Tag Archives: pain

Fear and pain are what move you to grow, mature and serve others to your glory and Jesus’

One thing I find odd about people today is that too many of them genuinely think that things are supposed to happen nice and easy, that they’re never supposed to experience any kind of pain, that there shouldn’t be any risk to what they do. Basically we have become unrealistically averse to any kind of pain or risk. An article in “Triathlete Magazine” (October 2015 p 28) written by Jene Shaw discusses the fact that if you’re going to do anything to grow, there’s going to be pain.

It really is called maturing, too many really think that they can really sit back, contribute as little as possible or nothing and expect everyone else to scurry around them. Obviously as a person and in a society, that model is not going to last too long. Only so many people can take, because there are only so many  available to give. In order to grow and become stronger and be better positioned to support those in genuine need. When we all do what is necessary then it’s not just for someone else, be we do become much stronger and a lot better able to cope with life. As a part of that whole we become better.

Too many really believe that pain is bad and something is wrong when they have pain. As the picture posted by someone in the triathlon community puts so well, at the end , when the challenge is overcome, the pain is a sign that you have grown through it. Whether it’s triathlon, basketball, weights, abs, swimming, if I don’t feel some pain, muscular, a little bruising I really don’t feel I’ve gotten the whole experience. That pain in the muscles tells me, that my body will rebuild from that pain and make me stronger.

As Jene suggests in the article, you need to accept the pain, if you fight it or fear it you can’t grow into it. Believe me there have been plenty of times when I’ve stood at the start of a swim at 7am wondering what I’m doing up at this time, knowing that hitting that water is going to be a, yea, painful experience. Knowing that I’m probably going to be kicked and elbowed by other swimmers, knowing that I have to get out to bike and run, yea there is anxiety. But knowing the feeling of accomplishment, success in finishing and knowing what it will do for my physical, mental and yes spiritual growth that will follow (some call it “bragging rights”), helps me to stand up to the challenge. So realize what you love about it, what it will move you to and the heck with the pain. I’ve done 54 triathlons and dozens of other races, so yea, I think I know what I’m talking about.

Jene suggests setting some goals. How can I do the swim, bike, run faster. Isn’t that finishers medal going to look good with my other medals, how great it will be to share with the other finishers, with my family, friends,  others at church? Think about the things you need to do during the race in order to finish as strong as possible.

She suggests relaxing, find some positive way; deep breaths, stretching and shaking, encouraging mental images, encouraging the other triathletes. It will work out and it will be rewarding, even if it’s only for your personal satisfaction.

Yes there is pain that is a warning sign. When you get to the point where you have overcome a lot of fear, anxiety you might think you should push through that pain. You do have to learn the difference, when you need to push through and accomplish, or when you do need to stop in order to prevent further damage. So there is pain that we need to overcome on our own in order to grow stronger, but pain when we do need someone else’s help. Can you say “medical tent, take me to the hospital”?

But in a Christian context it is the same. As disciples we need to grow and strengthen. When we do, those around us can take courage in us, we become stronger to help those who are genuinely in need, we become givers and leaders, not just takers. Yes there is a time in the Christian walk when we do need to take. Jesus has provided those times to be baptized, to be strengthened in His Body and Blood in our body and spirit, to be built up and strengthened in His preached word and in Scripture. To be a part of Christian fellowship that builds up yourself and those around you. There are times when you will feel you can’t go on. Truth is that being a Christian marks you out for attacks by the devil. The upside is that it also marks us out to be protected by the Holy Spirit, and to be strengthened and gifted to be better able to provide for yourself and for others. Certainly Jesus’ disciples started out as kind of weak and petty. Within a few short years they grew to be tigers of the Christian faith who served many others and also stood up to the fear and challenges of being disciples up to and including dying for Christ.

Too many people today make up their minds that they can’t, when it’s really they won’t. They think that they’re too weak, when they’ve never even tried to see how strong they could be. I’ve experienced this a lot: “well you are bigger and stronger, mentally and physically, you’re special so you can”. I assure you the only way I became that way is by pushing myself. There are plenty of times when I could have just rolled over and let it defeat me. There are too many people who’ve already decided they can’t do anything for themselves and let it defeat them. Ironically those will be the someones who decide that you shouldn’t be doing those things for yourself either. You have to continue to strive. Yea, don’t get me started on those people who stand there, find some way to pooh-pooh what you’re doing and give you this “hey! You think you’re better than me?” Me? I really don’t care, but apparently you seem to know deep down.

Ministry has been a very real lesson in knowing who I can rely on and who I just need to keep at arms length. Sure I serve anyone as much as I can. But, especially in an inner-city church, there are a lot out there who simply don’t want to step up and in fact want to take all that you will give them, if not more. They really see others as simply a source to provide for themselves. Again, yes, do what you can and don’t try to make excuses to avoid situations. However, know your limits and what pain is a warning sign. Do you want to beat yourself on some of those people who are hard as rocks? There are a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who do understand their own growth and growth together with others. Those are the ones that you need to pull together with.

Yes, there is pain, that’s a good thing and the sooner you accept that it will build and strengthen, the better for you and those around you. Sometimes you do need to be at that starting line wondering; “what the heck am I doing here”. But you seem to get to the finish and realize how great that was. There is team too. It is exhilarating to win a basketball game as a team, even though you’ve gotten bruised and banged and it’s kind of hard to really stand. Those painful muscles in the morning are a wonderful memory of the things you did to be stronger from the previous day. Find those who encourage and build you up and let them do the same for you. Quit sitting behind that computer looking for that kind of fellowship. It’s sad on your part and it’s just not going to happen.

Celebrate the success you’ve achieved, share it with those who know what it means to be fearful and have pain, it’s a great way to grow in brothers and sisters. Realize that even when there is suffering for Jesus, He knows what’s going on, who is and isn’t His. I’m glad I’m His, I’m glad He’s given me the challenges He has and that He’s been the one to move me through the fear, pain, anxiety and given me the thrill of victory, no matter how small the world sees that victory. Let Jesus move you to where you need to be regardless of the things you have to overcome. When I’ve reached the end of those challenges, I’ve realized that Jesus has done the things necessary in order to get me there. So feel some real pain and fear, join those who know the joy and accomplishment that makes you feel. You will be a far better person and so much of your fear and stress will disappear. Find me at the starting line of the next race, it would be great to obsess and encourage with you. !

Will you fight?

Really interesting  question. Even if you will fight, do you really know how. The question is prompted by Kelly McCann writing in BlackBelt Magazine (Oct/Nov 2013 pp 28-29). Kelly is a former Marine officer and martial arts expert. He raises a great question he’s perfectly capable of fighting and he, undoubtedly, would do it ably.
I know, this isn’t a subject that most people want to answer and certainly not confront. I’m not asking this question to be somehow  provocative, maybe I am asking you to take a hard look at yourself and maybe think about your courage, integrity and faithfulness. Ya, I know, not exactly polite, hey I’m a pastor, I’m not a politically correct pastor, and frankly I’m not always looking to be popular. One of the pastor’s creeds is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”, if I’m not challenging you, if I’m not pushing you to question and grow, especially in terms of being a Christian, then really I’m not doing my job. This isn’t to get up in your grill, it is intended to confront yourself.

I have had to take on fights, some of them actually physical, some of them emotional but it felt as traumatic as physical (with some of them frankly I would have preferred getting punched in the head. There are times when I’ve felt prepared for a fight, but as Vince Lombardi (and maybe General George Patton) once said, “fatigue makes cowards of us all”. Normally I would have “picked up the gauntlet, but weighing the importance of the issue to my physical condition, I have decided to punt on occasion and walk away. As someone who has been trained to fight, and instruct others, one of the first things I will tell people and I’ve heard this from professionals, such as MMA combatants, in a physical confrontation, if you have a way to escape, do it. There’s a lot of reasons why, but I want to talk about the times that are important and what is “important”. You might have to actually wade into physical danger, you might be the difference between death of serious injury, what would you do. Coast Guard training taught me, you’re always thinking about your options, you’re always considering what is going around you, what to take advantage of and what to avoid.

As a pastor, my main concern is whether you will stand and fight for what is ultimately important. Down through history Christians have confronted the choice of denying Christ or standing up for what is the best, what is eternal, what really matters. A very discomforting fact for most Christians is that there were more martyrs for Christ in the 20th century then in the first 19 centuries of Christendom, combined. Granted for most Americans that is not really an imminent threat, but the challenge to most Americans is ostracism, marginalization, disdain, ridicule. For most of us who are rather obsessed with our dignity and being respected, these are tough obstacles, as I said, we might prefer a good smack in the head. On the upside and much more importantly is the reassurance Jesus gives us when we do stand up for what is right, especially when we, as Christians, stand up for Him: ESV Matthew 5:11- 12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” People who really matter, have gone through so much more, then you probably ever have or will have.

Captain McCann writes: “The biggest compliment I can give anyone is “He’ll fight” or “She’ll fight”. It may sound trite or one-dimensional, but it’s far from that. People too often say about others, “Of course they’d fight.” But it’s been my experience that a lot of people won’t fight. They may train but still won’t when attacked. My point is that knowing 1,000 techniques doesn’t replace the need to simply fight.” Many times a Christian will run away from a fight because they don’t feel prepared, or that the other person knows more, or frankly they just don’t have the faith. Jesus told us: “ESV Luke 12:11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12 ESV). I’ve had that experience, I genuinely felt that I was given the words. More then one occasion I found out, through the “discussion”, that the person really didn’t know what they were talking about. Perhaps the Holy Spirit used that “discussion” to convict the person. I didn’t have anyone come to Christ with what I said. But we never know how the Holy Spirit uses our words and actions. I’d love to be that person’s pastor, but if they come to Christ and go to another church because of the words the Holy Spirit gave me, well the ultimate outcome for anyone is to be led by God to salvation. I have never really had a negative experience jumping into the “fight”, witnessing for Christ. If anything I would say that much like taking on a physical challenge, the feeling was of some degree of exhilaration. I truly felt that I had been used by the Holy Spirit.

So why don’t we “fight”? Captain McCann notes: “Fighting can be scary because of the consequences: there’s pain involved, and you can be hurt or killed. But if you’ve inured yourself to those things through intense training and visualization, the act of fighting becomes much easier.” I’ve gotten some of my best whacks playing basketball, ironically. After I realized I survived the elbow to my face and to the top of my head, again there was an exhilaration, and of course just as importantly a great war story. I was involved in a case where the air temp was zero and the wind chill was 70 below. Didn’t enjoy it at the time, but it’s a great story now. Those “stories” that I get to share, ok, ya, there is more than element of bragadacio, which is not really where you want to be. But it’s also for the benefit of those listening. “Wow, I can fight, I can survive and not only that, but God will give me that exhilaration, that knowledge of knowing that I have served the Kingdom. That I may have been used by God for Him to lead someone else to salvation in our Lord Jesus.”

There is simply nothing better, being a servant of the Kingdom, we even have the promise of building treasure in heaven. (2 Corinthians 4: 6-7) Not just through our giving, but also serving “to give light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

What about preparation? In physical fighting? Yes, of course, as much as possible, but there could be times when you have to confront and you don’t feel prepared. You’re never going to be be prepared as well as you could be, you just may have to confront anyway. In physical confrontations you may have to back off, that’s a whole separate discussion, but in terms of Christ? “For such a time as this”, to quote Esther. She probably wasn’t as prepared as she could be, but in faith she went before the king. Do not doubt that the Holy Spirit has you in this time and place for a reason, He will guide you as Jesus promised. He will also guide your reaction, sometimes you do have to push back, sometimes you do have to be compassionate, sometimes you will have to challenge, lots of times you won’t be sufficiently preparedImage. We see Jesus in all these types of situations, He is faithful and will lead you where He wants you. Yes, it would be nice to be all correct and polite, but sometimes that’s not what the situations demands. If He’s leading you in a way He’s doing it for His purpose and glory, and He calls us to be faithful. So sure, seek out training, not just for yourself, but for you to train others, be a good disciple

So, will you fight? Is the Holy Spirit leading? You don’t have to look for fights, you don’t have to be pugnacious, usually, you don’t have to be obnoxious, but you do have to be faithful and sometimes being faithful means stepping up to the fight. To quote Nike, just do it.