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Archive for the ‘Trusting God’ Category

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Each week I have the privilege of praying for scores of individuals from our large congregation who send in their prayer requests, so I’m very aware of the range of difficulties that they face regarding sickness, financial worries, bereavement, unemployment, business setbacks, broken relationships, and more.

Among the prayers that I bring to God on their behalf is that each person will experience peace and joy in the midst of their difficulties.

Peace? Joy? In the midst of difficulties?

Yes!

The apostle Paul—who had more than his share of trials and tribulations, including numerous attempts on his life by enemies—experienced peace and joy in the midst of good and bad times, and he reminds us that:

* Faith in Jesus Christ brings peace:

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” (Romans 5:1)

This is not peace in the sense of the absence of conflicts and difficulties in our lives, but God’s peace of mind and heart, of confident assurance in any and all situations. It’s a peace that fills our beings when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior and lord, for, in that moment, God forgives our sins and reconciles us to himself throughout this life and for all eternity.

* Faith in Jesus Christ brings joy, even in suffering:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.” (Romans 5:3, 4)

It’s a joy that Jesus bestows on believers who earnestly seek him, a joy that comes from a consistent relationship with him in which he fills them with his joy, for even as he said to his disciples, he says to all his believers today:

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 14:9-11)

So, as we face the difficult periods and circumstances that each of us will inevitably encounter in our lives, may we not fear—no matter how frightening or hopeless things might seem—but may we put our trust in the risen Christ and experience his peace and his joy as we “run with endurance the race that God has set before us…keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” (Hebrews 12:1b, 2)

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All Bible quotes are from the New Living Translation.

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One day, years ago, I was trying to teach my six-year-old daughter Nicole to swim, but she was reluctant to venture into the water. She was sitting by the edge of the pool and I was encouraging her to dive in and swim towards me as I stood three yards away from her. “No,” she said, “I’m afraid I might drown.”

“Honey, I’m here. I won’t let you drown,” I said.

“No, I’m afraid!”

“Trust me, honey, I love you and I’d never let you drown. Just dive in and swim to me. I won’t leave you.”

As I pleaded with her to trust me, I thought of how that scene reflected similar situations in which we fail to trust God when he calls us to leave our comfort zones and venture out with him.

Looking back at that incident in the pool, I am reminded of others who were afraid to respond to God’s call to action:

  • Moses—reluctant to leave behind the safety of his shepherd life in the backcountry of Midian to answer God’s call to go back to Egypt and confront the mighty pharoah with God’s command to free the Israelites (Exodus 3 & 4)
  • The ten scouts—who didn’t trust God to lead them into the promised land of Canaan, thus causing the Israelites to waste 40 years in the wilderness before finally being allowed to enter Canaan (Numbers 13 & 14)
  • Jonah—who ran away from God and the mission to preach to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1 & 2)
  • The rich young ruler—who was afraid and unwilling to give up the comfort of his wealthy lifestyle to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23)
  • Young John Mark—who abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13; 15:36-38)

Probably all of us have found ourselves in similar positions where we’ve been afraid to venture out of our comfort zones to answer God’s call to serve. A friend once confessed to me that he avoided having personal quiet times and Bible meditations because he was afraid that in one of those reflective moments he might hear God calling him to serve in some strange foreign country.

And a woman I know eventually divorced her husband after he gave up his lucrative and fast-paced career as a New York advertising executive to enter the ministry and pastor a small church. She was afraid and unwilling to leave her big city life and adapt to being the wife of a small town pastor.

Whatever the nature of God’s invitation to each of us to serve him, it undoubtedly creates some anxiety or fear in us, for it often means leaving our accustomed safe environments and habits, and venturing into the unfamiliar and unknown.

Even if we’re simply being called to talk to our neighbor across the fence about Jesus, volunteer on skidrow, visit kids in the juvenile detention center, or lead a small group, our initial reaction is usually to find an excuse to not do it.

But God never forces us to do it—whatever It might be in each of our lives—but like an earthly father teaching his young daughter or son to swim or ride a bike, he encourages us to trust him for our needs, our safety, and our future, and assures us of his love and his best interest for us.

And God assures us, as he did the Jewish exiles in Babylon, “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, New Living Translation)

King David marveled at the extent of God’s plan for our lives, for he realized that it meant God’s favor, love, strength, protection, and guidance even before our moment of conception in our mothers’ wombs and throughout the rest of our life’s journey. He wrote:

  • “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139: 16, NLT)
  • “You chart the path ahead of me and tell me when to stop and rest.” (Ps. 139: 2, NLT)
  • “If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell in the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” (Ps. 139: 9-10, NLT)
  • “The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” (Ps. 138: 8, NLT)

And the apostle John also understood the struggle between our love for God and our fears, for he reminded us:

  • “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect….Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and shows that his love has not been perfected in us.” (1 John 4: 16, 17a, 18, NLT)

But lest we think that this love is some kind of sentimental or emotional feeling, John also warned us in his Gospel that there is only one test of our love for God—obedience. He recounted some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he left them, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14: 15, NLT)

And knowing that the disciples—and we, his followers—would sometimes find obeying to be difficult, Jesus added, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (Jn. 14: 16-17)

Not only does the Holy Spirit lead us into all truth and empower us to cope with the task of spreading the truth of his Kingdom, Jesus also gives us a gift through the Holy Spirit: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (Jn. 14: 27, NLT)

This peace does not mean there is an absence of trouble or conflict. More importantly, it is a peace that comes from knowing that God provides us with all that we need for our highest good, a peace of confident assurance in any circumstance, one in which we fear nothing in the present or the future because we are eternally secure in God’s love and plan!

And in addition to this remarkable indwelling peace, Jesus guarantees us joy that overflows: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (Jn. 15: 9-11, NLT)

May this knowledge of what a wonderful and loving God we serve embolden us to leave the safety of our comfort zones and dive into whatever waters of service that God might be calling us to swim with him, for it is only as we dare to swim out into the unknown with God can we experience his amazing peace and overflowing joy that passes understanding.

So how did Nicole do? Yes, she took the plunge and learned to swim that day!

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