Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 2 Comments »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: December 18th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, evil, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, pain, Sandy Hook | No Comments »
Why didn’t God stop what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Surely He saw it coming. He saw how disturbed the killer was. He saw the planning. He saw him driving to the school.
Couldn’t God have prevented the murder of innocent children and teachers?
Did God not care? Is He really not as good as we’d like to think?
How are we supposed to think about all this?
Let me answer by asking another question: where do you think God should draw the line in stopping evil or sinful behavior?
We’d probably all agree we’d like to see God stop the murder of innocent children. We’d also like to have seen God stop what happened on 9-11. And we’d sure be okay if God had stopped World War II and the extermination of six million Jews.
We’d also like to see God stop the rapist and the child molester. And the drunk driver who crosses the center line and kills a mother and her baby.
But what about a burglar or bank robber? Should God stop them?
What about shoplifter? Maybe you don’t feel so strongly about that…unless of course it’s your store. And does it make any difference if it’s a homeless person shoplifting food?
What about the guy who’s about to cheat on his wife? Or the mom who’s always yelling at her kids? Should God stop them?
Should God stop the teenage girl who eats too much? Should God stop the bully who relentlessly teases the weaker kids on the playground? Should God stop the guy who keeps looking at pornography on his phone?
Should God stop you when you’re exceeding the speed limit or texting while driving?
Should God stop you when you’re being lazy or unkind or selfish?
In other words, should God just make us do stuff?
Where would you like God to draw the line? Should He stop other people or you too?
It fascinates me that God doesn’t demand His own way. He doesn’t make me choose what’s right or best. He doesn’t make me seek Him or trust Him or love Him or obey Him. He wants me to, but He doesn’t make me. And He doesn’t make you.
I believe God wants to be wanted. So He lets me choose whether or not I will come to Him and do life His way. And He lets you choose, too.
That means He also lets everyone choose.
“Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.” (Psalm 37:10-11)
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: May 28th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's character, God's word, pain, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
In Mark 7, there’s a fascinating encounter between Jesus and a deaf man who also has trouble speaking. Here it is…
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
What I find so interesting is how Jesus heals this man. First, He sticks his fingers in the man’s ears. Then, He spits on His fingers and touches the man’s tongue. And with a deep sigh says, “Be opened!”
So why did Jesus stick His fingers in the man’s ears? Why touch the man’s tongue with His saliva? And why the deep sigh?
In the verses immediately preceding these in Mark 7, Jesus told a woman whose daughter was at home and possessed by a demon that she could now go home to her daughter because the demon had left. Jesus could heal and drive out demons without actually being present. He could just speak it and it would happen. So why not just heal the deaf man by speaking?
Have you ever noticed that our “Why? questions often don’t get answers? Asking why really doesn’t get us anywhere. Even if God told us why something happened, we probably wouldn’t be able to grasp it. And sometimes I think our why questions are more of a demand that God explain Himself to us than a legitimate request for understanding, at least that’s true in my case.
Asking “How?” God will do something isn’t much help either. God is infinitely powerful and creative. We can’t possibly imagine all the ways God could meet our needs. Just because we can’t see how something can happen doesn’t mean God can’t see it.
So what do you need God to do?
Provide financially? Heal you? Restore a relationship? Comfort you? Open a door to a new opportunity?
Don’t waste your energy trying to figure out how God will do it. He’s got the “How?” questions all figured out.
The deaf man couldn’t have possibly imagined the unconventional, unexpected way Jesus was going to heal him. Maybe God wants to be just as unconventional and unexpected in your life.
Make it your goal to seek Him and trust Him. There’s great reward in it.
Posted: July 9th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, fear, pain, pain and suffering, worry | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my son snapped this picture of a bee that was desperately holding on to our windshield as we were driving to lunch.
You could see that as our speed increased, the little bee was straining to hold on. The bee must have thought it was trying to survive a very windy day.
If the bee would have only known that to experience calm, it only needed to let go. It was only experiencing a turbulent day because it was holding on to the wrong thing.
What wrong thing are you holding onto today?
Have you placed your security in money?
Does your happiness depend on another person?
Are you only at peace if all your circumstances are good?
Do you only feel good about yourself if you think you’re pleasing everyone around you?
Do you look to your job or your children to make you feel significant?
Galatians 5:22-23 says:
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
If we hold on to anything or anyone other than God Himself, our lives will feel out of control, turbulent, confusing and chaotic. But that’s not God’s intention for us.
When we surrender everything we have, everything we are and everything we desire to Him–we experience the fruit of His Spirit. We don’t produce the fruit–He produces it as a result of living surrendered lives and walking in obedience. And He even gives us the power to obey Him if only we will trust Him.
We can do life our way or we can do it His way.
Which way are you doing it today?
Posted: July 2nd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, trials, worry | No Comments »
In the mid-90′s, I was in a job I didn’t like and was looking for a change. A couple years later, I was without a job and looking for a change. Ten years later, I was again in a job that was no longer a fit and was looking for a change.
Last week, I visited a friend in the hospital who’d recently undergone major surgery to remove several tumors. A week after the surgery, he was fighting off a serious infection. He just wanted to start feeling better. He was looking for a change.
I’ve talked to numerous men and women who are unhappy in their marriages. They are looking for a change.
When our circumstances are difficult or unpleasant or just less than desirable–we’re all looking for a change. We want to move on. We want something better. We want God to do something. Sooner than later.
I’m sure the nation of Israel felt the same way.
They’d been slaves in Egypt for 400 years and when change finally came, it was short-lived. Because of their rebellion and unbelief, God made them wander in the desert for 40 years until all those over the age of 20 died off.
Once that generation had died, God led Israel to the east side of the Jordan River in preparation for crossing into the land of Canaan–the land He’d sworn to give to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.
Can you imagine the anticipation?
It would be like a few days before your wedding, Christmas and the best vacation ever all rolled into one. All you’ve ever known is slavery and living in a desert and now, you’re about to move into the land that God is giving you for your very own. They will live in cities they didn’t build. They’ll harvest vineyards they didn’t plant. They’ll be out of the dry, dusty desert and enjoying a land with streams and pools of water.
Everything is about to change for the better.
But is Israel ready?
Moses described them as a rebellious and stiff-necked people. They were prone to grumbling, complaining and wandering. They had short memories–often forgetting what God had done for them.
Are they ready for what God is doing for them? Will they be fully able to enjoy this good land He’s giving them? Have they learned anything from their past?
Still valid questions today.
Are you ready? Are you ready for whatever change God may want to bring into your life?
Are you ready for a new relationship? Are you ready for your marriage to become all God intended? Are you ready for the new job? The new city to live in? The new addition to your family? The increase in pay? New opportunities and responsibilities?
I don’t mean are you tired of your current circumstances. That’s a given. I’m talking about actually being ready to receive or enjoy or capitalize on whatever God is about to do.
When Israel came out of Egypt, God led them to Mt. Sinai where they received the 10 commandments. They would camp there for some time as God revealed many other commands. And before they were ready to cross the Jordan, Moses reviewed God’s commands and explained how to live them out in the new land they would possess.
There are a couple significant passages from what Moses taught that may help us answer the question: Are you ready for a change?
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:4-10)
Love God. Have His commandments on your heart. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them.
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God. He also said we demonstrated love by obeying Him.
Moses also said:
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:1-5)
During the 40 years in the desert, God was humbling the Israelites and teaching them that they didn’t just live on bread, but on every word of His. They were to love and cherish and depend on His words. Regardless of how you got to where you are today–God desires to teach you that you cannot live apart from knowing and believing His word.
Are you ready for a change?
We can answer that question with a few other questions…
Are you growing in your love for God? Is your desire to obey Him and walk in His ways increasing?
Do you find yourself talking more about God’s word with others? Are you sharing what you’re learning?
Are you realizing that His word is life to you and that it can be trusted even when your feelings and circumstances aren’t making sense?
Are you only seeking relief from your circumstances or are you seeking God? (If you’re only seeking relief, then it will be easy to forget God once “you eat and are satisfied.”)
A new land, a change of scenery, a better life, relief from present pain and difficulties in the desert–they may be right around the corner.
Now is the time to get ready for them.
Posted: June 3rd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: faith, forgiveness, God's love, grace, marriage, pain, Relationships, seeking God | 1 Comment »
I admit it–I’m very sentimental and nostalgic. I keep some important newspapers so my kids can have them one day. In my storage unit, I have boxes of my kids’ old school papers. I have a terrible time throwing away old t-shirts. I can’t part with some of the shirts and ties my dad wore. And I have over 25 years of journals I’ll one day pass down to my children along with the Bibles I’ve read and written in.
I want my children and grandchildren and great-children to know me. And I want to know them. Sadly, I know very little about my own grandparents. I never knew my grandparents on my dad’s side–my grandmother died before I was born and my grandfather died when I was too young to know him. On my mom’s side, I knew my grandmother and a step-grandfather. But now I wish I’d know them better.
I have four children. Two are married. No grandchildren yet. If grandchildren come along in the next few years, then it’s certainly possible that within 30 years, I could be a great-grandfather. If I’m still around. In 30 years, I’ll be 78. My dad only made it to 72.
It’s unlikely that I’ll ever know my great-great grandchildren or that they’ll ever know me. I’d be closing in on 90 to 100. Not many people live that long. Of course, if my journals, books, pictures, videos and blog posts survive–they’ll at least know about me.
They just won’t know about my childhood, my high school years, what college was like for me or how I met my wife. I won’t be around for them to ask questions about those kinds of things. If they’d even be interested.
Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be interested in our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. until it’s too late. Not long before he died, I asked my dad to write down some memories from earlier in his life. A time before I was born. Because he was ill, it was difficult for him to write, but he did manage to fill about seven pages from a yellow legal pad.
He always like writing on those. When I was a kid, he would sit at the kitchen table and chart out long trips. In the days before Google, Mapquest and GPS devices, planning a vacation was done with a paper map and a legal pad.
There’s a lot I’d like to ask my dad, but he’s been gone for over six years now. I’d like to talk to my mom, too, but she’s been gone for over 15 years. I’d like to know more about their childhood and teen years. I’d like to hear more of my dad’s football stories. I think he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in his first college game.
I’d like to know more about their early years of marriage when they lived in Tarreytown, New York where my dad was a teacher and football coach. I remember my dad telling me he was making $3,500 a year as a teacher and figured if he could just make $5,000 a year, he’d have it made.
It’s too late for me to talk to my dad, but it wasn’t too late for a guy named Lamech to talk to his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. I don’t know if he did, but it would have at least been possible. They were alive at the same time.
So who was Lamech? He was Noah’s father. Yup, that Noah.
And who was his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather?
Yes, Adam. The first man. He lived to be 930 and was still alive when Lamech was born.
I wonder what it was like for Adam and Eve. To be honest, I rarely think about them beyond the garden of Eden. After they sinned, they were expelled from the garden, but I don’t give much thought to what life was like for them after that.
Of course, we don’t even know how long Eve lived, but let’s say she lived to be 600 years old. That means they were married for 600 years. You’d get to know a person pretty well after six centuries together.
Do you think they ever reminisced about the days before they sinned? Did they go for long walks and talk about those days of living in the garden?
How much does your memory fade after hundreds and hundreds of years? Did the days of walking with God before the temptation feel like another lifetime? Were some of the details fuzzy or was the garden experience so incredible that they never forgot any of it?
They walked with God in the garden. Just like we will when God makes all things new and restores the earth to His original design. We’ll walk with Him like they did.
Do you think Adam and Eve forgot what God looked like? What His voice sounded like?
I don’t know how many people were on earth by the time Lamech was born, but it was a lot. So it’s doubtful if Adam (and Eve, if she was alive) even knew he was born. I mean, they couldn’t keep up with everyone. The whole world was related to them.
I wonder if Lamech was aware of Adam though. Were people even aware that Adam was still alive?
You know how it is when we see someone famous. We whisper. We point. Some of us try to meet them. Were Adam and Eve famous? Was it big news when they died? Or did no one really care?
How long did it take before everyone forgot they were related to one another? Maybe being related doesn’t even matter much. Cain killed Abel. The first two brothers couldn’t even get along. Same thing after the flood–how long until the children of Shem, Ham and Japheth started hating each other?
Do you think Adam and Eve blamed themselves for the evil in the world? Did they struggle with guilt?
I can imagine Adam and Eve lying quietly in bed together at the age of 500 and Eve whispering in the dark, “If only I hadn’t listened to his lies.”
Adam sighs. After a moment he replies, “I know. Why didn’t I stop him? Why didn’t I say anything?”
Then they drift off to sleep. In silence. Wondering what might have been.
I wonder how often they had to remind each other of God’s love and grace and forgiveness?
I wonder how often we should remind each other.
And I wonder who we need to get to know better. Before it’s too late.
I told you I’m sentimental and nostalgic.
This week, I released the devotional: I Believe God: a 40 day adventure. The price is only $2.99 and is available in multiple formats. If you’d like the Amazon Kindle edition, it’s here.
Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's glory, pain, seeking God | 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 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.
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:
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.
Posted: May 16th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, Jesus, money, pain, seeking God, worry | 1 Comment »
Have you ever been doing well one minute, but felt worried or anxious the very next minute? It happens to me. Sometimes it’s not even apparent why my feelings have changed. One minute I feel peace and the next minute I’m anxious. Usually though, if I stop and think about it, I can identify the thought that led to the change in feelings.
Maybe you can relate.
You feel confident God will meet your financial needs, but then you think about that tax bill or medical bill that’s due. And a wave of panic washes over you.
You believe God is going to heal you, but you remember that your type of illness usually gets worse, not better.
You’ve applied for several jobs and even had a couple of good interviews. You’ve felt God’s assurance that things will work out, but several weeks have passed and you haven’t heard any news.
One minute we feel God’s presence and sense His peace. We feel so confident He’s going to come through for us. And then, almost without warning, we’ve overcome by worry or anxiety or fear. Then God seems distant and our situation feels hopeless.
I think Peter could relate to us. Check out this story in Matthew 14:22-33…
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
This isn’t the first time the disciples have experience a miracle while on the lake. Previously, they encountered a great storm while trying to cross the lake. It was so bad they feared they were going to drown. Where was Jesus? He was in the stern of the boat. Sleeping.
They weren’t in any danger. God Himself was in the boat with them. Jesus stood up, calmed the storm and then asked His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This time though, Jesus isn’t in the boat. He sent the disciples on ahead while He prayed. In the middle of the night, He walks out on the water to them.
Of course, they’re frightened, but Jesus tells them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
That’s not good enough for Peter though. He’ll believe it’s Jesus if he’s able to walk on the water.
Don’t you love Peter? Maybe he made mistakes and said some dumb things, but at least he took action. We don’t see the other eleven disciples willing to get out of the boat. Just Peter.
So Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. Stop there for a minute. Peter. Walked. On water. He was just a regular guy. He was no different than you or me, but when He listened to Jesus, he was able to walk on water.
Everything changes in verse 30 though:
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
It has always struck me that Peter “saw the wind.” You can’t really see wind, right? He saw something that you really can’t see. I guess he actually saw the effects of the wind blowing the waves around. Still though, Matthew makes the point of telling us that Peter saw the wind and was afraid. And once the fear hit him, he began to sink.
Peter was fine as long as he was looking at Jesus and walking toward Him. It’s when he took his eyes off Jesus and got them on the situation that he was afraid.
That’s what happens to us. We’re fine one minute–walking on the water in the midst of a storm, but then we look around at what we can see (or can’t see) and we panic.
We’re not meant to live by sight though. We’re meant to live by faith, by trusting God, not our circumstances. We worry and feel anxious and afraid when we start looking at the wrong things. Yes, the bills, the diagnosis, the broken relationship–they’re all real, but they’re not to be our focus.
Jesus calls all of us to get out of the boat and walk toward Him. And when we do, we can experience His supernatural presence, protection and provision in the midst of the most terrible storms…if we will keep our eyes on Him and trust that He is able to keep our heads above water.
When you feel the waves of worry and fear starting to pull you under, choose to stop looking at the wind. Choose instead to focus on Jesus and continue walking toward Him.
He will not let you drown.
Posted: March 6th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: Difficulties, discouragement, pain, pain and suffering | No Comments »
I started feeling sick a week ago. I thought it was just a cold, so I loaded up on cold medicine. All week. Yesterday, I started on an antibiotic for a sinus infection.
It hasn’t been a great month so far. Of course, compared to others, my month has been wonderful. In Numbers 20, in the first month of the year, the Israelite community has been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They arrive at the Desert of Zin and camped at a place called Kadesh.
It’s there that Miriam, Moses’ sister dies.
In the very next verse, we learn that the whole community gathers in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They’re not happy about the desert, the lack of food and the lack of water. After 40 years, they’ve had enough.
So your sister dies and then the people you’ve been leading for 40 years decide now is a good time to rebel against your leadership.
Moses and Aaron retreat to the Tent of Meeting and fall facedown. The Tent of Meeting is the place where God shows up to speak, which He does. He tells Moses to take his staff and “speak to that rock” which will then pour out water.
Moses does what God commands. Well, almost.
Rather than speaking to the rock, Moses hits it with his staff. Twice. The good news is that even though Moses hits the rock rather than speaking to it–water still pours out. The bad news is really bad though. Because Moses hit the rock rather than speak to it–God tells him that he and Aaron will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
In verse 12, it says:
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
After 40 years of leading this ungrateful mob through the desert, Moses and Aaron learn they won’t be crossing the Jordan River because they didn’t do exactly what God commanded.
Does God’s response seem out of proportion? Honestly, it does to me. But I’m not seeing the situation from God’s perspective. And that’s the only one that matters.
It’s time to break camp and move on, so Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom. Moses asks for permission to pass through his country. He tells the king they’ll stay on the road and not pass through and fields or vineyards or drink any of the water.
The king says “no.”
Moses tries again and tells the king he’ll pay for any water they drink as they pass through.
Again, the king says “no,” but this time sends out a large, powerful army to back up what he said.
So Moses leads Israel away from Edom and they head toward Mount Hor. That’s when God speaks again:
At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.”
Moses did what God commanded. The three of them go up to the mountain top. Aaron dies. Then Moses and Eleazer come down. When the community learns that Aaron had died, they mourn for 30 days.
And so ends Numbers chapter 20. It begins with the death of Miriam. Along the way, Moses learns he won’t be making the trip into the Promised Land. A large, powerful army faces him down. And then Aaron, his right hand man, dies.
Moses and Aaron, the two men responsible for leading the nation of Israel for 40 years, are guilty of committing a serious offense against God: they did not trust Him and rebelled against His command.
Hitting a rock rather than speaking to it may not seem like such a big deal to us, but it is to God. His commands aren’t suggestions. They are meant to be obeyed.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t grace and forgiveness. There is. But I wonder how often we miss out on opportunities and blessings because we choose to do things our own way rather than God’s.
Is there something God has told you to do? In a certain way?
It’s best to just do it.
Why miss out on God’s best?