Monday, July 25, 2016

Some Disciple Thoughts on Lack and Abundance

[After a rough day of job searching and frustrating job interviews, I am on the verge of losing heart and need to recover my vision of God and his goodness. May others find hope here too.]

Lack and deprivation are always part of the honest person’s experience of life in this world, regardless of religious beliefs or faith commitments. We are all broken by lack and need. We have all experienced “not having what it takes” for life in this world, and it hurts. Sometimes the hurt can feel unbearable, threatening to crush our very souls. Caught up in this category would be things like piercing loneliness, physical disability, paralysis, financial loss, grief, physical and emotional abuse, hunger, injustice, etc. They are an inevitable part of living life in a world that is radically affected by the sin of our first parents in the garden.

These deprivations tell a story all their own, using voices loud and convincing, demanding to be heard. If we don’t have a larger story in which to hear and do justice to their presence in our lives, they will easily dominate us and define us, determining the range of our effective choices, relational opportunities and our “emotional normal.”  The only story large enough to hold all these experiences of lack and deprivation is the Kingdom story coming from God through Jesus.

The kingdoms of this world, of men and women "without hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12), are all driven by various forms of lack and deprivation and the strategies to ameliorate them. These kingdoms are driven by belief assumptions about reality and what is good:
"I must act on my own, lest I miss out on what is good."
"What I want, what I desire, is what is good, what is best."
"Getting my own way is my highest pursuit, for therein lies my safety, security, and well-being."
For those who entrust their lives to Jesus as disciples, however, the abundance of the Kingdom of God envelops and transforms all lack, deprivation and need into connecting points to the grace of God. Instead of separating us from God they bind us to him as branches to the vine, as sheep to the Good Shepherd. Lack can be transformed through trust and surrender into experienced intimacy with Jesus.

Enveloped by God's Kingdom care all around us, we see the difference between
what we need
what we want
what is good

We are now free, under God, to choose what is good. Our lack no longer drives us; we are no longer at the mercy of desperate hunger and thirst. From Jesus, we learn rest even in the presence of need; we learn gratitude even when we don't get what we want; we learn joy even when we don't get our own way.

The well-being of Jesus' disciple is rooted in the good world of God, with roots deeply intertwined in gushing fountains of endless life.
“It is confidence in the invariably overriding intention of God for our good, with respect to all the evil and suffering that may befall us on life’s journey, that secures us in peace and joy. We must be sure of that intention if we are to be free and able, like Joseph, to simply do what we know to be right.” (Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, 338)

Having lack and deprivation in my life doesn’t mean I need to be defined by it; being defined by lack and deprivation is a choice, a settled intention, to live in a particular world, a world devoid of God, where I am left to my own meager resources to fend for myself and make a life for myself (Jer 17:5-9; Prov 3:5-8).

I can choose, even in the severest experience of lack, need, or deprivation to live according to the reality of God’s Kingdom all around me through trust in Jesus. This also requires settled intention (Hab 3:17-19; Lam 3:19ff).

Through trust in Jesus (not just something he did or said) I am rooted and grounded in the boundless abundance of love, power and light of Father-Son-Spirit (Eph 3:14-21).

  • I am never alone (Deut 31:8; Heb 13:5-6; Isa 43:1-4)
  • I can call on God and his resources, the simple way a child presumes on his loving parents (Matt 6:5-13; Phil 4:4-7; 12-13)
  • No lack or deprivation (real or perceived) can separate me from the abundance of God and His Kingdom. His rule will never be shaken and never end (Ps 23:1; Rom 8:35-39; 2 Cor 8-9)
  • The sufficiency of God and his Trinitarian fullness of life, love and power is the only place to experience safety and security in this life (Ps 63:1-5).
  • Because of who God is and the way he rules the world, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be, right here, right now.

"It is being included in the eternal life of God that heals all wounds and allows us to stop demanding satisfaction. What really matters, of a personal nature, once it is clear that you are included? You have been chosen. God chooses you. This is the message of the kingdom.” (Willard, ibid., 340)

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