As the Lord spoke to me this morning from 2 different passages of His Word, and was delivering this message right into my heart, I grabbed a hold of what He had to say and what His offer is for my current heart condition and current life circumstances.
I’ll start with the Eternal Word that changes lives and hearts:
The LORD reigns; He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed;
He has put on strength as His belt.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!
Psalm 93:1, 4
Paul’s pray for the church in Colossae:
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father…”
I daily face challenges where I say, “I can’t do this,” “I can’t handle this,” or “I don’t want to do this.” I am not currently experiencing a tragedy. I am not being persecuted for naming the Name of Christ. No, I am a wife and a mommy who daily (sometimes moment by moment) struggles to give to Jesus what is rightfully His: my life.
Psalm 93 and Colossians 1 spoke right into that.
I am not strong. I realize this more and more as I age, as I grow more in Christ, as I continue on in marriage, as I raise my children, manage my house, finances, ministry joys and burdens. For as long as I have been a follower of Christ, I have been slightly bewildered by the verse, “When I am weak, then I am made strong.” Although, theoretically I understood the meaning for all these years, I didn’t really understand what that practically would look like, having never been aware of my weakness. But I have recently realized that it is one of those verses that is made clear through experience. I am weak, fragile, without strength, stamina, endurance or ability. I am not “mom enough,” wife enough, mommy enough, housekeeper enough, pastor’s wife enough, friend enough, or Godly enough. And I never will be. Through minor sufferings (though nothing like some people are going through at this very moment or what I may go through in the future), I have become acquainted most personally with the understanding of what being made strong through weakness means.
It means that CHRIST is our strength. We are weak, He is strong. Compare and contrast me to Him and He comes out the clear winner and victor every time. So today, when I read passages like Psalm 93, whereas I formerly would retort, “Of course, God is strong,” I now rejoice and exult, take refuge in and shelter myself in the truth that He has girded Himself with strength and I ONLY need to be in Him to receive the strength I need. Our God is indeed strong, and it is never seen clearer as when we are weak.
So, Colossians 1’s prayer is given weight.
“That I may be strengthened” (by One robed in majesty)
“According to His glorious might” (the One who has put on strength as His belt)
“For” (in order that I might receive something… namely…)
“Endurance, Patience, Joy, Thanksgiving” (to the One who has endured, was patient in affliction, joyful in suffering… thankful to the One mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea.)
As I walk through various trials, as I pray fervently for friends aching and going through great hardships and sufferings, heavier than they can themselves bear, as I am engulfed by many waters and mighty waves of the sea, may I look up. Look up to the One on high, who is girded with strength and who is mightier than the waters and the waves. Of the Pacific ocean and of my daily struggles and sufferings.
“He is stronger, He is stronger, Sin is broken, He has saved me.” And He will strengthen because He alone has sufficient and unwavering, sustainable and supreme strength.
“Therefore [in light of salvation], preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13
I love Fridays. Not because my life gets easier or my work load gets reduced. I have 2 small children, nothing gets easier, no matter what day it is. I don’t love Fridays and weekends because I get to sleep in, because I don’t. I love Fridays because I love the weekend. I love Fridays because my I love my husband. On the weekends, he is home (for most of it) and the family is together, re-united and united. We do things together. Even if it’s brushing our teeth, or preparing dinner, we’re together.
In preparation for the weekend, on Friday’s I extra clean the house. I try to keep the house tidy anyway, but on Fridays I clean in an expectant way. The floors get mopped, desks get organized and clutter is removed. In addition, a special family dinner is made that everyone can look forward to, and I spend the day anticipating the activities and togetherness that our night and weekend together will bring. My husband is coming home to stay and that makes all the difference in my attitude, service to him, and preparation for his return.
How much more, in exponential proportions, can this attitude, this anticipation, this expectancy be for Jesus. He is returning. He is not returning for His bride in wrath or in condemnation, but with GRACE! To set our hope fully on this, is to do the first part of the verse- prepare for action. As much as I love to work, sweat and labor for my husbands’ ceasing from his weekday work and as much as I anticipate his return, it is just a foretaste of the return of our Hope.
So may I work, sweat, prepare, and serve God because His return is imminent and I long to spend eternity with him, the same way only much greater than the way I long for the weekends. May you as well! Do some serious spring cleaning right now in your life, Christian. Set your hope on grace at His return by clearing the clutter of messed-up priorities, mopping the floors of your heart, washing the windows so that you can see clearly, and making something special (with your life) for the Savior. Don’t let sin get a foothold, take out the trash of bitterness, envy and pride, and work hard for your remaining days. Don’t be slothful or lazy, don’t be selfish, don’t be worldly. Don’t just go to Church and be a stagnant Christian. Don’t bury your treasure, don’t hide your talent. Don’t set your hope in possessions or relationships, in an easy life or in everything working out so that you can live the dream. And please don’t set your hope on being “happy”. No, no no, please no. Set your hope FULLY on GRACE!
If you aren’t excited, get excited. Meditate on the Word, spend time praying, serve the Church and your neighbors, disciple others, share the gospel, invest in spiritual things and reap spiritual rewards. Adore Christ as your highest Treasure, anticipating with great joy that “the weekend” is coming soon!
I think we might (it’s also quite possible I am just speaking for myself here) get a little confused when it comes to trusting the Lord. When I ask my child to trust me that I’m not going to let him fall, it’s because I really am not going to let him fall. So we naturally think that when we trust the Lord, it provides supernatural protection against all major and most minor harm.
So when you’re faced with no job or cancer or no money coming in or no financial plan for the future or retirement and you say, “I’m just trusting the Lord,” it seems really spiritual. Except really what you’re saying is, “God is going to make a job fall in my lap” or “God is not going to let me die from cancer” or “He meets all of our needs, we don’t need to worry. Our cell phone and TV and car payments will still be paid even without the numbers working out on paper.” This sometimes does happen. God sometimes does the miraculous in our lives, and for that I am thankful. But our picture of trust is tainted, still.
What about the Christian, who really is trusting the Lord with all their heart and not leaning on their own understanding, that is dying of a disease or that can’t pay the bills and is going into foreclosure or whose desires of their hearts aren’t being met? Not enough faith? God not being faithful?
The word trust has a few different meanings in Scripture. One word in the Hebrew that means trust is chacah and it means “to take refuge”. Another one is batach which means “to have confidence in, to set ones hope in.” Another is yachal, meaning “to wait, hope, expect.” (Note: The word list is not exhaustive…there are many more in Hebrew and Greek.)
With any one of these words, the definition is NOT: “trust because He will make everything work out okay. That’s God’s job.”
Trust does not mean that Jesus will work it all out just because you commit the situation to Him. It doesn’t mean safety, peace, comfort, prosperity, health, or even life. It certainly doesn’t mean that all of your American dreams or wishes are met. Yes, he has plans for you. But have you considered the possibility that those plans could be bankruptcy or disease or being murdered?
I don’t think I have considered this much in the past. God is indeed faithful to Himself and His promises but a good, prosperous, safe life with every desire being met is not one of his promises. When I say, “I trust you Lord,” what I mean is “I take refuge in You. I have confidence in You, that Your plan is better than mine. I put my hope in you and I wait for You. I expect you to be Faithful, because that is Who You are.”
Anything that I desire cannot be compared to Him and His glory. All things, material and otherwise, are to be in service to Him and point to Him. He does not serve US and the things in our lives. We gladly use and give thanks for the gifts He gives, holding on to them very loosely, knowing that we are not owed any of them. They are ALL evidence of grace. Our right response is to love Him, serve Him, obey Him, trust Him.
I cling to him during times of uncertainty or worry because He has Sovereign hands. And I trust Him, not because it will all work out for what I think is good, but that it will be what He deems good for me. Maybe that’s life, maybe that’s death. Maybe that’s poverty or illness or persecution or famine. Whatever it is, I place my trust in Him, because He is trust-worthy.
We sing songs of God come to Earth, but so many still don’t know the King. Many talk about him- when they curse, when they mock, when they are in a bind, when it’s Christmas and time to go to church. But many don’t really truly know the King. Some know about the King. Some have heard the stories. So many have other kings on the throne. But there’s no room for this King. There wasn’t room at his birth and for most there isn’t room now. But some will turn and worship.
God, give us hearts, vision, feet, and words to rescue those blindly running to their death. Let us build ourselves up in the faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God. Let’s save souls in this town, through mercy, through snatching out of the fire. Through praying for the Kingdom to advance, sitting with the King Himself, and proclaiming to this lost town: glory to the King! The King whom God and sinners reconciled. Glory to that King. The King who is above all kings. Above all that we hold dear this Season that doesn’t give him glory. Let’s continue to tell this town about that King.
I just completed a full season of Master Chef on Hulu. In about a week. Talk about obsession! I felt sort of like an alcoholic. “I promise, just one more drink.” and “I can’t have a drink until noon. That proves that I’m not an alcoholic, because alcoholics drink before noon.” “I can’t watch Master Chef until nap time, not in the morning. That would be obsession for me to watch it when I wake up.” I would get up in the morning and think, “what do I have to do today so that I can watch as much Master Chef as possible.” I had a dream about being a Master Chef. I started trying to chop fast like one and cut my finger tip off. Literally, off. I am still recovering.
And not that it is wrong to watch TV, or to spend your time doing something other than reading the Bible and praying. There is freedom and liberty, of course. We don’t live under condemnation, we have been freed from the Law and from guilt. So it’s not wrong to have activities in my life and spend time doing things I enjoy. In fact, it is a good thing. God gives us interests and desires and passions and talents. We should do things we love for His glory and our joy. But I am really good at using these true and valid points to justify any behavior. Even though I was neglecting spiritual things to feed my flesh, I was justifying it in a way that really let me off the hook. And let me say, just to be clear, it was NOT WRONG for me to watch those episodes. It wasn’t even wrong for me to watch 3 per night (shorter than a movie? Less time than most Americans watch TV each night? But we’re not comparing people to people here, are we….) However, for me, it included neglect of spiritual things. It is my number one desire to commit myself, fully, passionately, whole heartedly to Jesus. But if I were to be honest, the cares of this world can at times choke out the spiritual seed in my daily life.
The truth is, if I want to know Him, really know Him, I need to spend time with Him. If I were to spend 6 nights out of 7 away from my husband, eventually there would be degeneration in our relationship. I have the freedom in a marriage to not spend every free moment with my husband. But I also have the freedom to spend it with him. If I want to know him, to know all about him, his likes and his dislikes, and to progress in our relationship, I have to sacrifice in another area to free up my nights to spend by his side.
So it is with Jesus. We are His Bride and so the same thing applies. While I may be permitted and have freedom to spend my time doing other things, I know that if I really love Him, I won’t give Him a measly 2% of my time. I really love chef TV shows. I really love cooking competition. So I give it my time. I want to really love God, as commanded, with all my heart, all my soul, and with all my might. I can’t do that without some sacrifice. Without some energy expenditure.
Proverbs 8 speaks of Wisdom, saying, “wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare with her.” And again, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me… my fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver…. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” (Proverbs 8:11, 17, 19, 34)
To seek diligently requires a cessation of seeking other things. To watch daily and to wait, requires focus and one to pay attention. You will necessarily neglect some other things in your life. But the goal is to get something that is better than anything else, anyway! Better than chef TV, better than novels, better than jewels, better than fine gold!
In Acts 8, Peter shares the Gospel with the Ethiopian Eunuch, baptizes him, and then Peter gets transported to another town. Where he rests and relaxes because he has freedom in Christ to do so. No, he “preached the gospel to all the towns”. Not that it would have been wrong for him to chill after doing some Gospel work. But he has a passion and a drive for Jesus, for the Gospel, for men to be saved. He works and sacrifices and neglects other things for this better thing.
Matthew 11, same thing. “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” (Matthew 11:1) Jesus just taught a class to twelve people. He doesn’t rest from His work because he already checked off his spiritual thing for the day. He continues, preaching and teaching the Gospel. Because that is what He came to do: seek and save sinners, bring the lost home, show people the Father. “But that’s Jesus,” you say. Well, don’t you want to be like Jesus? Isn’t that the goal?
Let me make sure to clarify again. I am not saying you shouldn’t ever watch TV, movies, read novels, go rock climbing, scrapbook, play sports, play video games (well…), work out, decorate your home, spend time in the internet or phone, etc. I will most definitely be watching the next season of Master Chef. But I am saying, check yourself. Make sure that you are not neglecting the Best Thing for a lot of little things that in the end, won’t reward and definitely won’t satisfy. Not like Jesus does.
While taking a shower, I found myself complaining in my heart a little that the water wasn’t quite hot enough. It was almost there but I like the water so hot that it just about burns my skin. I then realized I was being completely fickle because a lot of the world doesn’t have hot water at an immediate turn of a knob like I do. Well, a lot of the world doesn’t even have water pumped by electricity. And a lot of the world doesn’t even have water to bathe in. Let alone, water to drink! So I began to thank God. “Thank you God for the blessing of hot water. For the blessing of water. Period.”
I began to think of something I have been sporadically doing, my thankfulness journal. Another idea that we had for our family was to make a blessing jar where everyone can add a written blessing to the jar throughout the year, reflecting on the blessing we have received from God, and then we read them at year end. These ideas are great and I think they can give you eyes to see the little things around you that are God’s blessings. They are a great remedy to a complaining spirit. However, in our egocentricity, it often stops here! We are so thankful for God’s gifts. But we forget that GOD gave them. HE is the giver and the goal and the end of all our wants.
I am concerned for myself and for many. If I didn’t have any hot water, or didn’t have any water at all for that matter, would I still be thankful? Not for God’s blessings, but for God Himself? If I were visited by trial like Job or had a thorn in my flesh the Lord would not remove, like Paul, would I still be thankful? If there was literally nothing to be thankful for in my life, would I still be thankful? Because there are many who don’t have the things I have to be thankful for… yet they are still able to thank God and are truly thankful. Because they have HIM.
I would love to use scripture to expound here. And I started to. But then I read a few pages from John Piper’s book, “God is the Gospel.” I can’t put things like Piper can. I must add his words here as they hit home for me on this Thanksgiving. In a few paragraphs, you will see how we are to regard the Gospel as the gift of God Himself over and in all His saving and painful gifts (and pleasant gifts, too):
“The gospel has unleashed the omnipotent mercy of God so that thousands of other gifts flow to us from the gospel heart of God. I am thinking of a text like Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” This means that the heart of the gospel—God’s not sparing his own Son—is the guarantee that “all things” will be given to us. All things? What does that mean? It means the same thing that Romans 8:28 means: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God takes “all things” and makes them serve our ultimate good. It doesn’t mean we get everything our imperfect hearts want. It means we get what’s good for us.
Compare this with Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Every need! Does that mean we never have hard times? Evidently not. Seven verses earlier Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12-13). This is amazing. God meets “every need” (v. 19).
Therefore, I have learned how to face “hunger” and “need” (v. 12). I can do “all things” through him who strengthens me—including be hungry and be in need! I conclude from this that for Christians everything we need—in order to do God’s will and magnify him—will be supplied.
According to Romans 8:32 this was secured by the gospel. It is stated even more strikingly in Romans 8:35-37. Here the love of Christ guarantees that we will be more than conquerors in every circumstance, including the circumstance of being killed. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Astonishing! We are more than conquerors as we are being killed all day long! So nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, not because Christ’s love protects us from harm, but because it protects us from the ultimate harm of unbelief and separation from the love of God.
The gospel gift of God’s love is better than life. “Neither death nor life …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). In fact, not only can death not separate us from the love of God, it is, along with every other hardship, a gospel gift. Listen to the way Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All things are yours—including death! Death is included in our treasure chest of gifts from God through the gospel.
So in one text Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” in death. And in another text he says that all things are ours, including death. I take him to mean that because of the truths of Romans 8:28 and 8:32 God takes every hardship and makes it serve us, including death. Death is “ours”—our servant. The fact that we are “more than conquerors” means that death doesn’t just lie dead at our feet after the battle—it is taken captive and made to serve us.
And how does death serve us? How does the blood-bought servitude of death bless the children of God? Paul answers, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Phil. 1:21). Why is dying gain? He answers two verses later: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Being with Christ after death is “far better” than staying on earth. That is why we are more than conquerors when death seems to triumph. It becomes a door to better fellowship with Christ.
Because of the gospel, God promises to “give us all things” with Christ (Rom. 8:32). The “all things” turns out to include not just pleasant things but terrible things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and death. These are all gospel gifts purchased for us by the blood of Christ.
Death is a gift because it takes us more quickly to the great good of the gospel—seeing and savoring the glory of God in the face of Christ. What about these other gifts—tribulation, distress, and so on? How are they benefits that are bought by the gospel? How are they part of the “all things” in Romans 8:32 and 28 and Philippians 4:13? The answer is that in the merciful sovereignty of Christ, empowered by his own blood, these sufferings accomplish the greatest good of the gospel, a more pure and authentic and deeply satisfying seeing and savoring of God in Christ.
…This is not the design of the devil. It is the design of God. Paul’s life-threatening suffering was designed by God to keep him close to God. The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God. God did not spare his own Son. Therefore all things are yours— “the world or life or death (or thorns in the flesh or life-threatening persecution) all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” These are gospel gifts because by the blood of Christ they help bring about the goal of the gospel. This goal is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory.”
I treasure this. My heart rests here. Not because it is easy to read or believe, but because it is true. And I am full of thanks for this Truth– whose Name is Jesus.