This principle shifted my thinking! Spiritual opposition always follows spiritual progress; my pastor, at the time, said this in one of his sermons, and I had never really thought about it before. Some of that was my the time and environments I was raised in, but part of it was my own ignorance, having missed this clear reality in the Bible!
In many ways, I’d grown up in a prosperous time for America, and in the midst of that prosperity (as often happens in prosperous times), the Church in America started dulling its message. With so much prosperity, many churches began to just seek higher donations. Some churches began to seek notoriety through numbers. And still others thought they were doing “good work” but never asked if they were doing “God’s work!” Even so, no matter the cause, the result was the same, many young humans (believer and unbeliever, alike) began to forget what it was like before things were so good.
As often holds true, good times often weaken the resolve of mankind. We forget that we didn’t EARN these good times. We forget that bad times come to all. Worse yet, we lose our ability to press into the bad times and make the best of them. I remember stories of how an orange was a fantastic Christmas gift during the depression, how socks could be such a wonderful resource on the battlefields of World War II, and I personal recall the fragility of portable media, how a hot day could mean the end to your favorite album if you forgot to grab it from your car!
These are small examples, but when we draw this out to the spiritual, it becomes truly potent. The woman who comes to Jesus, and immediately, her pimp threatens her. The man who turns his life over to Jesus, and his buddies show up, unannounced, at his house “ready to party!” Or the single parent who has been praying for his/her kids, and they suddenly have a collector banging on the door. The Enemy of our souls will take ANY opportunity to distract us from the Gospel and from our purpose here on the Earth!
Most of all, when we are making progress (quitting sin, learning a truth, or being faithful to pray for a brother or sister or unbeliever), we can expect to face opposition! It could be as extreme as suddenly being fired from your job, as insane as being accused of a crime you didn’t commit, or as simple as getting an unexpected (or forgotten) bill for something. Whatever it is, when the troubles come, our natural response is, “What did I do wrong?”
We tend to naturally assume there’s some cosmic balancing scale, and we must’ve tossed something onto the wrong side of that scale. I think this goes back to the fall in the garden. We decided to be our own god, and when we made that choice and ate the fruit (not necessarily an apple, y’all!), our eyes were opened, and we used the most logical metric to understand good and evil. And yet, God does NOT work that way! He’s neither a vending machine nor a scale.
In point of fact, the clearest example of this is in Jesus. If God was interested in tic-for-tat or in “scales of karmic justice,” then Jesus wouldn’t have died, y’all! Truly, think this through for a moment; if it was about balancing good/bad or about putting enough good into the vending machine of the cosmos, then Jesus would not have died! Maybe he would’ve bled a bit. Perhaps, he would have endured a small beating, something just to cover the gap. But He certainly would not have died!
In actuality, the very reason Jesus HAD to die was because we were DOOMED!!!! If God were to show some scales of justice, they would be eternally tipped against someone just because of one choice! God’s law demands purity, not “clean enough”. Hence, we never could do right enough to offset the wrongs we’ve done, and that’s assuming we never again failed, but we all know that’s a falsehood; we inevitably fail again.
So, when troubles come, I must ask the question not, “what did I do wrong?” but “what am I missing?” The second opens me to the possibility that it’s not dependent on me. If troubles come, the question of “what am I missing?” allows me to look to God and see what He is doing. Perhaps there is some pride, or other sin in my life, which He is working to remove. It could be that He’s put me in a position to wait on Him. Or it could be that He’s asking, “Will you trust me through this?” like I discussed some weeks ago. Whatever the case, I no longer look to my sinful self and assume I’ve screwed something up. Rather, I look to Him and continue to follow Him through the struggle.
Hence, my focus is restored, once again upon Jesus, and if there’s something I did do wrong, He will show me. This also removes the need to blame others (the need; I no longer NEED someone ELSE to be at fault. If others are at fault, we should hold folks accountable for their actions), as I can walk through this with Jesus rather than trying to “fix it”. Additionally, my keeping my eyes on Jesus, I receive His strength and can deal with the challenge ahead with His grace and His strength, in Truth, and I no longer need to bear the full weight of this challenge.
In short, there is a lot of peace that comes when I recognize that God is not “out to get me”, and if I am following Him, secure in His sacrifice paying the price of my sin(s), then challenges and surprises are no longer fear-filled and indicative of my own guilt. Rather, challenges are just challenges, and I have the blessed opportunity to walk through said challenges with Jesus/God (the Almighty, Creator of All, and all things were created through Jesus) by my side! How cool! What an amazing truth!
Best of all, it’s no longer dependent on me to juggle everything, to keep everything together or accounted for, and I can rest that He’s got it worked out; I can simply follow His lead and enjoy the ride. As an analytical goof who is often taking on more than he should, I can testify that truth is an amazing relief. I can also testify that it is sometimes hard to keep it in mind, as the volleys of life get tossed at me, left, right, and directly in the schnoz! But He is faithful, even when we are faithless! (2 Timothy 2:13)
“Now to Him who is able to keep you [believer in Jesus] from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forevermore. Amen” – Jude 1:24-25, ESV
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10