Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Living a Powerful Life

What It Means to Rely on the Spirit

When we become Christians by relying on what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross, we are given God’s Spirit as a pledge of our salvation and to enable us to live a powerful life. However, we often don’t lean on him and instead try to muscle our way through the Christian life in our own strength. We must choose to rely on this Spirit to help us to love the unlovely, serve the needs of others sacrificially, and let others get the credit instead of us seeking it for ourselves. We often think we can do all these good things just by trying harder. But we can’t.

As a Christian, we have “become a new person. The old life is gone: a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). But we don’t become a new person in our experience if we continue to rely on our human efforts and not the supernatural power of the Spirit. We don’t want to try to live the Christian life without Jesus’ help. For our Christianity will be fake and powerless.

Why It’s So Hard to Rely on the Spirit

My background emphasized knowing the Bible. But it did not emphasize as much relying on the Spirit to live the Bible. To some extent, I was left on my own to figure out how to obey it from the heart. As a result, my spirituality had a lot of legalisms in it, which is trying to live the Christian life without relying on the Spirit.

I realized this about myself 17 years ago when I started seminary. I seemed to think that all I needed was to know the biblical principle and then I could do it. However, at that time I began to trust in a deeper way that apart from God I could do nothing of eternal value (John 15:5). Nothing? Are you kidding? That’s right. Nothing of eternal value.

So, I was motivated to learn how to do live more with Jesus instead of just for Jesus. I had to humble myself and learn to let Jesus into my day to help me with whatever came along. But where’s the glory in that? If God and I are doing life together, how can I take credit for what happens? I would have to die to myself (John 12:24)– and that is one major reason few of us walk in the Spirit because we are too proud to live in the reality that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that counts.

Another reason we often choose to live without God’s power is it is hard to live by faith. Up until the time we became Christians, we always relied on something we could see. That was usually us or good circumstances. If we couldn’t see it, it didn’t exist. And this bent carries over into our life after we become a Christian. We like to see, feel, and touch what we put our faith in. But in the case of trusting God, we never see him, feel him, or touch him directly. But through the eyes of faith, we experience his love and power through a loving wife, compassion living through a godly person and wisdom through a Spirit-filled teacher.

Many of us are high-control people. We don’t feel safe unless we control our circumstances. It is very difficult for us to trust others. Instead, we strive to understand so we don’t have to trust an unseen God. But God says, “Trust in Me with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge me and I will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6, NLT). But that is scary. We have less anxiety when we trust in something we can see. But the truth that often escapes us is that our circumstances are never under our complete control.

As a result, many of us opt for a safe Christianity that lacks God’s presence and power. We miss the exciting adventure of allowing God to transform us and use us to make this a better world. We fail to live life in the Spirit, in God’s power. We miss much of the joy and peace of living in partnership with the living God. We refuse to pay the price. It takes work, perseverance and trust in God. It can be uncomfortable and painful and not for cowards. Few Christians live this way.

One of the shocking things I learned when I became more aware of my thoughts, feelings and motives of my heart through spiritual formation disciplines was how depraved I was. For example, I was trying to earn worth by serving God. Being a leader in the church sometimes was more about trying to be important to church people than pleasing God and doing what he wanted me to do for his purposes. I pretended to be what I thought would get the approval of others, instead of what was right for me. And trusting in good circumstances rather than a good God to keep me safe.

A reason it is hard for us to rely on God is that we often want to rely on lies more than the God of all truth. We don’t want to believe that we can’t do anything of eternal value without God doing it through us. We don’t want to believe that God’s plan for us is better than our plans for ourselves. We don’t want to believe that what others think of us has no value in who God thinks we are. We want control and we want to cling to the fantasy that we have it. But in order to rely on the Spirit, we need to be trained to turn away from lies that contradict God’s truth and promises. We need to develop the skill to identify and validate the accuracy of what we depend on.

How to Rely on the Spirit

To rely on the Spirit, we must trust what the Spirit says is true. It’s not something to file way on the bookshelf of our minds, but something to be used today to live our lives. Unless we step out and depend on the Spirit to make his promises active and alive in us, they are powerless. “And without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6, NAS). God wants us to be a doer of the Word and not someone who knows but doesn’t trust or do.

When God says to us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely, I will help you, surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NAS), he doesn’t want us to go on acting like we are at the mercy of our wits and wisdom. No, he wants us to act on the truth that we are never alone, and God’s powerful and faithful help will get us through whatever challenges we are facing.

Meditation on God’s word helps us to stay focused on God’s truth instead of Satan’s blizzard of lies. For example, I recently had a delicate procedure done by a vascular surgeon. The procedure did not go perfectly when he made an error in judgment on the size of the stent and left a pinhole leak. He also let the incision get infected and prescribed an anti-biotic that I was allergic to. After a couple of other expectations that were not met, I began to feel like I wasn’t safe. Then God reassured me through meditation on Isaiah 41:10 that he was with me and was my reason to feel safe. He impressed upon me that all the human errors were under his control, and he still would work these mistakes together with other things for my good. Without relying on Isaiah 41:10, I would have been much more anxious than I was listening to Satan’s lies that I was in danger.

Final Thoughts

Finally, the dirty little secret is that we can’t live the Bible by just knowing it. We can know and want to do but still not do. God must live his life through us to live according to God’s incredibly high standards. Standards such as loving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt is, and loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.  We can’t do this through human strength. We always must lower the standards to make our Christianity work when we refuse to depend on the Spirit.

God tries to persuade us to try his Spirit out to live by his standards of perfection. We need to get out of the way and let God live his life through us. We need to rely on the fact that Jesus has rendered powerless our sin nature. When we rely on this reality, God gradually makes it true in our experience as we follow and trust in him. When we don’t depend, we continue to not be transformed and fail to connect to the life of God and his joy, peace, and love. May we all persevere, never give up, and try again even if we fail a thousand times. To experience God’s intimate love for us and his power, makes it worth the effort.

Application Questions and Exercises

1. What about you makes it difficult to rely on God to do his will? What are some reasons you think you need God’s help? What is one lie you believe that keeps you from trusting God to live through you?

2. Ask God to help you see some alternatives you have trusted in instead of placing your faith in him to meet an important need. Why did you do this? How did it work?

3. Imagine what this week would look l like if you lived it in God’s power. What are some differences you see in your feelings and actions from your usual week?

4. What has helped you to live by reliance on God? Why? What has hindered you? What action(s) are you going to take?

5. Think of a truth you sense the Holy Spirit is wanting you to trust God to make real for you in your experience. Picture what it would look like in your thoughts, feelings and actions if you acted and trusted God to provide what he has promised.

6. We are given God’s precious and magnificent promises so that our life can become supernatural as we rely on Jesus to make them real in our experience. Ask him to show you one of those promises to rely on today. How do you expect your day to be different as he keeps his promise to you?

7. Do you passionately desire to live a supernatural life experiencing daily God’s power and intimate love for you? Why would you want this? Why wouldn’t you want this?

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My COVID Story

When COVID first hit, it took some time for me to grasp that I would need to alter my life in many ways. I did not know I would have to deal with a “plague of biblical proportions.” For a long time, there were no trips to get my hair cut, no Fourth of July as I knew it, no birthday parties, no church as usual, and few friends to spend time with (I am retired). I often felt bored and lonely

There also were no vacations, Writer’s Conferences, or times to mentor men to help them grow in their faith.

Zoom helped me reach out to some extent, but it never was as good as being with them.

I did keep the hope alive for a long time in 2020 that we could still have a family reunion at Yellowstone National Park. But often the parts of the park we liked weren’t open.

But we did finally go. We went by car because we felt it was safer than by air to avoid COVID. It was a great time both going to and coming back from Wyoming. It was one of the best times of the year. There was white water river rafting, sights that awed us, and good times with brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and in-laws.

Nature gave a lift to my spirit in the springs of 2020 and 2021 and at other times of the year. This brought some joy to my life. Also, I often took a drive in the car to lift my mood. I felt less lonely as I saw people going about their lives.

I often looked to God to feel safe and to not be so lonely. I also told the Lord “Thank you” often for my wife being in my life to bring some human warmth to me in the sad and empty days I had to face.

I think I felt more fear than most since the start of the pandemic due to being over seventy and having pre-existing conditions. Many were dying who had my characteristics.

Getting the vaccines gave a great boost to my confidence and peace of mind.

I often asked God for his safe path as I tried to be wise about the risks I took to be out in the world. I grew in my trust in God to keep me safe. So far, I have not had COVID.

I also felt fear due to riots, chaos with the elections, lockdowns, and bad health news in the media. These fears often drove me to my knees to pray to gain some peace.

God has been a rock in a scary world.  He has been a place to go to in order to feel safe, as the Bible says, “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety” (Psalm 91:2, NLT).  When the usual things I would rely on to meet my needs were not there, like friends and going out and doing things, I would experience God’s help to get me through the day. My focus grew to only want to do what his will was, in his power, and for his glory.

The verse I most clung to during this time was in Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NAS). I still lean on this promise of his as I face the uncertain times ahead and the COVID threat that never seems to end.

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A Personal Story

I have struggled with low self-esteem since childhood. I have tried to overcome it by impressing, achieving, and conforming. But I couldn’t seem to impress or achieve enough to rest in just being me.

When I became a Christian in my twenties, I heard about how much God loved me and how important I was to him. But it seemed that a lot of this teaching just lodged in my head and did not seem to penetrate to my heart.

Meanwhile, I continued to strive for worth, approval, and achievement, but in Christian ways now. At the heart-level I still did not have a strong sense of being loved and important to God. One idol I adopted was to substitute the identity I got from the church, for the wonderful identity God gives me from being his child.

My Christianity was knowing the truth and then doing it, largely in my own strength. I was unaware of whether I was trusting God and his Word to do it. 

As the years went by, I was alert to anything that was useful in growing in my faith and helping others to grow. One day, a friend introduced the idea of going to seminary and studying Spiritual Formation.  It soon became apparent this was God’s leading, so I enrolled.

One of the first things I discovered was that I had a heart. Up until that time I assumed that if I knew the Bible, and applied it, then I would trust it. But no. Many times, I was surprised that my head and my heart disagreed. I was introduced to a new world of my heart and discovered idols and lies that were holding me back from growing in my faith.

Some of those lies included that I am what the church thinks I am, not what God thinks I am. I am only as important as my achievements are in the eyes of man. And I am only safe when I have good circumstances, not because God is with me.

I was fascinated by the unseen world of my heart and surrendered myself to learn to live in the truth at that level, no matter what the cost.

By this time, I had gotten pretty good at getting my needs met through the lies and idols in my heart. So, it has been particularly hard for me to die to these sins. In my desperation, I have experienced new life as I have earnestly prayed and leaned on God to show up in places where I have died to the old ways of getting my needs met.

Evidence of the resurrected life includes my growing desire to only do the tasks God gives me, in his power, and for his purposes. Another evidence is that we do life together now. I not only live life for God, but also with him. And I’m growing in finding my security through God’s presence, and not in good circumstances.

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Words from a Brave Man

Based on Psalm 34

Many people think of me as brave. They think of me as a warrior and fearless. They may not know that my courage comes from relying on God and his faithful help.

I know it’s hard to turn our fears over to God. We think we know what is best. But God continues putting me in situations that perplex and scare me, making me realize how frail and needy I am.

When I keep my eyes on God, I realize what a great, good God he is. He can do anything and he loves me so much he helps me with all of my problems. When I trust in him, I become less fearful and more courageous.

But sometimes my focus is on the “worst-case scenarios” and I become overwhelmed with anxiety– like when Saul was trying to kill me and I was running for my life. My focus on God became blurred by a blizzard of fears.

When I cry out for help, he rescues me from danger, real or imagined, and enables me to thrive. Yet, I often don’t pray until I’m desperate – until my back is against the wall. But he is faithful to answer my prayers anyway. May I remember to give him credit for his rescues and not chock them up to good luck.

I encourage you to give your fears to him and discover how good he is. Let’s take refuge in him and we will experience radiant joy and blessings.

We all want a long life filled with satisfying things. Listen to me and I will tell you how we get it – by being truthful and doing good in God’s eyes, especially in showing love to others. God chose me to be the future king because I was a man after his own heart and did good.

God watches over us- which we realize when we keep our eyes on him. The Lord stands ready to help us in all the seasons of our lives, if we only continue to reach out to him. Sometimes I feel lazy and don’t want to put the effort in to trust him. And I suffer for it by being more afraid.

I have faced many troubles in my life so far. Yet, God has richly blessed me as I have looked to him instead of my circumstances for deliverance. I was able to overcome the strength of a lion and a bear in protecting my sheep. I successfully fought Goliath by focusing on God’s worthiness and power, not my dangerous circumstances. And God enabled me to do the impossible.

May we learn to look to God for our protection and help and not to good circumstances. He will reliably rescue us from being crushed. Let’s take refuge in God for he will help us through all our troubles.

 

 

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Where is Your Focus?

Because of artery disease, I have to undergo yearly tests to make sure another aneurysm or other problem hasn’t developed. This year, a screening test showed there was bleeding from around a stent.

The doctor wanted to take a closer look to determine why there was bleeding. So, he ordered a more accurate test and wanted it done urgently. During the wait for the test and results, I entertained a number of “worst case scenarios” of what would need to be done.  These included “it couldn’t be fixed” to major surgery.

I tried to keep my focus and trust in God’s goodness and help, but tended to rely on a good outcome. As the day approached to receive the test results, I felt increasing fear and depression. I knew God could heal me, but would he?

My thoughts were riveted on getting bad outcomes.  The night before the appointment the doctor called and said he had the test results – and there was no bleeding. There was nothing wrong!

I was elated and knew God had healed me. Why was it so hard to trust God to be willing and able to work this miracle?

When we fail to consistently keep our eyes on God during threatening circumstances, we often experience fear and depression. Peter was able to walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus – but when he stared at the wind and choppy water, he started to sink. God manifests his reality and power to us as we look to him for support.

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By focusing on Jesus, we remember we aren’t facing life alone. Our confidence becomes his presence and not good circumstances. He will always be with us – but good circumstances come and go.

David was able to kill Goliath because he focused on God’s power and faithfulness. He saw life as it really is – under the complete control of God. He was not fixated on dangerous circumstances, but on God’s help – and he did the impossible.

So, how do we keep our focus on God and not become victims of our circumstances?

We can’t by ourselves. But we can “do all things through him who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13). With God’s help, we can put our trust in God’s control of our circumstances and help in going through them. Otherwise, we will become dependent on the uncertainty of good circumstances – a sure way to feel anxious.

Another action to keep our focus on God is to control what we see and listen to. We are bombarded with the things of the world through TV, newspapers, conversations, our worldly thinking, and social media. But God wants us to set our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2) – things like God controls our circumstances, loves us, and always works whatever happens for our good. We limit the input of the world and think about whatever is good, acceptable and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

It helps to recognize how difficult it is to “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24) and to focus on God. We have many thinking habits and dependences leftover from our old life that drive us to depend on muscling our way through life. We resist depending on a supernatural God. I wanted to give glory to my body for the good test results. However, I knew my body had failed but God was the strength of my body and healed me.

We must work hard to change what we rely on. If we don’t, we will continue to be tossed to and fro by our circumstances. God says, “Be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11) – this rest sees God in all things and frees us from being controlled by scary circumstances. Where is your focus?

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Help Me in My Unbelief

I was fascinated by Jesus’s life and his challenge to follow him. But after five months of heavy Bible study, several hours of fellowship each week, being mentored, and being prayed for, I still didn’t have enough faith to receive him into my life. I thought that if I did, nothing would happen.

Then one night my best friend, Greg, shared that he had received Jesus into his heart that afternoon. I was flabbergasted! He was no longer one of my kind, but was one of them.

I sensed that I needed to make a decision about Jesus too. I believed that either I could accept Jesus into my life and keep my best friend, Greg, or reject Jesus and continue to live life the same old way without Greg.

But I didn’t have enough faith to invite Jesus into my life. I still doubted a lot and didn’t know very much. So, I went to Greg that night and asked him what had persuaded him that he could believe.

He shared with me several verses of the Bible that God had used to draw Greg to himself. One of these verses stood out to me. That verse was Mark 9:24 which says, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (NAS).

It was like a light bulb went on for me. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to have all the answers to have enough faith for him to respond and come into my life. Just a little bit of faith. So, I prayed, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.” And it was enough!

We seem to have mastered the idea that we need to know the Bible. However, we don’t seem to have the same commitment to rely on the Bible. Instead, we tend to rely on such things as our own strength, the approval of others, and good circumstances.

But knowing the Bible does us no good if we don’t believe the Bible. We believe the Bible when we depend on the God of the Bible to make good on his promises. As Jesus worked a miracle of healing for the father who asked Jesus to help him in his unbelief (Mark 9:24), he worked a miracle for me in helping me to believe enough to be saved.

Recently, I went to the doctor for a minor problem.  I don’t like going to doctors. I often feel scared, unsafe and embarrassed by my anxiety which often drives up my blood pressure.

However, I am learning to believe in God in these situations. By believing in God, I know I’m safe and okay despite my fears and what others may think. I choose to rely on what God thinks and that is freeing me from my unbelief.

Our belief grows in a partnership with God. He increases our belief as we cooperate with him. We cooperate by praying, obeying his will, depending on the Bible, fellowshipping, and helping others.

My faith in Jesus started out smaller than a mustard seed. I didn’t have enough faith to receive the gift of salvation. But as I have slowly turned away from relying on my own fortitude these past forty-six years and instead focused on our awesome God to live life, my faith has gradually grown.

 

 

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What Are You Clinging To?  

Recently I faced major surgery. It involved doing some repair work on a major artery. Although the procedure was reasonably safe, there were some risks. I felt a lot of anxiety and despair as I faced the possible complications that any surgery on an artery has.

As I processed my fears and some negative thinking, I realized how much I was clinging to this life. I did not want to leave it. I like it here. I have a good family, good health and purpose in my life.

Yet, God could be leading in another direction. Was I willing to go?

As I struggled with finding peace of mind, God brought Matthew 6: 25-34 to mind. Through this passage, he challenged me to stop clinging to my life and trust him to take care of it. “How can your worrying add one hour to your life” he said to me. “Instead, I want you to focus on doing my work and becoming more intimate with me.”

Things We Cling To

We can cling to almost anything other than God. A few weeks ago, someone wanted to borrow our second car for as long as they needed it. Although it was God’s car, I felt like it was mine and I didn’t want to give it up.

We also cling to our reputations. We tend to worry about what others think of us rather than accepting what God thinks. We often seek to earn people’s approval rather than depend on our status as God’s children to find love and approval.

Men especially cling to achievement to feel important. Instead of clinging to what God says, which is “You are precious, you are honored and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4), we choose to rely on achieving impressive things to feel important.

A fourth example that many of us cling to is a happy marriage. We think if we only had a happy marriage we could be happy. But a fully-happy marriage is the product of clinging to God for the power and wisdom to make it happen.

My wife and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this month. We have had a good marriage. During the courtship and throughout the forty years, clinging to God has given us the ability to overcome some of our selfishness and to love each other.

Why Clinging to God Is Best

He promises that clinging to him will be best for us. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, NLT).

Clinging to God is the best way to live. It is better than clinging to our money, our family, our pleasures, and our very life. These things carry no value into the next life.

But clinging to God has great value that lasts forever when “our dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4, NLT).

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Living by Faith

What does this mean? A few days ago I was about to go to the doctor and get the results of my annual physical. Included was a test result to determine if I needed major surgery. Living by faith, I rested on the facts that God controls the results and they will probably be reasonably good. And if disappointing, he will give me the strength to handle the results in a mature and godly way. Thus, I felt reasonable peace.

However, I was also tempted to live by sight. Living by sight had me thinking that I didn’t know if the results would be good and could very well not be. I also felt fearful that I wouldn’t have the inner strength to face them with courage and maturity.

As I lay on the gurney waiting for the doctor to come into the room with my test results, I desperately tried to live by faith repeating to myself David’s words, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). I wouldn’t let my mind entertain the fearful “What if” scenarios. As a result, I felt some peace in the midst of my anxiety.

Then, the doctor came in the room. After some small talk that seemed to last several minutes, I asked him about the results. To my astonishment they were great! Nothing abnormal and no surgery needed even when preliminary tests indicated a good chance that it would be!

But I was drained after God led me through another trial of learning to live by faith. When I kept my eyes on his presence and help I was at peace. When I started to live by sight, I was terrified. I thanked him wholeheartedly for doing such a good job in taking care of my body for the past year.

summer field, sunrise and blue sky

What It Means to Live by Faith 

Living by faith is expecting God to do what he has promised. For example, he has promised to shower us with goodness and loving acts (Psalm 23:6). He has also promised to help us to go through whatever painful situation we will have to face (Philippians 4:13). I rested in both promises to live by faith as I faced test results.

Living by faith is growing in trusting God to do the miraculous, based partly on previous miracles that he has done for us. Learning to trust God is often a slow process. The disciples were slow to learn that Jesus could provide food miraculously by failing to learn from two previous miracles he did in providing food for thousands from a few loaves of bread (Matthew 16:8-11).

Living by faith is taking God at his word that our rewards in heaven far outweigh the benefits we can gain on our own in this life. Moses chose ill-treatment with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin because he was living by faith in a heavenly reward (Hebrews 11:25-27).

Living by faith is being content with our life. We can only be content by faith in God (Philippians 4) because we are bent towards being frustrated with whatever we get in possessions, accomplishments and respect. When we choose to live by sight, we put confidence in ourselves or another idol to earn contentment that never comes (Proverbs 20:27).

How We Live by Faith

We are trained to live by sight. We have been trained to depend on ourselves. We have been trained that there is no God in the details of life. So, we have a lot of un-training we need to do to live by faith. That’s why Paul commands us to put off the old and put on the new. We have to put off tackling the world by sight so that we can embrace God’s help through faith.

God tells us that we can grow in living by faith as we hear and rely on the Word (Romans 10:17). It’s not just knowing the Word, but relying on it (James 1:22). And that’s where our battle rages as it did for me in the doctor’s office. Will we fight through and live by faith or shrink before the challenges and miss a supernatural life?

As a result of this doctor visit, my faith grew. May we all reflect on God’s faithfulness to us in the past, that we may live by faith today. May we choose to live by faith in his miraculous help for our future challenges, instead of just relying on the puny resources that we can see.

 

 

 

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Sowing In Tears

In my desire to be motivated and grow as a writer, I attended a Christian writers conference last week. In one of the workshops, the leader gave us a homework assignment to ask God what he thought of our writing.

This was a little scary. It was kind of like getting a report card from God. But I did ask him, and he did respond.

He indicated that although my writing was very good, I was in a season of sowing in tears. This means a lot of work without many results.

Sounds depressing doesn’t it. But he assured me that he would help me through this season, including helping me become a better writer. He also indicated that in his time there would be considerable results.

But I have been trained to misuse results to determine God’s direction, my worth, or the worth of what I am doing. I have often regarded low results as an indicator of not being in God’s will, not being important, or a waste of time.

Therefore, little results are painful for me.

So, is it worth it to continue to sow in tears? Wouldn’t it be better to do something else less painful that has a bigger immediate payoff?

The answer is “No.”

Why Do It

God has called all of us to live by faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). But what does this mean?

It means that we follow God’s will no matter what. No matter the pain and no matter how ridiculous it may seem, we follow what God is leading us to do.

We are to lean hard on his promised support, not on our often failing strength, to endure and thrive in seasons of sowing in tears.

We need to remember that our efforts are not in vain if God has led us to do it. God says to us, “Be steadfast, immovable, always doing what I want you to do, knowing that your hard work is not in vain, if I have led you to do it” (1 Corinthians 15:58, paraphrased).

And can we really know what the results are as God sees them? Can numbers adequately measure the work of God?

I have heard about a missionary who spent 50 years in a foreign land without one convert. Yet, time has shown that although the missionary never saw the results, there was a great spiritual harvest after the missionary was gone.

How To Do It

So, how do we persevere and not give up when God wants us to sow in tears?

One thing that can encourage us is that we will eventually reap. If we do as God leads, in dependence on him and for his purposes we shall reap a harvest of blessings. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT).

Life can be very discouraging when we have little to show for our efforts. But our eye needs to stay on our Father who smiles on us as we look to him for strength to do as he leads in our season of sowing in tears (Isaiah 26:3).

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When Life is Scary

I admit I was scared! My blood pressure proved it. It had soared in the surgeon’s office.

I was there to determine what my options were for dealing with an abdominal aneurism. Some kind of surgery seemed to be the direction that we would be heading.

And I was scared! I had had open-heart surgery nine months ago and nearly died of an aneurism. In addition, my brother had an abdominal aneurism burst on him two months ago and he nearly died. So, I was scared of aneurisms.

But the appointment turned out well. I came away encouraged. The surgeon plans to do non-invasive surgery with a very low risk for failure.

Then, my blood pressure fell back to normal. I rejoiced that we were going to deal with this ticking time bomb in the next three weeks.

So, what do we do when we have to face life’s scary situations? Do we just sweat it out until the circumstances get good again? What happens if they don’t?

One thing I did was to rally as many people as I could to pray for the surgeon’s visit. I also went to my faith bank account to draw out truths that I could rely on.

One of these truths was, “He will not fear bad news, his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7). I reasoned that even if I did receive bad news, he would give me the strength to face and deal with it (Deuteronomy 33:25). I also reasoned that he could still use bad news for my good (Romans 8:28).

I was also comforted that this latest scary situation was part of a larger spiritual growth process that God is taking me through of stripping away many of my idols.

What might you ask would be my idol in the situation? My indestructible body, of course, that really is destructible. Instead, he wants me to depend on “Do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). He wants me to depend on his presence and his help to live until my assigned time is up and I am escorted into his presence in heaven.

Now, this is a hard thing for me to do. My idol has provided me with such good health for so long. Now God wants me to grow up in this area and find my physical security in him and whatever he chooses to provide.

So what scares you? What unsure thing are you clinging to? Can you see yourself instead clinging to Someone who offers himself as your strength, your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your refuge, your shield, and your stronghold (Psalm 18:1-2)?

Life is going to be scary for all of us at times. What will we do in these times? Rely on good news? Or, will we seek God to give us good news and/or the strength to deal with bad news?

 

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