October 5, 2015

Tough Times Build Character

In the early 1980’s, Kathy and I owned one auto parts store and we (mostly I) decided to expand our business into two other cities. My decision turned out to have a treacherous effect on our cash flow to the point that we barely had money to feed our family. Our three children were little and we had strong convictions that they needed a full time mom at home. This made it impossible for Kathy to work outside of the house to help pay our bills. So she set up her desk in our home and did all of our accounting and oversaw our finances, while she simultaneously took care of our small children. This was no easy task, but we worked hard and kept growing.

Over time Kathy developed into a great CFO of our four businesses in three locations with forty employees. Yet the faster we grew, the tighter things became financially, especially at home. Personally, I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Growing a business from scratch can be agonizing, but growing three businesses all at the same time is like a mother having triplets – they will leave stretch marks on you for life. You might forget the pain you were in, but you never forget the intensity of the labor it took to give birth to your dreams.

Forgetting The Cost

I am deeply concerned that those who inherited a blessed life have lost sight of its high cost! I grieve over a gospel that is cloaked in benefits, but requires no responsibility. Some bask in His victory while the nations continue to live in oppression, poverty, and despair. I don’t doubt our victory nor do I question our high calling, but I wonder at the lack of resolve that many Believers have to engage society at the level of their greatest pain and carve out a path through the snake-infested jungle, carrying the weak to a place of safety.

You are not called to polish your armor or hold a body building contest! You have been left behind to transform the world. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus said He was finished, He didn’t say you were! When Paul spoke of his apostolic credentials he unleashed a list of beatings that would have scared Arnold Schwarzenegger. The very man that taught us about great grace was entrenched in a battle that scarred his body and troubled his soul. Yet many Believers are convinced that life in the Kingdom is like tiptoeing through the tulips. They are persuaded that you will win the nations through some garden party.

But what I want to know is where are the women and men with radical faith and outrageous courage? When will the righteous reign and the demoniacs flee at the very sight of a child of the King? How long must we stumble through this darkness before we rise with wisdom that stuns the kings of this world? Who will step out from the crowd and dare to leave the cesspool of unrighteous living to embrace a life of purity?

Overwhelmed

Even if you do have radical faith and outrageous courage, sometimes you go through seasons when the mere frequency of things going wrong can be discouraging and overwhelming. One of the worst things that can happen in these seasons is that you begin to expect things to go wrong. Expectation is the fruit of faith. In other words, you BELIEVE and therefore empower destructive outcomes; simply put, by faith your life sucks! You must avoid the temptation to “go with the flow” and “faith” your way into a miserable life.

For example, have you ever bent over to pick up a box thinking it was going to be really heavy, and instead it was incredibly light? Or, on the other hand, have you ever picked up something you thought would be really light and found it to be extremely heavy? Our expectations of life’s circumstances determine whether or not we’re actually prepared for them.

But some people always prepare for the worst so that they won’t be disappointed. They reason that if something then goes better than expected, they will be encouraged. The challenge is that expectation is actually the manifestation of FAITH and you tend to receive what you believe. Therefore, life gets harder when you think it will and easier when you expect it to be.

Of course, all of us have been surprised when something unexpected goes wrong. It’s important that you don’t turn bad circumstances into a lifetime of cynicism and thus invite trouble into your life.

8 Keys to Avoiding Cynicism

Here are eight keys to avoiding cynicism:

1. Look for Jesus in the midst of your troubles. He tends to hang out in hard places.

2. Remember God’s past miracles and works in your life.

3. Cultivate thankfulness in your heart no matter how you “feel.”

4. Avoid the “misery loves company” syndrome by disciplining yourself to hang around happy people when you don’t feel like it.

5. Pray in the Spirit because the Bible says you “edify yourself” when you do.

6. Take a mental vacation. Give yourself permission to take a break each day from thinking about your problems. Cultivate some happy thoughts.

7. Remember the Bible says, “It came to pass!” In other words, it came so it could pass – this season will end.

8. Remind yourself that everything works out for good in the end. So if it isn’t good, it isn’t the end!

Have you ever found yourself becoming cynical? What have you done to overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.

Topics: All TopicsLeadership


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