The Real Power of Circumstance

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
John 19:19-22

If we are going to walk out God’s purpose for our lives to the fullest, and even if we aren’t, one of the great (and sometimes not so great) truths about life is that circumstances may not always be ideal, and in some case they may be unpleasant or even horrific.

In this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is on the cross. The great Prophet who’d healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God was being executed as an enemy of the state, and in a very public and humiliating way. As if that were not bad enough, a sign reading ‘Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews’ was added to the cross. Now some will argue that Pilate, who hadn’t wanted to crucify Jesus, had made this sign in sincerity. While this may be the case, whatever his intention might have been, to the public eye, the message was clear: this is what the Roman Empire to your KING, if you have one, so don’t step out of line. Crucifixions, as a matter of course, more than just a means of punishing crime: they were for the Empire a means of setting a grisly example that would inspire the general population not to entertain any ideas of rising up against the state.

Likewise, in life we may very well encounter some circumstances which appear to bring us into reproach, and which may seem to make an embarrassing or even horrifying example of us. In my own case, circumstance seemed determined to make me into a sot of Murphy’s Law magnet. Even with meticulous planning, discipline, and hard work, my every effort seemed doom to failure as somehow, someway, circumstance would intervene to the detriment of whatever I happened to be attempting to accomplish. In most cases, my seeming failures stemmed from things that had happened which were beyond my control. However, to those around me, that didn’t matter a whole lot. To them, I had to be doing something wrong, and regardless of what they thought or felt on the matter, it sure didn’t feel good to me, and it was at times distressing, discouraging and depressing.

However, as time progressed, even those circumstances and situations taught me a good deal about life, people, and business. realizing Not only had I acquired a great deal of knowledge through my pain, but that knowledge, as it turns out, was useful and therefore valuable. Thus a choice was before me: I could allow all the apparent failures, disappointments and their attendant humiliation bog me down with regret, anger, discouragement, and whatever other emotions and mindsets might arise from within my admittedly battered soul, or I could make beneficial use of these experiences. In any case, I had to come to one vital realization: my circumstances, while at times quite challenging and terrible, were not the heart of the problem, especially those circumstances which I couldn’t change.

Yes, Jesus could have come down from the cross, but only at the cost of his purpose. I’m not saying that all of our pain and hardship is always necessary. Some of us suffer needlessly, through our own errors and omissions of judgment and discretion. I am, however, saying that your present circumstance does not indicate your end, that what you’ve been through and are going through does not determine how it’s all going to play out. The only way in which your circumstances really define you is in that they present the opportunity to make choices as to how you will allow them to influence your thinking and your future decisions. Most of us can recognize this truth in circumstances that we can change in an immediate and clearly observable way, but too often most of us do not realize that this is also true for circumstances that are beyond our control.

Let’s face it. For most of us, there is little or nothing we can do about the state of the economy, the political system, corporate cultures, perpetually and determinedly negative people around us, and so on. However, there is a great deal we can do about ourselves. As Jim Rohn so eloquently put it, ‘Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.’ Let’s take that a step further: Don’t look for your circumstance to become easier, look to make yourself better able to handle it and perhaps even overcome it.

This isn’t about ‘works,’ but rather about recognizing that God’s grace supplies what is needed to accomplish the work. Do you lack a skill? Acquire it. For example, in my decision to start a management consulting business, I knew that my knowledge concerning management and leadership were considerable, but I also knew that there were topics that I needed to know a lot more of in order to increase the value of what I could offer to my clients. So I made it a priority to study leadership, sales, relationships, project management, and other subjects that would make me not only more knowledgable and skillful, but also better able to communicate that value and implement it in a greater number of scenarios.

Are you called to preach? Then study the art of communication. Study the great preachers of the past and present, not with the intent of being a copycat, but rather that of improving your own work. yes, God can and does inspire the best of preaching, and yet the Bible tells us to study (2 Timothy 2:15, Proverbs 15:28, e.g.). Are you called to sing? Then study singing, take lessons if you can afford them, and if you can’t search the internet for free resources you can use in the meanwhile. In the early days of my continuing quest to be a better communicator and instructor of scripture, I couldn’t afford to buy all the books I wanted to read. Truth be told, I really couldn’t afford any of them. However, the local library had quite a few of them, and what they didn’t have could be found through interlibrary loans, borrowed from friends, and so on. As the world changed and the internet became a resource, I turned to YouTube to listen to the speakers and educators whose work I admired. As an artist, I scoured the internet for resources to improve my craft, and continue to do so. Ultimately, the question you must ask yourself is twofold: How can I make use of everything I’ve experienced in relation to what I hope or aim to accomplish with my life and purpose, and is the calling of God on my life worth the effort of being a good steward over the gifts that God has given me?

Ultimately, we all have two options in how to pursue our life and purpose. We can be everything we were intended to be, or we can be less. Let’s go will the first option, shall we?