An End-of-Year Message from Pastor Chris Barras:
I was talking to a friend who I knew was going through a hard time with his company. I called him up and asked, “How are you doing?” His response was, “Well, it depends on what I choose to think about. There are some great things that I can focus on, and then I feel pretty good. But there are some really awful things are going on, and when I think about them, it feels pretty bad.”
Can you relate to that? I certainly can. I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday that 2018 was a tough year for me, and I know many people in our community who are struggling with some of the most difficult challenges they could possibly imagine. Loneliness. Depression. Divorce. Death. Alzheimer's. The list goes on.
As we turn the page on the calendar this week, it’s good to reflect on all that was good, what was bad, and what lessons we can learn from the year. But as you look forward to 2019, what do you see? Challenges? Opportunities? Reasons to be concerned? Reasons for optimism? What is waiting for you?
I’m honestly not sure what’s waiting in 2019. The Lord never really reveals much of that to us, does He? He doesn’t usually tell us what to expect or let us know what’s coming. I have to think that He does that to spare us. If I knew what was coming, I might freak out and not be able to function.
But as I look at 2019, the one thing I can do is choose what I will focus on. I can choose my attitude towards things every single day. I can decide how I want to respond to adversity. The apostle Paul is one of the most excellent examples of this I can think of in the Bible. Listen to what he says about his circumstances as he is rotting away in a Roman jail, getting hungry, old and tired, and nearing the end of his life. Listen to what he says in Philippians 1:12-14:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
He is saying, "Guys, me being in jail is really great because now I’m able to tell the imperial guards about Jesus." Wow. Would that be your first reaction to being in jail? It certainly wouldn’t be mine.
But Paul is living with a real sense of purpose. His purpose is primarily to go to heaven when he dies, and take as many people with him that he can while he is still alive. And with that as his purpose, the idea of being in jail is just fine. He sees it as one more place to share the good news about Jesus.
Paul does something here that psychologists would call "cognitive reframing." He is putting a new frame around his circumstances, and he is using that new framework to tell a new story about what is going on his life. I think we can all learn something from that.
We will undoubtedly experience some ups and downs in 2019. And no matter who you are, what you do, how much money you make, or whatever circumstances you are in, you will have very little control over a lot of what happens. (The control freak in us starts to sweat at the very thought of it!) So knowing that is the case, what can you control? You can control the frame you put around the picture. You can control what you think about.
How did Paul do this so well? How can we do it? Honestly, I know of no better way to do this than to read the scripture, quiet your mind, and pray a little bit every day. Slow down, breathe and let your thoughts get reformed and reshaped by God and His words. I’m committing to doing that in 2019. I call it RPM: Read, Pray, Meditate. Just a little bit each day. Maybe that can be your practice too in this coming year.
Challenge: Read through the book of Philippians. It's just four short chapters and it will probably take you about 15-20 minutes total, but there are some real gold nuggets of wisdom at every turn.
See you guys back at the Byrd on Sunday, January 6th to start our new series, The Main Thing!