I Hate Bear Valley Road!!
“That sounds like a first-world problem!” This statement has become a joke in our culture to point out how small our problems really are by comparing the “problems” of a materially rich society to those in a third-world existence. "First-world problems" would include Starbucks messing up our order, sitting in traffic in an air conditioned car, a long line at a restaurant with portions larger than someone living in the third-world country eats in a month, and nothing good on TV. It really does illustrate how spoiled we are in developed countries.
This has lead me to see a similar comparison to our Christian walk: fallen problems. We live in a fallen world. Sin and its decay leads to problems resulting from a world separated from God. The only difference between the comparison is that there really is no such thing as “redeemed problems.” Afterall, Jesus' death and resurrection takes care of death, eternity, salvation, restoration, and redemption. So we really only have fallen problems.
The real issue, however, is not the problem as much as it is our response to these problems. Jesus guarantees us restoration and redemption, but how often do we face fallen problems with fallen responses and fallen attitudes?
Even though our faith and salvation is in Christ, our identities are not always rooted in the Word or his teachings. It is so easy to leave church on Sunday or a life group meeting with the best intentions and desires only to fall into the traps the world sets for us.
One of my biggest traps: Bear Valley Road.
I hate Bear Valley Road. I hate traffic. And I hate drivers living in their own world completely unaware and inconsiderate of everyone around them. My blood pressure is rising while I write this. I just used the word "hate" three times! I'm not proud of that, but it is honestly what I feel.
Traffic is a fallen problem. For years in my Christian walk I have struggled to reconcile my faith and deeply held beliefs with the emotions and responses that Bear Valley Road elicits within me. I often do not feel like a Christian worthy of his grace or service while driving.
The real problem is not Bear Valley, not the traffic, not even the other drivers. I have been resorting to a "fallen response" to a fallen problem. In traffic I did not choose to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) or actively choose to live out the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) while driving. I would slide back into my fallen identity and respond with fallen emotions and fallen actions. This just resulted in guilt, shame, and identity not rooted in Christ.
Too often, in too many of our mundane daily activities we respond to fallen problems with fallen responses. This erodes our identity in Christ and prevents growth and discipleship.
When our day-to-day, minute-to-minute identities still follow the fallen world, it causes frustration, backsliding, shame, or regret. We end up struggling with sin and existing in a world marked by its death rather than the hope in Jesus Christ. This is when unhealthy doubt creeps in and we suddenly find ourselves questioning whether we are "good enough" to serve in the church, tell others about Jesus, or even worse, start to think we are unworthy of his grace.
We will never be good enough. That's why we have the cross. This is why grace exists. Nonetheless, fallen responses and attitudes conflict with a redeemed life and we struggle.
How do we combat this reflex of fallen responses and attitudes?
It starts by realizing our entire identity is in Christ and there is nothing too small to give him, even driving. It improves through prayer, confession, and asking Jesus to work in the areas we struggle. It comes back, as always, to being in the Word. Not just reading it, but studying it, journaling about it, asking questions, praying upon it, storing it up in our hearts. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
It also begins with a conscious choice to face fallen problems with redeemed responses and attitudes. A friend showed me a prayer based on the Fruits of the Spirit by Max Lucado. It's so simple, yet so clear:
"I choose patience . . .
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray."
These are conscious choices, redeemed choices, choices I can and have to make on a daily basis. I've even reached the point where I regularly ask myself, "Is this a fallen response or a redeemed response?"
Whether we choose an identity that is alive in Christ or dead in the world, we will face struggles daily. We can continue to struggle and suffer, or align our identities completely with Christ and grow in his will, or know that we have grace when we fall short.
Neil put it perfectly at the end of his sermon a week ago ("I'm Alive" from the Identity: Who I Am in Christ series), when he asked, "What's the value of being alive if you keep acting like you're dead?" Fallen responses and attitudes are part of who we used to be when we still lived in the shadows of sin and death. Jesus Christ has redeemed us through his death, burial, and resurrection.
So let us choose an identity in Christ. Let us choose redeemed responses and attitudes to fallen problems. Let us choose the peace and hope that comes through living in obedience to the Word. And let us choose to walk daily in the light of God's love.
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