Posted: September 27th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, pain and suffering, prayer, worry | No Comments »
One of the best feelings in the world is watching your children take their first steps. I loved sitting on the floor opposite Robyn and watching as our kids would attempt to make it across the room from one of us to the other. “Come on! You can do it!”
I think when we’re taking steps of faith–we need to remember God is right there with us cheering us on and encouraging us to keep going. That’s what I see happening in Mark 5. We pick up the story with Jesus coming ashore after crossing the Sea of Galilee.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
So with a large crowd pressing in on Him, Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and begs Him to come heal his daughter and Jesus agrees to go with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
If I can paraphrase what the disciples said to Jesus, it might sound like this: “Really, Jesus? Really? You want to know who touched You? Hello, Jesus, they’re all touching You!” But unlike the others who may have been just bumping into Him, this woman is believing that if she can just touch His clothes, she’ll be healed. And Jesus feels it happen.
Now the way the disciples respond to Him leads me to think they had little idea who they were truly dealing with. Think about it–if God asks a question, you have to assume He’s not stupid. There’s a reason He’s asking. But like the kid in this commercial, the disciples didn’t get it. Notice what Jesus does next…
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge what His disciples said. He just keeps looking for whoever touched Him. And when the woman confesses, He commends her faith. He didn’t have to do that. She was already healed, but Jesus intentionally affirms her faith. If I may paraphrase again, it’s as if Jesus is saying, “I love it! Way to go! Keep believing!”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Now watch again what Jesus does…
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The Greek word for “overhearing” can be translated in a couple different ways. The footnote in the NIV Bible says it can also mean “ignoring.” It can also mean “immediately.” In other words, Jesus overhears what’s being said to Jairus, He ignores it and immediately tells him to not be afraid, but to believe.
Can you picture it? This large crowd has come to a stop while Jesus finds out who touched Him. While commending the woman’s faith, He hears what the people are telling Jairus. I picture Jesus quickly turning around, looking Jairus right in the eyes and telling him to not be afraid, but to believe. It’s as if He’s saying, “Jairus, you trusted me enough to come and ask for my help and I said I’d go with you. Nothing has changed. I’ve got this, so don’t stop believing. Come on! You can do it!”
Jesus tuned out the unbelieving static around Him. That’s what we need to do too. Be careful who you listen to. Most Christians you know are probably not walking by faith. So when you do, they may very well be the ones who are most discouraging to you.
The rest of the story…
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Jesus again encounters unbelief when he enters the home of Jairus. They laugh at Him when He tells them she’s not really dead. I find it interesting that He “put them all out” before raising her to life. I wonder if they’d believed if He would have allowed them to stay and witness a miracle?
Let’s get practical–in what area of your life do you most need to believe God and tune out the unbelieving voices?
Make the choice to start believing Him right now and know that God is cheering you on.
Posted: September 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, fear, God is good, God's love, God's will, God's word, Jesus, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
Would you say you’re following Jesus or you’re kind of hoping Jesus will follow you?
In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In Jesus, we find our way. We find the truth. We find life. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re looking elsewhere. Rather than wholeheartedly following Jesus, it’s like we’re trying to take him along with us.
I think His disciples tried that too. Mark 4:35-36 says: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Jesus and His disciples are on one side of the lake and Jesus wants to cross over to the other side. But do you notice anything strange in those two verses?
I’ve always thought it was interesting Jesus is the one who has the idea to go to the other side of the lake, but it says the disciples “took him along.” Maybe it’s because some of them were experienced fishermen and Jesus was just a carpenter. Sure, they thought, Jesus might be able to build a boat, but He doesn’t know anything about sailing one. So as they all climb into the boat, they think they’re taking him along with them. Not the other way around.
I wonder how often I live like that. Do I simply go about life and expect Jesus to tag along?
Well, it doesn’t take very long for things to go wrong. Verses 37 and 38 say: A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Isn’t it interesting the fishermen are now freaking out? And the one they were taking along is now taking a nap.
In a panic, they wake Jesus up and ask the question we’ve probably asked ourselves, “Don’t you care?” When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, isn’t that what we want to know? “God, do you care about me?” I’ve wondered. I’ve asked.
We find our answer in the next two verses:
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Can you picture it? One moment there’s a furious storm. Dark clouds. High winds. Waves are breaking over the boat. Death seems certain.
And then in the next instant everything is calm. No wind. No waves. Just the disciples…and Jesus…floating on a calm sea. Can you see Him looking out across the water from the stern of the boat and then turning to the twelve men with Him and asking, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What storm are you facing? Maybe it’s a financial storm. Or a health storm. Or a marriage storm. Or something else. Are you wondering if God cares? If He’s able or willing to help?
Do you think maybe we’re most afraid when we think we’re the ones taking Jesus along with us? Would we be less afraid, less panicky if we were the ones doing the following?
To follow Jesus, I have to believe Him. I have to trust that He has my best in mind. I have to be confident in His love and care and concern for me. But if I don’t really know Him, then I can’t really trust Him and what I’ll do is live my life as if He’s tagging along with me.
What about you? Who’s following who?
Posted: September 5th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, God's word, Jesus, seeking God | No Comments »
The religious people used to ask Jesus questions to try and test Him or trick Him. One of those times is found in Matthew 22:23:33.
Jesus gives them an answer, which He doesn’t always do, but first He tells them, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
I wonder how many times we’re in error for the same reason. How many times are we trying to solve our problems in the wrong ways? How many times are we working on the wrong problems to begin with? All because we don’t know the truth of God’s word or His power.
What difficulties are you facing? What problems seem insurmountable? Is there an issue you can’t resolve and won’t go away?
Are you investing time in God’s word in order to know Him better? Are you searching His word to discover His purposes and ways?
It’s very easy to buy into the world’s system of doing life. It’s easy to go with the flow and believe happiness and fulfillment and security are found in a job or money or a person. When that’s our mindset, we end up building our lives on error. And that will always lead to frustration, discouragement, anxiety, worry or other negative emotions.
Jesus is the author of life. He knows how it should be lived. In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In Colossians 2:2-4, Paul writes:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
Do you need understanding? Or wisdom? Or knowledge? They’re found in Jesus. But like any treasure–you have to search and dig. The most valuable treasures aren’t buried near the surface.
The alternative is a life of error because we don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Posted: August 15th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: adventure, answers to prayer, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, seeking God | No Comments »
Several days ago, I flew to Seattle, so I could make the drive back to Northwest Arkansas with my daughter, Erica. She’s going to live with us for a month or so while her husband is in Army Ranger training at Ft. Benning. Our drive took 37 hours over three days and covered over 2,300 miles. And we had a great time!
One of my goals on the trip was to visit Montana and North Dakota–two of the three remaining states I’d never been to. We hit Montana on day 1 and North Dakota on day 2. You can see on the map that we only briefly visited North Dakota. The original plan was to cross the entire state before heading south, but somewhere out in Montana, Erica asked how close we were to Mt. Rushmore.
That question changed everything. We scrapped our original plan and started heading south, but we did make it into the southwest corner of North Dakota so I could check off my 49th state! The only remaining state is Nevada.
We arrived at Mt. Rushmore late in the afternoon. Because they don’t allow dogs in the memorial area, Erica and I took turns waiting in the car with Titan. Yes, we had Erica’s German Shepherd along for the trip. As you can see, he was not a fan of the backseat.
Prior to a couple days ago, I would have said I’d like to see Mt. Rushmore some day, but honestly, it was not high on my list. I don’t feel that way now. It was awe inspiring. The pictures don’t really do it justice. To give you some context–George Washington’s eyes are 11 feet across. Each of their faces are as tall as a six-story building. If you’ve never been–I highly recommend you go.
It was a reminder that it’s good to have a plan, but it’s better to know when to flex. Had we been unwilling to change the plan and head south–we would have missed seeing Mt. Rushmore.
One of the things I couldn’t help noticing was all the broken rock below their faces. Most of the pictures I’ve seen of Mt. Rushmore are close ups so I never noticed all the rock that was blasted away to create what we see today.
That got me thinking about our lives. God is in the process of making us the people He already sees us to be. The sculptor of Mt. Rushmore could see the image of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. His task was to remove enough rock so we could see it too.
God’s doing that in our lives. He sees who we really are. He sees us as “holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) He’s slowly, patiently, lovingly removing the stuff from our lives that hide the real us.
After we left Mt. Rushmore, we still had a five hour drive to get to Sioux Falls for the night. As we were heading east on I-90, this storm was closing in on us:
That little blue circle just west of Wall was our location at the time. We made it out of that area right before the storm crossed I-90.
We out ran our storm, but you might be in the midst of one. See if this has ever happened to you…
You’re on a particular course in your life when you sense God leading you in a new direction. So you step out in faith toward this new adventure…and that’s when the storm hits. Maybe you accepted a new job, but discovered your new boss is horrible. Maybe you moved to a new city, but after arriving you learn the job you had lined up fell through. Maybe you were convinced this was the right person to marry, but six months into marriage it feels like the biggest mistake of your life.
I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to experiencing God’s will. It doesn’t happen every time, but I’ve seen it often enough to recognize it. Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances we’d like to see changed and so we pray and seek God…and then we see Him open a door to something different, something new, something better.
Then things take a turn for the worse and we wonder what’s happening. We wonder if we heard God wrong or if we’ve made a terrible mistake. Sometimes we begin doubting God’s love and goodness. We reason that if we were in God’s will and He was a good God, then we wouldn’t be in the midst of whatever storm we’re facing. So either we made a mistake or God isn’t all that good.
That’s not true though. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 says…
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Call it a desert or call it storm–there are some things we only learn when the pressure is on, when our circumstances are making us uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Don’t give into discouragement. Press on through the storm. God is using it to humble you and teach you. He knows what He’s doing.
Well, we made it home safely on day 3. As I write this (day 4), my daughter is driving another 700 miles to Ft. Benning in Georgia, so she can see her husband for a few days. She will have covered 3,000 miles in four days!
A few final thoughts from the trip…
Shared experiences create powerful bonds. I’ll always remember and treasure the three days Erica and I shared together.
Being in a place where you can see the horizon in all directions helps put things in perspective. It reminds you how small you are and how big God is.
Lastly, I’m not really a “pet person”, but I find it doesn’t take me long to get attached to a good dog.
Posted: June 22nd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, faith, God's character, God's glory, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
Do you remember what opportunity cost is from your economics class? Opportunity cost is what you gave up when you chose one thing over another. It’s what you could have had. If you spend $3,000 on a Hawaiian vacation, then your opportunity cost may be the new deck or hot tub you wanted. When you choose one thing, you’re likely giving up another thing…and that other thing is the opportunity cost.
A number of years ago, I felt like God let me down. (To be honest, I still feel that way sometimes.) I felt like I’d trusted Him and prayed for things and He didn’t come through for me. Maybe you’ve felt that way. You’ve prayed and prayed, but nothing seems to happen. God doesn’t answer…at least how you wanted Him to.
Then you read a passage like the following and feel angry or cynical rather than excited or hopeful:
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
For a while now, I’ve tended to skim over those words, which is a nice way of saying I haven’t believed them. I’ve been like the person whose heart was broken by a lover and chooses to never fall in love again. If I don’t get my hopes up, if I don’t expect too much, then I can’t be disappointed again.
And that type of thinking carries a very high opportunity cost with it. In other words, what prayers might God have answered had only I asked?
As I read those verses again today, I was struck by several things…
The Greek word that gets translated “very truly” is identical to the Hebrew word, which is also identical to the English word. The word is “Amen.” In fact, Jesus uses the same word twice at the beginning of the sentence. “Amen Amen…” When used at the beginning of a sentence, it’s translated as we see it here, “Very truly.” When used at the end of a sentence, it means, “so be it” or “may it be fulfilled.” Jesus makes it clear that what He’s about to say is the truth, something we can count on.
Jesus then says “whoever.” Whoever. That means me. That means you. It’s not a select group of special people, it’s whoever believes in Jesus. They will do even greater things than He did. How could that be? Jesus says it’s because He’s going to the Father. So how does that help us? Jesus will intercede for us (Romans 8:34) and He will send the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 14:16), to help us and empower us.
Then Jesus gives us the reason He’ll give us what we ask for…so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. It’s not to make us rich. Or more comfortable. Or to give us lives free of difficulties and pain. It’s so that God is glorified. One definition of glorify is “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.” When our prayers are answered, God’s worth is made known.
Twice Jesus says we can ask for anything in His Name and He will do it. So what does that mean? In His Name. It’s to pray for what Jesus would pray for. It’s to pray for His will. Not ours. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? To pray for what Jesus wants, not what we want. Sometimes (or is it most of the time?) it’s hard to know the difference. It’s easy to confuse our own desires with what we think Jesus desires.
If our prayers go unanswered and cause more frustration and disappointment than joy and hope, then it’s a good sign we’re not praying in the name of Jesus…we’re praying in our own name, for what we want. The answer isn’t to quit praying, it’s to seek God with serious effort (Hebrews 11:6) so we know Him better and have a better sense of His will and His ways. So we’ll know how to pray in His Name.
So let me ask you a question. Are you willing to believe Jesus is telling the truth when He says He will give you whatever you ask for in His Name? I fear the opportunity cost is far too high to not believe.
Posted: June 20th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, God's word, Holy Spirit, priorities, seeking God | No Comments »
Think back over the past 24 hours or so. What emotions have been most prominent?
Have you felt happy or joyful? Peaceful? Content? Secure?
Or have you been angry? Anxious? Worried?
Maybe you’ve felt frustrated. Or discouraged. Or afraid.
More than likely, you’ve experienced multiple emotions…sometimes within just a few minutes. Often, our emotions fluctuate depending on our circumstances. If things are going well, we tend to feel better. When circumstances are hard or confusing, it’s easy to give into negative emotions.
I like to think of negative emotions like the warning lights on the dashboard of a car. When the “check engine” light comes on it usually means there’s something going on underneath the hood that needs to be checked out. It’s the same with emotions like fear, worry, discouragement, anger and anxiety. Those feelings are a signal that something in us needs to be checked out.
Romans 8:5-8 says…
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
The mind set on and governed by the flesh is hostile to God, is unable to submit to God’s law and is characterized by death. But the mind set on the Spirit pleases God and experiences life and peace.
The flesh is that part of us that still desires to live independently of God. It’s that part of us that seeks to get our physical needs met according to the world’s plan. The flesh is consumed with the current, material realm in which we live. The flesh doesn’t give thought to the spiritual realm or eternity.
So what emotions have you been feeling lately? Would you put them under the heading of “life and peace” or “death?”
If you’ve been primarily dealing with negative emotions, then chances are your mind has been set on the flesh. Your feelings don’t randomly occur. They result from your thoughts, from your mindset. The answer for feeling better isn’t to try and change your feelings. The answer lies in changing your thoughts. We have to choose to set our minds on what God’s Spirit desires. And the only way to do that is to invest time in God’s word. There’s no substitute for it.
Maybe the beginning of summer is a good time to make a new start, to change your mindset. Choose to set your mind on what the Spirit desires. Learn to see your circumstances the way God sees them. He promises life and peace to those who do.
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 2 Comments »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: April 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, creation, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's word, Jesus, trials, VY Canis Majoris | No Comments »
Our sun is 93 million miles from earth and contains 99.99% of the mass of our solar system. To try and give some perspective–one million earths could fit inside our sun. Huge, right? But there’s a star named Betelgeuse that is anywhere between five and thirty times larger than our sun. It’s hard to begin to even comprehend something that large.
We’re not done though. The largest identified star in our galaxy is named VY Canis Majoris. It is 1,800 to 2,100 times larger than our sun. How do we even begin to think about something that large? Fortunately, someone has done a little math for us to try and bring things into perspective.
If you were to fly non-stop in a Boeing 747 at 550 mph, it would take two days to fly all the way around the earth.
It would take 206 days to fly all the way around the sun.
And to fly all the way around VY Canis Majoris, it would take 452,965 days. That’s 1,241 years.
Now consider this…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
The same Jesus who spoke VY Canis Majoris into existence, along with hundreds of billions of other stars, says to you today:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus created the universe and is sustaining all things by His powerful word. He is holding all things together. You can trust Him to sustain you and hold you together as well.
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, Jesus, seeking God | No Comments »
Yesterday, we talked about taking a spiritual fitness test. If we’re honest, most of us would say we’re not doing as well as we’d like to do. At least that’s what I’d say. I’d always like to be further along. I’d like to bear more fruit. I’d like to be less tempted by the same old sins. I’d like to know God better than I do.
Can you relate?
Today, let’s look at the only way we’ll ever truly make progress in the Christian life. The “secret” is found in John 15. You can read the whole chapter here. We’re just going to look at one verse though. Verse 5 says:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It’s really that simple. Remaining in Jesus results in a life that bears much fruit.
The secret isn’t working harder or longer. It’s not trying harder. It’s not following a list of rules.
The secret is to remain in Jesus. So how do we do that?
Let’s take a look at a few passages that might help…
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33)
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Let’s not ever lose sight of this very simple truth: God is a person who wants to be loved and sought after.
He doesn’t need our love or attention. He doesn’t need us for anything. But He does want us. He wants us to love Him and seek Him and make Him our top priority. He wants us to surrender total control of our lives to Him. That’s what it means to remain in Him–surrendering to Him and loving and seeking Him.
Then as we remain in Him, we bear much fruit as He produces His life in us and through us and we become more like Him.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
It’s a very simple concept. It’s just not easy to practice. Naturally, we don’t want to surrender. We want to maintain control over our lives. We think we know what’s best for us. We’re not always convinced God is looking out for us. And so we assume control and go our own way…which always results in less fruit, less of the life we really want.
If you’re not happy with where you are, if you’re continuing to struggle with sin, if life seems void of joy and peace and purpose…then it’s time to get reattached to the vine. And then remain there by seeking Him. Remain there by making your love relationship with Christ more important than anything else.
The branch just remains and bears whatever fruit the vine produces.
Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, seeking God | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my 17-year-old son and I took a fitness test. It’s the first step in the 60-day Insanity workout program. We’ll repeat the test every two weeks so we can chart our progress.
I thought the test was hard! My son outscored me on every exercise. My wife and daughter also took the test and I’m not sure I want to know how I compared to them. I’m okay coming in second, but I don’t want to be fourth! Of course the object of the test isn’t to compare myself to others. It’s to set a benchmark so I can see my own progress.
So this test got me thinking about spiritual fitness. What would it be like to take a spiritual fitness test? Not to compare myself to others, but to simply chart my own progress. Is their such a test? Does God give tests?
Yes, God does give tests. Here are a few examples…
Genesis 22:1-2 says:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Deuteronomy 8:2 says:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
John 6:5-6 says:
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
I Thessalonians 2:3-4 says:
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Clearly, God tests us. And 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says we’re also to test ourselves:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
So if our goal is to become more and more like Christ, it shouldn’t be too hard to measure our progress, right? Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-8…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
When it comes to your relationships–how are you doing compared to a year ago? If you’re married, are you becoming less selfish? Are you valuing your spouse above yourself more than you used to? Do your interests come first or do your spouse’s interests more often come first? Do you look out for your own advantage or do you serve your spouse by meeting his or her needs?
When it comes to your character and your emotions–how are you doing? In Galatians 5, we see:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Which are more evident in you–the acts of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Would your spouse agree? Would your children? Your roommate? Your friends or co-workers?
If you test yourself and aren’t happy with your grade–hold on until tomorrow. There’s a very simple way to start improving your “score.”
I didn’t say it’ll be easy. Just simple.