The old Chinese proverb, which may in fact be a curse, says "may you live in interesting times." I am living in interesting times, interesting to me, and maybe me alone. I am in the midst of a great battle for my health which at times discourages and deflates me, yet in my weakness the grace of Christ has become more and more manifest and dear to me than ever.
For the most part I have little energy with which to engage the tasks I am called to do, but I am in a season right now where I do have a bit more energy and am busy trying to do some things I haven't been able to do for over a year.
Our church has had several families leave in the last year, yet we are also seeing several new families joining with us because they have found a place which gives them the gospel in it's fulness and the undiluted Word of God.
So, it's ups and downs, ups and downs. But here is what I find the most - the ups come when we turn our attention to what Christ has done for us, the downs come when we turn our attention to all we must do for Him.
When I am physially weak and unable to perform the tasks that come with my calling as a preacher I am down, especially when I look at all that goes undone. Now that I have a bit of energy I am getting some of those things done. Yet, the thought occurs to me that Jesus' love for me and the value of His atoning work on my behalf is the same on days when things are done and undone. My performance may go up and down, but the value of His work on my behalf never wanes, so which will I focus on and which will I take comfort from?
With our church, when people leave or complain the reason is almost always some variation on the theme of what we as a body have failed to do or be for Christ. When people join us and show enthusiasm for who we are and what we are doing it is almost always some variation on the theme that they have heard from us the good news of all that Christ has done for them, and they can rejoice in this good news.
To me it all comes down to where our attention lies, where our focus is and where is our source of delight. Zechariah 3:1-5 shows the different kinds of attention, or foci, of different kinds of beings:
1Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" 3Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments." 5And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
Satan's attention will always be drawn to the filth in the lives of the people of God, as individuals and as the church. Satan will always accuse and will always publicize, privately and publicly, the filth. It's all he can see. The Lord and His angels will see the covering.
The odd thing here is that, though Satan is the father of lies, in this case he was not lying - Joshua was filthy and worthy of the accusation. Yet God did not let the accusations stand, He removed them and covered them. This is a wonderful picture of the atoning work of Christ.
It's a wonderful insight into the way we view the church and our fellow believers. Do we see our churches and fellow believers with the eyes of Satan or with the eyes of God.
What is the most apparent thing when you look at me - are my disease, compromised productivity for the kingdom of God and failure to live up to my potential as a Christian and a pastor the things that are most apparent? Or, is there something I have done in my life which you might consider good? To see those things are to see me with the eyes of Satan. But the eyes of God see how Christ has given grace for my weakness, accomplishment by His work on the cross for my failures in service and forgiveness for my sins.
What is most apparent when you look at your church - is it the church's failure to be what Christ has called that church to be? Conversely, are you proud of all that your church has accomplished for Christ? To be disappointed with your church's failures or to be proud of it's accomplishments for the Kingdom are both evidences of seeing with the eyes of Satan. To see your church with the eyes of God is to see a community of people who are marked by atonement, not accomplishment, and to rejoice for and with them that they are always recipients of the forgivenss of Christ.
What is most apparent when you look at yourself? And here I am speaking to Christians in particular. Do you mostly see your filthy garments and do you spend your life trying to wash yourself clean? Or, are you driven by a feeling that there is something you must do for God or be for God? When you look at your life do you see nothing but failure in being who God has called you to be? Or, when you look at your life do you see someone who has offered and performed some valuable services to God and His kingdom. All of this is to see yourself through the eyes of Satan. Hopefully you see yourself as a sinner and can see the filthy garments on yourself. If you don't see that then Satan has blinded you. But do you see yourself as a sinner in need of atonement, or covering from Christ, or do you see yourself as a sinner in need of self-improvement, who needs to be a better Christian. To see yourself as a sinner in need of atonement at all times is to see yourself with the eyes of Christ, to see yourself as someone who needs to improve or get better is to see yourself with the eyes of Satan. And by the way, if you see yourself as a sinner always in need of atonement, can you see that the atonement is always there, the blood of Christ is always covering your sin and failure?
In short, is Christ and His work at the forefront of your attention in this world or is your performance and the performance of others at the forefront of your attention. To see the first is to see the world through the eyes of God, to see the latter is to see with the eyes of Satan.