Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Following Jesus brings peace into one’s life even in the midst of great difficulties. His peace passes all understanding. It is real and it is really wonderful!
However, I don’t see lives saturated in God’s peace when I observe normal Christian life today (including my own). I see overwhelming stress. I see anxiety. I see financial pressure. I see maxed-out schedules. I see people who are tired and weary. Jesus said in John 10:10 – I have come that they might life, and have it more abundantly. Does this match up with that bold claim?
God desires that we might have life, and He desires it to be full. He wants us to be overflowing, but not overloaded. He wants us to have meaningful, fulfilling, lives filled with His Presence – life itself. However, you and I tend to fill our lives with more than we can actually handle or accomplish. We fill our lives up until there is no margin.
Margin is essential for abundant life. Margin is the space between our limits and our capacity. It’s breathing room. It’s that reserve for the unanticipated. It’s that place for the surprises. It’s that place between the “abundant life” and deadly lives.
Margin is allowing extra time to get to an appointment. It is having money left at the end of the month after you pay your bills. It’s coming to the end of your day and having the emotional energy to play with your kids. It’s having enough time in your schedule to be able to get a good night’s rest. It is that place where God often meets us.
But too often, because of the choices we make, the debts we take on, our lack of trust in God, our desire to succumb to cultural norms, and allowing technology to control us, our lives end up with too much. We have too much to do, too much debt, and too much demand for our time and limited resources. We end up in chaos, being overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, physically debilitated, and SPIRITUALLY dead.
Is this the way God wants us to live our lives? Is this the witness He wants us to have to our unbelieving friends? It’s time for us to take a serious look in the mirror and examine ourselves and the priorities we have for our lives. We are not only wounding the cause of Jesus; we are hurting ourselves!
Richard Swenson, in his book, Margin, writes: “Overload is not having time to finish the book you are reading on stress. Margin is having time to read it twice. Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy. Overload is red ink. Margin is black ink. Overload is hurry. Margin is calm. Overload is anxiety. Margin is security.” Psalm 90:12 says: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The wise person has margin in an overloaded and stressed out world. What would it look like to create margin in your life?
As Christians, We Tend to Easily Walk Away from Jesus, but He Rejoices When We Return
Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son – As Viewed through the Eyes of the Young Son: The younger son, firstly, took his inheritance, for which he was not yet entitled, and abandoned his father to move to a “distant country”. These were the actions of someone who abandoned his responsibilities, disrespected his father, broke off his relationship with his father, and then treated his father as being dead. In the “distant country”, the younger son quickly squandered his inheritance through sinful living. Being destitute in the “distant country” that was experiencing a severe famine, the younger son hired himself out to tend pigs (NOTE: For a Jewish person of that period, it was an abomination to work with pigs.). Also, he was starving; therefore, the son ate the food rejected by the pigs.
However, in the desperate situation in the “distant country”, the young son “came to his senses” – he had an inner awakening. As a part of coming to his senses, the son, as described in Luke 15:17-20a, remembered and returned to his father: “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father.”.
Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son – As Viewed through the Eyes of the Father: As requested by the younger son, the father gave the younger son his unentitled inheritance; and, without resistance, the father let his young son leave. When the young son “came to his senses” and returned to his father from a “distant country”, the father saw his son returning; and the father ran, thereby disgracing himself, to meet the young son while the son was still a great distance away. The father’s heart was filled with compassion and love upon the return of the young son – the father was expressing unmerited and unsolicited love for his returning son. The young son had disgraced and disrespected his father, and the young son deserved to be punished. However, the father took all the hurt, disrespect, and punishment merited by his young son on himself. The father expressed this punishment merited by the young son when the father ran to his son; accepted and restored the son back into his family without question; and celebrated the return of the young son.
The father, in this parable, demonstrates God’s love that God gives to us when we return to Him from a “distant country” of sin and broken fellowship. When we return to God, we see His love for us, but not for our sins and our actions that broke our personal relationship with Him. We and the young son must face the consequences of our sin when we walk away from God: but through Jesus’ acceptance of the cost of our sins on the cross and our repentance, we can return to the love and fellowship offered by God.
When we return from walking away from God, He rejoices; and there is rejoicing in heaven. God’s perspective, regarding someone who has walked away from Him, is expressed, in Luke 15:31-32, when the father is explaining to his older son why he is accepting and celebrating the return of his young son from a “distant country”: “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”. This parable clearly reflects that God wants intimacy and a personal relationship with us, and it hurts God when we walk away from His relationship with us. However, God and Heaven rejoice when we repent and return!
As we consider those around us who have rejected and walked away from God, what should we do for them? We should: 1) pray, asking God to invade their life and circumstances to the point they will want to return to Him; 2) love them where they are – we can’t rescue them; 3) “let them go” – they have intentionally rejected God (as the young son rejected his father), and our chasing after them may harden their heart to God; and 4) like the father in the parable, “be looking and expecting” their return – when they return, we need to embrace the one returning, with the love of God, like the father embracing and accepting his young son in the parable.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Keeping the Sabbath, Lord, will require a lot of changes in the way I am living life. Teach me, Lord, how to take the next step with this in a way that fits my unique personality and situation. Help me to trust you with all that will remain unfinished and to enjoy my humble place in your very large world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day (p. 129). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
TODAY’S AFFIRMATION: I affirm that because of what God has done for me in His Son, Jesus, I AM FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13).
Scripture Reference (ESV): Luke 15:11-32; Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10.
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