It's a Matter of Perspective
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June 20, 2021 It's a Matter of Perspective Good morning everyone, and a very happy Father's Day to all the Dads watching today. We honour and appreciate you, and pray that you feel special, appreciated, and loved every day, but especially today. Uncle Pete was the beloved caretaker of a small church in a small town. One day while Uncle Pete was trimming the church's hedges, a man walked by. The man said, "Excuse me sir. My name is Michael Jones. My wife and I just moved into town and we're looking for a new church. Can you please tell me about this one?" Uncle Pete smiled pleasantly and said, "Sure! What was the church you used to attend like?" The man frowned and said, "I did not like that church at all! The people were annoying and phony. I would have preferred if they kept to themselves. Plus on Sundays they played weird music. What's wrong with the old hymns? It was nothing you would expect church to be." Uncle Pete thought for a moment and answered, "This one is pretty much like your old church." The man shook his head and walked away disappointed. A little while later, a woman walked by the church and saw Uncle Pete working in the yard. She stopped and said, "Pardon me sir. I'm Mary Jones. My husband and I are looking for a new church home. We're new in town. What's this church like?" Uncle Pete smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked! What was the church you used to attend like?" The woman beamed. "God blessed us with a wonderful church! The people were so friendly and inclusive. They tried their best to follow Jesus as a family, not just individuals. Going there stretched me to appreciate people who were different from me. Even the music was different, but I truly felt God in the worship. It was nothing like you would expect church to be." Uncle Pete thought for a moment and smiled. "This one is pretty much like your old church." The woman thanked Uncle Pete and ran to tell her husband. This story illustrates how our perspective reveals our reality. The husband and wife saw the same church in quite different ways. Because of his perspective and attitude, the husband would likely never find a church that satisfied him. He prioritized his preferences over discerning the leading of God. Yet the wife would likely see God everywhere because she trusted that he was the giver of good things. How we experience our lives depends on what we believe about God, ourselves, and the world around us. Our perspective also determines the extent to which Jesus can be the Lord of our lives. In his second letter to believers in Corinth, Paul sets an example of how to have a proper perspective on God, himself, and others. He writes in 2 Corinthians 6:1-13: As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. **We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; **in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report;** genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. ** We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:1-13) Wow. ** Paul does have an incredible perspective. He lists in this passage some of the circumstances he had to endure in ministry-troubles, hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, hunger, dishonour, false claims, false accusations, being ignored, near death experiences, more beatings, sorrow and poverty. Ah, the glamorous life of ministry! Imagine if these things happened to you because of your job. Why would anyone stay in a job that leads to beatings, imprisonments, near-death experiences, rejection, hunger, poverty? Would you continue to do that job? For some, there is no option. For others, a job search might be in order. ** You might think this is an unfair comparison, since Paul was called into full-time ministry and you aren't. I dare say that FEW of those who are employed by the church at large would have the same razor-sharp focus and dedication as Paul. It's easy to lean back and say, "If God willed it, I would do it." But unless ministers are professional fighters on the side, I can't imagine they would want to tolerate being regularly beaten up as part of their jobs. It would take the work of the Holy Spirit to help them stay completely focused on Jesus and moving forward in ministry in this world of hard knocks and persecution for faith. ** Not only did Paul continue to participate in ministry despite the awful things that happened to him, but he spoke boldly about how God BLESSED him and brought him through his trials. For each negative thing that happened, Paul presented something God did to not only counteract the bad thing, but completely overshadow it. Notice verses 9-10: **... dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. ** GOD'S ACTIVITY WAS PAUL'S REALITY, his PERSPECTIVE. As a consequence, it helped the actions of humans against him to fade to the background. Paul used his story to encourage the church in Corinth to open their hearts to GOD-the one who can bring them through the trials they are facing. Look how Paul started this passage: As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) Paul considered himself and other believers as recipients of God's grace and favour. ** CHRIST AND HIS REDEMPTIVE WORK WAS THE LENS THROUGH WHICH PAUL SAW HIMSELF AND THE WORLD. Paul considered himself already blessed and already favoured. God's favour was not something that came or went or was something for which Paul was waiting. Because of Christ, God's favour was a permanent possession. Paul's truth and reality was founded on God's goodness and grace. Negative experiences did not alter Paul's belief in God's character or his own blessedness. How easy it would have been for Paul, after he was stoned and left for dead, to find reasons to distrust God? Yet, in this passage Paul uses his hardships to affirm God's righteousness. I wish I could say the same thing. Too often, when I experience what I perceive as a trial or tragedy, I am reflexively tempted to diminish God in my own eyes. It's easy to believe him to be LESS loving, good, and concerned about me than I previously thought. Hard times can cause me to DOUBT my calling and purpose in the Lord. I can, at times, be that rudderless ship, cast to and fro by the wind and the waves. **As humans, we are wired to interpret pain and discomfort as "bad." In many cases, this works in our favour. If I touch a hot stove, I experience pain, letting me know that something harmful is happening. In that case, pain works in my favour. However, getting a shot also causes me pain, yet shots can be beneficial. In that case, pain does not work in my favour by implying something is bad. In the same way, a situation that causes us pain or discomfort does not indicate God is allowing something "bad" to happen. We have to develop the humility to resist being the interpreter of our story, deciding what is "good" and what is "bad." Instead, we should seek God's help in understanding the things that happen to us, trusting him with our very lives. Remember the story about the husband and wife looking for a new church? What a contrast in perspectives they had. ** When it comes to God, it seems like we always find what we are looking for, based on our perspectives. If we are looking for a god who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love, we will find him, despite our circumstances. Similarly, if we are looking for a god who is cruel, untrustworthy, distant and oppressive, we will find him, despite evidence to the contrary. This is our curse from the time of the fall of humanity-our ability to see God and fellow humans is greatly diminished. After sinning by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve did two things: they hid themselves from each other by covering themselves, and they hid themselves from God. Two beings who had never known shame saw something unseemly in what was once beautiful. The man and woman, who had walked and talked with God in loving communion or oneness now saw him as someone to be FEARED. The first casualty of corruption was Adam and Eve's vision-their perspective--how they saw God and how they saw themselves. Therefore, we cannot trust how we interpret pain because our vision is corrupted. ** We must rely on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of TRUTH, to lead us into all truth, individually and collectively. May HE set our perspective according to the truth. ** Perspective and Faith... Our perspective is closely related to our faith. In fact, perspective is how we see things as a result of our faith. It's like faith is the pair of glasses through which we see the world. If I take my glasses off, everything is blurry and I will stumble for sure. I won't be able to read or drive or watch TV. In no time I would have a horrible headache and be in a terrible mood. When I put my glasses on, I can see clearly, which helps me function and makes me happy, which in turn makes my family happy. When I look at the world through the lenses of faith, I see the world from God's perspective, not my own. I remember who the Father is, as revealed by Jesus Christ. He's not an angry God, delighting in the hardships of our lives. He's good, loving and gracious. He's loved me and everyone else so much that he sent his son down to die so we can live. **Your perspective on life reveals who you believe God to be! If we tend to be negative and expect the worst in people, this says something about who we believe God to be. Likewise, if we tend to be hopeful and willing to extend others the benefit of the doubt, this also says something else about who we believe God to be. I'm not saying that we should walk through life with the proverbial rose-coloured glasses, avoiding anything negative. If something is not good, we should not pretend that it is good. ** However, those who see God clearly will find hope in Christ in the most desperate of situations. But wait, you might be thinking. You don't know MY story, my suffering. I've just finished reading an incredible book called Hope Heals - A True story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love, written by Jay & Katherine Wolf in 2015. **In the spring of 2008, Jay & Katherine were happily married and the parents of a 6-month-old baby boy. Katherine and baby James were doing modelling jobs together, and Jay was in his final year of studying law at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. On April 21, 2008, at the age of 26, Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke. She was rushed into micro-brain surgery, and her husband was told there was a very good chance she might not survive. But miraculously she did survive. And that's where the hard part began. **Forty days on life support in an ICU. Two years in full-time brain rehab. A severely disabled body. A marriage challenged to survive the seemingly insurmountable. Multiple surgeries that continue to this day. Yet Katherine and Jay have incredible perspective. ** I would like to read Katherine's words in the Prologue of her book. PAUSE THE TELEPROMPTER ** Those who see God clearly will find hope in Christ in the most desperate of situations. Those who see God clearly can detect his love in the face of suffering, persecution and brokenness. Because God is that good! ** Paul was able to see God's favour during his suffering because his faith would not allow him to do otherwise. He believed with all his heart, soul and mind in God's sovereignty, his goodness, his purposes even in the midst of the storms of life. ** [God's Perspective on US] Even more important than what we believe about God is what he believes about us. From the moment God created humanity, he called us "good." He determined that we were worthy of adoption in Christ, and he has not wavered from that belief, despite us providing mountains of evidence to the contrary. Christ put on human flesh because God believed we were worth saving. It is God's beliefs about US that makes new life in Christ possible. We are CHANGED and TRANSFORMED because of what God believes about us. ** My own father believed in me, and it had a profound effect on my life. With his confidence and encouragement, I FELT like I was a winner, even when I lost, when I made mistakes. ** How much more so with our perfect heavenly Father, who believed we were worth dying for? Again, you and I are changed and TRANSFORMED because of what God believes about us! ** In Romans 10:17 Paul said that faith comes by hearing God's message about Jesus Christ. [So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. NLT] Hearing God's beliefs regarding humanity builds our faith, which shapes our perspective. In this way, FAITH IN JESUS AND HIS WORK IN THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE SHOULD BE THE LENS THROUGH WHICH WE VIEW ALL THINGS. ** I am so blessed to have had an earthly father who has and continues to live his life through the perspective of faith. ... Although he's not perfect nor would he claim to be, he has given me a wonderful example of Christ-centered living with a positive, compassionate, and generous attitude towards those he encounters in his life. He has confidence that in Christ all things-even bad things--work for good. ** It's a matter of perspective. How we view the world really matters. I encourage you to look to Jesus so your vision can be clear. Put on those glasses of faith-faith in Jesus and what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do. When we do this, we will see that God reigns over ANY hardship that can come our way. Katherine and Jay Wolf would agree. Looking through the cross, God becomes supreme in every moment, therefore, every moment-good and bad-will be sacred. It's a matter of perspective. Prayer Almighty, triune, merciful God, we praise your Holy name. You are gracious, loving and sovereign, the only perfect One. Today we celebrate and give thanks for fathers. Grant them wisdom and humility and a deep faith as they parent their children. Help grandfathers to seize the opportunity to speak words of encouragement, wisdom, and faith to their children and grandchildren. Where there is brokenness in these relationships, we pray for reconciliation and healing. Thank you for reminding us today that we need to live with a perspective of faith, the perspective of Jesus and his past, present and future work. Help us to view life and all its challenges through this lens of faith, knowing that you are sovereign over all things. You don't make mistakes. You love us so much that you came to die for us and give us new life. Help us to see you as supreme in every moment-good and bad. Help us to cling to our hope as we long and pray for that day when we will be face-to-face with the source of everything, Jesus. In His name we pray, Amen. **Last year Jay and Katherine Wolf published a second book called "Suffer Strong - How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything." For those who want to learn more about their story and powerful ministry, you can look them up on YouTube or visit www.hopeheals.com.