Just worry about yourself.

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We live in a relatively narcissistic society.  Everyone is typically out for himself, we work our circumstances for our own best interest and call it human nature.  We naturally focus on ourselves, right?  I was watching a show this weekend with my husband and the narrator joking stated that when a friend has good news we celebrate that good news for a moment and immediately begin evaluating our own circumstances in light of that good news. How will their change affect us?  How do we line up against their newfound success or change?  We can even find ourselves bemoaning their good fortune because we desire the same for ourselves and would prefer others to not experience it before us.

The Bible has much to say about how we should interact with one another.  God has purposefully and intentionally created us for community.  Much has been written and observed about this community:  We as Christians are the body of Christ, we each have specific gifts and abilities that were given for the sake of serving the church (1 Cor 12.12-27), and we should consider one another regularly – putting each other before ourselves and pushing one another on to good deeds (Phil 2.3, Heb 10.24).

In response to our natural bent towards comparison and self-righteousness, however, Jesus commands what seems to be the opposite.  Jesus called twelve men to follow after Him.  One of those men denied Him and hung himself, and the remaining eleven plus Paul were those by which God built the Church.  Of these men, there were three with whom Jesus was the closest – they are often referred to as the “inner circle”.  These were Peter, James and John.  Peter is often known as the vocal one and John, who wrote the Gospel of John, is referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 13.23-25).  During Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion Peter declared his unwavering commitment to Jesus and yet Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the sun rose the next morning.  And Peter did exactly that (Matt 26.34).

Peter felt extremely guilty for denying Christ.  However, unlike Judas, he did not kill himself and was restored by Jesus.  Jesus met the disciples on the beach and had a one-on-one conversation with Peter to restore and forgive him.  Three times Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” and Peter stated that he did.  Jesus commanded Peter to feed and care for the Church (John 21.15-17).  He then prophesied that Peter would die a martyr’s death.  In the very same breath, Peter turned around and saw John walking behind them on the beach and asked Jesus “What about him?”  Jesus’ response was simple and profound:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow Me!’”

– John 21.22

Jesus actually said, “What is that to you?”  Peter, do not waste your time or energy worrying about John.  You just follow me.  Do what I have told you to do, focus on what I have taught you, and let me worry about John.

It sounds very much like a father disciplining a child, does it not?  “I will take care of your sister, you just do what I have told you”.  And when does this chastisement typically come?  When the child has cried out “That’s not fair!”  or “Why do I have to and she does not?”  A parent never has to discipline a child to focus on his own task and forget a sibling’s when the child feels he has been shown favor, it is when he feels he has been slighted and the sibling is receiving an extra benefit.

And even as adults we do that with God.  We compare ourselves to one another.  We wonder why so-and-so got the promotion, was born into a wealthy family, was given extra comforts or abilities that we were not.  We tell God that it is not fair and we gripe about our lowly circumstances when we feel slighted.  And Jesus simply says to us, worry about yourself.  He has a purpose and a plan for so-and-so, just like He has for each one of us and we need only to trust Him in His plan for us.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

– Rom 8.28

Each one of us has a unique personality, and unique personal disposition and unique Spiritual abilities and gifts.  God has purposefully and perfectly established a plan that will bring about our Spiritual maturity and Spiritual best in His timing and in His way.  He does place us in in community so that we can push one another on to maturity and to know and love God, but He also teaches us not to compare ourselves to one another.

Life is not fair.  God never intended it to be.  He intends for us to trust Him and His perfect plan for our own lives, and to rejoice with one another in successes, blessings and abilities.  So, in the words of all of our mothers, “you just worry about you” when you are concerned that you are being overworked or given the short straw.  God has a plan.  God is in control.  He is working your circumstances out for your best and His glory.  He is working my circumstances out for my best and my glory.  And while it may appear that so-and-so is getting special treatment, remember that we do not know the full story and God’s plan is bigger than anything we can imagine.

When You Get Laid Off

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I was recently laid off.  For the past four years I have worked for a non-profit that relied on the generosity of a major donor for our office and warehouse, and the donor could no longer afford to give the space so we had to close down.  This coincided either perfectly or terribly with my first pregnancy – such that our closing day was just days before my due date.  So now I find myself in a brand new life circumstance:  unemployed and a first time mom.  This is extremely unnerving for me.  I have always been a motivated go-getter with a relatively clear “career path” of missions and vision for my life.  But it is exceptionally difficult to job hunt when you are very pregnant and will be in immediate need of maternity leave upon starting a new job, so my maternity leave is unpaid and for the indefinite future.

Did you know that God has a plan, even in seasons of unemployment?  Three fighter verses are good to keep close during such a time:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

– Rom 8.28

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

– 1 Peter 1.6-9

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.”

– Is 64.4

We will be tempted to sin during seasons of unemployment in a variety of ways – namely to the unbelief of impatience and doubt, mingled with envy and bitterness.  These sins are sneaky and can be subtle at times, not showing themselves as gross sins which our friends and accountability partners will quickly notice and point out, but growing slowly in our hearts.  We must be aware of them and count them as dangerous sins which will threaten our joy and peace with God:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

– Gal 5.19-21

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

– Col 3.8

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

– Rev 21.8

God has promised to meet all of our needs.  These needs are the ones He has defined that will sharpen our faith, cause us to rely and depend on Him, bringing Himself the most glory and honor through our refinement (Phil 4.19, Rom 8.28, 1 Peter 1.6-9).  He loves us as His children and He will give us every good and perfect gift (James 1.17).  He will meet our needs as the good Father (Luke 7.11).  He will bless and work for those who wait on Him (Is 64.4).  To not believe these promises is to not know God, and to be headed for an eternity separated from Him in Hell (Rev 21.8).

Therefore, we must be patient and wait on the Lord.  Those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength (Is 40.31).  They will not be put to shame (Is 49.23).  And the very quietness and trust will give us strength (Is 30.15).  We must neither give up nor act out ahead of God’s timing.  We must consult God for every decision and wait on His timing and direction.  We must embrace the circumstances in which He has us and we must move at the pace in which He directs us.  We will thus learn the lessons He is aiming to teach us and will receive the blessings He is aiming to give us.

That may mean He is teaching us to surrender our self-sufficiency and rely on Him.  That may mean He is teaching us to embrace a new role in our lives [like motherhood].  That may mean He is teaching us faith and submission [by depending on a husband to provide while we care for a child].  That may mean He is teaching us to die to our pride by working a job that might not align with our career goals but will provide for our families.  That may mean He is teaching us patience, perseverance and selflessness which are not optional Christian characteristics!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.22-23

As we cultivate faith – or as God cultivates faith in us – we will exemplify these attributes.  We will have peace, patience and faithfulness while we wait on God.  We will work and be responsible to care for our families and we will look to Him for direction for our next steps.  We will live well, and we will ultimately be able to die well.  We will know God’s faithfulness.

“Infinite wisdom has arranged the whole with infinite love; and infinite power enables me—to rest upon that love. I am in a dear Father’s hands—all is secure. When I look to Him, I see nothing but faithfulness—and immutability—and truth; and I have the sweetest peace—I cannot have more peace.”

– Charles Simeon

Let not your hearts be troubled.

comfort

Does your heart ever grow troubled?  What types of things lead to those troubles?  The future?  Decisions?  Children?  Security?  Jesus spoke on fear, anxiety and discouragement quite frequently.  His basic logic was:  God is sovereign and in control, so do not worry.  It sounds so simple, yet the vast majority of us still get worried (or concerned) when we find ourselves in transition or need (or want).

Perhaps the most dynamic command to not fear or worry is this command and promise:

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going.”

– John 14.1-4

Fighting sin always begins in the mind.  We have to understand what God defines as sin and submit to His Truth.  Once we recognize what sin is and see it in our lives, we have to confess our sin and begin the process of repenting from it – by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we are tempted or long to engage in whatever sin is before us, we can and must make a conscious decision to not sin.  Our emotions will be torn, but our minds are our strength.  After we successfully refuse the sin or temptation a few times, our emotions will catch up to the decision that we are making.  Thus we always begin by the “renewing of our minds” (Rom 12.1-2).

It is good discipline to intentionally claim promises of Scripture and to replace sin with a God-honoring activity when we are feeling tempted.  This keeps us from dwelling on the pleasures of sin or the immediate gratification we might seek.  Jesus regularly offered promises and hope along with His instruction to help us along this path.  For instance, “Do not let your heart be troubled” – don’t worry, don’t fret, don’t be anxious.  Instead, remember that we have an eternal home in God’s house and Jesus has prepared the way for us to get there.  He is, indeed, the way.  He utilized the same tactic when confronting fears and anxieties about our daily needs:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!”

– Matt 6.25-30

Jesus uses logic to confront fear and anxiety.  Have you ever been concerned about what you will eat?  Or not having clothing?  And I don’t mean having that dream where you are giving a speech naked.  We truly want for very little, but Jesus promises that God – who feeds the birds and clothes the fields with flowers will feed and clothe us as well.  He loves us and will provide for us in the ways He deems best.

 

What is so interesting about the first command and promise, however, is the fact that Jesus gave this command to not fear during the last supper.  He had already washed the disciples’ feet, He has already sent Judas out to betray Him, He has already predicted Peter’s betrayal and yet while explaining His death and departure He seeks to comfort the disciples.  This command/promise is actually a continual flow of thought from Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s betrayal:

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me?  Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.  Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me…”

There is no break here.  Jesus is saying, I’m getting ready to die.  Peter says, I want to go wherever you go – I would die for you, and Jesus responds, you won’t even make it through tonight without denying me.  But don’t worry about it, I’ve got your eternity secure with God, just keep believing in God and in Me.

Jesus is just hours away from betrayal and the cross.  In fact, twenty four hours from this very conversation Jesus will be dead – and He knows it – and He is busy comforting the disciples about what is to come.  We see earlier in the chapter that Jesus’ heart was already troubled and in distress because of the coming events, not that He was stressed or worried in the way we get worried, but because He was dreading what was to come (John 13.21).  We can walk in faith and not desire to have to walk through what we are experiencing, as long as we claim the promises and obey throughout the trial.  Jesus obeyed and submitted to the plan of the cross even though He did not want to die on the cross and be separated from God.  He Himself claimed the promises and looked to the end goal when His heart was tempted and hurting.

We must do the same.  Look to the promises.  Are you worrying about the future or eternity?  Jesus has prepared the way for us to spend eternity with God through His death and resurrection.  He has prepared a place for us to live in eternity with God.  Are you worrying about what you will eat or wear?  God knows our needs and will provide for us, in the manner He deems best.  This may mean that we go hungry at times, or that we do not get designer clothing, but it will all work out to our best and to God’s glory (Rom 8.28).  But let us fight those fleshly worries in our minds, and let us also follow the example of Jesus who, even though His own heart was troubled, comforted those around Him.

Here is a great fighter verse for those moments when you are afraid, worried or hurting.  Use this, along with any others you already have to continually transform your mind while you walk in obedience and give our hearts time to catch up.

“When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?”

– Ps 56.3-4

 

Do you primarily love God or trust Him?

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We, as a people, have generally been infatuated with ourselves.  Because we are born naturally loving ourselves and seeking our own best interest (human, sinful nature), often times our perception of love is based on what we can get out of someone else.  Has someone ever asked you to do something or proposed an idea, and you ask “What’s in it for me?”  Do you ever get tired of giving in to other people’s desires and whine, “When is it my turn?”  We even unknowingly seek out a spouse by what he can do or provide for us.  Do you (did you) have a check list of non negotiables?  Must be funny (to make me laugh), must be educated (to stimulate my mind), must have a good job (to be able to take care of me), must be attractive (so I can impress my friends and enjoy looking at him), and the list goes on.

Now, I am not saying that we should choose lazy bums to marry just for the sake of being selfless, but we should intentionally examine our understanding of love.  Are we in it to give or are we in it to get?

As Christians, we can easily fall into the temptation of “loving” God because of His benefits.  Scripture even teaches us that love, fundamentally, is Jesus dying for us.  Right?

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

– 1 John 4.10

The first Bible verse most of us learn is John 3.16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

And the first church song most of us learn is “Jesus Loves Me”,

“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.”

And since we have been indoctrinated that God is love, and He loves us, we continue to write similar songs!  “I am a friend of God”, “We are no longer slaves”, etc.  Yes, these things are true – but it is not a worship song to sing about who we are.  It is a worship song to praise God for who He is.  Think about it.

Campus Crusade for Christ has written an evangelistic tool called the “Four Spiritual Laws”, and the first one is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”.

Yes, it is the most glorious truth in the universe that God loves us and that He gave His son to die in our place so that we can be forgiven of our sins.  But often, instead of recognizing the nature of God’s love: giving of Himself to meet our needs and take care of believers, we just soak it all in.  We think we are the center of the universe and can just absorb all of the good things that He has for us.  Then we are upset, hurt, confused and cranky when things don’t work out the way we hoped, dreamed or planned.  If God loves me, then why?

We need, however, to learn what love is and practice it ourselves.  Jesus was not just a gift, He was an example.  He loved us and because of that love, He sacrificed everything He had in Heaven to live a life of poverty on Earth and died for us.  Therefore, if we love Him in response, we should sacrifice everything that we have and give up our lives for Him!  Now, Jesus may not ask us all to die the death of a martyr, but we all must be willing!  This is why Jesus said,

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

– Matt 16.25

If we are “loving” God because of His benefits and not because of who He is, then we are truly loving our lives and not Him.  We will thus lose our lives, eternally.  Does God make you feel warm and fuzzy?  Are you “claiming His promises” and enjoying His benefits without enjoying Him?  Or are you so overwhelmed by the sacrifice that He made, that you accept the gift and in return surrender your life?

Thus our love must be rooted in trust.  It is not my intention to square love and trust against one another.  When understood correctly, they coincide and compliment one another perfectly.  When we have a skewed perception of love, however, we can learn love more fully if we understand trust.

God is sovereign, and He does have a plan for all of our lives.  He does work everything together for good for those who love Him.  He does love us, and work our sanctification in our lives.  He is intentionally utilizing every life situation in which we find ourselves to mold us into the image of Christ, and that all to His glory and honor.  Because of this fact, our circumstances may often become what we did not want or expect.  God sanctifies us by burning out the impurities:  He is the consuming and purifying fire.  If we expect God to make us happy, then our understanding of love with leave us disappointed and hurt.  But if we expect God to make us holy, then we can have peace in the difficult times.

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in God, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

– Is 26.3-4

Trust and love both fundamentally look outward.  God’s love looked at us and broke His heart because of our sin and condemnation.  Our love must look at God in awe and wonder, praising Him for the gift of salvation and surrendering of our lives.  We can learn love more fully by learning to trust.  Trusting always looks outward, it cannot be misconstrued to be about me.  Trusting necessarily means not having control and expecting someone else to have control, and to bring about the best conclusion to a situation.  And it also recognizes that the “best” may not be our desired outcome, but the most God-glorifying outcome which will lead to our maturation and sanctification.

Why do you love God?  How do you love God?  Do you expect God to serve your wants and needs?  Or do you love God by surrendering your life to Him and trusting Him?  Let us learn to love God more by trusting Him today.

If I had enough faith…

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And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

– Matt 17.20

We all know this direct quote of Jesus.  We hear it and it leads us to doubt our faith.  Why do I not have enough faith?  Do I have enough faith for this or for that?  I used to live next door to two elderly men who were twins, in their late seventies, who were both mute.  I regularly wondered if God were to ask me to pray over them for healing if I would have the faith.  Why have we never seen a physical mountain get up and move?

We do not have enough faith.

At least that’s what some people want us to believe.  There is an extremely dangerous wolf in sheep’s clothing teaching Christians that having enough faith will mean that we can escape hardships.  We will not get sick.  We will not suffer loss.  We will be happy, successful, healthy and confident.  If I am sick, it is because of my lack of faith.  If I do not succeed, it is because I do not have enough faith.  If I suffer persecution, I need more faith.

Interestingly enough, however, the Scripture teaches us that our faith is not the determining factor in the situations in our lives.  Rather, it is the sovereignty of God.  Consider James and Peter:

Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.  And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.  When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.  So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.  On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.  And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.  And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”  And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.  When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.  When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

– Acts 12.1-11

Herod took James and had his head cut off.  Here, the second martyr for the faith, was arrested, imprisoned and killed.  Seeing that it pleased the Jews, Herod planned to do the same to Peter.  Peter was arrested, imprisoned, and God decided to miraculously intervene and save him.  Did Peter have more faith than James?  The answer is quite simply, no.  God saw fit to allow James to be put to death for the cause of Christ, and He saw fit to save Peter, this time at least.  The angel was not the fulfillment of Peter’s faith, he was the servant of God.

The faith chapter itself gives us some very clear insight into the topic.

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received back their dead by resurrection;

– Heb 11.32-35a

This is the kind of faith we like, right? They conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword and even received the dead back to life.  That is mountain moving, folks.  Right?  Notice here, that verse 35 is only half of the verse.  What is the rest of it?

Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.  And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

– Heb 11.35-40

Did you know that the prophet Isaiah was sawn in two, while still alive?  And this passage tells us that it was by faith that he was sawn in two.  So how can it be, that in verse 34 some were rescued from the sword by faith and yet in verse 37 some were put to death by the sword?  It is because faith is not the guarantee of an easy life.  Faith does not rescue us from torture or persecution or sickness or difficulty.  Faith is the sustaining force that carries us through the good times and the bad.  God is sovereign over the situation, whatever it is, and faith says, “I trust you God, whatever you decide to do”.

If you are in Christ, if you have faith and salvation, we can rest confidently that nothing that happens in our lives is judgment for sin.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

– Rom 8.1

Jesus bore in His body the punishment for all of our sins.  Now, there may be consequences to our decisions.  There may even be ramifications.  But there is never judgment.  God does discipline us, but He is not punishing us, He is bringing about our sanctification or obedience (Heb 12.6).  When we stray He will set us straight.

And in the same light, His blessings are not directly correlated to our faith.  There may be times that we fail because of a lack of faith, just like the disciples who could not cast out a demon, but God does not bring about our success or happiness by the measure of faith we have.  God is sovereign and faithful in the good times and in the bad.  He uses peace times for His glory and He uses persecution and suffering for His glory.  We need only to trust Him.

God can give you the faith to live well and to die well.  Scripture says that we will all die.  Scripture also says that all who desire to live godly lives will suffer persecution.  There will be times that God delivers us from trials, and there will be times that God takes us through trials.  There may even be times that we die at the hands of those who hate us and who hate God (just like Jesus did), but we can endure it all through faith.

So examine your heart today.  Are you asking for God to release you from your current situation?  Or are you asking for Him to sustain you and allow you to glorify Him through it?  Are you grieving your circumstance and accusing yourself for not having enough faith?  Or are you exemplifying faith by trusting God’s hand in it?  Ask Him for faith today, ask Him to help you glorify Him through your situation, and trust Him.  No matter what, trust Him.

To do the Impossible.

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Have you ever been in a situation where you had no clue the best way out?  Have you ever stood looking down the road knowing that you were incapable of the task at hand?

“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.”

– Is 42.8

God is extremely concerned with His own glory.  He wrote the ten commandments, the first four of which deal directly with honoring Him.  And He keeps those ten commandments Himself!  He works unto His own glory, and He will not share it with anyone else.  He will not allow praise due unto Him to go to idols or graven images.  He is sovereign over everything that happens in the universe, but sometimes He causes situations to happen such that there is no other explanation of an outcome than His intervention.

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.  The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’  Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.  Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”  So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.”  Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.  The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.”

– Judges 7.1-9

God called Gideon to be the judge and leader over Israel.  He was a wimp.  He was doubtful.  He did not want the job, and He tested God and His calling multiple times before finally submitting to His call.  Then God led him out to battle and Gideon took 32,000 men with him.  He wanted to have the best chance at winning.  He was relying on his own wisdom and approached the battle the way the world does.  But God had a different agenda, He wanted to make it known that this battle would only be won by His work.  So He whittled the army down to 300 men.  And not only that, but when the Israelites approached the Midianites, this is what happened:

“When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.”

Judges 7.22

God intervened in the camp, sent confusion, and the Midianites turned on one another and started killing each other.  Then they started fleeing!  Gideon did not lose one man.  They pursued the Midianites and conquered other tribes and cities along the path until Gideon had completely redeemed the promised land back for the Hebrew people, with God as the ruling authority.  Three hundred men.  Against thousands.  Gideon did not do this, God did.

The Christian faith calls us to trust God for our souls’ eternity.  Scripture teaches us that on our own we are damned because we have sinned and cannot appease the wrath of God for our sins, but God made a way for our sins to be judged in Jesus, so that we can be forgiven and welcomed into eternity with Him.  Why is it that we would trust Him with the most important part of our existence, but yet not trust Him to get us through our daily trials?

I think it is in part because death is rarely on our minds.  When we do encounter death, we see it clearly as something over which we have no control.  But our daily struggles of work, relationships, sicknesses, evangelism and faith are more in our face and things for which we feel a bit of responsibility.  I do not need to cognitively rely on the strength of God to get up in the morning, get ready for work, go to work, perform my tasks, go home, make dinner, and go to bed.  Yes, we understand through Scripture that God is sovereign over those activities and the things happening around us, but I can do those things on my own strength and without giving Him an ounce of my attention.  He can choose to withdraw His hand of provision and make any step in that different, should He choose!  And it is in those events that we are forced to turn back to Him and rely on Him.

Do you rely on Him?  How often do you rely on Him?  Do you look for where He is moving around you?  Do you obey when He reveals a diversion to your regular path?  Have you ever stood at the edge of the canyon and wondered how you would get across?  Has God ever whittled your army down to 300 men to prove His power?

God is the most glorious being in existence.  He is glorified and will be glorified in every event.  But we can choose to glorify Him, to make much of Him, by our daily activities.  And sometimes He will put us in situations where we need to trust Him to do the impossible.

When was the last time you trusted Him to do the impossible?

Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.

– Prov 3.5-8

How is your trust level today?  

“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold of the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us.”

– Jerry Bridges