You Were Made For More!

It was a few months to the KCPE exams. The obligatory family prayers were organized to solicit divine assistance for the beloved candidate. At some point during the event, the grizzled, wise grandpa pulled aside the young student for a chat. He asked him what he was planning to do after he passed his exams. The bright, young boy answered without hesitation, ‘I want to get accepted into a prestigious national school’.

grandpa‘And then what?’ asked grandpa. ‘Well, then I’ll work hard in high school, pass all my exams and go to a prestigious college for a business degree. After that I’ll start a business and make a lot of money!’

Undeterred, grandpa asked again; ‘and then what?’ ‘Well, I’ll buy a good house, drive a brand new German car and get married to a beautiful lady. We’ll have three children, and we’ll take them to the best schools so that they can also be successful’.

As more gathered to listen in on the conversation, grandpa asked yet again, ‘and then what?’ ‘Hmmm, and then I’ll make a lot of money and become very famous. I’ll win many awards and recognitions. I’ll be on TV all the time. And then my wife and I will retire, play golf every day and see the world. Once in a while, we’ll visit our children and their families and they can also visit us in our big house when we’re old’

With a twinkle in his eye, grandpa persisted, ‘and then what?’ ‘What else is there to do?’ the flustered boy asked. ‘We’ll grow old together with my wife and one day we’ll die!’

‘And then what?’, asked grandpa smiling gently. This time the young man scratched his head and was silent. He really didn’t have an answer.

createdThe old man’s point of course was that there is more to life than being born, making money, having a family and then dying. As an old preacher said, ‘we were not just created to be hatched, matched and dispatched’! There is much more to life – there is a God-designed purpose in each of us that we were created for.

Your passions, personality, abilities and experiences, both good and bad, are clues about what you are uniquely gifted to accomplish. Your purpose is not just to make you comfortable but to impact others and to leave this world a better place than you found it.

As Paul of Tarsus wrote almost 2000 years ago, ‘we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ (Ephesians 2:10)

So by all means, be ambitious. Excel at what you do. Aim for the stars! But in the process, don’t loose sight of the fact that your life is not a random accident. There’s a unique role you were created for. And you owe it to yourself to discover what it is.

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Trusting In God’s Silence

abandonedI recently spent some time encouraging a friend who has felt extremely abandoned by God in a very tough time for his business. In the process, I shared some of my own difficult experiences from the tough year that 2014 has been. I was thinking about that when I came across a story by psychologist and author Larry Crabb, describing the faith of his 79 year old dad.

Larry was driving him home after his dad had spent two weeks admitted in hospital recuperating from open-heart surgery. Lying in the backseat, his dad broke the silence by saying, ‘You know, I had many visitors during my difficult hospital stay, and I appreciated every one. But the one visitor I most wanted to come never showed up’.

‘Who?’ Larry asked? ‘God!’ his dad answered. ‘I prayed every day that I would feel his presence. I never did. And I’m so grateful!’

When Larry prodded further for what he meant, he answered, ‘God counted me worth to trust what he said in his word in the absence of His felt presence in my experience. And His Spirit enabled me to do just that, not without struggle of course. But I never turned away from Him. I think that made Him really happy.’

I’m not sure I would respond that way to the challenges I face! Which makes me think that much of my faith, like that of many today, is based a lot on experiencing God’s favor and goodness. It’s based on loving and following God for what He can do for me.

But that’s not true faith! True faith never values experience in God above hope in God. As Hebrews 11 says, ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see’.

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12th century mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux (who began the Benedictine order of monks) talked about the four levels of love…

1. Loving myself for my sake – the ‘normal’ human condition
2. Loving God for my sake – when I ‘discover’ God and follow Him to make me happy
3. Loving God for God’s sake – when I begin to understand how much God has forgiven and loved me and stop feeling like He owes me
4. Loving myself for God’s sake – when everything in my life (joys & sorrows) becomes an eagerly received opportunity to bring Him pleasure by trusting in His goodness and leaning on His word, with my one goal being to delight Him.

Are you in a tough spot? Don’t allow your pain to lead you to give up on God. Instead hold on in trust to Him, and let the pain, anger, disappointment or fear fan the realization of your need and hunger for Him. See it as an opportunity to grow deeper in your love for God.

Lord, please help me to move from loving You for my sake to loving myself for Your sake. AMEN.

Why Marriage May Not Be For You!

After 20 years of marriage, I’m convinced that marriage isn’t for me! Before you jump to conclusions, please read on.

weddingBack in the day, finding a spouse was not a complex proposition. Your folks shortlisted the suitable candidates and chose the one who’s family was most complimentary to theirs. Complex terms like love and personal choice were not part of the equation! But in our very different world, many people struggle with the question of how to locate the One. “What if I end up with someone who makes me miserable?” The result? Commitment phobic people who are mortally afraid of entering marriage because of the misery they fear it might cause them. And subsequently after marriage when the going gets tough, many end up convinced that their unhappiness is because they made a mistake and married the wrong person!

Recently, I read an article by author Seth Adam Smith who made the same discovery I made when I faced the same fears, years ago. His commitment-phobia came to a head as he was planning his engagement to his high school sweetheart and best friend. Was he ready? Was this the right person to marry? Would she make him happy?

wedding 2In his confusion, he decided to confide in his dad about his fears. His dad’s response floored him. Instead of empathizing with him, he told him that he was being totally selfish because marriage was not for him. “You don’t marry to make yourself happy; you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Seth’s blog post received 2 million views in 36 hours and when I last looked, that had jumped to 24 million. As countercultural as his message was in our culture today, it evidently struck a cord. You can read his original article here.

wedding 3One of the biggest problems in our lives today is caused by our expectation that the people around us are there to make us happy. Life is after all, the pursuit of happiness. Whether it’s our spouse, our friends, our boss, or our workmates, we only want to hang out only with people who contribute to our personal bliss. But this is a selfish extractive approach that is based on not on what I give to others but on what I can get from them. It turns us into net consumers and not net contributors.

So the next time you find yourself wondering if you married the right person, turn the question round and ask ‘how can I be the right person for the person I married?’