Friday, January 26, 2007

In the means-time...

I don't know about you but one of the main things in life that keeps me from experiencing more joy and peace of mind is that I often have my mind set more on the "ends" than on the "means."

Focusing solely or predominantly on the "ends" (the hoped-for end results) can produce some unwanted fruit: lack of joy, lack of peace, impatience, lack of kindness... and so on, you get the gist.

Not that we don't have goals that we keep our eyes on, and not that we don't want our circumstances to change, but I've found that most of life is not lived in the "ends," but rather in the "means" that it takes to get there. And whether or not you ever get to the "ends" that you're hoping for, you cannot avoid the "means" of life!

Perhaps what I'm really talking about when I say "means" is the never-ending (ongoing) daily circumstances of life. So many of our circumstances in life are really part of the means that God is using to get us to various ends, but in so many of our circumstances in life we can't see how God could possibly be doing anything good! And so we pray for the "end" to come. We pray that these circumstances would end quickly and that the great, wonderful, end result would arrive. We "humbly" add, "And may all this be according to Your will and in Your timing." But then 5 seconds later we're wondering again when this will end!

I believe there is meant to be a lot of JOY in the Christian life. I also believe that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian life, and that the hoped-for end result of our suffering... is trusting in God. Oh, Joel, there you go upsetting all those "happy-all-the-time Christians!" (I honestly once heard a preacher say that when you accept Christ, you're happy ALL the time!). Anyway, "suffering" could mean that you don't get to the light before it turns red, or it could mean that you are shipwrecked, stoned almost to death, and receive 39 lashes multiple times, as happened with the Apostle Paul - all while he was doing the Lord's work. It could mean not getting that promotion. It could mean not having all your godly desires fulfilled right here and now. Suffering could mean all kinds of things. I'm sure we could all make a list!

Now, I personally don't believe that God is the author of all our suffering. And if He does intentionally put us into the midst of sticky circumstances, or if He doesn't get us out of all our sticky circumstances, it's not because He likes seeing us suffer. But I believe that He will use any and all of these circumstances in life for one main purpose - to help us to trust Him. I believe the bottom line of the Christian life has absolutely nothing to do with everything going our way and working out just right like an episode of the Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch is fiction. We are living real lives.

The fall of man, back in Genesis, wasn't about disobedience. It wasn't about some great sinful desire that Adam had. Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because he believed the deceit of the serpent, and therefore didn't trust God. God had set everything up for Adam to have perfect union with Him, and great joy and peace. It was a paradise setting that has never, ever been seen since. Adam believed there was something more to be had, and he left behind the sufficiency of God and pursued a path based upon his own sufficiency.

The bottom line of Christianity is faith. Trust God. It's not about "changing your behavior." It's not about "naming, claiming and framing" all your material and spiritual desires. It's not about getting all our circumstances to work out in neat and tidy ways. It's not even about being happy! (Happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is great, but it's based upon current circumstances being just the way you want it. Joy is a very wonderful fruit that develops from trusting God in the midst of any and all circumstances). I think there are many people who try to set up all the circumstances of their lives to make themselves happy, and they miss out on true, deep joy.

And so this post is really about getting our hearts, our focus, back to trusting in God, no matter what "means" He is using to get us to HIS ends. When we trust Him, our behavior will change naturally, not forcefully. We get so focused on changing behavior - our own behavior and THE BEHAVIOR OF OTHERS! Our loved ones who are caught up in "bad behavior" don't need our lectures about how they need to "stop doing this" and "start doing that." They really need us to be patient and to wrap our arms around them (literally and figuratively) and to join our lives together with them and go through the long process with them of learning to trust God - and who we are in Him.

To summarize, I really believe that God's purposes in the circumstances of our lives are to draw us into deeper, trusting fellowship with Him. Again, JOY is one of the many wonderful fruits that comes from trust. He Himself is our sufficiency. I believe that's the bottom line of our relationship with Him! I think He'll use all kinds of ways to help us trust Him. So since life is mostly "means" and not "ends," enjoy the means that He is using to draw you into that trustful place.


  1. Great article, Joel.
    I can relate many things to what you said here.

  2. Wow, I needed to hear that!! Would you mind if I posted this as a response to a blog I recently wrote?

  3. Hey Angela, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment! Feel free to use this on your blog.

  4. Thanks, Joel. Keep are a big part of our spiritual food right now. As we look for our new "church", it is nice to be in touch with the old one.

  5. Okay, I came to read it and once again, I am amazed. Thanks for the words...

  6. And lest anyone misunderstands Carianne's amazement, she has a basis on which to judge and compare the words that she sees me write today:

    She knew me way back in the day, when the most profound things to come out of my mouth were quotes from "Beetlejuice" or alternative lyrics that I'd made up to Bon Jovi songs. :)

  7. Thank you for writing this article. I was doing a search for articles about grace, and stumbled upon this one. I have a friend who was recently injured, and is struggling to "see" what God is doing... It is refreshing to remind ourselves that the "believing" and "resting" is far more important than the "seeing".

  8. Hi NCN, thanks for your comment. More and more I'm seeing that the journey is far more important than the destination. It's hard to see that sometimes, but throughout it all, Christ is for us, Christ is with us and Christ is in us, and He is our very life.