Tag Archives: faith

For the Little Troubles Too

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
James 1:2-3, NLT*

Yes, these are the same verses two weeks in a row. What makes them such treasures to me is they’re not just for the huge troubles that life occasionally sends our way. They’re for the little trials and stresses too, even the things we might think are too minor to bother God about.

One night last week, I was late making supper and my husband had to leave promptly afterward. My family can tell you this is not a new state of affairs. It always stresses me, which tightens my muscles, inhibits my thought processes, and generally slows me down. And it makes me cranky.

But I’d been reading the first part of James 1 for almost two weeks by that point, and it was sinking in a bit. In the middle of “where did the time go, why am I always behind and I wish I could learn to do better,” I caught myself wishing I didn’t have to deal with this so often.

Wishing the trouble would go away.

Forgetting to see it as an opportunity to grow.

That stopped me and shifted my focus. Instead of fretting, I chose to say “God, thank You for this chance to learn to rely on Your strength and not my own. Thank You that this is an opportunity to practice living by faith.”

I kept praying. And working.

Calm replaced the frenzy, supper preparations went better, and my sweet husband even had time to eat his meal without rushing. And I think the whole family appreciated not eating with a frazzled cook.

God who saves us, who loves us too much to leave us in the sorry states you found us, thank You for how You patiently grow us. As much as we sometimes wish You’d just zap us and make us perfect, strong and whole, we know Your way of training and building us up is better. It grounds us in You, and it will last. Thank You for loving us.

A song I love that helps keep me focused: Geoff Moore‘s “I Believe“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Perseverance: 6 Links and a Silly Song

Usually when responsibilities pile up and I feel overwhelmed, I burst into a plaintive quote from Dr. Seuss:

This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, I cannot clean it up, there is no way at all! (from The Cat in the Hat)

Last Saturday morning a couple of large household projects were weighing on my mind, and I tried to cheer myself up by turning it into a song:

MeSumo

Sumo, on my shoulders: I’m not happy.
Sumo, on my shoulders, makes me frown.
Sumo, on my shoulders, is so heavy,
Sumo, almost always, brings me down.

Sumo on my shouldersWith many apologies to the memory of John Denver, you can sing these words to the tune of “Sunshine on My Shoulder”. Indeed, that’s a much better song to sing, so go ahead. And no, I’m not embarking on a new career as an artist or a lyricist.

It’s true, though: things pile up in our minds and they do bring us down. And that’s not the way God wants us to live. I’ve been struggling with this lately, trying to be more faithful in my responsibilities without burning myself out. “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NLT*)” but I need to focus on one thing at a time and do that thing in His strength instead of on my own.

Sumo on my shoulders1

I believe God gives us enough hours in the day to do the things He intends us to do in that day. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that, to talk that Sumo off my shoulders. Lately I’ve found a lot of freedom in the Bible’s promise of wisdom for those who ask (see James 1:5 and my post “Is Your Loyalty Divided?“). God, I need wisdom to see what to do when, and to not think about the other stuff.

Here are six links I’ve found in the past few days that are helping me learn the lesson even better:

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

[Linking with Janis Cox’s Wednesday’s Word: Perseverance]

Trouble or Opportunity?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
James 1:2-3, NLT*

If we were to read this aloud, most of us would probably emphasize the word “troubles” as the strong word. I think James begins his letter this way to restore perspective:

Away from troubles and onto opportunity, joy, faith, chance, grow.

He’s not telling his readers anything new. He says they already know it. We do too. But we get focussing on our troubles and we forget.

We want to solve our problems, avoid the pain, steer out of the storm into safe harbour. James reminds us that the trouble, whatever its source, can be an opportunity for God to grow us.

Trouble as a test of faith isn’t about do we pass or fail, do we have faith or not. James is writing to people who believe in Jesus. The test is to determine and reveal the quality and strength of our faith, not to disqualify us but to grow us.

I think of it in terms of spiritual exercise. The more we use our “faith muscles” the stronger they become, and the more coordination and balance we develop.

Father God, here is where we find the joy James talks about: growth and maturity in our faith. When we rely on You more than on ourselves, it draws us nearer to You and lets us experience more of Your strength in our lives. Thank You for Your grace and mercy to us and for Your loving presence that never leaves us.

Our song this week is MercyMe‘s “Bring the Rain“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Is Your Loyalty Divided?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you … But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty … should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:5-8, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Reading these verses in other translations, I always thought “do not waver” meant “don’t doubt” and it always left me a bit uncertain. Despite our best efforts, doubt can flicker in our prayers.

God knows that. Remember the father with the demon-possessed son? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT*)

The KJV uses “wavering” but the NIV actually says “you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave…” Both call the person “double minded.”

But this translation makes the real issue clear. Are we asking God for wisdom, leading, direction, but still holding onto worldly wisdom as a backup? No wonder it doesn’t work. If our loyalty is divided between God and the world, we’re sunk. (Click to tweet.)

That’s not to say God doesn’t want us to use our common sense, any more than He doesn’t want us to avail ourselves of doctors or other resources. But He does want us to look first to Him, to His power and His ways, and to go “all in” with what He says even if it’s counter-intuitive from a natural human perspective.

Remember His instruction for the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho? God’s way works, because He works.

The context in today’s verses is wisdom, but I think the loyalty—which worldview we espouse and obey, where we look for our strength and encouragement—underpins everything we do.

In this light, I can understand “double-minded” to be like the man serving two masters. Of course it won’t succeed. We need to trust. And to commit.

Holy and all-powerful God, help us to fully embrace You as our source of all help and resources. Grow our faith so we can trust and obey You—fully and completely.

This week’s song is a hymn I love: “Be Thou My Vision.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Instead of Asking God “Why?”

question markOne of the first things we do when tragedy hits or when things go wrong is to ask God “Why?”

God welcomes honest questions, “why?” included, although I’m sure He’d prefer a trusting, hurt-filled tone than an angry, demanding one. Either way, I believe He’d rather have us talking to Him than trying to freeze Him out. After all, dialogue goes two ways and we might hear His response.

My community is still processing a recent teen suicide. And internationally, North Americans are shocked by the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Why?” is a valid question, and it predates Job. But there are healthier questions to ask as well:
  • Who

    • are You, God?
    • do You say I am?
    • have You put in my day to encourage or bless?
  • What

    • are You saying to me?
    • do You want to show me?
    • do You want to do in or through me?
  • Where

    • can I join You in what You’re doing?
    • are You leading me?
    • are You revealing Yourself?
  • When

    • You come back, will I be found ready?
    • You speak, help me hear and obey.
    • You want me to wait in quiet, help me be patient.
  • How

    • can I best show love to those around me?
    • can I get to know You better?
    • can I best use the time in each day?

Turns out, “When?” is pretty contentious too. In general, we’re better to bring God those things we don’t understand and our impatience for things delayed, to leave them with Him in trust, and to ask questions that leave us open to God’s direction.

If you’re struggling with this, please click over and read Ann Voskamp’s beautiful post, 3 Things to Hold Onto in a World Falling Apart (aholyexperience.com)

Putting our Faith in Jesus

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22, NLT*

I like the NLT’s use of “made right with God”. The NIV equivalent is “righteousness,” which we can sometimes misconstrue. They really both mean the same, but this way it’s easier to see the focus on relationship with God rather than focusing on ourselves.

What caught me about this verse, though, is “placing our faith in Jesus Christ”.

This is more than intellectual belief, more than a casual agreement.

It’s an active trust, the same as we would sit in a chair or step onto a bridge. We place our faith in Jesus Christ. This suggests a few things to me:

  • following His way instead of living for ourselves
  • walking with Him each day and in each situation
  • relying on His leading, equipping, presence and protection
  • trusting Him to work things out as He chooses
  • trusting the goodness of His character
  • living to bring glory to God the Father

Holy and majestic God, there is none like You. Thank You for making a way for us to be right with You through faith in Jesus. Thank You for His death and resurrection, the most costly gift we’ve ever been offered. Thank You for the faith to believe. Help us to embrace this faith actively and fully and to let faith in Jesus change the way we live each moment, to Your glory.

This week’s song is Chris Tomlin‘s “Jesus Messiah“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

[Linked with Wednesday’s Word]

Believing the Lord

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Genesis 15:6, NLT*

Abram believed God. Sometimes it’s that simple.

By now in Abram’s journey with God, he’s seen God protect and provide for his household in amazing ways. He’s had conversations with God and recognizes God’s voice.

Here, he’s been lamenting to God that all the riches he’s acquired are hollow… he has no son to inherit them, and they’ll pass to a servant. I’m sure the man is a well-trusted servant, but still, Abram longs for a son.

He’s honest with God about his pain.

God (who’s just been accused of not providing Abram a son) says that not only will Abram have a son, he’ll have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky.

Abram knows the facts. He’s old. His wife Sarai is old. If they haven’t conceived by now, it’s not happening.

Abram knows God. What God says, God does.

And Abram knows God’s voice.

Abram believes. And that’s all God wants here: believing faith.

As the story progresses, we see that Abram isn’t perfect. He falls into Sarai’s plans to “help” God by producing an heir through her maid. But his belief never wavers. God will provide.

Holy, Creator God, Your ways are beyond our knowing. Sometimes they don’t make sense to us. But You ask us to trust You. And You’ve already proven Your trustworthiness, power and love. You speak to us in many ways through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit. Teach us to recognize Your voice, and help us to believe what You say. Your Word says so much about how You see us, what You promise us, and who You want us to be. Help us to trust and obey.

This song from the band Fee reminds us of truths to hold onto: “Everything Falls.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Rock-Solid Security

Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
Psalm 125:1, NLT*

Trusting God brings security. We won’t be defeated.

That’s not to say we won’t have pain and trouble, but it’s a reminder of the real battle, the long-term spiritual one.

Whatever our hard times, it’s easier to focus on the externals: the disease, rebellious child, unemployment. The things outside our control.

We’re not responsible for the externals. We’re responsible for our hearts, our focus, our faith.

Defeat is when we get our eyes off God. Victory is continuing to trust in spite of what we see, hear, feel, experience.

We can pray for healing, common sense, provision. But we also need to pray for ourselves, to remain strong in our private tests.

This is our temptation, our battle: will we continue to trust? This is where God makes a way, if we’ll only look for it.

Faithful God, You’ve promised to never leave us, and to always make a way out from under the temptations we face. You want us to stand victorious in Your strength, for Your glory and our wellbeing. Help us keep our focus on You despite whatever may go on around us. Help us plant even in tears, to do what needs doing, so we can reap with joy in Your time.

Where do we look for security? Bebo Norman sings “I Will Lift My Eyes.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Choosing to Believe God

The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.
Psalm 106:24, NLT*

The Psalmist is recapping Israel’s history, and this verse refers to the first time God brought them to the edge of the Promised Land, when they believed a frightening report of the dangers ahead instead of remembering how God had kept them safe thus far.

“They wouldn’t believe His promise to care for them.” I’m sure that’s not how they saw it. They’d probably say they were being realistic, facing facts. After all, the scouts reported giants in the land. What chance did they have?

They forgot they had God on their side. The same God who’d broken Pharaoh with plagues and destroyed his army after parting the Red Sea. The same God who’d given them water in the desert and daily bread from heaven.

The same God who disciplined them when they disobeyed or got too demanding.

They forgot. We do, too.

All-powerful and holy God, Your promises are true and Your hand is mighty to defend us. Forgive us for the times we trust our own eyes and ears instead of trusting Your word. Help us remember what You’ve revealed about Yourself, and  help us choose to believe You.

Jeremy Camp’s song, “Walk By Faith,” is a good reminder for us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

5 Links on Anxiety, Plus a Song

Replace anxiety with trust

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. ~Philippians 4:6, CEB*

Here are some links I’ve found recently that can speak peace to anxiety:

From author Dan Walsh: Living and ‘Staying’ in Today, and The Slippery Slope of Anxious Thoughts.

From Roy Lessin at Meet Me in the Meadow: Fret-Buster 104 looks at some of the costs of anxiety.

Guest-posting at The Write Conversation, Reba J Hoffman shares 4 insights that can help us stop giving in to fear.

At A Word of Encouragement, Laura Hodges Poole talks about Life’s Dark Hallways.

And take time to listen to Peter Furler‘s song, Hold On

*Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible