Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Than You Can Handle

It's often said that God will not give us more than we can handle.  Is that true?  Are you sure?  What do we base this belief on?  Do you know where it says so in the Bible?

It sounds like a comforting thought, that our loving and watchful heavenly Father will not let our load or trial or test exceed our ability to get through the challenge we face.  But is this really what scripture teaches?  Many would be quick to say, "Yes, God says he will not give us more than we can handle, but will give us a way out."  They would lead us to 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."  Notice it says temptation, not test.  In the NIV version of the Bible there is a footnote that the Greek word can also mean testing.  And that is true.  Testing, temptation, trial and attempt all come from the same root word in the Greek.  So how do we know how to read this verse.  We must be careful not to take the text out of context.

Paul is clearly speaking hear of temptation, not trials or tests.  How can I be so sure?  Glad you asked.  We don't have to go far to have Paul's' own experience teach us the truth.  Look at 2 Corinthians 1:8, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." You can see clearly from Paul's own hand that even he was taken "far beyond" his ability to endure.  If he couldn't endure his trial, how on earth are you and I going to make it?  

The answer is in the following verse.  Paul gives credit where credit is due, "Indeed, in out hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."    It is by God's strength that Paul and you and I are able to endure the tests and trials of life.  Many of them are sent by God himself to teach us to depend on him, to grow our faith and to show his glory as he rescues us from whatever situation we find ourselves in.  His methods of rescue are varied, but that's a subject for another blog.  

 If that's not enough proof for you, then take a look back along the stories all through scripture.  Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua walking around Jericho, Gideon going to battle with 300 men and one of my favorites, Hezekiah surrounded by the Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers.  Time and time again God allows or even leads his people into impossible situations to show himself as the God of the impossible.  

OK, nice Bible lesson.  So what?  So what mountain are you facing today that seems, and for that matter is, insurmountable?  Have you been stretched so far that you feel you are past your limit?  Then understand and act!  Understand that the one true God is able to come through for you.  And act - go to him in prayer and admit your dependence on him and his mercy and grace.  Ask him to show up in your life like he has in so many others.  

Seek him with all your heart.  Ask him what your part is and do whatever he tells you.  It will require faith.  Believe that he is the God who does the impossible and trust him no matter the outcome.  You may or may not get the outcome you desire.  But you will get his best for you as you walk with him in obedience and trust.  

These words don't come lightly from me.  I am currently being tested beyond my ability.  But he is faithful to strengthen me as I rely on him each day.  And he will do the same for you.   

More on temptation later... 

Let me know your thoughts and how I can pray for you.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trust & Obey

There's an old song from my childhood days in church that says, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."  It was a great song of encouragement when I was a child.  But let's face it, what did most working class kids in the mid-west like me have to worry about in the sixties and early seventies.  

Growing up in a stable, loving, although strict, two-parent home - most of my trusting had to do with believing in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.  And trusting Him for my salvation - that what He did in dying on the cross and raising from the dead was good enough to cover all my sins.  The biggest trust issues other than salvation were whether or not I could trust what my older brother was telling me.

But trust and obey today looks much different for me as an adult.  Can I trust God with my marriage, with my teenage son, with my business/job, my finances, my health, etc. and etc.  And will I obey only when I can see the benefits, or even when obedience leads to some really uncomfortable places.  

When my company requires me to agree to a new policy that I know violates God's code for living, do I make waves, quietly decline to acquiesce to their request, or just go with the flow.  When I read the Bible's teaching on tithing, do I trust and obey even if I can't figure how it will all work out?   Do I vote for a candidate who lives and legislates from a strong moral and Godly direction or for the one who might give me the most financial benefits at least in the short run.  

OK, now that I'm sure I've stepped on some toes.  Where I'm driving to is that what we say we believe should really be evident in how we live - shouldn't it?  If we don't obey the teachings in the Bible, then we really shouldn't call ourselves Christians.  After all the word Christian means follower of Christ  or "little Christ" - a biblical mini-me.  The apostle Paul said, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1)  If we don't imitate Christ then we don't really believe.  

If we chose to follow Christ, really follow him, we will face times of decision.  He uses these to build and strengthen our faith.  If we chose not to believe/trust him, then we miss out on the faith we could have had, and life is just "normal".  My prayer is that we - those who call ourselves Christian - would really live what we say we believe.  

Our neighbors, coworkers, friends, family and even our country need to see Christians who are willing to trust God enough to obey Him no matter the outcome.  When we walk with God in faith sometimes it will go well for us.  Other times it will get worse instead of better.  Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble..." John 16:33  Hebrews 11 gives us a look at some who had great faith and saw great rewards and victory.  Others had great faith and were tortured to death.   

It all comes down to this, will we trust Him and obey Him regardless of the outcome or perceived outcome  - which is a faith walk, or will we only follow when we think it will "go well for us?"  

The choice is for each of us individually, not once, but daily, for the rest of our lives.  

What say you?  


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's your motive?

As you pray for someone else, you know, for God to do some work in their heart, have you checked your motives?  Better yet have you ever got your motives checked for you by your creator God. 

I found myself praying for a person unnamed. For God to remove the resistance to His will from their heart through His grace.  Then two days ago as I once again prayed for this person, I asked God if I should be praying some other way.  Immediately the word "conviction" came to mind.  Now conviction from God is a good thing.  It is much different from condemnation.  Conviction has as it's motive restored fellowship with God. It has as it's target a very specific sin of commission or omission.  

As I prayed this way I was suddenly faced with the reality that my motive for their change of heart was not pure. You see their change of heart will have a direct affect on me and I want that affect very much.  God showed me I needed my motive purified - to pray for them to be obedient to God, not for what I gain from their obedience, but for their good and their good alone.  

The change may seem subtle or even insignificant to some, but it is most important.  And I found that as I started to pray in this new way my heart began to break for this person.  I wept and prayed more fervently than before.  The realization of what they are missing by not being obedient to His instruction became clear.  And the urgency for change - that they would not become calloused to the prompting of His Spirit kept me on my knees pleading for the conviction to become stronger and from whatever source that would effect change.  

I fully expect God to answer my prayer.  Not because of me, but because it is in line with His will for this person.  It will be great to sit with them and compare stories when the opportunity arises.  

So, are your motives pure?  Have you asked God to check them?  What do you think of my story?