“I was born a slave … I am not sure of the exact place or exact date … My life had its beginning during the most miserable, desolate and discouraging surroundings.”
Booker T. Washington* described his start in life as such: “I was born a slave … I am not sure of the exact place or exact date … My life had its beginning during the most miserable, desolate and discouraging surroundings.” I have known personally many people in my life time who start life in difficult and incredibly ‘unfair’ circumstances. Rejecting parents of one child over another and ignored by parents who are involved in an addiction. Then there are those born with crippling and debilitating diseases. Or in the prime of their life are struck down as paraplegics. [Joni Erickson-Todda] There is absent parent[s] who are in prison or too sick to care for them. In today’s chaotic culture, many grow up in families surrounded by family who are murderers, child abusers and con-artists. Some grow up in or are sold into a type of slavery like sex-trafficking, even here in the US.
Consider Joseph, who is held up as a hero of the Bible. Jacob, his father, grew up as conniving and treacherous man. He took advantage of his father’s blindness and stole his older brother’s inheritance. Jacob’s father-in-law Laban cheated him several times with livestock and marriages.
Jacob’s sons took after their father. Joseph who was the 11th son born, was the youngest. Jacob played favorites with his sons. He was not shy about showing favoritism toward one child over other ten brothers. He did this in different ways: Jacob gave more affection, more privileges and less discipline to Joseph who was his favorite. Is it any wonder that this created animosity and jealousy among the other 10 older? One day when Joseph was a young man they saw an opportunity to be rid of him. They sold Joseph into slavery to some Egyptians slave traders. To cover their crime, they created an elaborate story, complete with hard evidence, to convince their father of Joseph’s unfortunate demise by a wild animal attack.
Joseph, the favored son with the nicest clothes, started life as a loved and cherished son. Suddenly he finds himself in a foreign country as a slave among foreign gods. But did he focus on yesterday? No. Let me say this, I believe that there is only one reality, today. Yesterday and tomorrow are not reachable. I cannot change the past or the future therefore, they are not in my realm of reality. All I can change is what is in front of me at this moment.
Back to Joseph. He remained faithful to his God and the Bible says “The Lord was with Joseph…” [Genesis 39:2] That is a game-changer in any circumstance. What changes, if I choose to believe God, is my attitude. Jesus levels the playing field. He is the only One who can change tomorrow. Someone said that “People go through life looking at the wrongs people do to us in the yesterdays.” How sad. They fail to see that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8 ESV] We may not escape the circumstance we are born into or the circumstances thrown at us either by whim or design or our ignorance or stupidity. The good news is that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31 NIV]. When everything is all said and done, if God is in us then it does not matter who is against us! Beginnings are not endings!
“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”
There is a principle that states: “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” Maybe you have heard this before. We live in a chaotic world with regular mass shootings, police brutality, countries rattling swords and other countries, and world-wide bigotry. There is no peace. Purpose for living seems allusive. And that seems to be the very theme I encounter in ministering to others. People young and old are searching for purpose and peace. And there seems to be no end to the different avenues people take trying to obtain what they want.
Just recently a young [30ish] Christian man [I’ll call him Joe] contacted me wanting help. His complaint was that he was under spiritual attack and depressed. I knew Joe was part of a ministry in the church we both attend. I asked him what he tried to do about it and he said that he would go and have the prayer team pray over him and that seemed to help, and he would feel better for a while. But then it would start all over again. The other thing Joe said he was doing was spending time with friends into wee hours of the morning talking and talking, trying to understand why this was happening. I asked him how that helped, and he could not answer me.
We set up a day to meet at a local coffee shop and he picked 8AM as the time. 8AM came and went and finally at 8:15 I called him. No answer. Then about five minutes later Joe called me, profusely apologizing and said he would be there in 20 minutes if I could wait. I did. He said he slept through his alarm because he had been out with friends talking till two or three in the morning. We set up second meeting and the same thing happened and no meeting. I tried one more time with the same outcome; same reasons and no meeting.
Later that week I sent him a text with this question: “Are you allowing God’s enemy to rob you of the very things you desire?” Then I shared this verse: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” [2 Timothy 2:15 ESV] Then I asked him if he was spending any time in the Word daily. He said he did not really have time.
We talked about “not having time” to spend time with Jesus. We have time for other important and not so important things. I shared with him that there was only one primary source for understanding how to live as Christ-follower. Sure, friends are important, but they are a secondary resource.
The one mistake that young Christians make is not understanding the concept of discipleship. Listen to this Olympic Champion Eric Lindell: “You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.” Guess what? Becoming like Jesus can only happen with practice and listening directly to God as the primary source. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:11-12 ESV]
So “Joe” … if you want to get out of the crazily repeating cycles in your life, you might want to change what you are doing. Just a thought …