PAX Present: Banjo, Nurse Jackie, Boucher, Last4, Kimche, Squatter, 8Track, Dipstick (welcome back!), Pom Pom, Speedwalker, Spam, Periscope.
Sorry to burst your bubble….but you don’t have what it takes.
You aren’t smart enough, strong enough, disciplined enough, or talented enough to navigate everything that is coming your way and has already come your way in this life. In F3 I think we can get it twisted sometimes. We listen to the many challenges that F3 puts out there for us and we can easily fall into the trap of being self-sufficient in our pursuit of being High-Impact Men. The “Faith” in F3 is not just a part of F3….it’s what unifies the “fitness and fellowship” aspects. If we are not tapping into the “faith” aspect in every area of our lives then we’ll fall short in the other two. Faith is belief in something bigger than ourselves. The rest is built upon that reality. If faith is not the foundation that we build on then all the brotherhood, all the exercise, all the self-discipline in the world is going to fall apart sooner or later.
I think that the COVID-19 season has really brought this to the forefront for us. Prior to this, when the economy was humming, school were running as they always had and college football was a nice Saturday distraction it was a lot easier for us to lean on our own abilities and resources to make it through life. In reality, most of us were still dealing with inward pain that we didn’t really want to talk about and carrying a large amount of burdens on our own but we were able to do a much better job of holding it together.
But then COVID-19 hit. Our jobs were no longer guaranteed. Our finances were rattled. The demands of leadership multiplied by 20. We had to become emotional supports for our wives and children. Our routines were disrupted. We were forced to quarantine which cut off our access to relationships that we leaned on to cover over our inner pain. Our access to our churches and ministry outlets got disrupted. As a result, the realities of any personal weakness became glaring.
I started struggling with depression about a month and a half ago. I want to clarify what that has looked like for me because I don’t want to make it out to be more than it is. I can still get out of bed in the morning. I have not entertained any thoughts of harming myself or others. I have been eating better, sleeping well, working out, staying in connection with people who genuinely care about me and doing a good job of maintaining my relationship with Christ. But I’ve still been depressed. It mainly manifests itself for me in apathy and a sense of being overwhelmed at times. I don’t begin to compare what I’m dealing with with the kind of depression that many of my friends and some of you have experienced. Some of you have felt and still feel the crushing weight of depression. You’ve sought medical care, take medication, and have even gone through inventions to pull yourself out. I’m also not sharing these things because I need encouragement. Honestly, I am one of the most encouraged ministers I know. I cannot remember the last day that passed that someone that I work with, live with, or interact with in the community did not encourage me in some way. But sometimes encouragement is not enough.
The Apostle Paul understood that. 2 Corinthians 10-12 is Paul’s testimony of a long-term struggle he had with something that was plaguing his ministry. He called it a “thorn in his flesh” Scholars have argued for centuries about what that “thorn” was. Some think it was a physical problem. Others say a conflict with a certain group of people who were attacking his ministry. It could also be a significant temptation that the enemy kept hammering him with. Maybe even depression. We’ll never know. But what we do know is that he asked God to take that “thorn” away from him 3 times. After the third ask, God gave Him this answer:
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you; for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in difficulties, in persecution. For when I am weak; then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Whatever Paul’s “thorn” was, he owned it….he didn’t run away from it. Not only that, he realized that his power, his knowledge, and his abilities were not going to make it go away. So He took it to the Lord to that he could tap into God’s power, God’s knowledge, and God’s abilities to deal with it. And God’s response was simple: My grace is sufficient for you.
Grace is an empowerment from God that covers over all our human weakness. His grace covers over our sin by the blood of Jesus so that we can remain in right relationship with Him even though we struggle. Most of us are familiar with Grace in some form or fashion.
But I think we get the wrong impression of Grace.
This morning I had a couple of guys hang from the swing-set as long as possible in their own abilities. I was impressed with how long they went but they eventually came to the end of their strength. I had a second group hang until they felt like they might lose their grip and then step on the swing for support. They lasted a long time as well. But I also got a third group to hold on to the bar above them while also standing on the swing the whole time. Thus, the swing provided support for them the whole time.
Sometimes we look at grace like those guys looked at the swing when they hung for as long as they could but then stepped down on to the swing when they were out of energy. In other words, grace covers what we can’t do on our own.
But that’s not grace. Grace is like the swing the guys stood on the whole time. It is an aid that empowers our abilities the entire time and in everything we do. There is never a time that we are able to handle things on our own for a while and then we can lean on grace when we are weak. The truth is we need God’s grace in every moment of our lives whether we are weak or strong at any given moment. That’s because even our greatest strength is not enough for the long haul. Unfortunately, it takes us coming to the utter end of our strength and crashing for most of us to figure that out. We just don’t have what it takes; not matter what self-help book you are reading tells you. The sooner we learn this, the better off we will be.
So how do we make sure we tap into God’s grace in every moment of our lives whether we are weak or strong? It starts by admitting our weakness and refusing to trust in our strength. In fact, we can go so far as to delight in our weakness like Paul did because it is the guarantee that strength is coming our way.
So I encourage you. Eat right. Work out hard. Stay connected with the other PAX. Work on your self-disicpline. Do everything in your power to become a High Impact Man. But make sure that you do all those things empowered by God’s grace rather than seeking to do them out of your own strength.
You don’t have what it takes other wise.
-Pom Pom’s ongoing legal issues.
-Nurse Jackie and his M have started a new business. Prayers for unity and provision.
-Dipstick’s family and their recovery from Covid 19.
-Ginger dealing with depression.
-Kimche getting married tomorrow!
-2.0 Workout tomorrow. Bring your 2.0 and waterguns with you.