Walk by Faith: Stepping Out

Focus Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8but we are of good courage and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

This article is from a sermon I preached to encourage fellow believers. Let’s start with the above passage. All scripture passages are quoted from https://biblehub.com New American Standard. Paul reminds us that we should have “good courage.” We are not at home as believers in this world–read the previous 5 verses of this passage. We walk by faith–not by sight. This is important to consider as we consider Peter as he steps out to meet Jesus. Paul also adds that our preferred place of being is with Jesus not in our temporary life. For more on this subject:

https://www.gotquestions.org/walk-by-faith-not-by-sight.html

Point 1: Life is temporary and fleeting, we desire a better home Hebrews 11-12/2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Desiring a better home and longing for God purifies us. This concept is all throughout the New Testament. God will purify and draw us closer to Him. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to bring us into storms and troubles that force us to look up to Him. As long as we can manage or arrange our lives for our own comfort, we aren’t really living for or seeking Christ! Our desire for comfort and ease becomes our idol when we seek it above all else.

There is no one in scripture who encounters God who isn’t radically changed. Has God changed or renewed you? God sends Holy Spirit as our pledge (2 Corinthians 5:5). The concept of pledge used here is that of a massive payment made to ensure a debt is paid. Holy Spirit also “seals” us. God doesn’t leave us alone to wander. Holy Spirit convicts, guides, and teaches us (John 16:7-11).

The walk of faith recognizes that our time is short on this earth. We live for Someone far Greater! There is a purpose much greater than our selfish and temporary desires! What are you living for? Who are you living for? Are you content and joyful in your earthly existence? Sometimes it takes a crisis to move us forward in our walk with Christ.

Point 2: God calls us out of the “boat” to walk with Him. Matthew 14:28-31

28Peter responded and said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

When Peter recognizes Jesus his first instinct is to come to Him. Jesus calls Peter to “come.” Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the water! Peter demonstrates faith, but this faith is imperfect as he becomes frightened and looses focus. Jesus doesn’t mock him or let him drown. Instead, when Peter cries out for Jesus to save him, Jesus immediately reaches out and takes hold of him. Do you cry out to Jesus when you start to sink into despair or doubt?

When we are walking toward Jesus, we are exercising faith. Just like Peter, our faith isn’t perfect. We have doubts, fears, insecurities, failures, hurts, and weaknesses. Yet, God calls us to step out and walk to Him. Our problem is that as humans we tend to seek comfort and safety. We don’t trust God or dream big. It’s so easy to make excuses and shrink back instead of stepping out! For an in-depth discussion on what we can learn from Peter:

https://www.gotquestions.org/Peter-walking-on-water.html

Not trusting God has severe consequences. Consider Numbers 13-14. The Hebrew people chose to rebel instead of trusting God. God punishes them with forty-years of wandering and death in the desert. Hebrews warns us to be sure that we enter into God’s rest. I wrote about this in a previous blog

https://wordpress.com/post/wordsofencouragementinchrist.com/737

Every day we can chose to live for God, trusting in His grace to provide for us or we foolish shrink back from what God is leading us to do. The people’s fear was that they would suffer defeat and death. This happened because they weren’t walking in faith, but by sight. They considered the obstacles instead of God’s Presence and Promise.

Point 3: Our “sight” is short and limited.

God never promises us an easy road. Following Jesus requires courage, sacrifice, and dying to self. God doesn’t promise to make things easier or less stressful. Our world is a fallen, tragic place to dwell. We will suffer loss, face ridicule, and struggle against our own sinful desires. I want you to clearly understand that walking by faith isn’t easy! At times in your life it will be a daily battle to press ahead in faith.

God desires that we become more like Him and less like this fallen world. His promise to us is that He will make us anew! God will renew and transforms us! However, this process takes time, requires spiritual growth, faith, and trust. God often increases faith by sending trials and tests that causes us to depend on Him more or in different ways. This process can be discouraging and frightening. Yet, God is faithful, Perfectly Good, Just, and Righteous!

We can trust in our limited and flawed sense of sight or trust the Holy God who spoke all things into being. God sees the beginning, the middle, and end. Unlike us, He knows how and why everything happens. He is the Master Creator who is arranging and moving things along to His Perfect Plan. We (at best) can only perceive just a little of what is actually transpiring! Nor should we excessively “worry” about all the things of this world. We know from the Gospels and Revelations that God is going to return triumphantly in glory to set things right.

Point 4: God isn’t done with us. Philippians 1:6

6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul is encouraging the believers in Philippi that what God starts He will finish. Simply explained, God begins working in us when He redeems us and works through our life to prepare us for His purposes. The proper term for this is sanctification. Got questions explains this:

https://www.gotquestions.org/He-who-began-a-good-work-in-you.html

God isn’t done with you! No matter how weak, feeble, and fleeting you may feel! It’s God’s Strong Arms that lift us up from the stormy waves of life! Know that God loves and disciplines those who follow Him! The road is long, perilous, and weary, but we will never walk alone. I write these words to encourage you. I daily remind myself of these truths. Sometimes all we can do manage to do is cry out for God to save us. God is delighted to hear our cries!

I write these words as a fellow pilgrim walking a tough path where I too stumble and forget the goodness of God, my prayer for you

9And this I pray, that your love may overflow still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may discover the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

Jesus: With Us in the Storm

As I write these words to encourage you, you may be walking through a difficult time in your life. I purposely write about the “hard” things of the journey of faith because I have been there myself. These truths have encouraged me! You may be fighting against the crashing waves of grief, disappointment, or difficulty in your life. This article is based on a sermon preached Sunday, June 19, 2022. This sermon/article idea came from 2 sermons from Adrian Rogers. You can watch these sermons for yourself here:

Setting: Passage 1 Matthew 14:22-33

Prior to this episode, we need to consider the following from verse 1-21

  1. Jesus hears that His cousin John the Baptist has been unjustly executed v1-12
  2. Jesus withdraws to pray by Himself.
  3. A crowd of people finds Him and Jesus has compassion and heals.
  4. Jesus feeds thousands of hungry with the five loaves and two fish.

The disciples and people have just experienced a miracle. Remember that every miracle in the Gospels is recorded for a reason–to reveal Jesus’ identity and power. Jesus reveals Himself to be the Bread of Life (John 6:26-51).

Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus “compelled” the disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus sends the crowd away and goes up to the mountain to pray by Himself. An important question is why He had to pressure them to get into the boat? It’s possible that the disciples having being fishermen were aware of the contrary winds and possibility of a storm forming/coming. Why didn’t Jesus accompany them? Why did He send them into a storm and difficulty?

Why Does God allow or send storms into our lives?

God will send storms in our lives. Christians face terminal illnesses, lose jobs, have family problems, and ultimately die just like the lost people of the world. Have you ever considered the missionaries and believers who followed God to a place where they ultimately died from illness or murder? Why did God send them where He knew that they would experience difficulty and death? Why does God allow horrible things to happen in churches or lives of His people?

This doesn’t seem like a Loving, Kind, Forgiving God. But this is the reality. How many church and school shootings have happened over this past year? How do we reconcile the terrible things of our lives and this world with the truth that God is Perfectly Good and Wise?

https://www.gotquestions.org/bad-things-good-people.html

We face an important choice in what we believe about God. First, we can believe that things just happen due to “fate” or some accident. This heresy teaches that bad things just happen. We are victims to bad circumstances or “luck.” This belief has it roots in paganism. Consider the Greek “fates”. Similar is that people suffer because they have done bad things. In John 9, the disciples ask why the man was born blind–who sinned? It’s a false notion that we suffer because of sins we have done. This is partly, but not fully true. Our sins do lead to suffering in our lives and others, but this man was born blind. 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. KJV

This man’s situation-blindness and begging–happened so that God’s might reveal Jesus as the “Light of the World.” God had a purpose for his blindness. God has a purpose for us too!

We can wrongly believe that God isn’t active or involved in our world (Deism). Some wrongly believe that God is aware, but learning (Open Theism) or unable to control people due to “free will” of humans. This is a popular, but serious heresy that distorts God’s Revealed Nature according to God’s Word.

It’s difficult to fully understand that God is All Powerful and All Loving. We want God to stop all the evil, protect us, and prevent the horrors of life. Why do we struggle with this? Because we know that things should be better. God has put a desire in our hearts for eternity. This world isn’t our home! We can’t be truly comfortable or safe here!

https://www.gotquestions.org/eternity-in-our-hearts.html

What if God sends us into storm(s) so that we experience His presence? For the believer to grow/mature

What if God sends difficulties to teach us more about Him that we wouldn’t learn any other way? In verses 24-25, the disciples are fighting against contrary winds and waves. Jesus has sent them into a trial. They’re fighting hard and struggling in the early hours of the morning. It’s dark and stormy. Jesus is still on the mountain praying. Ever feel abandoned? I wonder what was going through the disciples’ mind as they are straining against the wind and waves for hours in the dark night.

Our tendency as sinful humans is to attempt life on our own. We desire to be “self-made” and self-reliant. We will invest all kinds of time, energy into improving ourselves or making ourselves “feel” more comfortable. We want to do life on our terms. We want things to go our way in our own time. Like the Burger King slogan we demand to “have it our way” This is the nature of the human rebellion against God. This started in Genesis 3 and continues today.

What if God’s Mercy sends the storm?

What if God sends storms to save us from self-reliance and eternal separation from Him? What if the storm is God’s way of getting us to look to Him to save us? As long as we live for and through ourselves, we are missing Christ! Life is only found in Christ.

A comfortable, safe “spiritual” journey leads straight to destruction and eternal separation from God. Those who foolishly live life apart from Christ will perish eternally! Which road are you walking on? Why does God say that the road to Him is narrow?

https://www.gotquestions.org/narrow-path.html

Jesus Appears

Then in the fourth watch of the night (3am to sunrise), the disciples perceive someone walking on the water. During this time period, storms were thought to be caused by evil spirits or demons. People don’t walk on water so with the chaos of the water they assumed it was a “ghost” or evil spirit coming to them. They naturally cry out in fear.

Jesus identifies Himself and calms them.

One of the challenges of walking in faith is recognizing Christ’s presence in the dark, stormy times of our lives. When the fear is highest and the storm waves are crashing down on us, do we recognize God’s presence? Jesus has left the mountain and is walking to them. What if Jesus is walking close to you (Holy Spirit’s Presence), but you can’t see Him? Obviously, Jesus is physically present in heaven with God (Hebrews 1:3, 12:2) . But He has sent Holy Spirit to us (John 16). We never walk alone! Never do we face any storm where He isn’t present! But do we recognize Him?

Peter’s Brave but Imperfect Faith

Peter is one of my favorite Gospel heroes because he shows both the best and worst of human followers. He loves and trusts Jesus, but imperfectly. Like us, his faith falters! Peter wants to be with Jesus and walks on the water toward Him! He walks on the water until he takes his eyes off Christ and focuses on the waves!

https://www.gotquestions.org/Peter-walking-on-water.html

His motives and intentions are good. He is “stepping out in faith” then becomes overwhelmed with the situation. Like us, his faith needs to grow. Yet, he gets close to Christ before he sinks. He does the right thing when he starts to sink! He cries out to Jesus and notice how Jesus responds:

30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:30-31 KJV

Jesus immediately reaches out to him and rescues Him. All Peter had to do was cry out! Got questions “Peter Walking on the Water” sums this up: emphasis mine

Quote passage 1 “For believers, the lesson here is unmistakable. If we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our circumstances, we will fall under the weight of our problems. If we call to Jesus in faith, he will catch us and lift us above our seemingly impossible situation. Peter let doubt displace his faith. In all the time he had been with Jesus, even Peter, one of Christ’s closest friends, was still learning to trust the Lord completely.”

Quote passage 2 “A crucial lesson remains to be explored. When Peter jumps out of the boat, his heart is full of good intentions. Sometimes we take a leap of faith with similarly good intentions, but, like Peter’s, our faith soon falters. Peter’s exercise of faith does not end in failure. Although he is sinking in fear, he calls out to the Lord, “Save me!” God loves to hear our cry for help. It means we know we can’t save ourselves. Peter helplessly cries out to the only one who can help him. The disciple’s experience reminds us that a lapse of faith is merely a stumble. The Lord is near to raise us back safely to our feet when we call to Him for help.”

Faith is a journey and learning process for us all.

Final Thought: The Storm Ends John 6:21

21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. KJV

The following article explains this concept in detail:

https://www.bibleref.com/John/6/John-6-21.html

Once the disciples welcome Jesus into the boat, the storm and journey are immediately over. The storm and difficulty lasts until God ends it! Jesus delivered them to their destination. While we will struggle in life, we have the assurance that Jesus will see us to our destination (eternity with Him)! Have you welcomed Christ into your life? Have you trusted in His grace and mercy to save you?

May God grant you wisdom and courage to recognize His presence in your storms of life! May God’s Living Word encourage and strengthen your faith! I write these words to encourage you!

The Refining Fire of Trials

God is at work in our lives! We shall trust that He is actively working in/through our difficulties. Jesus clearly promises that we will have troubles “tribulations” in this life. The word tribulation creates a “word” image of being crushed, specifically by heavy weight. Imagine a large stone or heavy stones being placed on your chest. As each stone is added it becomes more difficult to breath. Isn’t life like this at times? One difficulty then another comes upon us. Join me as I consider six truths about God’s use of trials. All scripture passages are from the New King James Version online:

https://biblehub.com/nkjv/1_peter/1.htm

I also include several links to Got Questions, Crosswalk.com, and other articles for you to explore terms and significance in greater detail.

A fog of difficulties descends upon us that obscures our walk with God

Truth 1: Jesus promises us that we will be face tribulations- John 16:33

Christianity.com defines and summarizes the key terms and relevant passages

https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-are-trials-and-tribulations.html

God’s Word teaches that we are pilgrims, and strangers in this world (Hebrews 11). A false gospel promises prosperity or ease in this life. The physical “present” world and it’s fallen, corrupted world order isn’t our home nor eternal destination! John warns us in 1 John about the foolishness of loving the world while claiming to love Christ. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan explores the journey of faith.

Truth 2: God Chooses and Sanctifies Us Through Jesus’ Atonement and Holy Spirit’s work

1 Peter 1:1-2

Greeting to the Elect Pilgrims

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Election (simply defined) refers to God effectively bringing about His plan of redemption to save those He redeems. This concept appears in numerous passages in scriptures. Got questions summarizes this term (for those desiring more information) and the concept of “predestination.” Both articles defines the terms accurately and concisely.

https://www.gotquestions.org/doctrine-of-election.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/predestination.html

Let’s focus on what God mercifully does for His people. First, we see Holy Spirit working to sanctify us so that we will obey Jesus. This obey refers to trusting in Christ’s atonement instead of our self-righteousness. Second, we recognize the term “be sprinkled” (NASB) and “sprinkling” (NKJV) blood of Jesus Christ. Peter is referring to the Jewish practice of blood being sprinkled on the altar and the people to atone for sins. Here’s a great explanation of the significance:

https://www.gotquestions.org/sprinkling-of-blood.html

Truth 3: God’s Mercy bring us to a new birth and living hope
1 Peter 1:3-5 A Heavenly Inheritance

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

In God’s mercy, we find new life literally “to beget again.” This new life includes

  • a living hope, which we find in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead,
  • permanent, pure, non-fading inheritance in Christ,
  • kept by God’s power, (He holds on to us) and
  • salvation ready to be revealed through faith in the last time.

God’s redeemed are trophies of His Grace that will be displayed when Christ returns at His Second Coming. This concept appears in the other writings of Peter, Paul, John, and the Book of Hebrews. Our hope rests on Jesus’ Return and Renewal of all Things. Likewise our hope is alive because He lives!

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/seniors/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-trophy-of-grace.html

Truth 4: Trials have a purpose–it’s not meaningless when we’re distressed!

6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

This seems absolutely crazy that we would rejoice in our trials much less rejoice with “joy inexpressible”! How is this even possible? That’s my question when I read this passage. God’s Living Word is always true even when it “seems” to be strange or impossible! So what does this mean?

We can rejoice even in our trials because:

  • genuine faith is valuable and desirable (more than gold),
  • our faith faith pleases and honors God so that,
  • we will glorify Jesus when He returns as,
  • we love and believe in Jesus without “seeing” Him, and ultimately
  • this faith leads to salvation–effective, tested outcome of faith due to trials.

Simply explained, trials refine our faith making us into persons who glorify and please our Heavenly Father. We can rejoice with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” because our trials and suffering have a purpose greater than worldly comfort, wealth, or happiness. James also instructs us to find joy in trials in James 1:2-4. God provides us with joy that is incomparable to mere situational happiness that fades. For more,

https://www.gotquestions.org/joy-trials.html

Gold and other precious metals are refined by intense heat and/or chemical processes. The heat process causes the impurities or dross to “float” to the top where it can be removed. This “slag” is the other minerals that keep the gold or silver from being pure. Note the designation 999.9 pure on the bar below. Gold is mostly mined from rocks in the form of various ores. Heat or chemicals are used depending on the mining operation to refine the precious metal out from other minerals. Helpful source: https://www.geologypage.com/2019/04/what-is-gold-mining-how-is-gold-mined.html

Our lives (as fallen humans) are contaminated with pride, selfishness, vanity, and numerous other impurities that lessen our spiritual “shine” and purity. Just as silver tarnishes and has to be polished, God uses trials to mold and purify us. Like gold nuggets precious to the miner, our souls need refining by God’s process.

Also, trials come upon us because we live in a world tainted by sin. Suffering, injustice, frustration, anxiety, and death come to us all. Other people will sin against us and cause us harm just as we sin against others ourselves. Hard times leads us to desire a better, perfect world that only exists with Christ. A comfortable, easy life is dangerous because it leads one to focus and desire present comfort instead of the future and eternity with God.

Truth 5: Our salvation and God’s grace through Christ is the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan.

1 Peter 1:10-12

10Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”

God’s plan to redeem fallen humanity and creation starts immediately after the fall in Genesis 3. This plan appears in God’s choosing of a man (Abraham), later a people (the Hebrews), and ultimately sending Jesus as Messiah the Christ. The Old Testament Prophets and faithful followers were aware of various aspects and the promise of a coming Messiah. Apparently, even the angels wanted to know more! The Gospel is Good News that many longed to see come to fruition in Jesus’ birth, ministry, and resurrection.

Truth 6: Application of This Passage: Be Alert and Holy

1 Peter 1:13-16

Living Before God Our Father

13Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”’

Since God has given His Good News and redeemed us into a living hope in Him; we are to

  1. gird up–also translated NASB “prepare your minds for action”–be ready,
  2. be sober–means to be “aware” or on “guard”,
  3. place hope “completely” NASB or “fully” on God’s grace as revealed in Christ,
  4. obey as children of God,
  5. turn away from “former lusts”–wrong desires, and
  6. be Holy as God is Holy.–quoted from Leviticus 19:2

For more about what it means to be “holy as God is holy” check out this resource:

https://www.gotquestions.org/be-holy-for-I-am-holy.html

As God’s redeemed we live by faith and hope! God is at work in our trials and difficulties to make us more like Him. Upon His return may He find us walking faithfully and with courage before Him! Our lives specifically how we respond to trials and grief is our witness to the lost around us. God wants us to be a testimony of His Grace and Presence in our lives. Every great testimony starts with a soul lost or crushed in darkness!

I write these words as one who fights to remain faithful. This is a daily battle that leaves one bruised and weary. Trials are not easy. Discouragement and hopelessness stalk like a hungry lion waiting to pounce on us during our dark times in life. Grief, loss, disappointment, and other numerous bad experiences are opportunities to grow closer to Christ! Knowing that He’s still at work and has a far, better place prepared for those who love Him. If you’re in a difficult time, make some time to read the following chapters Romans 8, Hebrews 11, John 16-17, and Psalm 103.

Invite God’s Word and Holy Spirit comfort you with His truths! Remember that God loves us perfectly. He loves us enough to discipline and purify us when we would rather be comfortable and weak. Through His grace, strength, and hope you shall overcome!

May God grant you courage, hope, wisdom, and discernment to perceive His presence in your life during times of trial! I write this article as one who finds hope and courage in Christ,

Walking with God: Grace in moments

How can we believers face the difficulties and uncertainties of our lives? Join me as I reflect on Oswald Chamber’s devotional “The Never-Forsaking God”. All quotes are from this devotional or the King James Version. The first passage is Hebrews 13:5-6 KJV:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say:

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

The author of Hebrews is concluding his letter with final instructions on moral Christian living. The recipients of this letter were facing trials and tribulations for their faith. Some had lost property because they confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Hebrews 10:35-39). We are encouraged to be content not seeking wealth and possessions. What a wonderful promise! God will never forsake you! We can focus on our Heavenly Helper instead of those who persecute us or the difficulties that come upon us in life!

In our times of stress and difficulty to whom do we turn?

Chambers asks us this vital question about our thoughts:

“What line of thinking do my thoughts take? Do I turn to what God says or to my own fears? Am I simply repeating what God says, or am I learning to truly hear Him and then to respond after I have heard what He says? “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ”

Are we letting our thoughts focus on our fears instead of listening to God’s Truths? Anyone who lives with anxiety understands this vicious cycle of thinking and feeling. God never promises us an easy or safe journey in this life. Evil, violent people harm and destroy innocent others. After watching or reading the news who wants to ever leave home?

What do we focus on? It’s easy to focus on all the bad and tragic happenings instead of remembering and considering God and His Truths as found in His Living Word. Recalling God’s Promises and praying in the moments of our lives provides peace in the storms. God gives us grace for the present moment. The past is over and the future uncertain, but praise God for He is with us in the now!

Truth 1: God’s going to make things right in His Time

God’s Truth tells us that He will always be with us and is coming back to make all things anew. Even in our deepest grief, God walks with us. God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who have a contrite heart. Paraphrased from Psalm 34:18; for exposition read:

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/expositors/psalms/34.htm

Ultimately, He will wipe away every tear and make all things anew. Here’s a scriptural passage that tells us what awaits us! Revelations 21:1-5 KJV: emphasis mine

  1. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

The great promise of these verses is that God is going to dwell with us. No more death or separation due to sin and rebellion. No more sorrow, no death. Also there will be no need for the sun because God’s presence will radiate light for all to see (Revelations 21:23).

We can comfort ourselves and others with this promise. Life on this earth isn’t the end. Evil and death aren’t the end. God has the final, ultimate victory!

Truth 2: God Doesn’t Give up on us!

Chambers (emphasis mine):

“I will never leave you…”— not for any reason; not my sin, selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never leave me? If I have not truly heard this assurance of God, then let me listen again. ‘I will never…forsake you.'”

God’s love is perfect. He doesn’t love us because we are worthy of His love. He loves us because He is love. This article explains this wonderful truth:

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-love.html

We are His children and His grace is sufficient. This isn’t a license to sin, but an invitation to desire Him more! To know and experience God’s love is to become more loving as He is. Jesus sets the example for us and calls us to follow Him in loving others (1 John).

Truth 3: The drudgery of life can distract us from God

Are we getting stagnate in our journey? Sometimes the quiet times can be disquieting too! God doesn’t always make His presence felt. Remember Daniel who persevered in prayer and received visions. God sent the angel Gabriel to explain and encourage him. Things were going on all around him (spiritual warfare) that he wasn’t even aware! See Daniel 10:20-21

“When there is no major difficulty to overcome, no vision from God, nothing wonderful or beautiful— just the everyday activities of life— do I hear God’s assurance even in these?”

Remember that God is present with us at all times. Every moment of each day is an opportunity to walk with God! Jesus is our Good Shepherd!

Truth 4: The journey of faith requires that we live with an awareness of God’s work in the present moment

“We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future.” We focus too much on the future and not the present! We overlook the good that we can do in the moment chasing something we might do in the future.

God works in us to glorify Himself. He graciously gives us moments of inspiration and discernment to apply His Word to our lives and encourage others.

Every day we grow in His grace and find strength in Him. God shines through us via the ordinary things of life. Often we are so focused on the extraordinary things that we forget about the simple, daily things of life. Here’s some examples:

a kind word to a stranger while shopping,

asking someone how they are doing and making time to listen and engage,

noticing the needs of those around you and praying with the person, or

helping someone that you see in need.

May God’s truths and presence deepen your desire for Christ and to love others as Christ loves you!

I write these words for His glory and to encourage God’s people, In Christ Alone I stand,

Helpful sermon commentary from Ruth 1

Rising Up to the Difficulties

The following quotes are from Oswald Chambers Devotional “The Habit of Rising to the Occasion.” Commentary is my interpretation and application of the insights.

Truth 1: God sends difficulties our way for His purpose(s) and ultimately for His glory.

God never wastes our sorrows. Our grief isn’t in vain. There is a purpose even when we can do little more than weep and desperately cling to God. God’s Ways aren’t ours and His Good Plans for us are beyond our ability to comprehend and recognize (fully). See my previous blogs for more on this:

  1. https://wordpress.com/post/wordsofencouragementinchrist.com/1091
  2. https://wordpress.com/post/wordsofencouragementinchrist.com/1114

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 4, Paul talks about his apostolic ministry. Even when facing difficulty, Paul doesn’t lose hope! The Gospel truth is powerful! Knowing that God has paid for our sins and holds us (consider John 10) gives us hope. God’s glory shows through our weakness! It’s the desperate person who cries out to God for help. Are you desperate for Christ’s presence? Have you ever considered how that Paul and others endured so many hardships?

Truth 2: Life is about living in and for Christ

The answer appears in 2 Cor. 4 verse 10 last half of verse, “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” and verse 14, “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” Chapter 5 expands on this glorious truth.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 NASB

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Chambers reminds us: “God is the Master Designer, and He allows adversities into you life to see if you can jump over them properly.” Paul and others faced many difficult situations, unfair treatment, and physical abuse because the Gospel was more important than being comfortable or successful! That’s why he and Silas were able to sing praises after being beat and imprisoned [Acts 16:25-31]. Life is about more than our present circumstances.

We must walk by faith and not by sight. Our sight isn’t adequate. We can’t see what’s going on (behind the scenes or being directed from God). Our faith reminds us that no matter what happens, God is good because He reveals Himself to be good. God isn’t good because things go well for us, but because it’s His Nature. God is Sovereign, so we can rest knowing that He is in charge. God isn’t surprised by human evil. He’s not caught off guard by the immense cruelty and hatred of this world. He sees it all!

God is the Perfect, Righteous Judge who judges every heart. We don’t have to force justice in our lives. Praise God! This frees us from the vicious cycle of resentment, despair, and hatred. Paul reminds us that we too will have to give an account in verse 10 above. When I consider the depth of God’s grace and forgiveness concerning my sins, I recognize that I must forgive others. For more of this topic see my blog:

Journey of Forgiveness

Friend, perhaps the reason Christ hasn’t returned is because He is being merciful, waiting, and calling wicked, lost people to repentance. Every day He delays His return is a chance for one more person to accept His grace and be born again from above. When He returns it’s too late to repent!

Ever wonder why God doesn’t just strike down all the evil and malicious people who destroy others? Consider that if God struck down everyone who had anger or malice in his/her heart, who would be left alive on this earth? Jesus and Paul remind us that we are all sinners worthy and deserving of God’s Righteous Wrath (John 3, Romans 1-3)!

Truth 3: Trials have meaning and purpose: that we become more like Christ

Let’s be clear on this point: when we are facing trials and difficulties, we often will not know the why (reasons behind). God doesn’t tell us why that we or others suffer (specifically) except in general terms. In short, because we are sinners living in a world with other sinners; we will suffer because of our own sins and those of others. This is a consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God. Accidents, death, cancer, diseases, wars, hatred, injustice, and many other painful realities plague our world. God sent Jesus to redeem and make all things new. Until Christ returns, all of creation groans awaiting His Triumphant Second Coming. Things aren’t going to be right until He returns!

For more on the problem of whys:

https://wordpress.com/post/wordsofencouragementinchrist.com/770

1 Peter 4:12-16 NASB teaches us:

Share the Sufferings of Christ

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be overjoyed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

As Christians, we will not walk on water or feed thousands of people with small loaves and fish. But we can be like Christ when we suffer. Everyone will suffer at times–that’s reality. As we face trials and difficulties, yet remain faithful trusting in Christ, we radiate God’s glory to our dark world. While this may be of little comfort during your dark moments, it’s an important truth. Chambers says it this way:

Ever been around a person who has been “softened” by difficulties in life? These precious souls tend to be more gracious, loving, accepting, and compassionate. This happens because suffering and difficulties led this person deeper to Christ. As he or she went deeper in trusting Jesus, the person becomes more like Christ. Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and it shows in how He interacts with people in the Gospels.

Truth 4: The Proper Goal of Life

Chambers reminds us “We are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants.” As we daily walk with Christ, we submit to His will even when it leads us into deep, dark waters. Life is about us (selfish ways) or living for Someone Much Greater.

God works through us as He desires in accordance with His Perfect Will. Paul learned this lesson on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to persecute, but when Jesus revealed Himself, his life changed forever. Life was no longer about Paul or his religion, but about proclaiming God’s Good News. Paul encountered Someone much greater than himself.

Chambers also warns against making demands of God. He reminds of Jesus’ example. Jesus came to earth to die. Jesus humbled Himself and submitted to His Father’s Plan of Redemption. Obviously, Jesus is our example. Got questions provides a good explanation of what it means that Jesus “learned” from suffering.

https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-learned-obedience.html

Truth 5: Brokenness is a sign of being useful

Chambers explains, “Once we realize this (that God works through us what He wants), He will make us broken bread and poured-out wine with which to feed and nourish others.” Consider that the bread must be broken and the wine poured out! A loaf of bread must be broken to be eaten. That’s why that modern bread is sliced so that it can be eaten with ease.

Wine is poured out to be drunk. The ancients mixed water and wine in various ratios. Wine was kept in skins or jars to be mixed with water prior to drinking. For us to be any use to God or others we will first be broken and poured out. Our past and present difficulties are obviously opportunities to bless others!

May God’s grace and compassion fill your life to overflow onto others,

Trusting as we wait

Quotations from NKJV Bible Gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/ and

Dr. Larry Crabb When God’s Ways Make No Sense unless indicated otherwise

Setting:

When reading the passages from Lamentations, we need to consider the context:

  1. Jeremiah the Prophet of God is writing after experiencing the horrors of invasion and captivity.
  2. God has recently brought judgment against His chosen people working through an even a brutal and evil foreign nation (Babylon).
  3. Lamentations is a collection of laments or passionate poetry that expresses deep grief and sorrow. A lament is a type of prayer! Jeremiah is pouring out his heart before God and seeking comfort. Pay careful attention to how the mood changes!
  4. Each chapter is a separate poem–in Hebrew the starting verse is in alphabetical order.

For a quick overview of Lamentations:

https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Lamentations.html

Passage 1 : Lamentations 3:20-26 NKJV: Remember and wait!

20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

Comments:

Note how Jeremiah recalls and remembers hope. He is reminding himself of God’s truths. The proceeding verses emotionally describe experiencing God’s wrath. Jeremiah uses various images to describe how he feels. He remembers his grief and disappointment. BUT, in verse 21, he transitions.

He remembers God’s mercy, love, and compassion then recalls they are renewed daily! He remembers God’s faithfulness. Even in the midst of terrible storm of grief and loss, Jeremiah remembers these aspects of God’s Nature. The NIV and NASB uses the words “great love” in place of “Lord’s mercies.”

God’s love, compassion, and mercy are renewed every morning! God is our portion and we are to wait for him. What does it mean God is my portion?

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-is-my-portion.html

What does it mean that God’s mercies are new every day?

https://www.gotquestions.org/mercies-new-every-morning.html

Jeremiah is reminding us that in our most difficult moments we can find God’s love and compassion as we wait on God! Also we hope in knowing that our true happiness and source of blessing(s) is in God not in our circumstances!

Verses 25 and 26 explain why we wait on God. First, God is good to those who wait. Second, God is good those who seek Him, and third waits silently for His salvation. God wants us to wait on Him while seeking, trusting that He will answer in His time. Consequently, waiting on God isn’t a waste of time nor is it “giving up.” Waiting actually demonstrates faith! While waiting, we are trusting in God instead of our own means or on others. Pastor Mark Vroegop explains:

https://www.crossway.org/articles/waiting-on-the-lord-is-not-a-waste/

What if God’s way of loving us and moving us closer to Him involves grief or difficulties? Is it possible that God defines “love” considerably different than we do? Greek philosophy has seven different words for types love with the Bible using four ( Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape)-romantic, familial, friend, God.

Modern English has the word “love” but we tend to describe love in context of degrees. Consider how it’s different when you a friend “loves” you versus romantic partner’s love. If finite, fallen humans love in different ways and degrees, how can we possibly understand and fully recognize an Infinite, Loving God?

My point is that God may be loving us in ways that we don’t feel, understand, or appreciate at the moment. What seems to be as a trial or difficulty may be a great act of redemption or mercy beginning! Consider the story of Joseph and how that God worked through the evil deeds of his brothers to deliver Jacob’s family/descendants from a severe famine. Jesus came to deliver us by dying in our place. Was Jesus’ birth, ministry, and resurrection a great demonstration of God’s love?

We should”tremble” before God according to Larry Crabb. This means that we don’t understand the difficulties and why they come upon us. We can’t see God at work and may wonder what’s going on. But we can tremble knowing that God’s Nature is consistent. God is a firm foundation upon which we can build our lives. Jeremiah and other prophets wondered why God would use the considerably more “evil” nations to punish Israel.

Passage 2: Lamentations 3:37-41: God is in charge!

37 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?

38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?

39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?

40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.

41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

Accepting that God is sovereign means to trust that He is in control. While accepting that God is in charge, we daily practice self-reflection. How are we thinking and living? Are there are areas in our life that are not in line with God? Are we worrying about things instead of trusting God? Who is the God of your life? Could it be that we try to make things happen or avoid painful experiences instead of trusting God?

Holy Spirit will make this clear as we pray, reflect, and consider God’s Word. When Holy Spirit convicts, then we are to turn back to God. Remember that repentance is a process! It’s turning back to the Lord and away from our sins. Our repentance isn’t perfect and we will struggle against our own carnal ways.

We need to bring our hearts before God. That’s the grace found in the laments! There are laments in the Book of Psalms as well. It’s proper to discuss your feelings/emotions with God. God knows how we feel and why. I recommend praying through the laments when dealing with difficult emotions/troubles in life. This is one simple way to make sure that your prayers are biblical! For some examples of Psalms of lament:

https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/psalms-of-lament-to-remind-us-we-are-not-alone.html

Passage 3:
2 Thessalonians 3:3-5: God Directs our hearts into His Love!

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Comments:

Once again we see that God is faithful in two specific ways:

1st–He establishes us–strong footing–idea of building a foundation

2nd-guard us against the Evil One–prevents us from being totally destroyed or led astray–doesn’t mean that Satan won’t attack or harm us. Consider Job in this case.

Verse 5 is a direct prayer of Paul for the Thessalonians. Asking God to direct [lead] hearts into God’s love and Jesus’ patience. Larry Crabb explains the direction in which God leads us:

Holy Spirit works on our selfish nature and creates a thirst for the True Water of Life. For verses on the water of life:

https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Water,-As-A-Symbol-Of-Life

As we experience God and wait upon Him, we come to see that our waiting and time of doubt are leading us to something better! The real danger of trials and difficulties is that we turn inward instead of upwards! We tend to focus on our own “hurts” and how we were treated instead of seeking God and forgiveness for our wrongs. Small slights grow into major grudges as we “rehearse” and relive our past disappointments.

I believe that God frees us from this vicious cycle of egocentric thinking and living. How does God free us? He confronts us with the truth about ourselves. Our nature and tendencies become visible in the trials or temptations we face.

We can easily handle the good and pleasant days. It’s the difficult days that reveals who and what we are seeking and depending on! God’s love doesn’t leave us stranded in our own self-made prison cells! Suffering and pain can lead us to deeper dependence on Him instead of ourselves or others!

May God’s grace, mercy, and compassion increase your thirst for His presence!

I write these words as one daily needing God’s grace and compassion,

Pressing Ahead to Christ Post 1

Scripture: Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. NKJV

Setting: Paul’s Goal

Paul writes about the goal of his life in Philippians chapter 3. In verses 1-7, he warns us to put “no confidence in the flesh.” He explains in verses 5-6 that he was “a persecutor of the church” and then lists his “qualifications” for being “found blameless.” He’s referring to his Jewish heritage, circumcision, and identity as a Pharisee. He then proceeds to “count as loss for the sake of Christ.”

When Jesus reveals Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, blinding him with a heavenly light, Saul becomes Paul. Encountering Christ changes Paul. Everything that once was important to him: his knowledge of God’s Law, his extensive theological and religious training as a Pharisee, and even his Hebrew heritage becomes secondary for the sake of Christ.

The Most Precious Things!

The things most precious to him, he counts as a loss! Verses 8-11 indicate what’s most important to Paul.

v 8—the “surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ–all is considered “rubbish so that I might gain Christ”–knowing and gaining Christ is more valuable than anything else!

v9–Faith in Christ Jesus produces righteousness–this idea appears in Romans chapters 3 and 4–righteousness from God not from the Law

v10–knowing Jesus, the power of His resurrection, fellowship of His sufferings, conformed to His death

v11–attain the resurrection from the dead

In simple terms, Paul wants to fully know Jesus and ultimately attain resurrection! The real goal of walking with Christ is to become like Christ, to know Him better, and ultimately be resurrected!

Paul isn’t seeking a successful ministry, prosperous career, happy marriage, or any aspect of the “American dream.” He is seeking to know Christ! This thirst for Christ made all the suffering and hardships that he faced worthwhile.

Pressing Ahead to Christ!

Paul admits in verse 12 that he’s not gotten to it, yet nor become perfect, but he presses ahead. Are you pushing ahead in your relationship with Christ? How are you working through set backs, defeats, and discouragement? Life in a fallen world tends to lead us to question ourselves, God, and others. Disappointments in relationships, career, and life events draw us inward and toward cynicism and despair.

Verse 13 is Paul’s answer. He says that he does one thing: “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Got questions explores this concept in detail:

https://www.gotquestions.org/forgetting-those-things-which-are-behind.html

We all have a past. We all have hurts and scars–some that we received and others that we inflicted on others. Hurting people tend to either withdrawal from others or put on a facade. Instead of being honest and vulnerable, we sulk. If not careful, we then become bitter and angry toward those who hurt us. Eventually we even close ourselves off from those who haven’t hurt us yet, but exhibit similar traits. I have a collection of quotes and post about forgiveness below:

https://wordpress.com/post/wordsofencouragementinchrist.com/321

This is a vicious cycle of malice, judgment, criticism. A once sensitive, caring person becomes a resentful and distant hermit. Saul was a vicious persecutor who did real harm to the early followers of the Way. He was proud of “his truth” and sought to honor God by relentlessly persecuting. All of this changes when Jesus comes to Him!

We must leave the past hurts and bitter disappointments to rest in the past! God’s grace and mercy will fill our broken hearts and His Redeeming Love flows through us onto the lives of others. In various ways we are all like Saul! We have our notions, opinions, and thoughts about life and God. We are wise to examine our ways to make sure they are aligned with God’s ways.

Warning from history

Even a theological education doesn’t guarantee that a person will be like Christ or seek to love others. Joseph Stalin attended training to be a priest. Joseph Stalin attended 5 years of seminary training! source of information:

Stalin as a Theological Student

This picture of him is when he was 17 years old. How might history have been different had he served in the Orthodox Church as a priest instead of joining the revolutionary movement? How is that he learned church history, had access to learning about God’s Word, and quoted large passages of scriptures; yet would later become atheistic and violently cruel? What went wrong?

Stalin had knowledge about God and religion, but didn’t encounter God in a transformative manner. Encountering God fundamentally changes a person! No one in scripture ever encounters God and stays the same! So I ask you to consider if you have truly encountered the True, Living God.

What we’re pressing towards

Throughout Paul’s writings in the New Testament, he uses the imagery of competing athletes to present spiritual truths. For example, he talks about “running a race,” “competing,” and in this case “the prize.” His audience would have familiarity with the athletic events of their historical era. They could visualize the Roman triumph events and games.

The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is the prize! Knowing and becoming more like Christ until God calls us home or returns is the highest honor. The New Testament saints weren’t trying to build a better world through political or religious means. They wanted to be like and have Christ! So should we–that’s the goal we press toward: knowing and becoming more like our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! Got questions explains numerous related passages:

https://www.gotquestions.org/press-on-toward-the-goal.html

Why I write these posts. . .

To encourage you in your journey of faith as others’ writing and posts have enriched me! Press ahead to Christ! Let the past hurts rest with Christ knowing that He’s still working on you–shaping and forming you into His masterpiece. May God’s grace and truth flow into your life as you seek Him daily! For His glory and honor, I write,

Walking with God: Courage in Faith

Walking with God requires courage, integrity, and abandoning ourselves. I want to dedicate this post my mother and grandmother who demonstrated these truths in their walks of faith! Thanks to all of the Godly women who have set an example for us all!

Taylor Combs writes about courage and how we can be courageous because Jesus has overcome. Quotes and insights come from his post on Lifeway voices:

Be Courageous; Jesus Has Overcome

https://research.lifeway.com/2019/07/29/5-types-of-ministry-rejection-every-leader-faces/

Courage comes when we choose to wait and trust in God instead of setting out on our own paths! Notice that he adds the phrase “come what may.” God doesn’t promise anyone an easy, prosperous (materially) journey of faith. God’s Word [specifically Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching] clearly informs us that we will face trials, temptations, illnesses, times of sorrow, etc.

It’s appropriate and right for us to pray for strength and courage as we face the difficulties of life! That’s why Jesus woke up early and would withdraw to quiet, isolated areas to communion with His Heavenly Father. If Jesus sought God daily for strength, so should we!

One of the key aspects of Taylor’s descriptions of courage is “the absence of self.” Life with Christ is about His glory and honor. We serve a Risen Savior and Lord who is so much greater than our difficulties, sorrows, and problems. I don’t have to be important or significant to serve an Infinite God!

God’s Word reveals that God delights in calling and working through common, everyday people with flaws, insecurities, and problems. Also important is the concept of integrity. Integrity involves “the state of being whole and undivided” (Oxford Languages). Integrity of faith includes the concept “wholeness” and the idea of being wholeheartedly devoted to God. James 1:8 warns about the “double-minded.” We can’t follow self, others, and the world and God too.

Have you devoted your entire life to Christ? Are you pushing ahead in your walk of faith especially during uncertain times? I list these following thoughts on courage from Taylor’s definition.

The Call to Persevere in Our Walk

The following quotes and insights come from Oswald Chamber’s Devotion “The Faith to Persevere” https://utmost.org/the-faith-to-persevere/

God’s Holy Love is a consuming fire! God’s love is transformative. God’s love fills us to overflow with His presence. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have a confidence that enables us to approach Him in our times of need [Hebrews 4:14-16]. We can be faithful and courageous even when our “feelings” are weak and battered.

Faith requires effort and practice! This practice requires confidence and trust. Hebrews 10:18-24 proclaims the New and Living Way for us in Christ. So let us “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” and “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” When reading Hebrews, we should remember that the early followers were facing severe persecution. The author in Chapter 10 verses 32-38 indicates trials. He encourages them to “live by faith” and to endure knowing that with “confidence, which has a great reward.”

We can make our faith our supreme work in our lives knowing that our efforts aren’t in vain! We daily choose to place our confidence in the world, ourselves, others, or in God. God is the only suitable refuge and foundation of confidence!

Jesus set us an example as He’s the “author and perfecter” Hebrews 12:2 of our faith. https://www.gotquestions.org/author-perfecter-faith.html

Let’s look to Him for our hope and confidence as He walks with us on our journey of faith! We must abandon ourselves knowing that God is a greater, higher purpose than our own limited understanding of things. As a humans, we tend to think about God in accordance with our past experiences and thoughts about God. The problem with this is that our “ideas” and thoughts aren’t necessarily correct or proper. God, Holy Spirit seeks to move us away from the incorrect and incomplete thoughts into a “proper” dependence on Him!

We have “places still untouched” by Jesus in our lives. It is likely that trials and difficulties come into our lives to reveal these areas. God works in our lives to bring us to completion in Him! This isn’t a quick, easy, or painless process. Jesus saves us completely through the work of sanctification. This occurs through God’s Work in our lives. Prayer, Bible study and application as well as living in a community of believers facilitates this process.

Oswald reminds us that eternal life is more than heaven or something good after this life ends. Eternal life begins at the moment of regeneration when God makes us spiritually alive. Jesus defines eternal life for us in John Chapter 17 as He prays:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. NKJV John 17:3

John uses the word ginosko. This particular word implies intimate knowledge. This particular word for knowledge was used by 1st century Jews (Jewish idiom) to describe how a husband and wife “know” each other. Jesus’ Redemption enables us to know God in the form of an intimate relationship. God’s Word identifies believers as “adopted sons.”

https://biblehub.com/topical/s/sons_of_god_new_testament.htm

Our new identities in God and renewed natures gives us confidence to persevere when facing trials, difficulties, and perplexing seasons of life. Because we belong to God, He holds us (John Chapter 10:28-30). Jesus’ relationship to His Father enables Him to bring those who trust in Him into the same relationship! We thus become children of God redeemed from the evil kingdom of this world! Relationship is vital to endurance.

Walking with God, trusting in Him, and living for His Glory opens our lives to many “wonderful things.” By wonderful things, I mean the many Great Things and Ways of our Lord and Savior. God disciplines those He loves Hebrews 12:5-12. This discipline comes because of His love and relationship with us. We like sheep tend to go astray. We get distracted and wrongly focused on this world instead of God.

God’s Great Grace and Mercy draws us back. Let’s rest our lives on Him! Previously, I have written about entering God’s rest and walking with Him during uncertain times. May God grant you courage and hope to endure and press ahead in your journey of faith!

For His glory and to encourage your in your walk of faith I write,

God’s Judgment is Love!

For the third post considering God’s ways, we will focus on the wonderful truth that God’s judgment is also an operation of His love. While this seems to be a contradiction, scripture presents God’s judgment as being a redemptive force. The first chapters (1 to end of 3) of Romans explains how that we all have “fallen short of God’s glory 3:23” and are worthy of God’s righteous wrath. The Good News of Jesus comes to us through Paul’s writing to Christians in Rome! Quotes and thoughts come from Oswald Chambers’ devotional “Judgment and the Love of God.”

Judgment and the Love of God

The Good New of the Gospel Begins with God’s Righteous Judgment

To understand God’s grace correctly, we must understand and consider God’s holiness. Paul reminds us that “we were helpless but that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (5:6)” We need to recognize our sinful nature and status as lost before we can recognize the beauty of God’s grace in His Gospel. The story of humanity’s rebellion begins in Genesis wherein the Fall occurs. This wasn’t a simple mistake or misunderstanding, it was open rebellion against God and His ways. God sends Adam and Eve out from the Garden. The curse of death and sin this enters into our world. We are rebels and sinners in our human nature. Paul makes this point clear in Romans. God by nature is Holy and hates sin and all things that are counter to His Perfection.

God judges sin because of His Holy and Righteous Nature. He can’t overlook it or ignore it according to His Justice and position of Judge over all His creation. Yet in the midst of His Judgment, God does something absolutely amazing! Romans 5:8-11 NKJV explains this Great Love of God found in Jesus:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

God’s Judgment leads to salvation through Christ’s sacrifice for us. We must recognize that we are lost (helpless and powerless) in our own ways and need Jesus for salvation. God’s grace comes with His Righteous Judgment! That’s why Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and God’s judgment. Jesus explains this in John 16:8-11: NKJV

And when He [Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Judgment and conviction leads to repentance! There is no coming to God through Jesus Christ without repentance and understanding that we’re sinners. This is important to remember in sharing the Gospel with others!

Implications for sharing the Good News

Chambers reminds us:

“When we preach, we are not simply proclaiming how people can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God. In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out— it is the sign of the love of God.”

When I first read this quote, I had to stop and consider what he means. Judgment proceeds grace. We don’t appreciate grace when we consider ourselves or others right before God. Jesus’ harshest words were not to the “sinners,” but to the self-righteous religious people who were prideful and misleading others. God’s Judgment reveals our true nature and leads us to trust in Him instead of ourselves. We need to share God’s Truth with others!

“Never sympathize with someone who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to figure out the reason for the difficulty, but only to present the truth of God so that the Spirit of God will reveal what is wrong. The greatest test of the quality of our preaching is whether or not it brings everyone to judgment.”

When encouraging others, we want to help others to “feel” better or offer some solution to a problem while forgetting the real problem that underlies all others! The main problem of every soul is that each human soul is separated, alienated from God due to sin(s). We need God’s grace because it is God’s grace and mercy that saves us! What good is accomplished if a person walks away feeling better but still unaware and confused about God’s Truth?

The second problem that every soul faces is living in a fallen world. Our world isn’t a static, neutral place, but a dynamic of social and cultural forces that shape us. That’s why we must carefully discern God’s Ways and Truths. Our culture impacts our perspectives and world view. Thankfully, God’s Word and Holy Spirit convict and shapes us when we walk with Him daily! God’s work in our lives is a witness to others! How we walk in our life is a powerful testimony.

Human nature desires independence from God: to make our own ways/paths and to seek self-fulfillment. We wrongly seek things and relationships to try to “find” or “make” meaning or purpose in our lives. We want to fill a “void” in our hearts. The problem is that only God can give us True, Abundant Life. For more about what Jesus means by abundant life

https://www.gotquestions.org/abundant-life.html

We need to find life in Christ not in our health, careers, families, relationships, or hobbies. These things are not true sources of life!

When sharing the Gospel and seeking to encourage others in God’s Truths, we need to proclaim God’s Truth as proclaimed in His Word. Remember that Jesus came in both grace and truth. We need both when dealing with those in our lives!

God’s power in our weakness!

Realizing that God’s Truth changes and shapes others releases us from the impossibility of changing others. Oswald reminds us that it’s God’s Spirit working through us:

“The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.”

Remember how that Paul spoke about how God’s power and choice of the weak: 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NKJV

27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

It’s all about God and His glory not about us or our abilities or knowledge.

Paul explains how that his thorn glorifies God in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Conclusion

Let’s daily walk in God’s Grace in the light of His Wonderful Truths! Know that it’s not about having everything “right” or “together” in your life! When God convicts us we need to respond in faith: trusting and obeying Him as He guides us knowing that all is about His glory not about our past failures. Thankfully, God views us with grace when we deserve eternal separation and judgment. Remember to share the Good News in light of the seriousness of God’s judgment on sin!

May God cause your love and passion for Him and His Word to increase each day He graciously entrusts to you! For God’s glory and your encouragement, I write.

Uncertainty: God’s Way 2

God’s ways, when necessary, lead us into a state of “uncertainty” within our journey of faith. Uncertainty in this setting is a positive condition! God at times “shakes” up His faithful saints to keep them from getting into a spiritual “rut.” All quotations are from Oswald Chamber’s devotional April 29 “Gracious Uncertainty” https://utmost.org/gracious-uncertainty/

Introductory Thoughts

Why we get set into “certain” ways and patterns? Why God will disrupt this tendency?

The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is one long account of how that God graciously reaches out to lost humanity. God’s grace, mercy, and unmerited choosing of Noah, Abraham, the Judges, later King David and his descendants, the Prophets, etc. reveal much about God’s ways. In reading through the Old Testament, it’s obvious that when a person encounters God there is change. Abraham is a good example. First, God calls him then later establishes a covenant with him. Abraham’s faith grows as he walks with God and his understanding of God’s ways also change. Toward the end of his journey, God gives him the ultimate test: his son Isaac the promised child. Will Abraham trust God and obey?

God brought about this “test” or trial in order to move Abraham forward in his journey. God will likewise surprise us in how He works and moves within our lives! Oswald Chambers talks about the journey of faith and warns us about getting too certain with God. He rightly points out that we tend to apply common sense to our relationship/understanding of God instead of letting faith guide us.

Chambers tells us:

“Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

God doesn’t leave us in one place in our journey of faith. A journey of faith is dynamic not static! Our ideas about God aren’t big enough to describe or understand Him! Our journey of faith involves an element of unknown. We never know what tomorrow will bring! He desires that we move closer to Him ultimately becoming more like Jesus our Perfect Example. Each insert below is a direct quotation.

Modern Americans tend to be good at setting goals! Not that it’s inherently wrong to make goals and plans to achieve them in life, but in the spiritual journey it’s not wise. Why is this true? We as finite creatures can’t see the big picture or completely understand God. We tend to set goals based on a.) what others are doing or b.) what we want to do ourselves. What if our ways aren’t God’s ways?

We set ourselves up for failure, disappointment, and anger with God because we want something that is inherently good, but not the right time according to God’s Perfect Timing. What if we want the right things, but desire these things more than the Giver of All Good Gifts? Do we love the blessings more than our Heavenly Father who gives them abundantly?

Our sinful, selfish nature is always at work trying to lead us astray! The journey with God must be directed by God, His Living Word, and Holy Spirit. God will guide the desires of our hearts, but it’s up to Him to fulfill them–not our plans or goal strategies!

Consider how God’s promises can impact a person. Abram becomes Abraham. He has to leave his comfortable city and become a nomad in his old age! Consider young David when the Prophet Samuel comes and anoints him. He is no longer just a shepherd boy! There are numerous examples in God’s Living Word in both Old and New Testaments. The one common thing is that things don’t go as the recipients expected! Abram faced famine and multiple challenges. Saul viciously pursues David. The Disciples were disappointed and discouraged on Good Friday and confused on Sunday!

What is certain? God’s faithfulness. Even when we can’t understand the whys and hows we know that God’s nature is consistent. God doesn’t need to learn anything or “figure” something out. He already knows and acts according to His plans set from eternity! That’s the essence of faith, trusting and obeying when we can’t see with our frail human eyes.

God is our Refuge and Rock. He is the firm foundation that we can build our lives upon. Unlike the sinking sand of this world and it’s passing foolishness, we can be assured that God will accomplish His purposes/will. Faith is a journey of small steps! God graciously directs our path! Here’s a good reading on what God is my rock means:

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-do-we-mean-when-we-say-god-is-my-rock.html

Evaluate the phrase “as soon as we abandon ourselves to God.” It’s vitally important that we give ourselves to God. Think about the individuals in scripture whom God works His miracles. David, the servant girl, and the little boy with fish and bread all surrendered themselves to God. It wasn’t about them but what God does for His glory through them! They were available and willing for God to have His way in their situations. Have you surrendered yourself to His glory and purposes?

Walking with God is a journey that involves working on certain tasks He assigns to us. Notice the phrase “do the tasks closest to us.” We often come up with big plans that tend to be complicated and sometimes attention getting. God gives us simple things before entrusting us on bigger tasks. You can see this clearly in reading through Joshua. First, God has the Hebrews “consecrate” themselves. This is vitally important! God has them first cross the Jordan River during flood season before sending them to attack Jericho.

God wants His people to understand that the conquest of the Promised Land isn’t about them but about His purposes. It’s God’s power that defeats the inhabitants not the righteousness or military might of the Hebrews. The entire purpose of marching around the walls of Jericho numerous times is to prove that deliverance and victory comes through God!

What simple things have God entrusted to you? It’s surprising how simple acts of kindness can make a big difference. Before starting a grand plan, consider that God may have something simple before you! When we are faithful in the small things then we are ready for the bigger things.

Consider David, specifically how that God sends him against Goliath with his simple stones. David was faithful to honor God’s name and strike down the blasphemous beast man. This was all before he was ever in the army or a recognized leader. God works through young men and women in mighty ways!

For a young lady, consider Naaman’s servant girl who “remembered her God’s power.” She was the one who shared the knowledge that God and His Prophet (Elisha) could heal him.

https://www.pcol.org/blog/the-story-chapter-15-considering-naamans-servant-girl

The servant girl living as a captive in a foreign land (Syria) remembered her God and showed compassion and grace that led to a miraculous healing! Even in captivity, she knew who was the True Source of Healing.

Recall the little boy with a few small fish and bread for lunch! He willingly gave it to Jesus and thousands were fed. He was present with Jesus and his little lunch fed thousands from Jesus’ hands! Doubt he was expecting that when he first arrived to hear Jesus teach! Let us be aware of the simple things and trust God to work in them for His glory and ministry to others! A surrender according to God’s call is the start of something much greater!

The key to this wonderful truth is “right relationship with God.” David kills Goliath because Goliath is insulting God’s Holy Name. David is the one who clearly perceives God’s plan and thus acts accordingly. We have to be in the right relationship to discern God and His movements in our lives. Romans 12:1-2 links the 2 previous Chambers’ quotes together:

Romans 12

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

First, we are the living sacrifice acceptable to God, then God transforms our minds (renewal). This renewal is God’s Word as we offer ourselves to Him. This is part of repentance in the sense that we are turning away from the world’s ways (including our own ways to “prove” God’s will. We will be surprised in how that God will work and move in our circumstances when we walk in trust and obedience! For additional study in what mind renewal means:

https://www.gotquestions.org/renewing-the-mind.html

Ed Elliot writes an excellent commentary exploring knowing God’s will:

There is a sense of joy and surprise in our relationship with Jesus. We never know when He will show up! Holy Spirit guides and empowers us to live with Christ. Every day God graciously gives us in a new opportunity to walk with Him in love and service. We can joyfully anticipate God working in and through us!

The concluding quote reminds us that when leaving things to Christ we can be certain that He will come! We don’t know for certain how, when, or where, but we can rest in faith! We serve a Risen, Resurrected Savior who is working to bring all of history to a close! We have the honor of showing others His love, grace, mercy, and kindness! God isn’t finished with you if you trust and walk with Him! He is working to redeem the lost around us!

Come rejoice now, O my soul
For His love is my reward
Fear is gone and hope is sure
Christ is mine forevermore

Refrain from Christ is Mine Forevermore, CityAlight

For God’s glory and to encourage you in your walk of faith with Him, I write these words!