Over the last couple of weeks we have been exploring the topic of Vulnerability from a new angle. Seeing vulnerability as a strength rather than weakness is a new twist. We all know that we have to step into the arena of life at some point in our lives and risk exposure to attack, harm, and failure. The trouble is deciding when to engage, when to step in and when to step away. We know ultimately that in order to find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life that pain is unavoidable. So, we have to learn to dance with fear and uncertainty, to live with conflict and tension.
We want easy. We crave security, comfort, and certainty. We envy those who seem to have it all and live the “easy” life. Why does it have to be so hard?
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
When we accomplish something does it make us feel better or more satisfied because it was “easy” or when it was hard? I can only speak for myself, but I get greater satisfaction when I’ve worked hard for something. It’s WORTH more to me because I have invested my heart and soul. “Easy” lacks substance. It isn’t very inspiring.
Inspiration comes from displays of courage in the face of supreme challenges. Heroes are forged in the flames of battle, conflict, struggle, uncertainty, and tension. Who wants to see a superhero movie without a villain or without conflict? It’s boring. Easy doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat in the movie theatre.
I’ll have to admit that at my age easy sounds pretty good. I would like to take it easy. Wouldn’t that be great?
My childhood-college years weren’t terribly difficult or dramatic other than my romantic endeavors or should I say failures. I was not very “lucky in love” until I might my wife. I was not a “smooth operator” by any means or imagination. Well, maybe in my imagination.
I was very fortunate and blessed. My dad made good money as an architect. I had plenty of stuff to keep me entertained. My dad paid for college. It was good. It was not a bulletproof existence, but I was well insulated and had plenty of support. My parents loved me and were always there when I needed them.
My family was dysfunctional like any other, but pretty stable overall. If there were any huge problems, I never knew about them. My parents kept it to themselves and protected me from the big bad world for the most part. It didn’t mean that I got to do whatever I wanted or had it easy. There was discipline and consequences for bad behavior. I got my rump roasted, and I was grounded on many occasions. As I’ve shared before, we had horses. My dad had the perfect equestrian instrument of discipline at his disposal, and he didn’t just use it on the horses. I received several lashings from a horse crop (little whip, not Indiana Jones style, just to be clear).
I had to work hard and do chores: construction-building sheds and barns, landscaping, yard work, clearing land and brush, splitting wood, cutting grass, weed eating, digging (lot’s of digging), putting up fences, feeding animals, and much more. My personal favorite was mucking horse stalls. YUCK! The smell alone could literally gag a maggot. I know because I could hear the maggots gagging along with me. Sorry, TMI.
I think my dad did his best to prepare me for the “real world”, but I was very naïve. I probably watched too much TV and movies and thought life was always going to be easy and always have a happy ending. If there were problems, they would all be solved just like a 30-minute episode of my favorite show.
Sometimes our quest for invulnerability and the easy life can get tangled up in our faith perspective. We’ve all heard of the “prosperity gospel”. If not, it’s basically the belief that the full blessings of God are available to those who approach Him in faith and obedience, and they include wealth, health and power. Translation: “If you’re good enough, God is going make you rich, healthy, and powerful.” Sounds great right? But, it’s not biblical. When Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b NRSV), he is not saying that He will give us health, wealth, and prosperity. It doesn’t mean that He won’t or can’t bless us in this manner. It just means that He has a different definition of abundance in mind.
He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV) “Life isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to be vulnerable.”
Did the disciples hit the “BIG TIME”? Did following Jesus provide them with health, wealth, and prosperity? Did Jesus give them a ticket to easy street? Uh, no. Jesus didn’t promise them that kind of “abundance”. He didn’t promise them easy. The abundance He promised to them and is promising to us today is much different.
To close this devotion out, I want to encourage you to read Matthew 10. Jesus is sending out the 12 disciples to do ministry. They have been following Jesus for a little while now, and so far so good. It’s been easy. Jesus teaching is awesome. He is performing miracles, and healing people. It hasn’t gotten “REAL” yet, as in REAL HARD. But, it won’t be long before it gets really REAL. Really! So before He sends them out on their own, He gives them the 411. The real deal. The whole enchilada. Okay, I’ll stop. Read all of it in context, but I wanted to emphasize this passage.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, or it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Matthew 10:16-23 (NIV)
Jesus is preparing them for engagement. It’s game time! He isn’t sugar coating it. There is more detail in the rest of the chapter about the challenges that they are going to face, so be sure and check that out.
He doesn’t promise them a bonus check after the mission or a position of power in His kingdom. All He promises is that “the ones who stand firm to the end will be saved” (v.22), and that “they will not lose their reward.” (v.42) Again, we know that the “reward” Jesus is speaking of is not monetary. Read and gain insight from the Apostle Pauls understanding of the rewards, riches, and abundance that comes from a relationship with Christ in Ephesians 2.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-10 (NIV)
We will continue the discussion next week. Have a great weekend!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management