Why Does God Test Us?

Posted: September 2nd, 2017 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As followers of Jesus, we have become citizens of a new kingdom. Paul wrote, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

It’s important to realize, this kingdom operates very differently than the earthly realm in which we also live. When we approach life in God’s kingdom like we do life in the earthly realm, we will experience frustration and confusion. One very major difference between God’s kingdom and the earthly realm has to do with seeing and believing.

In the Kingdom of God, we believe then we see. Our faith perceives what is unseen and then we wait for God to bring it to pass. But the world system doesn’t operate that way; it says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” To experience success in God’s kingdom, we must operate according to His values. And that requires intentional effort, because He has said…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

As we grow in our understanding of God’s kingdom-priorities, we can align ourselves with Him and experience the life He has for us. His thoughts and ways begin to take precedence over ours. Now we might not always like the way God does things, but that’s besides the point. This is His universe and His kingdom and He gets to decide what the priorities will be and how things will be done.

One of God’s major priorities for our lives is growing our faith, our ability to trust Him completely regardless of our circumstances or feelings. Hebrews 11:17-19 says:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

God tested Abraham. And it was a big one. He told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. I can only imagine what Abraham must have been feeling. He and Sarah had waited all their lives to have a son. And finally in their old age, Isaac was born. And now it looks like God is going to take him from them.

“Sacrifice my son, Lord? But why? How will I explain this to his mother? I don’t understand. You promised You were going to bless the world through him. There must be another way.”

God had no intention of letting Abraham go through with it. It was only a test of his faith. And Abraham passed. So how did he do it?

He “embraced the promises.” He knew what God had told him about Isaac. It would be through him that God would bless the world. Isaac would eventually become the father of Jacob. And Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, had his own sons who became the nation of Israel.

Abraham also reasoned that even if Isaac was sacrificed, God could raise him from the dead. The Hebrew word for “reasoned” means: to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over. In other words, Abraham took into account what God had said previously. He thought it all through very carefully. And he embraced God’s promises. The end result of his reasoning was that he knew he could trust God to come through for him. And God did.

Since God never changes, it means He will test us too. I’ve seen it in my life this summer. As God has been at work in me, teaching me and strengthening my faith, I’ve noticed He has also been testing me. Something will happen that seems to contradict what God has said in His word. My tendency has been to focus on the circumstances and doubt God. And that only leads to discouragement. But once I realized God was testing my faith, I chose to embrace His promises and reason that I could continue to trust Him.

So what are you facing today? What circumstances seem overwhelming right now?

Could it be God is testing you? Maybe He wants you to know He really will come through for you, just as He did for Abraham. But if your faith is never tested…how will you know? If you never feel the need to see God come through, how will your faith ever grow?

Maybe the challenges you’re facing today are the tests that are preparing you for what God has in store for you in this next season. What if He has great plans to bless you and use you in ways you’ve never experienced before, but first your ability to trust Him must grow?

Like Abraham, take some time to reason. Don’t focus on what you can see. That will only lead to discouragement and hopelessness. Keep your eyes on God’s character and His promises. You’ll pass the test, see your faith grow and move into a new season of fruitfulness.


What If This Isn’t Where I Wanted To Be?

Posted: August 21st, 2017 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

About a week ago, Robyn and I were driving home to Arkansas after a wonderful time in New Jersey visiting family and friends. The plan was to stop for the night in Terre Haute, Indiana, so I made reservations at a hotel, entered the address into my phone and off we went.

Thirteen hours later, we exited the interstate as we followed the voice instructions to get to our hotel. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in the middle of a cornfield with no hotel in sight. It’s not what you want after an all-day drive.

Robyn entered the address into a different map program on her phone and we soon found our hotel, which was miles from where we were.

Have you ever found yourself somewhere you didn’t want to be and weren’t even sure how you got there? Maybe you had a vision for your life. A passion. Something you believed God put in your heart to do. And you began to follow His instructions. Along the way, there were some setbacks, but you persevered, you continued doing your best to follow where He was leading.

“Turn left here. Go straight ahead. Make your next right. Make another left. Arrive at your destination.”

Huh? You look around feeling confused. This isn’t where you wanted to be.

So what happened?

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The Dangerous Wrong Voices

Posted: March 1st, 2017 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

If you took an inventory of your thoughts today…how many do you think would be negative and how many would be positive? How many are causing fear and how many are causing your faith to grow stronger?

I rarely watch the news or visit news websites. I also find myself spending a lot less time on social media. And I’ve “unfollowed” a number of people on Facebook.

I just don’t need the negativity. Life is tough enough without being reminded of it day after day.

Thoughts are powerful. I need to decide carefully which voices are bringing them to me.

Hebrews 11:6 says that, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…”

God wants to be believed. It pleases Him.

It’s not easy though. Especially when we get our eyes focused on our circumstances and listen to the wrong voices.

God had miraculously led the nation of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt. He brought them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them His laws. About a year later, they are camped just outside the land God had promised to give them.

He instructs Moses to send 12 men into the land to explore it. They return 40 days later. Ten of them are afraid of what they’ve seen…the fortified cities and how strong they think the people are. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” These men begin to spread a bad report about the land among the people.

Two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, do their best to convince the people they should go in and take the land because God is with them…

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How to Never Be Disappointed

Posted: January 14th, 2017 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

woman 1006100 1920 760x428 How to Never Be Disappointed

Would you like to never feel disappointed again? To never feel the sadness that comes with unmet expectations? It’s simple.

Do nothing. Ask for nothing. And expect nothing.

Give up on your dreams. Take no risks. Make only small attempts.

Have no expectations of yourself. Set no goals. Make no plans.

Never express your needs to your spouse. Definitely not your wants.

Never pray. If you do, don’t ask for anything specific.

Don’t talk to strangers. Or ask a friend for help.

Learn to tolerate the job you hate.

Don’t think you have what it takes to start a business, form a non-profit or write a book.

Never seek adventure. Or try to make a difference.

Listen to anyone who tells you “it can’t be done” or “you’re not good enough.” Especially the negative voice in your head.

Fear failure. It guarantees you’ll attempt nothing great.

Just settle. For the life you have now. For the marriage you have now. For the influence you have now. For the financial situation you have now.

Get completely comfortable with the status quo.

It’s that simple.


Are You Agitated and Anxious?

Posted: October 17th, 2016 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

DSCN3437 1 760x570 Are You Agitated and Anxious?

It’s sunny, very windy and 80 degrees in Fayetteville, Arkansas today. But 7 years 8 months and 3 weeks ago, it was a different story. A severe ice storm had just hit. Trees were down and power was out all across Northwest Arkansas. Lots of trees were lost in that storm. Trees that did survive lost branches.

This morning, as I sat on our patio, I heard a loud rustling sound and then a tree branch fell on the driveway about fifteen feet from where I was sitting.

IMG 2904 Are You Agitated and Anxious?

It’s not uncommon to find branches like this after thunderstorms or just a strong wind like we have today. These branches are the result of the ice storm in January of 2009 when they broke off from the trunk and died. It’s inevitable they’ll crash to the ground. It’s just a matter of a time. All it takes is some agitation from the wind. And yet the same wind that agitates the dead branches has no effect on the healthy ones.

IMG 2910 Are You Agitated and Anxious?

In the moments leading up to His arrest, the gospel writers tell us Jesus was “troubled” and “overwhelmed with sorrow.” The same Greek word is used in both instances, it literally means:

to agitate, trouble a thing by the movement of its parts to and fro, to cause one inward commotion, take away calmness of mind, to disquiet, make restless, to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, to render anxious or distressed

Do you ever feel that way?

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The A La Carte Christian Life

Posted: October 12th, 2016 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As Americans, or maybe it’s just as humans, we like choices. We enjoy going out to eat, opening the menu and getting to decide what we want to eat. We get to decide whether we want soup or a salad and what kind. We can choose a baked potato, french fries or no potato at all. We can have our steak rare, medium or well-done. And if we don’t like anything on the menu, the chef may even prepare something special just for us.

To order “a la carte,” literally means “according to the card/menu.” It’s our choice. Not the server’s. Not the chef’s. Not anyone’s choice, but ours.

There’s another type of meal service though. It’s called, “Table D’hote.” It literally means, “the host’s table.” In this type of dining, the menu is mostly planned and our food choices are limited. Essentially, we eat what’s put in front of us.

Table D’hote dining isn’t worse than a la carte, it’s just different. It’s really a matter of expectations. If I sit down to eat and expect to have the freedom to order whatever I want, then I may be very disappointed by the Table D’hote experience. If, on the other hand, I know what to expect and know the chef is the best in town, then I can enjoy the experience and even look forward to whatever surprises may be served.

I think one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in life is…CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST.


My 3 Greatest Mistakes

Posted: April 22nd, 2016 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve made more mistakes and bad decisions than I could ever possibly count. I could probably list a hundred or more without any trouble, but I’d probably be forgetting thousands of others.

Most of my wrong choices and failures could be lumped into the major categories of career, finances and things I’ve said.

But the top 3 mistakes don’t have anything to do with those areas. The big 3 are all wrong beliefs, which actually do effect every other area of my life. Each of them are devastating on their own, but they also each effect the other two. So let’s just get to them.

1. I’ve had a wrong belief about life.

For some reason, I got it in my head that life would be easier than it has turned out to be. I feel little silly even saying that, because on a whole, and compared with most of the world, I have a great life. And an easy one.

I’ve never missed a meal. I never worry about having access to clean water. When I’m sick, which isn’t very often, I can see a doctor. I’m married to an amazing woman. I have four incredible kids, two sons-in-law (with a third coming in six weeks) and two wonderful grandsons.

I live in a great house with heat and air-conditioning right across the street from the University of Arkansas. Robyn and get to minister to together and see God use us through the ministry of Young Life.

I could go on and on about the blessings in my life. And yet, there have also been many failures and disappointments. I’ve failed where I thought I would succeed. I’ve had hopes and dreams that haven’t come true. Things I thought for sure would work…didn’t.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:15-17)

Do you ever wish the Bible would stop sooner? I mean just read those three verses again and stop before you get to the last sentence.

Sounds pretty good, right? Adopted as God’s children. We become heirs and we share in God’s glory.

But that last sentence is just as true as all the others. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

That’s not the only place in the Bible where we see the reality of suffering. Actually, it’s all throughout the Bible. Suffering, difficulties, setbacks, failures, disappointments and consequences of bad choices are everywhere. No one is immune.

And yet, somehow, I missed it. And so I’ve had this mistaken belief that things would be easy or at least easier, especially when walking with God. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. And that leads to the second mistake…

2. I’ve had a wrong view of God.

I allowed my failures, hardships and disappointments to cloud my view of God. Because I didn’t anticipate suffering as a normal part of being human and even of being a child of God, I began to doubt God’s character.

I concluded He wasn’t good or loving or faithful. At least not to me. And that wrong belief distorted my view of Him, myself and life. It effected my thinking, my emotions and my decisions.

It really effected how I prayed. Because I doubted God’s goodness and faithfulness, I stopped truly trusting Him. I didn’t pray boldly or confidently, because I didn’t want to be disappointed when an answer didn’t come.

My wrong view of God lasted for many years. And if I’m honest, it’s only been in the last few years that I’m making more of a “complete” recovery.

So what’s the truth about God?

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

God showed His great love on the cross. Now think about that for a minute. Not only did God Himself die in our place, while we were completely undeserving, this verse also reveals the fact that the Son of God suffered. How did I miss the obvious? Those twenty words reveal God’s true character as well as the true nature of life: God loves us and suffering us part of life.

As I’ve endured some personal hardships and have been careful to not make the same mistake I made in the past by doubting God, I’ve instead made the third big mistake…

3. I’ve had a wrong view of myself.

When I’ve experienced failures and disappointments, I’ve allowed them to define me. I’ve allowed them to effect my identity. Failure has meant I’m a failure. Suffering must mean there’s something wrong with me. Rather than seeing failure as a normal part of business and life…and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow…I’ve pointed a finger inward.

I love what Rocky said to his son in the movie Rocky Balboa about all of this…

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (If you want to watch the entire scene, CLICK HERE.)

Maybe you’ve wrestled with some of these wrong beliefs like I have. If so, let me simply encourage you to keep going. Keep wrestling. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick and easy answers.

God does love you though.

And failure and suffering are a normal part of life.

And you’re not a failure just because you’ve failed.


Anticipation

Posted: December 22nd, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Do you have a favorite day of the year? Your birthday? Valentine’s Day? Your anniversary? Thanksgiving or Christmas? The opening day of deer season?

My favorite day of the year is December 23rd.

Why December 23rd?

It’s because of the anticipation. It’s all those magical moments leading up to being together as a family and opening those mysterious presents under the tree. I love the anticipation, the mystery and the surprises.

There’s something very powerful about anticipation. When we anticipate something bad happening, we call that worry or fear. When we anticipate something good and right happening, we call that faith.

So what are you anticipating for 2016?

To experience the best year ever in your life and in your marriage, it’s critical to begin anticipating it.

Now I’m not suggesting that we can simply create a new reality with our thoughts…however, it’s entirely possible that whatever we’re anticipating is what we’ll see occur. There’s something powerful about what we choose to think about and dwell on. Our thoughts fuel our emotions and desires. Our words and actions flow from what we’re thinking and feeling.

And before you know it, what we anticipated becomes our reality.

So what are you anticipating? What are you looking forward to in 2016? What are your thoughts already beginning to shape for you? Are you thinking about…

Getting in better shape? Growing your business? Getting a promotion? Growing closer to God? Building a better marriage?

My passion is to help you believe God and enjoy an amazing marriage. It’s what I want for myself and it’s what I want for you.

I’m 100% convinced that as you believe God’s Word and intentionally invest in your marriage, 2016 will become your best year ever.

Do you believe it?

If you do, then you’re who I created the 25-session video course, “How to Understand Your Spouse and Transform Your Marriage” for. It’s designed to help you experience a passionate and purposeful marriage. One that’s exciting and fulfilling…and full of adventure.

Currently, the price is $97, but if you order this week, you’ll pay just $48.50 now. I’ll bill you for the other $48.50 on January 15th. You’ll get instant access to all the content NOW though. This is a special offer just for my subscribers. CLICK HERE to learn more or purchase the course.

As an added bonus, I’ll also send you the paperback edition of “The Marriage Experiment: a 30-day intimate adventure” when it releases next month.

If your marriage isn’t everything you’d like it to be…if it feels like you’re lacking passion and purpose…if it feels like you’re stuck and things aren’t getting better…or even if your marriage is good and you want it to be amazing…let me encourage you to work through this course. The sessions are short and highly practical. You and your spouse can start 2016 with your marriage better than its ever been.

Last thing…if you’re looking for something fun to read over the next week or so, I’m offering the first two books in The Lakeside series for just $4.99 this week. CLICK HERE to get immediate access to The Lakeside Conspiracy and The Lakeside Confession in either the iBooks or Kindle versions. If you enjoy mysteries with a romantic twist, then you’ll enjoy these books. Book 3 is coming soon!

Merry Christmas!


Thankful

Posted: December 22nd, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 Thankful

20 Days of Believing God (Day 18)

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is ungrateful.

But then I realized that I often focus on what I don’t have. What I’m lacking. What I still want.

And so I feel discontent. Disappointed. Sometimes like I’m failing.

So today I thought I’d turn it around…for once…and focus on what I do have to be thankful for. Both big and small. Here’s just a partial list…

Jesus. He loves me. He’s forgiven me. He’s for me. He’s committed to me. He died in my place.

Robyn. She’s amazing. An off-the-charts blessing. I hope I get to be married to her for another 30 years.

Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. My kids are such a blessing to me. They’re walking with God and making good choices.

Richard and Ross. My sons-in-law serve their country and my daughters well.

Wes and Tyler. My two grandsons are a great joy.

My health. Other than an occasional cold or headache, I’ve rarely been sick.

My friends. The ones I grew up with, the ones I have now, the ones I rarely see…

My sister. Who doesn’t think like me or vote like me!

The ministry of Young Life.

A house to live in and cars to drive.

Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

A pocket-sized computer I carry around that also functions as a phone, a camera and video-recorder.

Football. The opportunity I had to play it and now only watch it. What a great game!

The opportunity to write books and create courses.

Parents who loved me, supported me and encouraged me.

Readers who like my books and ask for more.

The Bible, through which God speaks, leads, convicts and encourages.

My MacBook Pro.

Snow. I love it.

The beach.

Hawaii.

The opportunity to have visited 49 of the 50 states so far. I’m coming for you one day, Nevada.

Pie. Oh, I love pie. Pecan. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Coconut Cream.

Ice Cream. Especially when it’s really hard and has some crunch to it.

Naps.

Couples who’ve entrusted me with their pre-marital counseling.

Books.

Did I mention my wife? And kids?

God’s faithfulness. Even when I doubt.

And His patience. Boy, do I need that!

The backyard swimming pool we had when I was a kid.

Getting to go to the Razorback basketball game tonight with Robyn and Rob.

God’s provision for me and my family.

Beautiful sunsets.

The aroma of fresh, hot cinnamon rolls.

Music.

Hearing my grandsons laugh.

Sex.

The anticipation of heaven.

Meaningful work to do.

So many wonderful memories.

Young Life camps.

A fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

Cold water after a run on a hot day.

The smell of freshly cut grass, which always reminds me of football.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could add. So thank you, Lord, for Your love and faithfulness and kindness toward me. You’ve been way better to me than I deserve.

So what are a few things on your list?


Progressive Overload

Posted: December 19th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 Progressive Overload

20 Days of Believing God (Day 15)

If you include resistance training as part of your exercise program, then you already know about the principle of “progressive overload.” To get stronger, you progressively increase the resistance you’re lifting. The muscle then responds by getting bigger, which means you get stronger.

Our faith grows in the same way.

When we experience various kinds of trials, we choose to believe God, we see God come through and our faith grows stronger.

But what tests our faith today is not what tested our faith two years ago. As we grow stronger, God is able to increase the “resistance” of the trial, so we can continue to get stronger.

James said it like this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Is your faith being tested today? Does it feel like you can’t take any more?

God is developing perseverance in you. Perseverance is leading to greater maturity. Your faith is growing stronger. God is developing in you the capacity to believe Him more than you ever have.

Don’t quit. He sees what you’re going through. He understands the weight or pain you’re enduring. He will not let it crush you. He will remove it at just the right time. Trust that He’s using it to grow your faith and prepare you for greater fruitfulness and blessing.