Saturday, July 6, 2013

When There is no Miracle

In life, there are simply times when no matter how hard we pray, how long we choose to fast, or even how many other faithful friends steadfastly intercede on our behalf, life's circumstances may not change or even get better. In fact, to our dismay, they might even get worse. 

Miracles do not always happen that change our circumstances, no matter how much faith we may have. In fact, the Scriptures teach us that when there is no miracle, that does not mean that God does not have a plan. The Bible also teaches us that having our own way, may not always be a good thing, in fact, it can even lead to disaster and heartache (See Numbers 11; Psalm 106:15).

Our request for a miraculous change in our circumstances may sometimes not be granted. Some stubbornly refuse to let go of a request for God to intervene and heal or deliver a loved one from a tragic set of circumstances. Over time, when there is no miracle one can become disillusioned regarding God's faithfulness and mercy.  The real miracle that God desires is a completely yielded heart, trusting Him regardless, that He might be glorified however the situation turns out. 

The Prayer life of Jesus

Jesus spent much time alone so that He could pray to His Father and commune with Him in The Quiet Place.  His prayer life provides us with a model for our own personal worship time with God. It also provides insight into how He lived His earthly ministry under God the Father's Sovereignty.

He made Time for The Quiet Place

“After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone.”   Matthew 14:23

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”  Mark 1:35

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”  Luke 6:12

“Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses, but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:15-16

His Priority for The Quiet Place

It is insightful that no matter how busy and exhausted Jesus became, He always found time to go to The Quiet Place to meet with His Father.

The time or place was not significant. He found the time and He made a place. What an encouraging example this is for each of us to make time for The Quiet Place no matter what is happening in our lives. We can sometimes be tempted to say, "I just haven't had time to pray about it." Really....or is it rather that we have just not made it a priority to pray about it.

Surrendering our Will to God

The Lord wanted his disciples to really grasp the reality that life for them as His followers was not about maneuvering God’s will to fit their plans, but rather submitting to God’s Sovereign authority to discover how to live under His plan. 

He taught them what to center their prayers upon, so as to prepare them for serving God in the troublesome days that were soon to come.

 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:9-13

They would later become Apostles who would wield miraculous power and authority, as the New Testament Church was established. They all would suffer extreme hardship and persecution, and most would be tortured, and die as martyr's, refusing to deny Him. Their present plan had to give way to His perfect plan.

"Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”Matt. 6:9b -10

There is a critical step in this model prayer that directs us to humble ourselves and bow the knee in reverential submission to the Sovereign will of our Heavenly Father. The will of the King is to reign in His Kingdom.

God's Will must Reign over Our Will

We all have a tendency in life to want everything to go our way. In The Quiet Place God wants each of us to learn that our way may sometimes be in direct conflict with His will. Our life will sometimes have seasons of difficult trials, discouraging disappointment, and painful devastating suffering. Regardless of our feelings, our circumstances or our dreams, His will must reign over our will. 

"This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."  Isaiah 30:15

Christ Submitted His Will to God's Sovereignty

Jesus later modeled this truth at a time when He was soon to face the greatest test of His earthly ministry. As He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed knowing the horrific circumstances that were to come. He sought to prepare His heart for the coming agonies of the Cross.

We will never know the sweetness of precious worship and intercession with God, until we are brought to a place where we kneel alone before His Glory and Majesty as our Sovereign Father.  This is especially true when there is no evidence of a miracle we so desperately had hoped that He would grant. It is often in the darkest hour of sorrow and suffering, that the Holy Spirit makes His presence intimately known, as we fall prostrate before His Throne in absolute surrender.

In The Quiet Place Christ Communed with His Father
Christ had but one place to be on that terrible night in Gethsemane, and that was to seek out His Father, and shut out the world around Him. The only way, in the midst of suffering that we can rise above the pain, and despair, is to draw near to God, and share our heart with Him alone. 

Try to picture that night in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew He was about to be thrust into unspeakable horror and the unimaginable anguish of the crucible of the Cross.  

Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, would now actually humble Himself, and die as the sacrificial atonement for our sins, as The Lamb of God (See Phil.2:6-8). The King of Kings would become the Lamb of God... because He loved us, and He knew that there was no other way for mankind to be cleansed from our sins and have access to His Father's heart.

He was about to give His life, and take upon Him the sin of the world, as mankind’s only atonement for sin. He was about to die for all of us. You and I were in His mind, and on His heart at that very moment in time (Luke 22:41-43). 

He sought first of all a private place apart from others where He could lay down His heart and will before His Father in Heaven.

“He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them,” Luke 22: 41a

He bowed His knee to His father in Heaven as an act of complete submission to His Father’s Sovereign will and purpose.

 “He knelt down…” Luke 22:41b

He brought His desire and request before His Father as a separate singular issue.

  “He …prayed…” Luke 22:41c

He acknowledged that His Father alone had the authority, and therefore the power to grant His request, or to choose not to grant it.

"Father, if you are willing…” Luke 22:42a

He specifically requested for a deliverance from the tragic and horrific circumstances that were about to come to pass.

 “… take this cup from me…” Luke 22:42b

He submitted to His Father’s will with reverence and obedience.

“…yet, not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42c 

It comes down to this issue for each and every one of us: God has the right, and does not need our permission, to rearrange our life to achieve His purposes. In the blink of an eye, anyone's whole life can get turned upside down and, and like the Old Testament example of Job, you may not be able to make sense of it, others may judge you because of it, and it even may get worse before it gets any better. 

Yielding our Hopes and our Dreams

Our dreams for our lives will only truly satisfy our hearts, when He is able to weave them into the tapestry of His Sovereign plan.  For that to be so, we must come to trust Him as Lord above all things. He must have uncontested authority over our hopes, dreams and our plans. This is so easy to say and so difficult to put into practice. This issue will be tested every single day of our lives. His Sovereignty alone must dictate how we respond to suffering, and hardship, and everything else in our lives.

Joni Erikson wrote the following insight, reflective of her life and the hardships that she experienced,

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It's enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren't worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” Joni Erickson Tada 

Hope is Rooted in God’s Sovereign Will

His Father did not grant His request. Let’s pause for a moment and reflect upon this staggering truth: His Father did not grant His request. It is without question that His Father's heart would be torn, and broken by the events that were soon to come upon His beloved Son, yet He did not grant His Son's request. 

Even at the expense of His Son’s suffering, knowing that Jesus would have to experience humiliation, torture and mutilation before a godless sinful angry crowd of people...God The Father did not grant His request. 

His Father would seemingly step back and witness such horrific and tortuous acts that were to be inflicted upon His Son. His Father also knew that amidst the obsidian cloaking darkness that would shadow those moments upon Calvary, unimaginable wickedness and unholy sinfulness would also be was placed upon His Son. He also knew that His Son would cry out from the cross in anguish and confusion that His Father would not come to His aid and rescue Him.

“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Matthew 27:46

Sometimes the silence of God can be misunderstood as the uncaring negligence of God to help us with whatever it is that we are in anguish about. However, the apparent silence of God may be because He alone knows that deliverance from a difficult circumstance is exactly what we do not need.

“God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Augustine

Some have reflected that God is not interested in our happiness but in our holiness. That is true. However, let’s take this truth to a deeper core truth: God is not interested in our happiness…He is wanting us to be His.

“I'm not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.” C. S. Lewis  

"You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." Psalm 16:11

Does God want to bless us, provide for us, and prosper us? Of course He does, and the Scriptures are full of His promises to substantiate just that. He also has a Sovereign plan for each of us, and sometimes that plan will lead us to unhappy times where it is His Joy alone that must flow through us, and not mere transient happy feelings that come from only happy temporary circumstances. If our happenings don't happen to happen like we hope they happen, how can we be happy anyway?

When There is no Miracle there can be Peace

We need strength during tough times. Weariness breaks us down. It is God’s deepest desire that we experience His strength as we yield in The Quiet Place to His Sovereignty and trust Him. It is only then, that His peace will flow to our  troubled heart, and His it is only then that His joy will give us strength to endure.

"Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Perhaps you are facing your own Gethsemane in your life right now. You know that to obey and trust God on a matter, will bring about consequences and perhaps suffering that is unavoidable. In that hushed moment when you are transparent and open before God, His love and His glory will flow through you, and His peace will sustain you under severe trial, for the pathway to the Throne of Grace is found in the hushed sanctum of The Quiet Place. 

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the Throne of Grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16

It is beside the still waters, in The Quiet Place, where The Good Shepherd waits to meet with you and restore the weariness of your soul.

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside Quiet waters. He restores my soul..." Psalm 23:1-3