(Note: This is from my Lent Sermon Series Give It Up. Each week I am speaking into the things that we need to give up for more than 40 Days, but for the rest of our lives.)
Lent is traditionally a season when we give up something for 40 days. And nearly all people take it back up at Easter. That’s the rules, right? How many times have you said, or heard it said, “I can’t wait until Easter then I can eat chocolate, eat ice cream, get fast food, get back on Facebook.” The list goes on and on and on.
Something I either read or heard had this take on giving up something for Lent: “Have we really given that up if we know that on Easter we can take it back up again?” To be truthful I cannot remember the source. While it may seem pious and holy to “give that up” for Lent, truth is if we take it back, then we really have not given it up.
As I was thinking about the series of messages for Lent I could not shake that question: “Have we really given something up if we know that on Easter we can take it back up again?” As I prayed this verse came to me from John 15:2—“He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
So, what if instead of giving up something we like as a temporary sacrifice we decided to give up the things that are really harmful to us as Disciples of Jesus? Not just for the 40 Days Of Lent, but maybe we could give up those harmful things forever. So this is what we are going to do. Knowing that God is going to cut off the dead branches and prune the fruitful branches, we going to look at this question: What Do I Need To Give Up And Not Pick Back Up After Easter? Let’s look at the first thing we can give up for Lent and beyond: Give Up Your Frustrations. Let’s look at Luke 9:38-42 (NLT)
38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.”
42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father.
Frustration, as defined by the dictionary is: the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something. A deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs.
How many of you ever get frustrated? That’s a silly question! Here is a better one: What gets you frustrated? When people don’t keep commitments? (Here in Sheffield we have a major train route and often those trains block 2 or more major crossing points and is a hot button topic here.) The trains blocking Douglas Ave. and Montgomery Avenue? Forgetting things? That shopper checking out and she is just talking to the cashier rather than paying and going on? Why do things like these frustrate you?
Frustration often leads to this question: How Long? How long is asked 53 times in the Bible. Sometimes it is people who asks, “How long?” Sometimes it is God who asks, “How long?” Even Jesus asked that question twice when dealing with people.
But there is a deeper and darker side to frustration when left unchecked. When things don’t change, when people don’t change it makes us angry at first. Unchecked anger leads to bitterness. And when bitterness is unchecked it leads to something far worse than frustration—it leads to the Deadly D—Desperation. Who among you loves allowing Desperation to drive your life? And if you can remember only one thing from today’s message, this is it: Whatever You Permit To Remain In Your Mind, You Promote With Your Life.
Let’s think about Frustration as more than waiting at the railroad crossing. Think about the spiritual frustration you feel deep in your heart. What if, mind you I’m only asking “What If”—What If for the season of Lent we give up living in frustration? After all, we have that unlimited supply of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy. So what causes us to be spiritually frustrated? Let’s list a few causes:
Trying To Live By The Rules Of Others.
There will always be people who want to tell you how to live your life. There will always be those who want to prescribe appropriate Christian conduct. We are told that we can’t be a true Christian unless we dress the right way, sing the right kinds of music, read the right kind of Bible, belong to the right brand of church, abstain from a carefully selected list of vices, become baptized in a certain fashion, read our Bible for a certain length of time, and be willing to criticize others who don’t believe such things. Number 2
Trying To Copy The Experience Of Others.
We Get Spiritually frustrated when we spend our time comparing our experience to the experience of others. The problem with experiences is that they are unreliable. People have different experiences because they have different personalities. When our focus is on experience we have become disconnected from the head. In other words we are no longer under the control of God; we are controlled by the things and people around us.
Being Unhappy With Your Circumstances.
When you think life is unfair—guess what? Life is unfair. When you permit that sense of unfairness to remain in your mind and heart, you can find lots of reasons to verify and justify that thought. When you think that life has dealt you a bad hand, when you believe that God has forgotten or is mad at you—life becomes frustrating because nothing really changes inside us.
Refusal To Deal With Sin In Your Life.
Sin is what gets in the way of our connection with God. Even though “sin” is not a popular subject in our culture it still exists, and it exists in all of us. When there is sin that you haven’t repented of and given up, it denies you the life that your heart wants, and that creates frustration.
Living By The Standard Of Perfectionism.
Perfectionism is trying to be in control of your life, the lives of others, and your circumstances. Ever dealt with a perfectionist? Here’s a great definition of a perfectionist: someone who takes great pains, and gives them to others. Nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever enough, when we try to get everything, or everyone, perfect. The result is that your goals always going to be out of reach and it ends in frustration.
This is just a small sampling of things that cause frustration. Frustration becomes just another thing that controls our lives rather than the Heart and Mind of God. So how do we give up our frustrations and not take them back up after Easter? 5 Precise Steps:
Ask Yourself, “Did I Cause It?”
Galatians 6:7—“ You will always harvest what you plant.” We are frustrated by many things in life because we bring them on ourselves. I wrote an article once on this—Seeds Live Truthfully. You can’t plant beans and expect strawberries. If your frustration is the result of your choices and/or actions, the stop looking for someone else to blame and take the blame yourself.
Ask Yourself, “What Can I Learn From It?”
Romans 8:28–“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. There are many bad things in the world, but God will cause all things work together for our good if we love and follow Him. Remember it isn’t automatic that God makes something Good out of something bad. Sitting in that pew this morning does not mean that The Good God promises is automatic. This promise is for those who unconditionally love God and are willing to do what He wants. God can even take the negative and turn it into a positive if we let him. Use irritations as an opportunity to become more like Christ.
In The Situation, Thank God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18–“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. You don’t have to be thankful FOR a bad situation, but you can be thankful IN a bad situation. That situation may be a blessing in disguise. God is at work. God does not waste moments, like we do. Instead of whining and complaining, Thank God IN the moment, if for no other reason, His past faithfulness to you—and it will remind you of His faithfulness now. If you can only stop and see what God could be doing for you in that frustrating moment, it changes everything.
Ask God To Fill You With His Love
1 Corinthians 13:5–“Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable…” I love how The Message translates this: “Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle.” We get irritated because we think everyone and everything must revolve around us. News Update: The universe does not revolve around you! Love concentrates on the other person. Inward focus promotes selfish attitudes and behaviors. And selfishness produces the attitude that others exist to serve you—and when they don’t, Frustration! You will stop your frustrations by experiencing love for that person and see God’s love in that situation.
Make It A Point To See The Big Picture.
Romans 12:1–“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Listen again to how The Message translates the last part of this verse: “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” We are living for the Lord. We are investing in eternity. Our direction comes from the Word of God, not the preferences of people. The Big Picture is that God invites us in to the most unimaginable adventure—that of restoring His creation and ushering in The Kingdom. We need to see the big picture. We are living for the Lord. We are investing in eternity. Our direction comes from God, not human preferences.
Living in frustration gives the power to direct our lives to other things and people rather than to Christ. We focus in the wrong place. We put our focus on external behavior rather than the heart. What we permit in our minds we promote with our life.
It is much easier to not play cards than it is to deal with bitterness in the heart. It’s much easier to blame banning prayer in schools than it is to invest time with the stranger in our own gates. It is easier to tell someone “You don’t need to drink” than it is to admit we have chosen the Old Wine rather than the New Wine of the Spirit. It is easier to give money than to have a servant heart. It is easier to have an experience than it is to be submissive before the Lord.
When we get frustrated we need to remember how Jesus responded to frustration. He expressed it. He didn’t deny it. Frustration is part of the human experience Jesus shared with us. Moses got frustrated. The prophets had times of frustration. Even God feels frustrated. To be frustrated and deny it is dishonest and unhealthy. I’m not saying it is OK to tear into everyone around you when you’re frustrated. But we need to admit we are frustrated. Frustration and anger are not inherently sinful. It all depends on what we do with those emotions. To be frustrated and deny it is dishonest and unhealthy. I’m not saying it is OK to tear into everyone around you when you’re frustrated.
So, what are your Next Steps that will be healthy for you?
- Make Sure You Are Trusting Jesus For Your Salvation.
- Stop Measuring People By Your Expectations And Preferences.
- Look Beyond systems and experiences of this world and focus on Jesus.
So think back to the last time you experienced frustration, and be honest:
Did that situation change as the result of your frustration?
Didn’t think so…..