This is Not That Day

I’m not much of a runner, but I did run another half marathon last weekend. It was long and sweaty and all the usual stuff. But we did it.

Around mile 8 or a little after we passed a sign that looked just like this:

yard sign

I teared up.

I know, I know, there’s nothing particular special about me having tears in my eyes. But this was a powerful message of encouragement to me in that moment. I know that I won’t always be able to do such a thing. But that day I was fully capable.

As I’ve reflected on that sign and the powerful reminder therein, I was reminded of the very common theological sentiment that God will never give you anything you cannot handle. That’s a very comforting thought, perhaps, but there is one small detail about it that bothers me: it’s absolutely untrue.

Hear me out.

Everything about our human condition is utterly beyond our own ability to overcome. We are all born broken and full of selfishness (which God calls sin). We cannot overcome that.

But there is a much more accurate and much more important truth: what God requires, God provides.

Did you catch that?

What God requires, God provides.

It’s like that great hymn said it, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided – great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

That means that, whatever challenge or issue is in our path today, God has provided what we need to endure and even grow through it.

So let me take this sign in a different context. The day that I cannot run the race set before me will never come simply because God will faithfully provide what each day requires when it is needed… but seldom before.

What difference does it make?

Well… it changes how I see the race. It changes how I see that monstrous hill rising in front of me or the rocky path ahead. It doesn’t make the bumps go away or even really take away the sting of weary muscles, but it does give me a comforting assurance that the struggle and the difficulty is temporary.

But there is something deeper, more powerful that I see. It means that the pain of the struggle—and there is always pain in the struggle—will not be wasted.

One of the most misunderstood assurances in the Bible is found in Romans 8 where we read this important truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8.28)

Paul goes on to explain that God’s purpose for all those who believe is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. I think what he is getting at is that God is using all of the hardness of this life to accomplish His transforming work.

I want to encourage you today by simply reminding you that, no matter what this day requires, God will provide it. In fact, He most like already has done so.

Run your race. You can do it.

You can do it because you can trust Him to give you every ounce of strength required.

You can do it because He is faithful.

You can do it because He promised.

And His promises are true.

Just Jesus.

Do you have a favorite t-shirt?

One of my all-time favorites was one I bought the summer God began to turn my world upside down and move me out of the band room into the pastor’s study.

The shirt was a plain gray shirt with two words on the front and two on the back.

Just Jesus

Nothing More

It came from a song we sang that week at camp. It was written by the worship leader for the week, Tom Duckett. I’ve looked all over for the recording but cannot find it. The lyrics were so beautifully simple that I remember them still.

Only Jesus paid the price for me

Only His love could set me free

Nobody else could open heaven’s door

Just Jesus and nothing more

I’ve been reminded of this as we spent so much time in Philippians 3 this weekend and we heard Paul saying that knowing Jesus was the thing that mattered. In fact, he testified that all of the rest of his accomplishments and experiences and hopes and dreams and aspirations were like a pile of garbage (or worse) in comparison.

It seems that, if you asked him what in all the world he wanted, Paul’s answer would have been, “Just Jesus, nothing more.”

I am finding more and more that, when I passionately press in to know Jesus, He seems to do things in me and through me that I cannot do. He teaches others things I cannot teach. He loves others in ways I cannot love. He speaks words of comfort and peace and hope that I cannot speak.

And when I look at what He commanded, I see that the essence of it all was to love Him with all that I am and to love others like I’m inclined to love myself. But I wrestle with the question: how can I be focused on Him and loving to others at the same time?

I think maybe I’m starting to get it. When I am so heart-soul-mind-strength focused on Jesus, He goes around loving others and I come along. He goes to my neighbor and serves Him and I come along. He does the things I cannot do and directs the steps I don’t know how to take and speaks the words that I have no way to express.

And what do I get?

I get what I most desperately need and most desperately long for and most desperately hope for…

Just Jesus.

Nothing more.

Because when we get Jesus, everything else melts away in insignificance.

I’m convinced that the work He wants to do in transforming my life is not about me. It’s for you. He wants to transform me to serve you. And He wants to transform you to serve another.

And in it all we get the key to everything – Jesus Himself.

I have come to understand that genuine love does what is best for the one loved. John told us that God so loved the world that He gave us what we most needed—Himself.

What do you need? Really?

Just Jesus.

Nothing More.

The New Life… of the Party

Weddings are very important and very meaningful occasions. It’s pretty forefront in the minds of the ladies of the Peercy Posse right now as we prepare for my only daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

It’s always been an interesting detail to me that Jesus’ first recorded miracle in the book of John took place at a wedding. It is significant in my mind.

[Take a moment and read John 2.1-12.]

The first statement about the festivities here is that there was a supply issue. They ran out of wine. That’s a problem.

I know some folks that have argued that this was not wine in the same sense that we use the term today, that it was not alcoholic, that it was juice, that it was not at all an endorsement of partaking of alcohol. We often do a lot of interpretive gymnastics when the Bible suggest to us a reality that doesn’t fit with our conviction. It was wine. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise and it’s foolish to think Jesus did not partake. Let’s be clear, folks: wine is not the problem, excess is. But that’s a post for another day…

Jesus’ mother brought to his attention the matter of shortage. While Jesus seems to, in a sense, protest his mother’s insinuation that he could rectify the situation, he gave instruction nonetheless.

The servants filled the water jars. These were large containers that were used for various ritual practices and were thus kept carefully clean. Jesus never seems to have even touched any of the jars. He just told them to draw some and take it to the toastmaster.

The toastmaster was astounded at the breaking with custom. The norm was to serve the best wine at the beginning and, when folks were a little more relaxed and, say, less discerning, bring the poorer quality. This was the very best!

The text tells us that, as Jesus did this sign, he “manifested his glory.” He was showing a glimpse of who He was. And in doing so, “his disciples believed in him.”

In the mess of lack, Jesus brought abundance.

It was an abundance of quantity and an abundance of quality. It was a generous provision.

We can draw a number of observations here. It could well be said that Jesus loves a party. He certainly saved this one. It could be said that Jesus loved good things. He made the water into the best wine. It could even be said that Jesus approved the celebration of a wedding as he allowed this one to continue in a very significant way. But the one thing we have to recognize is that Jesus stepped into the mess of lack and brought abundance.

There’s something else, though, that I want us to consider.

Jesus came to the wedding. It was a great celebration—no doubt full of dancing and celebrating and drinking. It was in danger of winding down all too soon.

Jesus, the bringer of new life, was, on this occasion, the new life of the party. He enabled the celebration to continue.

So much of the imagery of Scripture regarding weddings points us to a greater, deeper, spiritual reality that every believer will one day witness with our eyes. It points to the marriage supper of the Lamb where Jesus, the Son of God, the glorious bridegroom, will receive to himself his bride, the Church. And that party will go on beyond the bounds of time.

Jesus came into our lack to bring his abundance. He was the new life of the party. If he loved a good party then, what kind of incredible celebration are we in for when we get to his own?