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Living Above Your Circumstances

July 8, 2019

“As you learn more and more how God works . . .  you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (Colossians 1: 9-12, The Message).

 One of the first rules set down by financial advisors is a mandate to live within your means. Don’t spend more than you make.  When you live beyond your means, you incur debt and your financial fortunes can spiral downward.  That works for budgets.

But loving God requires wild extravagance.  When you learn to live above and beyond the gritty reality of your life, you discover a world of peace and joy through reliance on God.  In Paul’s words, “It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating” (Colossians 1: 9-14, The Message).[1]

When you put your faith in the God of the universe, he pulls you out of “the dead-end alleys and dark dungeons.”  He wants you to take part in everything “bright and beautiful.”  He wants you to live above your circumstances.  He wants you to live extravagantly, embraced by his love.  When you are able to live above your circumstances, you are no longer a slave to your circumstances—you are no longer ensnared by your everyday problems.  When you turn your problems over to the Lord of All, you are free to concentrate on what God has in store for you.

How do you live beyond your circumstances?  By loving and trusting God first, and second, by loving your neighbor as yourself.  When you trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to safety, you are free to follow his path and to love and help others.  Loving your neighbor as yourself is part of the moral law established by God over three thousand years ago:  “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).  The moral law still applies today.  It is timeless.  But you can only love others when you turn your attention from your own problems—when you live above your circumstances—and look to your neighbor.

One of the key Old Testament laws prohibited a farmer from harvesting the edges of his field. That portion of the harvest was to be left to the poor, so that they could come and work the edges of the fields to feed their families: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God”  (Leviticus 19: 9-10).  It was an early welfare system, stemming from the requirement to love your neighbor.

David continues the theme of loving and helping the weak or poor: “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble . . . Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever” (Psalm 41: 1, 12).  God will lift you above your circumstances when you put your trust in him; he will enable you to help the poor and the weak, and he will bless you for it.

The Gospel lesson also carries the theme of living above your circumstances.  A  scholar asked Jesus what he needed to do to get eternal life.  Jesus replied with his own query, asking  the man what his understanding of the Scriptures was in answer to his question. The man correctly identified the key requirements to assure life beyond the grave: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10: 27).

As the conversation continued, the scholar asked Jesus “ And who is my neighbor? “  Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan, and asked the man who the neighbor was to the person robbed.  Of course, the Samaritan was a mortal enemy of the Jews, but again, the man’s response was spot on: “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus responded, “Go and do likewise.”  The others who passed by the injured man could not look beyond their own prejudices and fears to help him. They were slaves to their circumstances.  When you are a slave to your own situation and challenges, you cannot love God and others extravagantly.

In order to “go and do likewise,” we must live above and beyond our circumstances–the problems and challenges of our everyday lives. We must turn those challenges over to God, asking for his guidance and help.  That will free us up to look to our neighbor’s needs.   Jesus taught that we live beyond our circumstances when we put aside our prejudices, differences, and  disagreements and show mercy to our neighbors.  Live above your circumstances.  And then, go and do likewise.

Prayer: Lord, help me to look beyond my own circumstances to recognize my neighbor’s needs. Help me walk in my neighbors’ shoes so that I can understand and appreciate their challenges.  Open my eyes to the needs around me—to those who are struggling, depressed, discouraged, hurting, hungry, and in need of medical assistance and shelter. Amen

Praying the Scriptures:  Choose a word or phrase each day from the Scriptures quoted above to pray during the coming week.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Levitcus (18:1-5) 19:9-18; Psalm 41;  Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37.

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