Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2. Feeling hopeless/helpless~

Maybe you are feeling hopeless and helpless because you aren’t seeing results YET…Dayton Vineyard pastor Doug Roe says, God is never late, but he is seldom early. He is always right on time! The first step should be to pray for discernment, “We should make plans—counting on God to direct us.” Proverbs 16:9 How many times have you rushed into something, to realize it was the wrong decision: the interest rate was 32% …he had put on his “game face” while you were first dating…? How many times have you been stuck and frustrated—and then God moves: the house you wanted sold, but now you found a more suitable house…? As Dayton Vineyard pastors are fond of saying: God’s will is often clearer in the rearview mirror. The human downfall is that we are anxious and don’t want to trust His omnipotent power.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous examples of God’s answer being, “No, trust me. It is for your own good.” We don’t tell our children no just to exercise our authority and neither does God. The commandments are there for our best interest. He is trying to protect us from the “wages of sin.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16 summarizes, “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” Maybe the “No” is a result of your sin. Moses and his siblings were not permitted to enter the Promised Land as a result of their disobedience and self-reliance.

On the other hand, possibly the “no” is prohibitive. Have you stopped long enough to consider that the “No” is possibly a road block to a destructive path? Sometimes God’s no is a way of keeping our attitude in check. Paul seems to have uncovered the purpose of God’s “No” in his life when he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” The no makes us humble and realize how weak we truly are. Furthermore, James 4:3 explains, “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” My dear friend calls those “Ouch, Hallelujah!” moments. The divine truth hurts sometimes, but we are better for it!

Sometimes God’s answer is “Yes, but wait.” The story of Abraham and Sarah’s long wait for a child illustrates the importance of God’s timing. Our impatience and intervention often leads to our demise. In Genesis 15, God promises the barren Abraham and Sarah children too numerous to count. In Genesis 18:14, “GOD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, 'Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?' Is anything too hard for GOD? I'll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby." Not trusting in God’s timetable, Sarah impatiently convinces him to copulate with her maid. Not until Genesis 21 when Abraham is 88, does God fulfill the promise of a child (Ishmael) through the maid. Later, Sarah’s child, Isaac, is born when Abraham nears 100 years old. Not only does Ishmael cause conflict between Sarah, Abraham, and the maid; but many will ague that the children of Abraham are in conflict today—both physically through the Jews (Isaac) and Palestinians (Ishmael), and spiritually between the Jews/Christians and Muslims. When we don’t allow God’s will prevail, we multiply our heartaches. Unfortunately, this can impact our families for years to come. As a result of our interfering in God’s plan, we may have to wait even longer for our blessing.

Once again, Paul’s life is an illustration of faith and perseverance through hardships. Acts 27-28 tells the story of Paul’s enduring a storm, shipwreck, snake bite, and natives idolizing him as a god. I’m sure Paul wasn’t overjoyed by God’s detours, but he held fast to his belief that none would perish and that God would provide. As a result, the natives on the island where they shipwrecked heard the gospel and many were healed! God divinely orchestrated the shipwreck so that more people could have life-changing relationship with Him. Joseph being betrayed by his brothers, enslaved, and wrongly imprisoned led to his saving thousands of lives, including those who betrayed him. God’s unorthodox plans for us are bigger that we could ever imagine.

Put your faith in God, whose vantage point is higher than ours. Have you ever worked a 1000 piece puzzle? We stare at and fixate on that one piece. Sometimes it isn’t until we set the piece down and take a look at the whole, that we unlock the clues. How many times in life do we get stuck on that one piece, not willing to set it aside so that we can move on to the next piece? We become obsessed with the one piece…where could it possibly go…why can’t I figure this out?!? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I forget what happened yesterday, and I keep my eyes on what is ahead. I press on to win the prize that God is keeping for me - and that is to share in an everlasting life overflowing with love and happiness with Jesus.” We simply don’t see the big picture—but God does. Indeed, “And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.” Romans 8:28 Does Paul say, “Some things?…most things?” NO, all things! God wants you to approach difficulties with confidence in Him. “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the Lord, am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 Our faith can be a journey, the simple act of moving forward like the man in Mark 9:24 who sought healing for his child “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Be authentic with God, tell him what you need and like the father in the story—he will heal you.

I have found that keeping verses in my pockets, on my mirror, or computer desktop serves as a visual reminder to “keep my eyes on the prize.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is taped to my desk at work—my goal is to plant the words in my heart, “…do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Furthermore, Christ emphasizes, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 In the midst of the storm all we can see is the wind, lightening, and rain. But God, knows that there is a beautiful day, and sometimes a rainbow, on the other side of the storm cell.

In Christ, we are neither helpless nor hopeless: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 Claim it—not most…not a few—all things are possible. Later in verse 19 Paul states, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Please note that it doesn’t say that God will supply my wants—but my needs. In my life there have been so many times that an unexpected check has come in the mail when there is a past due notice is sitting on the kitchen table, or there is just enough change in the house to buy a pack of diapers….and so on. Let’s face it sometimes the check doesn’t come in the mail, there is a lesson to be learned in those times too. When trouble comes and Christ warns us it will come, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33; we must keep our eyes on the ultimate goal in order to not be distracted by life’s trials. Again, love God first and the rest will work out for itself. Like Paul, we just have to have patience and faith.

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