What if __________?

Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »
  1. What if God wants to tell you something really important about the next step in your life, but you can’t hear Him because of all the noise?
  2. What if you exchanged the amount of time you currently spend on your phone, laptop and television with the amount of time you read the Bible and talk to God?
  3. What if God meant everything He said?
  4. What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
  5. What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
  6. What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
  7. What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
  8. What if heaven is going to be a lot like the absolute best day on earth you can possibly imagine…only a million times better and minus any pain, sin, conflict or difficulties?
  9. What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
  10. What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
  11. What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
  12. What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
  13. What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
  14. What if God is crazy in love with you?
  15. What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
  16. What if God said He was going to bless you financially in proportion to how generous you’ve been lately–would you be excited or disappointed?
  17. What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
  18. What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
  19. What if someone in the Bible faced the same problems you are and you could learn from that person how to (or not to) handle them?
  20. What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
  21. What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
  22. What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
  23. What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
  24. What if the negative emotions (fear, worry, anxiety, etc.) you’re feeling are signal that you’ve got a wrong belief about God or yourself?
  25. What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?

Does God Give Rewards?

Posted: January 14th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What do you think? Does God reward us? For doing good things, I mean.

When you do a good deed–should you expect a reward?

What do you think?

Well, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Does that confirm or change your answer?

This verse is from the famous “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus is teaching a large crowd on a mountainside. He’s already talked to them about murder, adultery, divorce and loving your enemies. Some of what He says is pretty radical, like His teach on adultery.

Jesus said it was not only wrong to commit adultery, but that even looking lustfully at a woman is just like committing adultery with her. Uh oh. And He taught something similar related to murder. He said that even being angry with someone would make us subject to judgment. Another, uh oh.

Clearly, Jesus is concerned not just with our actions, but with our heart, with what is unseen by others, but seen by God.

Do you ever stop to think about that? God sees what others don’t see. He sees the things you do that no one else sees. He sees your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your motives.

And He cares about all those things.

So back to our question: does God reward us for good deeds?

Jesus didn’t say the Father wouldn’t rewards us–only that if we do our good deeds, our “acts of righteousness”, to be seen only by others, then that’s all the reward we’ll get.

It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll receive a reward. It’s simply a matter of who is doing the rewarding. The audience we’re seeking to please and be noticed by matters.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 6 to talk about several “acts of righteousness.” Giving to the needy, praying and fasting. Each time, He tells us to be careful that we don’t do those things to be noticed by others. If we do, the attention from others will be the only reward we’ll get.

If, however, we do those things in secret, with an audience of One in mind, then Jesus very clearly says that God will reward us. How will He reward us? Jesus doesn’t say. He just says we’ll be rewarded.

This doesn’t mean that we should never do something good if others will see it. For example, if a friend (or a stranger) is in need and you give them some money–it doesn’t mean you won’t be rewarded. Remember, it’s a heart issue. Whose attention are you after?

Later in the chapter, Jesus tells us not to worry about our physical needs. He never says they’re not important, in fact, He tells us, “…your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

Your boss might not know you need more money. Your friends and neighbors might not know. And they might not even care. But God knows. And God cares.

God sees you. He sees your needs. And He cares.

Jesus doesn’t leave it at “do not worry” though. He tells us what to do.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

If you have placed your faith in Christ, then you have become God’s child. And He is now responsible for you. He promises to meet your needs. Of course, we have some responsibility in the matter as well. One of the primary ways God provides for us is through work. We work, we earn money, and we’re able to get what we need.

But don’t miss what Jesus said. We are to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. Rather than giving all of our energy to earning money and accumulating more stuff–Jesus says to put energy into seeking God and what’s on His heart. And He will provide for our physical needs. When we seek God and live responsibly, we don’t have to worry. We can trust God to provide.

Hebrews 11:6 says,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.”

God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. To be “earnest” means “a serious and intent mental state, a considerable or impressive degree or amount.”

Serious. Considerable. Impressive amount.

Does that describe your effort in seeking God? Would you time in prayer and in God’s word be described as an “impressive amount?”

Now before you start to think this all sounds very formulaic or legalistic–it’s not. Anything and everything we receive from God is by grace. My best efforts and behavior don’t put God in my debt. He doesn’t owe me anything. Ever.

And yet, God rewards those who seek Him. Galatians 6:7 says, “A man reaps what he sows.”

It’s just the way God set up the universe to work. Sow corn, reap corn. Sow wheat, reap wheat. Sow time seeking God, reap God’s reward. Do you think God did it that way because He wants us to seek Him? Do you think maybe He likes it when we give serious effort to it?

The same system is in place when it comes to giving. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

Now some people will say we shouldn’t give to get. And what I would say is that we shouldn’t give just to get. But there’s nothing wrong with giving and expecting God to give back to me. Why? Because He said He would. Why would I not expect God to do what He said he would do?

So does God give rewards?

Absolutely!

He rewards us for things done in secret with right motives.

He rewards us for seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

He rewards us for seeking Him with serious effort.

He rewards us by giving back to us when we give.

The question really isn’t, “Does God give rewards?” He does. That’s clear.

The real question is, “Who do you want to receive your reward from and how much do you want to receive?”

When we do good things just to be noticed by others–that’s all the reward we get. And that’s not much, is it?

But if we remember that God sees what’s done in secret. He sees the kind deeds, the silent prayers, the sacrificial giving. Then we will reap a reward from our heavenly Father.

And it’s not even worth trying to speculate on all the ways God might reward you. Let Him be infinitely powerful and creative. Let Him surprise you. Just trust that He knows what you need and what is best for you at all times.

Choose to seek Him today. Do something kind for someone. Give a gift to someone. Pray for someone who needs God’s help.

Do it for an audience of One.


The Sin of King Saul

Posted: October 12th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Do you ever read about someone in the Bible and get frustrated with them? I guess that’s the kind way of saying it. Do you ever wonder what in the world that idiot was thinking?

I do. Over the past few days, I’ve felt that way about Saul, the first king over Israel.

This is a guy who had everything going for him. 1 Samuel 9:2 tells us Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites–a head taller than any of the others.”

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul is anointed as king by Samuel who then tells Saul to go on ahead of him to a town called Gilgal. Samuel will follow along in seven days and offer sacrifices and tell Saul what he’s to do.

When Saul returns home after his encounter with Samuel, his uncle asks him what Samuel said to him. Saul fails to tell his uncle that he’s been anointed as king. I suppose you could call that humility, but I don’t think it is. It seems like the beginning of a pattern of shrinking back from responsibility, from stepping up to the calling God has placed on his life.

Later, when Samuel publicly brings the tribes of Israel out to indicate who has been chosen as king, the tribe of Benjamin (that’s Saul’s tribe) is chosen. Then each clan in that tribe is brought forth, and Saul’s clan is chosen. And finally, Saul is chosen from those men in his clan.

There’s a problem though–Saul’s nowhere to be found. So the people inquired of God, “Has the man come here yet?”

God answered them, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”

What? He’s hidden himself among the baggage? That’s right. Saul was hiding. They had to go look for him.

Once Samuel explains to the people how this new kingship in Israel will work, he dismisses everyone to their homes. Saul returns to his home in Gibeah and was accompanied by “valiant men whose hearts God had touched.” But there were also some troublemakers who despised him. “But Saul kept silent.”

Are you seeing a pattern? He doesn’t step up. He hides. He keeps silent.

He’s not leading. He’s not accepting responsibility. He’s acting passively.

Um, I do that. Before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take a look in the mirror. And as I do, I’m not sure I like what I see.

How about you?

There’s more though…

Remember when Samuel told Saul to wait seven days? I posted about it here. Basically, Saul waited, but not long enough. Saul didn’t have his eyes on God, they were on his circumstances. That will always lead to feeling fearful, worried or anxious. And that never results in doing what’s right or best according to God.

Saul disobeyed and offered the sacrifices on his own, which was not for him to do. Rather than fear God, he feared his circumstances.

Some time later, Samuel gives Saul instructions from God to attack the Amalekites. God is going to punish them for how they treated the nation of Israel in the past. God commands Saul to spare no one–not people, not animals, not anything.

Saul carried out the attack and did what God commanded. Well, almost. Saul spared the king of the Amalekites. And they also kept the best animals.

That’s when God tells Samuel He’s grieved He made Saul king. So the next morning, Samuel set out to meet Saul. When he reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

At one point, he tells Samuel that he kept the best animals because, “I was afraid of the people so I gave into them.”

What Saul does is make excuses. Eventually, he agrees with Samuel that he has sinned, but you still get the idea that he’s not truly grieved over what he’s done. He’s more sorry he got caught than sorry He disobeyed and grieved God.

Again, he’s not fearing God–this time he’s fearing the people.

I do that. I fear people. I fear their opinions or what they’ll think of me. And so like Saul, I will remain silent when I should speak up.

I don’t respect Saul and how he failed to lead well, accept responsibility and fulfill God’s call on his life, but before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take inventory of my own life.

Do I get so focused on my circumstances that I lose sight of God…and as a result make sinful decisions?

Do I fear people more than I fear God? Does that lead me to be silent when I should speak the truth?

Do I make excuses when I fail to fully obey? Do I tend to view partial obedience as enough?

Do I hide from responsibility and act passively when I really need to be stepping up?

How about you?


God Answers the “Why?” Question

Posted: July 30th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

When things go wrong, terribly wrong, we can’t help asking God, “Why?”

Why did You let this happen?

Why did you let him die?

Why can’t I get pregnant?

Why can’t I find a job?

Maybe you’ve asked one of those questions. Maybe you’re asking one now. Or a different one.

Often, no answer comes. Bad things happen, but we’re only left to wonder why. God just doesn’t provide us with a reason.

And in those times, we have to fall back on His character. If we forget or never realize that He is good, faithful, loving, kind and all-powerful no matter what happens, then we will quickly become angry, fearful, depressed or any number of other negative emotions.

Sometimes though, God pulls back the curtain and gives us more information. Sometimes He answers the “Why?” question. In John 11, Lazarus is sick and eventually dies, but Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Now of course the disciples heard Jesus say this, but Lazarus and his two sisters who had sent for Jesus didn’t get to hear what Jesus said. They saw the miracle a few days later when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but those were a rough few days of silence while they wondered why Jesus wasn’t coming.

In the first chapter of Haggai, we have another instance of God actually explaining why something bad was happening. The temple was in ruins and the remaining Jews in Jerusalem had been saying, The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.”

They were wrong.

Apparently, the time had not only come, but had passed. As a result, the people were experiencing drought like conditions in all areas of life. They would plant, but not harvest much. They’d put clothes on, but not be warm. They’d earn wages, but it was like putting money in a purse with holes in it.

Nothing was working out.

Have you been there? I have.

Just when you think a situation can’t get worse–it does. It looks like something will work out, but it doesn’t. You seem so close to getting out of difficult circumstances, but can’t quite ever make it.

Twice in chapter 1, God tells the people, “Give careful thought to your ways.”

I’m not sure we’re very good at that. We don’t stop very often to give careful thought to our ways. I think we just press on, wonder why things aren’t working and then blame God for not helping us.

But in Haggai 1:7-9, God is very clear about why things have not gone well: “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

There it is. God answers the “Why?” question. The people had been busy with their own homes, but had ignored His. God’s temple was in ruins, but the people were saying, “The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.”

They were wrong. It was time for the temple to be rebuilt. It was time for the people to be about God’s agenda.

You and I don’t have a temple to rebuild, but could it be there’s something else God has given us to do, but we’ve ignored it? We didn’t think it was important or we were busy or it would have made us uncomfortable or we simply forgot?

But the bottom line is we didn’t do it. And it has led to drought like conditions in our lives.

Press pause for just a moment.

PLEASE DO NOT HEAR ME SAYING THAT ALL BAD THINGS ARE THE RESULT OF OUR SIN OR FAILING TO DO WHAT GOD HAS ASKED US TO DO.

We live in a fallen world that’s badly stained by sin. Bad things happen. People get sick. Cars breakdown. Loved ones die. And it’s not because of anything we did or didn’t do.

Sometimes though, God does get our attention through frustrating circumstances. Is this one of those times for you? Maybe there’s something He wants you to do. Or maybe He wants you to start walking according to His ways, not yours.

If you ask Him, He’ll tell you, but if you’ll stop and “give careful thought to your ways”, I suspect you will know what He’s wanting you to do.


How Long Will You Waver?

Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Which one of these is not like the others?

Murder. Adultery. Idol worship. Rape.

Yeah, I know. Idol worship, right? It’s not even in the same category as the others, is it?

Of course, it may not be in the same category as the others for a different reason than we might think. What if it’s in a different category because it’s even worse than the others?

Please don’t hear me say that murder, adultery, rape are not horrible sins. They are. They’re inexcusable. But what if worshiping idols is even worse?

As I’ve read through 1 Kings, it’s fascinating that God keeps referring to the “sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat.” What was his sin? He made two golden calves, built shrines to false gods and appointed priests who weren’t Levites.

I don’t see anywhere that God continually refers to David’s sin of adultery and murder. In fact, God even holds up David as an example of someone who obeyed Him. When Solomon’s heart turned away from God and he began to worship idols, God said, “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

Again, please don’t hear me say that murder and adultery aren’t so bad or that God looks the other way and gives a pass. That’s not the case.

But I think we’ve been deceived into thinking that having other “gods” before Jehovah and worshiping idols isn’t any big deal. Like somehow those sins only applied to ancient Israel.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah confronts Ahab and tells him to assemble the the people and the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. There’s going to be a show down between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. Actually, there’s going to be a show down between Jehovah and the false god, Baal.

When everyone has assembled, Elijah says:

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

You can read the chapter to find out what happens next. It’s awesome.

So the question was asked thousands of years ago, but it’s still relevant. We just need to change the name of the false god.

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if _____________ is God, follow him.”

What false gods or idols do we need to place in the blank?

If your job is God, follow him.

If your money is God, follow him.

If sex is your God, follow him.

If your children are God, follow them.

If your house is God, follow him.

If your favorite sports team is God, follow him.

If the way you look is God, follow him.

Jehovah is a jealous God. He isn’t interested in sharing us with our false gods and idols. We have to choose Him or them. We can’t have both.

How long will you and I waver?

We need to pick our God and follow him. Whoever he is.


Does It Feel Like God Is On the Other Team?

Posted: October 4th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Thirty years ago today, I turned 18. It’s really the only birthday I remember. Probably because it involved football.

My parents cooked breakfast at my house for the football team before we played Matawan (New Jersey) in an away game. The offense they ran was called the “single wing.” It looks a lot like the “wild cat” offense everyone is running today. I think we won by a score of 26 to 7.

At its core, the object of the game of football is this: the 11 men on offense try to move the ball across the goal line. If they do that, they get six points. The 11 men on defense try to stop them and ideally take the ball away from them. The offense has a goal and the defense opposes them as they try to achieve it.

That’s football. Simple, right?

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into what I just described, especially the longer you play the game. I helped coach my son’s team a couple years ago when he was in 7th grade. The offensive game plan was pretty much “hand the ball to the biggest kid.” And for the most part, it worked.

Now my son is on the 9th grade team at Woodland Jr. High and there’s a lot more involved. There are more formations and plays. Blocking assignments are more complex. Players have to read and react to what the other team is trying to do. The mental part of the game is just as important now as the physical.

As he goes on to play in high school, things will only become more complex. And for the few who play college ball or go on to the NFL, well, it’s an entirely new level of complexity, speed, strength and skill.

And yet, the fundamental objective of the game is unchanged. The offense tries to reach the goal line while the defense opposes them. If you’re going to win, you’ve got to at least understand that part, right?

That’s football, but what about in life? What is the fundamental objective? What’s the goal? And who’s opposing me?

In my previous post, I concluded with Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 12:

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Let me say it a different way:

The fundamental objective of life is God. Period.

It’s not ME. And it’s not YOU.

It’s not work. It’s not pleasure. It’s not money. It’s not success. It’s not a happy marriage. It’s not a happy family.

Now there’s nothing wrong with any of those, but they aren’t the goal. It would be like saying the objective of football is to gain the most yards. You can gain the most yards and still lose the game.

The fundamental objective of life is God. It’s to know Him, love Him, honor Him and serve Him. It’s to live in such awe and respect of Him that we’re motivated to live life according to His ways.

I guess you could say that’s our offensive game plan. And when we execute that plan, it’s kind of like having God on our team. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we’re on His team, but you get the idea.

On the other hand, if we insist on living life according to our own game plan, then it’s kind of like God switches teams. James 4:6 says…

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Who are the proud?

Those who have their own game plan. Those who want to call their own plays. Those who think they know better than God.

When we live that way, God lines up to oppose us.

Why?

Because He designed this life and knows how it’s to be lived. Because He’s the point of it all. And because He loves us more than we can even comprehend. And He knows that if we continue on with our own game plan that the end result is a loss. Loss of life. Loss of love. Loss of peace. Loss of joy. Loss of reward. Loss of everything that really matters.

Want to know an easy way to determine whether you’re running your own plays or God’s?

If you often find yourself frustrated, angry or depressed–you’re running your own plays. When we have a goal and it gets blocked, that’s how we respond. If you are directing your own life (that’s pride), then God is faithfully opposing you for your own good.

Let me encourage you to call timeout and think about what you’re doing. You can have all the best players. You can have really great plays. You can have an exciting game plan. But you cannot win with God opposing you.

The next sentence in James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”

That’s the only game plan you need.

When we live according to God’s plan, it doesn’t mean there are no obstacles or painful circumstances. You won’t find anyone in the Bible who walked with God and didn’t suffer. But when we sync up with God and His ways, we experience His power, His wisdom, His peace, His everything as we go through life. You will experience what it’s like to be lined up with God, not against Him.

Submit to God. Give up your own plans and your own ways. His game plan for your life is so much better than yours.

After a very frustrating season of my life a number of years ago, I finally surrendered to God with a prayer like this, “Lord, I give up. Do whatever you want with me.”

If you’re tired of having God lined up to oppose you, try that prayer and see what happens.


What Do You Fear?

Posted: October 2nd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I fear snakes. I hate them. Occasionally, I’ll have a dream about them. It’s never good.

When you don’t know much about snakes, like I don’t, it’s probably a healthy thing to fear them. I couldn’t tell you if it’s a good snake to have around to eat mice or if it’s the most venomous one there is. And honestly, I’m not all that interested in learning. My philosophy is to whack it with a shovel and ask questions later.

Sometimes fear is a correct response. It can save our lives. You should fear driving drunk. You should fear a masked man with a gun. If you don’t understand electricity, like I don’t, you should fear messing around with exposed wires if the breaker isn’t turned off.

To me, those are healthy fears. What makes them healthy? It’s a correct understanding of the facts. It’s when my emotions are reacting to the truth.

There’s one ultimate healthy fear, which we’ll get to in a minute, but first let’s talk about our unhealthy fears. There are some powerful ones, which can lead to very unwelcome consequences.

Some of us fear others. By that, I mean we overly care about their opinions of us. We want their approval. We want them to like us. We want them to validate us.

Of course, we all want to be liked. Well, most of us do. If you truly don’t care what anyone thinks of you, then you’ve got a different problem. If you speak your mind at all times regardless of how it makes someone else feel, you’re probably what most of us would refer to as a jerk. Sorry if that offends you.

For the rest of us though, we do have some concern about what others think about us. The problem is that it can be taken to an unhealthy concern. And when it gets there, we live in fear. That fear usually leads us to not speak up, not rock the boat and not do anything that might lead to someone else’s disapproval of us.

Rather than living confidently in the power of Christ, we live in constant fear of not offending others or doing anything that would cause them to not like us.

The tragedy is that when we live this way, we really can’t enter into truly loving relationships. Love requires us to focus on what’s best for others. Love calls us to speak the truth to help others grow. When we’d rather be liked than love others, we’ll never risk speaking the truth.

Another fear many of us deal with is a fear of our circumstances. We fear financial difficulties. We fear what the doctor may tell us. We fear our children being exposed to people or information we don’t agree with. We fear meeting new people. We fear taking a test. We fear ________________. Go ahead and fill in the blank for you.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that most of what I fear never happens. When I was a sophomore in high school, I lived in fear leading up to an intra-squad football scrimmage. I was afraid I would have to play against seniors who were much bigger and better than me. I was so afraid and so worried, it gave me a migraine. I was fixated on some future potential problem, it produced fear, even dread, but then it never actually occurred.

Fear of circumstances can also be based on our current situation continuing. If you’re currently unemployed, you may fear that you’ll still be unemployed in six months. Or maybe you’ve been trying to get pregnant and fear you’ll still be without a child a year from now.

You cannot possibly know what God has planned for you in the future. His plans for you will always be good though. It’s never healthy or helpful to live in fear that our current circumstances will never change for the better.

Some of us fear failure. You have an idea for a new invention. You have the content for a great book. You’d like to quit your job and go back to school. You’ve always wanted to run a marathon or open a restaurant or speak to a group.

But because you fear failure, you do nothing.

You’re willing to give up on a dream so that you don’t have to risk the potential of things not turning out like you hope they will. Think about though. If you step out in faith, trusting God to help you–what’s the worst thing that could happen? Even if your idea doesn’t work out like you’d dreamed, the process may be the very thing that God uses to reveal Himself and His next steps for your life.

Doing nothing because you fear failure is far more costly than “failing.”

Some people fear punishment. If they mess up, they fear God is going to finally lose His patience and give them a good whack. He may take from them someone they love. He may give them cancer. He may take away a job. Ultimately, He may decide they just weren’t worthy of heaven. Each of those fears are based on an incorrect view of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

If you dig just beneath the surface of each of these fears, you’ll find faulty beliefs. You don’t understand God’s character. Or you don’t understand God’s promises. Or you don’t understand God’s ways.

The only solution?

Fear.

Fear of God. That’s the one, ultimate, healthy fear.

Here’s how I would define the fear of God:

An understanding and awareness of God’s presence, power and rule that produces in me a sense of awe and respect that leads to obedience.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, after Solomon had tried everything he could to find pleasure and fulfillment in this life, he concluded with these words (Ecc. 12:13-14):

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

What do you fear? Others? Circumstances? Failure? Punishment? Something else?

Those are unhealthy fears. They’re holding you back from being who God has called you to be and accomplishing what God has called you to do. Begin to dig beneath them. Root out the wrong beliefs that led to them. Begin to cultivate a healthy fear of God and invest time in His word, so that you can learn to obey Him. It’s the whole duty of man.

Last thing, try this little exercise to help you begin to fear God:

Set aside 20 minutes where you can be alone in a quiet place. If you can go outside at night and look up at the stars, even better. Now for 20 minutes, meditate (think hard about) on the following:

God has no beginning. There’s never been a time He was not in existence. He is unbelievably powerful and holy. He needs nothing. “All things were created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) That means that you belong to Him and exist for His pleasure. How you live matters to Him and has consequences both now and forever. And according to the last verse of Ecclesiastes, He will one day ask you to give an account for your life.

Try that 20 minutes a day and see what happens.


The Treasure Key

Posted: September 18th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

What are you worried about? Money? A health problem? A situation at work? Your marriage? One of your children?

I continue to find that most of what I worry about never occurs. I also find it much easier to tell you that than believe it myself.

I came across several verses today that stopped me in my tracks as I walked along the worry path.

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both small and great!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  (Revelation 19:4-6)

Read those last six words again. “For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” Our Lord. The Almighty God of the universe. The one who loves and cares for us. He reigns.

The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.

He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.  (Isaiah 33:5-6)

The Lord dwells on high. He is enthroned over the earth and rules with justice and righteousness. “He will be the sure foundation for your times.”

What are you facing? What are you worried about? He is your sure foundation. He is a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.

He can save you. He can provide the wisdom you need. He has the answers you lack.

The key to unlock these treasures? The fear of the Lord.

Awe and respect for our great God unlock His wisdom and knowledge…and we discover He is a sure foundation…no matter what is happening around us, in us or to us.


Fear, Trust and Delight

Posted: May 14th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Does it seem like some things in your life are harder than they should be?

It could be your job. Your boss doesn’t cooperate or makes unreasonable requests.

Maybe it’s your marriage. Things are good for awhile, but then you slip back into old patterns that are more destructive than helpful.

Is it parenting? You’ve read the books and sought advice, but it’s not working. It seems to be working for your friends, just not for you.

How about your finances? You know you should have an emergency fund and pay off your credit cards every month, but it’s easier said than done. Your daughter needs braces, the car needs new tires and the upstairs air-conditioner is acting up.

Your friends had no trouble settling on a major, but you couldn’t decide. Once you did decide, you changed your mind. Twice.

Turning 30 (16 years ago) wasn’t a happy milestone for me. Naively, I thought I’d have my “act together” by that point. I didn’t. My career hadn’t gone as planned. My finances weren’t in great shape. I was not meeting the expectations I had for myself.

So what do you do when decisions and plans and goals don’t seem to fall into place? What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Psalm 33:16-18 says:

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in You.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Fear God. Revere and respect Him. Give Him His rightful place in your life.

Trust God. He knows what is best for you. At best, we see dimly through selfish lenses. Acknowledge Him as your Master. Believe Him, not what you see or feel.

Delight in God. Make it your goal to know Him and love Him. Find enjoyment in Him. Enjoy His love and grace in your life.

We’re coming up on a new season. School is getting out. For many of us, life slows down a little during the summer. Why not make it your goal over the next few months to fear, trust and delight in the LORD. Choose to focus on Him. Set aside time to seek Him.

He never meant for you to figure it all out or rely on your best ideas and efforts.

He knows what you need. His eyes are on you. His wisdom and strength are available for you.