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.
Would you say you’re following Jesus or you’re kind of hoping Jesus will follow you?
In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In Jesus, we find our way. We find the truth. We find life. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re looking elsewhere. Rather than wholeheartedly following Jesus, it’s like we’re trying to take him along with us.
I think His disciples tried that too. Mark 4:35-36 says: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Jesus and His disciples are on one side of the lake and Jesus wants to cross over to the other side. But do you notice anything strange in those two verses?
I’ve always thought it was interesting Jesus is the one who has the idea to go to the other side of the lake, but it says the disciples “took him along.” Maybe it’s because some of them were experienced fishermen and Jesus was just a carpenter. Sure, they thought, Jesus might be able to build a boat, but He doesn’t know anything about sailing one. So as they all climb into the boat, they think they’re taking him along with them. Not the other way around.
I wonder how often I live like that. Do I simply go about life and expect Jesus to tag along?
Well, it doesn’t take very long for things to go wrong. Verses 37 and 38 say: A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Isn’t it interesting the fishermen are now freaking out? And the one they were taking along is now taking a nap.
In a panic, they wake Jesus up and ask the question we’ve probably asked ourselves, “Don’t you care?” When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, isn’t that what we want to know? “God, do you care about me?” I’ve wondered. I’ve asked.
We find our answer in the next two verses:
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Can you picture it? One moment there’s a furious storm. Dark clouds. High winds. Waves are breaking over the boat. Death seems certain.
And then in the next instant everything is calm. No wind. No waves. Just the disciples…and Jesus…floating on a calm sea. Can you see Him looking out across the water from the stern of the boat and then turning to the twelve men with Him and asking, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What storm are you facing? Maybe it’s a financial storm. Or a health storm. Or a marriage storm. Or something else. Are you wondering if God cares? If He’s able or willing to help?
Do you think maybe we’re most afraid when we think we’re the ones taking Jesus along with us? Would we be less afraid, less panicky if we were the ones doing the following?
To follow Jesus, I have to believe Him. I have to trust that He has my best in mind. I have to be confident in His love and care and concern for me. But if I don’t really know Him, then I can’t really trust Him and what I’ll do is live my life as if He’s tagging along with me.
Did you catch what Phil Robertson begins to say at the 3:49 mark? “If you’re not a believer and you don’t believe God exists at all then the only hope you have is that He not be there. That’s your hope. Maybe He’s not there. What we’re saying is, ‘We trust that He is.’”
If you do believe in God, then you really have one of two directions you can go. First, you can try your best to appease Him and hope your best is enough. Up until the age of 19, that was my plan. I believed the key that would unlock heaven’s door was my good behavior. Of course the all-important question is: How good do you have to be?
I distinctly remember thinking as a teenager that because I hadn’t killed anyone I was qualified to get into heaven. I guess I thought it was okay to lie, steal, cheat, treat people unkindly, ignore those in need and have very little room in my life for God, but as long as I wasn’t guilty of murder–I was fine. My view was that heaven was our default destination and you really had to screw up big (like commit murder) to not make it in.
The problem with this view is obviously found in the definition of “good.” If it’s true that God created me and He created heaven, then what would lead me to think that my definition of good is the right one, that I get to determine the entrance requirements for heaven? Stop and think about it for a minute. It’s a really arrogant perspective.
If you’re trusting in your good behavior to get into heaven, let me encourage you to first find out what your god requires. And then get hard at work following his commands. And hope you don’t slip up. Hope you don’t somehow commit an offense he’s not willing to forgive. Sadly, I think you’ll find you can never quite shake that feeling that maybe you haven’t done enough. And that should motivate you to keep trying harder. As far as ever experiencing genuine, lasting joy or peace–forget it. How could you never knowing if eternal bliss or eternal punishment awaits?
So you can choose to believe God does not exist and then hope you’ve guessed right. Or if you do believe God exists, you can try to be as good as possible as defined by whatever god you’re believing in. Remember, you don’t decide what’s good or bad. He does. If this is your belief system, then your only hope is that you do enough good to outweigh your bad. Good luck with that.
The other option is to believe in the God Phil Roberston spoke of, a God who created us to live in friendship with Him. But because the human race has rebelled, we stand guilty before Him with no hope of ever being good enough to earn forgiveness. So a loving and moral God took on flesh and bore our punishment on the cross. Jesus died in our place and offers us the gift of forgiveness.
But a gift must be received. Have you received the gift of Christ’s forgiveness?
If this whole thing about Jesus seems like a fairy tale to you, then you’re back to either one of the first two options. You can hope God isn’t there or you can hope you’re good enough to appease Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
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.
Are you at the point where you can’t see any way out? No way that things can get better?
Your spouse wants a divorce. Your company is laying people off. Your child is a drug addict. Your husband is addicted to porn. Your loved one was diagnosed with cancer.
Maybe you’ve been struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Maybe circumstances are pretty good, but you can’t get free from the anxiety and worry.
How desperate is your situation?
And what are you going to do? Who are you going to turn to?
For the past few days, I’ve been reading in the book of Acts. It’s the Acts of the Apostles, but the book should really be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. He did everything. The apostles were just instruments in His hands.
He told people where to go. He told them what to do and say. He revealed truth. He filled people with power.
He gave them the ability to speak other languages. He gave them power to heal and raise the dead.
Wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit showed up–things changed.
Have you lost hope? Is your situation desperate?
Read the book of Acts. Read John 14-16 where Jesus spoke extensively about the Holy Spirit and what He would do when He came. Cry out to God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Give Him total control of your life. Don’t hold anything back.
The Holy Spirit can do things you could never do. He can change your circumstances or He can change you. Either way, you win. He will not force Himself on you though. He will wait for you to invite Him to be in control. You can continue to do things in your own wisdom and strength or you can turn to Him for help.
Are you willing to abandon yourself to the Holy Spirit?
My wife and daughter, along with four other Young Life leaders from Northwest Arkansas, are leaving on Wednesday (5/16) for a mission trip to Macedonia. Can I ask you to pray for the Holy Spirit to use them in a great way over the next week and a half?
You can follow the ministry of Young Life in Northwest Arkansas and the trip to Macedonia on their new blog.
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, it’s a beautiful spring day. Sunny, but not too hot. Nice breeze. My son is out of school today and is currently taking a nap in his hammock in the backyard. If it weren’t for the pollen, it would be perfect.
It’s a day like today that gives us a little glimpse of heaven. And when I say “heaven”, I mean the new earth. Revelation 21:1-5 says:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Heaven is not some spiritual dimension in which we’ll float around forever as disembodied spirits. If that’s been your view, then you probably haven’t been very excited about spending an eternity there. Maybe you’ve felt the tension I used to feel. You know you should desire to be in heaven, but if you’re honest–you’re a lot more attracted to a beautiful spring day on earth.
Well, the good news is that heaven will be much like the beautiful spring day…only without sin, pain or death. The first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation give us a picture of what God intended. We’ll have bodies. We’ll recognize each other. We’ll eat and drink. We’ll work (and enjoy it!). We’ll live in friendship with others. We’ll worship. And God will be there with us. I believe heaven will be far better than we can imagine, but it will not be unfamiliar to us.
But we’re not there yet, are we?
My friend Jeff had another surgery this week to remove a tumor from his liver. He’s been battling liver and colon cancer for over a year. My son-in-law is a United States Marine and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. He would confirm it’s not heaven. He’s in a war.
This is not peace time. Not in Afghanistan. And not where you live either.
We are in a spiritual fight for our lives. The battles may often be unseen, but they are no less real.
Yesterday, a very close friend of mine was attacked. It was a spiritual attack. It was powerful. It was well-coordinated and well-timed. And it was pure evil.
Heaven is real. It will exceed our wildest expectations. And for now, we get glimpses of it. But let’s not forget we’re in a war. A real one. With deadly, eternal consequences. It’s not being fought in the mountains of Afghanistan. It’s being fought in our minds.
Satan and the demons that fight with him are liars. They are deceivers. They are tempters. Their goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). One of their most effective strategies is whispering lies to us. Lies about God. Lies about ourselves. Lies about this life.
If we listen to a lie long enough–we begin to believe it’s true. We begin to repeat it to ourselves. Our emotions line up with it. So does our behavior.
Are you battling an addiction? A destructive behavior? A bad habit you can’t break?
Do you often feel anxious? Or angry? Or discouraged? Or worried?
Then you’re believing a lie. And the only defense is to know the truth and act on it. There’s no other way.
1 John 5:19 tells us that “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” You and I live in enemy territory. One day, God will banish Satan and his demonic army to hell, but that hasn’t happened yet. Today, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
You and I are called to submit ourselves to God, stop living according to the world’s ways and be transformed as our minds are renewed (Romans 12:1-2). We become more like Christ when we begin to think and act like He does. That makes us useful in God’s hands in advancing His kingdom on earth.
It’s easy to let sunny spring days, material things and physical pleasures numb us to the fact that there’s a war raging all around us. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy life. But it does mean we don’t forget we’re not really home yet. This isn’t heaven. There’s still a war to be fought.
I left out the first sentence in 1 Peter 5:8. It says, “Be self-controlled and alert.”
I love roller coasters. I love the anticipation of that big first drop. I love that feeling of being out of control. And I love the speed. Now I can love all those things because ultimately I trust the ride is safe. Even though it’s a tremendous thrill, I have confidence that I will make it through to the end of the ride.
My default mode or what I believe about roller coasters is: enjoy the ride because you’re going to make it out alive.
You and I also have a default mode for processing life. We have certain ways of responding to people, circumstances, difficulties, surprises, disappointments, etc. If we do nothing to change, we’ll most likely continue to respond the way we always have.
There’s a lot that goes into determining our default settings. Parents, friends, teachers and coaches had a part in setting them for us. So did the media we’ve been exposed to and the books we’ve read. Without consciously thinking about it–we’ve developed a default mode for how we process life and make our choices.
I’ve noticed something about my default mode that I really don’t like. When faced with bad news or even just the unknown, I worry, I fear the worst and I doubt God’s goodness. That’s my default mode. And it looks like it was the same mode the disciples struggled with.
Mark 4:35-41 says…
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Some of these guys were experienced fishermen so they’d experienced bad weather before, but this must have been a really bad storm. There’s no record of anyone saying, “Hey guys, calm down! It’s not that bad. We can ride this out.”
This was a bad storm and they thought they were about to drown. Now what would have changed everything for them, what would have helped reset their default mode, was knowing that the one who was in complete control and who cared for them was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat.
But they either doubted His power or His care because they wake Jesus up and ask Him a question we’ve probably all asked or at least wondered, “Don’t you care?”
It seems that our default mode, well, I won’t speak for you…it seems that my default mode is to question God’s goodness when circumstances are bad. I allow the severity of the situation to completely obscure the simple fact that God really does care for me.
Even when we don’t see Him doing anything, He is still good and He still cares. We will never escape His grasp. We will never be forgotten. We will never have to go it alone.
So Jesus got up and told the storm to be quiet and still. And it was.
What the disciples didn’t know was that their hearts and minds could have been quiet and still even in the midst of the furious storm. They didn’t have to wait for the storm to be quiet before they could be.
And that should really be my default mode when it comes to life. Sure, there will be tough times and painful circumstances and things I won’t understand, but because God is good and He cares and He’s in control, I can trust Him to see me safely through whatever ups and downs and twists and turns come my way.
Panic. Fear. Worry. Doubt. Discouragement. That’s my default mode. I wish I could say that resetting it is easy, but it’s not, at least it hasn’t been for me. Developing a new default mode requires ongoing effort and time in God’s word to believe the truth–that God is good, that God cares and God is in control.
Have you ever been feeling fine one minute and the next minute you feel anxious or worried or at least a little unsettled?
Does that happen to you? It does to me.
My feelings or mood can change in an instant without any apparent change in my circumstances. One moment I’m fine. The next moment I’m fed up with it all.
Peace gives way to worry.
Contentment turns to restlessness.
Joy fades and is replaced by gloom.
And this can all happen in just about the blink of an eye. But why? What can cause my feelings to change so quickly?
It’s my thoughts. My thoughts are what can change so quickly. And they have a wide-open, direct path to my feelings. Thoughts create feelings.
It’s easy to verify this. Just watch a scary movie. It’s late at night. The babysitter is alone in the house. She’s watching the news and learns a murderer has escaped from a nearby prison. Then the power goes out and she hears a noise. She quietly makes her way to the kitchen and discovers the door has blown open.
How are you feeling as you watch? Nervous? How would you feel if you were watching the movie while all alone…late at night…while babysitting? Anxious? Scared?
The movie is acting as a stimulus, which is producing a response of certain feelings in us.
Or is it?
The movie is the stimulus, but there’s a step in the process before we get to the feelings response. And that missing step is our thoughts about what we’re seeing on the screen.
As we watch, we begin to invest in the character. We wonder (think about) what will happen next? We start to anticipate the murderer showing up and breaking into the house. Our imagination (mind) starts to take over.
And those thoughts produce feelings of nervousness or fear.
Want your feelings to change? Just change your thoughts. Easier said than done, I know. But it is possible. It can be done. God wouldn’t give us a command like, “Do not be anxious about anything…” if it wasn’t somehow possible to obey it.
That passage in Philippians 4 goes on to say, “…but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” How do we deal with anxious feelings? We pray. We offer God our thanksgiving. We present our requests to Him. In other words, we believe God, know that what He says is true and then take action.
And then Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Read the rest of the passage to see what else Paul says about thinking.
We can’t change our feelings unless we change our thoughts. And changing our thoughts isn’t very easy unless we also change our actions. And changing our actions will almost always require faith. We must believe God.
So how might this play out in marriage? Maybe for a husband who says, “I’ve fallen out of love with my wife. The spark is gone.”
What would you tell him?
Some people would suggest counseling. And that may be very helpful.
Some would jump to getting a divorce. You’re not happy? Get out. Get on with your life.
But what if the feelings are just a symptom? What if the real problem is a wrong thought? And what if the way to begin correcting the wrong thought is to believe God and start taking action by faith?
Ephesians 5:33 says, “…each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself…”
Do you think God is telling husbands to feel something? “Alright you guys, start feeling warm, affectionate feelings toward your wives!”
That wouldn’t really work, would it? Even if that’s what it meant, we’d still have to change our thoughts. If I told you to feel sad, you’d have to think sad thoughts. The same goes for feeling angry or scared or anxious. Again, thoughts produce feelings. So what needs to change is our thoughts. And those will change as we believe God and start to act in line with His word.
So what about the husband (or wife) who has fallen out of love?
If he’ll listen, he needs to know that he can fall back into love by starting to love his wife. Love is a verb. You do loving things and the feelings will follow along. Maybe not immediately, but they’ll come.
He can begin to serve her and sacrifice for her. He can put her needs before his own. He can engage her in conversation. He can take the initiative to meet her needs in the bedroom. He can cook dinner and clean the kitchen. He can prepare a hot bath for her while he helps the kids with their homework.
Will he feel like doing those things? Not at first. But we’re not talking about what we feel like doing.
We’re talking about the verb, love. And verbs are action words. Run. Kick. Laugh. Climb. Tickle. Love. All actions.
Believe God and walk by faith. Begin to love and think differently. Change your thoughts. Stop thinking love is just a feeling that you’ve “fallen out of.” You didn’t fall out of love. You thought your way out and you can think and act your way back in.
Is this easy? No. It’s going to be hard, because we’re so used to listening to our feelings and assuming they are our guiding light. But they’re not. Our thoughts are.
I know this is much harder if your spouse isn’t interested in the marriage any longer or is not willing to even try to make things work. Our responsibilities and actions are never dependent on someone else though.
We are to walk by faith, do what we know to do and trust God for the results.
Waiting is one of the hardest aspects of walking with God. And since God never seems to be in a hurry, waiting is something we should not only get used to, but learn to embrace.
I won’t suggest I enjoy waiting. I don’t. But I do know it can be a rich, productive season, whether it lasts a day, a year or 40 years, like it did for Moses.
I have a friend who will undergo tests today in Houston to see if he is still cancer free. He had major surgery earlier this year to remove cancerous areas from his colon and liver. He’ll learn the results of the tests on Wednesday. Tonight and tomorrow will be a season of waiting. Two nights might not seem like a long time, but try waiting that long to find out if your cancer has returned.
Maybe you’ve also waited for test results. Or the return phone call after an interview. Or maybe you’ve waited for a spouse or a baby. I have two daughters who are married to men in the military. Each have had to wait for their husbands to return home.
It could be that you’re in a set of circumstances you’d rather not be in. You’re unemployed. You’re in a financial mess. Your marriage is falling apart. Your child continues to live in rebellion. Or you’re sick and the doctor can’t figure it out.
And you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. And you’ve waited. And waited. And waited.
And you’ve wondered where God is and what He’s doing.
I’ve been there. It’s frustrating. It’s discouraging. It’s confusing.
Or, if we let it, the waiting can be a time of growth and greater intimacy with God. It can be a season that prepares us for what’s to come. Greater responsibility? Greater fruitfulness? Greater influence? Only God knows.
In Acts 7, Stephen is speaking before the Sanhedrin (a Jewish court):
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.
When Moses was 40 years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He thought they would see him as the one to rescue them from the Egyptians. And then he commits murder. He decided. He thought. He killed. God wasn’t in it.
Clearly, this was not God’s timing or God’s ways. And so Moses flees. For 40 years. Until it’s God’s timing for him to return to Egypt and do things God’s way.
Look what happens though when it is God’s timing. The very same Moses they rejected is later sent back to them as the one God would use to deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians. Moses had the right idea–his timing was just off.
During your season of waiting, God will continue to work. You may not always see it, but He will never stop working. He will be working to mature you, to give you wisdom, to teach you His ways and to prepare you for what’s to come. He will be at work in your circumstances and in the lives of others.
When you lose sight of God, remember this: no matter what is happening, God will always be at work so you will know Him better and trust Him more. He will always be working for your good and His glory.
Maybe you have a dream or a desire–something you really believe God has put on your heart. But nothing is happening. There’s no forward progress. No end in sight to your current circumstances. God doesn’t seem to be cooperating.
As hard as this will be, let me encourage you to relax. Seek God with all your heart. Trust Him. Do everything He commands. And wait patiently.
Gregg Stutts - Gregg is a pastor at The Church at Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is married to Robyn, the Young Life director in Northwest Arkansas. They have four children: Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. Gregg has authored two books and often teaches on marriage.