2 is YES?

What if life really has been harsh? I think it helps to consider what life is supposed to be like. I mean to say, what does the Bible say will be true of the Christian's experience in life? Just a quick overview reveals that "In this life you will have trouble." Other scriptures reveal the very real expectation of tough times: persecution, discomfort, tragedy, pain, and poverty. These are not abnormal circumstances for the Christian. This helps with perspective, doesn't it? There's always some comfort to know that we aren't being somehow singled out. Misery loves company, right?

And yet, what are we Christians if we show the world we are just a company of miserables? Too often, that's just what we look like to the world. Who wants to meet Jesus and become just as miserable as I am? LOL, not a very nice advertisement. But what does that verse say? "In this life you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART because I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD." 

This is the secret, really. Take heart. Why? Jesus beat the world with a stick. The cross. He died on the cross so that our backpack full of leaden sin could be thrown away. Jesus rose from the grave so that tragedy and death need no longer be so scary. #1 our guilt is dead. #2 our death is not final. We are free on this earth. And we have the hope of eternity before us.

None of this takes away the very real pain and heartache of tragedy. There is a time to weep and a time to mourn. Jesus weeps and mourns with us. He did for Lazarus. But Jesus has the power to resurrect the dead. So we need not be hopeless. Even when everything -EVERYTHING- goes wrong, we can know that Jesus is the master of transforming the catastrophe into the blessing. Many times, the blessing that comes through it all is that we fall to our knees and seek Jesus out more often and more sincerely. Many times, the blessing is that we grow as Christians.

1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Something else I think about in relation to all this: why should Christians be spared any trouble—any trouble at all—that the rest of the world must face? Famine, flood, fire, disease, sickness, poverty, loss, tragedy—you name it. Why should Christians be spared any of it? We ALL still live in a sin-stained, broken world. By coming to Christ in faith, we've done nothing in and of ourselves. We don't merit any "special treatment." Jesus did all the work.

And if Jesus did spare Christians the troubles of the world, or even a percentage of those troubles, how then would Christians ever be able to empathize with the world? How could we say to someone, "I feel what you feel. I know what you know."?

So perspective should help us to avoid the attitude shift. There's so much more to be explored in this issue. Books have been written. This is just my .02.

So, whether this is indeed a "Happy" New Year for you or not, I hope you'll be able to say honestly: Though He may slay me, yet will I trust in Him.


Birdy said...

The attitude shift that you speak of is very much a description of my outlook - one that I've been working to change. At the same time, I don't want to be "just ok" with life because I know others experience it, or because God is my strength. Instead I want to live on fire, looking forward to what God has for me in the next moment. It's strange to think that in long term God has a plan, yet in the next moments he doesn't. It's my hope to learn how to live that way in this new year.

Christopher Hopper said...

Good word, my friend. More and more I realize perspective truly is everything. Standing with you for this new year. Bring it on, God!

Megan said...

Amen! I have been trying to fight my attitude shift as I notice that I'm totally stepping on others in order to take care of me, myself, and I. Psalm 121:1 says that God is help. John 16:33 says that in this world we will have issues, but we can find peace in Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Wow..that is exactly what has been on my heart lately. Its good to know I'm not the only one who thinks like that! :) Infact I have recently gone through lots of heartache, which, I believe, God has used to teach me this very lesson. It was a head lesson to learn, but a valuable one. I hope everyone who reads this will learn this lesson, without the heartache. Pay Attention everyone!

Thank you Mr. Batson

A.G. age 14

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of minor mental and physical abnormalities and disorders. I've come to realize that maybe there's a reason for this. There's some things that have happened --- things that couldn't have happened without these problems. I just want to say that if anyone ever reads this, remember that God knows what He's doing. Sometimes you can't see for the bigger picture, and maybe that's because God wants you to trust Him. Maybe someday you'll know, but maybe you won't. The only thing to do is to trust and believe.

Luke Ecton said...

Thank you for writing that Mr. Batson I now realize my attitude isn't as good as it could be. :)

Rachel said...

Thanks for this post Mr. Batson. For me, this kinda attitude started for me last year. I use to be pretty cheerful and optamistic but I have become cynical and hateful and angry. I don't like it. I still put on the cheer face and try to be up beat, but I fall into complaining and anger so easily. Trust in others are also sliping for me. I'm trying to be better, but when I don't think it can get worse it does. I keep reminding myself of God's love and am working on being better, maybe this year God will help restor the happier me. Thanks again for the post, this is something I really need to remember.

Tracey Dyck said...

Mr. Batson, I appreciate what you're saying about changing one's perspective on life. But as I read this post, I found several misconceptions.

First, you refer to John 16:33 where it says "In this life you will have trouble..." I looked up the word 'trouble' (or 'tribulation') in a lexica. The Greek word is thlipsis, meaning "pressure (literal or figurative); affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble." Nowhere does it refer to pain, sickness, or poverty.

Look up the curse described in Deuteronomy 28 -- this is the curse that Jesus has redeemed us from. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us..." To redeem means to rescue from, to buy back. That curse no longer falls on believers. Poverty, sickness, pain...those do not belong to us.

Yes, we do still live in this broken, sin-stained world. Yes, Jesus did ALL the work. You are absolutely right, we did nothing to deserve special treatment. But that's just it -- Jesus' finished work on the cross is what gives us 'special treatment', for lack of a better term. His death and resurrection did more than just purchase a ticket into heaven. It paid for our health, wholeness, protection, and prosperity. Jesus said he came to give us life, and life more abundantly.

You imply that we need to experience your definiton of 'trouble' in order to sympathize with the world. Why is that necessary? To bring them to Jesus? If that were the case, then shouldn't we all go out and wallow in sin and filth so we can tell unbelievers, "I know how you feel"?

Second, your interpretation of 1 Peter 1:7 is erroneous. In order to understand the context, let's look at verse 6: "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials..." 'Trials' in Greek is peirasmos: a putting to proof (by experiment of good, experience of evil solicitation, discipline, or provocation); adversity; temptation. You seem to say that trials, like your 'trouble' above, refer to poverty, sickness, pain, etc. But trials refer to persecution -- adverisity from people opposed to what you believe and stand for.

In conclusion, the types of trouble Jesus says we can expect are the kind from other people. in other words, persecution. Everything else -- sickness, poverty, etc. -- is part of the curse, the curse we are REDEEMED from.

What I'm saying is not meant to knock you, Mr. Batson. I simply desire to, as the Bible says, rightly divide the word of truth.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, Michelle: thanks for visiting the blog and, in the spirit of truth, trying to point out error. But you might consider doing so in private, in the future, that is. You might also want to delve a little deeper into the scriptures before you point out "misconceptions." My points about the "curse" and the "trials" Christians will endure are broadly supported by the Bible. Romans 5 particularly shows that our various trials cannot be so narrowly defined. Romans 8 makes it pretty clear that the curse of the world goes on and takes on a myriad of forms.

I think also you are on very dangerous ground when you suggest that becoming a Christian purchases not only new life but health, wholeness, protection, and prosperity. That is a counterfeit gospel. That kind of teaching will lead Christians who fall ill to question their salvation. That kind of teaching will lead Christians who experience calamity (disaster or violence) to question the validity of their eternal life.

Even your definition of "trouble" from John includes affliction and anguish--both easily recognizable as sickness, mental, emotional, pain.

When you question my premise about Christians experiencing the pains that regular people feel and, in so doing, are better able to empathize with the world, you make a HUGE leap to compare that to willingly going to wallow in sin. I'm not telling anyone to move to the deep south where they stand a better chance of getting hit by a hurricane. lol. Nor is getting hit by a storm the equivalent of sinning.

In this instance, you have not rightly interpreted scriptures, I think to a dangerous degree. You simply cannot argue that Jesus' saving of Christians saves us from sickness, poverty, and all the usual calamities of being human. After all, the Post-Pentecost Apostles, as saved as they could be, lived mostly in abject poverty. They faced all manner of storms, accidents, beatings, sicknesses, etc.

Tracey Dyck said...

Mr. Batson, I apologize that my comment came across as judgemental. I did not intend for it to sound that way. I also apologize for making this public; if I ever have something like this to say again, I will send it in an email.

Anonymous said...

This is totally unrelated to this post, but I tried requesting "The Tide of Unmaking" at my local library and they said the book wasn't in print at all...they said it's only on Kindle. Is that true? I thought it was in print.

Princess Writer said...

Hey, Anonymous! No, it's definitely in print... I have felt and smelled (yes, smelled!) a copy of it myself. It's possible your library does not have it in circulation... yet! I encourage you to command—err, highly suggest—that they get a copy of it. ;) In the meantime:

Anonymous said...

Shoshanna, thanks for telling me! I'm glad that it is actually out.
Good idea - I will trying 'highly suggesting' that the library gets a copy. ;)
Thanks for the link too. Problem is, I own books 1 and 2 in hardcover, and I'd like to get book 3 in the same format. I'm kind of picky that way. Hopefully a hardcover version will be made soon!
-the same anonymous as before

Caleb Baker said...

Thanks, Mr Batson! I know my life is better off than a lot of peoples, but sometimes I still feel sorry for myself when circumstances beat me down emotionally. It's a dangerous thing to do, I know, and your 'attitude shift' threw a whole new perspective at me. I agree with you totally, it is dangerous!
And we should anticipate hardships to come, but trust God is only fire-hardening us and not trying to whup us. Bring it on, God, cuz I know we can handle it together!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Batson,
I am currently teaching my students how to write friendly letters. They are practicing by writing letters to their favorite authors. One of my students has chosen you as their favorite author. They are also learning to address envelopes. Do you have a snail mail address that she can send the letter to? We are enclosing a self addressed stamped envelope. Thank you for your help!

-Kendra Lee, Media Specialist

The Allebian Knight said...

I'm not quite sure I quite understand this entire aspect of Christianity. All I hear when I read these lines from the Bible is, "Do not worry about sinning, because Jesus will show you the way into heaven no matter what you have done."
To me, this means that you can do horrible things in your life and yet still get into heaven as long as you just believe. However, you can lead a good and kind life, yet not believe, and be sent to Hell. Is that fair? Especially as there is no obvious reason to believe in God...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Batson, thank you for all you do, and for posting what you've learned though scripture, I really enjoy it. :)

I--and my brother and sister--are looking forward to the third Dark Sea Annals book! We really enjoy your writing. We talk about your books frequently, and make speculations on your upcoming books.

God bless!
~Anonymous E.D.M

Anonymous said...

@ the Allebian Knight: I'm sorry to hear you see things that way, but it sounds like you're searching.
Which verses were you referring to?