Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Week 3 - Fail/Succeed

We had a mixed reaction to this chapter. Love it or leave it, I think there were good words said all around. I felt encouraged by our discussion that focused us onto God's sufficient grace and our need to depend on him. Because we fail when we try to do it on our own, right?! My favorite line from Jill Phillips' "Nobody's Got It All Together": What good is it to say, Please, Savior, come, if there is nothing you need rescue from. Only when we realize how desperate for a Savior we are (like the list in the chapter) and be real about it, can we experience the freedom and peace of being rescued.

I shared bits of the book, Dangerous Journey, the illustrated "children's" version of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress based on the TV/movie version. (You can watch the video on I was flipping through it again today and came to the part with the Giant Despair. Hopeful and Christian do their best to encourage one another. And the Giant, sensing they are "sturdy rogues" shows them the pile of bones of other pilgrims he has dispatched with. Lacking food and water, Christian starts to fail. But Hopeful reminds them of past battles they have fought: "My brother, he said, Apollyon couldn't crush you, nor the Valley of the Shadow of Death. And remember how you played that man in Vanity Fair. Don't forget I'm in the dungeon with you, a far weaker man by nature than you are...So let us exercise a little more patience, and bear up as best we can, and keep on praying." And then Christian suddenly remembers the key in his pocket. And the key that sets them free--Promise.

We need to remember the battles the LORD has fought for us, not despair at the past failings, keep encouraging friends around us, and hold onto the Promises of God.

Looking at Naomi and Ruth, I saw their failures fall into a failure to provide and a failure to expand or increase. In a famine, without husbands or sons, they have reached the end of themselves. Some of this is beyond their hands--Naomi can't make it rain in Bethlehem; Ruth is unable to have children for 10 years. Some may be their own sin. The blessing of rain in the Promised Land is connected with the obedience of the children of Israel. But they do have a responsibility in how they respond. And they choose to turn towards God, on the road to Bethlehem. Naomi, in her sadness, proclaims the LORD'S hand in her life. Ruth proclaims her loyalty to the God of Israel.

And God moves. There is rain in Bethlehem again. Ruth meets the most influential and wealthiest man in the land and he provides food for them in abundance. "The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety" (Job 5:9-11). And God expands His family--first with Ruth the foreigner who has "come and pray[ed]" (1 Kings 8:41-43) and then by giving Ruth conception (Ruth 4:13).

After considering the concept of "success," what it looks like in our culture, how it's defined, and even whether it's the best word to define our Christian walk, we talked about what success really is. I liked Trish's comment that it is being completely dependent on God, 100%. We discussed the idea of "pretending" and how appearances set us up to fail when we compare ourselves or think that everyone else has things figured out. We also discussed how Satan holds our failures up to us, time and time again, reminding us of when we've failed and telling us not to even try again. But the Gospel has an answer for all of this! God has already won! We can rest in His grace with peace, not fight on our own.

Much of this comes back to the topics we've discussed earlier--the sin of self-focus and the lack of single-focus on God. Doing so can cause us to remain in "failure" mode (pg. 71). But the Holy Spirit, who does convict us, also comforts us, moving us past failure and encouraging us to persevere.

So persevere we will! Moving on, the next chapter looks at Proceed/Wait. We'll rotate vacationers so Bon Voyage to those who will be gone next week and Welcome Home to those returning.

Resources Another plug for The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (I know many have read this. I feel like I should have read it years ago), and the encouraging music of Jill Phillips' CDs Nobody's Got It All Together and The Writing on the Wall.

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