“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9″
The apostle Paul penned these words to his friends in the ancient city of Corinth. He had been spreading the Christian message in another city, Ephesus, and was trying to decide whether to stay put or move on.
There had been many opportunities for Paul in Ephesus, but also much opposition. His preaching had been met with riotous mobs and death threats. Most people would take this as a sign to get out of town, but not Paul! He decided to base his decisions on God’s activity rather than what his enemies were doing and stayed in Ephesus for another year. Many more converts were added to the church during this time.
One can only assume, but I bet Paul’s life felt something like a chess match. Over and over, his opponents backed him into a corner–putting him in check. But God always provided a way out and kept Paul out of checkmate.
This has recently become real to me. In fact, I started this blog because I was placed in “check.”
For several months, I sent a dozen or so Christian colleagues at my company a Bible verse with an encouraging thought every morning. These are friends who attend a weekly employee prayer group or asked specifically to be included in the email. Nevertheless, someone in our company complained to HR, telling them I was sending “scriptures” through company email. The next thing I know, my boss gets a visit from corporate.
No, I wasn’t told to cease and desist. But the reality that someone took offense at my attempt to encourage a few Christian friends was deflating. I was really down for about 24 hours, but then recalled the words of a dear friend, “There are always options: good ones and bad ones.”
I chose the best option I could and avoided checkmate. When the time comes, I hope you will too.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8
When I was in grad school, a buddy of mine had a little ten foot sailboat we liked to take out on the weekends. My friend didn’t know much about sailing. I knew even less. But we had a blast cruising around a little lake near the university. That is, until this one day.
It was picture perfect with a 10-12 mph wind, which meant we were moving right along–cutting a big arc across the middle of the lake. Suddenly, and I mean out of nowhere, the wind died down to almost nothing. We were dead in the water and drifting AWAY from shore. It’s a good thing the boat came with two oars, because we ended up rowing a half mile to land!
Well, we brought her in (sort of), up to this boat slip where we were met by a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager grinning for ear to ear. It’s turned out this kid was a Norwegian exchange student who knew a thing or two about sailing. He’d watched our little “dilemma” unfold from shore. We tried to explain how the freakish break in the wind left us stranded, but he was having nothing of it. “For a sailor, almost any wind will do,” he said, still grinning. “May I show you?”
He then proceeded to shove off, set the sail, and slowly navigate out to the middle of the lake and back under the power of an almost imperceptible breeze. It’s funny, I don’t remember sailing much with my friend after that.
There’s a life application here somewhere…
Forces beyond our control, like the wind, can either help us or hurt us. It all depends on how we set the sail–make the best of God’s grace.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
At age 48, I decided to become a long distance runner. First, came the quarter marathon (6.55 miles). Next, was the half marathon (13.1 miles). Finally, I completed a full marathon (26.2 miles) just after my 50th birthday. Here’s something I learned along the way:
The hardest part of running a marathon isn’t the end, it’s the part just before the end. Runners call it “Hitting the Wall,” and it usually happens somewhere between miles 19 and 23. The Wall is a sudden and powerful urge to quit the race. To give up and take a DNF (Did not Finish). Surprisingly, this sometimes happens with the finish line in sight.
Thankfully, The Wall is weakened, I mean like Superman and Kryptonite, by one thing: WILL POWER. You push through the wall by using your mind to tell your body not to quit.
There have been plenty of times, as a runner and otherwise, where I’ve wanted to leap-frog over the rivers and go around the fires. But God says He will be with us on the way through.
“Alrighty, then,” as a friend of mine likes to say. Let’s get this over with…
“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost