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We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. - 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)
Our boys go through “pretending phases”—we’ve been through the Paw Patrol years, the Kentucky baseball years, and now we’re in a strange season of Sonic the Hedgehog. How does all that play out, you ask? Well, we have SEC baseball tournaments in our backyard featuring Georgia, Alabama, and of course—the Cats. Right now, our neighborhood kids get together and play Sonic, pretending to be all the different characters, and they have a blast! I’m being reminded that I definitely don’t have the speed of Sonic. Pretending is fun when you’re a kid!
As we grow up, it takes a lot more effort to pretend. Southern Living arrives in our mailbox every month. The food looks impeccable. The gardens don’t have any weeds—the tomato and cucumber plants don’t look like a jungle in the Amazon. And how do they keep 1,000 pillows on that bed with those small children all dressed in collar shirts without any stains? Pretending may be fun as a kid, but as an adult? It’s exhausting!
The reality is that none of us is perfectly put together. In fact, Paul reminds us that we are like fragile clay jars containing a great treasure. What if we all started there this week? Freeing ourselves to be fragile, broken jars in need of a perfect and put-together Savior? We’re pursuing authenticity this week, and authenticity starts where pretending stops.
This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. - 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)
I’m not a big social media person. To be honest, I’m pretty inconsistent with it. Interestingly enough, I think most about posting on social media when real life is happening. I’m tempted to post videos of my boys melting down at the end of a long summer day with a quick post, “You too?” I want to post a picture of my grill going up in flames, taking my beloved burgers down with it with a #grillfail. I find myself wanting to share the moments of my life that are the least social-media-worthy because isn’t that how life really is? But something always holds me back. Maybe it’s restraint, or maybe it’s fear of what someone might think about me if they see how the day really went at the Denney’s house.
It’s scary to show others the reality of our lives because it’s usually messy! If you’re like me, at times, you’re afraid to let people see behind the scenes. Where do we get the courage to let go, be real, and be honest about what’s going on in our lives? The courage to be our real, fragile selves comes from remembering where our strength really comes from—God Himself. If my reputation as a dad, husband, or pastor is dependent on me, then all these messy moments will undermine the reputation I’m building for myself. But if I’m looking to glorify God with my life and depend completely on Him, these moments remind me and others that all the good in my life is from God alone, not my performance. In fact, it’s often in spite of my performance!
Friends, our lives don’t depend on us. That never worked, which is exactly why Jesus had to come and die on the cross. Take a deep breath today as you’re reminded that your life, your career, your family, every part of you is dependent on God and His strength!
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT)
A few months ago, Scott shared about a book that many of us remember from childhood: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s hilarious not just because it features Steve Carrell, but because we’ve all had days, or seasons, in our lives that just feel like they couldn’t possibly get any worse. Even if we did have it all together ourselves, the world around us constantly reminds us just how fragile we are. It’s August, but consider how 2020 has gone so far. We’re living during a global pandemic. Nearly 40 million people lost their jobs in March and April, including people right here at Southland. We’ve witnessed protests and riots arising from racial tensions. Pressed, perplexed, and hunted down… sounds like 2020, huh?
Authenticity begins when we stop pretending we’re okay. Equally important is admitting that everything around us isn’t okay. Like Paul, we can face the reality head on. Peter stepped out on the water to follow Jesus in the middle of a raging storm. As followers of Jesus, we’re called to live during turbulent times. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to admit that the world is a tough place sometimes. We can’t get where we’re going without recognizing where we are, first.
Not crushed… not driven to despair… never abandoned by God… not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT)
We’ve spent some time thinking about authenticity this week. We’re recognizing that the social media/magazine version of life isn’t real for most of us. We’re admitting that the story we’re part of in this life is impacted by sin and brokenness, which means that at times, there will be suffering and pain. As we do an honest evaluation of our hearts, lives, and circumstances, how do we stay encouraged when the findings aren’t so pleasant?
There’s only one way—by fixing our eyes on Jesus. What feels real here is only part of the story. As followers of Jesus, we’re all part of something bigger and far more real than we can ever imagine. While I was at the beach a few weeks ago, my heart was lifted by these words. Read them slowly: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7, ESV) When we’re pressed by challenges inside and out, we can lift our eyes, look at the clouds, and remember this—Jesus is coming back! He is the beginning, middle, and end of the story. We can endure because, as Paul reminds us, Jesus will never abandon us. We know that He has defeated sin and death forever. Our story has a happy ending!
Do you know Jesus? If so, stop and remember that He is with you and for you no matter what you are facing! If you don’t know Jesus, He’s offering His hand of rescue. He loves you and wants to free you from your sin. Reach out if you want to learn more about what it means to be in a relationship with Him!Share Tweet
Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. - 2 Corinthians 4:10 (NLT)
I’ve always loved reading about World War II. I admire the courage and determination of The Greatest Generation. I read stories of men and women who fearlessly jumped aboard bombers decimated by enemy fire, and consequently laugh at my own fear of getting on a Delta 747. I love reading about Winston Churchill—his determination, fearlessness, and unwillingness to compromise in the face of evil. Suffering made something special out of that generation; it made them tough people who were willing to fight for what mattered.
When I read Paul’s letter, I wish I could remove that phrase “through suffering.” As a millennial, I don’t know a whole lot about suffering compared to those in previous generations, so this season has been challenging at times. But Paul’s words remind me that suffering is an invitation to spiritual growth. Even though suffering is painful, Paul writes in another place that nothing, including suffering, can separate us from God’s love. Jesus took on flesh—fully man and fully God. He didn’t avoid suffering, but humbled Himself and became a human, dying a criminal’s death on a cross. He gave up His privileges in order to save sinners like you and me, and He invites you and me to do the same. Through suffering, we can still trust in God’s love and His purposes for our lives.