Posts Tagged ‘ trials ’

June 22, 2017

June 22, 2017

PSALM 46-50

Focus Verse: God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
Psalm 46:1-3

 

What do you believe about God? What do you really believe? Like the kind of belief that changes how you do things. I believe that my car needs the oil changed for it to run, but I don’t believe in the date or mileage the repair shop puts on my windshield. So I get my oil changed, but when it happens is a little more spaced out than what the sticker says. I believe in it, but not enough to really do what it says.

 

I think some of us treat God this way. We’ll even tell people that we believe everything He says in His Word, but we don’t live like it. This is one of those verses. You can’t just come at it, read it and kind of let it change you. So here’s what we need to believe (and act on) if this verse is going to change us:

 

First, God is strong. Second, God is present. Not just present according to this verse, but very present.

 

First of all, God is strong enough to be your refuge and strength in absolutely any storm. He’s bigger than the storm. He’s stronger than all of your worst days combined. And He has promised that His strength is working for you!

 

Second, He is there with you through your suffering. He is there with you through the good times. And He isn’t just hanging around in the background. As a parent, there are times when I am with my kids and times when I am present with my kids. I’m with my kids when they are in the room, but I’m checking Facebook (and let me take this quick break for a PSA: parents, PUT DOWN YOUR PHONES, TABLETS, COMPUTERS AND BE PRESENT WITH YOUR CHILDREN. I stink at this and need to be better…so let’s be better together!). I am present with my kids when we are playing wrestle or building with Legos or playing with “little guys” as my son like to call his action figures.

 

God isn’t on Facebook when He’s with you. He is VERY PRESENT. And that doesn’t change with your circumstances. That means that if you are struggling and fighting and clawing in your current situation, just trying to keep your head above water, God has a reason for it. He’s strong enough to pull you out…there’s no doubt about that. “THEN WHY THE HECK DOESN’T HE!!!” You scream. I can’t answer that. But He can. And I promise you, because I’ve walked through the same kind of thing, when you get through this season (and you WILL get through this season) you will see why He stretched you the way that He did.

 

And even though you may not see it now…believe it or not, you will thank Him for the storm because it made you more like Christ.

June 18, 2017

June 18, 2017

PSALM 26-31

Focus Verse: But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Psalm 31:14-16

 

Do you trust in the Lord? I know that all of us will say yes, but do you really trust in the Lord? How do you answer that question when things aren’t going so well? When your being attacked on all fronts? Do you still trust in the Lord?

 

David’s answer is ‘yes’. And I love that he follows it up with “My times are in your hands”. What a statement of trust. My times are in Your hands God, the good times, the bad times, the times it’s a breeze and the times I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it through. ALL of my times are in Your hands.

 

And how can David have that kind of trust? Because he has experienced God’s unfailing love. He has felt the face of God shine upon him. He has a relationship with his God. So whether he is delivered from his enemies or not, his trust in God won’t fail. David’s earthly victory has nothing to do with his Father’s love for him.

 

You earthly success or failures have nothing to do with how much God loves you. I can’t tell you why you are going through the trials you’re facing, but I can tell you that if you keep your trust in God, He promises to make these trials work out for your good, whether that’s on this side of eternity or the other.

 

You can trust in His love. It will never fail.

June 12, 2017

June 12, 2017

JOB 38-39

Focus Verse: Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
Job 38:1

 

God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. He spoke to Elijah from a still, small voice after an earthquake, wind and fire storm. And now He speaks to Job and his friends in the middle of a storm (the NIV translates ‘whirlwind’ as storm). The picture we get is unshakable here in Job, and it’s probably the way we expect God to speak most often; that booming voice from the heavens, thundering down, making all cower who would ‘darken counsel with words without knowledge’.

 

Here’s the point: we can’t put God in a box on how He will speak, but we can expect Him to speak. It’s not always going to be when we want. I can tell you that I, personally, have gone through seasons in which I have desperately cried out to hear God’s voice in the middle of a storm and He has been silent. But He has always spoken eventually, and when my pride steps aside I can honestly say that His timing has always been right, and the timing that I desired would have shorted me of a valuable experience.

 

Never miss this though – GOD SPEAKS. He still speaks. And I love how He speaks here in Job. He’s downright snarky. He gets sarcastic with Job and his friends (something that I particularly relate to…I love me some sarcasm). I think sometimes we are waiting for God to speak in Ye Old King James English and we miss His personality. God has emotions! Jesus Christ has emotions! The Holy Spirit has emotions! And they speak with those!

 

Don’t miss God speaking to you. I can’t tell you when He will speak; for Moses it was before the biggest trial of his life, for Elijah it was immediately after his most crushing defeat, for Job it was in the middle of his suffering, right before the winds were about to change. So I can’t give you a formula for when God will speak, but I can tell you that He will speak exactly what you need to hear, exactly when you need to hear it.

June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017

JOB 21-23

Focus Verse: “But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
“My foot has held fast to His path;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
“I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
Job 23:10-12

 

When trials come, this is all we can hold on to. As I said a few days ago (June 2), any pain or suffering we go through, as believers in Christ, we can be assured is a trial or test to make us more like Jesus. Because Jesus took the entire wrath of God at Calvary, we can trust that we are not being punished. But knowing that it is a test and not punishment doesn’t make it hurt any less.

 

But it does offer more hope. There is no hope in punishment. With trials though, there is nothing but hope! I have run two marathons and am looking to run another one in October. With all of these races comes a heavy dose of training. The training isn’t fun, the training is painful, the training flat out sucks. It takes a whole lot of time, effort and energy and there is absolutely no reward in the training itself. But there is hope in it. There is hope that this training will help me reach my goal time in my next marathon. There is hope that, even though it’s no fun now, if I make it through the hardest days of training, the actual race will be a whole lot more fun.

 

The same can be said when we run this race with Jesus Christ. If we are running it without Him, then all of the pain and suffering you go through has no purpose. You are going through all of the training without the hope of it pushing you toward something bigger and better. But if you’re running with Jesus, all of that pain is for something. It has a purpose.

 

And when you have come out on the other end of the trial, you will come forth as gold. Jesus has promised us that!

June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017

JOB 14-16

Focus Verse: “You will call, and I will answer You;
You will long for the work of Your hands.
“For now You number my steps,
You do not observe my sin.
“My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And You wrap up my iniquity.
“But the falling mountain crumbles away,
And the rock moves from its place;
Water wears away stones,
Its torrents wash away the dust of the earth;
So You destroy man’s hope.”
Job 14:15-19

 

I love how painfully real the story of Job is. Two of my favorite Biblical characters (outside of Jesus…but He kind of has the deck stacked as far as heroes of the Bible) are Job and David and it’s for precisely this reason. They are so real. I can relate to their struggles.

 

Now I’ll be the first to tell you, Job had it a whole lot worse than I ever have. I’ve never lost a child, not to mention all of them, I’ve never had all of my possessions stolen through natural disaster or a band of raiders (though I’m pretty sure someone stole my water bottle last week and that was slightly annoying), and, relatively speaking, I’m in pretty good health – no painful boils or anything like that.

 

That said, I have been through some junk…haven’t we all? I’ve gone through those seasons of life where I spend one hour shaking my fists at God, demanding answers for why He’s not stepping in on my behalf, then the next hour praising Him for the fact that I know He will come to my rescue eventually. Have you ever been there?

 

That’s why I love this passage so much. It encapsulates the entire book of Job so well. Despite everything Job has gone through, he still is not ready to give up hope that there is a Savior who longs for him. He’s not ready to write off God as having forgotten him, even through he has no evidence that God is paying attention – in fact, all evidence would point to the opposite.

 

I think God has placed that hope in all of us. We all have this “God-sized hole”, as Blaise Pascal coined it; a deep longing, a deep knowing, that there is something more out there for us. We try to fill it with other things, we cover it up and hide it away, and some of us have gotten very good at doing so, but the fact remains that there is still this hope…or at least this void of hope.

 

Maybe you’re locked in this same kind of internal war, raging every day, just like Job, between the hope that God still cares, that God still longs for you, and the reality of your situation – a situation that says God can’t be for you.

 

Can I encourage you to hold on to hope today? God is faithful. He is still moving mountains. He is still fighting for you. You have an advocate in heaven, Jesus Christ, who is pleading for you day after day. You have an advocate with you, the Holy Spirit, who will empower you to get through these next 24 hours.

 

Hold on to that hope. God will not destroy it. He will see you through.

April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017

2 KINGS 23-25

Focus Verse: In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. And King Josiah went to meet him, and when Pharaoh Neco saw him he killed him at Megiddo.
2 Kings 23:29

 

Well this is kind of a random, depressing verse to be using as the focus verse. There is a point for that. I want to come against the popular idea that as followers of Christ, we are immune to hard times. Now anyone who has been a Christian for awhile knows that this is true. But it still bears to be repeated.

 

King Josiah was the best the nation of Judah had seen in awhile. He found the Book of the Law while he was king and turned Judah back to God wholeheartedly. In fact, we are told right before this, in verse 25, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.” Yet Josiah’s story doesn’t have a happy ending…at least not the Disney happy ending that we are used to in Western culture.

 

Let’s be clear, Josiah’s story did have a happy ending. He is in the presence of God eternally right now (we aren’t told that he turned away from the Lord in his last few days…so that’s what I’m assuming). Yes, Josiah lost a war here on earth. He lost his life in that war. But he still wins. This is the blessed hope that we have as followers of Jesus Christ. We win no matter what!

 

But, sadly, Christians don’t act like this is true. We live so often for this world and this world only. We even give advice to others from this kind of worldly perspective (see the book of Job); if someone is facing a hard time, they must have some hidden sin in their life or they don’t have enough faith to be healed.

 

What if God’s will is just that their healing isn’t supposed to come until they are standing in His glorious presence? What if He is just tired of not having His precious child in His arms?

 

We need to start living more for the next life than we are for this life. I’m not saying we ignore this life. Jesus calls us to live this life and live it well for His glory. Paul had it right on when he said in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 

While we are on this earth, let’s work with all we have for God. Let’s give Him 100% because our time here is short! But when He tells us our time is up, let’s no pretend that there is anything in this world that will rival what is in store for us in the next!

April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017

1 SAMUEL 28-31

Focus Verse: When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
1 Samuel 30:3-6

 

What we do in the middle of the darkest storms life has to offer is the best evidence for who we really are. Who, or what, do you turn to when life gets hard? I’m not talking about a bad day at work. Cindy Lou Who talked bad about you behind your back doesn’t quite compare to what we see here in 1 Samuel 30. David’s entire family just got kidnapped. On top of that, all of those men around him want to kill him because he put them in the position where their families got kidnapped too. Now that’s a bad day.

 

One of the most common reasons for turning away from belief in God is that we think when we sign on the dotted line of our new believer’s card and give our heart to Christ, that everything is supposed to get magically better. Once we decide to follow Jesus, He waves a wand and everything gets easy. He wipes away every tear, heals every pain, takes care of every problem. The problem is there is absolutely no scriptural backing for this belief. If following God led Jesus to the cross, then we aren’t going to be able to avoid that same fate when we follow Jesus.

 

So the question then becomes, not what will you do if the hard times come, but what will you do when the hard times come. In this passage we see that David found his strength in the Lord. But pay careful attention to the fact that he didn’t start there. He first wept until he didn’t have any strength left to weep anymore.

 

It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to question. It’s ok to struggle. In FACT, you could successfully argue that it’s mandatory to do these things in your walk with God. It’s how you do them that matters: cry TO God; ask your questions TO God; struggle TO God. Then He can give you the strength to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to fight.

 

You cannot successfully strengthen yourself unless you strengthen yourself IN the Lord. Sure, you might be able to pull yourself up by the bootstraps once or twice, but to do so for an entire life, to go through everything that this life has to throw at us and expect to come out on top…no one can do that…except for one who claimed to be the Son of God.

 

And even He was trampled by life. He was crushed, abandoned, laughed at, broken, pierced…all so that you and I could have the opportunity to be with Him forever. That is how you strengthen yourself in Him. You remember what He has done for you, and what He has promised to do IN you.