One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Have you ever felt as though it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back? You’re trying hard, but not only are you going nowhere, you seem to be going backwards. Just brilliant! Well, when you’re in that place, here are 5 things to remember, to get you heading back in the right direction again.
But just before I give you those 5 things, let me share with you what prompted this post.
Just over a year ago, amid much fanfare, we launched the completely refreshed, redeveloped christianityworks.com website. And it’s been a rip-roaring success. Almost 20,000 booklets downloaded. Hundreds of thousands of visitors. Hundreds of Gigabytes of audio streamed. Truly amazing!
Well done to our developers Brown Box. And thank you to the supporters that made it all possible.
But about a month ago, things started to go off the rails. Despite the very significant investment, the great success and all the hard work of an amazing team (not to mention, just quietly, the hand and the blessing of God on the whole venture) a bunch of things hit us at once.
Denial of service attacks. Underlying server software crashing. Communications bandwidth problems slowing the site (despite the fact that we were with one of the best ISPs on the planet). And then, finally, hardware problems with our servers (again at the ISP’s end).
Over and over and over again, like waves crashing on the shore. Blimey!! What in the blazes was going on? An amazing step forward (new website) and quite a few steps back (with these repeated attacks).
You have to ask yourself, Why did God allow this to happen, since the whole site is there for His glory?
We’ve all no doubt found ourselves in that position, asking exactly the same question.
As I prayed and reflected on the whole fiasco, here are the five lessons that I learned and relearned, in getting the whole thing moving back in the right direction:
1. Christians Aren’t Exempt from “Stuff”
The easiest thing to do is to blame God, isn’t it?! Especially when it’s in the midst of serving Him that things go awry. After all, He could get us out of this pickle without batting an eyelid. But that’s not how He works. The good, the bad and the ugly is spread around good people and bad people, pretty evenly according to Jesus.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44,45)
The point of believing in Jesus isn’t to get a free ride through some of these difficult times, but rather to learn to behave like Him, when the going is tough.
So the thing I try to remember when “stuff” hits the fan, is that right here, is a chance for me to become more Christ-like in how I think, how I believe, how I speak, and how I behave.
Adversity, as things turn out, is our God-given opportunity to become more like Jesus!
2. The More You Serve God, the More the Enemy is on Your Case
Let’s take that thought just one step further. Not only doesn’t being a Jesus follower give us a free ride through adversity, but it actually attracts more adversity. CS Lewis in his amazing book The Screwtape Letters makes the point that the devil is quite happy with pew-sitting Christians whose lives don’t weigh in and count for Jesus. But the moment you step onto the battlefield, is the moment that the devil gets you in his sights. And the more impact you have for Christ, the more attacks you should expect from the enemy.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. (1 Peter 5:8,9)
Spiritual attacks and physical and emotional adversity are often a sign that you’re doing the right things.
3. Despite Stuff Happening, God Hasn’t Fallen Off His Perch
In the very next verse after that one, Peter makes it clear that God hasn’t lost control, He hasn’t lost His grip on things, and He hasn’t forgotten you. Remember, the letter of 1st Peter was being written to whom? Persecuted Christians:
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10,11)
Write there in that passage is a certain hope, based on the promise of God that He will not leave you alone. In fact, when you have suffered for a little while, He will restore, support, strengthen and establish you!!!
Hallelujaaaaah! My King reigns! My King is going to set things right and strengthen me and reward me.
4. Focus on the End Game
One of the ten principles of war (something I learned when training to be an Army Officer) is this: Selection and maintenance of the aim.
When bullets and bombs are flying, when people are dropping like flies around you, the most important thing as a leader is to stay focussed on your original objective, because if you lose sight of that, you will definitely lose your way. For me, it’s like a picture in my head, that guides everything I do, and our team does, to get to where we’re meant to be going.
The Apostle Paul was a great one for this. For him, it was about running the race with the intention of winning.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
I often imagine what must be going through the minds of marathon runners as they hit the wall, or boxers suffering blow after blow, who want to win.
The winner, isn’t just the best runner, or the best boxer. The winner is the one who, through the pain, stays focussed on the end-game; the objective.
5. When Times are Tough, Surround Yourself with the Best People
It’s always important to surround yourself with good people to achieve something for God. But never more so than during adversity. One of the things I thank God for, is that we selected a bunch of Christians (Brown Box) to build and support our websites. For them, it was more than just helping a client with a problem. For them, as it was for me, it was personal. They did everything they could to get us to where we needed to be.
And that’s as it should be. That’s exactly how God’s Word says we should operate. Together, as one, to get to where He wants us to go.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Because of their dedication and innovation, not only were the problems addressed, but we’ve ended up with a much faster and more robust website than we had before the troubles began.