The goal for a believer is to become conformed to the image of Christ. In fact, He has predestined us to do so (Rom. 8.29). Though we won’t reach that perfectly in this life, God is at work in us here and now.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.6).
While we tend to believe it’s things outside of us (our family of origin, other people’s sins, our financial situation, other circumstances, etc.) that cause us to sin or hold us back, those are the things God wants to use to propel us forward, to grow us into the character of His Son (Jas. 1.2-5).
But this won’t happen without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit working in our lives. Philippians 1.6 is a promise for believers. And, while God will get us there if we belong to Him, we can choose to co-operate with His work or grieve the Holy Spirit and hinder His work (Eph. 4.30; 1 Thess. 5.19). When we do, we shouldn’t be surprised if God turns up the heat (Heb. 12.6). Continue reading →
This has been a busy week. My husband has been on vacation and we’ve been trying to get some extra things done, including purchase a new desk for my office. Then I decided I should clean out and shred files before I put my office back together. So here I am not finished with the post I’ve been working on for today’s LINKUP.
And, honestly, right now I feel more like a nap. 🙂
I’m sure you have all been there! Anyway …
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival
I hope you’ll linkup and enjoy one another’s posts. And next week, God willing, I’ll have a new post on “How We Grow & Change.” Continue reading →
One book that continues to resonate with me and impact my life, particularly my prayer life, is Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible. Even though I had prayed many Bible passages in the past, his book encouraged me to pray more from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms.
One of my goals for next year is to pray through the Bible as I read. I’d like to share with you what that will look like, give you some examples of how to pray passages of Scripture, and tell you about something new happening here on the blog next year.
In that post, I said that while both require discipline, I believe one or the other usually comes easier for each of us and the other not so much. I confided that prayer is the one that requires greater discipline on my part. Perhaps that’s why I’ve read so many books on prayer and why Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible impacted me so greatly.
Even so, I have not used the principles he shared nearly as often or as faithfully as I would like. One of my goals for next year is to, with God’s help, spend more time praying God’s Word.
So, today I’d like to share with you some examples of praying the Bible and something new I’ll be adding to the blog in 2018. I’m excited about it because it’s partly selfish as it’s part of my plan to keep me on track and accountable. I pray it will be a blessing to you, as well.
Not My Will
We’ve all heard the adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” or the Christian version, “Be careful what you pray for.”
That makes me think about Hezekiah. He was one of Israel’s rare good kings. The Bible says he did, “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20).
He cleaned out the temple after his father, the wicked King Ahaz, had nailed it shut. He tore down the pagan altars, destroyed the idols, and reinstated the priesthood and temple worship.
When faced with destruction from the Assyrians, he prayed one of the most incredible prayers in the Bible. 2 Kings 19:15-19:
15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
God answered that prayer in a dramatic way.
But later in his life, Hezekiah became very sick. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God told him to set his life in order that he was going to die. Yet, when he prayed, God gave him another 15 years (2 Kings 20.1-7).
Unfortunately, the last 15 years of his life were marked by a lack of wisdom that cost the nation and his descendants greatly. He, also, fathered Manasseh, the son who succeeded him. Manasseh turned out to be the most wicked king to reign over Judah (2 Kings 20.12-19).
I didn’t share all that to imply, we shouldn’t pray for God’s mercy when faced with sickness or other trials. God certainly could have said “no” to Hezekiah’s request. But our prayers will always be imperfect and sometimes out of step with God’s best. So, it’s important to hold those prayer requests in an open hand and maintain the same attitude Christ had in the Garden of Gethsemane, “nevertheless, not my will but Yours, Lord.”
Praying God’s Perfect Will
Yet, when we pray God’s Word, properly understood, we can know that we are praying God’s perfect will. Isaiah said:
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Is. 55.11).
I say properly understood because even as we pray the Scriptures, we need to remember there are passages relating to specific people and circumstances that are not God’s specific will for everyone. No matter how much you pray for a virgin birth or for the sun to stand still, it’s probably not going to happen. Those were special moves of God’s hand in His story of redemption. So it’s important for us to understand a verse in its context.
But when we pray passages relating to spiritual growth and God’s principles for living, we can be sure we’re praying according to God’s will.
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 Jn. 5.14-15).
How to Pray the Scriptures
If you’ve never tried praying God’s Word back to Him, you may wonder exactly how to do it. I don’t want to imply that there are rules, but sometimes it helps to have some practical examples. Continue reading →
One of the most concise instructions for parents appears in the book of Ephesians. It says, “… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Some of the ways we provoke our children to anger seem obvious, but others may be less so. Could you be provoking your children to anger in ways you haven’t realized?
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Could You Be Provoking Your Children to Anger?
Parenting … it’s both one of the greatest privileges and one of the greatest responsibilities we have. And our example is a hard one to live up to … it’s God Himself, the One Perfect Parent.
Thankfully, God knows we won’t do this perfectly and He gives us His grace everyday. All the wisdom and help we need is available to us for the asking (Heb. 4.15-16; Jas. 1.2-5), as is His forgiveness when we fail (1 Jn. 1.9).
Often that grace is extended to us through the very children against whom we occasionally sin. When we humbly go to them and seek their forgiveness, they usually extend it readily and quickly.
But God does expect us to be faithful to study His Word, to pray for ourselves and our children, to be humble when we fail, and to grow in any area where we may lack understanding (2 Tim. 2.15, 3.16-17).
The book of Proverbs is jam-packed with principles for parenting and all the biblical principles for other relationships apply to the parent-child relationship, as well. But, one of the most concise instructions for parents appears in Ephesians 6.4:
… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
We’ll talk more about training and admonition in a future post. But let me just say that fathers and mothers are responsible to educate their children morally, spiritually, socially and in every way. It’s not the church or the school that is primarily responsible, it’s us, as parents.
We’re to help our children understand that we are not the ultimate authority. We are under God’s authority and, as His agents, are responsible to raise them in ways that are pleasing to Him.
Training and admonition include both reproof and encouragement. Our goal, as parents, should be to raise children who have a reverence for God, a love for His Word, respect for parents and others in authority, an understanding of Christian principles, the ability to exercise self-control, and a desire to please God.
But in today’s post I want to focus on the first part of this verse, “do not provoke your children to wrath.” The NIV says, “do not exasperate your children.”
We must be careful not to provoke or exasperate our children by being harsh, unreasonable, unfair, angry, cruel, selfish, or by showing partiality. Even godly discipline and instruction should be gentle, fair, and done in love.
Lou’s book is one of my favorite parenting resources. He’s been a biblical counselor for over 30 years. He’s a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and an instructor with the Birmingham Theological Seminary. But more important, he’s a parent and his books are practical, readable, and applicable to the daily realities of parenting.
I often recommend it in counseling as a tool to help parents take the principles home and work with their own children. But it’s easily usable by any parent who wants to help prevent or deal with anger in their own children. It will not only help you get to the heart issues your children may face, but will deal with your own heart, as well. Continue reading →
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.
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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.
I 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?
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.
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.
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.”
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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?
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).
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?”
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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?”
Blessings & prayers for all those in harm’s way,
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!
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, 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.
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.
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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.
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.
9. Know the principles for sound Bible study and interpretation.
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.
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil. 2.3-4).
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:
That they’re always our fault.
That they’re always the other person’s fault. We can have a “victim” mentality.
That they’re no one’s fault. This is divine fatalism.
That they’re God’s fault. He causes everything, even sin.
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:
That they’re ultimately the result of the Adam’s fall (Gen 3).
That God is the remote cause. In other words, He allows them, but He’s never the cause of our sin.
That God is sovereign and He works all things according to His plan and purpose, including trials and suffering.
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.
9 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?
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.
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 counselors. Continue reading →