FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Punished or Positioned

This is a very personal post, one born of conversations with a cherished friend that ultimately thrust me into a place of deep introspection.

My friend is facing a season of challenge, a season that I told her a weaker woman could not endure. I suspect God would not even call a weaker woman to navigate such a season. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that no temptation overtakes us except what is common to mankind, and God is faithful not letting us be tempted beyond what we can bear and when (not if) we are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that we can endure it.  Actually, He will provide a way for us to surthrive!

John Gill’s commentary on the Corinthians pericope gives greater insight, understanding and, I think, comfort and hope! Gill writes:

“Some, indeed, understand these words by way of reproof, that whereas their trials and exercises which had attended them were very light ones, and comparatively trivial; and yet they had given way to these temptations, and had sunk under them, and fallen by them, for which they were greatly to be blamed; or as threatening them with something more severe than anything as yet had befallen them, signifying that though they had as yet stood, and thought they still should; yet they ought not to presume on their own strength, or depend on outward things; since the temptations that as yet had come upon them were such as men might easily bear; there was no great trial or experiment of their grace and strength by them; they had not yet resisted unto blood; there were heavier and severer trials they might expect; and therefore should not be too secure in themselves, but take heed lest when these things should come upon them, in such a time of great temptation, they should fall away.”

Gill continues suggesting that “the words are spoken by way of comfort to the saints; intimating that as no temptation or affliction had befallen them, so none should, but what either came from men, or was common to men, or which men by divine assistance, and under divine influence, might bear; and therefore should not distress themselves with the apprehensions of it, as if it was some strange or unusual thing, and as if they must unavoidably perish and be destroyed by it:

Okay. There are really just two questions the first being, “does God ever give allow us more hardship than we can handle?” (The short answer, of course, is “yes!”) The second question, one which my friend has asked, is “why?” (The only slightly longer but still short answer is “so that we will rely on God and not on our own understanding, strength or power.”

Just as I have when I have encountered seasons of challenge, my friend commented that she felt she was being punished – especially because this season has come about (as so many do) through no fault of hers. Haven’t we all been there? Minding our business, doing right…then BAM! From seemingly nowhere, unexpected and not even deserved (according to us) – a major challenge. A hardship. A struggle. A complication. A setback. Call it what you want, we don’t want it, and we wonder, “why?” Specifically, “why me?”

I will offer you the same question that I offered my friend. Are you being punished or positioned?

I will not attempt to retell but rather will redirect you to the story of Joseph, ask you to read it and consider the question (see Genesis 37). Was Joseph punished or positioned?

If you are at all familiar with the Scriptures, you know there are many others. God positions us for His purposes; every hardship is not about us. Again, look at Joseph. Though he had to endure being sold into slavery, the unwanted advances ad then lies of Potiphar’s wife, imprisonment, being forgotten and more, he was positioned to save his family – including those who authored his hardship.

When (not if) you face a season of struggle, consider you may be being positioned to be used mightily by God. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2-18); your Father is at work! Aren’t you excited to see just what He will do?


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If It Looks Like a Duck

It’s funny – the things we accept at face value and the things we do not.  Get a piece of paper; it can be a scrap, and see how you do on this little Yes or No test:

  1. I have purchased a dress ___ sizes too small promising myself that I would lose enough weight to wear it. (You fill in the blank.)
  2. I have befriended someone (welcomed them into my home, introduced them to family, scheduled special events with them, etc.) when I knew the relationship would be the equivalent of putting a hot coal inside my shirt.
  3. I have said that I liked something (when I secretly thought, “Yuck!) only to receive that something later as a gift.
  4. I have purchased a shoe in a size other than what I know that I wear thinking I could “make them work” for a special occasion (and because they were cute).
  5. I have dated (or married) a man believing that I could, eventually, change him into the man of my dreams.

Each question is worth 20 points.  I trust you to score your own paper.  You do not have to report your score; I’ll let you “sit with” it.

There seems to be two camps – the one that believes you can always turn a situation around and the one that agrees with the old anonymous proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck – it must be a duck.”

Here’s my thinking on that proverb…Wrong!

You may think this season of your life is pretty hopeless.  It might be looking like unemployment, feeling like cancer, sounding like a mean boss, smelling like divorce, feeling like loneliness, tasting like failure…  Looks can be deceiving.  So can feelings and all the other senses.

We’ve been following Joseph through several chapters of Genesis, so let’s keep learning from him

Genesis 37:23 (NIV)  “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing…” Looks like nakedness.

Genesis 37:24 (NIV)  “…they took him and threw him into the cistern.” Tastes like abandonment.

Genesis 37: 28 (NIV)   “…his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels…” Sounds like slavery.

Genesis 39:6b-7 (NIV)     “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” Smells like a set-up.

Genesis 39:20a (NIV)        “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Looks like, smells like and feels like the end!

Wrong, again!

Genesis 39:20b-21a (NIV) tells us, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” And two chapters and two years later, we see Joseph not just leaving prison and not just being restored to his former position, but he is positioned second only to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:39 -41 says, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…, ‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you…I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Looks like a test, and looks like Joseph passed with flying colors. Will you?

Max Lucado tells us that God “sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the tests of today.” He sees your needs, and He sees the needs of others. He uses you and your circumstances to create tests that will bring about His desired results. Sometimes your testing is to bring about a certain result in you. Sometimes it is to bring about a certain result through you, meaning you are the vehicle chosen by God to do a work in someone else’s life. Whichever situation is the case, you want to pass the test. Lucado also reminds us that “some tests end on earth, but all tests will end in heaven.”

So, it might walk like a duck, quack like a duck and even look like a duck, but what it really is is a test! And you want to pass!