Good and Faithful Servant

In recent posts, I’ve been focused on the causes of doubt, be it doubt in God’s existence or His purpose for us. These are the doubts that come from our own lives, when we struggle with failure or frustrated desires. But God is everywhere, not just in our personal circumstances. We have to remember that, because another kind of doubt arises when we look beyond our own circumstances. This one is a serious challenge. What are we supposed to make of God’s purpose when a newborn baby starves to death? What plan could God have possibly had in that?

That’s a tough question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. If we wanted to end poverty, we could. There’s enough money in this world to end poverty forever. But it’s not going to happen, because sin is in the world. Selfishness will always keep that from happening.

Instead, I think about the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to help bring the redemptive love of Jesus to the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” That’s bringing the kingdom to earth.

I think God has a plan for how this is going to all work out. It’s a perfect plan. And there are so many ideas, so many talents, so many skills, so many different callings, and so many different passions among people that we are overflowing with opportunities to bring the kingdom. I don’t really know how much I can or cannot do. I won’t know unless I truly challenge myself, and I challenge myself more and more all the time. I am certain that I’m always going to try to do as much as I can. My biggest fear is that I’ll sit before the throne of God one day and He will say to me, “You gave me 90%. I needed one hundred.” I don’t want Him to say that. I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m not saying that I’m working for my own salvation, because that’s not what I’m doing. I don’t have to! By the blood of Jesus, I am saved. No, what I’m trying to do is be a light. I’m trying to be a city on a hill. I don’t want to be one of those cities that didn’t light up enough. I want to be as bright as I can possibly be. I want to make sure that I’m hearing God call me. I pray for understanding, and pray that I’m doing what I need to do. I pray without ceasing that I will hear and respond to Jesus when He calls.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Just Sit and Listen

Recently, I’ve been writing about doubt. Doubt is a normal part of the lives of the faithful, especially when we’re facing failure. Humans are “show me” types who need to see to believe, so it’s really easy for us to wonder if God is truly with us when things are going wrong (or threatening to). Our Biblical ancestors were “show me” types just like us. They doubted just like us, even though they were eye witnesses to God’s miracles, signs, and wonders! If they saw and doubted, it’s no wonder that we doubt! But spending time in the wonder of creation can comfort and reassure us. It satisfies our need to see God and be shown His goodness. The amazing complexity and beauty of creation clearly reminds us of God’s incomparable sovereignty.

Sometimes, though, we doubt God’s purpose. Sometimes, even when we believe that He exists, that He is with us, and that He is sovereign, we doubt. We doubt that He knows what He’s doing!

This kind of doubt is particularly painful, and it’s particularly hard to overcome. We doubt God’s purpose because we are always trying to control our own lives. How often have you asked, “Well, if I were God, this is what I would do. Why isn’t He doing it?”

It’s so hard to give up control. There have been so many times in my life when I wanted God to do what I wanted Him to do. Yet in every case, with hindsight I can say, “Well, now I know why He didn’t do that. How awesome that I didn’t have my way! Look at how well everything turned out. What would have happened if He’d given me my purpose and not His? Thank you, Daddy!” God sees it too. He says, “Yes, I know. I’m God, remember? You can trust me. My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. My way is better than your way. I created everything, remember? So I probably know what’s best!”

When we look back and see what God has done, we realize that we don’t have to control everything. We don’t even want to! It’s so much better to surrender control to God. He knows what’s best for you and He loves you so much. Be like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus. She just sat there and listened. It comes to a point where you have to do the same thing. You have to just sit and listen. Trust and obey. Lean back, and fall into the arms of God. Say, “okay,” and believe that it’s all going to work out.

Whether things go your way or not, you can trust God’s purpose. You can depend on Him because He loves you. So just sit at His feet. Tell Him, “Okay. I’ll go with you on this. I’ll believe in this.”

It is so empowering to listen to the Spirit and understand that He is everywhere, not just in our circumstances. We are so blessed! Hearing His word and seeing His goodness can deepen our understanding of His global presence. Listening to Him deepens our sense of His grace. It guides us to understand that we are so important to His plan for all of humanity. You are so important to His plan! What happens when you understand that?

It is wondrous and awe-inspiring to understand, but it comes with its own challenges. Maybe it’s even more challenging than overcoming doubt! More about this on Friday.

God Clearly Seen

The most common cause of doubt is frustrated expectations. People doubt God because things don’t go the way they planned or wanted. “If God loves me and knows my heart,” they reason, “He would give me what I need, or what I long for.”

A lot of these people are parents, and they probably don’t do that with their own children. I don’t do it with my sons. I love them and know their hearts, but there are things they want that I won’t give them. Sometimes, I have to disappoint them because I know what will happen if I give them what they want. They don’t see that, though. They just want what they want. They don’t know that I’m protecting them from a bad outcome.

Sometimes they get frustrated or mad at me, but they never doubt that I’m their dad. They can see me! I’m right in front on them! God’s children can’t always physically see Him. That’s why, when He doesn’t give us what we want, we sometimes doubt His existence. We don’t realize that He doesn’t give us what we want because He wants to protect us. Instead we say, “Where is God? Let me see God.”

Well, it’s been a while since God walked among us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see Him. We can see Him everywhere we look. Look at the Earth! Look at what’s around us. You know what will happen? You’ll find yourself saying, “There He is. There’s God.” You’ve just got to look at your chest moving in and out and say, “There’s something allowing me to breathe. There’s something that allows my brain to tell my lungs to suck in air and breathe out carbon dioxide. There’s God.”

You want to see evidence of God? Contemplate nature! This will help relieve your doubt. Just look at how a leaf is formed. Think of everything that must occur in order for a leaf to grow and develop. Science will show you that creation is very complex. You can’t just say that there was a Big Bang and then all of a sudden there was this incredibly complex creation. There had to be a Creator. There had to be something that developed this complex scenario and then set it in motion. Our bodies work in such complex ways. Our brains! We barely know anything about how the brain works.

There are so many things that can release doubt if we actually start thinking about them in a certain way. Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, too. Paul teaches us to look at the very nature of the Earth and know that there is a God. Just look at how the fish of the sea work. Look at how animals work. Look at how human beings relate. Look at how complex we are, and how our souls connect. Look at it all, and see what may be known of God.

Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…  (Romans 1:19-20)

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday.

See It to Believe It

Doubt was a big part of the experience of our Biblical ancestors.

Consider the Israelites. God rescued them from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea. “There must be a God!” the people said. “He parted the Red Sea!” Moses told them to have faith. He said, “God is going to give us the ability to cross this sea.” He smote the water with his staff, the waters parted, and the Israelites crossed safely to the other side. Having seen it, they believed. They said, “There must be a God!”

But then after forty years in the desert, wandering in circles, seeing the same thing over and over again, they doubted. They said, “Well, maybe He isn’t who we think He is.” And so they made a Golden Calf. They made the image of the God they wanted, because they doubted the God who is.

Think about all those people in the Bible, man, they saw God work miracles, signs and wonders, and still they doubted His very existence. They kept asking “Are you really Him?” Look at John the Baptist! This was the guy who prepared the way for Him and still, when he wound up in prison, he sent people to Jesus, saying, “Hey, ask Him! Ask Him if He’s really the guy.”

This is after John personally witnessed signs and wonders. He stood with Jesus in the Jordan River, and saw the dove come down from heaven. He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus as he baptized Him, and still he wondered, “Are you the guy?”

Faith takes trust, but we have to see something to believe it. We can’t help it. We’re physical beings. Suppose you tell me there’s a tree right in front of me. If I can’t see it, I won’t believe it’s there.

I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you don’t see air, but you trust that you’re breathing.” That’s not a good example. I can see my chest moving in and out. That’s how I know I’m breathing — I can see my body functioning!

Sometimes I suspect that the people with the least amount of doubt are blind people. They really have to trust. If someone tells a blind person there’s a tree in front them, they need to believe it. They have to believe it when they hear the beep that tells them that it’s okay to cross the street.

Jesus declared, “Let the blind see.” I think he said that because he wants everyone to see the sovereignty of God.

But can we? Is there physical evidence of His sovereignty that will satisfy us “show me” types? Sure there is. I’ll tell you next time. See you Friday.

Facing Failure

There is a kind of doubt that goes hand-in-hand with faith in God. We experience it when we’re facing failure. We know that we depend on God. We know that He is the great I Am. He is attuned to our needs, and has promised to be our fortress and our refuge. Yet when we’re facing failure, we’re not feeling very protected. We feel like we’re all alone. That’s when we have a tendency to think, “Well, God’s not here.”

We humans are “show me” types. We need to see evidence. So when bad things happen, we might think that He’s left us. This is painful, and in our pain we take it further. We think, “I have to get through this but He’s not here. So who do I depend on? I’m going to have to depend on myself. And if I have to depend on myself, then why depend on God in the first place? If He’s even real, that is. I mean, I can’t even see Him, and this bad thing is happening!” Sound familiar?

I’ve dealt with that. I dealt with it in baseball. Nothing’s a sure thing in that game. You don’t ever know. They say it’s a game of failure, but everything is based on success. I had to succeed for teams to want me to play, and to succeed, I had to depend on so many things. I had to depend on making the right pitches. I had to depend on the hitter to hit the ball to the defense. I had to depend on the defense to make the play. It was really tough when I wasn’t succeeding.

No matter what you do, in baseball or any other undertaking, you have to depend on so many things for it to go right. And when it doesn’t, you wonder about God.

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

That’s what the Bible says, but sometimes it’s so hard to deal with. We have a certain way that we want things to go. If things don’t go the way we want them to, then we wonder if God’s even there. When we’re struggling, or we feel out of control, or we are failing ourselves and others, we want to feel better. Even though we know that God sees the whole picture, it’s really hard to surrender to His wisdom.

Sometimes it’s just so hard to believe that things are going to turn out okay. Instead we start wondering, “Do I believe in a God who’s not there?” Or we ask, “If He’s real, then why is this happening? Where is He?” In our fear, we decide to take control. We decide to rely on ourselves. We quit leaning on Him. We quit believing in Him. We doubt Him.

We forget that He’s got us!

There’s no shame in this. When you read the Bible, you realize that you’re in very good company. Our Biblical ancestors had to deal with doubt all the time, and their stories have a lot to teach us. We’ll look at this next time. See you Tuesday.

Too Much Doubt

Is it possible to have 100% trust in the Almighty God? Absolutely! It’s not always easy. We humans are “show me” types. We like to see it before we believe it. That’s why the believer will always deal with some doubt.What’s amazing, though, is how much we create doubt. That’s not necessary! We have enough doubt as it is. We don’t need more!

There have always been situations where people create doubt, especially among the religious. This has been going on throughout history. As long as there have been people, there have been sorcerers, magicians, psychics, and even mediums that call upon the dead. These have all created doubt, because they make it hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.

Sometimes preachers create doubt, too. Look at the TV evangelists in the 80’s that stole money from people. They created doubts about all preachers. Now when we see preachers on television we wonder, do they even believe in what they’re preaching? Or are they just doing it for the money? Talk about creating doubt!

And then there’s the most common scenario of all, the one that occurs during those times when everything’s going really well for you. When things are going well it’s easy to feel good and confident, relaxed about life. We say something like, “God loves me. I’m so blessed!” Or we say, “God is so proud of me,” or, “You know what? God is shining on me today.” We feel great!

Then things change, and that’s when the doubt comes in. Things aren’t going all that well, and now we say, “Maybe there is no God. Because why would God allow this to happen?”

We tend to have this mentality about God, and it creates doubt. We believe in God when things are good, and then we doubt God when things are tough. We actually create our own doubt!

I think God looks at this and asks, “You’re not really looking at me as sovereign, are you? You’re just trying to make me what you want me to be. You’re trying to contain me in a box. And do you know what that is? That’s making idols, and you can’t do that.”

I think this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1. He’s saying that because we did that, God gave us over to the lusts of our flesh. God said, “There’s going to be chaos, because you’re looking at me, but you don’t see me as sovereign of all creation. Instead, you’re saying, ‘Well, God is only real if things are going good, because God wouldn’t let bad things happen.'”

We’re creating doubt with our own mistaken thoughts. God doesn’t “let” bad things happen. If that surprises you, then good! Next week, we’ll take a look at Biblical history. The Bible has a lot to say about doubt. But first, we’ll take a look at the connection between faith and doubt. See you Friday.

Laws and Tithes

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

If you live a Spirit-led life, you will naturally do the right thing. You won’t have to live by the law. You won’t have to live by dos and don’ts. You’ll never say, “I won’t steal, because the Ten Commandments tell me not to.” Instead, the Spirit of God, living in you, is going to speak to you and say, “Don’t steal, because that is not right. Not in a pure life with me.” You will love the feeling of fulfillment that comes with that.

This is one of the foremost themes in Paul’s epistles. His letters are genius! In both Romans and Galatians, he tells the churches, “If you’re going to live by the law, you need to obey the law. Good luck with that!”

It’s impossible to live by the law. I’ll give you an example. The law says, “Do not covet.” Well, it’s hard to avoid checking out your neighbor’s shiny red sports car. Right? Now if you think that’s hard, try to avoid even thinking about looking at it! That’s what it takes to live by the law.

To live by the law is to live in condemnation. It’s a miserable place to be. Why not live in grace instead?

Paul says that those who live in grace will have freedom. Those who live in grace just take what’s dealt, and they deal with it. They don’t have to live in a world boxed up by rules, a world where bad things happen when the rules get broken.

Tithing is a great example. If you give because you have to, it feels like a burden. It’s not going to feel good. In the life of grace, there is no rule about tithing. You don’t even see the word “tithe” in the New Testament. That’s because in the new covenant, there is no such thing as tithing.

In the Spirit-led life of grace, the Spirit says to be a cheerful giver, and you know what? You’ll feel it. You’ll want to tithe. You’ll want to give. You’ll want to support missions and projects. You’ll want to support your church, and help people in the ministry. You’ll want to help people in poverty.

You’ll be led by the Spirit into a Spirit-led life, and you will be so free! The righteous life will be inside of you, the Spirit at work. It’s so good to love your neighbor when you are led into it by the Spirit’s love. Let Him lead you into freedom!