04 October, 2012

Reasons Why

Last week, I addressed the issue of trials in the Christian life. God's sovereignty does not imply that every moment of our lives is a direct result of His divine plan. Religious ignorance and/or misunderstanding has led too many believers to unintentionally 'blame" God for tragedies. While it is true that our Father "allows" moments of temptation or trial, He is not their Author. The Word makes it abundantly clear that Jesus came in order to rescue us from all the devices of Satan. He did not wrest authority and the power of sin and death from Satan in order to sit upon the Throne and use that power against His own people. He is never out to harm us, but rather to redeem us from all harm. We find evidence for this throughout both Old and New Testaments:

 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 
No evil shall befall you, 
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling
~Psalm 91:5-10

No grave trouble will overtake the righteous,
But the wicked shall be filled with evil.
~Proverbs 12:21

Whoever observes the [king’s] command will experience no harm...
~Ecclesiastes 8:5a, Amplified

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.
~Isaiah 54:17

Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.
~Luke 10:19, Amplified

[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) 
the works the devil [has done].
~1John 3:8, Amplified  

With this much Biblical evidence telling us that it is God's will for us to be free from harm, why is it that we still go through so much turmoil in our lives? Obviously, it cannot be a result of anything that the Lord has concocted, or else the totality of Scripture would be rendered a lie. Clearly there are other factors involved. Why are Christian people suffering with poverty, sickness, depression, addictions and whatever else the enemy can contrive? There are many factors, none of them being God, Himself. Though, as we saw last week, He may allow a trial for a short season, He does not allow more than we can handle. And nothing should by any means harm any of us. So, what is causing Christians hard times?

1) Life. We shouldn't be surprised at tests and trials in our life, because of the brokenness of the world around us. Jesus told us we would experience these times in this life, but He never sad we should be suffering as a result of them. He said, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]" John 16:33, Amplified.

Here we see that promise of no harm once again. Harm is not a part of the plans and purposes of God for His people. That runs completely contrary to religious teaching, but that is what the Bible clearly tells us. Jesus is not out to harm us, but "life" is. Due to the fallen nature of this world and its mode of operation, we can expect to encounter times of difficulty. That is why it is essential that we stay "in Christ." The promises listen above in Psalm 91 are all a result of remaining in the shadow of the presence of God at all times. 

Jesus has deprived these seasons of the power to harm us. If we are suffering harm, something is wrong.  

2.) The Word. Being a disciple of the Lord Jesus puts one in direct opposition to this world and its system. Jesus told us that the world would hate us as a result of following Him. we can expect trials and persecution for being the people of God. Obviously, God is not going to persecute His own people, so we know that this form of human trial or tribulation is not from Him, either. 

However, Jesus not only informs us that this form of persecution is possible, He prays over each and everyone of us, that we would be more than able to overcome (and even be rescued from) these trials: "I have given and delivered to them Your word (message) and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world [do not belong to the world], just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You will take them out of the world, but that You will keep and protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world (worldly, belonging to the world), [just] as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16, Amplified). Again we see Jesus praying that we be kept from harm. 

But that protection is only possible when we stay in position to walk in it. Which leads us to...

3.) Our Choices. Our actions have consequences. As has been stated, the sovereignty of God does not mean that He can force us to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. Not every moment of our lives is a moment designed by God. He is not the Universal "Puppet Master" stringing our lives along against our wills. He will not violate our free will. If God had the ability to make us do whatever He wanted, the entire human race would already be redeemed and in Heaven by now (1Timothy 2:24). It is our actions and our choices that can result in our inability to walk in the full redemption and protection that is ours by right as children of God. Proverbs 26:2 says, "As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come." (KJV). This means that no curse is a result of coincidence or accident. Jesus came to redeem us from the curse (Galatians 3:14), so the cause cannot be Him. The cause must lie on our end.

This is not meant to be a moment of fear or condemnation. It is simply meant to cause us to take a moment and evaluate ourselves. What is opening a door from Satan in each of our lives? 

Scripture tells us that fear is a major contributing factor. The story of Job shows us that. Unlike most religious teaching, it was Job's fear that opened a hole in barrier of protection that God had placed around him (Job 3:25). Fear is the opposite of faith; and James 1:8 tells us that when we operate in fear and doubt, we are no longer able to receive anything from the Lord -  including protection from harm. 

Relying on ourselves and our own devices can be detrimental to us. Proverbs 14:12 says that there are ways that seem right to us, but that they result in death. Simply relying on ourselves can kill us. Our healthcare, financial strategies, education, etc., are all well and good, if accompanied by Godly wisdom. The Scripture tells us that God's ways cannot be discerned and understood by our own human understanding (1Corinthians 2:14-16). God has given us His Word to tell us how to live - and there is a good chance some of it will come across as insane (Abraham, anyone?).

Offense is deadly. 1John 2:10 says that when we walk in unconditional love - the love that has already been placed in us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29) - then there is no cause for us to stumble. However, when we walk in offense, always holding grudges, being easily hurt and upset by people, we walk straight into Satan's playground. He has been doing a job on the Church for centuries. We gripe and fight all the time. Most people will tell you that Church people are the worst people they have ever known. Our desire to live Godly has caused us to be easily affronted by people who do not "fit the mold." 

We are too easily offended, and it is playing right into the enemies hands, because...

4.) Satan's still shooting! This fight is not over. Though victory is already ours, our adversary will never quit. And he fights dirty. He is the author of sickness, disease, poverty, depression, division, and every other human tragedy imaginable. And he is not on God's payroll...

We are taught to fight the fight of faith (1Timothy 6:12) using the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Settle this in your mind now: Satan will never stop shooting at you. Hard times are not God trying to teach a lesson. He has His Word to do that. If all these trials and tribulations were from God, why would He teach us to fight Him? He is not the Author of the trials in our life; He is the provider of the weaponry necessary to conquer the trials in our life. His Word is our weapon (Hebrews 4:12). We are to stand (daily), declaring and believing His Word, and then we will be safe. 

James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil and he will flee. When? Whenever he gets tired. We must learn to outlast the enemy with our confessions of faith. That is how we overcome. We must never quit using the Word and our faith in resisting the trials and tribulations in our lives. We should never accept anything but what the Bible promises us. The Scripture never promises us that God will harm us. It never tells us that He is manipulating our circumstances to be difficult in order to teach us a lesson. These are lies. 


Understand, this is not an exhaustive, end-all list of causes for tough times (I didn't address many aspects of sin, or the stupidity of other people). However, it is solid starting point for us to begin changing the way we think about all of the tests and trials of the Christian life. We need to adjust our way of thinking about hard times. God isn't behind our sufferings. The Scripture tells us to "test the spirits," to see if what we hear is from God. I have heard too many testimonies from people about God that do not line-up with His Word. Scripture tells us that trials may come as a result of our love for Jesus. Trials come, because we are moving forward in our life with God and Satan is out to stop us. People are jerks sometimes. Trials come to refine our faith - meaning we should use it to overcome, not simply lay down and say "God is good." Fight back. And win.

P.S. Happy birthday, mom! :-D

Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.
 ~Romans 8:37

02 October, 2012

Chill out. Trust God

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" ~Matthew 6:25

If you are anything like me, you have had the issue. You mind wanders around with all the stuff you want to do, or need to do, or can't do, etc. When you are doing one thing you are thinking about another. You switch to the other, but you then cannot stop thinking about what you were doing. You struggle to fall asleep at night, as you mind constantly wanders to everything you have on your plate. Budgets, grocery lists, work commitments, church functions, homework, your kid's homework, your pets, your cars, your relatives (oi vey...) - the list can be endless sometimes.  Though we are told to be good stewards of all that we have in our life, we are also explicitly instructed by God Himself not to worry about these things.

I am not saying that we should not be concerned with the comings and goings of daily life. I am not suggesting that we wander aimlessly around, assuming God will pick up the slack for our laziness. What I am saying is this: take no thought. You have not been equipped by your Maker to take on the burden of your provision. You are not designed to be the provider of your household. It is not laid upon you to "take care of yourself." That title belongs to God. That is His "job description." And He is exceptionally good at what He does. Therefore, if you are not in a place where you are capable of addressing a situation, just shut your brain off. At bed time, go to sleep. You cannot tackle any of life's situations while lying in bed, so don't try. Sleep. What did Jesus say? "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (verse 27). You can't. So stop! 

The money may be tight. So what? Jesus promises provision (and not crappy, holes in the roof, stale bread, provision like religion teaches. He promises excellent provision, the likes of which you can't even dream up). You may in a hospital bed with a bad report. So what? God is The Healer (and not just sometimes, depending on the mood He is in, or the "plan" that He has. As Healer, He heals - always). You may be stressed. Stop! He promised you He would supply everything you need, and that He would always fight on your behalf. What is there to be stressed about when God controls the situation? 

This is not a holy suggestion, or a nice idea found in an ancient, religious text. This is a command from the mouth of the One Whom we all call Lord, Master and King. His Word is law. Every statement of faith in every church in America says that the bible is the final authority for the life of a believer. Therefore as a disciple of the Lord Jesus, you do not have the right to worry. It is not an option for any of us; because worry removes things from God's Hands and places them back in ours. Our limited abilities hinder us from the best that God has in store for us. We are instructed (nay, commanded) to remove the burden of worry from our lives, so that our God is free to handle them the right way. He may do it all on His own, and He may have a role for you in the situation. That is why it is so vitally important to not only pray, but be quiet afterwards in order to hear Him layout the plan. Our lives would be a lot more peaceful and productive if we stopped assuming that, since we are "believers," everything we do or go through is God's plan for our lives.

The casting off of the worries and anxieties of life is what the Bible calls humility. Being humble before God is done by exalting the former sinful nature or current failures we have in our lives, but it is rather done by truly casting the cares of life into the loving Hands of our God. It is done by acknowledging that He is smarter than us and that He will handle our situations better than we could. Humility is found in believing God's promises that He will provide/heal/remedy, our situations - then resting in that peace. If you do not currently have peace about the situations in your life, there is a very good chance that you do not trust God concerning them. That's the first adjustment that needs to be made, because without faith in God you cannot get anywhere. 

I think that it should be a requirement that Hebrews 11:1, where we learn about the Biblical definition of faith, should only be read using the Amplified translation of the Bible. It says that faith, "is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]." Faith and trust in God requires us to rest in the knowledge that our circumstances are taken care of without evidence to the prove that fact. If my wife promises me that she will handle something, I believe her - even if I never actually see her do it. She may handle phone calls, lists, budgets, etc., when I am not around to see her do it. However, I trust her when she says, "I took care of that." Jesus is saying the same thing to us today: "Don't worry. I will take care of that. I got that covered. I already provided." 

I am not saying this is easy. However, it is doable. We have been given the power and might to do what I am saying. This is not something we "try" to accomplish under our own strength. This is a command from God, and He has already provided us His Spirit to assist us in doing it. Stop worrying about your life. Because worry contaminates your faith.

When we worry, our actions are saying, "Lord, I don't believe You." Ouch. We cannot do that anymore...

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
~Matthew 6:33-34

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things."
~Luke 12:22-30 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
~Philippians 4:6

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
~1Peter 5:6-7