Tag Archives: faith

How do I know I can trust God?

Is trusting God easy? In my experience, it hasn’t been. I realize that every person is different. Some folks have found it easier to trust God. I will say it is easier to trust God the more I experience Him at work. I know that as I experience God more, I grow closer to this perspective penned by King David:

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;he will answer him from his holy heavenwith the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses,but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  – Psalm 20:6-7, ESV

David had seen God do the miraculous. David had seen God deliver him personally time and time again. David had witness God turn that which was intended for evil for the good. Based on when we first meet him in Scripture, David started with a strong belief and over time it became even stronger. Experiencing God at work changes us. It gives us the capacity to trust Him more.

However, it has to begin somewhere. For me, it began when I first trusted that He would save me as Scripture promises. That was a hard, hard thing for me to accept. I had drilled into my head for twenty years that if I were to succeed or fail, it was all up to me. That clashed with what Scripture presents: salvation wasn’t something I could do on my own. It wasn’t up to me. I was powerless.  This started a war in both my heart and my mind. Then, finally, I trusted. 

I can’t tell you to trust God and that be the end of it. I can ask you to trust God and point to experience after experience of other people who have trusted God and seen God deliver. They’ve seen God honor His promises. They’ve been part of God doing the “impossible.” Scripture is filled with such examples. So are our churches. I can askl you to trust God but then I have to leave the decision to you. That’s where it is: with you. Will you trust Him? 

One proviso: trust God in His promises. Scripture tells us when, where, and how we can trust God. Don’t trust God for something Scripture doesn’t state. For instance, don’t think, “I need a new sports car and I’m going to trust God for it.” That’s a want, not a need, and God didn’t make such a general, unqualified promise. However, if the situation lines up with the Bible, trust, trust, trust! Then watch as God works to expand your trust in Him by delivering over and over again.

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Relationship Over Wonders

When I hear some preachers, I only hear about what God is going to do for me. The interesting thing I find in Scriptures is that while there are a lot of promises where God is going to bless me, but I also find a lot of Scriptures about the fact that I am made for God’s glory. That second part, where we are created for God’s glory, seems to be forgotten by these preachers. I don’t know why they skip over this second truth. I won’t speculate. I just know it’s important. It is the chief end of man, after all.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. – John 2:23-25, ESV

During that first Passover after Jesus had begun His ministry, He performed many miracles. The Bible says that many believed because of those miracles. However, it then says that Jesus did not entrust Himself to these people. Why not?

Perhaps it’s because they only believed because of the miracles and they only followed out of of a desire for more miracles. The “believed” here is shallow belief, something superficial; we would describe this as head knowledge. In other words, there was no relationship. Jesus did not bring these folk into his trust. He could see why they followed. They didn’t follow Him for Him, but for what He could do for them.

God has always been clear that He desires a relationship with us, His creation. We see it from the opening stages of Genesis, when He walked in the Garden of Eden with the first man and woman. We see this in Revelation when we are restored to the New Jerusalem. These folks weren’t interested in a real relationship.

What about us? Are we looking to God for what He could do for us? Or are we looking to God for the relationship He desires to have with us? Are we waiting for wonders and miracles? Or are we waiting for Him? There is a distinct difference between the two. Which of these is most important to you

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Acting with Trust

“I will believe it when I see it,” is a phrase that echoes through our heads a lot, even if we don’t speak the words. We are used to people and organizations overcommitting and over-promising things that many of us have developed a skeptical, cynical side towards these sorts of claims.

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” – John 2:3-5, ESV

The passage John 2:1-11 contains the first miracle of Jesus, when He turned water into wine at the wedding feast. Like is the case with most miracles, it started with a problem: the wedding had run out of wine. Given that weddings in that time and age were community affairs and that running out of wine would have been an embarrassment for the bridegroom, Mary decided to act. What did she do? She found Jesus and she informed Him of the problem.

What I find interesting is the fact that she came to Jesus with this particular problem. Jesus didn’t have a vineyard, much less a stash of wine on tap. It isn’t like the family had a lot of money for Jesus to procure the wine necessary. Yet Mary approached Jesus and left the problem with Him.

What is even more interesting is Mary’s response after Jesus gave what would appear to be a negative answer. It isn’t, for He’s pointing out that there is a timetable for His ministry on Earth and that He is ultimately in control of that timetable, not anyone else. She might be His earthly mother, but He’s still the One who makes the call. Hence the reference of “woman” (a very polite form) and not “Mom” or “Momma” or any variant of mother. Despite that seeming rebuff, Mary ordered the servant to obey Jesus. She acted with complete trust that He would solve the problem. Her faith in Jesus was rewarded.

When it comes to our petitions before God, we cannot take an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude. We might not say that’s what we’re doing, but many times it is. This isn’t to say that we should automatically assume God is going to deliver whatever we ask. More on that tomorrow. However, if we’re following His lead and we know what we’re asking for is what He would ask for then we need to act in accordance with the belief that God is going to deliver. When we don’t, we are very much the double-minded man James described in his epistle.

God is trustworthy. God hears the prayers of His people. Put these two things together and we should come to the conclusion that if we are asking according to what God would ask, we can trust Him to bring it to pass. How much more fulfilling our prayer lives would be if we would act accordingly on this simple truth!

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Are you willing to give everything?

Even when we give up something for our faith, we typically expect something back. For instance, the man who sold everything for the plot of land and the merchant who did the same for a pearl both received a treasure for their efforts. In those two cases you could call it a return on investment. They were putting themselves out there, but the risk was known. It was low. They could see what they would get back.

This isn’t to knock the difficulty of giving up everything as they did. The reality is that even knowing the promises in Scripture, the “return on investment,” we still struggle with doing so. What if I told you that attitude-wise we should go farther? How can we go farther than everything? Let’s allow a poor widow to show us:

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:41-44, ESV

The widow gave everything with no visible reward or treasure in sight. Her expectation was that God would provide, but she couldn’t see it. She had no certainty it was there. Unlike the man and the merchant from the two parables, when she gave her money, that was it. She was broke. She didn’t have anything more. They had their money. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to get everything back, but they had something. Why would someone put themselves out like this?
The simple answer is love. Let me use an analogy. When I buy a present for my children, I’m not expecting a return on my investment. There’s no tangible treasure coming back my way. I buy the present because seeing their joy, their happiness, is what I’m after. That’s my motivation for buying the present. It has nothing to do with getting some prize or present back. That’s surely what drove the widow. She thought more highly of her God than she did herself. As a result, she brought Him what little she had.

What about us? Are we willing to give everything to Christ with no expectation of anything in return? It’s one thing to give everything when we know we’ve got something coming in return, especially when we know that what we’ve got coming is more valuable than what we are giving. It’s quite another to give without expectation of a reward. However, this is really the only way to give everything. Are you willing to have this kind of faith? Keep in mind that Jesus used money in His lessons because He understands that this is what drives most people and it’s an easy, tangible thing to work with. However, giving everything goes beyond that. It’s about our time, our skills, our focus, even who we are. Am I willing to turn over everything to Him simply because I love Him? Am I willing to give up everything for the lone reason that it brings Him joy? That’s the real standard.

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Let Our Faith Encourage Others

Post Home Run CelebrationOne of the things I learned competing in sports was that the excellent performance of one person could raise the spirit and performance of an entire team. You see this a lot in college and professional sports. Broadcasters talk about this phenomenon as “momentum.” If you’ve ever been a part of a team, likely you know what that’s like. The interesting thing is that even when you’re playing a relatively solitary sport like chess or golf, if you have teammates and they have success, they can boost your confidence and subsequently your ability, too.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, – Ephesians 1:15-16, ESV

The faith of those believers in Ephesus were encouraging to Paul. They caused Paul to pray constantly about them, giving thanks to God for them and remembering their needs in his prayers. The Ephesians gave Paul momentum in His calling. They gave him momentum in His own relationship with Jesus Christ. We aren’t told that they didn’t anything special. There was no megachurch building being built. There wasn’t some great commissioned artwork of the martyred apostles on display. There wasn’t a national youth rally with special music and worship. Rather, it was simply believers living out their faith and responding in love towards other believers. That’s all it took to inspire Paul and to give him the momentum he likely needed to face the trials before him.

You can have the same effect on believers around you. A lot of churches have such structured services now that we don’t spend any time with respect to folks giving testimonies. Or if we do, it’s about big things. The big things are inspiring and we should praise God for them and we should take time to hear them. However, God so often works in the little things. We have coincidences that aren’t any such thing. We have cases where we trusted God and went against the world and were blessed in the end. Folks focus a lot on worldly measures like better pay, a better job, a new house, or a more important position. Sometimes God responds that way. But more often God responds in ways that are immeasurable by the world’s standards. For instance, when we walk away from a bad situation and have no idea what we’re going to do next but we have an incredible peace about it. That’s a blessing. Or situations like when God takes our tragedies and gives us the ability to minister to someone who is just beginning theirs. That’s a blessing, too.

Those kind of everyday stories are likely what was so inspiring to Paul. If we are honest with ourselves, they are inspiring to us, too. After all, that’s why books that talk about these little miracles have sold so well. When we live out our faith and then share it, we encourage other believers around us. We build momentum in their lives and ours, in their churches and ours, and in the Church as a whole. Live your faith and let it be an encouragement to others. Ask other believers about when God has answered their prayers and responded to their faith. Let those testimonies be an encouragement to you. Let us encourage one another so that we may live our lives as a thanksgiving offering to God our Father through His Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17).

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There Is a Master Plan

A valid plan provides a sense of comfort and trust. If you are a leader, the ability to truthfully say to others, “I know what’s going on. We’re still following the plan,” helps others believe in you. If you can go a step further and point out how the plan is working, then the trust grows even more. On the other hand, while there may be some excitement and an adrenaline rush from “figuring it out as we go along,” it’s more stressful and little things can cause a breakdown much sooner than if there’s a reasonable plan.

God understands this about us. We have to be flexible enough to handle changes in expectations. However, those changes are easier to handle when we know that we’re still following “the plan.” When I speak of plan here, I mean the plan that fits with God’s sovereign will. Knowing God has a plan, that He’s totally in control of that plan, and that we are a part of that plan can give us a sense of purpose, an understanding that our lives have meaning, and a realization that we exist for more than our short time here on this planet.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:7-10, ESV

Everything I described with respect to a valid plan is true of God. Paul reminds us that there is a plan for the “fullness of time” that will unite all things in Christ Jesus. We have evidence that the plan is working because we have been redeemed, we have been forgiven, and we have had His grace lavished upon us. Also, we can remember that the Holy Spirit provides us insight and wisdom to glimpse a bit at this overall master plan from time-to-time.

In the craziness of the day-to-day it is easy to lose sight that God’s sovereign will has prevailed, is prevailing, and will continue to prevail. When tragedy or loss hits us, it’s natural to lose sight of the fact that everything is still ultimately under His control. The plan isn’t broken, just our vision. When that happens, we can regain our confidence because we are warned that these types of craziness and the events that cause us such pain are to be expected. God has taken them into account and He will succeed in the face of them. Scripture tells us this and reinforces that God does deliver with the examples of those whose lives are recorded therein putting their faith into action.

Be encouraged, for there is a master plan. For those who have believed, we are redeemed and forgiven. We can obtain glimpses of the master plan to reassure us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can receive and acknowledge His love and grace. Finally, we can take comfort because we know how the master plan will conclude. He has revealed that to us in the Scriptures. Look past the craziness, the unfairness of the world, and whatever personal pains you are currently suffering through. Look past to gaze upon God and His plan that will come to pass in the fullness of time. He will not fail.

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Follow God’s Urging

Jan's Land 30-5-2011After your heart has been broken encountering roadblocks in trying to respond to God’s call, it can be very difficult to get started once again. However, if God is urging you to push forward, to get going again, you must. Even if the circumstances look like they haven’t changed, God is at work.

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it. – Ezra 5:3-5, ESV

In the first couple of verses of Ezra 5, we’re told that God reached out through his prophets and leaders to get the people started in the rebuilding of the Temple. So far as they were aware, there had been no change in the edict from Artaxerxes. In fact, there hadn’t been. Yes, there was a new king, Darius, but they had no indication that he favored their restarting the work. Yet they got started because God directed them. Then it happened again.

The adversaries arose including the head of the province, Tattenai. Those adversaries demanded to know who gave the Israelites permission to restart the work. Of course, the answer was no one did that Tattenai and his crew would accept, for it was God. What the adversaries did next was not surprising: they collected names. The folks who were working on the Temple were going to be reported.

At this point, a lot of people would have decided it was time to get scarce. They would be afraid of the might of the government and they would try to flee and escape whatever punishment the government wanted to mete out. In this case, we’re told that the elders, and therefore the people under them, did not stop work and would not stop work until they got the response back from Darius. So not only did they restart after such heart break, but they continued the work under duress.

God would not disappoint. He would move Darius to order the work be completed and further that the adversaries in question help but not hinder. The adversaries were told to stay away but provide whatever the Israelites needed with respect to money, supplies, and offerings. He would actually use the prompting of the accusers against them. God would see His Temple rebuilt. That’s why, if God is directing us in a direction, we should go. Nothing might have changed to that point, but going forward God will ensure the right changes happen. This can be especially hard after heartbreak, to get started again, but God delivers on His promises. If He is prompting us to restart, He will provide the means to complete that which He has called us to do. The history recorded in Ezra is just one example. There are a multitude of examples in Scripture. It all boils down to us trusting Him to deliver. He will.

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