Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 1 Comment »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | 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.
Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, faith, God's word, marriage, money, Relationships, sex, sin | No Comments »
When I was growing up, my mother made me go to church. Fortunately, it was only an hour on Sunday morning. No Sunday nights. No Wednesday nights. No youth group. Just one hour on Sunday. Going to church seemed like a good thing to do, but as far as it actually being relevant to the rest of my life…it wasn’t. So I didn’t like going. At all. I didn’t have a problem with God. He just seemed irrelevant.
Then during my freshman year at Cornell University, I met a guy who connected the dots for me. He explained that God loved me and had a plan for my life, but there was a barrier between God and me, a barrier the Bible calls “sin.” This barrier was preventing me from experiencing God both now and forever. The good news was that Jesus died in my place and paid the penalty for my sin.
I had earned death, but instead, Jesus offered me the gift of life. That’s grace.
So the ball was in my court. It wasn’t just enough to know these things; I had to make a decision. Would I receive the gift of forgiveness Christ offered?
It all made sense to me on that winter day in February of 1982. So in the student union at Cornell, I placed my trust in Jesus to forgive my sin and make the person He wanted me to be.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I distinctly remember the grass being greener and the sky being bluer. Something was different. Something had changed.
What actually happened to me that day? What caused me to even see the grass and the sky differently?
In the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said, “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.”
The phrase “brought us into” literally means we were transferred or removed from one place and put in another. We were under the power, the influence, the dominion of darkness. As Paul says in the letter to the Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
The key word is “were.” We were in the dominion of darkness. We were dead in sin.
But if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are no longer in that dominion. You have been made alive with Christ. You have been transferred to God’s kingdom. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6)
What happened to me that day? Spiritually, I came alive for the first time. I was no longer in the kingdom of darkness. I was no longer relating to this world only as a physical being. I was simultaneously living in a spiritual realm, a heavenly realm. And there are things true of us in the spiritual realm, which will effect our lives here in the physical realm. Once we have placed our faith in Jesus, life is played by new rules.
But if we don’t understand the new rules or even know they exist, we will continue to live as if we were still dead in our sin, living in the dominion of darkness. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore what it means to be transferred into a new kingdom and what it means to have a new set of truths and laws to live by.
So if the Christian life hasn’t really been working for you, if you can’t shake the feeling that there’s “something missing,” then stay tuned. Learning and living by the truth will revolutionize every area of your life–your thoughts and emotions, your work, your finances and your relationships.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, fear God, God's character, God's love, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God, sex, sin, trials, Truth, worry | 1 Comment »
- 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?
- 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?
- What if God meant everything He said?
- What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
- What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
- What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
- What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
- 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?
- What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
- What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
- What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
- What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
- What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
- What if God is crazy in love with you?
- What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
- 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?
- What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
- What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
- 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?
- What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
- What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
- What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
- What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
- 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?
- What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?
Posted: February 29th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, discouragement, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, Relationships, remembering, seeking God, sex, sin, Truth | No Comments »
What’s the worst sin you can think of?
Abusing a child?
Those are awful sins, but what if there’s a sin that leads to those sins? Wouldn’t that one be even worse?
There is a sin that leads to those sins and every other sin. At first glance though, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. At least not as bad as the sins I mentioned.
The root sin, the one that leads to all the others is simply this: forgetting God.
Right before the nation of Israel was going to cross the Jordan River to enter the land God had promised to give them, Moses told them:
If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 8:19-20)
If we forget God, then we will find another “god” to worship and bow down to. We have to. We don’t have a choice. We will always look for life, for purpose, for meaning, for joy, for fulfillment, for happiness, etc. If we choose to not look for God to provide what we need, then we must look elsewhere.
“Doing life” isn’t easy, but it is simple. God instructs us to seek Him and worship Him only. He invites us to find life in Him. It’s what we are designed for.
But He never makes us do it His way. He doesn’t coerce us. He invites us.
And so we can choose to forget Him. We can choose to turn away and seek life elsewhere. And when we do, we invite destruction.
It’s sad how often we choose to live our lives on our own terms. We do whatever we can to order our lives in such a way to maximize our pleasure and happiness and minimize our pain. And because we must have the cooperation of others, we attempt to manipulate and control and even sin against those around us.
And that invites destruction. Marriages are destroyed. Families are destroyed. Churches are destroyed. Nations are destroyed.
The longer we do life apart from God, the more destruction we experience and the harder it is to break free. When we turn from God and naturally seek life elsewhere, we begin to believe lies about ourselves and about life. Our feelings and experiences become more true to us than what God says is true. And we end up living in bondage to the idols we’ve created for ourselves.
We thought our idols would give us life, but they were never capable of it. They promised us life, but delivered destruction.
Only God can promise life and deliver it.
Maybe you’re experiencing more destruction than life today. For whatever the reason, you turned from God, forgot Him and sought life in other places. A person. A career. Sex. Food. Possessions. Whatever. The list is endless.
The solution is always the same. We return to the God we forgot. We confess that we’ve been seeking life in the wrong places. We cry out for His help to turn from our idols and seek Him above everything else.
Change may not be immediate. In fact, it probably won’t be. We’ve built for ourselves a structure of beliefs (wrong ones) and habits that may have become very ingrained in us. The “truth” we think we know about life may in fact not be truth at all. We must allow God’s truth to penetrate our lives and reorder how we think and behave and feel.
We didn’t get into this mess in a day and we won’t get out of it in a day.
But we can take the first step today. We can turn back to the One who graciously offers real life. Life as it was meant to be. Life found in Christ alone. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”
The invitation to experience life is offered to you today. Will you accept it?
Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, faith, God's word, Jesus, marriage, money, remembering, seeking God | No Comments »
Last Sunday at The Church at Arkansas, we began a sermon series entitled, “You and Your Life.” We’re taking a look at six key areas of life that all of us are dealing with. We started with how to determine God’s will. We asked the question, “Am I making this up or is God really speaking?”
This Sunday, I’ll be answering the question, “Why do a lot of single people wish they were married and a lot of married people wish they were single?”
In the coming weeks, we’re also going to answer questions like: Does God want me to be rich? How can I stop doing the things I don’t want to do? And why is this happening–is God punishing me?
What’s interesting is that the answers to each of these questions are very simple. It’s basic, easy to understand stuff. That doesn’t mean change won’t be difficult. It just means the answers are simple to understand.
I’ve always felt like the Christian life is easy to understand, but hard to live. Maybe you can relate. Or maybe for you, it hasn’t been easy to understand. Maybe what’s obvious to others hasn’t been quite so obvious to you. If that’s you, you’re not alone.
In Mark 3, Jesus has been drawing large crowds. He’s healing people, answering questions and calling His disciples. One day, things get so busy that He and his disciples can’t even get in a meal.
Verse 21 says:
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Then the teachers of the law show up and accuse Jesus of being possessed by the prince of demons.
So his family thinks He’s crazy and the religious folks think He’s demon-possessed.
And yet the truth was that God Himself was right in front of them. He was at work in their midst and speaking to them, but they didn’t recognize Him.
Could God be at work in your life, but you’re missing it? Could God be speaking to you about your life, but because you’ve been too busy with other things or just not interested in what He has to say that you’re missing what He’s saying?
If you stepped back from the busyness of life…if you turned off the TV, the computer, the phone, the whatever…if you found a quiet place for an hour or two…and listened to God…what might He be saying? What if most of what’s happening in your life is really just a distraction from the few important things?
Do you remember the story in Luke 10 when Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha?
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Maybe the answers to the most important questions about life are right in front of us. Maybe we find them when we just stop long enough to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He has to say.
Posted: February 4th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's word, money, pain and suffering, seeking God, Truth, worry | No Comments »
I love roller coasters. I love the anticipation of that big first drop. I love that feeling of being out of control. And I love the speed. Now I can love all those things because ultimately I trust the ride is safe. Even though it’s a tremendous thrill, I have confidence that I will make it through to the end of the ride.
My default mode or what I believe about roller coasters is: enjoy the ride because you’re going to make it out alive.
You and I also have a default mode for processing life. We have certain ways of responding to people, circumstances, difficulties, surprises, disappointments, etc. If we do nothing to change, we’ll most likely continue to respond the way we always have.
There’s a lot that goes into determining our default settings. Parents, friends, teachers and coaches had a part in setting them for us. So did the media we’ve been exposed to and the books we’ve read. Without consciously thinking about it–we’ve developed a default mode for how we process life and make our choices.
I’ve noticed something about my default mode that I really don’t like. When faced with bad news or even just the unknown, I worry, I fear the worst and I doubt God’s goodness. That’s my default mode. And it looks like it was the same mode the disciples struggled with.
Mark 4:35-41 says…
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Some of these guys were experienced fishermen so they’d experienced bad weather before, but this must have been a really bad storm. There’s no record of anyone saying, “Hey guys, calm down! It’s not that bad. We can ride this out.”
This was a bad storm and they thought they were about to drown. Now what would have changed everything for them, what would have helped reset their default mode, was knowing that the one who was in complete control and who cared for them was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat.
But they either doubted His power or His care because they wake Jesus up and ask Him a question we’ve probably all asked or at least wondered, “Don’t you care?”
It seems that our default mode, well, I won’t speak for you…it seems that my default mode is to question God’s goodness when circumstances are bad. I allow the severity of the situation to completely obscure the simple fact that God really does care for me.
Even when we don’t see Him doing anything, He is still good and He still cares. We will never escape His grasp. We will never be forgotten. We will never have to go it alone.
So Jesus got up and told the storm to be quiet and still. And it was.
What the disciples didn’t know was that their hearts and minds could have been quiet and still even in the midst of the furious storm. They didn’t have to wait for the storm to be quiet before they could be.
And that should really be my default mode when it comes to life. Sure, there will be tough times and painful circumstances and things I won’t understand, but because God is good and He cares and He’s in control, I can trust Him to see me safely through whatever ups and downs and twists and turns come my way.
Panic. Fear. Worry. Doubt. Discouragement. That’s my default mode. I wish I could say that resetting it is easy, but it’s not, at least it hasn’t been for me. Developing a new default mode requires ongoing effort and time in God’s word to believe the truth–that God is good, that God cares and God is in control.
What is your default mode for handling life?
Does it need to be reset?
Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, Relationships, seeking God, trials | No Comments »
Has that ever been your prayer? Or have you ever at least wondered?
You might be in the midst of a second round of chemo, like my friend Jeff.
Or like one young man I heard about today…in less than a year–your dad dies, your mom dies and then the day before you leave for boot camp–your girlfriend breaks up with you.
Or despite doing everything you know to do, your marriage continues to get worse. Or your child continues to rebel. Or your boss is still a jerk.
Or your finances keep getting worse. Just when it seems like you’re about to get ahead, you get hit with an unexpected bill.
God, have You forgotten me? Can You not see what I’m going through here?
Where are You, God? And why aren’t You helping?
When circumstances are bad and they don’t seem to be improving and God isn’t saying much…it’s easy to lose hope, to wonder where He is and what He’s up to. It’s easy to doubt His love for us. It’s easy to doubt if He’s even good.
I’ve been there. I’ve doubted. I’ve wondered. I’ve been angry. I’ve been discouraged.
And I’ve lost hope.
Have you? Are you there now?
I wonder if Noah could relate.
Noah was a righteous man living among a lot of evil. He was trying to do the right thing and honor God when those around him weren’t.
And God saw. He knew what was going on. Check out the story in Genesis 6.
So Noah does what God says and builds an ark. And God does what He says He’ll do and He sends a flood, which Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives ride out in the ark. Along with a bunch of animals. Read that part of the story in Genesis 7-8.
The flood began “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month…” And in the coming days, every creature that lived on dry ground is completely wiped out except for Noah, his family and the animals on the ark.
And “the waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”
It rained for forty days and nights, but the earth was totally flooded for five months before God sends a wind so that the waters will begin to recede.
I grew up near the ocean, but I can’t remember ever being so far out on a boat that I couldn’t see the shore. I’ve also never been on a cruise. Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve been out at sea and couldn’t see land.
Of course, a cruise ship and Noah’s ark couldn’t be more different. Noah’s boat was built to ensure the human race would survive a world-wide flood. It held a total of eight human beings, a whole bunch of animals and enough food to last until the flood was over. No staterooms. No dining rooms and endless buffets. No deck chairs. No casinos. No shore excursions.
Just Noah, his family and the animals. Alone on the earth. Surrounded by nothing but water. For five months. And we have no record of God communicating with them during that time. Nothing. Not one word.
The first word of chapter 8 is one of my absolute favorites in the Bible: But.
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”
A couple verses later, it says, “The water receded steadily from the earth.”
After five months, the waters are finally beginning to recede. And “the waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.”
Seven and a half months after the flood began, the tops of the mountains are now visible. Moses waits another forty days and sends out a raven and a dove. The raven kept flying back and forth. The dove looks for dry ground, but can’t find it so it returns to Noah. After a week passes, Noah sends the dove out again. This time the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak, so Noah knew the water was receding.
After another week, Noah sends the dove out again. This time it doesn’t return.
“By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.”
In Noah’s six hundredth and first year on the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. He and his family had been on the ark for one year, one month and ten days.
As I read this story today, here’s what jumped out at me…
The waters receded slowly.
Once the rain stopped, God didn’t zap away all the water. He sent a wind. That’s it. No zapping. No wand-waving. No miracles.
Just a wind. And then a lot of waiting.
Oh, and remembering. God always remembered Noah and his family and the animals.
He never forgot them.
Just like He never forgets you.
Maybe you’ve been enduring a 13-month trial of your own. Or maybe a 23-month trial. Or 33 months. Or longer.
God hasn’t forgotten though. There might still be a miracle coming, but there might just be a slow-receding.
Little by little the waters of difficulties and pain and confusion are receding. It might feel so slow that you don’t even notice. You will though. One day, you’ll notice the dove will return with an olive leaf. And not long after, the dove won’t return at all.
The waters will have receded. You’ll see dry ground again.
Until then, remember that God remembers. He never, ever forgets you.
Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's will, God's word, money, pain and suffering, seeking God, trials, worry | 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.