Bend to ascend. Does this make sense to you in any way? How will you ascend when you’re stooping low? This phrase is what we call an oxymoron. It is an incongruous and contradictory statement, purposely weaved together to create a stronger message. Examples include cruel kindness, freezing fever, defeaning silence and bittersweet. These are commonly coined together to create or describe a whole new contradictory but complementary statement to express a powerful thought.
Today we will be focusing on Romans 12: 1-2. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not CONFORM any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
With transformation, we shall be bending ourselves. Only then can we learn to ascend. Now allow me to share 3 methods of bending. Let’s have some spiritual exercises, shall we?
BEND DOWNWARDS: HUMILITY
Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19)
Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great leader of the army, rich, famous and strong. But Naaman had a problem; he had a then incurable disease called leprosy. Through the SERVANT of his wife, Naaman heard that there was a PROPHET in Israel (Elisha) who could cure him.
If you were Naaman, being the rich and famous army leader that you are, would you even listen to the advice of a mere servant and prophet?
Or let’s make it more modern. Imagine you were a CEO of your own company and your company is about to go bankrupt. Then a janitor of your company comes up to you to tell you that he knows someone who can help you regain your company’s status. Would you even spare a minute to listen to his advice? Would you bend downwards to at least try and see if his advice would really help you ascend back to where you were?
Had Naaman not listened to the advice of his “lowly” servant, he would not have immersed himself in the seemingly dirty waters of the Jordan river seven times. He hoped for healing but it was presented to him in the most unusual of ways. Had he not swallowed his pride and bent downwards to heed the advice of the servant and the prophet (who in perhaps almost every aspect was lower than him in position and wealth), he would not have received healing. He even gave God honour for healing him. He knew that God was the only god who should be worshipped.
Now, think about it. How many times have we rejected the wisdom of those a little lower than us just because we think we are of higher status than they are? Have we even bothered to listen? Naaman was humble enough to bend down and be healed.
In today’s modern times, we perhaps know the person who created Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, at a young age, has earned himself a huge company that generated jobs and enabled us to restore connections with our old friends and helped us create new ones.
He once said, “I feel that the best companies are started not because the founder wanted a company but because the founder wanted to change the world…”
Sure he is some big shot who now owns a multibillion dollar company but if we are to examine his lifestyle and his philosophies, we will be amazed at the humility of this man. He would meet with religious leaders and people in the community not to give them a sermon, but to listen to them. One of those who had an encounter with him even claimed that he talked 10% of the time, and the rest of the 90% he spent on listening to them. A modern Naaman perhaps?
He even wears the same style of clothing every day. When asked why, this was his answer: “I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community… I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services,” he added. It is in being humble that made him stand out among the world’s influential. He not only bent down. He listened while bent. And that made him ascend!
Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Perhaps my best example of humility is my father. He has always put our own needs above his own. Whenever I am confined in the hospital, he would stay awake at night to watch over me that even in the wee hours of the night when his eyes fail him, the slightest movement from me would wake him and he would stand to check if I am okay.
Then, I remember a friend of Papa’s working as an OFW who gifted my Papa 4 pcs of branded shirts. He would simply choose one to keep for himself, one which he liked most and he would give the remaining 3 to whoever he thinks needs it more, usually my lolo’s workers. One time my lolo bought him a cellphone. He didn’t want to receive that big of a favor from his own dad, he refused it. Then my lolo bought us a television set. He also refused it and gave it to his sister. And that left me with no reason to rebel for his overprotectiveness towards his only child, me.
And I would imagine God in my Papa. He is that concrete example of humility and I will always thank God for a very selfless father like him. His humble demeanor I have always sought to emulate. And to me, he stands out because he treats others better than himself.
BEND SIDEWAYS: RESILIENCE
Esther (Esther 1-4)
Esther was a fair young Jewish lady who was faced with the uncertainties of life early on. Her parents had died. She was raised by a male relative, Mordecai. So essentially, she did not have a woman in her life as she was growing. She was also a Jewish captive. The challenges she faced at such a young age has allowed her to be resilient, ever ready to face far greater problems ahead. Perhaps her difficult life as a young lad must have prepared her for the royalty, and even helping her to be strong enough to be putting her life at stake to intercede for her people. She was able to rise to the occasion strong and ever more steadfast in her faith in the Lord simply because she stayed resilient.
Lincoln suffered from horrible losses while he was taking responsibility for the Civil War. His generals failed him. And it did not stop there. His 11 year old son died, triggering events that deprived him of much support from his wife, who instead demanded that he direct his personal resources to helping her get through the pain and distress, when he must have had few resources to spare. He also suffered from severe depression. Still, he continued to make effective and responsible decisions. He exemplified an important aspect of resilience: we are not ruled by our moods and emotions. We can let ourselves be aware of them yet still know that they are not the arbiters of reality and we are not enslaved by them. His resiliency in trying times has set for us an example that as long as we bend sideways and keep ourselves rooted in our values and beliefs, we will rise to reach our own pinnacle, like Abraham Lincoln who served his country well as President.
I’ve had my fair share of bending sideways too. To have started medical school miles away from home for the first time in my life was a struggle in and of itself. First year medical school happened. Finding healthy food was hard. Getting good grades was harder. But living miles away from home was the hardest. I also happened to start medical school when we were a little bit financially unstable. But you know, if you persist and persevere and trust that the Lord will provide, He will send you the help that you need just at the right time when you need it most.
He sent a classmate’s mother who was very generous enough to pay in full my first semester of 2nd year medicine, when I lost my full scholarship. By this time, my parents had enough time to financially prepare for the next few years ahead of my med school. Before I knew it, I was already marching down the aisle up to my graduation as a medical doctor. And up to this day, I could not believe that I have actually graduated while all those years doubting whether I would actually really finish this race. I have even prepared my heart for perhaps the greatest disappointment in my life. But no. God saw me through. I am a living proof that when you bend sideways, when you stay resilient in the Lord, He will finish what He has started in you. He will definitely see you through until the end just like He promised because He is able.
BEND UPWARDS: ASPIRATION
Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26)
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:21-26
Barnabas was known as the “son of encouragement” because he was constantly encouraging those around him. As the apostles worked to spread the good news and grow the church, Barnabas played a large role in encouraging and connecting people, aspiring for the church to grow. He put his reputation on the line to encourage the apostles to accept Paul after his conversion. He mentored the young apostles when others didn’t want to give them a second chance.
Barnabas aspired for the church. Like a bamboo shoot growing upwards towards the Sun, he kept his ardent aspirations for the church to grow by encouraging others and dedicating his life to teach and preach about God, that despite the fact that others may not accept his teachings, he persevered and befriended them, gaining them back to God.
God will use others to encourage us as well as using us to encourage others. We should always be aspiring and looking for ways we can bless someone with our words or actions. It involves bending upwards to seek for help as we aspire to touch lives. In turn, we can be thankful when God uses someone to say or do something kind or helpful to encourage our hearts. There is great power in encouraging each other.
Steve Jobs was born to a college undergraduate who put him up for adoption. The first disappointment in his life was perhaps when the couple who promised to adopt him gave him up because they wanted to adopt a girl. His mother had high hopes for him, putting him up for adoption only to parents who were college graduates and were willing to send him to college. But then again, a midnight call gave his mother hope, and he was adopted by the less-than-expected undergraduate middle-class working parents. They did promise to send him to college, so his mother consented that he be adopted by this couple.
His life wasn’t smooth sailing. Until his school age, Steve Jobs struggled. From his early days in elementary school, he grew frustrated with formal schooling as his mother had already taught him early. In college, he decided to drop out after just one semester, thinking his middle class parents’ money ought not to be put to waste to be spent for his expensive tuition. He did continue listening and attending in some of his classes. He dropped IN in the classes that interested him, without a fee in the same school he dropped out of. So to make ends meet, he slept on friend’s dorm rooms, he returned coke bottles for the 5 cents deposits to buy himself food. This allowed him to focus on learning the things he deemed essential for him to reach for his aspirations. He was bending upwards, mentoring those who worked with him.
Not finishing his education didn’t stop him from becoming CEO of Apple, one of the world’s most innovative technological companies. Starting in his garage, the first apple computer was born. However, it was not without any struggle as well, as with the other aspects in his life. He was initially kicked out of Apple, his own company. But that did not stop him from innovating and aspiring. He later created another company that, a few years later, saved Apple from bankruptcy. He simply aspired and did not for a second think about giving up despite his pitfalls.
Jobs preached that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future… Jobs bent upwards with his aspirations and that led him to ascend.
I’ve bent downwards, sideways and upwards to somehow get to where I am now. It wasn’t an easy path, and I’m sure you’ve bent yourselves in many ways than I can ever imagine. There were days when I’d cry myself to sleep because I failed in an exam while my parents and grandparents are making ends meet at home, struggling financially, and I am nowhere near them at all to assure them that I am doing my bestest best to repay their hardwork and sacrifices for me. Their ceaseless encouragements kept me going up until now. There were days when they’d call me to ask if I still have money, and even though I only have 50 pesos left to spend for the month, I would tell them I still have enough to last me the month because I understood how hard it is for them to acquire money to get me through Med School.
There were nights when the only comfort I found was in the floor just beside my bed where I would bend down to pray. There were months when I would bend sideways to cheer my patients on with a whispered prayer to lift their spirits and it would break my heart to see them suffering and all I could do for them was pray. There were hours when I would bend upwards, hopeful for the victories that are ahead, when I would look up to rest my head, for days when I have done what I could and all that’s left to do is to trust God to finish what He has started in me.
“The Lord will make you the HEAD, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the TOP, never at the bottom.”
Disclaimer: Some photos and phrases were sourced from the internet. We do not intend to take credit for the hard work of those who published these but we thank them for giving us enough resources for our ministry. God bless!