“The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth” + LINKUP

 

I’ve noticed that most people either find prayer a natural part of their Christian life or thoroughly enjoy studying the Bible. But rarely, have I met someone who says both come easily and naturally to them. Yet, it’s the two of them working together that are God’s essential means of Christian growth.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival

 

The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth

 

Bible study comes pretty easy for me. I love reading my Bible. That doesn’t mean I do it perfectly or haven’t had to discipline myself to make it a part of my daily life, but once I acquired that habit, my hunger for God’s Word grew. And now I can’t see my life without reading and studying God’s Word.

I, also, know that prayer is important. I teach others that prayer is a necessary part of our Christian life. And I pray. Or maybe I should say, I work at praying.

I have a prayer list and verses of Scripture I like to pray for my husband, myself, and those I love. I pray as part of my journaling (the most effective way for me). I’m not afraid to pray in restaurants and other public places. I pray alone. I pray with others.

want prayer to be like breathing for me. But the truth is, it’s more like work.

What comes easier for you? Is it prayer? Or is it reading and studying your Bible?

According to the great preacher D.L. Moody in his book Prevailing Prayer:

These two means of grace must be used in their right proportion. If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

When it comes to prayer, I’ve read many books and heard more than a few sermons. I always go away more motivated and, often, excited about something new I want to incorporate into my prayer life. Other times the message is a reminder of something I know to be true. But, honestly, I find I still have to discipline myself to pray.

 

Why Pray?

 

Jesus said that prayer can move mountains (Mk. 11.23) and James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5.16b). James went on to say:

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Hannah prayed and God opened her womb (1 Sam. 1).

Elisha prayed and a boy was raised from the dead (2 Kings 4.32-37).

Sampson prayed and God answered, even after he failed miserably:

28 Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. 30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life (Judges 16.28-30).

Daniel prayed and God sent the Angel Gabriel. Cornelius prayed and God sent Peter to his home. Peter’s friends prayed and he was released from prison. Paul and Silas prayed and a jailer and his family were saved. Over and over again in the Bible we see God move in response to prayer.

Jesus prayed before He chose His twelve apostles, when faced with the demands of ministry, when a friend died, on the night He was betrayed, and just before He died for the sins of the world.

We’re taught to pray (Matt. 6.9-13), encouraged to pray (Lk. 18.1), and commanded to pray (1 Thess 5.17). Prayer is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. So, why is prayer so important?

Simply put, prayer is the best way for us to communicate with God. Reading His Word is listening to Him. Prayer is our response. Any relationship requires the give and take of both.

Prayer offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our need for God, to confess our sins and to thank Him for His many blessings. It helps us stay dependent on Him, instead of relying on ourselves.

God doesn’t need us to pray; He wants us to pray. He can perform His will with or without us, but He has given us the privilege of being part of what He’s doing in the earth.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder why I have so much trouble disciplining myself to pray, at times.

And what about Bible study?  Continue reading

“Step Where I Step” + LINKUP

 

Step Where I Step - I recently started attending a Bible study taught by a dear friend. During this week’s lesson, she told a story that I loved.

A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an “indoor girl,” agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, “just step where I step.”

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival

 

Step Where I Step

 

And that’s what she did, step by step. That “indoor girl” followed the young man she had grown to love and trust.

She made it. He proposed.

And later she said, even though it was challenging, it was so worth it! In fact, she said, it wasn’t as hard as it looked.

As my friend, Marie, was telling the story, I thought about the Christian walk. It, too, can be a challenging journey. It’s filled with steep ascents, unexpected turns, scary cliffs and falling rocks. It tests our stamina and our courage, at times.

But I wonder, do we make the journey harder than it needs to be, because of our failure to truly follow in the foot steps of our Savior?

 

Step Where I Step - A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an "indoor girl," agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, "just step where I step."


Follow Me

 

Just as surely as He did to those first twelve disciples, Jesus says to each of us, “follow me.” Just step where I step.

Too often, we’re walking in our own strength, trying to do what we should through self-effort and wondering why it’s so hard.

We end up exhausted, burned out, or frustrated, because the Christian life can’t be done in our own strength (Matt. 9.26).

This isn’t just a problem for new believers. In fact, as we grow in Christ we may be more prone to self-effort. After all, we know the drill. We speak the language. We know what we should say and do. We’re not as desperate for His help and guidance, not clinging to Him one step at a time. We’ve walk the path before and can easily think, “I’ve got this.”

God knows our tendency and out of His love for us will take us on new paths, steeper journeys than we thought possible, so we see our need for Him. When He does, we’re sometimes shocked at our responses.

We may respond with sinful anger that we thought we’d dealt with years ago or find ourselves tempted with another sinful habit.

In our heart of hearts, we sometimes think “after all I’ve done to serve You, Lord, why would You allow this?”

Why would my child rebel after I’ve raised her right?

Why would my business fail after I’ve tithed all these years?

Why would my spouse walk out?

How can I be struggling with this?

It’s not fair!

That’s when we must look to Jesus and the path he walked ahead of us. We need to step where He stepped … when He was betrayed, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested and crucified. We need to follow in His steps as He forgives those who reject and sin against Him today.

We need to forgive the unforgivable (Rom. 5.8; Eph. 4.31-32).

We need to love the unlovable (Matt. 5.43-48).

We need to submit to the harsh and unreasonable (1 Pet. 2.18-21, 3.1-2).

We need to bless those who revile us and do us wrong (1 Pet. 2.23).

We need to refuse revenge and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).

We need to release the prodigal to His love and consequences, yet stand ready to welcome him home (Lk. 15.11-24).

We need to refuse to be like the prodigal’s brother (Lk. 15.25-32).

We need to follow His steps as He loves and forgives us when we turn to other gods and commit spiritual adultery (Jas. 4.1-4).

 

Step Where I Step - We won't make it to the summit by hacking out our own path.


The Impossible

 

We’ll soon realize that we can’t do that in our own strength. We won’t make it to the summit by hacking out our own path.  Continue reading

“Harvey & Irma: Where Was God?” + LINKUP

 

Harvey & Irma: Where Was God? - Two weeks ago all eyes were riveted on the Texas coast and Hurricane Harvey. We watched as days of wind and rain pummeled the Gulf Coast, moving along Texas, camping out in Houston, and continuing into Louisiana. Now, while Texas and Louisiana begin to clean up and figure out how to rebuild, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida. She has already caused death and destruction in the Caribbean. And while we hovered between two catastrophic storms, there was an earthquake in Mexico that has left dozens dead. The question many ask is, "Where was God?"Two weeks ago all eyes were riveted on the Texas coast and Hurricane Harvey. We watched as days of wind and rain pummeled the Gulf Coast, moving along Texas, camping out in Houston, and continuing into Louisiana.

Now, while Texas and Louisiana begin to clean up and figure out how to rebuild, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida. She has already caused death and destruction in the Caribbean. And while we hovered between two catastrophic storms, there was an earthquake in Mexico that has left dozens dead.

The question many ask is, “Where was God?”

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Harvey & Irma: Where Was God?

 

As I write this, Irma hasn’t yet hit the U.S. mainland in full force, but weather forecasters are using words like: deadly, catastrophic, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, 15-foot storm surges, fierce, life threatening.

I have family in the Houston area and dear friends in Florida. I’ve prayed and so have thousands of others.  So it’s a legitimate question, “Where was God?” Where is He now, as millions prepare for the worst? And where was He in your calamity?

 

My husband addressed those questions this past Sunday in a sermon before his sermon. I want to encourage you to listen to what he had to say. It’s followed by his regular sermon from Jonah 4, “What You Need to Know that Jonah Missed?”

 

husband MikeWhere Is God in Calamity?

 

Blessings & prayers for all those in harm’s way,
Donna

 

Harvey & Irma: Where Was God? - Two weeks ago all eyes were riveted on the Texas coast and Hurricane Harvey. We watched as days of wind and rain pummeled the Gulf Coast, moving along Texas, camping out in Houston, and continuing into Louisiana. Now, while Texas and Louisiana begin to clean up and figure out how to rebuild, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida. She has already caused death and destruction in the Caribbean. And while we hovered between two catastrophic storms, there was an earthquake in Mexico that has left dozens dead. The question many ask is, "Where was God?"


This post may contain affiliate links, but I only recommend books and resources that I believe are theologically sound and beneficial to the reader. Thank you for supporting this blog and ministry by supporting my links!

 

Featured Resources:

 

Trusting God

Why is it easier to obey God than to trust Him?
Because obeying God makes sense to us. In most cases, His laws appear reasonable and wise, and even when we don’t want to obey them, we usually concede that they are good for us. But the circumstances we find ourselves in often defy explanation. Before long, we begin to doubt God’s concern for us or His control over our lives. We ask, “Why is God allowing this?” or “What have I done wrong?”

During such a time of adversity, Jerry Bridges began a thorough Bible study on the topic of God’s sovereignty. What he learned changed his life, and in Trusting God he shares the fruit of that study. As you explore the scope of God’s power over nations, nature, and even the details of your life, you’ll find yourself trusting Him more completely—even when life hurts.

When Life Is Hard

When life is hard, really hard, we often spend all our time pleading, begging, yelling, refusing, and questioning. While none of these things are necessarily unusual, they are missing the ultimate point. When life is hard, when things get ugly, when all hope seems to be lost… that is when we are able to display the superiority of the life lived in God.

It is in those moments of despair, when we question what is happening, when we don’t know what to do, when some trials never seem to end, that we can lean most heavily on God’s promises and truths.

Working his way through five questions we’ve all had run through our heads, trusted pastor James MacDonald helps us understand what we should do now. We begin the journey by looking at different types of “trials”, figuring out exactly what we’re dealing with, and recognizing that God certainly knows. Second, the obvious question: “Why?” God sees us going through trials and we long for two things: for them to be over and to know why they happened in the first place. Next, we need to know what to do with these trials when they come (and they will most certainly come). Fourth, we have all wondered it, can trials be refused? Are God’s purposes really being fulfilled in the midst of this trying time? And lastly, God reveals Himself to us through these trials. . . and sometimes, they just don’t ever end. Why doesn’t this trial go away?

God told us to expect trials—don’t be surprised when they come. Grow when they come. Find hope when they come.

It’s Not Fair!: Finding Hope When Times Are Tough

When people complain about their lot in life, thinking God is not treating them as he should, they need to read It’s Not Fair! This book comes alongside people right where they are and moves them to a place where they can finally rest in God’s attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, love, and justice through the use of sound biblical encouragement.



IF YOU ARE A BLOGGER, NOW IT’S TIME TO LINKUP!

IF NOT, CHECK OUT THE GREAT POSTS LINKED BELOW!

Christian bloggers linkup

Mondays @ Soul Survival is a place to share your insights about God and His Word, parenting, marriage, homemaking, organization and more. Feel free to link up multiple posts as long as they are family friendly. Remember this is a Christian site.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit someone else and get to know them and I would love it if you link back in some way and followed me on FaceBook, Twitter or Pinterest.



 

I sometimes LINKUP with these blogs.

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time (with printable) + LINKUP

 

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time - A quiet time, time with God, devotional time, prayer time ... all these phrases refer to something that we all seem to be striving to do better ... connect with God. I'm not here to lay down rules for having the perfect quiet time. For me at least, trying to make my time with God fit into some neat box has never worked. And honestly, I don't think God want us to find a "system." He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him.A quiet time, time with God, devotional time, prayer time … all these phrases refer to something that we all seem to be striving to do better … connect with God.

I’m not here to lay down rules for having the perfect quiet time. For me at least, trying to make my time with God fit into some neat box has never worked. And honestly, I don’t think God want us to find a “system.” He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time

 

So, if it’s not about a system or a checklist of things we should cover, what should our quiet time look like?

I think it will be different for each of us, different in the various seasons of our lives and different from day to day.

But there are some things that can help us, things that have blessed others down through the centuries. This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list, just some suggestions.

 

What Are Some Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time?

 

1. Make an appointment. 

If possible, have a regular time and place to pray and read your Bible.

“… discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4.7b).

We are creatures of habit. God created us that way. Half the battle of slowing down and connecting with God is reigning in our thoughts and focusing in spite of all the distractions around us.

The more we repeat the habit, especially in familiar surroundings, the easier it is to settle our hearts and minds.

 

2. Start by preparing your heart.

God is always looking at the heart so, even though, our best attempts to worship and pray will fall short, God honors those whose hearts at set on Him.

Jehoshaphat was a relatively good king. He made his share of mistakes for which God rebuked him, but God said this about him:

Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God (2 Chron. 19.3).

We prepare our hearts by confessing any known sin (1 Jn. 1.9) and by asking God to show us those things we don’t see (Ps. 139.23-24).

We might also pray passages like:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law (Ps. 119.18).

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way (Ps. 119.33-37).

 

3. Include worship music.

Find songs, hymns and artists that help you enter into the presence of God. Make up your own playlist. If you’re distracted by words, choose instrumentals. If you like old hymns, find those.

 

4. Use written prayers or acronyms.

For me it’s “The Lord’s Prayer.” You can use it as an outline, adding your own comments along with each verse. For more information check out my post, “An Outline for Prayer.”

Many people use the acronym “ACTS.” It stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Take time to express your adoration for God and His character. Confess your sins. Thank Him for His many blessings. Then begin to share your requests.

Written prayers like those of the Puritans can also be a great aid in our own prayers. One of my favorite books on the subject is The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.  It’s filled with powerful prayers that can express the doubts, fears, struggles, and concerns of us all.

 

5. Find a good Bible translation that’s readable for you.

My top three are the New American Standard (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV) and the New King James (NKJV). Many people like the New Living Translation (NLT), the New International Version (NIV) or the New Century Version (NCV).

A translation is preferable to a paraphrase. Translations are what the name implies, translations from the original languages.

Go to a Christian bookstore. Ask questions. Look at the Bibles on display and read a few passages before making a decision.

 

6. Study Bibles and commentaries.

While someone else’s interpretation of God’s Word shouldn’t be our sole source of spiritual sustenance, there are men and women who have devoted their lives to the study of the Scripture. We can benefit greatly from their work.

One of my go-to resources is the MacArthur Study Bible. It’s available in several translations and is packed with a lifetime of study.

Another of my favorite tools is Matthew Henry’s Commentary. It’s available free at StudyLight.org. StudyLight provides a number of commentaries and other resources on their site, as well. Another good one is BlueLetterBible.

 

7. A Bible reading plan.

All of God’s Word is valuable in our walk with Him.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17).

Too often our knowledge of the Bible is limited to a number of key passages.

It would take a little over 70 hours to read the entire Bible out loud at a pulpit rate. That breaks down to twelve minutes a day to read the Bible in a year. But whether you read it in a year, two years, or three. It’s important to read all of God’s Word for yourself.

 

8. Use Bible apps.

While I’m not advocating that you limit your Bible reading to one verse that shows up on your phone each day, Bible apps can make God’s Word readily accessible no matter where you are. Many have Bible reading, study and devotional plans available.

I’m not an expert on Bible apps. Perhaps some of you reading can make some recommendations.

 

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time - A quiet time, time with God, devotional time, prayer time ... all these phrases refer to something that we all seem to be striving to do better ... connect with God. I'm not here to lay down rules for having the perfect quiet time. For me at least, trying to make my time with God fit into some neat box has never worked. And honestly, I don't think God want us to find a "system." He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him.


9. Know the principles for sound Bible study and interpretation.

You might want to check out my post, 10 Principles for Effective Bible Study.

 

10. Ask good questions.

About the Bible:  Continue reading

Mondays @ Soul Survival LINKUP

Hello Everyone,

I’m feeling a bit under the weather this week-end. I can’t seem to put my thoughts together. My body just wants to sleep, so I think I need to listen.

But here’s the linkup.

Next week I’ll be talking about: “Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time.” Sign up for “Christian Living Posts” so you won’t miss it.

Blessings,
Donna


IF YOU ARE A BLOGGER, NOW IT’S TIME TO LINKUP!

IF NOT, CHECK OUT THE GREAT POSTS LINKED BELOW!

Christian bloggers linkup

Mondays @ Soul Survival is a place to share your insights about God and His Word, parenting, marriage, homemaking, organization and more. Feel free to link up multiple posts as long as they are family friendly. Remember this is a Christian site.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit someone else and get to know them and I would love it if you link back in some way and followed me on FaceBook, Twitter or Pinterest.



 

I sometimes LINKUP with these blogs.

This post may contain affiliate links, but I only recommend books and resources that I believe are theologically sound and beneficial to the reader. Thank you for supporting this blog and ministry by supporting my links!

7 Red Flags You’re Drifting in Your Relationship with Christ + LINKUP

 

7 Red Flags You're Drifting in Your Relationship with Christ - Most of us have, at times, drifted in our relationship with Christ. Maybe you're caught in that current right now. How can we know we're drifting before we go too far and suffer the consequences?Red flags in our Christian walk: Most of us have, at times, drifted in our relationship with Christ. Maybe you’re caught in that current right now. How can we know we’re drifting before we go too far and suffer the consequences?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

7 Red Flags You’re Drifting in Your Relationship with Christ

 

We’ve all experienced it. Drifting. Drifting away in your relationship with God.

At times, it feels good.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired. Tired of being the one perceived to be against everything. Feminism. Abortion. Living together. Tolerance.

Even though I know Galatians says, we’re not to get weary in doing good (Gal. 6.9), I get tired of feeling like I’m held to a higher standard. Other Christians get away with (fill in the blank). I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way at times.

 

Sometimes we’re busy. I mean BUSY. There’s marriage, kids, ministry … laundry.

We don’t mean to drift away. We’ll get to it tomorrow, our relationship with God that is. Because, right now, there are so many other things.

We’re Martha’s instead of Mary’s (Lk. 10.38-42).

 

Sometimes we’re disappointed. We prayed and prayed, but nothing happened. We thought life would straighten out because we accepted the Lord, started going to church, got more involved …

Even though Jesus warned us life wouldn’t always be easy (Jn. 16.33), life has been hard and it seems there’s no end in sight. It’s easy to forget he also told us He’d give us rest and cause our burdens to be light (Matt. 11.28-30).

 

Sometimes drifting kind of sneaks up on us. It’s OK to miss church just this once. I’ll read my Bible tomorrow. My co-workers will think I’m too religious if I pray over my lunch. It’s just one improper movie, night out with the girls, or racy novel.

 

So, how can we know our relationship with God isn’t what it should be?

 

7 Red Flags You’re Drifting

 

1. You no longer read your Bible regularly.

You no longer have a hunger for God’s Word. If you do read your Bible, it’s just one more thing on your to-do list. It’s not about spending time in His presence.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Ps. 34.8).

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day (Ps. 119.97).

 

2. You’re not praying.

I’ll pray tomorrow, in the car, or when I get a chance. But it doesn’t happen.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up (Lk. 18.1 NLT).

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5.17-18).

 

3. You’re missing church. 

You look for any excuse. Or you go because it’s expected, but your heart’s not in it.

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10.24-25).

 

4. You don’t miss His people.

You’ve had it with other Christians. They’re all hypocrites and you’d rather be around unbelievers.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13.34-35).

 

5. You’re doing things you once thought you were done with.

Unwholesome words are slipping in. You go places you shouldn’t. You justify things God told you to leave alone.

22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4.22-24).

 

6. The fruit of the Spirit is sadly lacking.

You lose your temper with the kids. You’re impatient with your husband. You’re unkind to those you consider inept or who mess up your plans. Self-control is out the window.

Consequently, you have no peace or joy. Frustration, anger and bitterness have replaced them.

 

7. You’re all about your rights.

You’re sick of being a doormat. You’re tired of putting what everyone else wants ahead of what you want.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil. 2.3-4).

 

I’ve found myself here a time or two or three …

What should we do if we’ve drifted from God?   Continue reading

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically 2: Coming Forth as Gold + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials: Coming Forth as Gold - It's been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link. You’ll find them all there.

Last week we talked about how God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. We looked at biblical and unbiblical perspectives on tests and trials and God’s purposes in them. I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you haven’t, especially, if you’re going through a challenging time.

Today we’ll talk about our responses to tests and trials, how we can please Him during those difficult times, how we become like Christ as a result, and the resources God has given us.

 

Coming Forth as Gold

 

Nothing exposes our hearts as much as trials do. When trouble hits us, it’s easy to see the areas where we’re not fully committed to and trusting in God. But God doesn’t allow tests and trials to trip us up or so He can point His finger at us. God allows, even designs, trials to strengthen and purify us. Job said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

But, as I pointed out last week, we sometimes have unbiblical perspectives regarding trials and suffering. We can believe:

  1. That they’re always our fault.
  2. That they’re always the other person’s fault. We can have a “victim” mentality.
  3. That they’re no one’s fault. This is divine fatalism.
  4. That they’re God’s fault. He causes everything, even sin.
  5. Or the Deistic view—that God isn’t involved in it at all. This is the belief that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

Then we looked at some biblical perspectives on trials and suffering:

  1. That they’re ultimately the result of the Adam’s fall (Gen 3).
  2. That God is the remote cause. In other words, He allows them, but He’s never the cause of our sin.
  3. That God is sovereign and He works all things according to His plan and purpose, including trials and suffering.
  4. That they’re always for God’s glory and our eternal good, even though God may temporarily set aside our happiness to accomplish something greater.

So, since God has allowed whatever we’re experiencing and it’s for our good, how should we respond?

 

Responding to Tests & Trials

 

It’s important to understand that we’re accountable for our responses no matter how we feel. We’re to respond in ways that please God. That should be our goal in life no matter what our circumstances.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5.9-10).

While it may be easy to justify wrong responses, God gives us the grace  to respond rightly.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10.13).

We shouldn’t pray to just “hang in there” or somehow get through trials and suffering. We should ask God to help us grow in the midst of the difficulty and to become more like Christ (Rom 8.28-29; Jas 1.2-4).

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas 1.2-4).

While we may not always rejoice in the suffering itself, we can rejoice in the fact that a sovereign God can work through the trial.

Most of us can look back and see how God has used other trials for our good and how we’ve grown in our faith and trust in Him, not in spite of trials, but because of them.

So, what are some of the specific reasons God allows trials and sufferings?

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold -


Some of the “Why’s”

 

While we need to be careful of demanding to know “why,” there are some why’s God has revealed in His Word.

  1. Because of unconfessed sin (1 Cor. 11.30; 2 Kings 5.15-27).

In talking about the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul said:

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The Lord’s supper is a time to remember what Christ did and a reminder of the importance of examining ourselves, but self-examination is something we should do on a regular basis.

Because the people had failed to do so and to confess and forsake sin, many were sick, some had died, and some were “weak.”  That word weak means, “having a propensity for sickness.” We might say “sickly.”

Of course, we need to use caution when viewing the suffering of others. We can’t assume they are guilty of sin. That was the problem with Job’s counselorsContinue reading

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: the Divine Squeeze + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’ll look at tests and trials.

 

The Divine Squeeze

 

It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.

But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!

That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.

Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.

My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient.  My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”

Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.

But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).

 

Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them.  Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:

 

It’s always my fault.

Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.

If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).

The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).

Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.

 

It’s always someone else’s fault.

Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.

 

It’s no one’s fault.

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.

We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.

 

A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.

This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

 

So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?

 

10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: 10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

1. We all experience trials and sufferings.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).

 

2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.

I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).

 

3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.

He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.

 

4. God is never the author of sin.

Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).

Continue reading

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2 + LINKUP

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2Today we’re going to continue to talk about guilt, what it is, and why we experience it? We’ll look at how the world views it and the biblical perspective on it. Finally, we’ll talk about what God has to say about handling guilt biblically?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In previous posts we covered anger, depression, fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Last week we looked in depth at Psalm 38 which was written by David as he struggled with guilt and depression.

Today we’ll look at how guilt and shame are tied to other negative emotions like fear and shame. We’ll also see how the culture has tried to remove all restrictions, including God’s law, to alleviate feelings of guilt, instead of dealing with the root issues. Then we’ll look at what guilt is biblically and how God says to deal with it.

 

An Unholy Trio: Guilt, Fear & Shame

 

A few weeks ago we looked at the first time fear showed up in the Bible. Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and eaten the fruit they had been forbidden to eat. When their eyes were opened and they realized what they had done, Genesis 3 says:

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

That fear was triggered by guilt and shame. Their response was to hide and when confronted to shift the blame to someone else:

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Since that day in the garden, human beings have perfected the art of blame-shifting and tried to cover our guilt with all kinds of fig leaves. We’ve blamed our parents, our economic situations, society, cultural demands, and religion just to name a few.

 

The World’s Fig Leaves

 

  • The Psychology Fig Leaf

Secular psychologists told us that religion and society imposed unfair “codes of conduct” on us and that was the root of our guilt. The answer we were told was to throw off those constraints and create our own definitions of what’s right and wrong.

Isn’t that what women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, the right to abortion, the demand to be gay, bisexual, transgender or whatever we desire, are all about? In our attempt to alleviate any guilt, we’ve re-written the code.

  • The Environmental Fig Leaf

Behaviorists came along and blamed the environment. They said we shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not our fault. It’s because we’re poor and uneducated. Or it’s the way our parents raised or neglected us.

  • The Low Self-Esteem Fig Leaf

The self-esteem movement told us it’s because we don’t feel good about ourselves. We must raise our self-esteem so we can eliminate those negative emotions.

  • The Medical Fig Leaf

The medical world has clouded the issue, too. Drunkenness is now called a disease, alcoholism. Rebellion is oppositional defiance disorder. Sexual immorality is a sexual addiction.

The problem is when we quit calling things what they are, the answers get obscured, as well.

 

The Effects of Living in a Sin Cursed World

 

No one would deny the the environment in which a person is raised has an effect on them. But we have a choice as to how we’ll respond to those factors. And because of our fallen nature we can have a predisposition to certain kinds of sin, weaknesses, where we need to depend on God in a greater way.

And, certainly, we need to examine any “code of conduct” in light of God’s Word. Legalism and false religions are full of man-made rules. But the answer isn’t to come up with what seems right to us.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death (Prov. 14.12).

And nowhere in the Bible are we told to esteem ourselves, but rather, to esteem God and others. We’re not to denigrate ourselves, but neither are we to think more highly of ourselves than we should.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (Rom. 12.3).

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Phil. 2.3).

Whatever our weaknesses, whatever our environment, God has promised that if we belong to Him, He’ll give us the grace we need for every situation.  Continue reading

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 1 + LINKUP

 

Handling Guilt Biblically -

Today and over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about guilt, what it is, and why we experience it? We’ll look at how the world views it, some examples of guilt in the Bible, and we’ll get the biblical perspective on it. Finally, we’ll discuss what we as Christians should do about it?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 1

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We have already covered anger, depression, fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’re going to start talking about guilt, but first, I want to tell you about a man I know. This man was under a lot of pressure. He was suffering from poor health. He seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He even seemed to be in a daze at times. He couldn’t focus. He was sad and depressed. And He thought about his problems all the time.

It was affecting him physically. His heart would race wildly and he was stressed out. All he wanted to do was sleep and, yet, when he tried to sleep he couldn’t.

If you’ve ever been around someone like that, it gets uncomfortable. There’s only so much you can say. That was the case with this man. He said his friends came around less and less and eventually some just quit coming. Maybe that has happened to you, either you have felt like this man or been one of his friends or both.

If you were trying to help my friend, how would you diagnose his problem?

Could he be clinically depressed, be suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome or have PTSD? Does he need medication?

It’s possible that you have met this man, too.

The man is David, and David was experiencing pressure at the hand of a loving God. David had sinned and God was dealing with him.

In Psalm 38 David said this:

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
2 For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;

Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness.

6 I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
7 For my loins are full of inflammation,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.

9 Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
10 My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.

11 My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off.
12 Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;
Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,
And plan deception all the day long.

13 But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.
14 Thus I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth is no response.

15 For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”

17 For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.

18 For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.

 

A Closer Look

 

Let’s look closer at what David said:  Continue reading