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Lenten study week four: When Others Don't Like Your Plans, Rev. Randy Cross

By: Rev. Randy Cross, Northwest District superintendent, Dakotas UMC

“There’s a moment for each of us when the lie is sown,” says Jacob Armstrong, author of the book called Renovate. “Everything is going splendidly in the garden of grace… everything is sparkling new.” In those times when we are trying to do something really significant, either for ourselves or for our world – then a lie is produced. When we respond to a vision, somebody’s not going to like it – and things just get harder.

The fourth chapter of Armstrong’s book, “When Others Don’t Like Your Plans,” is about vision, lies, and the conflict that always seems to spring up.

I hate lies. They make me clench my teeth. I hate it when someone does or says something that undercuts our intention or throws chicken innards at our crystal-clear vision. Lies haven’t changed much over the years. When we attempt to be faithful to God’s leading, the lie whispers, “Maybe you shouldn’t trust God – maybe what God told you isn’t true.” Or, “Are you really satisfied with what God has provided? You deserve more!” Or even, “How can you be so sure that God has your best interests in mind?” The whispers, or even the outspoken statements invite us to not trust in what we are being asked to do, or they remind us of how we failed in the past, and shame that came with it.

If you don’t get anything else, please hear this: when you act out of a vision, out of a commitment to go where God leads you, even if it is leading your life into a time of renovation – 100% of the time when you act out of vision, there will be sabotage, something that undercuts you, or offers you a lie. One hundred percent of the time. You can depend on that!

Jacob Armstrong says that when you try to live out of a vision, like Nehemiah and the Jews, as they began to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, some folks will join you as partners! Some will watch, or just sit back and see how things go. Others will frankly just be mad, and that’s where the lies are found. In any system, some members want to keep things exactly as they are. They hate the idea that everything could be turned upside down! So, they will do anything to keep things stable, unchanged. Unfortunately, the most effective way to scuttle any forward motion is to lie. Lies work, even when they linger in the background. We all can think of a time when someone said something about us that really wasn’t true, or just sort of true, and those words hurt, even more than sticks or stones.

How do we get past that? How do we leave the lies behind, and find vision again?  How do we move forward, when it seems the devil is eager to let the opposite happen? The only answer is to remember it is God’s new creation, and not simply our big idea. We are called to have God lead us, not the other way around. Our spiritual energy comes in following God, in doing good, and in reading that sign every day that should hang on our wall. The one that says, “don’t quit!” Believe me, there always comes a time when things just seem too hard, and it would be easier to compromise or just say it’s good enough – but God’s not done yet. God brings blessing through the challenge, and hope through the struggle, just as God brought eternal life, through the cross.

You see, what we do physically in this world depends on what we do spiritually. When others don’t like your plans be diligent. First, spiritually wrap all that you do in prayer. Not, “God – you have to do this for me!” Instead, “Lead me, O God, and give me the strength to follow You.” We need to also focus spiritually on the Bible, reading it every day. It is a primary source for us knowing anything about God and God’s purpose and claim on us. If you don’t know the Bible, then how can you grow closer to God? Lastly, we need to find wise counsel. Seek out somebody you can trust, who will be honest with you, even when sometimes they say something you don’t want to hear. When we listen carefully to those persons who are spiritually trustworthy, then we can tell when a lie comes along, and that gives us power and hope.

So, when the lie comes, keep your presence of mind not to accept it. Believe instead what you already know: God has an amazing future in store, and God will give you the vision to follow that path. This week, when things get tough, or the lies come, find your life and your focus with God. That’s all that matters. God’s blessings to you on this Lenten journey.

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