Trusting the Father

I have never been a patient guy.  I was born in 1987. I’m a Millennial, the product of our microwave culture.  I’m used to everything happening in an instant. My shows release all of the episodes at one time, Amazon delivers my stuff in 2 days, Google has been giving me the answers I need since I was 10.  I was always good at saving for the stuff I wanted but once I had the money, I had to get it now; old habits die hard.

I grew up in one of those households where my mother did everything she could with what she had but often still fell short.  My older sister was the academic star, my younger brother got the love and affection, my friends had all the “things.” The seeds of discontentment were sown early.  Why couldn’t I be more like her? Why won’t she give me the attention he gets? I wish I could get those sneakers.

I’ve dealt with many of those issues (amen to therapy) but shadows will always lurk.  Discontentment is almost always my default setting. There is this insatiable quest for more that lives inside of me: constantly trying to do better, be better, get more, continual improvement.  These aren’t bad things in themselves but when they take center stage in my heart, I have made good things god things.

Where are you looking?

The constant wondering about what’s next, the eyes so fixed on tomorrow that you can’t see today, will drive you mad.  It prevents you from be appreciative. You won’t be thankful for what’s in your hands if your eyes are looking elsewhere.  In a world that always trying to push us towards more, learning to enjoy what God has given you will save you years of heartache (and lots of dollars).

I say all of this as I sit here today trying to figure out what’s next.  Where is God leading me in life? My eyes are so fixed on tomorrow, I can barely see today, and of course, it’s driving me nuts.  

When you live like this, in a state of permanent discontentment, you end up living in fear.  Fear about tomorrow, will I be ok? Fear about today, will I lose it all? Fear about any and everything that you think will steal the little life of happiness you have been trying to build for yourself.  

This leads you towards self-reliance.  You try to build your life on your own rather than relying on the gracious love of the Father to take care of you.  This is where I have been, trying to rely on myself. I have been trying to find my own way. Of course I will wrap it in nice spiritual sounding words about faithfulness to my family, finding God’s call for me, feeling convicted but the truth is, I have been trying to build my own kingdom.  I have tried to pursue the things that I think are best for me, not necessarily what the Father would call best. Discontentment continues to rear its ugly head.

Living this way is just flat out exhausting.  It takes a lot of mental and physical energy. But God has been so good and so gracious to me over the last few months.  Reminding me of His love for me. Reminding me I am His son, adopted into His family because of His great love. He has reminded me that He is for my good and not an enemy of my joy.  He has also reminded me that the lives of His people are marked by patience.

Sarah and Abraham waited 25 years before their promised son Isaac was born.  There were years between Samuel anointing David king and him actually ascending to the throne.  As believers we live in the already but not yet. This tension of Christ having already redeemed us but not yet fully realizing that redemption until all things are made new.  Believers were built for the wait.

True Sight

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  I was recently listening to Faith by Citizens & Saints and one of the lines that struck me was in the chorus: Faith is true sight.  

This is the idea of trusting God when you have no idea of what’s in front of you.  This is more than the standard Christian cliche of “He has a plan for your life, you just got to believe.”  It is knowing and understanding that His ways are truly higher than ours. It is knowing that His wisdom trumps ours, even when you can’t understand it.  This means we can trust Him, even when everything seems to be out of control. We rest in the promise of Romans 8:28, believing that all things are truly working together for our good.

We trust God because He has already given us the greatest gift ever in Christ.  Sending His own Son to atone for our sins, is the ultimate act of love. Knowing His character, we can step back and trust that His timing is better than ours.  We know that the seasons in our lives are appointed by God. We rest assured knowing that whatever God has for us is coming.

Another great song by Citizens is Relent, it is all about surrendering your life to Jesus, just being tired of trying to figure it out on your own.  They say in the song “letting go will bring me peace.” We must learn to do this and what it means for each of us.  For me it’s less fretting over student loan payments, job prospects, overall survival, and simply trusting that the God who has never failed me isn’t going to start now.  



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Oh To Be Faithful...

A few weeks ago I was asked the question, can you be faithful where you are? It got my mind churning.  What does it mean to be faithful? How do you continue to be faithful when you no longer have the energy to do so?  What if where you are is not where you want to be?

To be faithful is to be loyal, constant, and steadfast.  It is to continue on, persevere, and keep going, especially when things get hard.  Faithfulness is hard. I don’t think it is our natural inclination. Faithfulness by nature, requires discomfort.  

Faithfulness has caused me to be uncomfortable.  Trying to remain faithful has kept me up at night, it has pushed me to have difficult conversations, love people I don’t want to love, and pursue peace where there had previously been war.  

Sticking it Out

There are two big lessons I have learned when it comes to being faithful: God is more faithful than I am and I can do hard things. These two lessons have carried me far in life, have brought me to where I am today, and undoubtedly will carry me the rest of my days.

Some of the most comforting words in scripture is God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt 28:20).  The reason these words give me such rest is because they mean I am not alone. God is always with me. That means He is there at my highest highs and my lowest lows.

A few years ago I was wrestling through a decision about where I should move to and a friend said to me: “God has given you free will, trust that wherever you go, He will be there.”  Upon hearing those words, it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized that more than just God being with me wherever I was, He was also able to sustain me in those places.  

Some of us are wrestling with very difficult things right now, anxiety, depression, secret sin, unhappy marriages, death, pain, sickness, the list goes on and on.  It can be hard to know what it means to be faithful in the midst of some of these things. The beauty of God being with you in the midst of these things is that He is living right inside of you.  When we put our hope in Jesus we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He works in us, through us, and around us to make us look more like Jesus. Our faithfulness does not come in our own strength but in His.  

This leads to my second lesson, you can do hard things.  We all desire comfort and ease and if given the opportunity, we shy away from the hard things in life.  But being stuck in a difficult situation and having to rely on the Holy Spirit will teach you a lot of lessons.  The biggest and most important one is that you cannot tackle life on your own. You are simply not strong enough, wise enough, fast enough, and whatever else you think you are that will qualify you to be your own savior.  

When we rely on the Holy Spirit though, we are able to face the trials of life.  It is in those moments when our backs are against the wall, when we are faced with difficult decisions, when it seems as if there is no way out, it is in those moments, our true selves come out.  Is it the self saving self or is it the self being transformed by the Holy Spirit? The Spirit will push us to do things we’ve never done before, say no things we previously could not say no to, and stand in moments where previously we would have fallen.  That is the power of the God that dwells within you.

Don't Avoid Suffering

Our aversion to suffering and pain does us more harm than good.  We think by minimizing risk and avoiding pain we are making our lives better but in truth, quite possibly, we are making them worse.  If your whole life is one of comfort and ease then you have no true appreciation for pain. It keeps you from empathizing with those who are truly suffering.  When you live a life of perfectly manufactured comfort, avoiding all of the danger zones as much as possible, you can look down on the suffering of others. It leads to this sort of self-righteousness that says, “I was able to protect myself from that, you should have too.”

A lack of suffering also leads to a lack of growth.  Pain and suffering are often opportunities to stretch ourselves.  It’s the difference between being a practice player and actually getting in the game.  You can make a thousand buzzer beater shots against an imaginary clock in practice but you won’t know if you truly have it until you’re staring a defender in the face, the crowd is deafening, and there really is only one second left.  Too much comfort can keep you from seeing what you’re truly made of.

Quitting is OK

One key element of faithfulness is knowing that quitting is ok.  We only have so much bandwidth. We only have so much energy, and we can only take so much abuse.  Sometimes you have to be strong enough to walk away. That raises the very valid question of when but I believe that is to be determined by each individual specific to their situation and where they feel God has lead them.  

Quitting is not always a loss.  Every situation hopefully brings us some valuable insight and lessons learned.  Sometimes, the strongest and most beneficial thing you can do, is walk away. Don’t let anyone guilt you into staying or try to bribe you, sometimes enough is enough, and that is ok.

Joy

There is much joy to be had in being faithful.  I believe there is so much God can do and teach us in the midst of our faithfulness, whether that be to a tiring ministry, a disgruntled spouse, a church that just doesn’t get it, or simply to God himself.  Preserving through the hard times teaches us what it means to truly lean on God and opens up a level of strength and fortitude inside of us we didn’t know we had.

What is keeping you from being faithful? Who or what else is fighting for your love and loyalty?  We are not going to be able to live out the call to faithfulness on our own, it just isn’t possible.  That is the reason the end of Romans 7 into Romans 8 is so beautiful. Paul talks about doing all these things he doesn’t want to do and not doing the things he does want to do (we all know this feeling).  This prompts him to ask the question: who can save me from this body of death? Like a knight in shining armor, comes Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives within you, let Him show you what it means to follow the Most Faithful One.  May we learn this truth today.