We can live with hope in a despair-friendly world.
A combative approach to a broken culture can do no good. Having rejected the gospel, our culture basks in uncertainty and polarity. God calls us to meet a broken world in love and truth. We must meet our world with faith, love and optimism.
But what can we do when things head south, like in a pandemic that crushes church attendance, depletes finances or takes out friends who underpin our lives? Or a nasty church member stirring dissension over your fundamental values? Perhaps a city government that stifles your every move? The Bible is replete with the admonition to “stand firm.” Words like faithful and steadfast are rooted in the concept.
We need optimistic faith, but standing firm includes toughing out the grim moments.
It also includes rationally assessing our situation and planning for multiple scenarios.
Paul wrote that God causes all things to work together for our good if we’re known and called by him. He’ll find the silver lining in the cloud.
But while he does his thing, we can position ourselves to stand firm in plenty or in need.
When you plan a new venture, you ought to look for the best to happen and lay plans for what comes after that. But the best-projected outcomes don’t always come down the pipe. At least not immediately. Sometimes our worst projections become our future. So it’s a good idea to lay plans for both best and worst outcomes. Actual results usually fall somewhere in between.
One of my friends saw his church attendance double coming out of the lockdown, but the offerings didn’t—a simultaneous best and worst landing.
Plan in both directions. Ask your team what you would do in the best and worst scenarios.
Should you realize your wildest projections, ask:
- How will we consolidate gains?
- What three options should we consider as the next steps forward?
- Is there any downside to this victory?
- Who else should share our bounty? Another ministry?
- Is God trying to do something more significant than our current understanding?
Ask these five questions when projecting adverse outcomes:
- How are we going to react?
- What are we going to do?
- What’s our fallback?
- What’s the next step?
- How do we turn this mess into an opportunity?
Before considering the negative possibilities, it’s a good idea to turn to Philippians, where Paul writes from prison about overcoming our spiritual enemies.
Remember, he’s awaiting a verdict that might separate his head from his shoulders when he writes:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God. Philippians 1:27-29 NIV
Paraphrase it, “Whatever happens, act like a Christian, so whatever happens, I’ll know that you’re standing firm in unity and faith. Your stance will frighten your spiritual enemies. Your firm stance will clue them in to their ultimate destruction and your final victory.”
If I read my Bible, right? He’s not talking about human beings. He’s describing spiritual forces. He’s building on the concept we read in Ephesians—we don’t wrestle against people (or coincidences) but against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly locales. Our steadfast faith is a sign of their destruction and our victory. Experience reminds us that these guys eventually back off steadfast people to bother the vulnerable.
We need to plan for the best, plan for the worst, and mostly plan to stand firm in either situation.
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