We like to think that life is like the movies. We imagined our first kiss would be like it was in a Hallmark movie or that our teen years would look like the adventures of Ferris Bueller on his day off; and yet for many of us that isn't the case. Often our lives are much more mundane than the ones that hit big at the box office.
We also imagine that victories (both in battle and in life) will have some glorious ending where we get to plant our flag in the ground and declare that we have become conquerors. And yet we find that success is more about the small daily steps of faithfulness rather than the big bangs of a war movie.
Recently, I began the task of taking down a treehouse in my backyard. When we bought the house I was so excited about my kids having adventures up in this treehouse, but it became clear upon closer inspection that it had rotted out boards and wasn't a safe structure. So I began last week to take it down and despite the fact that it looked like it might fall over any second; it has put up a fight to stay up. So I have found myself pulling nail after nail and screw after screw to get this beast to the ground (I am now 90% done). It turned out that these walls didn't fall like the ones at Jericho, they had to come down piece by piece.
I said this past week at our church meeting that my word of the year was faithfulness. I said I had tried, through every change that 2020 threw at me, to be faithful to my calling as Pastor of this church. I said that the people of this church had been so faithful in giving that we are doing well despite the economic hardship of many during this time. And I said that God has been faithful most of all, hearing and answering our prayers time after time.
My goal in life isn't to "go down in a blaze of glory" to quote Jon Bon Jovi; but to live each day faithfully, to do the next right thing and then do it again day after day. I know this isn't glamorous; but it is faithfulness. In truth most of the people we meet in heaven won't be famous; but they will have been faithful.
Will you seek faithfulness in your life? Will you seek faithfulness in your home, in your job, in your school, in your church and in your walk with God? Will you seek to press on despite the hardships of this year (or any year) and seek not glory but to press on day by day?
Most of our victories will be unglorious. Most of them will go unnoticed by a world obsessed with fame and fortune; but they will not go unnoticed by God.
In Matthew 6:4 Jesus says "then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." So don't worry about fame, fortune or glory; focus on faithfulness.
It can be really easy to look back at how life used to be—back before the 2020 pandemic—and long for the world to return to that state. I myself have longed for this. Sometimes I forget that God often leads us through difficult situations for our own good. I remember the Israelites who had recently been freed from the Egyptian captors—how they escaped by the skin of their teeth with Pharaoh chasing close behind them. Once they were free from Egypt, it didn’t take long to start complaining about their situation.
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’”
In this season of unknowns, I would like to encourage you to think of God’s perspective. He has all of the answers, and He has our best interest in mind, even if it doesn’t make any sense to us right now. God often leads His people through trials intentionally so that we can mature in our faith in our journey to our destination—wherever that may be. I would like to ask us all—myself included—to place our attitudes in check and analyze how we perceive the world around us. Let’s count our blessings and remember that God has us in His hands. We must trust God and obey His will as we endure this plague. He is on our side.
It's advent, which is a big deal to me, but I realize that the term and even the idea have become increasingly forgotten in our culture. In simple terms, Advent is the weeks leading up to Christmas and is a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of the Christ child.
In worship we spend time reading the stories that lead up to the birth story of Jesus (shepherds, angels, Joseph's dream, traveling to Bethlehem...) and use them to help us get ready to celebrate the coming of the Messiah into the world. These weeks are full of Christmas Carols (many of which are beautiful worship songs that could be sung year round in my opinion), lighting candles each week as we move closer and closer to the center candle (known as the Christ candle) which we light on Christmas Eve and decorating our church for the season.
But Advent isn't just a series of rituals or stories to be told once a year, it is a time of anticipation. God is up to something. God is on the move. Advent reminds us that just like 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born, our God is still alive and active and we need to be prepared for his coming (not just as a baby in a manger but as the Lord of our hearts).
Advent is an advent-ture (corny I know, but true). Advent is about getting ready for God to do something great in us, in our church and in our communities. Are you ready to worship? Are you ready to celebrate? Are you ready for God to move in your life?
Matthew 3:3 quotes from the prophet Isaiah and says "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight the paths for him."
Let's get ready. God is on the move. Advent is here and we will be prepared.