Pretty much everywhere I turn, that's the prevailing sentiment. The economy is in the tank. Retirement accounts are beyond depressing. Layoffs and bad news still dribble out of a seemingly endless pipeline of discouraging news.
Now folks are worried about the swine flu pandemic to go along with global warming, droughts and floods, and who knows what else.
Then we go through the check-out line at the grocery store and see only bad news screaming from every magazine cover. The world is going to end because this celebrity is breaking up with that celebrity. Some disaster is going to befall Hollywood because some superstar has hair in her comb, blood on his toothbrush, or a wrinkle on his brow. Oh, and then there is the scandalous rumor that so and so has an eating problem and has gained a few pounds — or wait, could it be a baby bump?
Yes, there are some very hard things happening to people right now. Some who read this are in the middle of very hard times. Yet we have become a culture that has been trained like Pavlov's dogs to see, hear, and think only about the negative. The news media floods our house with nothing but crisis, conflict, and catastrophe. The more we hear, the more we salivate in expectation of more juicy and negative sound bytes.
We've become like the old Peanuts cartoon strip character Pigpen. Only in our case, it is not a cloud of dust that follows us everywhere we go, but an oppressive cloud of negativism and cynicism. So when we come together, we can find plenty of reasons to complain and to criticize.
So I will say it again: ENOUGH!
Somewhere along the way, we have lost our sense of divine partnership with the Father. We don't celebrate what God has done through us (Acts 14:26-28). We don't rejoice that God is present in us to "will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). We forget that we are His salt and His light in this world of decay and darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). God is at work in us and through us to bless the world, to work things out for good, and to use those who love Him for His purposes (Romans 8:28-29).
When we lose this "God-perspective," this sense of divine partnership, we begin a downward and destructive spiral:
- We worry that we have to fix things or we are a failure.
- We feel stressed and rushed to accomplish all our tasks at hand.
- We lose any sense of genuine thankfulness, and focus only on what is wrong or what we don't have or how we are flawed.
- We don't look for God's presence in our lives;
- We ultimately divide the world in sacred and secular, limiting God to a box and a set time each week (see last week's post for more on this subject).
We must remember: God is at work in us, both in bad times and good times. God is looking to partner with us in His work of redemption, forgiveness, compassion, and holy living. There is more going on in our lives than simply trudging through another day. God is present in us and with us and through us. He is longing to partner with us on a daily basis.
How do I know?
The Father has promised it! He longs to join with us in this divine partnership and catch us up in His story of grace!
Paul could say of his ministry partners, "We are God's co-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9 NASB) and speak of Timothy as God's co-worker, as well (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
He told new believers, "... for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13 TNIV).
He proclaimed these words of comfort and good hope to those facing trial:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
No wonder the first team sent out in the name of Jesus came back from their journey and "gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them ..." (Acts 14:29 TNIV, emphasis mine). They recognized that they were in a divine partnership with God!
So let's take a little more time to give thanks for what God is doing among us. Let's learn to celebrate the good things that our Father is doing through us, not for our glory, but for His. When we live for His purpose, we bring Him great pleasure, and in the process, we discover His power in a fresh way for our day (Romans 8:28)!
(These are questions designed for you to discuss with others in a small group, house church, friendship circle, or share with our Heartlight.org community on the blog. I'd love to hear from you: http://thephilfiles.com!
How can you be more aware of His presence and partnership with you in your daily life?
How can God work through you at work, school, or in your recreational activities?
What makes it hard for you to believe that God might be at work in your life?
How do you think Jesus, or the apostle Paul, would convince you that God is really present and at work to use you for His glory?
Paul talked about two key elements that set us in a position for God's work to occur in our lives: loving Him and being called to live for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Which of these two do you need to work on in your life?
How can you show your love for God more fully?
How can you get a better sense of God's purpose for your life?