post

Embrace the Trial – Part 5

Understanding the Struggle – “Embracing the Tragedy or Triumph

I give up! This is too hard! What’s the use in trying anymore!

I don’t recall having actually stated these words, but the truth is my attitude, at times, has spoken these words loud and clear. Although my prayer and desire is to “embrace this trial,” the reality is that it is a continual, and grueling struggle. Embracing the trial is not a one-time-event-kind-of-lesson-learned where you “get it” and never have to go back to it. This is a process—a continuous, repeated action, repeated commitment, repeated surrender. My desire is to be faithful in this process, but often my attitude and actions betray my intentions.

We have considered the why and Who questions which help us to embrace the trial, yet I am reminded of the need to understand the almost ever-present struggle of this process. With this understanding comes the reality of the choice of whether to embrace the triumph or the tragedy, dependent upon my embracing the truth.

As the trial continues, there are days of frustration and defeat. Often, at the end of the day, as I pillow my head, my thoughts are arrested by the battle between my flesh and my mind. The emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles of any trial often bring noise into the soul. Through this process, God in His mercy, seeks to rescue us from these noisy areas of defeat that emerge, seemingly at every corner. For me, He is using this trial to open my eyes to areas of sin that I need to address. Like curtains, He is pulling down to reveal something in the dark corners of my heart that I have yet to realize or have been refusing to address. This “ripping down of curtains” is part of the painful, purging process by which God uses to refine us, purifying us like gold.

At times I feel overwhelmed by this process, as if it will never end and it’s just no use in trying. I feel like Paul in Romans 7 where he bares his heart’s struggle in his battle against his flesh. It is a tiring battle—one that is strong and unrelenting—one that seems to gain the upper hand when I am the most vulnerable, one that has no mercy. Paul writes,

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will [the desire] is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would [I want to do] I do not: but the evil which I would not [I don’t want to do], that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. O wretched man that I am!”—Romans 7:18-20, 24a

Maybe go back and read those verses again. It has taken me some time, repeatedly reading, meditating, and asking the Lord for understanding about them to be convinced that I finally have a handle on them.

With these words, Paul express what my heart seems to say, all too often in this trial. Frankly, even when I am not in a trial like what I am going through now. It is the tug-of-war of my flesh and mind. I know what I am supposed to do, the attitudes I’m supposed to have, the example I’m supposed to set, but all too often I find myself doing what I know I shouldn’t, having the attitude that is opposite of what I should, being the example that is against what I should set. This battle is real and it rages with such strength that often victory seems hopeless and beyond the horizon, so far out of sight and beyond my reach, while defeat seems all too real, breathing down my neck, with its death grip embracing me.

What can I do? The truth is that I’m often simply tired and worn out with no fight left—or so it seems. Paul concluded, “O wretched man that I am!” The idea is that Paul cries out in exhaustion, as if he has been exerting his fullest effort in hard labor in this battle. Does this sound familiar? It is at these times that we fall prey to half-truths that can lead to whole-untruths. These are the times where we are often tempted to wonder, “Does God really care or even know what is going on?” Or maybe, “Is there really a purpose to all of this pain?” We might even ask, “Is the praiseworthy purpose of Christ-likeness even worth it?” These are the times that we need to fight these lies with truth.

Consider Paul’s word as he cries out for help, desiring victory for a problem that only presents defeat. He says,

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”—Romans 7:24-25

In these verses I find great hope and encouragement. Paul sees victory in Christ. I picture in my mind as the great apostle lifts his eyes heavenward and asks the question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then with a sigh of relief he smiles giving thanks for this transforming truth with which he triumphs, saying, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is through Christ my Lord, as I surrender to His way that I triumph.

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

What is the way of Christ that Paul is thankful for? Notice the triumphant path that Paul speaks of here at the end of Romans 7. He says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Paul draws attention to the question of masters. The key to triumph or tragedy is determined by whom I choose to serve. With a renewed mind I serve my Savior but with the natural mind I will give into my flesh and serve self.

The truth is that I can either embrace the tragedy or the triumph. I can either serve self as I give in to my flesh or serve my Savior as I embrace the truth of Who He is.

The realization that I am reminded of is that in order to faithfully embrace the trial, I must faithfully embrace the truth. This exercise at times, is moment by moment. This is the deliberate exercise of my mind being renewed with truth, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.” In Colossians 3:10, he uses the illustration of changing clothes as he writes, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after [or based upon] the image of Him that created him.” This renewal process is a replacement process.  The old mind needs to be exchanged with a new mind—just as dirty garments needs to be replaced with clean ones, thoughts of sin and deception must be replaced with thoughts of truth and righteousness.

There is a positive and negative side of this truth. The negative side is that I must embrace the truth that this struggle is real and relentless, raging stronger at times more than other times. There is one who seeks to defeat, destroy, and devour us, using our flesh as the battering ram to bring us to our knees in surrender. Jesus warns us of the devil’s intentions saying, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy[1] while Peter calls for vigilance “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”[2] We must never forget, “that we are [not] sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.[3]

The positive side of embracing the truth answers the painful reality of the trial. Yes, the truth is that our struggle is real and relentless, exacerbated by the enemy who roars and rages, yet our loving Savior stands ready and answers saying, “I AM come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly: I AM the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”[4] Our great “I AM” further infuses words of truth saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”[5] He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear.”[6] He says, “Be still, and KNOW that I AM God.”[7]

With these words, my tired soul is strengthened, my hopeless heart is revived, my depressed mind is renewed to once again take on the fight.

I must deliberatelyCast down,” destroying these “imaginations” or deceptive thoughts, “and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.[8] I must daily, “set [my] affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”[9] I must be diligentlylooking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith[10]holding fast the profession of faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised).”[11]

In obedience, I can triumph instead of becoming the tragedy of wasted suffering. With my mind renewed and stabilized upon Christ, the Rock of Truth, I can once again lay hold upon the trial, embracing the struggle, choosing triumph over tragedy.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”


[1] John 10:10a
[2] 1 Peter 5:8
[3] 2 Corinthians 3:5
[4] John 10:10b-11
[5] Isaiah 41:10
[6] Psalm 46:1-2a
[7] Psalm 46:10a
[8] 2 Corinthians 10:5
[9] Colossians 3:2
[10] Hebrews 12:2a
[11] Hebrews 10:23

post

Embrace the Trial – Part 4

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing more of ‘Who’ God is”

It is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself.

This quote comes from her book, “These Strange Ashes,” where Elisabeth Elliot writes,

Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now … the reward of my obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks into the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo …. It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself. This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.”

As I read these words, I am struck by her raw transparency as she struggles to reconcile Who God is with the reality of the pain of her suffering. God giving Himself to us in the trial speaks of His attitude toward His children, as He reveals more of Who He is. The truths of God bring great comfort in the trial, when we learn to embrace Who He is.

How will my attitude toward my trial change when I embrace the truth that God gives Himself? What changes in my mind when I embrace this truth? How will my response to my trial change when my focus shifts from off my pain to the Person in control of the process?

The shifting of our perspective from off the painful process to the Person Who is providentially seeking to bring about His loving purpose results in worship. In part 3, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” We considered Paul and his response to God’s negative answer to his prayer. His response is one of surrender as he embraces the trial in worship. The reason? He knew and trusted his loving, heavenly Father.

The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too
.”

The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He tenderly taught His disciples, seeking to prepare them for His departure, which was their greatest trial up to this point in their lives. Over and over He teaches them life-changing, stabilizing truths about His Father.

In John 15 we see a comforting word picture of the purging process. It illustrates for us both the purpose and the process of trials, but it also shows us the Person orchestrating the process for His good purpose. Take a few moments and read through these verses noting the Father and Son, as I have highlighted them to draw our attention.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:1-5

Amongst the many stabilizing truths in the passage, two great truths stand out, bringing great encouragement. In this passage Christ speaks of the loving relationships between the Husbandman and the Vine and branches.

The first, in illustration form, is that God is a vinedresser lovingly pruning His vine branches. What I find so encouraging about this word picture is the attitude of God the Father, the husbandman, going about pruning His branches. Picture in your mind a vinedresser coming alongside each vine with his pruning shears as he gets in close to the vine. He is very deliberate and methodical about where he cuts. He desires to maximize the fruit-bearing potential and quality of each branch so he cuts off only what is necessary—he applies only necessary pain to the branch. In this we see the careful attention the Husbandman gives as He wraps His loving arms around the Vine and prunes each branch—like a loving father embracing his child.

The second great truth is Christ’s desire for union and communion with His branches. Through this purging process Christ, the vine, is ever present and calls for us to “abide in Him,” ever seeking to draw us into closer, more intimate fellowship of dependency. From these words we see God’s attitude of love pouring forth like an unending fountain.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s love: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of our God in every action He takes—He is the unchanging, loving God.

In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks of the 70 years of judgment, in Babylon, that the nation of Israel will suffer through. He then reassures and reminds them of Who He is. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [desired] end” (Jeremiah 29:11). He is saying, “Remember Who I am! I Love you, and desire peace for you and not evil. I desire a good and purposeful end to this process. Trust Me, I love You!”

A few chapters later Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee [He lovingly encourages His people into a closer relationship with Him]’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds His servant that His painful actions toward His people are rooted in a love that will never end. It is with this love that He draws His people closer to Himself through the trials of life.

A second word picture has been helpful for me as I consider God’s praiseworthy purpose. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

I find it helpful to keep in mind that God is a master sculptor skillfully sculpting His masterpiece. A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A marble sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.”

This illustration pictures for us the process that is necessary to fulfill God’s praiseworthy purpose. It is a painful process but never forget that it is always with purpose from the hand of a loving God. Remember, “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints” (Warren Wiersbe). It is always for a good purpose.

Just as a master sculptor takes the necessary time to complete his masterpiece, so too, God the greatest, all-wise Master Sculptor takes only the necessary time, and necessary cuts to bring His masterpiece to completion. Remember the end goal for this painful process, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Let’s keep in mind that God’s masterpiece will only be fully completed once we see our Savior face to face, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, God is seeking to sculpt us into the image of His Son, day by day, trial by trial.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

post

Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

post

Embrace the Trial – Part 2

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”.

Here in part two we consider the “why” question.

Understanding the “WHY” Question – “Embracing ‘Why’ I Am Going Through This”

God never wastes the sufferings of His saints.”—Warren Wiersbe

Is this statement true? Or could there be times when we go through unnecessary suffering? Is it possible that God could overdue my pain and suffering? Are there times when God steps back and just allows our times of suffering to go too far or for too long? How would you answer these questions? As read each question, do you feel a growing sense of uneasiness asking, “Could God actual fail at something or do something wrong?” Maybe these questions echo those you have already heard yourself asking.

The battlefield of the mind is filled with pathways of thought upon which we have repeatedly walked. These are often debilitating thoughts, tempting us to doubt God’s love and goodness promoting defeat instead of leading us to victory. Far too often, in trials, we find ourselves asking the unproductive question “Why?” instead of the questions that lead us upward to victory.

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

When we face a trial, the biggest question we struggle with is “why?” more specifically, “Why is this happening to me?” As I sought to come to grips with embracing this trial, I am seeing the necessity to look beyond this question of “why me?”. My desire is to encourage us to learn how to get beyond this question by considering its Biblical answer and in turn asking the better question of “Who is God?”.

I genuinely believe that when we learn to look at our trials in the light of Who God is and what His purpose for our trials is, we will then embrace our trials, understanding that they are for our best and for His glory. When we see our trial from God’s perspective we will see the value of the trial and in turn gain from it God’s best for us.

I am confident that “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints,” but what I am also sure of is that we can often waste our times of suffering, in spite of God’s best intentions. Often when confronted with a time of difficulty, whether financial, relational, physical or any other kind of trial, we can become angry and in turn bitter. Often, we rebel against the trial, fighting it at every turn. Instead of allowing God to draw us closer to Himself, we become distant to God and others.

Considering the trial before me, I know I need to be led by God in order to not “waste this suffering.” But how? What is necessary to be a faithful steward of this trial? What is necessary to gain from this trial the truths that God desires to show me and the lessons He desires to teach me?

The first step is understanding what’s wrong with asking the question, “why”? What’s wrong with genuinely desiring to understand the reason why something difficult is happening to me? I believe that in and of itself this question can be innocent, yet it really depends upon the heart and mind behind the question.

The reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s often asked with the wrong perspective. Unfortunately, all too often when this question is asked, it is with a heart that is really asking, “Why me”? When asked this way, we are implying that we don’t deserve this trial based upon any number of reasons that all make sense to us at the time. We may be tempted to say, “I haven’t done anything to deserve this!” The question, “why me” truly is the natural first question but asked with the wrong perspective and attitude. With this statement, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus in on my self instead of on my God.

Another reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s asked with the wrong theology. When our trials are due to punishment or chastisement, in our heart of hearts the answer seems more understandable. It is easier to see that God is dealing with a specific sin. But when the trial seems beyond our understanding, or when it continues on with no end in sight, in weariness we are tempted to doubt the wisdom of God in allowing this to take place. If we are not careful, we can allow the pain of the Refiner’s fire to redefine our theology about the Refiner Himself. We therefore question who God is by questioning His love for us because it doesn’t feel like He loves me. There are other things that we question, but usually we start with His love. This is where we begin to waste the suffering. It is important to listen to what God is saying to us.

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

God responds by encouraging us to surrender. He wants us to stop focusing on the painful process and instead look to His praiseworthy purpose.

The next step is understanding the Biblical answer to the “why” question? Biblically, the why question has a simple answer which gives our times of suffering great purpose. Consider what Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s purpose for our suffering is the development of Christlikeness.

Why would He desire this purpose, one might ask? The answer comes from Revelation 4:11, which reads, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were created for God’s pleasure—that we should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12). The way that we can accomplish this purpose is by submitting to God’s process—His process of developing the likeness of Christ in us, through the trials we face, in order to faithfully display the likeness of Christ, to others we face.

Sometimes this answer isn’t enough for us. Sometimes we still want to know “why me?” As the struggles of the trial continues, we plead with God for answers. We often plead with God, “I can’t do this! This is too much for me! Why does this have to be so hard?” Our conversation, with Him, may go something like this…

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

It is in these times that we must yield our will to the will of God and trust Him. I find that a right perspective, based on right theology, is vital to overcoming this ongoing struggle against embracing the trial.

So, what’s the right perspective?

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”—1 Peter 1:7

The right perspective comes from a proper understanding of Who God is—He is the Divine Refiner skillfully purifying His children like gold. As I study through God’s Word I am amazed at the word pictures that are used to help us learn important truths. Peter speaks of a refiner to illustrate the process of the “trial of our faith.” The refiner heats the gold with fire to reveal the impurities, speaking of the areas of our lives that need to be changed. He then removes those impurities, purifying the gold. The purer the gold, the more reflective it becomes. God, as the Master Refiner, desires to see His own reflection as He looks into the lives of His children being purified in the furnace of suffering. His praiseworthy purpose is to see the likeness of His Son clearly displayed as His children respond in obedience to this painful process.

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

Next time we will seek to begin to look at the “Who” question, embracing “Who” God is to help us as we embrace this “why” question.

Knowing God’s Forgiveness

How often is your life burdened down by a guilty conscience? Do you struggle with moving on from past sins? Do you find God’s forgiveness seemingly just out of reach? King David knew the struggle of being burdened down with a guilty conscience. He understood the weight and struggle of living a burdened life not enjoying God’s forgiveness. From his own experience he gives us a precious truth to consider.  He shows us how we can go from burden to blessing in Psalm 32:1-5.

Consider the Blessed Life:  These first two verses give us the result of forgiveness which results in a blessed life. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

When someone is “blessed” their life is a life that is envied by others because it is a life filled with peace and joy. The life that others look upon and desire to have is the life the one who knows they have been forgiven as they live in the reality of this truth.  O how very happy is the man who knows he has been forgiven.

The person “in whose spirit there is no guile” is the person who has dealt honestly with his sin.  He has confessed his sin before God. In other words, he has defined his own sin just like God defines it.  This is a humble response to God’s convicting us of our sin. He then has taken God at His Word where it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To be forgiven from our transgressions, sin and iniquity is to be free of a life of guilt.  That is a person who is to be envied.  We all should desire to be in this state for it is a state that God desires for us to be in.  This is His will for each of our lives. Consider how far God removes our sin that has been confessed and that He has forgiven…“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). The eternal distance between the east and the west is the distance that God removes the sin which He forgives.  The reality of this in one’s life is blessing—this is the blessed life!

Consider the Burdened Life: In these next two verses we see the results of a life of consumed and weighted down by guilt. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the daylong. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4). This is the burdened life!

The heavy hand of God was David’s conscience bearing witness against him as it pressed down upon him convicting him of his sin.  A guilty conscience can bring physical discomfort along with the obvious mental discomfort.  A guilty conscience is designed by God to reveal to us the intrusion of sin into our lives in order to move us to deal with that sin.

Consider your conscience as a smoke detector. The smoke detectors in your house are designed to go off when smoke is present.  Our conscience “goes off” when the intrusion of sin comes into our lives.  To roll over and cover your head with a pillow when the smoke detector is sounding would be tremendously foolish.  So too when our conscience is guilty, to disregard it is to act foolishly. Consider reading “Silencing the Sin Detector” here.

Consider the unBurdened Life: Here in verse 5 we see the remedy as David shares with us the process of getting right with God therefore going from burden to blessing.  We must confront the intrusion of sin through confession of sin. He says, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

To “acknowledge my sin” is to take responsibility for my sin by saying the same thing about it that the Lord says.  It is to see my sin as the Lord sees it.  My sin is a trespass against His infinite holiness. My sin is an act of “cosmic treason”[i] against the holy God in which I fail to achieve His holy and righteous mark of obedience that He has set for me.

David speaks of his openness before the Lord.  He had concealed his sin, in that he did not confess it for about a year.  His actions, now in humility, are to lay bare his heart and mind before the Lord as he confesses his sin and seeks reconciliation.  He stopped trying to cover his head with his pillow in hopes that the “smoke” might go away.  Instead he took action, confronted the intrusion of sin and found peace in his life once again. He returned to the life of blessing.

The precious truth of this verse is the fact that God ALWAYS forgives the sin of a repentant heart.  Keep in mind that David was forgiven for his sins of adultery and murder.  God desires to forgive ALL the sin that is in your life, even the ones you don’t feel like He can forgive. We must move past feeling and rest in truth. Move beyond living in the reality dictated by your feelings and learn to live in the reality based upon what God says.

Because of our “forgiving God” we can have great joy and peace as we learn to find it in Him.  When we confess our sin He, in His great grace, forgives us and covers our sin as if it never existed.  In His great mercy He removes from our account the record of that sin.  What a Great God we serve!

The wisest man who ever lived stated, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). The truth of this verse is foundational to moving from burden to blessing. A pastor friend of mine put it well when he said, “When I cover my sin, the Holy Spirit will uncover it.  When I uncover my sin, the Holy Spirit will cover my sin with the blood of Jesus Christ” (Steve Motes, Pastor of Chadds Ford Baptist Church).

It is the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). When you rest in the stabilizing truths of God’s Word you move from living a reality based upon how you feel to a reality based upon truth. Let His truth truly set you free and move from a life of burden to a life of blessing.


[i] “Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we had offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence. The slightest sin is nothing less than cosmic treason when we realize against Whom we have sinned.”—Jonathan Edwards

The God Who Knows Me and Still Loves Me

How much do others know about you? People tend to be guarded, to varying degrees, about what they share with others as we all have those areas in our lives that we don’t want others to know about. Although I find it interesting how much some people will publicize about themselves whether it is on social media or general conversation.

Have you ever stopped to think of how much God knows about you? Does the reality that He knows everything about you, even all of your shortcomings lead you to the conclusion that “He must NOT love me because of them?”

The challenge for each of us is that we often depend upon how we feel and in turn allow our feelings to determine our sense of reality. If we are not careful, we can allow our circumstances to define who God is and in turn shrink Him down to a size that is too small for our problems. What good is a small God?

Keep in mind that what you know and rely on to be true about the Lord will transform your life! The Precious Truth that we need to consider is that God knows EVERYTHING there is to know about each of us and yet He still loves us!

If others knew you to the degree that God knows you, how would your relationship with them change?  If you knew your best friend to the degree that God knows you would you continue in that friendship? Sometimes the more we get to know someone the more we wish we didn’t know them.

Consider David’s words here in Psalm 139:1-6. “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

To what extent did David realize that God knew him? The first thing that jumps out at me is that David was in awe of the fact that God even knew him. Consider what he says in Psalm 8. “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful [think about] of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest [to pay special attention] him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) Picture David the shepherd lying on his back looking up at the night’s starlit sky speaking to God saying, “Lord, As I consider the great expanse of the universe that You made, how do You even know that I am here?” David was moved in worship that his infinite God took notice of his finite life. In the great expanse of God’s creation, the fact that He is intimately aware of each of our lives speaks of His greatness that is so far beyond my comprehension.

In Psalm 139, as I have pondered the reality that God knows everything there is to know about me, I am amazed to think that He still loves me.  How do I draw this conclusion? Well first consider what God knows about each of us.  David tells us in verses 1-4, “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.”

David acknowledges God’s full & complete knowledge of him. There is nothing hidden from God.  He knows all the secrets that only we know about ourselves.  He knows all our thoughts, desires, intentions, and motives. He knows the hypocrisy and lies that we may live with thinking we are fooling everyone into believing we are someone that we truly are not. In verse 2 we read, “You understand my thought afar off.” God even knows the thoughts that we have yet to think.  He knows more about us than even we know about ourselves. These are the actions of a God who loves us.

With all of this knowledge that God has about us, IS it a wonder to you that HE still loves you?  It is to me!  He knows all the times that I have failed Him and all the times that I will fail Him yet that does not deter His love for me.

The Precious Truth to consider here is that God’s love is not dependent upon who I am or what I do but upon WHO HE IS! God’s love does not change.

Next, consider what David concludes that God has done for him while possessing this knowledge. “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5) With this knowledge God has not run from us but has drawn near to us. He knows that we need Him—we need His grace and mercy; we need His love and compassion; we need His wisdom and protection; we need His presence—we need HIM. God knows our needs and in turn through His grace and mercy has made provision for those needs.

Consider what He has done for us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

God acted upon this knowledge and sent His only Son to make provision for our ultimate need—our need of salvation.  Through faith in His Son, Jesus, we can be united to God in a personal relationship. Through faith alone in Christ alone my heart was changed—my sins were forgiven—my guilt was removed and I came to understand the loving relationship that my heavenly Father has always desired for me to have with Him. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight on how you can enjoy a personal relationship with God.

As David ponders this truth he erupts in such uncontainable joy and worship as he says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6) This knowledge was outside of his realm of comprehension.  It brought David to his knees in humility and awe as he worshipped his all-knowing Savior.

Get to know the God of the Bible. Read God’s Word and then take God at His Word. He means what He says and He says what He means! Our understanding of the knowledge of God should bring us to our knees in worship of Him.  It should humble us and in turn we too should be in awe of Him.

As you consider what God knows about you also realize that He continues to stay with you. When others choose to distance themselves the more they learn of you, consider how the Lord draws near, fully knowing who we are. David continues in the following verses saying, “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

Our intimate knowledge of God will shape our response to the trials of life. In spite of all our shortcomings God promises, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed [or disheartened as you consider your circumstances]; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Is this “knowledge too wonderful for you?” Does it move you to worship your God as it fills your heart with joy? Let us seek to be intentional about remembering who our God is.  Jeremiah writes, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (Lamentations 3:21) “This is what I intentionally remember about my God, therefore I have patient confidence.” The truths of God will stabilize you as you meditate upon them.

Silencing the “Sin Detector”

It’s the middle of the night and you are enjoying a restful night when a high-pitched, piercing sound suddenly breaks through the quiet, stillness and startles you awake. You realize that the smoke detector has been set off by the presence of smoke in your home. But instead of addressing the issue you pull your pillow over your head and try to return to the peaceful rest you had been enjoying just moments before.

Would you ever do this? The answer is obviously “NO!” The situation needs immediate attention.

Unfortunately when it comes to sin, we often are guilty of covering our head in hopes that the piercing noise of our conscience will quiet down and go away. Why do we do this?  Why do we insist on covering our heads and plugging our ears instead of addressing the problem? The problem is not our conscience but sin that has set of our conscience. What then is the remedy? How are we supposed to Biblically address our internal “sin detector?”

Many Christians live defeated lives simply because of failing to Biblically confess their sins and in turn live their lives filled with the noise of guilt—a guilty conscience.  How hard would it be to live in a home while the smoke detector is sounding constantly? How stressful would it be to try to carry on conversations and lead a normal life? How productive would a person be in this environment?

Often we try to quiet our conscience by engaging in something to try to distract us from thinking about our noisy soul—our guilty conscience.  Just as we would never go and remove the battery to silence the smoke detector in order to remedy the problem we must learn to stop trying to silence our conscience by any other means than God’s way—the Biblical way.

Consider with me Psalm 51 as we look to Biblically address our “sin detector.” The title of gives us some insight into the circumstances surrounding this psalm; “when Nathan the prophet came unto [David], after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Nathan comes to King David and says, Thou are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

Has your conscience ever called out to you in a piercing voice, “You are the man/ woman!”?

Here in Psalm 51 we see a “Precious Truth” regarding the confession of sin.  What does true confession look like? It begins with actionturning toward God and considering Who He is and what is He like. When we sin we turn away from God and separate ourselves from Him.

Isaiah tells us what our sin does to our fellowship with God. He says, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities [sins] have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

In order to be in right fellowship once again we must turn back to Him in repentance. This is what we see taking place here in Psalm 51. David cries out to the Lord saying, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions [willful disobedience].” (Psalm 51:1)

Question to answer: “Who is God and what is He like?”

David turns back to God and pleads for mercy—this mercy that is based upon God’s unfailing love. David relies upon what he KNOWS to be true about his God. Keep in mind that God loves to forgive—He wants to forgive us from our sin. It is important to understand who God is, what He likes, and what He dislikes.

The prophet Micah puts it this way, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

Notice that God “pardons sin”—He forgives and He does not hold onto “His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”

Knowing that God is a merciful and forgiving God leads to a peace that surpasses all understanding (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:8-9).

Next we see a request—cleansing is a work of God. David asks God, “Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2)  He asks God to make him clean again as his sin has defiled him.

To be “throughly” cleansed is to be washed repeatedly with intensity. Think of a washboard. Biblically cleansing comes through confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

What does improper confession look and sound like? The most frequent is simply, “I’m sorry!” (for what?) or “I’m sorry that you were offended!” How about, “I’m sorry that you took it wrong!” Each of these take no responsibility for our sin and places the blame on the other person.

So what is proper, Biblical confession? We first have seen two actions—a turning to God and making request for cleansing. Consider with me six steps in the confession process. The first three deal with what we acknowledge while the last three reveals the heart of true confession.

#1 – Confession of sin is acknowledging our personal responsibility.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

David takes full responsibility as he “acknowledges his transgressions”—there is no blame-shifting. He says, “my sin is ever before me”—this is the reality of the memory of that sin. When properly dealt with, thus having the confidence of forgiveness, this memory will be a reminder to help to keep us from sin. But when we fail to deal with our sin Biblically it brings guilt, which is by design in order to bring us to repentance.

#2 – Confession of sin is acknowledging who I have offended. (v. 4a)

“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,…” (Psalm 51:4a)

All sin is an offence against God as it is a violation of His law.  When we sin we dishonor the Lord. David was not only sorry for the consequences of his sin. He was sorry for the sin itself as he was grieved over the fact that he offended God in breaking His law. We must always confess our sin to Him as well as others we have wronged.

#3 – Confession of sin is acknowledging the extent of my sin. (v. 4b)

“…and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest. ” (Psalm 51:4b)

Literally the word “confess” speaks of saying the same thing. It is properly defining sin the way God defines it and NOT in the way we define it. We fail to confess when we justify or make excuses about our sin—why it was justifiable under those circumstances. Proper confession only comes when we see our sin as God sees it.

#4 – Confession of sin reveals a change of heart (v. 13)

Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” (Psalm 51:13)

That night on the roof top along with the days following, David was concerned only about himself (2 Samuel 11). He hurt so many people in the process. Now we see his heart has changed as he desires to be used in helping others.

One who has been restored to right fellowship with God can be useful once again in helping others be restored. This can be in the form of openness about our sin and its consequences while giving testimony of God’s mercy. A truly repentant heart will seek to help others. Consider Jesus’ words to Peter about his ministry that he would have after his denial of Christ.

Jesus says, “But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted [restored/ reconciled], strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)

The reality is that God desires to use broken and forgiven people. He sees value in those who have genuinely repented of their sin.

#5 – Confession of sin reveals a grateful heart (v. 15)

“O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.” (Psalm 51:15)

Where David’s lips had been sealed in shame he now asks the Lord to open them in praise. David’s desire is to worship the Lord and tell others about God’s greatness. He sees himself as an undeserving soul whom God spared. His grateful heart is seen in the praise he gives to God as he acknowledges Him for His unfailing love and tender mercy, rehearsing these powerful truths to anyone who would listen.

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

#6 – Confession of sin reveals a humble heart (v. 17)

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise [treat as worthless].” (Psalm 51:17)

The “sacrifices” or worship of God that are acceptable to Him come from a “broken and a contrite heart.” This kind of heart is one that grieves being intensely broken over their own sin. It is seeing sin as God sees it and in turn being truly broken before God.

It is seeing the effects of our sin upon God as His heart is broken when He sees us choose to sin instead of obey Him. It is acknowledging that our sin was the reason that God’s Son chose to take up our cross in order to suffer and die in our place. Being “broken and contrite” is genuinely saying, “Woe is me!” as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:5.

“Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’”

Isaiah saw God in such a real way as to bring to light his own wretchedness in comparison.  Against the backdrop of a thrice holy God, Isaiah realized that even his most minute sin caused him to be unfit and undeserving to be able to stand in the Lord’s presence. Genuine confession reveals a humble heart that sees how unworthy I am to stand, as a sinner, in the presence of an infinitely holy & righteous God because of the perfect work of my Savior.

In all of these aspects of confession we see genuine repentance—we see the change of mind about our sin which leads to a change of life. True heart-felt confession shows change of behavior not just hollow words.

When we humbly read and receive this psalm and see God’s unfailing love, mercy, grace and His willingness and readiness to forgive the repentant soul, it will bring us to our knees in worship being in awe of the greatness of our God.

In conclusion, enjoy how the psalm ends, “Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar. ” (Psalm 51:19)

Be confident that God is pleased when we come to Him, His way! We can then can KNOW that the worship we offer will be worship that He accepts.

Quiet Peace in the Storms of Life

All too often you may find yourself in the noisy pits of life—maybe you are there right now. The stresses of life that seem overwhelming; the obstacles that seem insurmountable; the painful moments of heartache; the unknowns; the “what if” thoughts; the thoughts of “How am I going to make it through?!”; each of these can flood our minds with noise—they can be deafening, debilitating, and defeating.

So what do you do? How do you cope? How do you get through? HOW DO YOU QUIET YOUR NOISY SOUL? How do you find peace IN these noisy pits during these storms of life? IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE—CAN YOU HAVE QUIETNESS IN YOUR SOUL and actually be able to have peace even though the storms of life rage on?

The answer is YES! YES!! Yes a thousand times over!! You can and by God’s grace you will.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour [weary] and are heavy laden [beaten down], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek [gentle] and lowly [humble] in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

The key to quietness in your soul is found in coming to Christ.

Over these past few weeks, God has given me the privilege of repeated opportunities to counsel those who are going through these storms of life while finding themselves stuck in a “noisy pit.” In each of these times, the Lord has brought me to Psalm 40 peeling back a new layer of truth, shedding further light upon its stabilizing truths.

In Psalm 40:1-3 David writes, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.”

 Consider his trial: David is obviously in a significant trial of life. It is a trial that causes him to “cry” out to the Lord in desperation. It is a trial that keeps on going and requires “patience” as he learns to “wait patiently” for the Lord.  It is a trial that has brought into his mind noise—thoughts of noisy unrest.  It is a trial that has brought instability—standing in the “miry clay.” It is a trial in which his song is an “old song” which is depressing and often filled with complaint possibly feeling undeserving of this difficulty.

The phrase “horrible pit” literally means a “pit of noise.” In these trials we often succumb to noise in our souls as we strain to cope with the trying circumstances. This noise refers to how we are thinking. Naturally we can be prone to think anxious thoughts during these times. We dig a rut that becomes deeper and deeper the more we think this way. This truly is an “horrible pit” that God wants to bring us out of.

Metaphorically, the “miry clay” calls attention to our unstable footing—being unsure of what is happening, how we will get through this, all while asking “Why me?!” This only adds to the anxiety—the noise—as we contemplate the unknowns and the “what ifs.”

Consider his confidence: While still in the storm of his life, we see David’s confidence come to the forefront. We see that his attitude is “patient” waiting, knowing that God has heard his prayer and his confidence that HE will do something about it.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined [leaned in close to listen] unto me, and heard [listened intently to] my cry.” ( Psalm 40:1)

Knowing that God hears our prayer should bring great confidence as we consider who God is and what He does. Often we don’t even pray because we don’t see the benefit. But in times like these if we do pray, lacking this confidence, we can find ourselves in a hopeless prayer just going through the motions. Prayer is a vital lifeline especially in the storms of life.  Knowing that God hears our prayer as we pray according to His Word brings peace. Consider Paul’s words,

“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer [worship] and supplication [attitude of need / humility] with thanksgiving [attitude of gratitude] let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Biblical prayer is praying with the right attitude. It is coming before the God of the universe in worship with a humble heart of dependence and thankfulness laying our “requests”—our burdens before Him. If we want God to listen we must NOT come to Him demanding but worshiping—humbly making “requests.

Paul goes on to speak of the promised peace of God

“And the peace of God, which [sur]passeth [transcends] all understanding, shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

This “peace of God” transcends our understanding—it is the kind of peace someone has that seems impossible at that moment. This is the peace that God promises to us when we pray Biblically.

Consider his peace: David, still in this storm of life speaks of this peace and stability that God gives him.

He [the LORD] brought me up also out of an horrible pit [a pit of noise], out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40:2)

David is brought out of the “pit of noise” to having peace on the “rock.” He is lifted out of the “pit of noise” as has victory over his noisy thinking. The rut of thought he has dug begins to be filled in with the truth of God. The “rock” is truth—it is the Word of God, manifested in the man, Christ Jesus.  David has fixed His mind upon the Lord, INTENTIONALLY thinking upon what he knows to be true about HIM. He is INTENTIONALLY thinking upon the stabilizing truths of God and as a result the noise in his soul quiets into peaceful rest. Consider this promise from the prophet Isaiah,

Thou [God] wilt keep him in perfect [constant] peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth [commits himself and is confident] in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

God’s promise to the person who fixes their mind—diligently, intentionally thinks—upon Him will enjoy the “perfect peace” of God. Intentionally thinking on His unending love and almighty power, His grace and mercy, His forgiveness and compassion, and all the wonderful truths of God found in His Word brings us confidence.

Keep in mind that NEGATIVE, ANXIOUS thinking leads to NOISY, UNSTABLE living while GODLY thinking leads to PEACEFUL, STABLE living.

Consider his song: The old song of heartache and trouble of trial and tribulation is filled with sadness and complaint. This is figurative language of our words and conversations as we seek to cope with our struggles. David says,

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

David speaks of a “new song”—a song that is characterized by “praise unto our God.” Moving from the pit to the rock—from the noisy mind to the quiet soul brings a “new song.” The reality is that when in the storms of life we intentionally think upon the Lord, worshiping the Him in humble, thankful prayer we can enjoy God’s transcendent peace. Naturally we will overflow with a new song of praise—praising God for His goodness to us.

Consider his testimony:…many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” As David sings in his suffering he brings glory to God and grace to others. This song of praise flowing beautifully off David lips causes people to respond with awe and wonder. As a result of David’s peace, we see his praise to God—as a result of David’s praise we see others turn to the Lord, trusting in Him.

God desires to use the trials of life to get our attention and to turn our hearts to Him. He desires to use us for His purposes—for His glory. He truly wants what is BEST for us. God’s best for us is to know His peace and give Him praise—to know His peace in our storms and give testimony of His guidance and care.

So what do you do in the storms of life? How do you cope? How do you get through? HOW DO YOU QUIET YOUR NOISY SOUL? How do you find peace IN these “noisy pits” during these storms of life?

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED CHRIST? Have you thought about God’s purpose for you in this struggle that you face?  Do you know the peace of God that leads to the praise of God? Learn to INTENTIONALLY think upon the Lord and let Him quiet your noisy soul bringing you transcendent peace in the storms of life.

There Is No God?…REALLY?

Do you believe this? Please consider what the Bible says:

“The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ …” (Psalm 53:1)

Please consider what the beauty of the earth around you says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Would anyone consider a beautiful painting and say, “No one painted that!” or an architectural structure that you stop and admire and say, “No one built that!“? Then why would we look upon this amazing earth that we call home and say, “It happened by chance—there is no Creator!”? The vibrant colors of spring…the complexity of every living organism…the consistency of the cycle of day and night along with the season…the similarity of the orbital structure of the microscopic atom to the planetary activity in our universe—ALL proves and proclaims that God EXISTS! that HE created all of it.

The Bible says that someone who looks at this beautiful earth around him and concludes, “This happened by CHANCE—that there is no God” is foolish.

The sad reality is that when you don’t believe in God’s amazing work of creation, how will you ever believe in His amazing love that He displayed in His saving action? As a result you will never enter into a personal relation with the GOD who made you.

The Bible says, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

“But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

THERE IS A GOD…REALLY!!

He loves you enough to let you enjoy this amazing creation of His that you call “home” even though many are so ungrateful and don’t even give Him credit. He also loves you enough to send His only Son to die in your place, paying your debt of sin as well as mine.

“For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

“For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

There not only IS a God but this God wants to have a loving relationship with YOU!

“And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

For more information about “KNOWING GOD” and having a personal relationship with Him consider reading this article: “How do I get to Heaven?“.

God’s Model for Success

On the path of life our walk is often be filled with unforeseen challenges.  What lies ahead? How will you deal with the challenges that you will be facing? The answer is in your mindset as you approach these challenges.  How you take each step that leads to these unknowns will determine how you will handle those challenges.

In the story of Joshua we are given God’s model for success in this life. The precious truth about our God is that He does not leave us to walk alone and feel blindly through this life. He leads us by the hand with His Word, and often carries us through the roughest waves of the storm. Through His Word He gives us confidence to take the next step of life.

Consider Joshua as he is ordained by God to be the leader following the beloved Moses.  The task that lays before him was a monumental one.  How could he lead this people who for the past 40 years had been wandering in the dessert because of unbelief?  Aside from unbelief, these people could be defined as murmurers and complainers.  This was an incredibly large and difficult group to lead into a land they had yet to call their own which was filled with many unknowns.  How could Joshua take on this task and be successful?

In the first chapter we find God speaking with Joshua.  God tells him some things to remember as well as specific ways to respond. In this passage we see God’s promises as bookends surrounding His commands.—Remember & Respond!!

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!”  Here we begin by seeing what we are to remember. Consider this promise, in verse 5, as a stabilizing truth. God says to Joshua, “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” God’s promise to Joshua is that He will ALWAYS be with him each step of the way. Joshua will NOT have to face any challenges alone. The same is true for us, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

This promise sets up what follows. In order to be successful in our response we must remember what God says. Remember that success in our Christian lives is based upon our obedience to God and His Word.

Respond to GOD’S Commands—“Do this!”  Here we see what we are to respond to.

Consider the 1st command: Be confident because of God’s Wordbe thou strong (v. 7). God is telling Joshua to “be strong”—be confident because of God’s Words of promise. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light [symbol of guidance] unto my path [way of life]”   (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word is given to provide light so as to be able to walk through this life successfully. His Word is the key to our faithfulness and usefulness. “…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b). Be confident that the way our Shepherd leads us is the righteous way and the best way.  He puts His name on it. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Be confident that He will complete the work that He starts in us.

Consider the 2nd command: Be fearless because of God’s Wordbe thou very courageous (v. 7). Joshua’s courage was to be in God—he could be fearless through the unknowns before him because of what God had said to him—I will be with thee.” Remember God’s Word and respond without fear. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

Consider the 3rd command: Be obedient to the Wordobserve to do according to all the Law (v. 7). Joshua’s ability to obey was directly related to his confidence in the truth. God commanded Joshua to “observe” or take special care to obey ALL the commandments. Take special care that you show, by your actions, that you hold the commandments of God in high esteem for they are invaluable. When we remember that God has our best interests in mind it will change how we respond to His commandments. Our best is ultimately God’s glory.

Just as God commands Joshua, He also commands us to be obedient to everything in His Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.   But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25) Observing to do,” what God says results in blessing—hearing and NOT doing results in self deception.

Consider the 4th command: Be guided by the Wordturn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest (v. 7). This is a call to submission. When we are confident in Who God is—that He is sovereign and in full authority; when we are fully persuaded about His character and His desire for us is what is best for us—then our submission to Him will not be so difficult. We will then respond by being guided by Him through His Word.  The result is “prosperous” or wise living.

Consider the 5th command: Be vocal about the Wordthis book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth (v. 8). God commands Joshua that His Word should always be present in Joshua’s conversation.  He should always be speaking about God and His Word. When you are confident in Who God is and what He has done for you this shouldn’t be very difficult. When you remember the “mercies of God” (Romans 12:1) you will be vocal in response about the greatness of your God.

Consider the 6th command: Be daily in the Wordthou shalt meditate therein day and night (v. 8). God wants Joshua to daily meditate upon  His Word. To meditate is the same process as worrying where you are constantly looking at something from every possible angle. The difference is the content of what you are focusing on. Meditating upon God’s Word is a great help as it brings peace and quietness where worrying about our circumstances bring only noise and unrest into our lives. The Bible further tells us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly [abundantly] in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!” Here again we see what we are to remember. This is the other bookend surrounding God’s commands.

Consider the next promise: Know success as promised in the Wordthen thou shalt have good success (v. 8). This is clearly NOT the definition of worldly success. We can chase the world’s success but as Solomon says it’s like “chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 5:16) as it is a sure waste of time. The God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) promises  that handling His Word His way leads to success—remember and respond!

Consider this final promise: Know encouragement from the Wordfor the LORD thy God is with thee (v. 9). Notice that the Lord ends with the promise He began with—“I will be with you!

Look at WHO is commanding Joshua.  As God speaks to him He is saying “remember WHO AM I?  What have I done?  AM I worthy to be obeyed?  Do My words ring hollow because My past has been contrary to what I AM commanding you now?  AM I not the great I AM? AM I not the One who parted the Red Sea?  AM I not the One who gave you water to drink from a rock in the desert? Have I ever done anything to prove to you that I am unfaithful or that I cannot be trusted?” Consider these words as questions to you.

The most important questions to ask are “Who are you Lord?” and “What do you want me to do?” And so to each of us I say, “REMEMBER and RESPOND! Remember WHO your God is and what He has done for you.” In turn “respond with fearless obedience being confident in HIM, knowing that what God promises, HE is sure to bring it to pass.”