Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Overwhelmed Life - Part 2

by Shelley Rees

What does it mean to live the overwhelmed life? In the life of grace, this is a glorious thing! Living the overwhelmed life means my future is good beyond all measure. Romans 8:18 (Phillips) says, "In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us." But sometimes, I forget this and get anxious about my future. For many years now, Dave and I have been setting aside money for our retirement, but with the stock market crash and other issues, it seems the nest egg just doesn’t get bigger. I occasionally worry that when the day comes for Dave’s retirement, we won't have the provision we need for our sunset years. Sounds like that puffed up voice of poverty again, doesn’t it? But the truth is, what we go through circumstantially is nothing compared to what our future holds for us. And this future is not a distant thing. It's right around the corner; it’s the next moment, the next hour, the next day. What Jesus accomplished on the cross sets our future prospects, and they are always gloriously good. So I choose to live in the truth and leave the future in God’s hands. Right now, I am stepping into my inheritance watching my children go to college with almost all of their tuition paid from gifts of money. While the news keeps saying our nation is in a bad economy, I’m enjoying my inheritance as my husband’s employer is in its best financial state ever and giving out generous bonuses that are covering some unexpected needs in our family. So as a child of God my future is set and it's a magnificent future always waiting to overwhelm me with my Father's goodness.

In this overwhelmed life, I dwell in unending freedom and victory. So when I am bombarded by condemning voices or haunted by thoughts of past failures and inadequacies, what is the truth? Romans 8:33-34 (Phillips) says, "Who would dare to accuse us, whom God has chosen? The judge himself has declared us free from sin. Who is in a position to condemn? OnlyChrist, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us." Awesome! The only one who can judge us instead gave and continues to give himself to us overwhelmingly. There isn't any room for us to even judge ourselves. Every mistake, every screw up is completely irrelevant in the shadow of the cross. We stand righteous and overwhelmingly free! "Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms?...No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us" (Romans 8:35-37, Phillips). That's it! In the midst of seemingly overwhelming circumstances, the love of Christ is far greater still, and in that love we win an overwhelming victory. So those other demeaning voices are mere echoes of a bygone era and have completely lost their relevancy. As a matter of fact, when we agree with the truth, Christ's voice rises up and breaks the cycle of self-reflection and frees us from those evil, downcast thoughts. This is victory indeed.

Let's face it, real life brings us hurdles and hard knocks. We all struggle with painful dynamics in relationships, sickness, stress on the job, or frustrating circumstances. But to this Paul says, “We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound [to return, to recoil] to his glory. This is the reason that we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain” (2 Corinthians 4:15, Phillips). So our reward is completely out of proportion to the “little troubles” we are currently experiencing. In the light of his overwhelming grace and love, they are actually trivial. The only time they get large and disproportionate is when we start looking at them and relating to them as real power houses. So to stay connected to the truth of our reality, we have to keep our eyes focused on the invisible permanent realities opened to us through the cross. It’s in the invisible realm that we access the overwhelming power that’s ours for this life we live in the here and now.

As I’ve meditated on all the above, it’s occurred to me that I’m actually created to live overwhelmed, and thus it makes perfectsense that I should feel overwhelmed by my life. But I have a choice. What is going to overwhelm me? What I see--which is so small and temporary, or what I don’t see--which is so very huge and so very gloriously permanent? In the midst of my difficulties I have the opportunity to go back to the cross, to cling to it and to feel the bloody flow again and experience the perfect washing of the mercy of God. I can close my eyes to all the visible, seemingly impossible issues in my life and go into the secret place again and watch as the King of Glory comes out and overwhelms me with his abundant goodness and unimaginable power. Thank you, Jesus, for your overwhelming love. Thank you for the gift of an overwhelmed life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Overwhelmed Life - Part 1

by Shelley Rees

What does it mean to live an overwhelmed life? Typically, if I was feeling overwhelmed, this meant that I was feeling overrun by difficult or challenging circumstances. I was experiencing more activities than time, more expenses than money, more needs than my emotional resources could meet. Life seemed out of control and therefore, I felt out of control. With this mindset, I often did not respond well to these situations and allowedmyself to succumb to the full gamut of negative emotions—anger, frustration, bitterness, despair--and frequentlysinned in the way I vented these feelings onto my husband and kids. My understanding of an overwhelmed life was where circumstances ruled the day and overpowered me. But as I’ve grown in deeper revelation of the truth of the gospel, I’ve learned that my reality isn’t always the truth. My perspective of the overwhelmed life didn’t line up with the truth of Jesus Christ. In fact, his truth actually redefines the overwhelmed life and releases power to overcome in all challenging circumstances, and even allows me to experience joy in the midst of them.

So what's the truth about an overwhelmed life? In Romans 5, Paul writes that as sin came into the world through one man, Adam, so grace and life came through one man, Christ. However, in verse 15 he says, "But the gift is not like the trespass. In verse 16 he repeats his point saying, "Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one man's sin." He then goes on to explain that the gift of grace is overwhelmingly more abundant and powerful than the effects of sin ever were. He makes it very clear that the power of sin doesn't hold a candle compared to the flow of grace that is poured out to us through Jesus. So if this is true, then what power does sin or the effects of sin really have over me, the new creation that I am? If I live in a state of overwhelming grace, then sin is no more than an annoying external force attempting to get my attention and distract me from the truth.

Have you ever experienced one of those pesty gnats persistently flitting in front of your eye? Totally annoying, right? When this happens to me, this very small creature and its pesty behavior can capture all my attention as I attempt to swat it away. All my focus is on the aggravating behavior of such a tiny insect and its close proximity to my face, and I allow its "power" to prevent me from seeing the much larger world all around me. Like that gnat, sin poses as something really powerful but is completely insignificant in the surge of grace, favor, love and kindness that is toppled onto us.

From time to time, my husband, Dave, and I have faced significant financial hurdles that have put the big-time squeeze on our checking account. In the middle of this crisis, the voice of poverty pipes up, presenting itself as something large and looming, and starts speaking dreadful things about our future. It catches our attention, and then condemnation and judgment join in telling us how bad we've been with our money and start saying, "if only....". It feels awful, and it all begins to sound mighty powerful. But the truth is, Dave and I have a better word being spoken over us overriding poverty's pesty voice. We've been separated from our sinful past with all its sinful spending habits. We are completely free from our past mistakes and can now remain in peace believing the heavenly word of overwhelming favor, grace and provision that is overflowing into our home and overpowering all sensations of lack. We can watch as the Lord supernaturally redeems our finances and brings increase into our home. This is life in the surge of grace. This is the true overwhelmed life.