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Posts Tagged ‘Trusting God’

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I recently watched with fascination as Nik Wallenda walked across a high wire 1,500 feet above the Grand Canyon floor without a safety harness. And as he inched his way across the empty span of nearly five football fields, he constantly thanked and praised Jesus.

Nik, a Christian, is a seventh generation member of the Wallenda family of high-wire performers, and began walking the wire at age four.

But could you or I accomplish such a feat? After all, have we not believed or quoted Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? (King James Version, KJV)

When the Apostle Paul penned those words to the Philippians, did he mean that Jesus Christ would grant us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we imagine?

Could we use that verse to affirm our way to earthly riches, as proponents of the “prosperity” gospel try to do?

Many believers quote Philippians 4:13 and try to apply it to their lives without fully understanding the context in which the Apostle Paul wrote it.

He was imprisoned in Rome and was writing to Christians at the church in Philippi to encourage them to be joyful and contented in every circumstance because of their faith in Jesus Christ, even when things went badly for them. He also wrote to thank them for their financial gift to him in prison, and added:

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Phil.4: 11-14, New Living Translation, NLT)

The “everything” or “all things” refers specifically to Paul’s ability to be contented and joyful in all circumstances that life threw at him. Because he relied on Christ to strengthen him and supply his needs, he could be thankful and joyful:

• Whether in times of plenty or times of great need, in feast or famine
• Whether preaching the Good News in prison or on the outside (Phil. 1: 3-7; 12-14)
• Whether living and suffering for Christ or dying for him (Phil. 1: 20-24; 27-30)

His was a joyful acceptance of Christ’s will and provision for him in every aspect of life.

And that should be our attitude in our journey with Christ—finding in his will equal contentment and joy whether in wealth or poverty, sickness or health, fame or obscurity, failure or success, marriage or singleness.

Can we do all things? Only those things that are within Christ’s will and plan for us, in which case he will give us the strength and resources to do them. He does not give us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we want if they do not serve his purpose or are not in his best interest for us.

The Apostle James warns about self-confidence and rushing ahead with our own plans and desires without regard for God’s will:

“Look here, you people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT)

Solomon expressed this succinctly when he wrote in Proverbs 17:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (NLT)

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 8.01.04 PMOn Sunday, June 23, 2013 I saw Philippians 4:13 and Proverbs 17:9 lived out over the Grand Canyon as Nik’s years of training and planning proved successful when the Lord guided his steps safely across that high-wire.

Nik became the first human to tightrope across the Grand Canyon, and a worldwide television audience of millions saw and heard him thank and praise Jesus Christ.

Can I accomplish that same feat? As of now, no, because so far it doesn’t seem to be in God’s plan, training, or mission for me. And I am certainly okay with that.

 

 

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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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