November 15 Reflections

An ancient teaching called Stoicism, which still shows up today in many forms, taught that self-sufficiency was the highest aim of living. Self-sufficiency meant a state of mind in which a human being was absolutely independent of all things and of all people. They proposed to do this by eliminating all desire and emotions so that a person did not care what happened to them or anyone else. “I don’t care” was the mantra stated over and over about every situation in life. Reminds me of an episode from the former show “The Middle” where one of the children was talking to dad about a problem that he obviously thought was inconsequential; he responded, “I don’t care and I don’t care that I don’t care.” It really was funny to see because of his deadpan expression. He was a good Stoic. This “I don’t care” spirit in the Stoic came about by a deliberate act of will in which they saw in everything the will of God. However painful it might be, however disastrous it might seem, it was God’s will. It was useless to struggle against it; a person must just accept it.

The Apostle Paul gave a different way. The Stoic said, “I will learn to be content by a deliberate act of my own will.” Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who infuses his strength in me.” The Stoic, and those who follow this way today, it is all about human achievement; for Paul it was a God-given gift. The Stoic is self-sufficient; the person who walks with Christ is God-sufficient. Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that he can face anything, because he has Christ with him. Paul could say, “I am strong with Jesus.”       

Someone writing about this said that often life was like a roller coaster. One moment trusting God, the next thinking, “I am self-sufficient.” Then something hard would come and I would go back to trusting God. That problem would be eased, and I would go back to self-sufficiency. Up and down…back and forth. “I am trying to live into a new way. This way is a continuous, submerging of my own self into a conversation with Abba. Then I don’t panic in adversity and drive myself crazy with trying really hard to be spiritual; rather it is simply a continuation of being in Abba’s presence…I can truly face anything because I know I am held by Abba.”

On Sunday we continue the series, “Life Basics with Jesus.” This week we will think about, “I am strong with Jesus,” each moment with Jesus; drawing on his life and power.  Some passages to read: Philippians 4:10-13; John 20:19-22; Psalm 27; Psalm 121.

Grace upon Grace,

Pastor Verlyn