Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hanging on to Hope


We are often made most aware of our need for strength when we are at the very weakest in our lives. It doesn’t take long before tough times can bring the strongest person to his knees, where it seems impossible to solve the dilemma that is draining him of the needed resources to hang in there when he feels like quitting and throwing in the towel. 

Some days you can literally feel like you are at the end of your rope and hanging on by your fingertips alone. During a season of unrelenting tough times, it can seem that no matter what we do, or how hard we pray, that nothing ever changes. In truth, it is natural to hope that life will get better, that our pain will heal or that our financial setbacks will turn into financial gains. That is human nature. We were created to enjoy sunrises, not cold winter storms. 

There are mornings when you can awake with the premonition that the day just seems to have a negative spin to it. You just know that trouble is stalking outside of our door, awaiting your first stumble. A morning where the toothpaste gushes out and drops onto your fresh clean shirt, then you sit down to have some breakfast and discover that one of the kids has left something awful on the chair that squishes against the seat of your pants, and then on our way to the car, you step in dog poop and fail to realize it until you are stuck in rush hour traffic with the windows rolled up. 

When Hope is needed the Most

It is insightful to remember that a flower follows the sun even on cloudy days. It may not see the sun, but it follows where the sun is moving across a cloud banked sky. The only gaze that strengthens and gives you courage to not give up, is to keep your eyes upon God and trust in His Word to give you the strength and the wisdom that you need. It is only through Him that the deepest resources of peace, hope and joy, in the midst of suffering and in spite of suffering, can be accessed.

Doubting God in Midst of Suffering

It is very difficult to hang on to hope and not give in to weary despair and have doubts of God’s love for us as we hang on to the ledge of our fleeting faith with trembling fingertips. In reality it is human nature to feel that way and is completely normal. What is supernatural is to see past the present trial that is testing our faith, and see the Sovereign hand of our Father in Heaven at work in our circumstance.The doubt of your faith is not so much God testing you beyond what you can handle, but it is the Truth seeking to enlarge your faith and free you from despair.

Paul wrote this truth to give us perspective during tough times while he was chained and confined in a Roman prison experiencing painful and disappointing suffering and deprivation.

“Now I want you to know and continue to rest assured, brethren, that what has happened to me through this imprisonment has actually only served to advance and give a renewed impetus to the spreading of the good news of the Gospel. This a fact that throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest here my imprisonment has become generally known to be in Christ that I am a prisoner in His service and for Him”. Philippians 1:12-13 Amplified Bible


Tough things happen to us, so that something will happen in us, so that something will happen through us to touch the lives of others. Things were happening to Paul, so that something would happen in Paul, so that something would happen through Paul. That something was the Gospel igniting within the corridors of that prison, and then it flowed throughout the known world in the form of the prison epistles written there, namely, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (See Acts 28).

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

What a challenge it can be give thanks to God when you are going through the winter storms of life.

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thess. 5:18

Giving thanks for the tough things that are going on in our lives at all times, in every circumstance and without exception? This seems illogical and bizarre, especially when you are at the end of your rope. Why would a person be encouraged to thank God when his dreams are shattered and broken in pieces at his feet and he doesn’t know why or how that happened? Because it is not for the terrible circumstance that we are thanking Him for, but the liberating truth that in spite of tough times, we can rise above the storm with a song of praise in our hearts. (See Psalm 46-1-11).

Trusting God is more than a Feeling

The following Scripture sheds light on a crucial truth that is important to get a hold of early in his life:

“Trust in the Lord with all of you heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

The Word of God directs us to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and to not draw our own conclusions, derive a life strategy from, or rely upon our own ideas, our wits, our education or our life experience, as we live our lives each day. We are to establish in our minds that in all ways, in everything, and at all times we are to acknowledge Him and make His will our will and His way our way. As we do so, He will provide, from His Word, a strategy as to what to do in any situation that we are facing. 

God’s counsel in The Quiet Place of our heart is to discover that there is only one way where troubles, grief and sorrow can find comfort and meaning. He alone is the God of all comfort. To lean one’s hopes on anything other than God and His wondrous grace is to set oneself up for disappointment and despair.

“Find rest, O my soul in God alone; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your Word.” Psalm 119:114

Our hope must look confidently forward to something divinely purposeful, eternal and good that is yet to happen. We need to cling to the truth that regardless of the circumstances, God’s Sovereign purpose will be done in our lives. In spite of what we cannot see, He is at work and He is Lord. The natural man must see in order to believe but the spiritual man must believe in order to see.

 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Rom 8:24-25

When it seems that God is Silent

The reality is that God sometimes allows suffering to remain unchanged and unrelenting in our lives. His will may be that for this time, the pain will continue, and the trial may be there again tomorrow. Do not doubt His love or compassion for you in the midst of your suffering, no matter how dark the night. 

In The Quiet Place, God calls gently to us to still our anxious heart, and discover anew that it is here that true honesty and a humble openness with God are present. If the trial does not change for the better, do not doubt God or His Word. To do so will leave you confused and disappointed that your request seems to have been denied. The seeming delay may mean that God may be saying, “No,” or “Not Now?”
  
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ”Do not fear, I will help you."  Isa 41:10, 13


He is right there with you, right now. It is wonderful to greet the sunrise with the confident awareness of the presence of the God who created it, and the One who will be beside you whatever your day brings forth.Do not be afraid to venture out and experience the wonder and glory of being His child. There are simply no burdens, heartaches or times of suffering that can take away the hush of being with Him in The Quiet Place.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reducing your Stress on an ASAP Day



We have all experienced days filled with a multitude of tasks infused with incredible stress and tension laced time pressures.  All too often we find ourselves increasingly weary with a core numbing fatigue. We race to return phone calls and e-mails on our BlackBerry while grabbing dinner from a fast food restaurant for the third time this week. 

Like a long distance runner, we can see the finish line of the race up ahead, but fail to recognize that each and every task that we commit ourselves to has its own separate finish line, time frame, and a deadline. We can be competing in a dozen time pressured, stress producing races at the very same time. Very slowly, if we are not careful, our lives can become over committed and driven to complete a myriad of responsibilities and commitments. The skill of multitasking is a necessity in the business world today.  However, a continuous life of multitasking, isn’t God’s will for our lives.
 
The other day I realized that several times I had spoken to, sent texts, or e-mailed my co-workers, friends, and family the often used acronym: ASAP- As Soon As Possible. I was adding the phrase to my time pressurized responsibilities, “I will get back to you ASAP”, “Let me check on that and get an answer to you ASAP”, or “I will be home ASAP”. We often are aware that we will be late, miss a deadline again, or find ourselves in another disappointing tense moment with our partner for once again being late.


Recently I have been convicted that this is not pleasing to the Lord at all. I began to list out the many tasks and responsibilities that are on my plate every day and found a pattern:  My life was slowly slipping away from me and I was becoming a resource asset for those who have needs or requests for my help or professional advice. I was beginning to live the lives of others and was failing to live my own life.

The Quiet Place can slip away from us so subtly that sadly we don’t even realize that it is gone. The very nature of God is peace.  He desires us to develop a life that has quietness as a norm and not an occasional moment that is grasped desperately during times of stress and overload.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.” I Thessalonians 4:11

“That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I Timothy 2:2

Too many of us find ourselves mirroring the despair of the Patriarch Job as our lives grind down with excessively overloaded schedules and commitments, "I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."  Job 3:26 

What can we begin to do to quiet our spirit and slow down our lives to regain the inner peace and calmness that God is pleased to see radiate through each of us?

Be Teachable - Learn from God the pathway to Quietness

"Teach me, and I will be quiet” Job 6:24

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, "Come with me to a Quiet Place and get some rest." Mark 6:21

Be Obedient - Ask God to lead you into Quietness

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters,” Psalm 23:2

Be Committed - Cultivate an inner Quiet Place

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.   
Psalm 131:2

Spiritual maturity is measured by cultivating “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.”  I Peter 3:4    

In the still moments of personal solitude, we can pause to worship God and renew our strength. Inner peace is often hurriedly prayed for during times of stress like it is quick fix to ease our personal pressures and mounting tensions. There is certainly nothing wrong with praying for God to give inner peace when all is chaotic around us. However, God desires that we display and radiate an inner peace that has already been cultivated from our times in the Quiet Place, so that we can stay calm in the midst of the storm.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15  (See also Zephaniah 3:17, Mark 4:39, Mark 6:31)

ASAP

There is work to do, deadlines to meet,
You’ve got no time to spare,
But as you hurry and you scurry,
ASAP- Always Say A Prayer

In the midst of family chaos
Quality time is rare.
Do your best, let God do the rest,
ASAP- Always Say A Prayer

It may seem like your worries
Are more than you can bear,
Slow down and take a breath,
ASAP- Always Say A Prayer

God knows how stressful life is,
He wants to ease our cares.
And He will lovingly draw near,
If we Always Say A Prayer.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Facing Tomorrow

In our lives we face a 'tomorrow' every day.  There is nothing we can do to prevent tomorrow from taking place nor can we plan in advance how tomorrow will unfold.  There is something about our capacity to become overwhelmed with life that sometimes makes just getting through today feel like an impossibility.

God knows exactly what we have the capacity to handle and has provided a way to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).  We are not created to carry the 'tomorrows' of life upon the shoulders of today.  Jesus made it very clear in the book of Matthew that a preoccupation with the needs of tomorrow is not only unwise but it also reveals that we are not trusting God to provide for our needs as He has promised.


"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matt 6:33-34

God desires to pour out His provision for us out of the very riches of His unfathomable grace.  The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi from a dark lonely prison cell that God was the great supplier of their needs in the midst of their anxiety about their financial struggles.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:19

We become so preoccupied with our thoughts and assumptions of how the future will unfold that we lose perspective as to the incredible value of living today. (James 4:13-16)

There are three things that God wants us to remember as we face each new day:
  1. He is our Sovereign God - Trust in Him.
  2. He is our Shepherd - Walk with Him.
  3. He is our Loving King - Obey Him.
When we keep these three principles in mind as we begin each day, our hearts will experience His Peace and our minds will be clear and focused on following Him.

Listen to the song below and remember that with every moment and every step Jesus is there walking with you as your God, your Shepherd, and your King.  What could be better than that?

**Before you hit play you will need to pause the music player on the right side of the page**