What is up is down. What is life is death. The longer you read the life and teachings of Jesus, the more you will realize this world is utterly confused concerning his ways. What the world demands is important, Jesus proves to be worthless. What the world sees as success, Jesus proves to be failure. What Jesus reveals to be life giving, the world calls ludicrous. Two worlds colliding because they have two very different ends in sight. Jesus was not contrarian for contrarian sake. It was necessary to give sight to the absurdity of human wisdom. In this introductory chapter, we will have a simple taste of these two worlds as they clash attempting to answer the important questions of life. How loss is gain, and failure is progress.
The author writes, “Jesus told us to pray to our Father, “Thy will be done,” for a vital reason. His will and our will are usually on opposite ends of a tug-of-war rope, with a messy mud puddle between us. He’s pulling us toward the very things we think are ludicrous, beneath us, unfulfilling, and painful. We’re pulling him toward what we think—and what our society tells us—will make us feel important, satisfied, proud, and happy” (p. 16).
What road is Jesus going to have us travel?
SECTION: ACHIEVING FAILURE
“When God sends the gift of failure to us, we often take a magic marker and write on the package, “Return to sender!” Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t want it. Obviously, the Lord mailed it to the wrong person. It’s for that loser down the street who never mows his lawn and whose dogs bark all night. There’s no way this is for us. I mean, it’s not only what we don’t want. It’s also not what we’ve asked God for and prayed to receive. So he shows up on our front porch to hand it to us himself. Yes, this is for you. Failures, big and small, are God’s ways of prying open our eyes to see what we’d never see otherwise…God uses singular failures to get us off the path we’re on and back on the path he himself walks—the path where he continues to turn our world upside down” (pp. 18-19).
Question: Why are failures so devastating to us?
Question: Have you connected a failure that resulted you placing more trust in Christ? Are you willing to share?
SECTION: THE GOOD LIFE
“If you really want to dig down to the core of what someone believes, what drives them in everything, from relationships, to careers, to where they choose to live, and often to whom they vote for, ask them, What do you consider to be the good life? It’s one of those questions that all of us answer, whether consciously or unconsciously (usually the latter)” (pp. 19-20).
Question: Before reading the intro, how would you have described the “good life?” Don’t try and spiritualize your answer, be honest.
What happened when the realization that our current life trajectory is not producing the “good life” we dreamed of? We google search our options for improvement strategies that have worked for other people. The author explains,
“In almost every situation, when we want to effect change within us, what do we do? We begin with what we already have and build on that…When Jesus gets his hands on us, he throws everything into reverse. He doesn’t begin where we already are. He doesn’t work with what we’ve got. He doesn’t size us up, diagnose our strengths and weaknesses, and implement a program of self-improvement. In fact, what we deem our strengths are, in his estimation, often graver problems than our weaknesses because they breed confidence in ourselves” (pp. 20-21).
Question: In examining your own heart and desires, how does the following statement make you feel? “God is not in the business of making us better; he’s on a mission to make us dead. Dead on the cross with Jesus to everything that defines us as frail, flawed, prideful humans. Dead with Jesus to our misplaced aspirations, our selfish dreams, our egocentric universe. Co-crucifixion with Jesus is the genesis of the good life” (p. 22).
Question: Why do you think “To follow Jesus…is often a lonely way” (p. 23)?
“Failures of a faithful life—that’s what we’ll be talking about in the chapters to follow. What this world’s common-sense wisdom reckons as failures, anyway. The failure to be extraordinary, the failure to live independent lives, the failure to go big or go home, the failure to think love sustains our marriages, even the failure to have a personal relationship with Jesus…For there are areas in all our lives—personally, in our families and marriages, as well as in our churches—where we’ve become so habituated to the empty platitudes of our culture that we don’t even realize our hearts have gone astray” (p. 24).
The following studies will aid in exposing the world’s attitude that governs our own lives as Christians––the pursuit of happiness by the uphill struggle of self-improvement. If you have found perfect harmony and happiness, I guess this book will be useless for your future. If we are all willing to be open and honest, life is not what we dreamed. Maybe it’s to allow Jesus to expose what happened.
Any closing thoughts or questions?