Should I Settle?

Romans 8:37 says, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!" (NASB)

This verse inspires me; because I believe, that through Jesus, we don't have to settle. Through Him who loved us, we are able to do more than we can imagine!

I work and live among people experiencing homelessness. I love my job and consider a big part of my responsibility is to help people move forward; to take their God-given talents and use them. Part of my job is to help people realize they have something to offer the world, they are not useless and they don't need to settle. I want people to realize they can conquer their fears, their obstacles, their addictions, their anxieties and what seems impossible! They can, through Christ, become "more than conquerors"!

I want everyone who comes into Cornerstone to have hope! Hope that they can move into housing, they don't have to settle and stay homeless. Hope that they won't be controlled by drugs or alcohol, hope that they can reduce the harm they're doing to themselves and those around them and become "more than conquerors". Hope that those who struggle with mental illnesses and physical limitations will feel accepted and know they're an important part of our community and have plenty to offer. 

More importantly though, it is Jesus who gives us hope, because He loves, accepts and embraces those who the world rejects! It doesn't matter if we're incarcerated, addicted or homeless, Jesus gives us hope, because He proclaims that those who are last in this world are first in His Kingdom. Jesus tells us that, no matter what we're going through, what we've gone through, how low we've gone or how bad we've been, He's there, still loving us, giving us hope and raising us up as vital members of His eternal family and Kingdom.

It doesn't matter how weak we may feel, we still got to fight, because Jesus is there, cheering us on and helping us along the path, promising to use our weaknesses for His glory. Jesus wants us to come to Him, so He can walk with us, helping us overcome and become "more than conquerors" 

I may have seen many people give in and settle, including myself, but I don't want to concentrate on that. Instead, I want to focus on seeing people fight the good fight, struggle and overcome. With all the odds stacked against them, they continue to push forward and not give in! They have not allowed their poverty, their addictions, their criminal history, their limitations or any obstacles to keep them down. Despite all odds, they've continued to fight, to pray and come to the Lord in humility, as they push forward toward their goal.

When people do this, they inspire me, they become my heroes, they are examples to me, they are saints! They give me hope in a world that wants us to settle and become complacent! When I want to settle, when I want to give in, which I do a lot; these people inspire me to keep pushing forward and fight through whatever pain and whatever obstacles stand in my way!

I knew this couple who lived under a bridge in Uptown; they'd been homeless and addicted for well over a decade! Everyone that surrounded them thought they had absolutely no hope. They were seen as the "least of the least" or the "worst of the worst!" To everyone around them, they were too addicted, too homeless, had too many felonies and too much mental illness to make it in this life. 

But I'm here to testify, God didn't give up on them and they didn't give up on themselves either! Their struggle was real, their journey was rough, but they fought to overcome their hurdles and they became "more than conquerors". Today, this couple is housed, they're clean and have stayed out of jail. What makes their story even more amazing is, they didn't just settle with getting into an apartment and then watching TV all day; no, they kept on pushing and they used their past to motivate and counsel others who are struggling with addiction. Through their faith in Jesus, they didn't settle, they kept pushing upward and onward, and God is using them mightily for His glory. 

There was a prophet in the Old Testament called Elijah! He was a mighty man of God, who was hated by kings, because he spoke the truth, challenged all falsehood and performed many miracles! People feared him, because they knew God was with him, spoke through him and executed His will through him. 

Later in his life, he was followed by a younger prophet named Elisha. He knew Elijah had something special and he wanted what his master had. Elisha didn't want to settle. He refused to settle. He didn't want to be just another prophet! He wanted God to move through him mightily as well.

At some point, Elisha found out that God was about to take Elijah from him, so he made up his mind that he was going to follow him until the very end. In 2 Kings 2, these 2 prophets go on this long walk, where they have the same exact conversation three times in three different locations. 

Elijah tells Elisha, "Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to another place"
Elisha replies; "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." 
Some local Prophets tell Elisha, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from you today?"
Elisha responds to them, "Yes, I know; be still."

Finally they arrive at the Jordan river, where Elijah uses his cloak to divide the water and they walk over on dry ground. 

Then we read in 2 Kings 2:9, "When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." (NASB)

Elisha was persistent! He could have given up each time Elijah or the prophets suggested he stop, but he'd seen how God had used Elijah and he wanted what he had, he wanted God's spirit to flood him too. He kept going and followed him to the end. He endured, and finally, he watched as a chariot of fire came down from heaven in a whirlwind, picked Elijah up and took him away!

His persistence and his refusal to settle paid off! Elisha inherited 2 things that day. Elijah's cloak and a double portion of his spirit! Read 2 Kings and you'll see how God used this man mightily for the rest of his life. 

Both the homeless couple under the bridge and Elisha refused to settle; they both knew their stories weren't over, they both knew they had more to offer, so they fought, they didn't give in and endured to the end. Their paths were vastly different, nothing was easy for this local couple, but they believed in something better. They believed Jesus loved them, and despite living in horrible conditions, they had faith that God could take them beyond their expectations, and God did just that!

Hebrews 12: 1-3 says; "Do you know what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us in? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourself fagging in the faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" (MSG)

I want to end with one more story! A few years ago, I was in a dark space. I was suicidal and struggled with horrific depression. I was convinced this misery was my lot in life. Every day I'd lock myself in my room, hide away from the world, play with razor blades on my wrists and think "this was it!". I had settled in my own misery and fears! But God remained faithful and kept speaking to me through it all, but I was stubborn and too scared to move. 

After a few years of agony, I finally humbled myself, listened to God and surrendered myself to Him again. It wasn't easy! It took faith. I had to muster up courage. I was scared, but a burden was lifted and I was able to move forward. Looking back, God has used that time, to remind me not to settle, but to allow God and His spirit to move in me and through me. Time and time again, God uses that time of depression to remind me, that with Him, what seems impossible is possible! 

Life isn't easy, everyday is a battle, because most of us, including me, want to take the easy road! We want to settle! But God has bigger better plans and wants us to become "more than conquerors". He wants us to keep on fighting. He wants us to humble ourselves and submit ourselves to Him, so He can take us beyond what we would never dream or imagine.

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
This was a sermon preached on 5/24/16, in response to this question; "Should I Settle?"
Sometimes people say I'm settling for too little, but how can I tell when I'm settling? When I look at myself, I realize I don't have all that much to offer, so why not settle for something less? I don't need everything to be perfect, and I'm not perfect, so why not settle for what I can hook up now? And why should I wait for something that I won't be able to make happen later on? When does God say that something is good enough?

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