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: April 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, creation, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's word, Jesus, trials, VY Canis Majoris | No Comments »
Our sun is 93 million miles from earth and contains 99.99% of the mass of our solar system. To try and give some perspective–one million earths could fit inside our sun. Huge, right? But there’s a star named Betelgeuse that is anywhere between five and thirty times larger than our sun. It’s hard to begin to even comprehend something that large.
We’re not done though. The largest identified star in our galaxy is named VY Canis Majoris. It is 1,800 to 2,100 times larger than our sun. How do we even begin to think about something that large? Fortunately, someone has done a little math for us to try and bring things into perspective.
If you were to fly non-stop in a Boeing 747 at 550 mph, it would take two days to fly all the way around the earth.
It would take 206 days to fly all the way around the sun.
And to fly all the way around VY Canis Majoris, it would take 452,965 days. That’s 1,241 years.
Now consider this…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
The same Jesus who spoke VY Canis Majoris into existence, along with hundreds of billions of other stars, says to you today:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus created the universe and is sustaining all things by His powerful word. He is holding all things together. You can trust Him to sustain you and hold you together as well.
Posted: January 29th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, God's love, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, trials, Truth | No Comments »
I’ve never been in the military, but I have two sons-in-law who are currently serving. Richard is a Marine and Ross is an Army Ranger. They’ve both been deployed to Afghanistan and know what it’s like to fight in a war.
For most of us in the United States though, we just don’t have much experience with war. Other than isolated terrorist attacks, we haven’t seen a war fought on our soil since the Civil War 150 years ago. We just don’t know what it’s like to have someone trying to kill us or to hear missiles exploding in our cities.
I wonder if that makes it easy to forget we actually are in a war.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Something happened to us when we placed our faith in Christ. God changed us. He gave us a new nature. Our spirit came alive. And He blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. But there’s something else going on in the heavenly realms…
Ephesians 6:10-12 says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms and that is also the place in which we must do battle. But as Paul said, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We’re not fighting an enemy armed with guns and grenades. We are battling evil beings in an unseen realm. That is why in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul wrote:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
There’s a battle being fought for control of your mind. God wants you to know the truth, believe it and live by it. Satan and his demonic forces of evil will attempt to lie and deceive, so that you will live in fear, worry and anxiety–and never experience the life God has for you. Satan will tempt you to get your needs met in ways outside God’s will. Your enemy will try to convince you that God is angry or disappointed with you. He wants you to feel defeated and discouraged.
So Paul says we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Do you know what they are?
He also tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against Satan. Do you know what armor is available to you?
Are you aware of the lies or deceptions you may be believing?
If you’re a little unsure about how to answer those questions–let me encourage you to dig into Ephesians yourself. I could give you the answers to those questions, but you’ll get so much more benefit by discovering the answers yourself. You can read the entire letter in about fifteen minutes. What if you were to read it once or twice a day?
Spiritual blessings await you–things God has already accomplished on your behalf. But Satan doesn’t want you to know what they are or to ever experience them. So you’re going to have to fight. Like you, I wish life could be easier, but it’s not. We need to deal with life as it is, not as we wish it could be.
By the way, Paul mentions the “heavenly realms” a couple other places in his letter to the Ephesians. For the first ten people to email me at email@example.com with the other two verses–I’ll send you free copies (PDF versions) of my 40 day devotional book, “I Believe God”, as well as my book “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.”
Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: destruction, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, Hurricane Sandy, Jersey Shore, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, storms, trials | No Comments »
Brick, New Jersey
Sandy, a once-in-a-lifetime storm, cut a path of destruction across the northeastern United States over the past several days.
The above picture was taken just a few miles from where I grew up. It’s hard to believe.
Some areas of the Jersey Shore have been totally destroyed. The devastation is just overwhelming. And I’m only seeing snapshots and short videos. I can only imagine what it’s like to be there. I spoke with my step-mom earlier today–she hasn’t been back to her house yet, but was told the water was up to her mailbox.
I know this storm is certainly different than when our country was attacked on 9/11, but I’ve found myself wrestling with similar emotions. Sadness. Loss. Helplessness.
Even though I moved away from New York and New Jersey over twenty years ago, in some ways it’s still home. When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying we were going “up home” when talking about going to visit his family in central Pennsylvania where he grew up. I know not everyone enjoyed their childhood or high school years, but I did. So I will always have a strong affection for the Jersey Shore, which makes it hard to see and hear of the destruction that took place.
The images coming out of New York and New Jersey make it clear–Sandy was a powerful destroyer. And that reminded of a verse from the book of Revelation where Satan is called “the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”
Abaddon and Apollyon both mean the same thing: Destroyer.
When I look at the state of our world, I can only conclude there’s a powerful destroyer on the loose. Like Sandy, this destroyer is bent on destroying homes, but he does it by destroying the people who live in them. And his greatest weapons are not wind and water, but lies and deception.
Our enemy’s goal is to keep us from knowing and seeking Jesus Christ. And he will use whatever means he can. He doesn’t care who or what we seek as long as it’s not the one true God.
Because we were made by God to live in relationship with Him and to experience life as He designed it, Satan will always entice us to look for life elsewhere. And the more we do, the more lonely or discouraged or desperate or hopeless we become. Things that were meant to be enjoyed as gifts become our gods. We desperately try to find happiness in a person or a job or an accomplishment or a possession.
But none of it works and we always end up unsatisfied and longing for more. More of what can never fulfill us.
Satan is much more subtle than Sandy. He pulls the strings behind the world system to tempt and entice us to get legitimate, God-given needs met outside of God’s will. He pushes us to go beyond the good, healthy boundaries God has put in place for our protection and provision.
Food, sex, money, work, leisure, pleasures, marriage, children–those are all God’s idea. He knows how they work best. And how they don’t. Doing life apart from God always lead us into the path of a storm. It always lead to some level of destruction.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
God invites us to experience life to the full.
Satan has come to destroy us.
We get to choose who we’ll listen to.
Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, forgiveness, grace, Holy Spirit, marriage, sex, sin, trials | 2 Comments »
A man and a woman meet. They like each other and soon begin dating. There’s some real chemistry and things start to get serious. It’s not long before they’re talking about marriage.
She’s attracted to him because he’s so attentive to her. He asks her questions and actually listens to her answers. She loves their long talks. When they can’t be together, he’ll talk on the phone with her for hours. He sends her text messages throughout the day to say how much he misses her and how he can’t wait to see her. She loves how he buys her presents for no reason and how he’s always leaving encouraging notes around her apartment.
He’s also not afraid to talk about his relationship with God and how important it is to him. He even prays with her.
She knows he’s not perfect, but as far as she’s concerned, he’s pretty close. She figures if it’s this good while they’re dating, then it can only get better once they’re married.
He’s attracted to her for different reasons. First, she enjoys watching him play flag football. And she likes hanging out with him while he plays video games. She even cooks for him, cleans his kitchen and does his laundry whenever she’s at his apartment. Once in awhile she’ll comment about how messy he is, but he knows she’s only teasing.
He also loves the fact that she’s excited about sex. While they’ve been dating, he’s tried to take things further than she wanted, but she keeps saying she’s committed to waiting until they’re married. He’s okay with that because from everything she’s said, he knows their sex life will be fun, frequent and fulfilling.
Fast forward two years. They’ve now been married for nine months.
It’s Sunday afternoon and he’s heading out the door to play football. As he’s getting in his car, she says, “Seriously? You’re going to play football? You couldn’t get up for church, but you have time for football? Besides, I thought we said we were going to spend the day together?”
“Come with me,” he says. “We can grab something to eat after the game.”
She slams the door and watches him drive off. She can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been to church together.
He has a great time with the guys, but also loses track of time, so he doesn’t get home until almost 7:00 p.m. He finds his wife in the bathroom, leaning over the tub scrubbing it. He gives her a playful slap on her butt and says, “Hey babe, what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”
While still bent over the tub, she slowly turns her head to look at him. He’s never been accused of being the sharpest guy around, but even he knows something is wrong. Her eyes look more like death rays. Her lips are closed tight. And it looks like she might actually be biting her tongue. She glares at him for a moment and then goes back to scrubbing.
They don’t speak to each other the rest of the night.
She goes to bed at 9:00. He had hoped they might have sex, but that’s out of the question. Of course that’s nothing new. It’s usually out of the question. He can count on one hand the number of times they’ve had sex in the past few months.
This day, nine months into marriage, is the beginning of the end. Six months later, they’ll be divorced.
So what went wrong?
It was the bait and switch. You know the game–a retailer advertises a low-priced product knowing there are only two in stock. Once in the store, the salesperson tries to sell the customer a more expensive item. Or a hotel offers a great online rate, but at check-in, the guest is charged a mandatory “resort fee.”
We thought we were getting a great deal, but got taken instead. Bait and switch.
It happens in marriage, too. Someone thinks their spouse will be what they “advertised” (the bait), but not long into marriage, the switch occurs.
He’s no longer interested in his relationship with God.
She doesn’t see what the big deal is when it comes to sex. She figured he’d just get over it.
He’s really not into long talks like she thought he was.
And the cute habits he had when they were dating are now just really annoying to her.
If you’re not yet married–you need to be sure your future spouse is really who they appear to be. Now isn’t the time to have blinders on. Ask your friends what they see that maybe you’re missing. And don’t think you’re going to be able to change your spouse once you’re married. If you have concerns now, you’re going to have regrets later.
If you are married, you owe it to your spouse, yourself and to God, to be the person you represented yourself to be. Don’t be guilty of bait and switch. If you are not committed to meeting your spouse’s needs, you are committing fraud. You took vows to enter into a covenant with your spouse–to put his or her needs before your own, to remain faithful until one of you dies.
If you’re doing all you know to do and your spouse isn’t, I’m sorry. I know it’s a hard, disappointing, painful place to be. I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. Continue to do what’s right. Continue to love your spouse. Be committed to meeting their needs. And know that it will require God’s strength and wisdom.
If you’re the spouse who’s committing fraud, then you’ll also need God’s strength and wisdom to repair the damage that’s been done. If you start today, maybe it’s not too late.
Posted: May 22nd, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: heaven, heaven is like, Jesus, pain and suffering, sin, trials | 1 Comment »
For many years, I had a completely wrong view of heaven. I used to think we’d float around in some spiritual dimension, I guess as spirits, because I didn’t really see us having actual bodies like we do now. I imagined this spiritual realm would be very bright.
That’s about it. I knew it would be a good place, certainly better than the alternative, but it really wasn’t a place I was excited to be. And I always felt bad about that. I knew I should be looking forward to heaven, but I wasn’t.
What seemed a lot better to me were warm, sunny, summer days. Relaxing by the pool with family or friends. Seeing the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains or the vastness of the ocean. Eating a really delicious meal. And just being together with my wife.
Then I’d hear people describe heaven as “a never-ending worship service.” I think what they meant was that we’d be singing hymns or worship songs non-stop. Forever. Well, other than the fact that I hope to have a better singing voice in heaven than I do now–a never-ending worship service doesn’t get me very excited about heaven either.
The views of heaven I’ve just described really have no biblical basis. So then what is heaven like?
Since I’ve never actually seen it, my view of heaven is mainly coming from Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21-22. Those are the first and last two chapters of the Bible. They take place before sin occurred and after sin has finally been dealt with.
So here’s what I see…
We will live on earth. The apostle John wrote in Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…”
It will be made new, but it will be earth. As it was supposed to be. Before sin, death, pain, war, pollution, etc. If Adam and Eve had never sinned, mankind would have lived on earth in a perfect world. And one day, God will restore it to what it was intended to be. He hasn’t given up on the original intent.
So when you hear someone say, “Earth isn’t our home” or “We’re not home yet,” well, that’s not exactly right. Earth is our home. It was supposed to be perfect. We just messed it up. Sin and death aren’t supposed to be a part of it, so that’s what we long to escape–not the earth.
Think about it–doesn’t something feel really right about a great day on earth? Great weather. Great friends. Great food. Great sex, if you’re married. When you experience something wonderful, something powerful, something profoundly meaningful, we just have a sense that, “This is how life was meant to be.”
Don’t get the wrong idea that our bodies are somehow bad or evil. They’re not. They’re fallen. They’re broken. But the physical body is not bad. Adam and Eve were given physical bodies before they ever sinned. Jesus never sinned and He had a physical body. These bodies were made by God to live in a material realm like earth.
We will have physical bodies. They’ll be new ones, but they will be real bodies. And not only that, but…
God will live on earth with us. Revelation 21:3 says, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”
God is going to live on earth with us. How cool is that? More on that in a minute.
We will live in the city of New Jerusalem. It’s a large city. Very large, in fact. It’s described in Revelation 21 as being 1400 miles wide, 1400 miles long and 1400 miles high. I don’t understand how it can be 1400 miles high, but it is. It has three gates on each side of the city. Each gate is named after one of the 12 tribes of Israel and is guarded by an angel.
The city is described as being “the wife of the Lamb.” So we know it’s going to be incredibly beautiful. Read the description of it Revelation 21.
The gates of the city will never shut because there will be no night. I’m not sure if that means we will not need sleep. Maybe if Adam and Eve had never sinned, our bodies would never have needed sleep. I don’t know.
The walls around the city are 200 feet thick. It seems that we will be able to come and go through the gates of the city. I’m not sure if that means some people may choose to live outside of the city or if we will all live inside, but have freedom to go outside to work or explore or play or whatever.
In the city, we will not find a church or a temple. That’s because God Himself is the temple. We will not need to go to a certain place to worship. We will be in that place already. We will be in the presence of God.
God’s glory will be so bright that the sun and moon will not be needed to provide light for the city. I don’t take that to mean the sun and moon will not exist–just that in the city, their light will not be needed. And I don’t know if that means the sun will be needed for light outside the city.
I don’t know about you, but I start to look forward to being on the new earth, a beautiful, perfect place without the sin and decay and hatred and war that plagues the earth now.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue by answering a few questions. The answers might surprise you.
Are we going to eat and drink?
What will we do on the new earth?
Will we be married in heaven? And if so, to whom?
Will there be coffee in heaven?
If heaven is really going to be on the new earth, then where are the people who’ve already died and what are they doing now?
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, fear God, God's character, God's love, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God, sex, sin, trials, Truth, worry | 1 Comment »
- What if God wants to tell you something really important about the next step in your life, but you can’t hear Him because of all the noise?
- What if you exchanged the amount of time you currently spend on your phone, laptop and television with the amount of time you read the Bible and talk to God?
- What if God meant everything He said?
- What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
- What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
- What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
- What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
- What if heaven is going to be a lot like the absolute best day on earth you can possibly imagine…only a million times better and minus any pain, sin, conflict or difficulties?
- What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
- What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
- What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
- What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
- What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
- What if God is crazy in love with you?
- What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
- What if God said He was going to bless you financially in proportion to how generous you’ve been lately–would you be excited or disappointed?
- What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
- What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
- What if someone in the Bible faced the same problems you are and you could learn from that person how to (or not to) handle them?
- What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
- What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
- What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
- What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
- What if the negative emotions (fear, worry, anxiety, etc.) you’re feeling are signal that you’ve got a wrong belief about God or yourself?
- What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?
Posted: January 14th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: delight yourself in the Lord, faith, fear God, God's character, grace, rewards, seeking God, sowing and reaping, trials | No Comments »
What do you think? Does God reward us? For doing good things, I mean.
When you do a good deed–should you expect a reward?
What do you think?
Well, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
Does that confirm or change your answer?
This verse is from the famous “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus is teaching a large crowd on a mountainside. He’s already talked to them about murder, adultery, divorce and loving your enemies. Some of what He says is pretty radical, like His teach on adultery.
Jesus said it was not only wrong to commit adultery, but that even looking lustfully at a woman is just like committing adultery with her. Uh oh. And He taught something similar related to murder. He said that even being angry with someone would make us subject to judgment. Another, uh oh.
Clearly, Jesus is concerned not just with our actions, but with our heart, with what is unseen by others, but seen by God.
Do you ever stop to think about that? God sees what others don’t see. He sees the things you do that no one else sees. He sees your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your motives.
And He cares about all those things.
So back to our question: does God reward us for good deeds?
Jesus didn’t say the Father wouldn’t rewards us–only that if we do our good deeds, our “acts of righteousness”, to be seen only by others, then that’s all the reward we’ll get.
It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll receive a reward. It’s simply a matter of who is doing the rewarding. The audience we’re seeking to please and be noticed by matters.
Jesus goes on in Matthew 6 to talk about several “acts of righteousness.” Giving to the needy, praying and fasting. Each time, He tells us to be careful that we don’t do those things to be noticed by others. If we do, the attention from others will be the only reward we’ll get.
If, however, we do those things in secret, with an audience of One in mind, then Jesus very clearly says that God will reward us. How will He reward us? Jesus doesn’t say. He just says we’ll be rewarded.
This doesn’t mean that we should never do something good if others will see it. For example, if a friend (or a stranger) is in need and you give them some money–it doesn’t mean you won’t be rewarded. Remember, it’s a heart issue. Whose attention are you after?
Later in the chapter, Jesus tells us not to worry about our physical needs. He never says they’re not important, in fact, He tells us, “…your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
Your boss might not know you need more money. Your friends and neighbors might not know. And they might not even care. But God knows. And God cares.
God sees you. He sees your needs. And He cares.
Jesus doesn’t leave it at “do not worry” though. He tells us what to do.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
If you have placed your faith in Christ, then you have become God’s child. And He is now responsible for you. He promises to meet your needs. Of course, we have some responsibility in the matter as well. One of the primary ways God provides for us is through work. We work, we earn money, and we’re able to get what we need.
But don’t miss what Jesus said. We are to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. Rather than giving all of our energy to earning money and accumulating more stuff–Jesus says to put energy into seeking God and what’s on His heart. And He will provide for our physical needs. When we seek God and live responsibly, we don’t have to worry. We can trust God to provide.
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.”
God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. To be “earnest” means “a serious and intent mental state, a considerable or impressive degree or amount.”
Serious. Considerable. Impressive amount.
Does that describe your effort in seeking God? Would you time in prayer and in God’s word be described as an “impressive amount?”
Now before you start to think this all sounds very formulaic or legalistic–it’s not. Anything and everything we receive from God is by grace. My best efforts and behavior don’t put God in my debt. He doesn’t owe me anything. Ever.
And yet, God rewards those who seek Him. Galatians 6:7 says, “A man reaps what he sows.”
It’s just the way God set up the universe to work. Sow corn, reap corn. Sow wheat, reap wheat. Sow time seeking God, reap God’s reward. Do you think God did it that way because He wants us to seek Him? Do you think maybe He likes it when we give serious effort to it?
The same system is in place when it comes to giving. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Now some people will say we shouldn’t give to get. And what I would say is that we shouldn’t give just to get. But there’s nothing wrong with giving and expecting God to give back to me. Why? Because He said He would. Why would I not expect God to do what He said he would do?
So does God give rewards?
He rewards us for things done in secret with right motives.
He rewards us for seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.
He rewards us for seeking Him with serious effort.
He rewards us by giving back to us when we give.
The question really isn’t, “Does God give rewards?” He does. That’s clear.
The real question is, “Who do you want to receive your reward from and how much do you want to receive?”
When we do good things just to be noticed by others–that’s all the reward we get. And that’s not much, is it?
But if we remember that God sees what’s done in secret. He sees the kind deeds, the silent prayers, the sacrificial giving. Then we will reap a reward from our heavenly Father.
And it’s not even worth trying to speculate on all the ways God might reward you. Let Him be infinitely powerful and creative. Let Him surprise you. Just trust that He knows what you need and what is best for you at all times.
Choose to seek Him today. Do something kind for someone. Give a gift to someone. Pray for someone who needs God’s help.
Do it for an audience of One.
Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, Relationships, seeking God, trials | No Comments »
Has that ever been your prayer? Or have you ever at least wondered?
You might be in the midst of a second round of chemo, like my friend Jeff.
Or like one young man I heard about today…in less than a year–your dad dies, your mom dies and then the day before you leave for boot camp–your girlfriend breaks up with you.
Or despite doing everything you know to do, your marriage continues to get worse. Or your child continues to rebel. Or your boss is still a jerk.
Or your finances keep getting worse. Just when it seems like you’re about to get ahead, you get hit with an unexpected bill.
God, have You forgotten me? Can You not see what I’m going through here?
Where are You, God? And why aren’t You helping?
When circumstances are bad and they don’t seem to be improving and God isn’t saying much…it’s easy to lose hope, to wonder where He is and what He’s up to. It’s easy to doubt His love for us. It’s easy to doubt if He’s even good.
I’ve been there. I’ve doubted. I’ve wondered. I’ve been angry. I’ve been discouraged.
And I’ve lost hope.
Have you? Are you there now?
I wonder if Noah could relate.
Noah was a righteous man living among a lot of evil. He was trying to do the right thing and honor God when those around him weren’t.
And God saw. He knew what was going on. Check out the story in Genesis 6.
So Noah does what God says and builds an ark. And God does what He says He’ll do and He sends a flood, which Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives ride out in the ark. Along with a bunch of animals. Read that part of the story in Genesis 7-8.
The flood began “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month…” And in the coming days, every creature that lived on dry ground is completely wiped out except for Noah, his family and the animals on the ark.
And “the waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”
It rained for forty days and nights, but the earth was totally flooded for five months before God sends a wind so that the waters will begin to recede.
I grew up near the ocean, but I can’t remember ever being so far out on a boat that I couldn’t see the shore. I’ve also never been on a cruise. Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve been out at sea and couldn’t see land.
Of course, a cruise ship and Noah’s ark couldn’t be more different. Noah’s boat was built to ensure the human race would survive a world-wide flood. It held a total of eight human beings, a whole bunch of animals and enough food to last until the flood was over. No staterooms. No dining rooms and endless buffets. No deck chairs. No casinos. No shore excursions.
Just Noah, his family and the animals. Alone on the earth. Surrounded by nothing but water. For five months. And we have no record of God communicating with them during that time. Nothing. Not one word.
The first word of chapter 8 is one of my absolute favorites in the Bible: But.
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”
A couple verses later, it says, “The water receded steadily from the earth.”
After five months, the waters are finally beginning to recede. And “the waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.”
Seven and a half months after the flood began, the tops of the mountains are now visible. Moses waits another forty days and sends out a raven and a dove. The raven kept flying back and forth. The dove looks for dry ground, but can’t find it so it returns to Noah. After a week passes, Noah sends the dove out again. This time the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak, so Noah knew the water was receding.
After another week, Noah sends the dove out again. This time it doesn’t return.
“By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.”
In Noah’s six hundredth and first year on the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. He and his family had been on the ark for one year, one month and ten days.
As I read this story today, here’s what jumped out at me…
The waters receded slowly.
Once the rain stopped, God didn’t zap away all the water. He sent a wind. That’s it. No zapping. No wand-waving. No miracles.
Just a wind. And then a lot of waiting.
Oh, and remembering. God always remembered Noah and his family and the animals.
He never forgot them.
Just like He never forgets you.
Maybe you’ve been enduring a 13-month trial of your own. Or maybe a 23-month trial. Or 33 months. Or longer.
God hasn’t forgotten though. There might still be a miracle coming, but there might just be a slow-receding.
Little by little the waters of difficulties and pain and confusion are receding. It might feel so slow that you don’t even notice. You will though. One day, you’ll notice the dove will return with an olive leaf. And not long after, the dove won’t return at all.
The waters will have receded. You’ll see dry ground again.
Until then, remember that God remembers. He never, ever forgets you.
Posted: December 1st, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: believe, believing God, faith, fear, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, trials | 4 Comments »
Does He? Does God treat everyone the same?
He loves everyone. He gives grace to everyone. But does He treat everyone alike?
The answer is “no.” God treats us differently.
If you read John 11, you’ll see that Mary and Martha each said the same thing to Jesus, but His response to them was very different. And think about how differently Jesus spoke to the Pharisees as opposed to the woman caught in adultery.
And then in Luke 1, we read about a couple of encounters with the angel, Gabriel. First, Gabriel shows up in the temple when Zechariah the priest is burning incense. Gabriel tells him his prayers have been heard and that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to a baby.
Because she is an old woman at this point and has never been able to conceive, Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
That’s a reasonable question, right? You’re an old man and you’re married to a wife who is “well along in years.” You’d want to know how this was going to happen, how you could be sure. After all, you wouldn’t want to run outside and start telling everyone without having some assurance. How many times over the years had Elizabeth gotten her hopes up only to be disappointed again? There’s no way you’d want to do that to her.
Gabriel responds by saying, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
Zechariah gives him some assurance, but there were consequences to his unbelief.
And then there’s Mary (not the sister of Martha, but the mother of Jesus). Gabriel comes and speaks to her as well. He tells her that even though she’s a virgin, she’s going to have a baby. Quite naturally, Mary wants to know how this is going to happen.
So Gabriel responds, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
That’s interesting to me. Zechariah asks a question and he can’t speak. Mary asks a question and Gabriel explains things to her. Why does God treat them differently?
Could it be that more was required of Zechariah?
He was a priest. Presumably, he had walked with and served God for many years. Mary, on the other hand, was a teenage virgin with a heart for God.
When Gabriel responds to Zechariah’s question, he begins with, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…”
Standing in God’s presence. That’s powerful enough, but isn’t that also what a priest does when he ministers? Zechariah was in the temple burning incense in God’s presence.
I don’t want to read too much into this, but I can’t help thinking the bar was set higher for Zechariah. He was a priest. He’d been trained. He had opportunities for learning and study that Mary didn’t have. He ministered in God’s presence.
How about you and me?
If you’re reading this post, it means you have a computer and internet access. That means you have the Bible, in just about any translation you prefer, right at your finger tips. It means you can click over to iTunes and listen to great podcasts from Bible teachers like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Charles Stanely, Tim Keller, etc.
To those who have been given much, much will be required.
We’re much more like Zechariah than we are Mary…and much will be required of us.