Journal Entry ~ 09/25/17

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. - 2 Timothy 2:1-7

There is so much instruction for us in these short 7 passages - a week just isn’t enough time to meditate on all that is in these verses. I could spend a week just reflecting on what it means to be strengthened by grace, or what it means to be a soldier for Christ. But Paul moves on quickly, so I continue to read. After the soldier analogy he mentions athletes.  When we think of athletes, we think again of people who train hard again, who are strong, and who are self-controlled and disciplined. While comparisons can easily be made between those characteristics and the walk as a believer, that’s not what Paul chooses to focus on when he calls athletes to mind. He chooses to mention the fact that they can’t cheat - An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. So what does Paul want Timothy to understand with this comparison?  Clearly, he’s instructing him to play by the rules. I think one of the greatest challenges that many believers have is obedience in all aspects of our lives. I know I’m challenged by it. There are certain areas I’m ready to hand over to Him and change, but there are other areas we believers have a tendency to hide from Him, or rationalize and change what scripture says or means.  We bend His commandments to meet our own needs all the time. When God’s rules rub up against our lives, we start to make accommodations for our circumstances, justifying our disobedience. But the reality is that God requires obedience from His followers. Even Jesus emphasized it with, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  We don’t get to keep some of them, some of the time, we need to keep all of them, all of the time. Rules carries a funny connotation - rules can be associated with the legalistic view of our faith. People make up rules based on how they interpret scripture - where you should go to school, what you should wear, what you should watch, alcohol consumption, etc.  That's not the rules he's talking about here.  Oswald Chambers clarifies his meaning: “The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says . . . . If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.”  He's talking about obedience to the standard God has set for us.  Powerful words that prompt me to search my heart for where I am resisting obedience.

My greatest desire is that Jesus would have my whole heart. I want to be the believer that is crowned at the end of this race because I was obedient, I worked toward meeting His expectations. Each day, I must get on my knees and match my actions and my thoughts up against His expectations, and ask Him to reveal to me those places I’m still not playing by the rules. Then I must repent of my disobedience and allow Him to transform the broken places in my heart.

It’s interesting how a cancer diagnosis will impact those places of disobediences in your heart. In some places, He has revealed idols and other darkness, and they were quickly resolved. They don’t matter to me anymore, and it’s been easy to bring those places into obedience. But at the same time, He’s also revealed some new disobediences that I’m struggling to bring in to check. Those all involve self - there are days I just want the focus to be on me and I want to wallow in self pity. I don’t like this diagnosis one bit, and I don’t like where my treatment is headed. It would be easy to justify my self-pity.  A cancer diagnosis is one of the more challenging trials to walk through. In fact, I have people in my life who encourage the self-pity or who allow it because they love me and know how hard this road is - you have a right to be sad or angry, you have cancer. But that’s how we change the rules, isn’t it?  God doesn’t say we are to obey, except in “these circumstances.”  No, God calls us to obey in all circumstances. He tells us we should have no idols before Him, and when I’m whining and complaining about the battle I’m walking through, I’m sitting on the throne of my life and telling God He doesn’t know what He’s doing. Ugh. I’m working on it. He’s growing me every day as I release my strongholds and my desire for control of my life. 

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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