Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Grecian gratitude

DR: I am now in week 7 of 10 in Elementary Greek. I was reflecting this morning on my Grecian journey thus far...kalamata olives, togas, and all. I've come to realize and deeply appreciate the fact that God has indeed used this course to work in and through me at least three unexpected and blessed outcomes:

1) Studying Greek has taught me academic (and lifestyle) discipline.

I'm no dummy. God has enabled me to do well academically. I earned nearly a 3.9 GPA in my undergraduate coursework, earning two college degrees in 4 years Magna Cum Laude and Cum Laude, respectively. Praise God.

I have to admit: my end-result undergraduate grades belie the fact that I wasn't very disciplined back then. (OK, I'll admit it...I wasn't disciplined at all, really). I was such a foolish and arrogant idiot. I would brag to Stacye and my friends in my undergraduate years about how I could research and write a 10-page paper literally at the last minute and get a straight A on it. My peers hated me for it. And I loved rubbing their noses in it. (Humility, as you can tell, was not a strong suit of mine back when I was in college). My M.O. in my undergraduate years was this: I would drink beer, go out with friends, play video games, sleep (often in that order), and generally procrastinate until the very last possible minute. And then I would allow my self-induced circumstances to create in me a sense of death-is-at-your-doorstep-and-you're-not-ready-for-it panic and anxiety, which would in turn focus me intensely to get my work done (because I had left myself no other choice). As much as I had allowed myself to think I was "Joe Cool," I was really "Joe Fool" for the way I was managing myself and my time.

When I got here to seminary, I truly realized that my old way of "going to college" was ridiculous. And frankly, it was only because of Greek that I began to appreciate a new way of "doing business" as it were.

You see, with Greek, we study for 5-7 hours each day, plus 2-3 hours in class every day. If you miss one day, you're dead. Sunk. Caput. Fuggeddaboudit. Seriously, it is of the utmost importance to stay on top of the language day in, day out, for every single day of the 10 weeks we are sprinting this Grecian Marathon. I had (have) no other choice than to be disciplined in my studies here, if I have any hope of honoring God with my effort and (hopefully, prayerfully) my grades.

And for God working in and through me to break old (bad) college habits, I am eternally grateful. Why? My new way of doing business has resulted in a more ordered and peaceful life, better long-term retention of the material--and yes--good grades. Praise God, I got a 96% on our Greek midterm. My wife would also say, "And thank goodness I don't have to hear you whine and complain to me about how 'I still have to write 4 more pages, and my paper is due in 2 hours.'" I love her.

2) Studying Greek keeps life in perspective.

There are worse things in life that "being forced" to take Greek. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I needed to say it.

My student colleagues and I often joke about the unparalleled academic rigors of Greek. But I do my level best not to complain about it. Yes, it's quite difficult. Yes, it's tedious. Yes, it's plain, old-fashioned academic hard work. But it's not the end of the world. And no one has died doing it (to my knowledge...yet). This too shall pass. The sun will shine tomorrow (at least that's what the weatherman says)...and if he's wrong, that means either it's really cloudy outside or Jesus is returning. Either way, it's all good. Greek isn't a nuclear war, afterall. It's just Greek.

3) Studying Greek builds character.

There are few things more rewarding in life than doing something tremendously difficult for the Lord...not giving up...and succeeding. Whether it be parenting a strong-willed child, persevering through difficult circumstances at work, beating cancer, or passing Elementary Greek with a straight-A (I pray), this is most certainly true. There is a lot to be said for not giving up. It's so easy in this music on-demand, microwave-laden, instant-messaged, immediate gratification-oriented world of ours to give up. But there is real and lasting joy in staying the course. Literally, in my case. To stick with it. To persevere. To keep on truckin'.

The Apostle Peter addresses the notion of perseverance in his letter to the heavily-persecuted early Christian church. Mind you, Peter was writing to people who lived at the time of Nero. Nero would have Christians dragged from the streets, wrapped in cloths soaked in pitch, tied to stakes, and then set on fire--alive--to "entertain" his guests.

These new Christians were suffering. Badly. Unimaginably. (And we think we have it bad not being able to say the pledge of allegiance in some public schools?)

These faithful Christians in the early church were wondering why Jesus was not returning (as quickly as they had hoped and thought He would). They were enduring incredibly difficult circumstances with no end in sight. And they had begun to lose hope. But Peter says, "Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. To Him be the dominion forever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10-11, CSB).

Peter says that after you have suffered--endured--persevered a little (that is, "in-comparison-to-eternity-a-little"), God will personally (personally, because He loves you) restore you, confirm you, strengthen you, and support you. The Greek word for "little" as in "little while" literally means, "puny." Itty-bitty. A "teensy period of time." You will be a heartier and more blessed soul for having endured suffering for this comparatively short while, Peter says.

And please know these aren't just a bunch of biblical platitudes I'm casually spewing at you because I think they sound nice. I share them with you in love, because they're true. I know. And you may, from your own personal experiences, too.

So whether your suffering is Elementary Greek, or a job loss, or financial difficulties, or marital strife, or illness, or a move, or parenting woes, or things at work not going your way, or __________________________, God is with you.

And Jesus loves you. He is seeing you through to The End. Which, for those of us who know Christ as our Lord and Savior, is really just a incomparably wonderful Beginning. As Martin Luther said, let us live for today and That Day.

And as the writer of the Hebrews reminds us, "Since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won't grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:1-3, CSB).

I'm off to study Greek. For a little while.

Running--and prayerfully enduring--the race with you,

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