1st Thessalonians 1:2-5 (the message)
Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened to you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
The last line jumped right out at me this morning!! The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. The Thessalonian believers were giving it all they had as indicated by Paul’s reference to their work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope. The words they had heard from Paul were not merely a nice “Sunday message” but really took hold of them. The message of Christ crucified turned them inside out! Because their hearts and lives embraced the truth, Holy Spirit was able to put steel in their convictions.
Reading that, I could only pause and gaze out of my kitchen window into the beautiful morning sky. I ask my Father to put steel in my convictions. See, I really think that trying to live this balanced life of believing is a shortchange. What do I mean? I mean having convictions but not letting them get too strong. Staying in balance: God has His place here. What God’s Word says has its place there. Making sure none of it gets too far out of place so as to keep everything “balanced’ in life. I love reading a few short verses like the ones above because I am inspired. I just imagine in my mind that this group of believers is so absolutely taken with Jesus that He’s most all they talk about. He’s most all they think about. Being near Him, learning more about following Him whole-heartedly and experiencing His resurrection power is what drives them. I imagine that no matter where they go or what they are doing…no matter what conversation they are having…their hearts are attuned to the Holy Spirit and ready to show His love and compassion. Ready to reach out and share the truth of Jesus. I think the Thessalonians heard about Jesus and just got way out of balance with it! And although this makes us comfort seeking Amercian-Dreamers squirm, crashing into the freedom and love of Jesus might just leave us out of balance. Everything we do…our jobs, talents, free time, marriages, parenting, friendships, past hurts, future hopes and current circumstances get swallowed up in the reality of our all-knowing and ever-present God.
There is this song by Nicole Nordeman and a line in it always touches me. She talks about not keeping God in her pocket. Even a few years ago when I first heard it I found it resonated with me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it because in my experience the more you could explain God the more spiritual you seemed. But somewhere in that song the truth was ringing in my ears. The Bible reveals much to us about God, but certainly we cannot completely understand Him or explain Him. Instead of feeling threatened by this idea, now I find it makes me love Him even more. I let go of my pocket-version Christianity. I let go of this prideful idea I had Him all figured out. I let go of simultaneously projecting my deep spiritual aptitude while still wanting Him in His place so I didn’t have to be uncomfortable.
I sincerely long for the words to convey what Jesus means to me. I guess that is what this blog is all about. And not because I have it all “down” and worked out in my life. But see, there is this mystery I have discovered. They mystery of what happens in a life when you let go. Let go of preconceived ideas. Let go of past mistakes and sin. Let go of striving and proving yourself. Let go of the fear of what life would be like if Jesus came out of your pocket and began to envelop everything about your life. The mystery, to me, is that as I let go of managing Him into my life and let Him manage me I see the world and people differently. I see beauty I didn’t notice before. When I suffer loss and disappointment I take my pain to Him and he soothes and heals me. I experience this incredible joy as I realize the more out of “balance’ I am over Him the more He can use me to touch others. There is no joy like realizing in the seemingly small details of life that God is Big and Present.
For me, there was so much I was missing in my very normal attempts to keep Him in my pocket. And you know what? I don’t think falling head-over-heels for Jesus has made me pushy or annoying. See, God challenges my motive to be “right” about what I believe or to validate myself through convincing someone else. Learning to abandon myself (and I am still learning!) to Jesus becomes about love. His love. A love you can trust to lead and move and do the miraculous.
I think about those Thessalonians and their made-of-steel convictions. And I believe the more Holy Spirit steel you have in your convictions the softer your heart becomes. The more Holy Spirit steel in your convictions the more pliable you become. This great mystery…a Steel-Strong God molding tender hearts…all for Love. A Love that pushes through every stitch in our pockets so it can reach out and touch those around us.