Monthly Archives: January 2011

faith meets hope

There is a song I often sing called “Twenty-Three” which is based off of the Twenty-Third chapter of Psalms.  It is powerful.  The lyrics are simple and all too profound.

“Twenty Three” – Aaron Strumpel

Arise Oh Lord // Lift up Your eyes // Don’t forget I’m helpless // Oh You lead me to waters and pastures so green // Oh You pour out Your oil and choose goodness and mercy for me // No I will not be in want // You’re with me // I will not fear // You comfort me // I will not fear

So often, I exchange what is critically important for what is immediately demanding.  I make plans.  I pursue goals.  I entertain desires. I press on, and often succeed, but I am left wanting.  The cycle continues as if I am helpless.  “Arise Oh, Lord. Lift up your eyes, Don’t forget I’m helpless.”  Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a battle…. but, I already have the victory in Jesus.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).  The battle can cease.  He sustains.  He will fulfill.  “Oh, You lead me to waters and pastures green.  Oh, You pour out Your oil, and choose goodness and mercy for me.” When I remember this, I begin seeking the presence of the One who promises to walk with me.  “You’re with me, I will not fear.  You comfort me, I will not fear.” Perspective restored; peace renewed.  The song is interjected with a one line phrase repeated over and over again.  “No, I will not I will not be in want… No, I will not be in want…. No, I will not be in want…. No, I will not be in want…”  One day, I realized I may have slightly misunderstood the meaningful intent of this phrase. Perhaps this is not so much a call, demand, reminder, or resolve to not have desires…. perhaps it is more of a statement of reality or the realization of a promise.  I will not be in want.  God is enough.  A section of the passage states it this way:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (Psalm 23:1-4, NIV)

But, an updated version of the NIV, states this new understanding of the meaning more clearly. “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1, NIV 2010).  A reprise of the song, repeats, “Everything, I ever wanted I found in you…”  I shall not be in want.  The truth is realized when hope meets faith.  Not a feeble hope, one that wishes for something that could occur by chance; but a firm hope, one that looks forward to a realization of a promise… a hope like Abraham’s:

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him . . . he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:18, 20-25)

I lack nothing.  This is not to say I will never have temporal need or longing desire.  But in Him, I lack nothing.  We must continue to press on, focus penetratingly on Him, and finish well. (Read Heb 12:1-3).  It is here, but not yet, (“…Who hope for what they already have?” Romans 8:24). But, the scoreboard is fixed.  When all is said and done, I have victory in Him.  He sustains me.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us  . . . What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:18, 31-38).

We are more than conquerors.  I will not be in want.

Befriend Faithfulness

I don’t want to make a new year’s resolution. The thought of making up some kind of new task, calling this thing a resolution, and approaching it as if the very success of 2011 depends on its completion, simply doesn’t appeal to me. And yet, it is not that I find myself approaching 2011 with any lack of resolve, my drive for purpose would not allow this to be the case. Why? Because I know I am called to be found faithful. Yet more and more I am realizing, this call may have more to do with being and becoming and less with doing and achieving. As I approach a year, which promises change, I realize, this call may have more to do with hanging on to Jesus, than with what I could purpose to achieve.

Faithfulness. God’s faithfulness amazes me. He is so good, and He is so faithful. He displays and proves His incredible faithfulness time and time again. It astounds me. It catches me off guard. It leads me closer to Him. It gives me hope. Even when I feel distracted, used up, unfaithful; He is still faithful, proving His faithfulness all the more. So when I approach the idea of being found faithful to Him, my efforts seem inadequate and inconsistent to say the least. And, yet, He has made a way, and that way is Himself. “For He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14). What else can we do but turn to Him? He is our peace. It is Him alone.

Psalm 37, encourages, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” Befriend faithfulness. Back in the day, I thought a true friendship commenced upon verbal agreement and mutual understanding. I still remember being at camp, at a young age, playing some quality Legos with a kid and asking him if he would be my friend. When he agreed I believed a reliable friendship had formed. However, in reality, a friendship does not form on a whim, or in a moment of agreement. A friendship is invested in, sought after, and grown into. Befriend faithfulness. To me this implies a relationship, a back and forth, two sides, and a growing understanding and realization that I need to be dependent on my Lord even to be found faithful to Him. “My soul clings to You, Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8.

I want to befriend faithfulness. I want to cling to Him. I want to seek His presence and allow Him to hold me up. This past summer was intense and busy. However, on occasion, I spent time laying in a hammock, late at night. I just laid there, all of my weight held in its strings, cradled in the middle of the air. Hammocks are cool like that. I prayed simple, honest prayers telling God that I gave Him everything and I came just as I was. Soon I realized maybe my relationship with Jesus (not so much what I do as a result of it, but the time I spend seeking His presence) should look a lot more like laying in a hammock and a lot less like the performance I find myself trying to make it. What would it look like if I could consistently come before my Maker, Savior, Sustainer and quiet my heart, offering Him all of me, just as I am, regardless of what I have or have not accomplished? What would it look like if I did this, simply allowing Him to refresh, renew, and refine my heart and soul? Then everything else I did would come out of the overflow of this intimate dependence. I dare to say I would be less concerned with performing well and more concerned with loving well. I dare say this would look a lot more like being found faithful.

It is amazing when I take the time to do this. When I put expectations aside, and honestly seek His presence and renewal, something beautiful happens. Things are put back into perspective and we are set free to love and serve well, far better than what we can achieve on our own. We are made new in Him 2 Cor 5:17. “Be still and know” He is God. (Psalm 46:10). May He “establish the work of our hands “ (Psalm 90:17).

I am not speaking of lukewarm faith, for that is the furthest thing from being found faithful (Revelation 3:15-17). This is not a half-hearted pursuit. No, I am all in. By all means, I am all in. I am speaking of an admission of my own humanity, and an invitation to be dependent on the only One who can restore me, make me whole, and give me purpose. It is a resolve to pursue Jesus daily, passionately, and in dependence, clinging to Him and letting Him uphold me. It is a resolve to befriend faithfulness.

I am reminded, yet again, of the words of Paul, he is passionate, purposed, and driven. He wants to do and become, and yet he knows he has not arrived. He can only focus in, and press on, because Jesus has taken hold of him. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:10-14) I have not attained all this, but I will press on and press in because Jesus has taken hold of me. In Him I can befriend faithfulness–passionately, intentionally, daily–all the while, surrounded in His love, grace, and… faithfulness. Jesus took hold. He touches us, and it is beautiful.