It's tough when we face the uncertain; those days where we don't know how we're going to get over the mountain and rise above the restrictions that challenge our faith. It's tough when we are having to endure struggles and deal with the unexpected. Daily, people have to push through all kinds of challenges - financial, health, relationship and/or career. Loss and heartache are a part of what we as humans experience and have to endure. In times of trouble we often feel empty, alone, purposeless or directionless. Sometimes we have difficulty comprehending the reasons behind the uphill struggle, but the Lord is faithful to the ones who love Him and comes through for us, because He knows what we're going through and what we need before we even as ask Him.
"Do not be like them, (pagans) for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8 (NIV)
I have witnessed new converts and seasoned believers alike go through the pains of truly surrendering into the Lord and placing all trust in Him to do what He has promised all along, which is to protect and provide for us. This can be difficult in the times when in the natural world we can't see the wood for the trees and things appear hopeless and fruitless. I've been there. What I have found, without fail, however, is that when those challenging times arise is often when the Lord speaks clearest. We might not hear Him immediately because of worry or anxiety about the situation, but, He always speaks to us when we reach out to Him and ask, put down the worry and anxiety and look to Him instead of the problem.
Why the struggles and trials? Because through our struggles we are being brought closer to the Lord. The Lord wants us to lean on Him, to have faith and persevere and settle into the peace He gives us when we lean on Him and accept that He is the authority in our lives and sees what we don't. It is in these times of trial and tribulation that the Lord proves His faithfulness and eternal presence holding us and providing for us. It's also a time of learning to fully trust in the Lord's timing and accept that oftentimes He delivers at the last minute. This is often where our faith is tested. We must always remember that God is faithful, kind and good. He never lies, He cannot! Thus, He will do as He has promised. The lesson is to SURRENDER, TRUST and have FAITH, that He's got you.
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 (NIV)
Having faith means we let go of worrying about what we're struggling with. We put the worry down and lift up our eyes and focus on the Lord. We look into His eyes and experience the infilling of peace He gives us when we do this. Faith means we BELIEVE the Lord has everything under control and we let go of trying to control the situation from our limited perspective. Doing this grows and strengthens our faith and trust in the Lord. This is faith in action! This action results in joy and peace when we fully accept and believe that no matter what, God Almighty is for us and He will provide whatever it is we need - solutions, breakthrough, clarity, healing, finances etc.
There are two parts of scripture I'd like to share with you as reminders of this. Firstly, the story of Abraham and Isaac. The Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only and dearly loved son, Isaac. Abraham didn't question God, he obeyed. He remembered God promised that the coming Deliver would come through Isaac's bloodline, so he knew God had a plan, and would probably raise him from the dead. However, that's not what God did. When Abraham proved his faithfulness by preparing to sacrifice his son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him as he was about to drive the dagger into Isaac's chest and told him not to lay a hand on the boy, because He knew Abraham feared Him and was obedient. As a result, God provided a ram, caught by it's horns in the thicket, for the sacrifice. Abraham named the place where the sacrifice was to take place "The Lord Will Provide." The Lord blessed Abraham beyond measure after passing this test of faith, and does the same for us! Read Genesis 22:1-18.
The second portion of scripture is from the book of James writing to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Thus he is speaking to all people, us included. He tells us to rejoice when we experience trials of many kinds because by our faith being tested we are growing in perseverance. This is part of our maturing process and encourages us to ask the Lord for wisdom so that we can persevere through these times of struggle and testing. Remember, God does NOT tempt us! He tests us. Big difference. Satan is the tempter, not God. James is also warning us that it is vital we BELIEVE that God has heard us and is taking care of business, for without faith we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. When we're full of fear, worry and doubt, we're like chickens without heads, scrambling and directionless. Thus our relationship with the Lord REQUIRES complete and utter faith in Him, no matter how hopeless or crazy the situation appears to us. Think of how insane the situation seemed to Abraham, but he trusted God would keep His promise and had a plan. God gives only what is good and perfect to His faithful and obedient children.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." James 1:2-8 (NIV)
Like Abraham, we are tested. Noah built an ark based on faith in God's word and waited 120 years before the flood came! His faithfulness and obedience paid off. God parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River for His people to escape slavery and to enter the Promised Land. This, however, was not an easy task for the Israelites. They feared and tested God many times and an entire generation paid the price for accusing God of not providing and protecting. We have powerful testimony written in scripture PROVING what God is capable of. It's time to let go of fear and let in faith. Blessed are those who persevere under trial. Prove your love for the Lord by TRUSTING Him and having Faith in what He has promised all of us. Eternal life in Christ for those who love Him.
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."
James 1:12-18 (NIV)
This week, no matter what you're facing, place ALL your faith and trust in the Lord to provide for and protect you. Like Abraham, TRUST that He will make a way, and like Noah, that in God's timing things will happen as He said they would. Take comfort in scripture, the means through which God speaks to us, and let Him lead you to the parts of scripture He wants you to read and recognize that He IS speaking directly to you. Accept whatever trial of faith you are facing as an opportunity to rise up and let God do His blessed work in your life. Own your test as a maturing lesson and crush doubt underfoot. Be a warrior and not a worrier! God has got you. All he requires of you is to have FAITH in this truth!
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