Do you ever find yourself in need of a change in life? I mean, a major change? Like a new town, new job, new life? You ever wonder why this happens? I do. I come to those moments often. I get frustrated with things and start thinking that maybe the grass IS greener elsewhere.
“Praying” on it
I was praying about this the other day. Ugh… ok, I was griping to God about the struggles of life. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My mind woke up full tilt at 3am! All my frustrations and failures kept playing on loop in my mind. I know what this is. These 3am wake up calls come from God. When they come, it’s time to pray. The more I fight to sleep, the less chance I’ll get back to dream land.
This particular night, I half fought and half prayed. I sought to forgive those I felt wronged me. I asked for forgiveness for those times I hadn’t represented Jesus well. But I was still being bombarded with the same thoughts!
Eventually, I gave up on sleep and started getting ready for the day. When I don’t get a good night’s sleep I get a little wonky, a little off-kilter. Some may say I’m normally a bit left of normal, but a sleepless gets me the closest to intoxication I’ll ever imagine myself to be (I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs; not even prescribed meds that make me feel weird… anymore). My restless nights bring with them a sour stomach and a foggy brain. It’s just not a good day.
This isn’t your home
So, this is what I was “praying” about. Not just the bad night’s sleep, but the malfunctions of life that triggered the mental marathon. In my pity-party (just being honest), I was reminded of a truth I ought to hang onto a bit harder: “You feel this way because you are not home yet. This world is not your home. You are simply a sojourner.”
As these words passed through my mind, the scriptures began to spring up also. Specifically, Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)
Paul was echoing what Jesus prayed, as recorded in the Gospel of John. Jesus said it like this:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19 ESV)
Jesus also spoke to His disciples earlier about dealing with persecution in the world:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18-21 ESV)
These scriptures teach us a few things. First and most obvious, when we choose to follow Jesus, we renounce our allegiance to the order of this dark world, and lay claim to an allegiance to God’s Kingdom. Second, that this world of darkness is clearly in conflict with God’s Kingdom of Light. As such, we who claim allegiance to the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – will find ourselves in the midst of conflict. If we fail to understand it as such, we will fail to respond in ways that honor and glorify our True King. Lastly, we are sojourners. We are a people passing through who seek a Home much more permanent than this.
This makes for some seriously uncomfortable moments in life. If not understood well, these uncomfortable moments will make us want to jump ship, react wrongly, and/or misrepresent our King and His Kingdom. The way we think and understand our station in this life will greatly impact the way we interact with the world around us. It’s so important for us to get this!
Rabbit Trail in 3… 2… 1…
Quick side bar. This takes some realistic and mature assessment of our struggles. Not every moment of displeasure comes from us not being in fellowship with the world. It can be quite the opposite. Sometimes our struggles are directly related to how much we’re actually walking in darkness. To speak plainly here, we make stupid decisions as we walk in the flesh, rather than in the Spirit. This will naturally lead to people taking displeasure in us or situations becoming uncomfortable.
Take for instance one of the things flying through my mind at 3am. I was rehashing a moment at work when I became irritated at some co-workers. I made sure my irritation was clearly expressed in the most obvious way possible. My supervisor took notice and reminded our team that others are watching us and we should control our tempers. His indirectness was a kind gesture. The message came through clear. My annoyance was noted and not appreciated.
In that moment I sought to justify myself by justifying my frustrations. Maybe I was justified. Maybe I wasn’t. Honestly, too much time has passed for clarity on this. My thinking on the matter is now skewed by my reaction in the moment, so I’m not really able to fully assess whether I was justified in my feelings or not. But that’s not the point. I was not justified in how I displayed my emotions. I did not honor my King and His Kingdom. I can’t sit back and think, “well, this is what Jesus was talking about. Proof I’m not of this world.” No, in that moment, I showed myself more worldly than godly, for sure.
Ok. Back on topic. With the right outlook, an eternal one not rooted in seeking this world’s comforts, we’ll see things differently. Look at what Paul speaks to us on this matter:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV)
This is clearly speaking to keeping an eternal perspective. It’s not just positive thinking. It’s eternal thinking. When we survey our situation through eternal eyes, we see it much differently. We see the larger picture. We see where the enemy is working to defeat us and where our King is taking ground. We’ll maintain a viewpoint that strengthens our faith through each moment, each pain, each heartache, and each failure.
Instead of running away from discomfort, we embrace the moment. We stay the course instead of finding a greener pasture. We learn to respond (not react) with grace, keeping our joy intact because its not actually connected to the moment anyway; its connected to our Lord. But what’s of most importance is that, instead of bringing dishonor to our King and His Kingdom, we’ll give those around us only reasons to give glory to God.
I like how the Apostle Peter says it: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)
Indeed, we who are born of Spirit, we who made the Good Confession of Faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, King and God; we are not natives to this place called life. We who follow Christ have our first and only allegiance to His kingdom. The closer with Christ we walk, the more foreign we’ll feel. Because of this, we’re at odds with the environment around us.And as we move through this world full of darkness, we, who are full of God’s Light, will sense the great conflict between the two.
Do better next time
I know it’s tough. I fail regularly (and everyone said “AMEN”). I seek change too often. I freak out, but just a little bit. I represent my King poorly. But I’m not content with failure. I desire to mature and do better next time. I fight to gain a better perspective. One that my Jesus desires for me. I’d like to wind this down with the words of our brother and Apostle Paul. In line with the message he spoke to the Colossians, he further encourages the Philippians (and us) to keep strengthen our focus.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
As we keep eternity in our sights, our minds will stay on Him and His purposes. We’ll be able to rightly perceive the world around us and respond in ways that bring glory to our King. It’s not always going to be easy. It’s not always going to be fun. The rewards won’t always be tangible and instance. But the abiding peace of God’s presence in your life will be worth every moment.