The Illusion of No Progress

beautiful-roots

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

-Habakkuk 3:17-18

For many of us, there’s a situation in your life that shows no signs of progress, no signs of life, no signs of fruit on the tree. No indication of anything good resulting from your prayers, your obedience, your investment, your effort, your faith.

It’s easy to wonder if your prayers are working, if your obedience is worth it, if your faith is enough.

Why, God, is nothing happening though I’ve been sowing seed and watering for so long now?

These kinds of seasons will enter our lives to prompt our waiting… and require our trust.

To prepare us for what’s next.

Still, it’s easy to look at what’s not happening and assume nothing is working.

These less than favorable seasons in our lives can drag on and on, as days turn to months and months turn to years.

It’s hard enough to navigate this uncomfortable terrain, much more difficult to adapt to the monotony of the made-permanent conditions of a waiting zone. The illusion of no progress is a constant reminder. And disappointment a nagging temptation.

When God has you in a waiting zone where He is working out things you cannot see, it’s easy to assume no progress is being made.

That nothing has changed.

That God has abandoned you.

That you are getting nowhere.

But maybe there’s more progress taking place than we realize.

What if there is unseen progress underlying the barren tree? Underlying roots growing deep into the foundation of God’s promise about to bloom?

We have to look into the illusion of no progress with eyes of faith and a heart of confidence in God’s handiwork, believing that God is creating something beautiful about to bloom.

It just takes time.

But it will happen.

We must remind ourselves of what God promised, even when what we see doesn’t match up.

Abraham was a man familiar with the illusion of no progress.

Abraham was in the waiting zone every day of his life after the Word of the Lord came to Him promising him a son and descendants as numerous as the stars.

“And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 15:5

God promised Abraham a son.

Yet nothing happened, immediately.

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” he says to God in Genesis 17:17.

No son.

An illusion of no progress.

Them God came to Abraham again in Genesis 18:10 declaring the same promise, “The Lord said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him.”

More waiting.

Still no son.

An illusion of no progress.

Altogether Abraham and Sarah would wait 25 years until this promise would become a reality.

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”

Genesis 21:1-2

Illusion of no progress shattered.

His son was born.

God fulfilled what He had promised.

Paul writes of Abraham in Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abraham is praised for his faith.

Even though he and Sarah doubted they could have a son.

This is quite interesting.

Abraham and Sarah doubted they could have a son and took matters into their own hands to have a son. Hagar, the maidservant, became their hope for having a son instead of God.

“Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”

-Genesis 16:2

What’s remarkable about this is that Sarah and Abraham tried to have a son through Hagar before God ever promised them a son through Sarah. Yes, God promised Abraham in Genesis 15 the that he would have an heir. But in this culture, the man having children through a maidservant or other wife was normal. Sarah wasn’t trying to disobey God as much as she was just trying to be logical and operate out of her cultural framework. And when a lady of her age could not have children to give her husband an heir, going to her maidservant for an heir woukd have been the standard next step. So Sarah took a good look at reality and said, well if I can’t have a son I’ll just have one through Hagar.

Sarah had given up.

She didn’t even have the comprehension to know that God would be kind enough to give her a son.

Sarah was just at her wits end and trying to do the best she could with the life and body she had. So she gave up and gave in to the only option she thought she had left: having a son through Hagar.

But God wanted more for Sarah.

Sarah never even knew that this would be possible.

Wow this is so powerful seeing this in the scriptures. I am overwhelmed thinking about how even after Sarah gave up that God cared enough about her to step in and give back to her what she had just given up.

God saw that Sarah gave up.

And THAT was the very point in time that God stepped in and gave her a promise of a blessing of a son who they would call Isaac (Genesis 17:19).

God is so gracious to fulfill what He promises even when we doubt. Even when we don’t see a way. Even when we give up.

Maybe God’s waiting on you to give up so He can step in and give what only He can give.

Maybe you need to humble yourself and recognize your inability to produce the progress you desire. And let God step in and produce the progress for you.

Many of us need to give up and let God intervene so He can provide His promise.

Others of us may have already received a promise from God and need to keep trusting in the waiting zone while He brings you into the Promised Land. 

The Israelites had already received their promise from God.

They were on their way to the Promised Land.

Unlike Sarah who gave up before she received her promise from God, the Israelites wanted to give up after they received their promise from God.

How ironic.

“The Israelites said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” in Exodus 14:11.

Again in Numbers 20:5: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

And again in Numbers 21:5: “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

This is shocking.

Then again, maybe not so shocking.

Have you ever let the uncertainty of your circumstances and a paralyzing illusion of no progress deplete your appreciation for the promise God gave you?

Are you getting frustrated with the waiting?

I’m not getting anywhere so why keep going? kinds of thoughts can plague our minds like poison.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been so frustrated and disappointed in the waiting that I almost forget the hope of the promise God gave me. And that’s just what the enemy wants. For you to get so discouraged by the preparation journey that you want to give up on it altogether.

If only we knew how close we were!

“The enemy always sends a terrorist alert right when we get close to what God has promised us,” says Steven Furtick.

The enemy’s goal is to destroy you. And if he can’t, he’ll do everything he can to make you feel like God is torturing you instead of taking you to the Promised Land. Then you will want to give up.

The Israelites didn’t realize how close they were!

They were on the outskirts of the Promised Land!

Right on the very edge of it!

Yet discouraged…

…because they were presently in a waiting zone…

…looking straight into an illusion of no progress…

So they wanted to turn back.

And it made them wander around in the wilderness for 40 years.

The enemy wants us to wander around in the wilderness like the Israelites and miss out on God’s promise. We can’t let that happen.

It’s crucial we hold onto the promise and yield to the Lord in the uncomfortableness of the journey.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

I have to believe that God cares about me and that this difficult path is an inevitable step of my journey towards where He is taking me ultimately.

I know don’t want to wander around in the wilderness for even one second longer than God planned for me to.

God knows what He’s doing.

His direction is purposeful.

His leading, although confusing to me, is perfect to Him.

It takes us giving up our rationality to trust in His command and do what He says without telling God, “but what if…”.

We can’t give up on where God is taking us out of discouragement for being in a drought that precedes the Promised Land.

A drought always precedes the Promised Land.

Because God is calling you out of what is mediocre into what is a surplus.

Thus, there will be a contrast of environments.

It’s natural for there to be hardships, struggles, testing, trials and drought right before you come into the Promised Land because God is preparing you to be able to handle the blessing He wants to give you.

God will not give you a blessing that you would take for granted and not appreciate.

Thus, He lets you go through the lows of the drought so you will appreciate the highs of the Promised Land.

God lets you endure the pain of the human experience so that you will give glory to Him as you enter into the blessings of a divine inheritance.

It’s in this process that God becomes great and we become not the focus anymore.

He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:30

While we are in the illusion of no progress, we know that there is indeed progress. There is.

There are roots growing deep into the foundation of the promise God is growing in your life.

We may not see any progress yet but if we were to glimpse all the progress that is being made in unseen places we would be astounded at all God is doing!

Praise be to God who is creating beautiful things in our lives and restoring hearts. Praise be to the God who is constantly working for our good. There is always progress taking place in our lives, even in the unseen places.

I pray you would cling to His promises. I pray you would let Him redeem the broken places in your life that have given up hope. God sees you and He’s on the way to give you a promise. Seek Him. Though the journey may be weary, His spirit will strengthen you as God leads you into what He’s promised. Hallelujah. Thank you Jesus for never giving up on us.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Questions for Today:

  • What situation in your life seems to show no progress?
  • Am I in the position of Sarah, who needs to give up so God can give me His promise? Or am I in the position of the Israelites who have already received a promise from God and need to keep yielding to God in the waiting of the journey?
  • What is my response in what I see as an illusion of no progress?
  • How can I be thankful for God preparing me even in the waiting?
  • How can I remind myself daily that God always fulfills His promises?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Love of God,” by NCU Worship LIVE

Why Love God?

One-True-Love

Why love God?

Why want Him?

Is He really worth our devotion? Worth our very lives?

In effort to love God, I find that I fail every day. So why even keep trying to love Him?

Should I give up and stop trying? Surely not.

Should I abandon Him? Surely not.

For quite some time, I’ve been in a very difficult place in my emotions, well-being and trust in the Lord. I finally feel a release in my spirit. But it’s taken me a while to get here. I’ve been stuck in this disbelief that God would still care about me. God , why are You doing this? God, why is this not happening? God, do You not care about me? God, don’t You love me? I thought You said You loved me but… And I base my relationship with the Lord on what I see and what I don’t see.

God is asking me now, Natalie, do you love me? OR do you just love what I can do?

Dang…that’s a harsh question.

And ultimately, God is saying, You’re not loving Me the way you were designed to love Me. Your love for Me is broken. It has ulterior motives.

But I debated with God on this.

Surely, God, I don’t love You just for what You can do! You know I really want You! Just come back now! If I could choose for You to come back for me right now, I would say yes. I really do want You.

But God said to look at where my heart has been over the past year in terms of what I love most.

And He said my love for Him has not been enough.

Not enough, God? What do You mean!? It will never be enough! You know I cannot love You how You deserve! I wish I could but I fail too much! What do You want from me?

God is saying, I don’t want you to love Me for what I can do. That’s not enough. That’s not even what I want from you, Natalie. I want you to love Me for Me.

Love Me for Me.

Wow.

God is right.

I haven’t been loving Him for Him.

My heart is really breaking over this.

God is showing me that my love for Him over the past year now has been primarily tied to what He is either doing for me or not doing for me. And it’s been fluctuating up and down because of that.

What God wants from me is to love Him the same no matter what…

…To love Him as if He were to never do another thing for me.

…To love Him as if I had never seen Him do anything.

…To love Him for Himself.

…To love Him for His character.

…To love Him because I love Him.

Not because of anything He can do for me.

Many times in my life I’ve gone through a season where I have seen God do crazy things or awe-inspiring things and it makes me “love” God more. Because I think, Wow, God is so cool! I can’t believe He can do that! OR seasons of blessing, and I think, Wow, God you are so good! Thank You thank You thank You! I love You so much! OR seasons of change in me and I think, Wow, God You are so powerful to do that! I love how You can do that!

And honestly, it really breaks my heart that I’ve been “loving” God like this… “loving” Him for what I’ve seen Him do and for what I hope He will do in the future.

That’s not love.

That’s admiration. That’s wonder. That’s awe. And yes, we need to marvel at God for what He can do and be astounded at His power. But it’s not love. It’s not love. We need to esteem God for what He can do, yes, but way more, we need to love Him for who He is!

This has been such a powerful realization for me.

Think of it this way…

…nobody wants to be loved for what they have done, or for what they do, or what they can do. Nobody does. Nobody wants to be loved for their accomplishments, their job, their status, their potential, their looks…nobody wants to be loved for those things. We ALL want to be loved for who we are as a person. Deep down, I want somebody to love me for me. Good and bad. Mess and all. I want somebody to love me for me. Not for what I do or don’t do.

Everyone wants to be loved for who they are at their core. And God wants that too.

God’s not interested in being loved for His mighty power.

God’s not interested in being loved for His miraculous wonders.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He gives.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He heals.

God is much more than all that.

God wants to be loved for who He is.

He wants us to love Him for Him.

For Him.

The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.

And then…once we love Him for Him…we praise Him for all He can do. There’s a difference between love and praise. Both go together. But love precedes praise. Always! You can’t praise God with a right heart if you don’t first love Him for Him…otherwise, it would just be admiration of a good thing. But if you love God for God, then your praise to Him turns into something real and it truly honors Him.

I love this passage in John chapter 6 where Jesus’ disciples are at a relational crossroads with this new teacher they have been following. It relates so much to how we love God.

These disciples have to decide, do they love Jesus enough to keep following Him? OR is this all too much for them?

We pick it up in verse 53:

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?

61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) 65 He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”

66 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?

68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (emphasis mine).

Jesus makes it clear that following Him means doing just that: following HIM. His flesh. His blood. Himself. He in Himself is the way to life. Jesus wants them to love Him for Him. Not for what He can do.

All of the ones following Jesus up until this point saw His miracles.

Jesus just fed 5000 men, likely 15,000 including women and children earlier in chapter 6. Jesus healed a man in chapter 5. Jesus turned water into really good wine at a wedding party in chapter 2. They saw Jesus do things they had never seen before. They saw what He could do.

But when it came time to decide if they wanted Jesus or not, some just didn’t want Him.

Verse 66 says that “many of His disciples turned back…”

Only 12 remained.

But those 12 were loyal to Jesus Himself. Not just His miracles. Not just His healings. Not just His charisma and following. No. Now, they know what this whole deal is really about…it’s about following this man Jesus. And they decide that they really do want Him.

“Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”

I just love Simon Peter’s humble and beautiful response. He wanted Jesus. He knew that there was something special about Jesus.

What stands out to me about Simon Peter is that he loved Jesus for His identity as “the Holy One” instead of loving Him for all the miracles and healings He had performed.

And we can see how Peter falls in love with this man Jesus over the course of John’s gospel. He affirms it in chapter 21:15-19. But it all started with the initial decision to follow Jesus Himself. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus, God in the flesh.

May we learn from Simon Peter’s response.

You may push back and say, but why should I love God? What’s in it for me?

Let’s think about that…

Well, I think anyone who’s ever been in love knows how good it feels. That person you love all the sudden becomes more important and you long for that person to be whole in every way possible. You don’t even think about yourself. You think about that person. You stop worrying over your own happiness. You just want that person to be happy. You don’t really care if you hurt. You just want that person you love to not hurt. You don’t really care what it costs you. You just want to give to that person. That person’s well-being becomes priority to you… and you lose yourself in a sense, when you’re in love with that person. And because you lose yourself, you feel good all the time because you’re not worried about satisfying yourself. Ironically, satisfying the other person ends up satisfying you. Selfless love always benefits the giver. So it is with the way we love God. It always benefits us to love God.

Because as we truly love God and fall more and more in love with Him, it fills us with joy, much more than any love relationship on earth ever will. And it makes us feel good to get to love God back. Even in the feeble way that exists in our human capacity to love.

So why love God?

Love God because…

1) He wants to be loved

2) He deserves to be loved

3) Loving Him teaches me how to love others

4) My soul satisfaction depends on me loving Him.

We know that God doesn’t need our love to exist. But He wants to be loved and He wants to impart His love to us.

The same disciple who wrote the gospel passage we just read also wrote this letter. He says this about love in 1 John 4:7-19:

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

13 This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.” (emphasis mine).

If we can only love because God first loved us, then I need to ask God to love me more. You need to ask God to love you more. Or really…I need to learn how to receive His love more. You need to learn how to receive His love more. Because God’s love is already poured out to me and to you in full. Why? Because as God loves us, we can love Him back. And then we can love others more.

It’s a cyclical kind of love.

God loves me → I love God → God loves me → I love others. And again and again…

Love is from God.

It’s a gift.

And each of us gets the privilege of receiving this precious gift.

There’s nothing more valuable than God’s love being imparted to us and channeled through us.

Without this love, our world would be misery.

We all experience love in a plethora of ways because of God’s kindness that He even gave it to begin with. And my prayer is that we would absorb this love and pour it out in the world. For we will find that we are most free when we are in cyclical love with the Lord. Because it empties our hearts of ourselves and we are consumed by a love so much greater.

Loving the Lord gives purpose.

Loving the Lord breathes life.

And we can only experience this if we first receive His love for us.

Ask Him to love you. And receive it.

Don’t worry anymore about all the things you want God to do.

Don’t let your love for Him depend on that.

Let your heart be free today.

Love God for who He is.

Love God for God.

And He will take care of the rest.

 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

–John 15:13–

 

 

Questions for Today:

  • How is it that love even exists?
  • Do I receive the love that the Lord has for me?
  • Am I loving God for who He is or only for what He can do?
  • How does loving God change my heart?
  • Why should I love God?
  • What can we learn from Simon Peter in John 6:53-69?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

 

“Never See The End” by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music

“I trust You, God. But…”

sitting on rock

God has been testing me lately in how and why I trust in Him. With opportunities arising that I’ve been excited about and the potential for entering into a new season of stability, it’s ironically been a rocky past couple of weeks.

God’s challenging me about all of the things that I’ve always thought would bring me stability.

And ultimately, it has revealed my hollow trust in Him. It’s challenged how confident I am to believe that He would be able to get things done even when everything else gets in the way.

Preparing for a potential full-time job opportunity, I’ve been so excited at the idea of this finally giving me the stability that I want and the chance to get my finances in order. But it’s been such a tumultuous and taxing experience going about the whole process. Getting my hopes up. Feeling inadequate. Worrying over things I can’t control. Doubting God’s ability.

And on top of all that, God keeps asking me why I really want this job.

I keep ignoring Him on the topic.

I don’t really like that question. I feel like God already knows why I want the job. And it just came out of nowhere anyways so He should know that it would be good for me even more than I do. He knows that it would be helpful for me. Why do you keep asking me, God? I’ve been thinking.

So I keep telling Him that I just want to be responsible and have more financial stability. I’ve told Him it would help prepare me for the future. That it would make me happy. That I would enjoy the work. And yet I feel a kind of brokenness in my heart about it when talking to the Lord. I keep trying to convince myself that this job must be from Him and that all of my desires for why I think it would be a good thing should line up with what He wants as well.

But I realized today that I’ve been looking at it wrong.

Now I know why He’s kept asking me that question.

I’ve been so fixated on the potential to finally have a full-time normal day job that I’ve been doubting God’s ability to provide for me long-term should I not get it. I’ve been doubting God’s love for me should I not get it. I’ve been doubting my ability and my competence in God’s eyes should I not get it. And I’ve been trusting in this potential job as my ticket to fixing all my financial and time-schedule problems.

I haven’t been trusting God.

When I came to seminary I knew it was going to be a big sacrifice. I knew it was not going to be easy. I knew it could end up costing me a lot in various areas of life.

But every single time that an opportunity arises that I perceive as a gift of relief, or something that would make life easier on me, I run after it.

I start to dwell on it in my mind.

I start to think about how all of my problems could be solved. I start to make excuses for why I deserve it. I start to think that God is finally giving me something to let me take the easy road. I start to trust in the idea of this opportunity that I want.

And I forget about God’s ability to be more for me than all of that.

I forget about all of the times that God has already provided for me. I forget about all the prayers He’s answered. I forget about all the times that He’s surprised me with gifts I never even knew I wanted deep down. I forget that God knows the things about me that I don’t even know about myself. I forget that He’s the only One who has seen me every second of the day and still remains with me.

I forget that God is enough.

I say, I trust You, God. But I don’t trust this situation. I trust You, God. But I don’t trust the people making the decision. I trust You, God. But I don’t trust that I came across the right way. I trust You, God. But there are so many other factors in my path that can mess things up. I trust You, God. But…………

The list can go on and on.

And that’s a problem.

This is why → I can’t say that I trust God if I add a “But…”.

I can’t say both that I trust God but that I don’t trust the variables that I perceive as in the way…when God is sovereign over all of those variables anyway…because He is the one who created every single thing in the universe and allows things to even operate and function and play out and exist the way they do. Do I think God is not powerful enough to handle the way that a sinful world works? Do I think God is not in control over everything? Do I think God is limited by human actions and things getting in the way?

I’ve had to ask myself these questions. And thankfully the Lord is showing me how preposterous it is to doubt Him.

God is sovereign even when other things seem to get in the way.

He is always sovereign.

And I’ve had to realize that.

Nothing can get in God’s way. When He sets out to do something, He causes things to work out in His favor, not in the enemy’s favor.

Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

Paul goes on in that chapter of Romans to talk about how God fashions us into the image of His Son, using all that happens in our lives as ingredients in that process. And nothing that happens to us will ever separate us from Him while in that process. Nothing. Even when bad things happen, God is there and He is taking care of it all. He knows just what to do.

No matter how many crazy things happen that seem to get in the way of where we are going or what we are hoping in, God is the one who decides how everything unfurls. He’s helping me to trust Him more. And I’m so thankful for this gift. This gift of peace. This gift of trust. Because it sure isn’t from myself. It’s God’s mercy alone that by His Spirit He cultivates an ability within us to trust in Him at all.

I’m learning that having a faulty trust in God will get me nowhere.

It’s a hollow trust.

A hollow faith, really.

Just as James writes to the Jewish believers who were all scattered about in the 1st century and struggling to remain steadfast in the faith, James 1:6-7 says this:

“But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

This passage in context talks about enduring trials with joy because of the good that it does within a person to build perseverance, character and perfection through Christ. He goes on to talk about the testing of one’s faith and an appropriate response as one remaining true to Christ. For me, this passage has been very helpful because what James was talking about when he addressed the Jewish believers in his letter is still something that we struggle with today: responding to trials. And one of the greatest trials I have faced is trusting God 100%.

I’ll tell myself sneakily that I’m not failing to trust God, but that I just don’t trust everything else around me.

But again, an “I trust You, God. But…” response is not trust at all.

It is a hollow trust.

A hollow faith.

I have to trust God 100%.

Even if the worst happens. I still have to trust that God is able and that God is good.

What’s helped me the most today in seeing that God is worthy to be trusted is thinking about just how beautiful God is. How desirable He is. How satisfying He is. How loving He is. How powerful He is. How unimaginably great He is. I love reading Revelation. Reading about Jesus in His glory, knowing that He came to earth throwing all of that away in such humility. But one day we will see Him for who He is. When I think about the God I know and read about in His Word, I can’t help but to get so excited about seeing Him. And one day, I finally will. That is enough to help me endure whatever the heck I have to endure here in this life. It won’t last forever. But the real forever is worth the wait. The day I get to finally be with my King forever is worth every hard thing I have to go through down here. So if I have to struggle my whole life, I guess that’s okay with me. I’m not about to give up God. I’m not about to miss the moments I can have with Him here. He’s too good to give up.

I’m starting to see that He really is enough.

Even if I don’t get all the things that I hope for.

Even if I don’t get this big job.

God is still good.

God is still for me.

God is still mine.

And He’s for you too.

Someone needs to know that…that God is on your side in whatever pain you are going through right now. Remember that there is no hint of evil in Him. God’s not putting you through that for meanness or spite. Let your situation draw you nearer to Him. Let it cultivate endurance and perseverance within you just like it says in James chapter 1. It’s a good thing to experience trials.

Sometimes, what happens to us is just a casualty in the cause of making us into who God wants us to be.

We have to learn how to get past our painful experiences so that we can take hold of the wisdom that God has given to us on account of that pain.

When we’re tempted to say, “I trust You, God. But…” may we remember that God deserves all of our trust. Not 50%. Not 75%. Not even 99.99%. God deserves 100% of our trust. And He’s able. I used to think that God Himself was trustworthy but not everything else, and then would end up doubting God’s power over all of those things. But I see now that if God is sovereign, He is ultimately trustworthy despite all the variables around me.

I pray for you and me that we would trust God despite all the distractions and logical reasons to say that God isn’t able. I pray for you and me that we would see God as so beautiful and desirable that our hearts would look towards our future with Him, eclipsing every struggle that seems overwhelming right now. May we receive God’s grace as we even still fail in trying to trust Him, asking Him to give us strength by His Holy Spirit to trust Him more.

 

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”

–Revelation 4:11 –

Questions for Today:

  • Do I tend to be distrusting of God because of the circumstances around me?
  • Why should I trust God with those things?
  • How can I know that God is worthy of my trust?
  • What situation in my life am I struggling to trust God with 100%?
  • What next step is God asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“In Over My Head” by Bethel Music ft. Jenn Johnson

 

 

God Knows Exactly What to Do

diving board feet2

I thought I was making good progress when it came to trusting in God’s ways. I wrote about the topic several months ago. I’ve been striving to let the Lord lead me to the places He wants to take me, even if that means traversing a very different road than I would have thought. And I’m seeing that it’s a beautiful thing. To let Him lead. To see what He sees as beautiful.

But I’ve been facing so many doubts lately.

Wondering if I’m really hearing from God or if I’m telling myself things. Doubting God’s voice when what I see doesn’t look like anything is happening. And it’s caused me to notice a pattern lately: Not knowing what God is doing in my life…followed by discouragement.

I like to know what’s coming.

I like to know what God is doing.

But I’m realizing I don’t get to have that security clearance, if you will.

Knowing what God is up to is like a whole other secret level of a building that I don’t have access to.

And I’m learning that the hard way right now.

I feel like I’m at a point where I am ready for the next phase of my life. And I feel more prepared now than I ever have been.

But it’s as if I’m at the end of a diving board…waiting to jump in… and I’m getting a Wait from the one in charge.

And it took me a while to get up to this spot. Climbing a diving board ladder knowing that the jump is going to be scary, and seeing the dreadful height and the distance between yourself and the ground… it’s terrifying. But eventually you commit to take the risk. You stand there, feet lifting off the ground, and you decide to jump. It took a lot for God to get me to this point. And after all that, I can’t even jump. He’s telling me to wait. At least right now. So I’ve resorted to sitting down and waiting for my chance to jump. I’m not going to give up that easily. Not now. But it’s tempting to want to give up sometimes, isn’t it? It’s tempting to doubt what God is saying when so many things try to indicate otherwise.

So I’ve had to bring my discouragements to God, asking Him to show me how I can respond in this time of confusion.

And God’s been trying to help me see that it’s not that He’s trying to keep me from what I think I’m ready for, but that what I’m jumping into may not be ready.

God has other things that He has do first. My situation is not just about me. There will be many other people involved. And so He has to ready them as well and the whole situation.

He probably still has things to do in me too that can only be done in this time of waiting.

But right now, it’s hard for me to trust God because I don’t know what He wants me to do.

I know what I would do.

I know what I want to do.

I know what I am fully capable of doing.

Others have told me it’s not wise to take any of these plans of action. So I’m back to square one. Not knowing what God would have me do. It’s quite a predicament.

But the problem here is that I’m putting all of my trust in what I am supposed to be doing that I am missing out on what God wants to do.

I’m putting too much trust in myself.

We can learn a lot about this dilemma of trusting in ourselves verses trusting God by looking at the way God interacted with His chosen people, Israel, throughout history.

In the first few books of the Bible, anytime Israel became confused about God’s ways towards them, they became frustrated and would complain.

The Israelites complained about leaving Egypt, wanting to go back because the journey was too long. They complained about not having any food in the wilderness, forgetting that God had already been providing for them. They complained about all of the people they thought were against them, even though God had already told them He would defeat them. They rebelled against God time and time again. They struggled to trust Him. And it caused them a lot of grief and tumultuous experiences. But God remained. God kept pursuing them. Even when it seemed like God had forgotten His people, He sent Jesus to break the silence of all Old Testament scripture, initiating grace and final redemption for the benefit of the whole world. And He will save a remnant of Israel. God never intends to give up on them.

I was convicted recalling this. Reminding myself that confusion over what God is doing is always an instinct because of our humanity, but never a mature thing to do. It’s wise to be okay with uncertainty.

My favorite verse is Proverbs 3:5 which tells us to not trust in our own understanding. I have to go back to that verse over and over again because I’m a person who tries to make sense of things way too much. I would analyze the peculiarities of a ping pong match if it would bring me more momentary clarity.

But God doesn’t always need me to understand.

He knows what to do.

Even when I am clueless.

We don’t have to let confusion cloud our vision.

Believe that God has a purpose for what He does. Even when it’s confusing.

Ultimately, I need to stop focusing on God’s ways and start trusting in God’s character.

2 Peter 3:9 says this, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (emphasis mine).

1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no evil at all” (emphasis mine).

Psalm 18:30 says, “God, His way is perfect. The Word of the Lord proves true. He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him” (emphasis mine).

God’s ways will always confuse me.

I’m not God.

Never gonna be.

So if I can get to the point where I am confident that God’s character is good, I will be much more at peace with what He is doing behind the scenes.

For His character motivates His ways.

So if His character is good, then His ways are also good.

In the last movie of The Hobbit series, there was a scene that really stood out to me. The dragon is terrorizing the town, scorching the town with his fiery flames. Bard, one of the main characters, shoots arrows at the dragon from a tall lookout. But to no avail. Then he sees that his son has come up there with him. At first he is worried for his son’s safety, but then the son gives him a long spear that he can use. So as Bard sees the dragon coming straight at him and his son, he positions the spear on his son’s shoulder using him as the support for the spear. All the while, the son has his back to the dragon. He keeps looking over his shoulder with fright as the dragon is headed their way. And Bard says, “Hey…you look at me. You look at me.” And as the son looks at his father, the father shoots the spear and kills the dragon. They fall with the crash but survive and save the town from the threat of the dragon.

Ever since I saw that movie I haven’t been able to forget that scene. (You can Watch it here.)

I’m sure the son was so fearful, not knowing what would happen with a dragon unseen coming his way and a deadly spear resting on his shoulder. But he trusted that his father’s way of killing the dragon was good, so he yielded to him in that moment. It is such a brilliant picture of how we are to look to God in moments of fear and uncertainty. Not the threat. Not our circumstances. We look at God. We focus on Him. All the while He is using us more than we realize to accomplish what He wants to do. And He will take care of us.

I have to remember that in confusing moments, God is working both for my good and the good of others.

When we read the Bible, we see that God is good at leading His people where He wants them to be, even despite their own incompetence.

You and I can rest assured of God’s competence to lead us to where He wants us to be.

And that’s exciting really. Id’ rather be led by God than to be led by my own self. I wouldn’t take me to the best destination. I would mess it all up. But God won’t. He’s not capable of messing anything up. There’s no one in the whole universe who has more power over things than Him. He will not get it wrong.

It may take time.

But we need to appreciate that God is trying to cultivate something.

Most of the time, God leads us to where He wants us to be by changing our desires.

If we ask Him to, He will open our eyes to what He wants for us and then He shows us how beautiful it is. And then we will want it too. He will start to lead us in that direction by the very fact that we are now compelled to go that way. And our desires will line up with His desires.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not saying that God will just give you what you want. I think it’s saying God has created us with certain desires that He cultivates to be useful in where He wants to take us when we give our lives to Him. And that He will implant in our hearts His desires so that we will desire what He wants for us, if we ask Him to. Ask Him. See if He won’t do it.

I will never understand God’s ways of creating something from nothing. I don’t have that ability.

But God knows exactly what He is doing.

Exactly what He is doing.

Exactly what He is doing.

We may say:

But God, what if…

God says, “I know exactly what to do.”

But God, I don’t think that will work.

God says, “I know exactly what to do.”

But God, it’s already a hopeless situation now.

God says, “I know exactly what to do.”

But God, I’m not good enough.

God says, “I know exactly what to do.”

But God, I’m not cut out for it.

God says, “I know exactly what to do.”

God knows exactly what He is doing. He knows how to get things done. And He’s pretty dang good at it too. He can do something in a second that we try for years to accomplish. Read the Bible and see all the instances where God does something amazing in the midst of hopelessness and improbability. God is able. And He’s smart too.

Before I used to get frustrated when God didn’t answer my prayers in a big way how I wanted Him to. I thought I needed to help God out. Man, was that a dumb thought. I would say, Come on God don’t you like my idea? I know just the thing to do, God, I am ready to go! Or I have a great way that this situation would all work out if you could just let happen. And God’s telling me, Though I love that you want to be proactive in this with Me, I want to lead you, not the other way around. I want to do something that’s even better than your ideas. Wait and let me.

God knows just the perfect thing to do. And He will do it.

If we can be patient.

I think sometimes, God doesn’t allow certain things to take place yet, because He wants us to wait for the “sweet” moments. The moments He’s creating. The moments He’s leading us towards. And because of our own human limitations, we may never know what that is or what to even anticipate. Until it happens. And we are filled joy beyond anything we could ever know.

To God, even little moments can be “sweet” as they all fit together to create the most detailed, stunning mosaic. We need to let God do what He wants to do.

It will be much better anyways when He does what He wants to do. And we can give Him more glory and have a much better story to tell.

There is so much more going on within our daily lives than just ourselves. God works for the benefit of His people collectively just as much as He works in each person to refine him or her. God will deliver in the best way so that it benefits as many people as possible.

Keep believing that God is able to do exactly what needs to be done in your situation. He knows. He’s aware. And He loves you far too much to remain idle. He will move on your behalf. And He will most definitely fill you with joy and satisfaction in Him along the way.

And when God says it’s time to jump…He will give us the green light.

I pray for you and me that when we don’t understand what God is doing, that we will trust that His character is good. I pray that we would appreciate God’s process of creating. I also pray that we would be yielded to Him, so that when the time comes He will lead us in what to do next when He has a step for us to take. Sometimes He leads us without us even knowing, as He changes our hearts to act according to His will. May we position our hearts and souls in a spot where we can be steered by the Lord, and then we don’t have to try so hard to force anything but can be at peace knowing God has been at work all along.

 “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”

-Philippians 2:13-

Questions for Today:

  • When I’m tempted to doubt what God is doing in my life, why is it important that I remember His character is good?
  • How can I ask God to help me with uncertainty?
  • Why is it important that God should cultivate His desires within me?
  • Am I believing that God knows exactly what to do?
  • What situation in my life is God asking me to trust Him with?

“Say The Word” by Hillsong UNITED