Grace and Peace

Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:

“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

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

Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.

I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?

And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.

But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.

Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?

The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming.  I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.

Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.

Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.

We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.

God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.


Your Worldview

Posted: December 28th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Who or what shapes your worldview? By “worldview”, I simply mean how you look at life, the lens through which you the view the world around you and make your choices.

For example, how do you decide how to spend your money? How do you decide if it even is your money?

What is your view of sex? Is it a pleasure to be enjoyed with whomever you want, whenever you want? Is it just between a man and a woman?

How do you determine who you will vote for? Are there any principles you won’t compromise on?

What about war? Is it wrong? Is it ever justified?

What about abortion? Evolution? Suicide? The poor? The wealthy? What are your views?

And what are the primary influences on the worldview you’ve adopted?

Maybe it’s not something you’ve given much thought, but stop for a moment and think about it. Who is shaping your belief system?

Most of us would give some credit to our parents (either good or bad), our teachers and our friends. There are many other influences though, like television programs, commercials, news sources (CNN, newspapers, websites, etc.), government, books and magazines…and the list could go on.

What’s really interesting to me is an exchange Jesus has with Satan in Matthew 4 and what it can tell us about how our worldview is shaped. Jesus has been in the desert fasting for 40 days when Satan comes along and begins to tempt Him. The final temptation went like this:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Satan offers to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He’ll just bow down and worship him. Jesus rebukes Satan and quotes a verse from Deuteronomy 6 about worshiping and serving only God.

Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t just laugh at Satan and say something like, “You?! You think you’re going to give me all these kingdoms? They’re not even yours to give!”

Jesus doesn’t do that. Apparently, Satan had the authority to give those kingdoms. 1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

Something big happened in the garden. God had given Adam and Eve responsibility to manage planet earth for Him. They were to be fruitful, increase on the earth, subdue it and rule over the animal kingdom. When they disobeyed God and instead listened to Satan, it’s as if the title deed to earth was signed over to Satan.

Is God ultimately in charge? Absolutely. But I believe God places an extremely high value on our ability to make choices. (I talked about that in my last post.) God doesn’t step in and override our decisions every time we make a bad choice. He doesn’t do it with me. He doesn’t do it with you. And He didn’t do it with Adam and Eve.

Unfortunately, their choice put Satan in a position to heavily influence this world. John even tells us the whole world is under his control. Governments, media outlets, schools, the internet, etc.–they are all a part of this world system that is under the enemy’s control. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good people involved, but this world system is generally bent away from God.

So let’s go back to my original question. Who or what shapes your worldview? Is it primarily shaped by this world system?

Or are you filling your mind with God’s word, so that He is the One who is shaping your worldview?

We live in enemy territory for now. It won’t always be that way. One day Christ will return and set things right, but until then, the whole world is under the control of the evil one. And he will do everything within his power to encourage and entice you to make choices that move you away from God, not toward Him, to live your life according to the world’s values, not God’s.

God’s kingdom and this world system stand opposed to each other. They operate on very different values and principles.

So which set of values and principles are you living by?

If you spend little time in God’s word, then we already have the answer.


The Humble God

Posted: December 21st, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Imagine throwing a very expensive, elaborate party at an exclusive restaurant. Everything is first class. You spare no expense.

When you arrive, you see everyone enjoying themselves, but no one acknowledges you. And when you make your way to the buffet, someone even asks who you are and wants to know if you have an invitation.

How would you feel? What would you say?

I’d be angry. And offended. To the person who asked if I’d been invited, I’m pretty sure I’d say, “Excuse me?! Do you have any idea who paid for all this? I should be asking if you were invited!”

Maybe that scenario gives us just the very smallest taste of what it was like for Jesus to come into the world.

Jesus spoke the universe into existence and yet John 1:10 says:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

Jesus came into the world. We didn’t recognize Him. And yet He didn’t assert His rights as God and demand His own way. He was humble.

Do you understand how the One who spoke the universe into existence is humble? I don’t.

God didn’t choose to humble Himself and become a helpless baby, He became a helpless baby because He’s humble. Jesus experienced life as one of us, felt what it was like to be rejected by those He created and even let us kill Him because that’s what a humble God does.

God hasn’t changed. He’s still humble. He doesn’t demand things be done His way. Sure, He gives us commands, but they’re for our own good and He doesn’t make us obey.

God never forces us to do things His way. Instead, He invites us to seek Him and rewards us when we do (Hebrews 11:6). He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and desires that we love Him in return. When we offend Him, He gives us more grace. When we ignore Him, He waits patiently for us to return.

Somehow, Almighty God is also humble and unassuming. He reveals Himself to us and is then content to wait for us to come to Him. He doesn’t force Himself on us, but lets us choose Him.

If your view of God has ceased to amaze you, maybe this Christmas is a good time to stop and remember the most perplexing of all of God’s attributes. His humility.

Merry Christmas!


God’s Timing

Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Waiting is one of the hardest aspects of walking with God. And since God never seems to be in a hurry, waiting is something we should not only get used to, but learn to embrace.

I won’t suggest I enjoy waiting. I don’t. But I do know it can be a rich, productive season, whether it lasts a day, a year or 40 years, like it did for Moses.

I have a friend who will undergo tests today in Houston to see if he is still cancer free. He had major surgery earlier this year to remove cancerous areas from his colon and liver. He’ll learn the results of the tests on Wednesday. Tonight and tomorrow will be a season of waiting. Two nights might not seem like a long time, but try waiting that long to find out if your cancer has returned.

Maybe you’ve also waited for test results. Or the return phone call after an interview. Or maybe you’ve waited for a spouse or a baby. I have two daughters who are married to men in the military. Each have had to wait for their husbands to return home.

It could be that you’re in a set of circumstances you’d rather not be in. You’re unemployed. You’re in a financial mess. Your marriage is falling apart. Your child continues to live in rebellion. Or you’re sick and the doctor can’t figure it out.

And you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. And you’ve waited. And waited. And waited.

And you’ve wondered where God is and what He’s doing.

I’ve been there. It’s frustrating. It’s discouraging. It’s confusing.

Or, if we let it, the waiting can be a time of growth and greater intimacy with God. It can be a season that prepares us for what’s to come. Greater responsibility? Greater fruitfulness? Greater influence? Only God knows.

In Acts 7, Stephen is speaking before the Sanhedrin (a Jewish court):

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.

When Moses was 40 years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He thought they would see him as the one to rescue them from the Egyptians. And then he commits murder. He decided. He thought. He killed. God wasn’t in it.

Clearly, this was not God’s timing or God’s ways. And so Moses flees. For 40 years. Until it’s God’s timing for him to return to Egypt and do things God’s way.

Look what happens though when it is God’s timing. The very same Moses they rejected is later sent back to them as the one God would use to deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians. Moses had the right idea–his timing was just off.

During your season of waiting, God will continue to work. You may not always see it, but He will never stop working. He will be working to mature you, to give you wisdom, to teach you His ways and to prepare you for what’s to come. He will be at work in your circumstances and in the lives of others.

When you lose sight of God, remember this: no matter what is happening, God will always be at work so you will know Him better and trust Him more. He will always be working for your good and His glory.

Maybe you have a dream or a desire–something you really believe God has put on your heart. But nothing is happening. There’s no forward progress. No end in sight to your current circumstances. God doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

As hard as this will be, let me encourage you to relax. Seek God with all your heart. Trust Him. Do everything He commands. And wait patiently.

His timing and His ways will always be best.


Why Are We Here?

Posted: October 27th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

What’s on your to-do list? Meetings at work? A lunch appointment? Errands to run? Groceries to buy? Phone calls to return? Emails to send?

How about all the tasks that never make it onto your to-do list, but have to be done anyway? Shower. Dress. Cook. Clean. Eat. Commute. Homework (yours or helping a child). Laundry.

Then there are activities we look forward to, things like: time with a friend, watching football, playing a game, going for a walk, sex and going to see a movie.

And we can’t forget the activity that probably consumes more of our week than anything else: sleeping.

If all of that isn’t enough to consume most of our time, we have things like the internet, smart phones and television to distract us and gobble up what remaining discretionary hours we have left.

So in all of this frenzied activity, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s true and what’s best. It’s easy to not even get around to asking the most basic question of all…

Why are we here?

Why are we on this tiny little planet we call Earth as it flies through space at 66,000 miles per hour? What are we doing here?

Are we just an accident? That’s what the evolutionists would have us believe. If they’re right, and I don’t believe they are, then there’s no point in asking any “Why?” questions. If we’re an accident, if we came about by pure chance, then we have no purpose. There’s no point to our existence. Never has been. Never will be.

If, on the other hand, the Bible is true, then there is a God who created the universe and everything in it. Including you. And the reason you are here is to live in friendship with the One who made you.

But it doesn’t do us, or God, any good if we were created to live in friendship with Him, but then go about our lives like it’s not true. How many of us get so wrapped up in our work, our possessions, our relationships, our hobbies and our TV shows that we’ve either forgotten or failed to realize that we were created for friendship with God?

Colossians 1:16-20 says:

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Have you allowed this life to become so full of other things that it’s keeping you from the very reason you exist?

If so, what are you going to do?


Where’s God When You Need Him?

Posted: October 3rd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I just finished reading through the Old Testament books of Judges and Ruth. They both take place during the same time period in Israel’s history.

In Judges, we get a look at all of the various people who led Israel during the time from about 1382 to 1043 BC, including Deborah, Gideon and Samson. These were dark times in Israel’s history as they continually turned their backs on God and experienced His rebuke.

In Ruth, we’re introduced to one family and all of the pain, confusion and hardship they endured. It’s a powerful story with a great twist at the end. Be sure to read it–it’s only four chapters.

What strikes me as I read about the lives of these men and women is that their stories are always being played out in the context of a much bigger story. And that’s true with you and me also.

There’s God’s story and there’s our story, which is also part of God’s story. Your story and my story are sub-plots. We’re not the main story. God is.

In Ruth’s case, she lived in the country of Moab–just east of Israel. Because of a famine in Bethlehem, a man named Elimelech left there and went to live in Moab with his wife Naomi and their two sons. Eventually, Elimelech dies and the two sons marry Moabite women. Ruth is one of these two women.

About ten years after leaving Bethlehem, both of the sons die also. That’s when Naomi gets word that the famine in Bethlehem has ended, so she decides to go home. Ruth insists on going with her so these two widows set out for Bethlehem.

In a period of ten years, Naomi has gone from living in the Promised Land, being married and being the mother of two sons to living in a foreign country, losing a husband, losing both sons and now returning home unhappy, unfulfilled and feeling bitter about life.

How do we know she feels this way? When she arrives in Bethlehem, she tells people not to call her Naomi, but to call her Mara, which means “bitter.”

It would be hard to blame her, right? It’s been a pretty rough ten years. There had to be many times on that road back to Bethlehem that she thought, “Where’s God when you need Him?”

Have you ever felt that way?

I have. Lots of times. I’ve been angry, confused and bitter. I’ve wondered where God was and why He wasn’t helping. You might feel that way today.

Your marriage is in trouble.

Your child won’t listen to you.

You just lost your job or your house or both.

You desperately want a child, but can’t get pregnant and it doesn’t help that the unmarried teenage girl can.

The diagnosis came back. It’s not good and not what you expected.

So where’s God when we need Him?

Let’s step back into the lives of Naomi and Ruth again and see what we learn…

Once back in Bethlehem, Ruth meets a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. This man, named Boaz, has the right to purchase the property owned by Naomi’s husband and sons, which he does. And part of the deal is that Ruth becomes his wife.

God is working out His bigger story, but He’s also caring for Naomi and Ruth.

Eventually, Boaz and Ruth have a son, named Obed. When he is grown, Obed and his wife give birth to a son, named Jesse. Years later, Jesse becomes the father of David. King David.

And about a thousand years later, Jesus, the Savior of the world, is born in the line of King David.

Naomi couldn’t have known that was going to happen. Neither did Ruth. God knew though. He was always working in history to bring about His bigger story, His master plan to save the world.

Do you know how your present difficulties may be used by God one day? No, but He does. He sees your pain and suffering and none of it will be wasted. As you trust Him and persevere, He is conforming you to His image and using your circumstances to advance His kingdom.

No, you can’t see it, but He can. Just keep believing Him.

He’s not just the God of the big story, He’s the God of your story. He has a good plan for you. His love for you will never fail. When you seek Him, you will find Him.

Naomi felt bitter because she thought God was against her. I get that. I’ve felt that way. It’s just not true though. God is never against us. He’s always for us. We just need to remember there’s always a bigger story being played out. And we have a part in it. Our current, painful, confusing circumstances are part of God’s bigger story.

We don’t have to become bitter. That happens when we focus only on what we see and feel. Genuine joy and peace are ours when we choose to keep our eyes on God and trust that He is good and that He is working things out for our good and His ultimate glory.

Where is God when we need Him?

He’s here with us. He can be trusted, even when all hell is breaking loose. He is not the cause of your pain or difficulties, but He can use them to accomplish His purposes in your life and in the bigger story.

Our part is to walk faithfully with Him and not give up. Naomi and Ruth could have given up. On life and on God. But they didn’t.

In the closing scene of Ruth, we see Naomi holding Obed in her lap, caring for him. There’s no way she could have known she was holding the grandfather of King David.

God has a good plan for you. Keep trusting Him. Keep seeking Him. Keep obeying Him. You cannot possibly imagine all the good He’s going to do for you and through you, if only you will keep walking with Him.


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 to Get What You Want

Posted: June 20th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s a warm, windy, sunny day in Fayetteville. It’s too nice to be inside all day, so at lunch, I drove to a nearby park and listened to worship music while enjoying the beautiful weather. As I sat there in the park, I saw something I’d never really seen before.

The sky was mostly sunny, but there were a few small clouds passing overhead. As I kept watching one cloud go by, it slowly began to disappear. It reminded me of this verse in the book of James:

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Here’s that verse in context:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

That passage got me thinking…

How often do we pursue our own plans, but convince ourselves they’re really God’s plans?

Does our decision-making simply come down to asking ourselves one question: Is this what I want?

What would happen if we stopped asking God to give us stuff and instead gave ourselves and our stuff to God so we could experience His will?

So how do you get what you want?

You want what God wants. The “secret” is found in Psalm 37:4…

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

If we make the Lord our delight, which we’re created to do anyway, He’ll give us His desires and then fulfill them for us.

Try praying:

Lord, I am Yours and I’m putting aside my own dreams and plans. I want to delight in You and only want what You want. Please help me do that. Amen.


Where Are You God?

Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

One of the most confusing and painful things we will ever go through is a desperate, heartfelt prayer that goes unanswered. Or at least seems to.

In John 11, Jesus gets word that his good friend Lazarus is sick. Jesus tells His disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Then John tells us that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. That’s significant because of the word that comes next. The word that confuses us. The word on which the whole story hinges.

“Yet.”

“Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where he was two more days.”

Does that bother you? Just a little?

Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. He got word Lazarus was sick. Yet He stayed where He was for two more days.

Of course, if you know the end of the story, it’s not so bad. You know that even though Lazarus dies, Jesus brings him back to life. But put yourself in the story–these were real people, after all. Put yourself in Mary’s position or Martha’s. You’ve sent for help from the one person you know can make a difference, but He doesn’t show.

And it’s not like Jesus let them know He wasn’t coming. He just didn’t show. His good friend is sick, but He stays where He is.

Maybe Lazarus was too sick to even know what was happening, but Mary and Martha saw that Jesus wasn’t coming. I’m sure they kept watching the road, waiting for Him. But He was a no-show.

“Yet.”

Maybe you or a loved one are dealing with a serious illness. You’ve begged God for healing, but God doesn’t seem to be doing anything. And the condition is getting worse.

Could be you’re trying to sell your house. Surely, it’s not God’s will for you to be stuck with a house you can’t get out of, right?

Or you’re waiting for a call back after the job interview. You thought it had gone well, but it’s been two weeks and they were supposed to call back a week ago.

Maybe you’ve tried and tried and tried to get pregnant. Your friends have babies, but God doesn’t seem to be listening to your cries.

Where are you, God?

Jesus told His disciples that the sickness would not end in death, rather it was for God’s glory. Jesus could have easily gone right away and healed Lazarus. We know from other stories that He really didn’t even need to go–He just needed to say the word and Lazarus would have been healed.

This time was going to be different though. This time Jesus was going to raise a man from the dead. A man who’d be in the grave for four days.

What if God is using your circumstances, your waiting, your suffering, your confusion…for His glory? Could it be that God is orchestrating circumstances in a way that brings glory to Him?

I know there’s pain and confusion in the waiting. And unlike the situation with Lazarus, our circumstances don’t always turn out like we’d hoped. Our family member dies. The house doesn’t sell and we lose it in foreclosure. The job goes to someone else. A good, faithful woman remains infertile.

I won’t pretend to understand why God does or doesn’t answer some prayers. And I don’t have the words to erase the pain that unanswered prayers can cause, but there’s something very, very powerful that happens right before Jesus raises Lazarus.

Eventually, Jesus made His way to Bethany where Mary and Martha were now mourning their brother. After talking with Martha, she goes to get Mary. When Jesus sees the pain Mary is in, John tells us that:

“Jesus wept.”

Why did Jesus cry? Think about it–He’d already told His disciples that the sickness would not end in death and He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but it didn’t matter. He still entered into their pain.

Jesus is not far away and unconcerned. He sees what you’re going through and feels your pain.

As you live in a season of “yet”, remember that while God is orchestrating circumstances for His glory, He also feels your pain. He hurts with you. Waiting is never easy. Often it’s confusing and painful. But there’s a good and loving God in it with you.


What’s Most Important Today?

Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

I have several tasks to complete before the end of the work day. I have other things I’d like to accomplish after work. To one degree or another, I’d consider them important. Of course, what’s important is relative.

I consider working out to be important. And I’m working on a book project, so it would be good to make some progress tonight. Those two items may not be important to you, but other things are. You might need to get your house cleaned, laundry done or coach your child’s soccer team.

We all have important things to accomplish each day, but is there any kind of objective measure for determining what’s most important? Each and every day? For all of us?

I think there is.

Currently, I’m 48 years old. The average life expectancy for a male living in the United States is around 75. So if I make it to the average, I’ve got about 27 more years. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a very long time to me.

But how about if you’re only 20 years old? That would give you another 55 years. That’s a little better. And if you’re a female, you can tack on another 3 years, so you get 58!

Of course, all of that assumes you and I aren’t people who actually bring down the average. As a friend of mine used to say, “Half the people you meet are below average.”

So regardless of whether you have another 27 years, 58 years or some other number–none of us really have that much time left. Oh, I know it can feel like forever when you’re in a class you don’t like, a marriage you don’t like or a long line at the post office, but the truth is this life is brief. At best.

We especially don’t have much time when compared to much longer periods of time. Like forever for example.

Forever is a pretty long time. And the Bible is clear–we’re going to live forever. Those who have received the forgiveness that Christ offers have the promise of living forever with Him in heaven.

So what will we do in heaven? How are we going to occupy our time for millions and millions and millions…of years?

First and foremost, we will live in friendship with God. He created us for this purpose. He made us to enjoy a love relationship with Himself. In the context of that relationship, we will grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him.

We will use our God-given gifts and talents to serve Him. I actually think we’ll be surprised at the number of gifts, abilities and talents we have now that will continue into eternity. I tend to think those with teaching skills will still teach. Those who like to cook and entertain will still do it in heaven. People with musical ability will help lead us in singing and worship, which is something else we’ll do.

We will also live in community with others. Heaven will be a place filled with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. We will enjoy getting to know others as we live, serve, eat and worship together.

So a couple hundred years from now…and a couple million years from now…and a few hundred trillion years from now–we’ll be living in friendship with God, enjoying His love and loving Him in return. We will be growing in our relationship with Him. We’ll still be learning and experiencing new things about Him. We will be using our gifts and talents to serve Him. We will be worshiping the only one worthy of being forever praised. And we’ll be doing all of this in community with others.

If that’s what’s important in eternity, then it strikes me that those are the most important things now.

Sure, we have some earthly concerns now that we won’t have then, but we can’t ever let those things become such distractions that we lose sight of what’s most important. In 2 Corinthian 4:16-18, Paul wrote:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing what we can see, but what we can see is temporary. It’s passing away. All of it. The cars. The houses. The lawns. The toys. The bank accounts. The clothes. And these bodies in which we live. It’ll all be gone in 27 years. Or maybe 58. But not much longer than that. For any of us.

What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. And most important. Today.