16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This past week I had a chance to take part in the RCA General Synod (www.rca.org/synod), the denominations annual gathering of 100s of pastors and elders from all over the US and Canada. During those five days I heard countless stories about churches from all over the nation. If I had to summarize the stories it would be: discouraging. Story after story was filled with challenges, hurt, politics, and otherwise unpleasant challenges at the churches. Not enough money, decreasing numbers of people, lack of connection to their community, lack of age or ethnic diversity, and more filled the stories. Based on the images portrayed in those words, it would be easy to think most of these churches are in a tough spot, or even to assume almost none have much to praise God for, based on the tone of their language.
I was also asked to share stories about Trinity, and I told lots of stories about all of you (if you ears were burning), and all the amazing work that God has been doing through each of you, the ways we have seen God bless and amaze us time and time again. More than once I was accused of being on a 5 five year honeymoon with Trinity, and that I was just lucky. I corrected them, I was not lucky, and the ministry at Trinity was not rainbows and unicorns for the last five years. It was instead a matter of perspective. The positive life-changing stories of God at work, cannot and should not be overshadowed by the challenges, the tough conversations, and downright hard stuff that comes with being a broken group of sinners called together by God.
What perspective and attitude do you bring to your experiences and life? Do your stories reflect cynicism and frustration, or hope? This is not about sugar-coating life or trying to be a hopeless optimist. Instead it’s being aware of the work of God all around us, and reflecting that in our stories with gratitude. In the end it hinges on attitude. Is your life defined by your challenges, or your God at work all around you?