Thursday, February 28, 2008

Observing Hope

If your life is like mine (and I'm guessing it is, in a general sense), you have a variety of people in your life that God has put there for your benefit. While some of those people might not be the easiest people in the world to get along with (and bring complications into our lives that are indeed a benefit toward our sanctification, even if it is and they are unpleasant), I want to take a little time today to focus more on those folks in our lives that are examples of holiness and godliness. In a time when so many professing Christians seem to place such a low view on both, I'd like to shine a light on that, because it matters.

In my world, I have someone who is an astounding example of hospitality. Someone else is an example of diligence in studying. There's another person who is a fantastic teacher of God's word, and then another that comes to mind who is a wonderful example to me of someone who knows how to truly forgive and let things go. As I thought about this yesterday I wondered what the list would look like if I were to sit down and list all the believers I know that are strong in one area or another. The thing is, of all the believers in my life, each one of them has something that sets them apart and would be what I call their strongsuit in the faith. It would be a wonderful list to put together, and I might just do it for my own personal edification.

In my own walk with the Lord, I know myself well enough to know where I fall short, so I suppose it only stands to reason that the areas where I am weak, are the areas that I notice the most in others who are strong. By God's providential orchestration, He consistantly brings people into my life that are the very examples of character and morality that I need to be aiming for, and see lived out right before me. These are people that are simply more mature in Christ than I am, so their sanctification is further along than mine is. Funny thing is, I know if I were to poll each of them and ask them about it, they'd be the first ones to say "oh I fail so miserably in this area!". Genuinely humble people are usually the first ones to shy away from the applause of others.

So then what do I do with that? How do I benefit in a practical sense from such people of godly character?

Well, I'd love to be able to say that I soak it up like a sponge. I'd love to be able to say that I see such fantastic examples and change my ways overnight and fix that area. Nope, it doesn't work like that at all.

While I do intentionally surround myself with good examples (pastors, teachers, authors, speakers, friends), the problem is that there is so much of ME, that stands in the way of being more like Him. Old habits, emotional reactions, bouts of anger or self-pity, complaints, frustrations and temptations and on and on the list goes. That battle with the flesh we all deal with is very real, isn't it? I find it striking that it often seems like the more good examples I have right in front of me (others whom He's been working on), the more glaring my own failures are. This is not a bad thing, in the least. We need to have our weak spots and blind spots exposed to the light so that we can honestly address them, pray about them, confess them to those closest to us and ask them to pray for us as well, repent of them, and seek the Lord's grace and mercy to grow there.

I'm so glad I have good examples in my life, but I'm even more glad that I can see how God's worked (and is working) in other people's lives to bring them to where they are. It's a monumental encouragement to me to see Philippians 1:6 being acted out in the lives of people around me, because even though I see it so much less in my own life, I know it's still happening and that gives me great cause for hope.