Joyful anticipation


The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meahwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

–Romans 8:19-21 (MSG)

Creation 2010Once again, I have been far too long between blog posts. It has been a bit of an odd season for me spirtually the last few months…struggling with questions about direction and calling, working through various challenges, and–admittedly–a certain amount of self-inflicted complacency.

But the time has come to revive my soul–and the Faithrants.com Blog–with our youth group’s annual trip to Creation Festival Northeast at Agape Farm in the rolling hills of south-central PA.

As a youth leader, and especially as a volunteer youth leader, it’s easy to get discouraged when your attendance numbers drop, or when people question your motives & methods, or when you feel taken for granted by the people you’re trying to serve. And for me, those factors were certainly part of this recent spiritual restlessness I’ve been experiencing.

But I’ve been around long enough to learn that sometimes you just have to persevere through those times. Even when you can’t see the forest for the trees, sometimes you just have to suck it up and gut it out. It’s easy to take things too personally and let your discouragement take control. It’s easy to just pack it in, take your ball and go home when nobody else seems to share your vision or your commitment.

I’ve never been real big on the whole “spiritual warfare” thing. I mean, I acknowledge its existence, and I know it is a part of our experience, especially as people trying to follow Jesus. But in some ways, its always seemed somewhat arrogant to claim that it might be happening to me. But I guess that’s often the form that it takes…just that subtle voice in the back of your head saying you ought to just quit, that nobody appreciates you, that you just don’t need this crap in your life.

I am blessed to have people around me who recognize my frustration and encourage me, though. My wife, my share group, my pastor, my friends, and the other members of our youth ministry team. Even though we all, at times, contribute to one another’s frustration in various ways, we seem to find ways to lift each other up when things get tough.

And as we prepare to depart tomorrow morning for another Creation Festival, I am reminded why I do this. Why I stick it out when I get frustrated or discouraged.

Our camp devotionals this week will center around Romans 8. And in many ways, that foundational chapter of Paul’s writing really boils down to the passage at the beginning of this post…that sense of joyful anticipation, even in the midst of the “birth pangs” that Paul describes in the verses that follow:

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting…the longer we wait, the more joyful we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

–Romans 8:24-25 (MSG)

And so it’s with joyful anticipation that I prepare to return to Agape Farm, to see how God impacts the lives of our students, and to personally experience a kind of worship that I’ve never encountered anywhere else. But it’s also with joyful anticipation that I welcome the struggles, the questioning, even the frustration and discouragement. Because they’re all signs that God is trying to break through to me with some new revelation, some new experience of Himself that will draw me deeper and closer into His ever-expanding kingdom.

If you are a member of our FUMC family, or if you’re just someone who cares about teenagers and how Jesus is reaching into a new generation, I invite you to follow our youth group’s Creation Festival 2010 Blog at http://ihsyouth.wordpress.com. Students will be updating the blog regularly throughout the week of Creation, and it is through the sharing of their voices that you will most clearly be able to connect with their experience. You can also get instant updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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