Back in January, when God spoke to me during a prayer gathering about handing off a church I pastored for six years, He also soon after gave me a very interesting verse from 2 Corinthians 12:10:
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Over the past months, I’ve meditated on this verse over and over again, and I began to see the lessons God wanted to teach me about decisions regarding my future. I’d like to pass those onto you, especially to those of you who are in the midst of decisions regarding your future.
Whatever the future holds, count on difficulties.
Don’t get me wrong – you can also count on joy! When I thought about my future, my desire was for more happiness. Not a bad thing. In my mind, however, that meant I wanted a future with less hardships and difficulties. But the reality is, a set of different difficulties await me in the future. Like the apostle Paul, you and I can actually begin to delight in hardships because of who Christ shapes us to be through them.
The greatest gift you can give to others is your devotion to Jesus Christ
Each of you has great contributions you can give to the world. God has wired you with natural abilities, passions, and as a Christian, spiritual gifts. But behind it all, the best gift you can give to others is your devotion to Jesus Christ. When I spend time in prayer and Bible reading, when I understand how much God loves me and who I am in Christ…
- I am a better husband to my wife
- I am a better father to my sons
- I am a better colleague to my co-workers
- I am a better companion to my friends
- I am a better pastor to those under my care
- And frankly, I am better to myself
Yes, God has given you unique gifts to bless others around you, but behind it all, the best gift you can give others is continually hearing God give you answer to these questions: “God, how much do You love me?” and “God, how can I love You today?” The apostle Paul realized that his connection to Christ’ perspective made all the difference.
A wise mentor wanting to give me the greatest piece of leadership advice she had told me, “Don’t react.” That’s it? Yep. That short piece of advice has saved me from so much trouble! Many “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties” produce a strong emotional reaction in us. But I’ve learned that my first response in these times is rarely a good one; more often, it causes me more trouble. When you experience future difficulties and insults, don’t react. You don’t need to respond right away. Take time to calm down, figure out what you are feeling, connect with God, and then respond. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of trouble.
For Christ’s sake, the apostle Paul delighted in hardships! He knew that in his weakness, God made him strong. That’s great news for you and me.