Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who Defines You; Where Do You Find Your Identity?

I praise the Lord this morning that he does not share the same opinions and perspectives of the people around us. Perhaps you aren't aware of it but people are constantly trying to mold you into their opinion of you. We label people because of things they have done or things they have said and then we leave that label there. They become static to us, never changing, always fitting into that box, and people do the same for us. Yet, living is a fluid thing, as we are constantly learning, adapting, changing and maturing. The fact of the matter is, we are not defined by the mistakes we have made, because Jesus has made us a new creation and our identity is found there, not in our mistakes and sins.

If we are not careful we will allow their words and opinions to shape us into their expectations. We will allow their labels to define who we are, even though we know differently. But our identity is not found in the words and opinions of man. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. I tell you this because even when we are aware of it we still allow things other than who we are in Jesus to define us. We can allow those words to rob us of our courage, strength, joy, hope and love.

King David did not have an identity problem and even in the worse moments of his life he held on to who he was in God. He remembered God's calling and he refused to back down from how God saw him. One of the darkest moments of his life was when Absalom, his son, no longer saw his father as king and came against him. Too many people had gone over to Absalom for David to remain in Jerusalem so he had to flee, but he did not stop seeing himself as king. He trusted that God was working this out. It didn't matter if the whole kingdom had gone over to his son, David knew who he was in God. In Psalm 3 we see his thinking on the matter:

O LORD, how many are my foes!
   How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
   “God will not deliver him.”
(Psalm 3:1-2)

Typical. Instead of seeking God's will in this, people looked at the circumstances and assumed that this was God's doing, his plan, and David's punishment. Sometimes we find ourselves in valleys of other people's creation, but God will lead us through those as well. These people were cursing David, saying God had abandoned him, would not deliver him, but David knew differently. He knew his identity, his calling and God's desire. Regardless of his enemies' David remained resolute in his trust:

But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
   you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the LORD I cry aloud,
   and he answers me from his holy hill.
(Psalm 3:3-4)

David knew the only source of his salvation. He knew the blessings of the Lord were still flowing upon him, even in this dark valley. It was in this valley that the Lord would not allow David to be downcast but kept his head lifted up as the anointed king of Israel. He knew even now that God was responding to his prayers, he did not doubt it.

One of the first things that happen to us when we allow fear, worry and doubt to come in by circumstance and word is our loss of peace. Our bed becomes a source of torment as we chase after God's promised rest. We toss and turn, allowing our thoughts to run wild. But when our confidence is found in Jesus, in his promises, in who he is and in the truth of our identity our sleep remains undisturbed. David, in the face of his enemies, did not lose his peace:

I lie down and sleep;
   I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
   drawn up against me on every side.
(Psalm 3:5-6)

I like how David reveals that peace he possessed, "I lie down and sleep". I sleep. He says, "I will not fear". He will not fear because he had learned long ago to trust God. This was far from David's first battle. He was a warrior who at one time had to hide in caves and fight for his life after he had been anointed as king. Do you realize it took 16 years from the moment of his anointing to the moment he wore the crown? David had learned where his deliverance came from:

From the LORD comes deliverance.
   May your blessing be on your people.
(Psalm 3:8)

Now before you get all self-righteous about this I just want to point out that this trouble that David faced was a result of his own personal failings. He had brought this trouble on himself. It started with Bathsheba but it was also about what David neglected. He neglected the sin in his family. He failed to deal with his children. He treated his son Absalom poorly. He is the one who seeded this rebellion in his son's heart. God was not about to deliver David from these troubles because of David's righteousness. God delivers us because of his unfailing love. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with him. He does it because he has claimed us as his own and he defends his own, even in the messes of their own creation.

If you hope to stand against the storms and trials of this life, against the labels and opinions of others, against the doubts and fears that attack your faith, you need to know the Father's heart. If you see him as a mighty holy force, enforcing his rules and regulations, longing to punish our disobedience then you do not have much hope in winning your battles. But if you understand "God is love", that the Father desires everyone to be saved, that his great desire is reconciliation with his enemies, that he desires the best for you, that he longs to build you up and not tear you down, that he is the rescuer even from our own sins, mistakes and troubles, then you will trust him and you will have victory.

I encourage you to stand with great courage, allowing your faith to overcome the fear as you face the battle. Maybe this is your first battle, maybe it is one in a long list of others, maybe you have never won a battle, maybe you haven't known how. Then today make a change in your thinking. The battle is not yours, it is the Lord's. Deliverance is not found in your strength or the strength of anyone around you. Your deliverance comes from only one source: "From the Lord comes deliverance". Allow your peace to be restored to you as you trust the one in whom you find your identity. You are the child of the LORD God Almighty, our Father. He will never fail you, even in the face of a multitude of enemies. Allow Jesus to define you, not the words and opinions of anyone else.

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