07 October, 2008

Learning from Mistakes

Learning from mistakes should be a integral part of our lives.

Mistakes happen, so why let them go to waste? Post-mistake is an excellent time to evaluate what happened, what went wrong, and how you can keep from making the same mistake again. While learning from our own mistakes is vitally important, learning from the mistakes of others can be incredibly valuable as well. Sometimes we can learn life lessons from the time other people spend in the well attended School of Hard Knocks.

This morning I was reading in the book of Matthew, chapter 8, and I came across the familiar story in verses 23 to 28 about Jesus and the disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee in a ship.

It would appear that in this story that the disciples didn't handle this very intense, very difficult situation correctly, evidenced by the fact that Jesus rebukes them for their fear and their lack of faith.

So in my desire to learn from the mistakes of others, I started to think about what the disciples should have done instead. What would have been the right way for them to deal with the circumstances they were going through?

They get into the ship and start sailing; an activity these well-seasoned fisherman had engaged in many times before. Somewhere along the line, Jesus goes down below to take a nap. Up on deck, the wind starts to blow, the skies begin to darken, and the storm begins to descend on this small ship in the Sea of Galilee.

These men have surely been through a rough storm or two in their lives. Growing up around the sea and ships, following in the footsteps of their fathers, these guys were not freshmen sailors.

So as the storm grew in intensity and strength, what was going through their minds? Was this storm worse than any of the previous storms they had experienced in their lives? How much worse? At what point in the storm did they decide that this particular storm was going to cause them to perish?

One of the greatest practical applications of this passage is trusting in what Jesus said. Jesus told the disciples they were going to the other side of the lake, as told in Luke 8:22. He didn't say, "We are going to get on a boat and then die in the middle of the Sea of Galilee together. So the clear lesson for us is to trust in what God says He will do, even if it looks like your boat is sinking in a storm.

What mistakes then can we learn from in this story? What would have happened if the disciples had weathered the storm for just a few more moments? Was the plan of Jesus all along to wake up and calm the storm? How could the disciples have chosen to be controlled by faith instead of fear?

These are intriguing questions, but ones we will not know the answers to until we are with our Lord. So in conclusion, here are some practical points of application I drew out for my own life:

  • Trust God. If He said He is taking me to the other side, then I need to trust Him in that. Even if I don't see how it could possibly happen. The disciples were afraid, and Jesus rebuked them for that. They feared the storm instead of trusting of Him who would never leave them nor forsake them. I John 4:10-19 talks about the love relationship we need to have with God through His Son Jesus Christ, and that this love relationship casts out fear.
  • Learn to nap with Jesus. Why should I worry about something that God is not worried about? I need to follow God's lead in all things. If the only concern of Jesus during the storm is whether to sleep on his left side or his right, then why am I freaking out because I think I am about to die? I should be resting in Him.
  • Hold on in the storm. It may seem that God is asleep and not aware of the tempest around me, but it is not true. If I will wait on Him and trust, He has a plan to deal with the storm in just the right way and at just the right time. Hold on a little longer. So many times the test of our faith is in the waiting.

03 October, 2008

A Spirit of Fear

Shortly after Keeley and I were married in June of 2001, we had the opportunity to go on an overseas missions trip together to Belarus in September of that same year.  In hindsight, I don’t think either of us would endorse a newly married couple going on such a trip so soon.  Better to wait six months to a year to allow for the inevitable adjustments to be in place or at least begun.

Of course we all know that in September of 2001 is when the attacks on the Twin Towers occurred in New York City.  This history changing event occurred while we were in Belarus with a group of about 30 from our church, and around 30 others from churches around the US.

We were out in a small village inviting people to come to a local Bible study when we first learned of the attacks.  Since the people we were speaking with spoke only Russian, their interpretation of the events that had been interpreted by a Russian newscaster which were then translated back into English by the translator that was working with us left us with a muddled impression, to say the least, of what had happened that tragic day.  One elderly woman we spoke with said that terrorists had destroyed a large shopping mall and had kidnapped President Bush (you can imagine how “trade center” might end up coming across in translation as a place to shop).

Once we got back to the church where the missionaries and the rest of our group was, the facts and details of what had actually transpired became to come together.  Because we had no access to television, cable or otherwise, our only source of information was an extremely slow dial-up connection to the Internet.  One of the missionaries would download updates and share them with the group several times a day. 

When discussing the experiences people in the US had when the attacks occurred, people always talk about having the television on almost nonstop, and seeing video footage of the planes hitting the towers over and over again.  Not having that element of television in Belarus definitely gave us a different perspective on the attacks.  It wasn’t until weeks later after returning to the United States that I saw the video footage for the first time.

Many people have told me that watching the reporting on television during the days following the attacks only served to feed a spirit of fear in them, so they had made a decision to turn it off.

In these recent days as the United States is dealing with a financial mess, once again the television is filled with nonstop reporting and stories that for the most part serve only to feed a spirit of fear.  Even here in Costa Rica, the financial “crisis” in the US is a hot news item, and cable TV allows us to see most of the major US news channels. 

While watching one of the many reporters talk of impending doom, I was reminded of a team meeting we had in Belarus shortly after the news of the 9/11 attacks had been announced.  Many of the people in our group had children back in the states that were staying with friends or family while their parents went to Belarus, so of course their concern for them was at the forefront of their minds.  For many, a spirit of fear had set in and there was a look of panic and helplessness on their faces.  KCBT Pastor, Alan Shelby, was our team leader for the trip and he called the meeting to address the group.  Alan, with great wisdom, spoke to us and encouraged us to approach the situation soberly and in faith.  One of the things he said that has stuck with me to this day, and serves us equally well in the situation we find ourselves in today, was, “There is nothing that has happened which gives us cause to distrust God”.

Are there problems?  Yes.  Are there people struggling financially?  Yes.  Will the condition of the economy have an affect on the average person in the US?  Probably.  But none of these things give us cause to distrust our God.  Is God only faithful to provide for our needs if the US economy is in good shape?  Of course not, He is always faithful.

I read this morning the following verses and was reminded of God’s faithfulness and how unaffected He is by the world’s economy.

Matthew 6:28-33
28  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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