Posted: September 27th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, pain and suffering, prayer, worry | No Comments »
One of the best feelings in the world is watching your children take their first steps. I loved sitting on the floor opposite Robyn and watching as our kids would attempt to make it across the room from one of us to the other. “Come on! You can do it!”
I think when we’re taking steps of faith–we need to remember God is right there with us cheering us on and encouraging us to keep going. That’s what I see happening in Mark 5. We pick up the story with Jesus coming ashore after crossing the Sea of Galilee.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
So with a large crowd pressing in on Him, Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and begs Him to come heal his daughter and Jesus agrees to go with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
If I can paraphrase what the disciples said to Jesus, it might sound like this: “Really, Jesus? Really? You want to know who touched You? Hello, Jesus, they’re all touching You!” But unlike the others who may have been just bumping into Him, this woman is believing that if she can just touch His clothes, she’ll be healed. And Jesus feels it happen.
Now the way the disciples respond to Him leads me to think they had little idea who they were truly dealing with. Think about it–if God asks a question, you have to assume He’s not stupid. There’s a reason He’s asking. But like the kid in this commercial, the disciples didn’t get it. Notice what Jesus does next…
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge what His disciples said. He just keeps looking for whoever touched Him. And when the woman confesses, He commends her faith. He didn’t have to do that. She was already healed, but Jesus intentionally affirms her faith. If I may paraphrase again, it’s as if Jesus is saying, “I love it! Way to go! Keep believing!”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Now watch again what Jesus does…
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The Greek word for “overhearing” can be translated in a couple different ways. The footnote in the NIV Bible says it can also mean “ignoring.” It can also mean “immediately.” In other words, Jesus overhears what’s being said to Jairus, He ignores it and immediately tells him to not be afraid, but to believe.
Can you picture it? This large crowd has come to a stop while Jesus finds out who touched Him. While commending the woman’s faith, He hears what the people are telling Jairus. I picture Jesus quickly turning around, looking Jairus right in the eyes and telling him to not be afraid, but to believe. It’s as if He’s saying, “Jairus, you trusted me enough to come and ask for my help and I said I’d go with you. Nothing has changed. I’ve got this, so don’t stop believing. Come on! You can do it!”
Jesus tuned out the unbelieving static around Him. That’s what we need to do too. Be careful who you listen to. Most Christians you know are probably not walking by faith. So when you do, they may very well be the ones who are most discouraging to you.
The rest of the story…
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Jesus again encounters unbelief when he enters the home of Jairus. They laugh at Him when He tells them she’s not really dead. I find it interesting that He “put them all out” before raising her to life. I wonder if they’d believed if He would have allowed them to stay and witness a miracle?
Let’s get practical–in what area of your life do you most need to believe God and tune out the unbelieving voices?
Make the choice to start believing Him right now and know that God is cheering you on.
Posted: August 21st, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: grace, healing, Jesus, legalism, prayer | No Comments »
Every once in awhile I like to re-post this short story I wrote a number of years ago. It’s about legalism, grace and healing.
Phil entered the restaurant, sat down in a booth and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The lone waitress approached and took his order. Water. No ice.
Phil watched her walk away—a little too closely—then quickly chastised himself. She was somebody’s daughter after all.
This had always been one of his favorite restaurants, although recently, he was having second thoughts. The surrounding neighborhood had declined and the resulting clientele reflected it. The rough looking guy at the bar was a perfect example. He watched him take a bite of his burger and drip ketchup on an already dirty t-shirt. Then he wiped his mouth with a hairy, muscular arm. Phil wondered why someone would order a hamburger in a Mexican restaurant.
The clock behind the bar said 5:01 p.m. He checked his watch just to be sure. His watch said 5:00, which he knew was correct. He was right on time. That was important. It was important to be faithful in little things, he reminded himself.
He glanced at the TV. He couldn’t hear, but could see a CNN reporter on the beach covering the latest hurricane. This one was bearing down on New Orleans. Phil couldn’t help thinking it was God’s judgment on an immoral city. He prayed this would be their wake-up call.
The sloppy guy at the bar took a swallow of his drink. He was wearing a red, rolled up bandanna around his head, which brought little control to his long, unwashed hair. His threadbare t-shirt and faded jeans with holes in the knees completed the look. If he even had a job, he was probably a day laborer at a construction site.
When the waitress brought his water, Phil noticed her eyes were red and puffy. He also couldn’t help noticing how low her shirt was cut. Entirely inappropriate, he thought. He probably ought to say something to the manager. He thought of his eight-year-old daughter, Emily, and how he and his wife, Jennifer, had stressed the importance of modesty to her. He knew she’d never wear a shirt like that.
“Can I get you anything besides water?” the waitress asked. “A glass of wine, maybe?”
“No,” Phil said. “I’m fine with water.” Phil didn’t drink. His wife, Jennifer, didn’t share his conviction though, which often concerned him.
Phil checked his watch again. 5:03 p.m. Jennifer was late. Why she couldn’t be on time escaped him. This was their standing date each month. Las Palmas, 5:00 p.m., first Friday of every month. It meant leaving work ten minutes early, but he was willing to make that sacrifice. He said a brief prayer asking the Lord to help Jennifer grow in the area of time management and consideration for other people’s time.
Phil picked up a menu out of habit, but he already knew what he wanted. The #5 dinner special was what he always ordered. A few months ago, he’d tried the #4, but he’d been disappointed. He decided it was better to go with the safe choice than try something different and not like it. “Better safe than sorry.” That’s what his mother always said.
Jennifer was always ordering new things. Half the time she didn’t like what she got. He often cautioned her on her selections, but she didn’t listen. It wasn’t that he cared about what she ordered—it just bothered him when she started picking off his plate because she didn’t like her meal. He said a quick prayer that she’d make a wise selection for dinner tonight.
Phil glanced at the guy at the bar and saw he was looking over at him. He turned back to his menu and decided it was time to find a better place for their monthly dates. This place had gone downhill.
Out of the corner of his eye, Phil saw the guy get up and start walking toward him. He hoped the guy was leaving, but he wasn’t—he was headed right for Phil.
He approached the table and asked if he could sit down. Phil tried to explain about the regular date night and how his wife was on her way and how he really didn’t think it was a good idea, but the guy only smiled and sat down anyway.
“Do you mind if we talk?” the stranger asked.
“Do I know you?” Phil replied.
“Not really,” the guy replied and then just sat there looking at Phil.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Phil asked. “Like I said, my wife is on her way to meet me for dinner.”
“I know. I heard what you said. I just want to talk for a few minutes.”
“About what?” Phil asked.
“Well, not to be unkind or anything, but I don’t know you and I’m sure we wouldn’t have much to talk about.” It crossed his mind to just get up and wait for Jennifer outside, but he decided to stay. “So what’s on your mind?” Phil said with just a hint of superiority in his voice.
“Did you notice your waitress was crying?” the stranger asked.
“Well, I noticed her eyes were a little red.”
“Did it occur to you to ask her why she was crying?”
“No, it didn’t. It’s none of my business. If she wanted me to know, she would have told me,” Phil said.
“Would you like to know why she was crying?”
“Like I said, I really don’t think it’s any of my business, but if you feel the need—go ahead and tell me.”
“Before I tell you—let me ask you a question. Why do you think that her crying is not any of your business?”
“What do you mean? Of course it’s not any of my business. It’s not any of yours either.”
“Hmmm. So you see a young woman who’s obviously been crying and you assume it’s not any of your business.” The stranger looked past Phil for a moment and then continued. “Okay, let me tell you why she was crying. Brandy was upset because she received a phone call from the health clinic about an hour ago. The biopsy was positive. She has cancer. She also has a three-year-old daughter and she’s afraid of what will happen to her daughter if she dies.” After a moment he added, “And she doesn’t have medical insurance.”
Phil wasn’t sure what to say. He took a sip of his water and glanced at the door, hoping to see Jennifer walk in, but she didn’t.
“That’s a sad story, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it,” Phil said. “I guess her husband will take care of their daughter.”
The stranger just stared. Phil hoped he would leave or Jennifer would come quickly.
“She doesn’t have a husband. She’s never been married.”
Phil didn’t say it, but he couldn’t help thinking that you reap what you sow. If she hadn’t gotten herself pregnant then she wouldn’t be facing such a mess.
“She was raped one night after leaving work. Never told anyone. A few weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant. Now she works two jobs to support herself and her daughter.”
Phil felt bad for her, but still didn’t see how this was his problem. He had enough of his own problems to worry about. He’d just gotten the notice that Emily’s private school tuition was going up 15% next year. How was he supposed to pay for that?
The stranger interrupted Phil’s thoughts. “Would you like to pray?” he asked.
Phil was surprised by the question and for a moment said nothing. “Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” Phil said.
There was another moment of silence. Phil noticed how sad the stranger looked—almost like he was going to cry.
“Don’t you pray?” he asked.
Phil was starting to get annoyed. He’d come here for a nice meal with his wife—who was late again—and now he had to deal with some nut who wanted to pray. If there was a manager around, he’d complain. That reminded him that he was going to mention the inappropriate way the waitress was dressed. Of course, considering her situation, he decided to let it slide this time.
“Actually, I do believe in praying. I pray every morning. I’m also an elder at my church. Do you even go to church?” Phil asked.
“But you don’t want me to pray for you?” he asked, ignoring Phil’s question.
“No, like I said, I’m doing fine.”
“Yes, you did say that, didn’t you? May I ask you how you know you’re doing fine?”
Phil was surprised by the question and didn’t know quite what to say. He usually had a good, correct answer for most questions, but this one caught him off guard. The guy must have seen the puzzled look on Phil’s face because he asked the question again.
“What I mean is—how do you know how you’re doing? To whom are you comparing yourself?”
“Well, that’s really not what I meant,” Phil said. “I didn’t necessarily mean I was doing fine compared to other people.” Of course, he felt quite confident he was actually doing very well compared to others. “I just meant that my life is going well.”
“And what I’m wondering,” the stranger continued undeterred by Phil’s explanation, “is how you know. How do you know your life is going well? On what are you basing your assessment?”
Phil had never thought about it before. He was just—doing well. Life wasn’t perfect, but things were good. His job was good. His marriage was good. There was money in the bank. He, Jennifer, and Emily had their health. Things were good. The tuition bill was a concern, but not worth mentioning to a stranger.
“Well, like I told you—I’m an elder in my church, I’ve been married for 15 years, I’m doing well at work. Things are just…good.” Phil was now getting more irritated—at the stranger’s interrogation and Jennifer for being late. If she had been on time for once, he wouldn’t be stuck in this pointless conversation.
“It bothers you that your wife is late, doesn’t it?”
“What?” Phil asked. He must have had a startled look on his face, which he tried to hide by taking a long drink of water.
“Your wife. She’s late. That annoys you. If you’re honest, it makes you angry, doesn’t it?”
“Well, I don’t know that I’d go so far as saying I’m angry. Frustrated maybe. Look, it’s inconsiderate. If I’m on time, I expect others to be on time. I sacrifice by leaving work early, which means I need to go in early to make up for it.”
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” the stranger said softly to himself.
“What? Phil asked, unsure of what he’d heard.
“Phil, do you love your wife?”
“Of course I love my wife. What kind of a question is that?” Phil said.
“What does that mean, Phil? How do you love your wife?”
“What? How do I love my wife?” Phil replied. “Well, I just love her. She’s important to me and I care about her.”
“Do you put her needs before your own? Does she receive grace from you or does she feel like she must live up to your standards? Do you love her as your own body?”
“Do I love her as my own body? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Phil wanted to get up and leave, but he couldn’t. He thought about what to say, but had nothing. A minute passed. The stranger was content to just sit there in silence, looking at Phil.
“Phil, what if you’ve been using the wrong standard by which to measure your goodness? What if following your rules isn’t as important as loving your neighbor? What if the way someone looks, or dresses, isn’t as important as what’s in their heart? What if there’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of wine, but there is with judging someone for doing it?”
Phil wished he could hide. It felt like his heart was being examined and it wasn’t going well.
“Who are you?” Phil said. “And by the way, how do you know my name?”
At that moment, the door opened, drenching the restaurant with the bright afternoon sun. Phil saw Jennifer enter and wave to him. He turned back to the stranger, but he was gone.
“Honey, I’m so sorry I’m late! Just as I was getting ready to leave, Emily spilled her juice and I…”
“Hey, slow down. It’s okay.”
“But I know how important it is to you for me to be on time and it’s almost 5:15.”
“Really, it’s okay. I’m just glad you’re here. Relax.”
Jennifer sat down and caught her breath. Phil looked over to see Brandy approaching the table. Her eyes were still red and swollen.
Before Brandy could ask for Jennifer’s drink order, Phil said, “I couldn’t help noticing you’ve been crying. Please sit down. Our order can wait.” Phil caught the look of surprise on Jennifer’s face.
Jennifer slid over and made room for her to sit. Brandy began to cry again.
Phil and Jennifer listened as Brandy shared her story. After she finished, Jennifer put her arm around Brandy and Phil took Brandy’s hands in his. His heart went out to her and he began to pray for her through his own tears.
On the first Friday of the next month, Phil and Jennifer walked in together, precisely at 5:47 p.m. Phil had gone home early that day and had lost track of time playing with Emily. Jennifer finally had to pull him away so they could eat.
Brandy ran to the door to meet them. She’d just gotten off the phone—the follow-up tests revealed the cancer was gone. The doctors had no explanation. Phil, Jennifer and Brandy hugged each other and cried tears of joy.
Brandy was healed.
And Phil was healed too.
Posted: July 17th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: fruit of the Spirit, God's character, Holy Spirit, patience, prayer, seeking God, surrender | No Comments »
Have you ever been stuck at a traffic light and felt like it was the longest red light in history? There’s one particular light between my house and my office that feels that way. So I timed it today. From the time the light turned red until it turned green again…it was 90 seconds. Not exactly an eternity.
Or have you ever walked out of your house, gotten in your car, started it…and then had to wait several minutes for whoever else is going with you? A few minutes can start to feel like half an hour pretty quickly.
Maybe you’ve told yourself you’re going to be more patient, that you’re going to stop yelling at your kids or your spouse or your c0-worker. And then you lose your cool again.
We could all use a little more patience, right?
Have you ever prayed for patience? I can hear someone say, “Be careful what you pray for! God will give you circumstances that require patience.”
And maybe that’s true. But I think praying for patience presupposes that’s what we actually need. Or that praying for it is how to get it.
Let me suggest something different.
Galatians 5:22-23 says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Those are all character qualities we’d love to experience more of, right? But Paul doesn’t tell us to pray for those things. He very clearly says they are the “fruit of the Spirit.” We don’t work harder to get them. We don’t pray for them. They are a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
We don’t need to pray for patience. We need to more fully surrender to God’s Spirit who lives in us. Then He will produce the fruit we desire. By the way, these aren’t fruits of the Spirit. They’re fruit. Singular. When the Holy Spirit is in control of us–He manifests His life in us and through us. And He is all of these things.
A few verses earlier, Paul says: So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Do you need more patience? Or love? Or joy? Or kindness?
Then allow the Holy Spirit to guide your life. Surrender to Him.
You may not be patient, but He is. And He will be patient through you.
Posted: June 22nd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, faith, God's character, God's glory, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
Do you remember what opportunity cost is from your economics class? Opportunity cost is what you gave up when you chose one thing over another. It’s what you could have had. If you spend $3,000 on a Hawaiian vacation, then your opportunity cost may be the new deck or hot tub you wanted. When you choose one thing, you’re likely giving up another thing…and that other thing is the opportunity cost.
A number of years ago, I felt like God let me down. (To be honest, I still feel that way sometimes.) I felt like I’d trusted Him and prayed for things and He didn’t come through for me. Maybe you’ve felt that way. You’ve prayed and prayed, but nothing seems to happen. God doesn’t answer…at least how you wanted Him to.
Then you read a passage like the following and feel angry or cynical rather than excited or hopeful:
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
For a while now, I’ve tended to skim over those words, which is a nice way of saying I haven’t believed them. I’ve been like the person whose heart was broken by a lover and chooses to never fall in love again. If I don’t get my hopes up, if I don’t expect too much, then I can’t be disappointed again.
And that type of thinking carries a very high opportunity cost with it. In other words, what prayers might God have answered had only I asked?
As I read those verses again today, I was struck by several things…
The Greek word that gets translated “very truly” is identical to the Hebrew word, which is also identical to the English word. The word is “Amen.” In fact, Jesus uses the same word twice at the beginning of the sentence. “Amen Amen…” When used at the beginning of a sentence, it’s translated as we see it here, “Very truly.” When used at the end of a sentence, it means, “so be it” or “may it be fulfilled.” Jesus makes it clear that what He’s about to say is the truth, something we can count on.
Jesus then says “whoever.” Whoever. That means me. That means you. It’s not a select group of special people, it’s whoever believes in Jesus. They will do even greater things than He did. How could that be? Jesus says it’s because He’s going to the Father. So how does that help us? Jesus will intercede for us (Romans 8:34) and He will send the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 14:16), to help us and empower us.
Then Jesus gives us the reason He’ll give us what we ask for…so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. It’s not to make us rich. Or more comfortable. Or to give us lives free of difficulties and pain. It’s so that God is glorified. One definition of glorify is “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.” When our prayers are answered, God’s worth is made known.
Twice Jesus says we can ask for anything in His Name and He will do it. So what does that mean? In His Name. It’s to pray for what Jesus would pray for. It’s to pray for His will. Not ours. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? To pray for what Jesus wants, not what we want. Sometimes (or is it most of the time?) it’s hard to know the difference. It’s easy to confuse our own desires with what we think Jesus desires.
If our prayers go unanswered and cause more frustration and disappointment than joy and hope, then it’s a good sign we’re not praying in the name of Jesus…we’re praying in our own name, for what we want. The answer isn’t to quit praying, it’s to seek God with serious effort (Hebrews 11:6) so we know Him better and have a better sense of His will and His ways. So we’ll know how to pray in His Name.
So let me ask you a question. Are you willing to believe Jesus is telling the truth when He says He will give you whatever you ask for in His Name? I fear the opportunity cost is far too high to not believe.
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: March 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, faith, God's word, Jesus, prayer, priorities, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
For a long time, I’ve assumed it should be easy to seek and find God. I’ve been wrong though.
Can you think of any good or worthwhile activity that’s easy?
Eating healthy and staying in good physical condition requires planning, commitment and hard work. Doing well at your job and advancing in your career can mean long hours and sacrifices in other areas. Getting a college degree requires a big financial investment and years of studying. Having a good marriage requires a lot of time and effort. Having a thick, green, weed-free lawn requires year-round attention.
Anything good requires commitment, sacrifice and hard work. So why would we think any less is required to truly find God and experience Him? And let me take this one step further. I suspect it will require more effort to find God the longer we’ve known Him. If you work out, you know the longer you train the harder you must work to continue seeing gains. I believe the same is true when it comes to God. I’m not suggesting He’s hiding from us, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking God is easy.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” To seek Him earnestly means to seek with serious effort…and when we do, He rewards us.
And Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We don’t find Him when we seek Him with minimal, half-hearted effort.
If you want to lose weight and get in better shape, you know it means saying “no” to the potato chips and ice cream and “yes” to healthier foods. It means going to the gym or running three miles rather than sitting on the couch.
What do you need to say “no” to, so you can say “yes” to more time in prayer and reading the Bible? What habits or sins are keeping you from seeking Him with your whole heart?
Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
If we sow little effort in seeking God, we will not find much of Him. If we sow serious, whole-hearted effort, we will find much more of Him.
I believe we can experience as little or as much of God as we’d like. So the question is…
How much of God would you like?
Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
I learned a number of years ago that well-meaning people sometimes need to be ignored. Good people, nice people can sometimes be the most discouraging.
God was leading me to take a step of faith. A big one. And the more I obeyed and trusted Him, the more He confirmed I was doing the right thing. I’d never been more sure of a direction from God. In numerous ways, He encouraged me to believe Him, not my feelings or circumstances.
That didn’t mean He was also speaking to those around me though. I’m sure to others, my path looked foolish, irresponsible, even reckless. Some of the most discouraging people were some close friends. Either by the questions they asked, the comments they made or even the look on their faces–they were discouraging me from continuing to believe God.
In Mark 5, a man named, Jairus, comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to come heal his 12-year-old daughter who’s dying. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, some men come to tell Jairus his daughter has died. Verse 36 says:
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Sometimes we have to ignore others, so we can believe God.
If God is leading you to take a step of faith, then trust Him and take the step. Just understand you will very likely encounter resistance, skepticism and discouragement from those closest to you. During those times, you will need to go back to God and spend time in His word and in prayer to receive encouragement and strengthening in your faith. And the bigger the step of faith, the more you will need for God to confirm His plan.
Let me close with a word of caution. Before you choose to ignore someone’s counsel–be sure you are hearing clearly from God. We cannot always trust our desires. Our feelings will often lead us astray. God will never lead you to do anything that contradicts His word.
A man once told me he believed God had led him to have an affair with another woman. No, those were his own sinful desires that led him into an affair and a deceived mind that allowed him to conclude it was God.
The more time you bathe your mind in God’s word and in prayer, the more confidence you can have in taking bold steps of faith.
So is there someone you need to ignore so you can believe God?
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: email@example.com
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: September 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, perseverance, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
The older I get–I’ll be 50 in a couple weeks–the less I seem to understand. I had much more figured out a couple decades ago.
I’m probably less sure about more things than I’ve ever been, while still remaining solid on my core beliefs.
At the core, I believe there is a God who has existed forever, although I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain how that can be.
I believe He created everything from nothing. And if that sounds too wild to believe, consider the alternative–that everything came from nothing WITHOUT A CAUSE.
I believe God is good, although His definition and mine don’t always agree. I believe He loves me, but sometimes I believe it by faith. I believe He wants to have a relationship with me, which is pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. I actually matter to Him.
I believe without a doubt that Jesus is God and that He walked around on the planet He created a couple thousand years ago, but I also understand how a lot of people didn’t even recognize Him as God. I’m not sure I would have either.
I believe that sin earns death, I’ve sinned and therefore I’ve earned death. And by death, I mean hell.
I believe what Jesus said in the book of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that sounds really exclusive. And it is. But I believe He meant it.
I believe if I place my trust in Jesus, He forgives my sin and paves the way for me to experience the relationship God desires to have with me and that ultimately I desire to have with Him, but don’t always act like it.
I believe it’s a big deal, a really big deal, in fact, that we believe God. He likes to be trusted. And it’s a big deal to Him when we don’t trust Him. A bigger deal than we realize.
Beyond that, I’m less sure about stuff.
Like why some people are healed and some aren’t.
Like why some prayers are answered and some aren’t.
Like why some people are born with severe disabilities and others are born with beautiful, perfect bodies.
Like why bad people prosper.
The list could go on.
I think where I’m landing is this–we’ve got to cling to what we know to be true and learn to live in the mystery and tension and confusion of the rest. We’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to patiently endure. We’ve got to hang on.
Persevering. Patiently waiting. Trusting.
Those are big themes that run throughout the Bible. They’re a big deal to God. So they’ve got to be a big deal to us. Bigger than our need to know and understand and have everything make sense. Bigger than our need to understand everything and fit it all in our neat little boxes.
I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s just absolutely awful. Maybe you’re unemployed, you can’t find a job and bankruptcy is the only option. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re lonely or scared. Maybe you were raped. Maybe everyone ignores you.
I know you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. You’ve begged Him to help you. But things have gotten worse, not better.
I don’t have an answer. I can’t explain it. But I encourage you to not give up. Don’t turn your back on God. With whatever strength you have left– seek Him and trust Him.
This life is short. Your reward is coming.
Whatever you do–don’t give up.
Posted: August 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, forgiveness, God's love, God's word, grace, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities | No Comments »
I went to lunch today at a friend’s restaurant. Last week at this time, he was in Houston at MD Anderson waiting for the results of his latest scan. Unfortunately, he found out the next day his cancer is back.
While at his restaurant, he pointed out a guy who has a similar type of cancer that’s even more advanced. The doctors told him there’s nothing more they can do. If you were to see my friend or this other guy, you’d never know they had cancer.
After lunch, I was in Wal-Mart and got into a conversation with the greeter that probably lasted thirty minutes. As we talked, she told me she started singing in bars in 1958 at the age of 13. She’d make more money in two nights than her dad did in two weeks working for Philips Petroleum. At one point, she and a guy named Harold Jenkins won a singing competition. Harold later changed his name to Conway Twitty.
She also knew Janis Joplin who called her one day and told her to get to Love Field (Dallas) where she’d pick her up. In a plane. Janis said they were going to a concert in upstate New York. The year was 1969. The concert was Woodstock.
This woman has a story. So does my friend. We all do.
Everyone has a story.
Some of us are in a good part of the story. Health is great. Job is going well. Finances are in good shape. No major relationship problems.
But others are in the midst of a story they never wanted.
The person who cut you off in traffic has a story. Maybe he’s been unemployed for two years and is embarrassed every time his wife and kids have to go to the store to buy groceries with food stamps. And now he’s late for a job interview that could change everything. He didn’t mean to cut you off. He was just in a hurry and didn’t see you.
The girl who sits near you in class has a story. She’s friendly, pretty and smart. But her dad is an alcoholic. Sometimes things get out of hand. That’s when he hits her mom. Like he did again last night. They’re too scared to call the police.
The man in line behind you at the store is addicted to pornography. The shame and guilt are killing him.
The woman in front of you buying the diapers isn’t buying them for her baby. They’re for a baby shower she’s going to. She has no children and recently miscarried for the third time.
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to forgetting all this. Someone was tailgating me the other day and it made me furious. Later, I thought about how I should have stopped in the middle of the street and had a “talk” with the person. I felt wronged and wanted revenge. But what if it was someone who was late for something important or just had to go to the bathroom really bad?
That person had a story. I just didn’t care.
What if I did care though? What if rather than being angry, I just pulled over so I was no longer in the way? And if pulling over wasn’t an option, what if I simply took the time to remember that everyone has a story. Including tailgaters.
What if my prayer for others was the same as Paul’s greeting in Ephesians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t that what we all want and need? Grace. And peace. From God our Father. And from Jesus.
The next time you and I are tempted to get angry or defensive or ignore someone we cross paths with–what if we at least took the time to ask God to give them grace and peace?
Because everyone has a story.
If you’d like to share it as a comment, I, and hopefully others who read it, can pray for you.