Joy In Our Trials

-Consider It A Great Joy!

In James’ introduction to his epistle, by the same name, the Spirit of God prompts him to write:  “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials” (1:2). Say what? Did he just say that we ought to consider it “joy” whenever we’re facing trials?  Yup, sure did! So, what are some of our natural responses to difficulties and problems? Not very joyful are they? Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh. A spiritual response of “joy” is counter-intuitive for us! It’s NOT natural! It’s God’s work in us!

-An Unavoidable Situation

That phrase, “…whenever you experience various trials…” is interesting.  It literally means that it’s an “unavoidable” situation! It’s not “IF” you will experience trials; but, “WHEN.” In other words, you cannot prevent it! You cannot control the various trials of life. I fear that some of you have gone through life feeling a great sense of guilt. You’ve convinced yourself that the reason you’ve had that crisis in your life is that you’ve done something wrong, and God is getting back at you for it! That He’s out to get you! That’s not the case! That’s not the loving, gracious, merciful God who eagerly forgives our sin when we confess it; and cleanses us for our unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-10). When James uses the word “consider” in that verse, he means for us to make a conscious commitment. We have to make a conscious commitment that whenever trials or tests or troubles come that we’re going to count it “joy” because it means that God is working in us! He’s using us for His purposes!

-God Puts You On Display!

If this becomes a struggle for you, let me offer you some Scripture to put to memory! When you memorize Scripture, you give God’s Holy Spirit the tools He uses to strengthen your faith and correct your walk with God! The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Church of Corinth:  “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).  God uses the tests & trials in your life to put you on display! “Here’s Jesus in the flesh,” He tells the unbelieving world. He’s announcing to everyone around you! He wants to show the world, by your response to the testing, that Jesus is more valuable to you than a perfect life without struggles; that you still pursue Him despite your trials! 

-Spiritual Maturity!

James is teaching his readers to let God use the testing to produce spiritual maturity in their life. It’s “…the testing of your faith…” he says in v.3 that produces “endurance.” One of our former members, who’s moved away, runs marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. He didn’t just start running marathons one day. In fact, if you ask him how far he could run when he started, he’d tell you he wasn’t able to get past the 1-mile mark. But, he kept running, stretching it out to 5 miles; then 10, 15, and 20. Until he could endure 26.2 miles. That’s what the testing of our faith produces is endurance, James says. When you’re a new believer you get tripped up easily over every little test in life. But, God uses it to build spiritual endurance in us! That’s why we consider it joy! We don’t consider it joy because we enjoy the trials. Rather, we face the trials with a joyful heart because we know that God is using those things to produce spiritual endurance in us. It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

Have The Attitude Of Jesus!

-Stuck In This Broken Flesh!

The Apostle Paul’s command to the Church of Philippi in the 2nd chapter of his letter to them is somewhat disturbing:  “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,…” he says. Let that sink in for a moment! How are we going to do that, Church? How can we possibly have the attitude Jesus had; and think as He did? We’re stuck in this broken flesh! He was God! Paul went on to say that Jesus existed, “…in the form of God, & He did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:5-11).  How can we possibly have the same attitude that Jesus had? And, yet, we are commanded to!

-Encouragement In Christ!

Does that not disturb you a little, as it does me? I hope that it does, and I hope it drives you deeper into the text because there are 2 significant details that we can’t leave out if we hope to obey this command to have the attitude of Jesus. If you’ll look back to verse 1, you’ll see that Paul says, “If there is any encouragement IN CHRIST…” If there is an encouragement! If there is any hope in doing what Paul is about to direct this Church to do, it’s because of our position “IN CHRIST.” If you’re a follower of Jesus; if you believe in Him, you are IN CHRIST! And, Christ is IN YOU by the Holy Spirit! So, Paul is telling the church that we CAN have the attitude of Christ— that He’s going to describe for us next— because we are IN CHRIST!

-Work Out Your Own Salvation!

There’s a 2nd significant detail in this text. Look at verses 12-13. Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Again, Paul gives us a command! You… work out your own salvation! Your Christian life is your responsibility. But, then he adds, “…it is GOD who is doing the WORK IN YOU…” It is because you are IN CHRIST that God enables you & gives you the desire! So, IN CHRIST, God enables us with a desire to think; or have the attitude of Jesus!

-An Attitude That Mirrors Jesus Christ!

I hope you’re tracking with me; because this is great stuff! And, let me show you the payoff! The idea, that we floated in our last post, that Jesus uses the transformed lives of our church to convict Sioux City (or your city!) of their need for a Savior, is why everything we do in life is significant. God uses the deep relationships— through our participation in Small Groups & Sunday School & ministry opportunities— to transform us into Gospel lights everywhere we go! In our places of work! In our neighborhoods! Even in our leisure! Let me show you why I say that! It’s found in v.15, where Paul says, “So that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” IN CHRIST, God enables us by giving us the desire to have the mind or attitude of Jesus! He will make us shine like stars in the world; and right here in our own city!

The Spirit Of Truth!

-He Came Alongside Him!

Many of you are aware that I’m a big baseball fan; and, one of my favorite baseball stories is about the friendship between the Dodgers Hall-of-Fame shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, and his teammate, the great Jackie Robinson. In 1947 Robinson bravely broke the color barrier, that should never have existed, when he became the 1st African American to play Major League baseball. Facing incredible racism, that continues to be a blight on our nation’s history & shamefully still persists today, he experienced jeering crowds in every stadium he played. One day, while playing at his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error and the fans began to ridicule him loudly. As Jackie stood, humiliated at 2nd base as the fans continued to boo him, Pee Wee Reese walked over to him, stood next to him, and put his arm around him; turning to face the crowd until they quit their booing! Later, Jackie Robinsons said, “That arm around my shoulder saved my career.

-Helper! Comforter! Advocate!

What Reese did that day was very much the kind of ministry the Holy Spirit does for us.  In John’s Gospel, chapter 14, as Jesus’ disciples struggle with His announcement that He would be leaving them soon, He encourages them with these words: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth” (vs.16-17). And, that word translated “Counselor”— some of your translations render it “helper” or “comforter” or “advocate”— is “parakletos” in the original Greek language. The word is used in reference to someone who is “called to one’s aid.” “Para” means to “come alongside.” If you’re a Paramedic you “come alongside” someone to provide medical assistance. Pee Wee Reese came alongside Jackie Robinson. He came to Jackie Robinson’s aid.

-He Sent The Holy Spirit To Aid Them!

Jesus told His disciples not to fear; because, when He left them, He would send the Holy Spirit— ”parakletos”— to their aid. It is only by God’s Holy Spirit that we are able to break free from Satan’s grasp to do Jesus’ work by God’s power! It has been my experience that the Holy Spirit, the 3rd member of the Triune Godhead, is either the most ignored or the most misunderstood member of the Trinity. What Jesus says about the Spirit, in John’s Gospel, is absolutely vital to your spiritual health. If you’re trying to live the Christian life without a proper Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work, you’ll suffer from spiritual malnutrition and you’ll be ineffective for the Lord! Listen to what Jesus says: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.” (vs. 16-18)

-Don’t Leave Home Without Him!

And, Jesus continues speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit: “I have spoken these things to you,” Jesus continues, “while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things & remind you of everything I’ve told you” (vs.25-26). Don’t leave home without the Holy Spirit. The Capital One card may ask, “What’s in your wallet?”; but, God is asking, “Who’s your parakletos?” Who’s coming alongside you to give you the aid you need to live a life that counts for eternity? Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. He says, “I will ask the Father, and He will GIVE you another Counselor…” (v.16). I’m going to ask the Father, Jesus says, to give you someone! The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Father’s gift! We are a favored people to live in the age of the Spirit! We should be incredibly thankful that we live in a day when the fullness of the Godhead has been revealed.

The Humility Of Jesus Christ!

-Humble God!

Perhaps the attribute; or, character quality, of God, that we most often forget, is His humility! The Bible affirms the humility of God in Jesus. And, let’s remember that Jesus said, “...if you’ve seen Me, you HAVE SEEN the Father…”; and, “…I and the Father are ONE…”; or, One & the same, He meant. They were of the exact same substance! So, if you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus because He IS God! And, because God, in Christ, has written Himself into the story of human history, we can see Him & hear Him! We can touch; and, be touched by Him!

-His Humility In His Birth!

And, Luke, in his Gospel, reveals the humility of Jesus in the announcement of His birth; and, in His entry into this world:  “…shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths & lying in a manger’” 2:8-12. So, again, to whom did the angels announce the wonderful news about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah? To shepherds, right? Really? That’s how God announced His arrival? I’m pretty sure that’s not how most of us would have scripted it if we were God!

-Human Announcements In Contrast!

Actor Chris Pratt; and, his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger recently announced that they’re expecting a baby in 2022.  Now, I’m pretty sure that on the day their baby is born that they won’t be sending messengers down to the docks so the fishermen can be the 1st to hear the great news; or, to all the cab drivers in America. No! You know how it works with human royalty! There’ll be gold-leafed announcements sent to all the prominent people in Hollywood. And, all the tabloids will have perfect pictures of the couple with their newborn child. My intent, in sharing those thoughts, is not so much to bash on the actor & his wife as it is to emphasize the humility of God.

-Bypassing The World’s Customs!

In God’s humility, He bypasses the customary ways of the world’s rich & famous; and, announces His coming to lowly, disrespected & marginalized shepherds. Bible scholars tell us that, “Shepherds were detestable and unreliable. They sometimes couldn’t testify in court. Nobody wanted to be a shepherd. Shepherds were despised by the ‘good’ respectable people of that day…The only people lower than shepherds at that particular time in Jewish history were lepers.” (From The Shepherd Of Israel by Dwight Pryor). God was revealing something to us about His “name”; or, His character! He reveals that He’s a God who cares for the lowly and the needy!

-God’s Character!

He cares for the humble in this world; for the marginalized and for people who are easily discarded or cast aside. He’s the Savior of everyone who humbly admits they need a Savior. He’s the friend of sinners! He eats with tax collectors; welcomes prostitutes; heals Gentiles; and, He’s willing to touch lepers who hadn’t felt a human touch ever since they were overcome by a contagious disease. He’s a God who doesn’t discriminate based on race or the color of someone’s skin! He created beautiful diversity in people groups. The humility of God, in Jesus, is also apparent in the cloth the shepherds found Him wrapped in. Luke records that they would, “…find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths & lying in a manger.”  According to the Jewish oral traditions, these cloths were used to wrap lambs that were destined to be Passover lambs; and, they were also used for burial cloths! Jesus’ humble birth was prophetic of his humble death!

Sound Asleep!

-A Disturbing Prejudicial Response!

For anyone claiming to follow Jesus, the Old Testament story of Jonah is a disturbing one! Our posts the last few weeks have focused on Jonah’s story. And, while it’s startling to observe Jonah’s prejudicial response to the revival of the people of Ninevah, we may be more like Jonah than we know; or, than we care to admit! The church cannot hold prejudice against any other people group, nation, or religion; and, remain true to Jesus’ commission to make disciples of every tribe, nation & people group. To make us useful, in His kingdom purposes, God must awaken us to souls nearby!

-Wake Up! Call To Your God!

Just turn back to Jonah, chapter 1, with me, and pay close attention to the words of the ship’s captain. Remember, this is the ship that Jonah chose to take passage on as he ran away from God’s calling to share the gospel message with the city of Ninevah. Starting at v.4, “Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea & such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god. They threw the ship’s cargo into the sea to lighten the load. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel & had stretched out & fallen into a deep sleep. The captain approached him & said, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us & we won’t perish’” (1:4-6).

-Silencing The Call Of God!

As I studied my way through this passage, the words of the ship’s captain arrested my attention. As I read it, I just let it play out in my mind like a TV drama; except, I saw it from Jonah’s vantage point— a believer;  a prophet of God; commissioned by God to take His word to another people group! But, he ran from that call! Getting on that ship; and, finding a place deep in its belly, he was determined to silence the call of God by just “sleeping it off.” He’d just wake up in a new place where, hopefully, God would just give up on him. But, as he slept— a deep sleep it says— a violent wind & storm arose on the sea; and, all the crewmen feared for their lives! So much so, that it says they, “…each CRIED OUT to their god…”

-What Are You Doing Sound Asleep?

Then, while beginning to throw the cargo overboard to keep the ship from breaking apart, the captain stumbles onto Jonah, wakes him; and, asks him:  “What are you doing sound asleep?” And, then he rebukes him, “Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us, and we won’t perish.” What an embarrassing role reversal this was for Jonah! Who was the spiritually motivated one? The more I meditated on that picture the more it kind of morphed into an image of OUR day! Have you noticed that there’s a major storm brewing all around us with wars & rumors of wars with the constant threat of nuclear weapons? There’s fear of a worldwide economic collapse!

-Down In The Belly Of The Ship!

There’s political unrest; and, a huge racism problem. And, to personalize the drama of Jonah’s story, WE are down in the belly of the ship! Many of us, who claim to be followers of Jesus, are running away from our calling! And, just like Jonah, we’re sound asleep! Even the unbelievers around us are recognizing the grave danger we’re in. All the cargo— the stuff of this world— isn’t worth keeping. Many of the lost all around us are crying out for help; and, in my mind I see the lost discovering me down in the ship; and, they’re angry! Angry at my non-loving, non-caring attitude toward them. Why wasn’t I helping them? They cry out the same words as the ship’s captain, “What are you doing sound asleep?” If you’ve been asleep; and, God’s Spirit is rousing you, let me remind you that He is the God of 2nd chances! Even as He gave Jonah a chance, He offers you a chance to repent & jump into God’s work?

Ungodly Men & Ungodly Laws!

-We Don’t Have To Take Care Of Ourselves!

The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, viewed himself as nothing more than God’s humble servant. He didn’t take himself too seriously! He saw himself as just one piece in God’s sovereign plan for the world! Though life circumstances, no doubt, made him fearful at times; fear did not control him! When we get over our fear, we can kind of “let go” & “let God” use us however He wants. I don’t have to take care of myself. God takes care of me! God shows us, in Daniel’s story, how we ought to respond when ungodly men make ungodly laws.

-Bow Down & Worship!

In Daniel, chapter 3, Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, builds a 90’ tall gold statue of himself; and, demands that everyone bow down & worship it; or, be thrown into a fiery furnace. That would be a problem for Daniel’s 3 Hebrew friends— Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah! They had been raised in good Jewish homes. They knew the commandments Yahweh had given to Moses in Exodus 20— “I  am the LORD your God; do not have any other gods besides me; do not make an idol for yourself; You must not bow down to them or worship them.” So, here they were between a rock; and, a hard place! Obey the King & face God’s judgment; or, obey God & face the fiery furnace.

-An Awkward Moment!

Get the picture? There are probably thousands of people, representing all the nations that Babylon had subdued; all, waiting for the sound of the music. They hear it; and, everyone bows down & worships the gold image except 3 men. They had to know that their insubordination wouldn’t go unnoticed. And, it wasn’t:  “Some of the Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse them” (3:8). So, they are made to stand before King Nebuchadnezzar; and, they “…replied to the king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question.  If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up’” (3:16-18).

-God Is Able To Deliver!

Enraged by their insubordination, the king demanded that they be thrown into the furnace. But, they determined to obey God rather than the king; and, trust God to do whatever he willed. They had faith that God was able to deliver them; but, even if He didn’t, they would not bow to the king’s image. There is a great application to take from their example—we need to be careful we don’t make claims for God on His behalf! We may think that God has to respond in a certain way; but, our knowledge is finite! His ways are higher than ours! So, don’t make promises for God that He doesn’t make!

-How Our Story Ends!

We can’t make demands on God about how our personal story ends! They trusted that God would deliver them either by a miracle; or, by death! We have to be careful that our trust in God is not limited to delivery by miracle! Their trust in God was not just tied to delivery from the furnace:  “…EVEN IF He does NOT,” they said, “we won’t bow to false gods!” That’s a gospel response. Sadly, the gospel being preached in the majority of our American churches is all about “me.” It’s man-centered; and, not God-centered! So, if He doesn’t deliver me from the furnace I won’t trust Him! That’s where false teaching begins… with man’s ways! King Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his accomplishments; when, it was God who blessed him with his abilities! I read somewhere that:  “Pride is like plagiarism because it attempts to take for ourselves Glory that belongs to God alone.” God will not share His glory with you! Humble yourself before Him.

What A Fool Says About God!

-The “Angry Theist”!

Do you know what a fool says about God? A fool says that God doesn’t exist! That’s the claim of the Old Testament book of Proverbs:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist” (Proverbs 14:1). He’s a fool because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! And, most often, in my experience, I’ve found that the person who claims to be an atheist is just an “angry theist.” In his heart he knows there’s a God; but, he’s mad at Him over something that happened in his life; and, he blames God for it. So, he refuses to yield to God’s Sovereignty.

-Authentic Wisdom!

Authentic wisdom grows as we learn to fear God! So, the fool, who doesn’t believe God exists, can never become a truly wise person! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but, fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord; because, unfortunately, I’ve found that it confuses some people. Keep in mind our word “fear” is translated from the original Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in. And, sometimes, in translation work, there just isn’t an adequate word in one language to properly express the meaning in another. That’s the case, here, with the word “fear.” This is not the kind of fear we might have of a snake; or, going to the dentist or doctor; or, of some extreme danger. This “fear” is more of awe or reverence of great respect!

The Fear Of God!

If you play a little basketball, to “fear” LeBron James is to have such awe or respect for who he is & for his incredible abilities that you couldn’t bring yourself to stand beside him on a basketball court.  To “fear” God means you’re awed that He has such power that He could speak the world into existence! To “fear” Him is to honor Him with such respect that you want to know Him! You want to know what He’s said in His word so you can be in proper standing & relationship with Him! When you truly come to understand what it means to fear Him, you’ll no longer fear anything or anyone else! He’s that awesome! The more you humble yourself before Him, the more you’ll desire to learn from Him!  And, in that way, you’ll grow in wisdom according to the book of Proverbs! The authentic wisdom, of God, will expose you, however, if you’re a fool! If you’re an unbeliever! If you deny His existence! Because, remember, that, “…FOOLS despise the wisdom & discipline…” of the Lord, Solomon says (1:7).

2 Kinds Of Wisdom!

There are only 2 kinds of wisdom! There is God’s wisdom; as recorded in the words of Scripture! And, there is the “wisdom” of sinful man which is always contrary to God’s wisdom. If God’s wisdom says, “don’t cheat, steal, lie or sleep with someone you’re not married to”; the world’s “wisdom” says, “Go ahead and cheat, steal & lie… just don’t get caught.” Oh, and, “sleep with anyone you want to! It’s okay as long as you love them.” The absence of God in the so-called “wisdom” of the world is ultimately its fatal flaw! The world’s “wisdom” is always a moving target! It changes with the times & societal more’s. But, the wisdom of God is immutable; like, He is! It never changes because He never changes! He will always be what He’s always been! Wisdom is not just a “way of life”; it’s the way “to life”— to life everlasting with God! In His wisdom; and, His love for us, He speaks His gospel of peace to us:  “Quit your rebellion,” He says, “confess your sin to Me! Quit fighting & waging war against Me! I offer you peace through the blood of Jesus & His work on the cross for you! Don’t be a FOOL any longer! Come to Me! I give you love, mercy & grace!

The Fear Of God!

Are You Thinking Rightly About God?

So, how do we think rightly about God? Where does our thought life, about God, need to begin? Well, the wisest man who ever lived, said that it begins with the fear of God— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline “ Proverbs 1:7. This is the introduction to the book, of the Bible, which is known for its wisdom! The writer sets up the theme of Proverbs for the entire book with those opening words. And, if you read the book from the 1st page to the last, you’ll uncover that theme of the “fear of the Lord” on multiple occasions; along, with the keywords associated with that theme—wisdom, knowledge, guidance, instruction!

-You’ll Be Wise!

And, the end results of adhering to God’s words of wisdom? You’ll be wise! For rejecting the wisdom of these Scriptures? You’ll be a fool! In my time of ministry, I’ve had the occasion, several times, to encourage individuals, that I was discipling, to read through the book of Proverbs once a month. There are 31 chapters; so, read a chapter a day! You might need to double up a couple of chapters at the end of certain months! But, you’ll be amazed at how God’s wisdom will change you in your person; in your marriage; in the training up of your children; in your work; and, in the entirety of the rest of your life!

Wisdom Has It’s Origin In God!

So, let’s draw some points from this key verse of Scripture, Proverbs 1:7. Notice that the author, King Solomon, begins with a presupposition, that, authentic wisdom has its origin with God! Theologically, we mean that God is omniscient; or, He is all-wise! So, all wisdom comes from Him! All knowledge comes from Him! Think about that! Anything that’s knowable, He knows! There is nothing He does not know! He knows the end from the beginning, Scripture says because He IS the END & the BEGINNING! He is the ALPHA & the OMEGA! God knows all things (1 John 3:20).

God Knows Everything That’s Knowable!

He knows every detail happening in all the world right now! Even when a sparrow falls out of a tree; or, a hair falls from your head, He knows (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your every thought before you speak it (Psalm 139:4). He saw you when you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows everything that’s on your heart (1 Kings 8:39). Even things you share with no one else, He knows! If you look at Proverbs, chapter 8, beginning with v.22, wisdom is personified & informs us of its origin:  “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His creation, before His works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began” (8:22-23). In Proverbs 3:19, he adds: “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding.”

-Looking For Wisdom?

So, if you’re looking for wisdom, look no further! Seek God! He created wisdom! Do you want knowledge & understanding? See God in His word! He has it! All of it! So, there’s a 2nd point that builds on the 1st. Authentic wisdom begins with a belief that God exists! If “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge…”; then, unbelief, in God’s existence, would result in no fear of God & conclude with an absence of wisdom & understanding! Were you tracking with me? In other words, if we view Solomon’s words here as a hypothesis or a proposition, he’s drawing the conclusion that an unbeliever (especially an atheist) is incapable of true wisdom; because true wisdom comes ONLY from the very God he fails to believe exists! He can be a really smart guy! He can be book smart! But, the ultimate wisdom necessary to successfully navigate this world & eternity is only available in God! We’ll pick it up there next week!

Struggling With Depression?

-Let God Be God!

It’s incredibly freeing when you stop trying to be your own savior; and, everyone else’s savior too! To just let God be God! To admit you don’t know what to do next! To feel the helplessness of being out of control! Only then can you fully abandon yourself to the only One who can part the Red Sea; to the only One who can use 300 weaponless soldiers to overthrow a vast Midianite army; to the only One who can knock down a giant with a little stone; to the only One who can feed 5000 with a piece of bread and a few small fish; to the only One who can raise a Messiah from the dead to save a people from their sin!

-Thank God For Failure!

I can honestly thank God for all the times of failure in my life! I praise Him for allowing me to fail! Be honest with God! Admit you’re not big enough or strong enough or smart enough! Admit you’ve tried! But, praise him when your strength fails! Thank Him for it because your failure is the only thing that drives you back to the only One strong enough & beg enough & wise enough to fix it! Be honest with God when you’re afraid! King David wrote this Psalm during a time of fear:  “I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” Psalm 34:4-7. 

-Fear God! Not Circumstances!

Be honest with God when you’re afraid! Fear Him instead of your circumstances & He will deliver you from them; or, He will deliver you THROUGH them! Sometimes He removes them; but, sometimes He grows you THROUGH them! Be honest with God when you’re struggling with depression! And, praise Him anyway! I love Psalm 42:5. It’s a Scripture that has so impacted me that I’ve put it to memory:  “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” The writer is asking himself why he’s so depressed! Why is he struggling with turmoil inside?

-Sing About Your Depression!

Do you ever feel that way? It’s okay to admit that to God! In fact, it was God who inspired the writer to include it in Scripture! And, let’s remember that the book of Psalms contained songs that Israel sang to God! So, they sang about depression! And, while I truly believe that, at times, depression needs to be treated medically as an illness, there are times in life when we just feel “blue” over the weariness of life!

-Overcoming The “Blues”

The best way to overcome those “blue” feelings is to place your hope in God & begin to offer Him praise for all the blessings He has given you! Praise Him because He alone can satisfy your soul! King David also was inspired by God to include these words in Psalm 63— ”My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands. You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips” vs. 3-5.  Oh that God would bring all of us to that place where we would see that He is all we need! That we would truly live like we believe that His faithful love is really better than life! That our souls would be satisfied with Him alone! That all the other created things that we enjoy in this world would pale in comparison to the beauty of our Great God!

Trip Hazard!

-We’re Our Own Biggest Problem!

There are several verses, in the Old Testament book of Psalms, that bring “trip hazards” to mind as I read them! This wisdom literature points us to ourselves! We, ourselves, are probably the most problematic “trip hazard” that we face as we attempt to walk with God. For example, Israel’s King David says that any unconfessed sin we hold onto will harm our health! “When I kept silent, (about my sin),” he says, “my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat” (Psalm 32:3).  Even our bones become brittle when we hold onto our sin! Our strength is sapped like every day is a 100-degree day!

-God’s Heavy Hand Against Us!

God’s hand is heavy against us as long as we refuse to confess our sin to Him! “But,” he says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin” (v.5).  I vividly remember carrying the burden of my sin as a 13-year old boy. But, when I confessed my sin & accepted Jesus’ payment for my sin, by His death on the cross, I remember how my guilt vanished! What a great Psalm! Mark it in your Bibles! You’ll need it when Satan comes to accuse you of your sin— ”You say you’re a follower of Jesus? And, look at you! You’re nothing but a sinner!”  Rebuke the devil! Remind him that you’ve been forgiven for every sin you’ve ever committed! Once & for all they were nailed to Christ’s tree of crucifixion. Your sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus! God promises never to count them against you again! He makes you righteous in Christ!

-You Really Aren’t Strong Enough!

But, there’s another way that we are our own worst “trip hazard.” We get in the way when we think that we can do life in our strength! One of the clearest signs we have a problem, in this area, is our lack of prayer & our lack of time spent in Scripture! When we fail to pray & when we fail to read His Word, we’re telling God—by our actions—that, “I Got This! I don’t need your help, God!” We erroneously think we’re strong enough! We’re wise enough! We trust our resources! The nation of Israel’s failure, in this area, should serve as a warning to us:  “A king is not saved by a large army; a warrior will not be delivered by great strength. The horse is a false hope for safety; it provides no escape by its great power” Psalm 33:16. Large armies won’t save us!

-Fear God!

The great strength of a warrior will not deliver him! A horse’s great power offers false hope! Our strength & intelligence & ingenuity is a curse when we depend on it to save us! Rather, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him—those who depend on His faithful love to deliver them from death and to keep them alive in famine. We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield” Psalm 33:18. We need to fear God for His great power! Depend on His faithful love to deliver you! He alone should be our help & shield! Though it’s never fun when our world is crashing around us, it proves to be a blessing when we see God turn things around! And, He’ll only do that after we’ve come to the end of ourselves! When all our resources & all our strength & all our wisdom just isn’t enough! It’s incredibly freeing to stop trying to be your own Savior; and, everyone else’s Savior too! To let God be God; and, admit you don’t know what to do next!