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Trying to Figure God Out

Jam 1:2-5 ”My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. “

It is our human nature to want to know everything, to figure everything out, and to want to understand the whys of everything we go through. But with God we cannot, in this life, always know the whys.

What can we be sure of when we are going through some trial, hardship, or chastising?

I hear many, and myself included many times, say “I’m going through this because God is teaching me….” or “I’m going through this because God is chastising me for…” or “God is doing this work or that work in my life.”

The whats and the whys we can never fully understand. I remember one day when I was seeking God asking Him why certain things were happening in my life and if He would show me what He was doing through it - He spoke to my heart that it was enough that I trust, and it was not for me to know.

What we can be sure of are God’s goodness, His love, His mercy, His kindness, His compassion, and His purpose in our lives being fulfilled – that being to conform us to the image of His Son, and to complete the sanctification and salvation of our souls. We can ask God for His wisdom or understanding that we would have all that we need to walk in faith through our trial and testing, and we can be sure that He will give it to us.

The greatest act of faith is not to get out of a trial, but to walk through a trial without wavering in our faith in God’s goodness and love to us, trusting Him and drawing closer to Him through it. Only He alone knows what it is He is working in us. He alone knows the things in our flesh that need to be dealt with and how He will deal with it. We think we know, and sometimes we even set about working on them ourselves trying to give God a little help to conform us to His image.

I’m reminded of a story in the Bible where the disciples thought they knew what Jesus was trying to teach them, but they were so wrong!

Mat 16:5-12 ” And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

Our minds are often on what we are doing, what we think the Lord has given us to do, and what our business is. The Lord may have something entirely different that He is wanting us to understand or that He is working in our hearts. We need to wait on Him and trust that He will get through to us and quit trying to figure it out for ourselves. In doing so we will never be able to really come to understand! But if we let go of our own thoughts and opinions in the matter, and simply rest in God’s love for us through these times, waiting on Him in surrender of faith, asking for His wisdom, He will soon make all things clear. The disciples jumped ahead of Jesus and instead of listening to the lesson He was trying to teach them jumped to their own conclusions.

Ever wonder why it seems you go through the same lessons again and again? I do. It seems I find myself going through the same sorts of trials learning all over again what I thought the Lord was trying to teach me. Perhaps the Lord hasn’t gotten through the first time? Perhaps we were busy thinking we knew what He was doing and trying to bring about our own solution. Then finally, we are broken before the Lord, and realize that we don’t know. We just have to trust Him and lay ourselves in His hand as the clay in the hands of the faithful, loving Potter.

We can trust His promises always! We can be sure that He will never leave us or forsake us. We can be sure that He will never give up on us, and that He will complete that which He has begun in us. These are things we can be sure of and know. But what He is doing and how He will do His work in us, this is not for us to know, but our part is to trust, as a child takes the hand of her Father and trusts where He will lead her, not knowing where it will be.

Abba, Father, we put our hand in Yours today and trust that wherever You lead us, it will be by your perfect love and goodness that You do so. We know You will our highest good. Have Your way in our hearts and lives today, as we submit all into your hands. In the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior we pray. Amen, so be it according to Your will.

Knowing Your Adversary

1Pe 5:8-9 ”Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

We have a real, live adversary – the devil, who is always roaming about with schemes, and plans, seeking whom he may devour. We need to understand what those schemes are.

adversary--literally, "opponent in a court of justice" (Zec_3:1). "Satan" means opponent. "Devil," accuser or slanderer (Rev_12:10). "The enemy" (Mat_13:39). "A murderer from the beginning" (Joh_8:44). He counteracts the Gospel and its agents. "The tempter." (J, F, & B commentary)

Peter himself, knew all too well, what the consequences were of not watching. He learned! He was told by his Savior to watch and pray and yet he slept the night Jesus was in agony in the garden and about to be betrayed. He finally denied his Lord 3 times, because he was not ready for the trap satan had set for him.

Our adversary knows the weaknesses of our flesh. He knows the areas he can trip us up in. He knows how to push our buttons. We must be on our guard and we must live in the full armor of God daily as described in Ephesians 6:10-18, which is our position in Christ, knowing that we have been crucified with Him and risen with Him to be seated in the heavenlies. It is no longer “I” who live but Christ Who lives in me. If we are not watching for the schemes of the enemy and aware of them, we can so easily fall.

One of the schemes of the enemy has always been to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. He does this by taking truth and adding to it just a little lie. All he needs is just a little lie. One that takes away the power of the gospel and causes Christians to put their trust in something other than Christ Himself for their full salvation. We have the gospel plus psychology, the gospel of grace plus law, the gospel plus men’s wisdom and power, etc. It’s up to us to learn to recognize the pluses for what they are! They indeed sound wise and good! Are we not content to see that God has provided all that we need to live godly in Christ Jesus?

In the Corinthian church there were many factions. There were those who loved the wisdom of the Greeks…

Gray's Bible Commentary on I Corinthians. Some were "Paulinians," some "Apollonians," some "Cephasites," and some, perhaps the most contentious of all, "Christites." Paul was innocent of fomenting these discords (vv. 14-17), and so doubtless had been Apollos and Cephas, but the root of the matter lay in the false intellectualism of the Corinthians. They were Greeks for the most part, and the Greeks gloried in human philosophy and worldly wisdom, the application of whose principles to the teaching of Christianity had made all the trouble. 2. In meeting the situation, Paul shows in three ways that the Gospel is not human wisdom (1: 18-3 :4): (a) by the mystery of the cross, which is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved, the power of God." "The wisdom of the wise" had been unable to save men in the past, but the preaching of the cross had effectually accomplished it (vv. 18-25); (b) by the elements composing the Church, which were not for the most part the worldly-wise and great, but the opposite.

In Colossians also, we have Paul again addressing the problem of the world’s philosophies and wisdom rather than the pure gospel…

Col 2:2-9 ”That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

We have many modern day church movements that mix the gospel with the wisdom of man and the philosophies of our day. They appeal to our flesh strongly and if we are not rooted and grounded in God’s Word we cannot tell the difference. They make us feel good. But they do not accomplish what only the cross and the power of God’s Word can do.

The gospel has true power to set us free from every spiritual bondage. It has power to make us new creations in Christ Jesus. This is the last thing our adversary wants to happen. Perhaps you have found the salvation of Jesus Christ, but he will do everything he can to stunt your growth, and to even make you think you are growing by giving you other means to get your focus off the real power of the cross, but that make you feel like a "good Christian" or a good person because of your works. The real power of the cross is only through faith in all that Jesus has done and provided. That alone is your salvation and sanctification. Anything added to it is of the flesh and will count for nothing. In fact it will take away from true life in Christ and will keep you from ever finding His abundant life. It may make you feel good. It may make things work out good in your life in this world. But it will not give you the abundant life only Christ can give and will not bring the power of His cross and resurrection into your life.

Be on your guard! Know the gospel! Know the cross of Christ and it’s power. And know your adversary!

When the Enemy Comes In Like a Flood

Psalm 29:3-4; 10-11 ”The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever. The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”

Psa 93:2-4 ”Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.”

Psa 89:9 ”Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

The water was rising around me, I couldn’t find my way to dry land. It was getting higher and higher. I was being pulled under like a vacuum and felt as though there was a hand on my head pushing me under. I fought with all my might to reach the top to get my head above water for some air but couldn’t! Finally I realized I had to give up. There was no use. I was not able to fight, or hold my breath any longer. I was going to die. I took in a breath and felt the water rush into my lungs, and then… I woke up.

I was having a dream that was very symbolic of the way I was feeling at the time – like I was drowning in a flood that I had no control over, and could not get my head above water.

Ever feel like the enemy is coming in like a flood into every area of your life at once? Sometimes our minds are flooded with fear or doubts. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the circumstances we live with. Sometimes everything comes on you at once from within and without and there seems to be no escape. Sometimes he comes into your mind with a flood of thoughts you can’t control. You feel as though you are drowning in a flood of tidal waves sweeping over you that you have no control over.

Yet the Lord has control over the flood. The Lord reigns over the flood. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord raises up a standard against him.

From Miles Stanford’s Hungry Heart devotional: "God has put you in exactly the right crucible to burn up what He sees needs to be burnt up. Many think 'victory' means getting your circumstances put right. No! true triumph is within--when in the midst of your circumstances the Spirit of God can so energize you and strengthen you in spirit, that you can stand quiet in the thick of it all, and say, 'God is God,' and know that you are held by Him--which is infinitely better than all your trying to hold things steady." "Therefore, my brethren . . . stand fast in the Lord" (Philippians 4:1).”

God is God in the midst of the flood. He is King over the flood. No harm will come to you if you stand in Him, and know that He is in the flood with you. What are we to do when we’ve done all to stand? We are to stand therefore!

Eph 6:13-14 ”Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness”

You may feel as though you are drowning – you may feel as though you are being defeated – you may feel as though you are being sucked under, but you are not. Faith in Him alone is what will hold you. Faith in all He is and has done and provided for you, though you do not see it or feel it is what will hold you, and what will save you. The enemy wants you to believe that you are being defeated, that there is no hope, that you are drowning…taking your last breath, but God is there raising a standard against him. That standard is His cross! It is His truth! It is all He accomplished for you. Stand in it therefore!

Stand in His awesome love for you. Stand in it and don’t give it up no matter how much you feel that God does not love you - no matter how unloving you feel, or unworthy. Stand in Him and the power of His blood and His resurrection. Stand in His love not your unloveliness…

Rom 5:1-6 ”Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Rom 5:8 ”But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

One of the things the enemy does to devour us to get our eyes and focus on ourselves, our sin nature, our failure, and in doing so off from God and all that Jesus has provided for us. It is not by feeling but by faith alone that we receive all that He has done. It is a done deal! We only need to believe in Him and stand there (to rely on Him, cling to Him, adhere to Him and trust in Him for it).

We don’t wait until the flood is lifted to trust Him, but in the midst of the flood itself trust that He is there, reigning over it, working in our lives, accomplishing His purpose in us. Trust Him even in the flood. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will not give you up to the enemy. He will reign in your life and accomplish and bring to completion that which He has begun in you as you stand by faith.

One thing that I believe the Lord led me to do in the flood was to flood my mind with His Word. His Word is a standard - or standing place - against the enemy. It is a shield against every fiery dart he throws at you which cannot be penetrated. It is your only hope of standing and not drowning in the flood. He has given us His precious promises to live by, to stand on, and to cling to.

Abba Father, when the mighty flood waters of life rise around us, we put our trust in You and stand there in faith that You will never allow even the flood to drown us, but will rise up a standard and enable us to stand. We put our faith in all You are and all You have provided for us in the heavenlies. Thank You dear Lord!

He Makes Me Bold And Stouthearted

Psa 138:3 “In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” (KJV)

Psa 138:3 “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. (NIV)

There are those times when we need God to strengthen us with strength in our soul – those times when our hearts fail us for fear and we have not the emotional strength we need to face what we must face in this life. For some of us it may not even seem that great of a thing to face to others, but for us it is a mountain to climb, or a giant to conquer in our life. It may be a hidden fear that is irrational and has no real basis, yet to us it is very real. It may be grief over a loss that is unbearable. It may be a task we must face and do that seems beyond our strength and endurance. Whatever it is, God saw it beforehand and prepared the way. If there seems no way, there is – it is through drawing our strength from our union and fellowship with Him.

For some reason I just like that word, stouthearted. It makes me feel stronger just hearing it. I am not a strong person, emotionally, by nature. But I’ve learned to be stouthearted by drawing close to the Lord during those especially trying times - those times when it seemed impossible to ever get through. There have been times when the Lord just spoke into my heart, “Be strong!” and immediately I was. This week was an example of that. A small thing for most, but for me, going to a job interview is so nerve wracking that I can barely tolerate the panic attack and nervousness I go through. But as I was there taking a computer test and my mind was not working for me as I was too nervous to think, the Lord spoke strength into my heart and I was able to get through it. I’m sure most of us can think of those times as Christians when the Lord has done that for us and gotten us through a difficulty.

I like to look at definitions. They draw out a word’s full meaning for me. Stouthearted means to be brave, courageous, undaunted. Boldness means showing a readiness to take risks or face danger; daring; fearless. When the early church prayed for boldness the whole place was shaken!

Act 4:29-31 "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

God is able to make us courageous and undaunted in the face of trial, danger, unbearable burdens, and able to obey Him when it seems we do not have the strength or ability. He is able to give us the readiness to face whatever comes with fearlessness, daring to walk exactly as He would have us to and to do exactly what He commands, even though it causes us great discomfort. He’s able to make us face danger when we want to run the other way by strengthening us in our innermost being by His Spirit…by our union and fellowship with Him. We may feel like fainting when we think of what we must face in life when suddenly we are told of some disease we have to live with, or some disappointment or loss, or when the Lord has a task or calling for us we feel unequipped for. But if we draw close to our Savior, He is able to bear us up and give us that inner strength to not only endure, but to walk with a sense of purpose and inner joy in Him, though we still have sorrow and pain in this world.

That boldness, and stouthearted faith comes from confidence in God’s unfailing love alone. If we do not have that, then we fall apart under our circumstances, wondering what God is doing in our lives, or we are caught up in trying to figure out all the why’s of what is happening, and perhaps becoming bitter and disillusioned. I like Oswald Chambers’ statement in His devotional from “My Utmost for His Highest, from May 8, “Faith to Persevere”…

”Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life—throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.”

As we throw our entire confidence on God, and on His love demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ, and abandon ourselves to His purpose alone and that love alone, we find boldness and stoutheartedness and life in everything we face. We find a purpose beyond our own that gives us a strength to endure. We find that our own vision of life increases beyond what we have seen and takes on a new dimension. We are able to endure what we once thought impossible to endure.

It is His life in us – the very life of Jesus Christ Himself, indwelling us, that is that strength. He has overcome this World, the flesh, and the devil. He also, living within our very hearts – our innermost being – is the strength – the boldness – the stoutheartedness that we need to do the same. He told us…”but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b Allow “He who has overcome the world” to also overcome you – your fear, your insecurity, your instability…. whatever you face. He lives in you! He is able. Give your heart to Him trusting Him to make you bold and stouthearted.

Lord, we surrender our hearts to You today, confessing our weakness, fears, inabilities, and all our failures to do what You would give us to do. We ask that You make us bold and stouthearted that You may be glorified in us and show Yourself in us and through us today. In the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior we ask it…amen - may it be so according to Your purposes.