Tag Archives: Faithfulness

Sin is a Liar

And [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. – 1 Kings 18:28

They cut themselves. And not just a little.

You and I do the same thing.

Sin is a liar, and it’s always demanding more of you. And if you’re like me, you keep giving more and more of yourself to sin in pursuit of what it promises you. But here’s the crazy thing: sin never ever gives you what it promises to give.

The prophets of Baal in 1 Kings are a great example of this. For background, the prophet Elijah is going to settle the score on whose God is real, so he challenges the prophets of Baal to a sacrifice-off. Who can get their God to light a sacrifice on fire? The prophets of Baal go first and their efforts go like his:

Prepare the bull for sacrifice, call on Baal. Nothing happens.
Call on Baal a little louder. Nothing happens.
Limp around the altar while calling on Baal. Nothing happens.
Rage and scream, cut themselves in sacrifice. Nothing happens.

They started out preparing the bull for sacrifice. They wind up bleeding themselves. Gushing even.

At each stage sin offered them the promise that if they would give just a little more… then their false God would come and save them.

“Just a little more.” Sin whispers. “Just give me a little more, and I’ll give you what you want.”

But in the end, no one comes. Nothing happens. No one pays attention.

And that’s the hiss from the same sin we listen to everyday. It is making promises to you today that it will never keep. Can you hear them?

  • Forget your family, spend a few more hours at work. I promise that will make you successful.
  • Don’t be generous to your coworker, don’t share what you’re working on. I promise that’s the way you’ll do better than him.
  • Work hard when the boss is looking, but don’t worry about it otherwise. I promise it doesn’t matter anyways.
  • Skip time in the Word today, it’s been such a long demanding day. I promise you’ll be more rested if you don’t spend time with God.

What has sin promised you?

Control? Power? Approval? Comfort? Rest? Peace? Money? Stuff?

It will never provide those things. It can’t.

Sin always asks more from you and never gives back.

What false promise are you believing? What has sin offered you today at work? How has that gone?

The truth is that the things you are seeking have already been provided. They were purchased for you years ago. Don’t buy what sin is selling.

The Function of Struggle

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
-CR Snyder

People really hate math class. They love to say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used calculus.” But you never hear people say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used the knowledge that Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD.” Why is that? It’s weird. Especially since math is everywhere. Even in suffering and struggle.

My mom is a math teacher, and the other day she was commenting to me how she appreciates that algebra math students are now instructed to solve a function rather than just solve for a variable.

For her, f(x)=1+x^2 > y=1+x^2. (Don’t worry, all the math in this post is made up and unnecessary to understanding the main point. It is fun though, to find a Gospel application even for algebraic notation.)

At first, this made no sense to me. It’s all the same, right? It’s just a semantic difference. Swap y for f(x) for z for the word banana… it’s all just a representation of a variable right?

But no, she said. Functions are different than variables. Once you solve a function, you can apply it to any number set, or combine it with any other function. Functions become building blocks that can be combined, transformed, modified and shifted. They are much more than an individual variable, they are a single component in a broader tapestry of understanding the world around us. And it’s not just math. Functions are everywhere and can be applied to anything. Once you start thinking with functions, you can better understand almost any causal relationship.

CR Snyder (who I don’t know… obvi) didn’t know I had that conversation with my mom. He did, however, give us an interesting function to test our theory with.

So: If hope is a function of struggle, what are its properties? What are its components? How do we get from struggle to hope? How do we define the struggle function? (What does “function of” mean?)

Multiple choice tests taught me that it’s always easier to work backwards (and that’s the only thing), so let’s start with the product. What is hope a direct function of?

Hope is a function of character.

Brene Brown describes hope this way: “Hope is not an emotion, but a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when we have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.” That cognitive behavioral process could be described as your character. After all, who you are… what your character is… is just a combination of all the different behavioral processes you exhibit. (That’s as clinical as it gets… stick with me.)

Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a function of character.

hope = hope(character(x))

Or: more character leads to more hope.

Character is a function of endurance.

We have a useful start, but remember we can modify functions, we can combine them and transform them. So what is character a function of? Endurance.

Endurance is the ability to continue through discomfort. Research shows that the best distance runners in the world have a higher pain tolerance than the average person, but not a higher pain threshold. That means they feel pain at the same point but don’t succumb to it as quickly as you or I. They have trained themselves to be able to endure.

Which sounds a lot like this function which produces character right? Things in our lives will hurt, they will be uncomfortable, but in enduring (and in properly addressing and dealing with those issues) we build character. The ability to do it again tomorrow, but better. We’re distance runners building our endurance.

character = character(endurance(x))

Or: more endurance leads to more character.

Endurance is a function of struggle.

Maybe you saw this when we were talking about building endurance, but you can’t have endurance if there is nothing to endure. I mean, by definition, endurance implies pain or discomfort. The Google definition for endurance is, “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The without giving way part is interesting because it implies a control or effort being exerted. A resistance to the pain being presented.

There is no endurance without struggle.

endurance = endurance(struggle(x))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance.

And with that, we have all we need to make our proof:

hope = hope(character(endurance(struggle(x)))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance leads to more character leads to more hope.

CR Snyder’s logic was right, but it wasn’t complete. Hope is a function of struggle, but what is struggle a function of? What sets this whole chain reaction in motion?

Struggling is a function of suffering.

Endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” It’s the ability to prolong your struggle, which can only be brought about by struggling. We can only struggle in the face of pain. In the face of suffering. I mean, try to struggle while comfortable on a beach with a tiki drink in your hand. Just as we cannot build endurance without first struggling. We cannot struggle without first suffering.

struggling=struggle(suffering(x))

hope = hope(suffering(x))

Or: more suffering leads to more hope.

Solving the suffering function gives us hope.

And are we surprised?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

All of this is to say that in a non-intuitive way, your suffering today is a gift. The losses and difficulties are building in you a hope for the one who will not disappoint you. Tomorrow might not be brighter than today, but there is coming a day that will be much much brighter.

Take a minute to think about a struggle you have had. What is something you struggle with at work? Can you feel traces of endurance building up? Can you see shadows of your character strengthening? Do you find even the smallest amount of hope where previously there was none?

Now, what’s a hard or painful thing you could do at work today? What is a pain or suffering to struggle against? Start struggling.

Good Sin

Unfortunately, it’s very likely that I will walk in to work today and work hard to earn my paycheck, win the esteem of my bosses, gain the approval of my coworkers, build my own little kingdom. Maybe that’s what you’re planning to do today also.

We won’t lie to our coworkers or steal from our bosses, but if we don’t do every task in thoughtful worship to God, our actions will still be sin.

Here’s an important and difficult truth you might need to be reminded of: Sin isn’t the doing bad things. Sin is the doing of any thing for any reason other than God’s glory.

Sin is working hard solely for a paycheck or ‘selflessly’ serving your coworkers just to gain their approval.

Good things done for the wrong reasons aren’t good things.

The Only Way to Get Rich

Last week I wrote a post titled “The Only Two Ways to Get Rich.” In it I explained that to get rich you could either a) want less stuff or b) get more stuff. I then went on to make the claim that the Gospel informs this view and that God indeed wants to help you to want less stuff  while getting more.

The problem is that’s not exactly true. If you read the article at face value, all the claims made are biblicaly defensible (I’ll happily point you to the scriptures for each claim if you’re in to that kind of stuff) but when read together, the implied message is something different. The implication to the post is that God wants you to have more stuff, or money, or success, or whatever… and I’m really uncomfortable with that implied message because it’s just not true.

Look: God does wants us to have more. Not only that, God wants us to have the best. In fact, he has gone to great lengths to ensure that we can get more of the very best. But here’s the thing: the “very best” is just one thing. It’s the only thing that truly matters: Him. It’s not more comfort or control or approval or power. It’s not a newer car or nicer house or shinier watch or more powerful friends. It’s more of Him. He’s the best. He’s all there is.

He wants you to have more of the very best. He wants you to have more of him.

Along the way, God may lend you some stuff, apportion you some power, or assign you a few successes, but those things aren’t ultimately what he cares about, and they shouldn’t be what we care about either. Not because those things aren’t valuable and good, but because he is so much better.

(If you’re wondering: you can read The Only Two Ways to Get Rich here.)

Binary Actions

Everything you do will bring glory to God or to something else. Said another way: everything you do honors God or dishonors him.

There is no middle ground. (and yes, it really is that simple.)

Every action in your day will be honoring or dishonoring to God. How could it be any other way?

At work: that email you sent, that font change you made, printing in color versus black and white, staying late versus leaving early, remembering to run the reports on time, spell-checking your document before it gets sent out.

At home: not making your bed, eating out instead of cooking at home, drinking water instead of soda, reading that book, reading THAT Book (get it? *gag*), brushing and (/or?) flossing, exercising for an hour… you get the picture.

Everything you do. Everything. Everything matters.

And maybe as you were reading those lists, you were tempted to think I’m making a statement about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. “You should print in black and white to conserve ink.” Or, “You should always make your bed.” I’m not saying that at all.

If I’m printing a report for a client, you better believe I’m printing in color, and you better believe I printed a proof in color as well, and I am probably printing on a heavier paper. And if I’m running late in the morning, it’s possible it would be downright disobedient and God dishonoring to stop to make my bed.

So the message isn’t, “Do this, not that.”

The message is, “Be mindful.”

You’re always going to bring honor and glory to something, no matter the task. Make sure you know where that glory is going.