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Have you considered lately how blessed you are? On a recent trip to visit with my in-laws, I had some time to reflect.

We are blessed to be able to travel. Visiting my in-laws takes some time. They live in north Louisiana. This trip we flew, but other trips we’ve driven (14 hours in a car). In any case, I got to thinking how blessed we are to be able to make five state trek to visit family. Whether driving or flying, we are blessed to be able to travel.

We are blessed to have family. One of my wife’s constant refrains is “Appreciate the time we have.” Her dad died suddenly of a heart attack almost twenty years ago. There’s not much she wouldn’t give for another conversation with her dad. We are blessed to be able to care for my dad, to visit my wife’s family, to have two boys of our own. Family is one of God’s greatest blessings.

We are blessed to have our daily bread. Jesus taught his followers to pray in Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus’ socioeconomic culture was agricultural and built on daily provisions. This was a real prayer of trust and need. God has abundantly blessed so many in our nation to not have to worry about where their daily bread will come from. Having abundant food is one of God’s blessings.

We are blessed to have health. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for some, and many others I know are going through health crises. But just about two weeks ago I was able to get my second vaccination. And there are so many who have been vaccinated who feel a freedom and peace that’s been lacking for a year. We are so blessed in the US to have the health care opportunities that we do have. Any way you look at our situation, we are blessed.

We are blessed to have real life. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus gives us life, real and abundant. The life Jesus gives is not virtual or lived through Facebook or in a fantasy. Jesus gives us life to the full that begins at conversion and lasts forever. The life that we have through Jesus is both real and eternal.

I could list dozens if not hundreds or thousands more blessings. If you really think about it, you could list many as well. Consider your blessings, and thank God for them.

On the recent trip I referenced earlier, I got some time to read. I was able to finish a book entitled Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life that Matters by Jason Brown. Jason played Center on the UNC Football team a number of years ago, was drafted, and played a few years in the NFL. At the height of his career, he sensed God calling him to leave football and become a farmer. He and his family now own First Fruits Farm in North Carolina where they give away nearly everything they grow to food banks and other agencies for those who are hungry. Their story is fascinating and convicting.

In one instance Jason sensed God saying to him, “I haven’t been blessing you this whole time so that my blessings could stop at you; I’ve been blessing you so that my blessings could flow through you” (p. 96, emphasis mine).

Jason and Tay’s story reminded me of this all-important truth:

God doesn’t bless us just for us; he blesses us so that we can bless others.

How has God blessed you? Has God blessed you with financial resources? Has God blessed you with gifts, talents, and abilities? Has God blessed you with health, energy, or free time? Has God blessed you with empathy, compassion, and a concern for the less fortunate?

If you’re reading this God at least blessed you with eyesight and some free time. I would like to commend four specific actions you can do to reflect on your blessings.

  1. List your blessings. Write down some of the ways God has blessed you. Journal them. Think on them. If you’d like, take the comments section below or the social media post you read this on and list some of your blessings there.
  2. Pause and thank God for your blessings. Nothing you have is totally yours. We are stewards of what God has given. Thank him for your blessings, your ability to work, your freedoms, your time, and anything else you are blessed with.
  3. Find a way today to bless someone else. Encourage someone, take someone to lunch, buy a neighbor a gift, serve at a food bank or homeless shelter. Just bless someone today.
  4. Ask God how he might want to use his blessings to you to flow through you to someone else. This is a challenge. God may ask you to sacrifice time, money, career, or something else. But when God uses you to bless someone else, you are sharing a little bit of eternity in a temporal world.

If you want to read a challenging and encouraging story about God’s call to bless others, order and read Jason Brown’s book. You will be encouraged and convicted. And I’m positive that you’ll be blessed.

Photo by Ann on Unsplash

My two sons (9 and 6) love adventure stories just as much as I do. Pretending to be heroes, they wield (plastic) swords, defeat bad guys, and travel on heroic journeys.

At some point, though, we grow up. While we might never lose our sense of adventure or our joy in a good story, our age and responsibilities necessitate adult thinking. 

Often this means we set aside our pursuit of adventure and risk-taking for the everyday. After all, it’s the job that pays the bills, not the fantasies of books, video games, and make-believe.  

In the last several weeks, I’ve been rethinking this perspective. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading, studying, learning, and listening to all you can about COVID-19. 

Not only does the current pandemic feed our minds for personal information, but if you’re in any field of leadership, it’s also a necessity. We need to be informed and aware of what’s going on to make well-informed decisions. 

In this article, I’m intentionally trying to write a different perspective. I’d ask a bit of grace as well. 

When you read the perspective that follows, I’m not trying to minimize the hurt and suffering faced by so many. Rather, I’m offering a view that interprets the pandemic as a difficulty to overcome—a dangerous adventure. 

Here are just a few ways adventure stories can remind us how to get through this pandemic. 

WE’RE ON A JOURNEY WE DIDN’T ASK FOR OR SEEK OUT.

Think of the stories of Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, or Luke Skywalker. None of us in leadership (Christian leadership in particular) sought out these leadership challenges. 

We didn’t create the environment for these stay-at-home orders, social distancing, or online church, but we find ourselves on this journey. 

We can’t change our situations. We’re responsible for what we do with what is in front of us, not for what we can’t control. 

THE SUCCESS OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY OFTEN DEPENDS ON THE DETAILS

I love a good turn in a story where a seemingly minor detail plays an important role in the entire plotline (Harry’s invisibility cloak, Indiana Jones’ whip, or Aragorn’s sword). 

Friends, we’ve been placed in an imperfect situation as imperfect people. We’re going to make mistakes and probably make wrong decisions. I already have. 

Without adding too much pressure, we must remember the details matter. Now, don’t stress out. I’m not suggesting our online media needs to be perfect or trying to add worry about imperfect communication strategies. 

I mean something more basic. The details that’ll get us through are these: spending time in the Word and prayer, listening to others, taking time to make a phone call, or pausing in your busyness to take a stressed-out child on a walk. 

When all is said and done, successful journeys often turn on the ability of the leaders to remember the details that matter. 

WE NEED OTHERS TO MAKE IT THROUGH. 

Luke Skywalker had Han Solo, Frodo had the fellowship for part of his journey and Samwise for all of it, and Harry had Ron and Hermione. 

But isolation is a real challenge these days. 

As a pastor, I’m heartbroken over the many who are suffering the negative effects of isolation and loneliness. And at another level, I’m saddened for leaders who are without any support or aid. 

Friends, you won’t make it through this alone. You need someone who’ll say, “You don’t have to be Jesus.” 

You need church leaders who’ll say, “Pastor, I’m praying for you. Tell me what you need, and I’ll do it.” 

You need others around you that you can depend on. In Philippians 2, Paul bragged on Timothy and Epaphroditus, two men who helped him make it through. 

I’m convinced that when all is said and done, those with a strong support system will be those who make it through healthy and strong. 

WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT OUR STRENGTH IS OUTSIDE OF US

Luke had the force, Harry had his mother’s love, and Frodo had Gandalf the wizard. Please refrain from your theological critiques. I’m not equating the outside influences in these stories with God. 

However, what I think is instructive is that popular psychology, liberal theology, and humanistic philosophy want us to look within ourselves to find our strength. But in nearly every great story, the hero has outside help. 

This says something. I’m preaching to the choir here, but we won’t make it through this pandemic without God. 

Your church members won’t make it without God: those who are delaying funerals, those who can’t visit aging parents in nursing homes, those who find working from home while educating children nearly impossible, those who can’t provide for their families because they lost their job and unemployment hasn’t come through yet, and on and on. 

You get it. We need the help of the only One truly outside the situation. 

And gloriously, the gospel teaches that Jesus came into our situation to experience our sufferings, to become our Savior, and to offer us hope. 

Christian leadership in this pandemic is an adventure. Thankfully, our Savior is the Hero who’s already faced His journey victorious, and His strength is there for us to make it through. 

Originally published here through Lifeway Facts and Trends.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash