2019 was a cracker of a year!
We started the year with a new adventure of launching a new business.
We felt like God had a new season for us as a family, with our ministry, as well as practically setting up a business locally which would allow me to be home more, travel less and build a foundation for our income that didn’t rely on me speaking.
We launched into the year full of faith, full of anticipation for the new season ahead.
We even had a sense that God was calling us into a new season.
Specifically, we felt God had spoken to us about a new season of influence, authority and prosperity.
We were excited…
We were full of anticipation.
If you know me and we have a conversation you’ll know before long that I’m a dreamer. I love to think big, see the possibilities, take steps of faith.
But what we had envisioned was a new season of influence – being a positive influence and having a greater impact in the lives of people in our community and our city.
What we had envisioned was a new season of authority – being in positions of leadership being able to create change.
What we had envisioned was a new season of prosperity – creating wealth, being blessed to be a blessing.
But it soon looked more like a season of stress, anxiety and plain old hard work!
- Working 70-80 hours a week.
- Starting at 8am – finishing at 9pm.
- Not seeing my family.
- Some mornings being in such a negative space in my mental health that I wasn’t able to get out of bed.
- Being overcome by fear and anxiety in a way that I had never experienced in my life.
The promise for us was a season of influence, authority and prosperity, yet the reality I was experiencing was one of stress, anxiety and battle.
I don’t know if you’ve been there – when the promise you’ve received from God looks nothing like the reality you’re currently experiencing.
A number of years ago I bought a chair from IKEA, but I didn’t follow the instructions properly and it didn’t function as it should.
The title of my message this morning is based on a passage of scripture I had vowed I would never preach from, because I didn’t like it, let alone understand it.
It’s one of those scriptures that I think most Christians wish wasn’t in the Bible, so let’s turn to the Bible and see where we’re headed.
James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4 (THE MESSAGE)
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
The title of my message today is “Where’s the joy in this?!”
The overarching theme of the message is how important it is to have the right perspective and focus in times of struggle.
Even the message title can be taken in multiple ways.
Some people will read that title and you find some validation in the way that you’re currently feeling about a trial or a struggle you’re facing – as if it’s saying “There’s no joy in this!”?
The alternative way to read the title is one of curiosity as if to say: “Where can I find joy in this?”
As we went through the year the challenges of:
- finance and cash flow
- long hours
- stretching beyond my comfort zone
- managing staff and members
- the uncertainty of whether the business would be successful
- pressures on marriage and family due to the long hours and lack of quality time
- having to deal with people who weren’t always in a great mental state themselves
- anxiety, stress, fear
These challenges were evident and sometimes overwhelming, but in order to get through the year, it became clear that I had to take control of my focus and my perspective on what I was experiencing.
Circumstance plus Perspective equals Reality.
How we see our circumstances, our perspective on them, will determine our reality and in turn our ability to influence them or get through them.
It’s easy to look at where you want to be, where you believe God has called you to be, the promises you are believing for and see your current reality and get disheartened, overwhelmed and give up.
I could choose to see the challenges I was facing as negative issues which were getting on top of me, I could see them as problems or as we read in
James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
“Consider it a sheer gift” “Count it all joy!”
Our perspective and our focus – how we see what we are looking at will determine how well we are positioned to be able to engage with and essentially overcome those challenges.
The perfect example we have is Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
“2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.
The promise was you and I – relationship, salvation, eternity.
The reality for Jesus was death on a cross, shame, humiliation.
The journey to the promise rarely looks like the promise itself.
And how we see the challenges we face along the journey will determine how well we are positioned to be able to engage with them and overcome them – to step into the promise and see all that God has for us become our reality.
So with the theme of the title I want us to look at five questions to ask yourself when you face trials and challenges.
When you find yourself in a wilderness season which looks nothing like the promise.
Because the path to the promise often looks like the backside of a desert and as we see with the Children of Israel, because of their perspective and their focus, what should have been an eleven day journey became a 40 year journey and they never encountered the promise.
Why five questions?
The questions you ask yourself on a day to day basis dictate your focus.
And the quality of the questions you ask yourself, will determine the quality of the answers.
A low-quality question would be “Why does my life suck so much?” or “Why does bad stuff always happen to me?”
The reality is, your brain will always find an answer – the brain does not like unanswered questions, and there are always answers to those questions.
We all make poor choices, we all do dumb things, and if the question is not a resourceful one, you will not get a resourceful answer.
There are five questions to ask yourself to gain a healthy perspective plus focus to move through the challenges you face.
1. Where’s the joy in this?
RESET YOUR FOCUS
No matter how bad life is, there are always things we have which will bring us joy – things to be grateful for.
What do you have? (life, air, clothes, a home, food, family and gratitude).
There were twin boys, one was an optimist and the other pessimist. Their only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.
Just to see what would happen, on the twins’ birthday their father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist’s room he loaded with horse manure.
That night the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly. “Why are you crying?” the father asked. “Because my friends will be jealous, I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I’ll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken.” answered the pessimist twin.
Passing the optimist twin’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. “What are you so happy about?” he asked. To which his optimist twin replied, “With a pile of manure this high there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
Perspective will determine how we approach our circumstances and see our reality. Beyond basic gratitude, start to look for ways to reframe the circumstances you’re facing.
- Problems or Opportunities
- What muscles are you developing? New skills? New abilities?
- What are you learning?
- How far have you come?
James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
The joy is in knowing that the struggle you’re in right now will grow you, your patience, your stamina, your perseverance, your strength, your skills and that building of your character is in essence for you to become complete.
2. Where is God in this?
RECALIBRATE AND FIND STABILITY
Mark 4:37-39 (NKJV)
Jesus was asleep in the boat during the storm.
“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
The disciples were afraid, thinking that they were going to die – their focus was on the storm, on the waves and the water coming into the boat. Jesus was in the boat sleeping, he wasn’t concerned.
It’s important for us to recalibrate – to see where God is. Have we moved away from God? Is He there with us, but because we’re focussing on the challenges we face, we are unaware of His presence?
But we also need to ask God – “where are You in this?”, to regain a sense of stability and security.
3. What does God say about this?
He knows what the end result will be.
Are our fears founded on truth? Or are we partnering with lies from the enemy?
Along the journey of starting this new business we had a number of scenarios where we needed to come up with money we didn’t have – each time both Kate and I felt God spoke and said specifically that “the money will come in”.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)
20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
God’s promises are like a cheque which requires two signatures.
God has already signed, but it requires our agreement, our “Amen” for us to partner with those promises.
Other promises which I have held firm to, to re-align my perspective are:
- God as Jehovah Jirah “Our provider”.
- God as the God of Breakthrough.
- God as Creator of everything.
- “God did not lead me here to leave me here”.
4. Did God lead me here?
Is it God or is it me?
Being honest about whether I am facing this challenge due to following God’s leading, or due to my own poor choices.
I hate the cliché which says “everything happens for a reason”.
It’s true to an extent, but it’s not Biblical from the perspective that God doesn’t make everything that happens happen.
Sometimes the things that happen are due to our own poor choices – so we need to identify them and ask am I facing this challenge because God led me to this place, or because I made a dumb decision?
5. Have I been here before?
MAKE NECESSARY CHANGES
Einstein is quoted as saying “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but expect a different result”.
If I can see any recurring patterns what do I need to change?
Are there specific areas I need to develop and grow in?
What we do on a daily basis becomes a habit and our habits create our reality.
Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Let us lay aside every weight – things that are not helping us and sin – things which are not God’s best for us, which cause us to fall short of God’s design for our lives.
God has a plan for all of us! The form doesn’t always look like we expect.
Provision looks like poverty.
Promises don’t look like the challenge.
Learn to love the struggle.
Allow God to shape you and learn to walk through the challenges.
Have you found yourself in a wilderness, but hearing this you realise that it’s because you’re far from God – either you’ve made decisions to go your own way, or you’ve never known what it is to be in relationship with God?
Our team would love to connect with you, give you a Bible and pray for you
Suggestions for discussion
- Have you expected a season of prosperity and influence, but life has been nothing like what you expected?
- Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
- How has the five questions that Nathan spoke about influenced you?