A few days ago my husband and I were running errands and I played a podcast to help pass the time. Normally it’s a light-hearted and fun show to listen to, but occasionally they get into some deeper topics, and this was one of those times. During the course of the conversation about struggling with your relationship with God, one of the hosts made an interesting comment. The gist of it was this: “It’s crazy how things can be going just fine and all of a sudden you wake up and realize you’re far from God.”
“All of a sudden… far from God.”
Is that really possible? Is it really that simple? Is it really that… sudden? I’d dare say it’s not.
In fact, I’d say quite the opposite.
It’s crazy how one little step turns into another, which turns into another, and yet another, until suddenly you realize you are a hundred steps away from God.
The only thing sudden about finding ourselves far from God is the actual moment of revelation that we’re not as good as we think we are. The process itself is not so sudden; in fact, it’s a slow, gradual process that contains not giant leaps or huge falls, but little compromises here and there.
We live in a culture that is all about making a name for yourself. We're constantly bombarded with messages from both secular and Christian sources that tell us to be all that we can be, to leave our mark on the world, and to stand out. I, myself, struggle with the desire for recognition and the temptation to not do something if I don't think it'll be appreciated or noticed. But the truth is that Scripture actually calls us to live quiet, humble lives that draw attention not to us, but to Christ.
Mary was a humble woman, content to live her life behind the scenes and make much of Christ. Instead of making a name for ourselves, let's be determined to make Christ's name known - and in the process we'll earn eternal rewards instead of the temporary ones that recognition in this world offers.
I marvel at this aspect of Mary's life, because I so easily give into the temptation to WHINE instead of WORSHIP. And when I consider what makes me whiny, it’s always something so insignificant, especially when compared with what Mary was facing. For me it could be I overslept my alarm, or maybe I was overcharged and have to call the internet company. Sometimes I’m just tired and I don’t feel being nice to someone, yet God has pushed them right in front of me to interact with. And I whine.
Mary faced incredible difficulties – difficulties with her family, with Joseph, with the culture around them. She faced physical difficulties of carrying a child and the childbirth to come – without medication! And she would face many more than she did not even know yet. And she worshiped.
Instead of focusing on our inconvenience, or on our fear, or on our exhaustion, let’s choose to focus on God – let’s choose gratitude for His wonderful acts, His mercy, and for choosing us to be part of His plan to reach those around us.
I think it's easy for us to get comfortable in life.
Comfort zones can be danger zones, though. When we get comfortable, we tend to become self-centered. We take things and people for granted. We stop giving. We start taking. We become proud. And God's not a fan of our stagnation, and He tends to only let us stay comfortable for so long before He begins to create some friction in our lives. Gently, at first, and then with increasingly more force as we stubbornly hold on to what we believe we need and have a right to - whether that's a certain emotional state of being, a particular relationship, an orderly set of circumstances, or even a way of thought and belief that is comfortable to us.
Our response to these disruptions reveals our heart. The right response is surrender to what God doing, trusting Him, and being obedient even in the hard things. When we surrender, we grow. We change. We become strengthened emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
But often we respond negatively, with anger, resentment, and a stubborn refusal to change. That's when things tend to get bad, because God often has to use pain to motivate us to change, as most of refuse to budge until the pain of staying the way we are is greater than the pain of change.
Jonah is an example of someone who had a very clear comfort zone in life, and when God began to challenge him, he responded in anger. His desperation to maintain control over his life and choices made him emotionally unstable and ultimately estranged from God.
I'm excited to share this study on Jonah with you. it's one of my favorite lessons to teach. And yes, I know, I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by publishing an article that's over 1,300 words - but I felt like it would be worth it.
I recommend you pull your Bible out and follow along. For the sake of time and space, I'll only be including key verses as we go through. Start with reading the book (it's just 4 chapters) to familiarize yourself with the story.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)
I find myself continually affected by the incredibly obvious truth in this passage. There's certainly quite a lot of truth in the passage, but what most continues to convict and excite me is the simplest line -- "let us throw off everything that hinders."
Interesting, is it not, that sin is addressed separately? That there are things that hinder us, which we must lay aside, that aren't even sin? Though, depending on how we treat the things that hinder us, they can quickly become sin through idolatry.
It's a simple question of priority.
If my priority, if my goal, is to not just finish the race, but to win the race, why would I hesitate to make whatever adjustments necessary to do so?
Some things must be sacrificed for the greater goal of victory.
In the grand scheme of things, is there really anything worth holding on to? I think not.
How wonderful to be able to have the freedom to run to Jesus completely unhindered!
The consequence of all these things would be to block the work of God in your heart and in your home and in your church. You cannot afford to do it. Time is too short. Judgment is too certain. Eternity is too long. God is too wonderful, and Christ is too beautiful, and Heaven is too glorious for us to allow anything in our lives to hold us back from winning the race of life.
-A. W. Tozer
I’m not one to keep a diary or journal. I’ve found that it’s too easy for me to slip in to negativity, so I avoid writing regularly unless it’s in a very disciplined format. For example, writing about what God is speaking to me about through my blog. I also have a 5-year Q&A a day journal that’s been a lot of fun to use.
I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I do remember that 2014 had a lot of ups and downs, as tends to happen in life. But as I flipped through this notebook, all I saw were the highlights; and all I remembered was the closeness I had with the Lord during that time; the answers to prayer I was receiving; the joy and the peace I felt. It was my gratitude notebook.
I have had to rely on everything I’ve learned and been taught in my life; things that I have known since I was a child, yet, up until this year, had little opportunity to put in to practice.
Were it not for the grace of God, I would not be writing this.
I would not be at peace.
I would not have joy.
I would not be okay.
But God is gracious.
He gives us so many great gifts to help us in our times of need and struggle in life.
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
The same One who spoke with Abraham as a friend.
The same One who was with the three Hebrew children in the fire.
The same One who wrestled Jacob, who finally conquered him.
He is our defender. He does great and mighty things. He destroys armies. He stops people
in their tracks. He makes all things work together for our good.
Why, then, do we give in to fear?
Fear, my dad once said, reveals that we are walking by sight.
In scripture, we consistently see God’s power at work in the lives of those
he loves. We see his love, his goodness, his compassion, and even at times his discipline, as he intervenes on behalf
of his children. We see him working deliverance for his people, setting them free, healing them, and blessing them.
waiting for freedom, waiting for healing, they were doing just that — waiting. They did not know the end of the story. They did not yet see God’s intervention. They didn’t know how he was going to work things out for their good, how he was going to fulfill his promise to them.
So they waited.
Some waited well. They “strengthened themselves in the Lord,” as David did in 1 Samuel 30. They fixed their eyes on the Lord rather than their circumstances, they chose to trust him,
not their emotions, and they were determined to walk by faith, not by sight.
Others waited, well, badly. They focused on their pain. They focused on their circumstances. They took matters into their own hands, afraid that God would fail them. And the results
always proved tragic. The deliverance was delayed, their relationships damaged, and often, their testimonies tarnished.
I want to wait well.
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.