I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Life isn’t Always Easy
We have grown a lot. We have experienced many wonderful new things. We have done a lot of good things. We have many things to celebrate personally and as a community and as the years’ theme indicated, we have experienced much change as well.
It was a wonderful year, not because it was necessarily any easier. Life is not good all the time. At times, it was very painful and sometimes the future did not look bright and we did not see any hope. Sometimes we even lost our passion, desire and appetite for life at times. We struggle with our job and career. We were all worrying about the future and financial assignments. There were times that we stayed up all night because of the worries about what is going to happen in the future. We struggled with our family issues and personal issues. Sometimes we seriously wondered about where our lives were going, “What am I doing all this time and where am I going from this point on?” We had moments of frustration and anger and we didn’t know what to do with this anger within us. And there were also times when we sighed and cried uncontrollably.
Life is wonderful but not because it is given to us on a silver platter. Life is wonderful in spite of frustrations, disappointment, anger, and fear. And in spite of all these, we still say life is wonderful. People are happy not necessarily because their life is any easier than other people. There are some people I see who always have on a cheerful face, but I know deep down what they’re really going through. It is because of their bright and cheerful attitude towards their life that they can have a cheerful face. In traffic, you can easily get frustrated and that will ruin your day, or you can take it easy and accept that of which cannot be controlled. It all depends on your attitude. When you are caught up in an argument that is going nowhere, you can either push your point or simply back off. It is your attitude that matters. What I realized was that whenever something happens to us, it does not kill us.
A for Attitude
Our attitude either kills us or makes our situations better. Whatever we experience in life cannot destroy us, but our attitude towards the experience can either destroy us or save us and make our lives better. So I realized that the events that happen to us do not have value in themselves. It only has value by what they do to our lives.
So even if it is really bad, we cannot attach a value to whatever happens to us itself and what that does to our lives. There’s one Korean or Chinese word, it’s called ‘saegongjida’. The story behind this word is that one day a boy found a horse in the fields and came home with it. When he came home, the whole village came to him and told him how lucky he was since he had a horse now. The village was so envious of that family. One day, the boy was playing on the horse, but then he fell off and broke his neck. The whole village came by and said “Oh, how unfortunate you are.” The next day, a war broke out and every son was taken to the army, but the son who had broken his neck did not have to go to army. And now all the village people came by and said, “How lucky you are that your son doesn’t have to go to the army.” The events themselves don’t have any value. In the end, sometimes we think that our events are really bad but that experience may not be as bad as you think.
I realized that we’re not very good at dealing with what happens to us. We often make it worse. When bad things happen to us they are difficult to handle because they are bad experiences. They themselves are very difficult to have but we make them worse with our attitudes. Let’s say you make a mistake, you move on. Everybody makes mistakes. By not forgiving yourself and by not accepting yourself, you’re making your life much more miserable than it should be. Let’s say you lost a job by being too critical about your performance, about your situation and about yourself. You are making your own problems more difficult. Let’s say you have health issues, by worrying about your health excessively, you make that disease worse or may even be diagnosed with another type of disease.
Having a bad experience itself is difficult to handle. The underlying problem is that we are making our bad experiences worse because of our wrong attitude. Essentially, we should have a good attitude, right? But a good attitude is not possible by trying harder and it’s not possible by a strong will. Making a hard effort and working harder does not last long. I realized that there is something within us that we believe and without that thing that we believe, it doesn’t matter how much effort we put in it because it does not help us to obtain a better attitude.
Start to Finish
The real question that we should be asking is, what is that thing that we must believe in our lives? St. Paul said something related to this. It was the philosophy and theology of St. Paul when he said: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
St. Paul wrote this letter in prison. His situation was not that great. He could’ve told himself, “My goodness, what am I doing in prison? I’ve been preaching the Gospel to the Philippians, to the Thessalonians, to the Romans and all these places. I got a call and it was to preach the gospel to all those people, so what am I doing in prison?” Instead, the first thing he said were greetings. Then he says, “I thank my God.” He says, “I thank my God.” That is amazing. Paul says, “I am confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
That’s what was the core of his existence, his spirit, his heart, and his thoughts. He believed that God who began good work, will complete it.
What God began, God will finish. That is what St. Paul believed and that is what we believe. What God began in me, God will finish.
What Does God Want from Me?
What is important is what does God want to do through me. My personal ambitions are not what Paul is talking about. When your personal ambition is frustrated, don’t get so discouraged. Due to your discouragement and disappointment, you may hinder what God wants to do through you. What is important is not your personal ambition, what is important is what God wants to do through you.
Sometimes, I catch myself falling into my old personal ambitions. My ambition takes over and it controls my life so I get overly stressed, frustrated, and unhappy. I can always just find myself saying, “Oh, I’m doing this for God and I’m doing the gospel right.” It’s easier to justify that because I’m in ministry. I always still work for God. I always do work for people so I can justify myself all on doing all of these things for people. But ultimately, personal ambition is for your own personal glory. Whether you’re doing it through ministry, through other achievements, or through your children, it doesn’t matter.
Chasing after personal glory is just like a bubble, it pops and then it disappears. That’s why we can never fully satisfy ourselves by chasing after our personal ambitions. If you do that right now, you’ll be left with nothing. But if our life is chasing after what God wants to do through us, then we do not need to worry about life. What God began, God will finish. That gives us stability and confidence. We’ll then be able to bless others. The people around are not your competitors, they are the ones that you bless. We’ll have strength to take on life’s difficulties with perseverance and to enjoy life’s totality, not just the small parts in life. We can not only enjoy candy that give us pleasure, but also medicine that gives us healing. I believe that God worked what he wanted to do through you in 2014. Whether you were aware of it or not, he did wonderful things through you. I thank God for that. In 2015 I hope that we are more aware because it is awakened within us. When you’re more aware of it, your life becomes richer and more abundant.
God is faithful, and I thank God for his faithfulness. In the midst of up and downs, there’s a constant truth and that is God’s faithfulness. God began a beautiful work in you and he wants to do it. In 2015, remember this: don’t make your life problems worse by worrying about it, but trust in God and let God work out your life.