I’ll never forget the Sunday years ago when a little old lady cornered me in our tiny church lobby. She didn’t say “good morning” or introduce herself. In fact, she immediately made it clear from her body language and facial expression that she was not happy! I had said something in my talk that pushed her buttons, and she was going to give this young arrogant pastor a tongue-lashing. By the time she finished, I was emotionally bleeding, and I went home that day ready to quit (again).
In my world, rejection rates right up there with having a root canal—it’s costly and painful. No one likes to be rebuked, unwanted or treated like gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. Regardless of our apparent warts and wrinkles, we all long to be loved and accepted. It’s a fundamental human need.
As a teaching pastor, every Sunday my congregation evaluates me. New attendees compare me to their previous pastor. Regular attenders measure the value of the current talk or series to the last one. Unchurched folks appraise me based on their favorite speaker or TV host (yikes!).
As an author and blogger, other writers often scrutinize what I produce, and my copy editor sometimes rips me to shreds. Then, of course, the readers leave their mark by buying or not buying my books or by liking or ignoring my posts. (I, for one, am grateful there’s no such thing as a “dislike” button on Facebook!)
Simply put, I live with rejection on a regular basis, and surprisingly, I’m fine with that reality. Yes, it’s still painful, but more importantly, rejection has taught me much.
The top 10 things I’ve learned about rejection:
It teaches me to be humble.
It gives me the opportunity to bless those who curse me.
It helps me learn how to grow and not just go through disappointment.
It gives me empathy for others who experience rejection.
It sometimes brings needed correction to my life.
It reminds me to forgive as I have been forgiven and to offer grace to those who, like me, don’t deserve it.
It develops the character traits of perseverance and resiliency.
It reminds me to speak the truth in love even when it’s not easy to hear.
It challenges me to see the big picture and realize it’s not about me.
It causes me to focus on my audience of One.
Do I love rejection? Uh, that would be no. But do I see its value better now in my old age than I did when I was young? Yup. Frankly, given the choice, I’d probably choose love and acceptance over the angst of rejection, but it’s much more of a speed bump in my life now than a dead end. How about you?
May I pray for you?
Jesus, you know better than any of us how difficult rejection can be to live with and overcome. Help us to press through the pain of hurtful words and unjust accusations. Teach us to “count it all joy” when we encounter trials we’d rather avoid through people who know not what they do to our hearts. Somehow, make us more like You.
In our culture, we underrate failure, and overrate success, so it might seem pointless to add my voice to the plethora of opinions about how to succeed. In fact, I recently did an Amazon search for “how to succeed” and found 27,857 books listed! Seriously, that’s a lot of noise out there about success, but I fear too many insights about this issue have got it dead wrong.
Several years ago, a middle-aged man named Tom came to me extremely discouraged. He told me, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to succeed at something . . . anything . . . but the golden ring is always just out of reach.”
I asked him an important question, “Tell me how you define success?” Without blinking, he rattled off a list of measurables and goals that “must be met” (his words) for him to feel accomplished. Most of them had to do with numbers and recognition by his peers.
I gently pushed back and responded, “What if success is different than you think? Is it possible you’ve been reaching for the wrong golden ring?” The look on his face was telling as I took just five minutes to redefine for him how God defines success.
How God defines success:
1. In God’s economy, success is faithful obedience.
We often measure success by the size of our assets or the awards or accolades given to us by others. God defines success by a very different standard. For Him, it’s all about the choice to yield to Him and to follow His path regardless of the financial or public rewards. We make God smile when we take risks and exercise faith in our pursuit of His kingdom. When we say yes to God, and obey Him regardless of the sacrifice or personal suffering, we are guaranteed the ultimate praise from the Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25).
2. In God’s kingdom, success involves embracing our weaknesses.
Most successful people will tell you they needed others in their journey. Many of us realize we can’t do it alone. Unfortunately, however, too many believe that to be successful they have to be strong. I disagree. In fact, I suggest that to be truly strong one must recognize how weak he or she is, and how desperate we are for support. We need God’s help. We must abide in the Vine to have life (John 15). And we find God’s strength only when we understand our weak human condition (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). The path to success does not deny our weakness; instead, it embraces it in humble dependence on God the Holy Spirit.
3. With God, success is measured by our resiliency.
I know it has become cliché, but with the Father it really is more about the journey, not just the final destination. As Christ-followers, we’ll all end up in the same place for eternity, but what we learn in and through the struggle of life on planet earth is important. God asks us to keep going no matter what. He honors those who persist and resist regardless of the battles faced. God wants us to run with endurance, to finish the race, and to keep the faith (Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:7). From the perspective of that “great cloud of witnesses” watching us, the truly successful are those who stay the course in stubborn determination to finish well.
My friend, Tom, had an “aha moment” when he realized he’d been pursuing a culturally-defined idea of success rather than a God-defined objective for his life. Perhaps you need a different perspective too?
May I pray for you?
Father, the world often teaches us something counter to Your revelation. Help us to unlearn what is contrary to Your word and Your ways. Reveal the truth, truth that will set us free to see Your kingdom come and Your will accomplished on the earth as it is in heaven.
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At the end of a recent trip to Southern California, my wife and I took the scenic route on our way to LAX for our flight home. On the way, we stopped in Venice Beach to get a cup of java at the local Starbucks. The place was packed. I hate to stereotype people, but most of the individuals in line fit the bill of California weird. Like a prom queen in a biker bar, I felt out of sorts in this strange place.
Two women immediately caught my attention. One black, the other white, both in their twenties, and both beautiful. Apparently, they were friends or co-workers. If it bothers you that I noticed they were attractive, then you don’t know men. We notice. That doesn’t mean I lusted or had any evil thoughts about them (I didn’t), but the way these two were barely dressed made everyone notice, both men and women.
We only shared a spot in line for about five minutes, but those two will share a place in my heart for a long time. And it’s not because they were gorgeous; it’s because they seemed so lost.
They had hot bodies but dead eyes.
Despite their attractiveness and attire, what struck me most was the hopelessness in their eyes. Everything about them said, “I’m beautiful and happy,” but the eyes never lie, and their eyes were empty and dead.
It’s been said, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” In fact, scientists have discovered that patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether we are warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive. Simply put, our eyes tell all.
This idea of our eyes being a window into our soul probably stems from what Jesus said in Luke 11:34 (NLV), “The eye is the light of the body. When your eye is good, your whole body is full of light. When your eye is sinful, your whole body is full of darkness.”
A life filled with spiritual darkness, versus a godly life, is reflected in the eyes. In fact, when a person is filled with the light of God, it affects his or her entire being. Conversely, a broken life of moral decadence is also seen in the eyes.
Don’t misunderstand my point, I’m not judging these women or claiming to truly know anything about their lives, but this is one of those times where a picture really is worth a thousand words. And the image of these two still haunts me.
All around us are people who look pretty on the outside, but they are desperate for hope, freedom, joy, and real life. In fact, sometimes the ones who look the best are hurting the worst.
As I got back in my car and drove away from Venice Beach, I prayed, “Jesus, let me see people the way You see them. Once again, break my heart with the things that break Your heart.”
For the next five or six hours, I was surrounded by large crowds of people in the airport and on the plane, and the thousands of empty eyes everywhere overwhelmed me. It literally hurt. Now, more than ever, I want to be a light in the midst of the darkness that cries out: There is hope; His name is Jesus.
May I pray for you?
“Father, give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Give us your heart for the billions lost in darkness. Driven by compassion, as Jesus was, give us boldness to be beacons of grace to a world bound by darkness. Amen.”
“A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes” Proverbs 17:17 NIRV.
Over the years, I’ve had the fun-tastic pleasure of taking several motorcycle trips with great friends. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than riding the back roads of God’s country with the wind in my face and surrounded by buddies.
We laugh. We play. We ride hard. We see beauty beyond description and enjoy the delight of companionship.
Once on the way home from a trip to La Grande, I started to think about what makes a good friend. Here are some ideas I came up with:
• A friend is someone who invests time in the relationship.
• A friend is someone who listens (even when they’ve heard that story a hundred times).
• A friend is someone who protects you by pointing out the dangerous gravel and potholes along the way.
• A friend is someone who willingly shares with you (especially when you forget sunscreen or anything to clean your bug-smattered bike).
• A friend is someone who might tease you about snoring, but they’d never really complain.
• A friend is someone who is unafraid to say hard things in love.
• A friend is someone who looks you in the eye and says, “I love ya, man!” and you know they mean it.
What other qualities of a good friend can you think of? Do you possess these qualities as well?
If you read this and thought about a good pal, thank Jesus for that person, and pick up the phone to invite them to coffee soon.
If you read this and wish you had a friend, follow the advice my momma gave me decades ago, “If you want a friend, be friendly, and find someone looking for a friend just like you.”
May I pray for you?
Jesus, thank you for modeling perfect friendship so that by imitating you we can become friends who love at all times and help when trouble comes. Continue to show us how to serve each other in ways that please you. Amen.