Isn’t it amazing how certain smells evoke strong memories?
When I was a girl, I was fortunate to have my grandmother live right next door to our family. She had a real wood burning fireplace in her living room (unlike the fake electric one I have now). Often my cousins and I would sleep over at Grandma’s house. On those chilly mornings when the weather had turned, she would have a fire going when we got up. I can still remember the cozy warmth of her house and the joy filled memories I made there. One of those memories is the smell of the fireplace burning, beckoning me to crawl out of bed, grab a blanket, and join her on the couch to sit by the fire.
Even now, when I smell a fireplace, or even a firepit, that scent takes me back. It summons warm thoughts and memories. The scent draws me back to memories of her love.
2 Corinthians 2:15 says “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that we carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus to those who are being saved, as well as to those who are perishing.
If you’ve ever spent time around a camping fire, you know that the smell of smoke stays on you until you come home and wash those clothes. As you unpack the duffle from camping, you get a whiff of that smoke, and suddenly the memories of the campout come rushing back. Here in Second Corinthians, it’s the same idea.
Those around us, inside and outside of the faith, can “smell” us. We carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus. When Christ is in us, and we are following Him, His “scent” is on us.
This idea was played out for me for the first time when I was 16 years old. There was a girl in my high school, who was just different. Her family was much like mine. She had a mom, a dad, and a brother at home. She was my same age and grade. We were both on the drill team for our high school. She had some of the same friends and interests that I did. But she “smelled” different. There was something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
We started hanging out and eventually I asked her to sleep over at my house. She said yes, that she would come and sleep over, if I would go to church with her the next morning.
There it was. That was the beginning of my understanding more precisely what it was about her that was so different than me. She had faith in God. And though I had grown up with a good, loving, all American family, faith was not a part of our household. And I wanted it. I was drawn to her in a way that I didn’t understand then.
And because of her “scent”, her faith in Jesus, I was also drawn to Him.
Ephesians 5:1-2 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
You and I are called to walk with Jesus, to follow His example. To be like Him. It is a tall order to be sure, but He left us with the Holy Spirit, who also lives in us. And it is that same spirit that produces the lingering scent of Jesus in us.
When Jesus comes into our hearts and lives, we are changed. Some parts of us change immediately, and others take longer. But we are changed. And from that moment on, we begin to “smell” differently.
Like the soft scent of our favorite perfume, we leave behind the aroma of Jesus as we go.
My hearts desire is that the aroma of Jesus that follows me as I go, attracts others to the Savior. Because, just as perfumes can smell differently on the different people who wear them, the scent of Jesus can be attractive, or pungent.
Are my actions, thoughts, and words pleasant? Do they draw people to Him with the soft scent? Or am I too much like the world to be a pleasing aroma? Am I different at all?
As we continually grow, and allow Jesus to change us on the inside, that change will show on the outside too. We have hope, we have life! Like a fragrant perfume, I want to radiate the aroma of Jesus and let His scent trail behind me as I go.
And my prayer is that that scent will linger in the air and draw people to Him.
What scent are you leaving behind?
Jesus, I am drawn to You and to Your love. I am so grateful for all that You are. You have given everything for me, and I want to share that love with those in my circle. Help me to give off the pleasing aroma of Your love. I want to bring You honor by living in a way that “smells” good to others. Amen.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Psalm 43:5a.
Has your heart ever been downcast? I bet it has. Mine too, sister. I relate to the Psalm writer….
Many things can make my heart sad and downcast. Situations in my own personal life. The hurts and concerns of those I care about. The things I see in the world around me. Health things. Broken heart things. Financial things. Relational things. Sigh…
Difficult life situations can exhaust and drain us, both emotionally and spiritually. Some of you are running on empty. Some are longing for Home. Some are reeling from personal trials. Some are scared and confused, wondering what’s next. Your soul is downcast and disturbed.
I’m right there with you.
Whether we are wrestling with world events or personal events, our response can be the same. What do we do when we don’t know what to do? When life is complicated, it’s best to keep things simple. Just do the next right thing. Simply put, we can pray, and we can praise.
Our first line of defense should always be a default to prayer. Prayer isn’t “the least we can do”. It is the MOST important place to start! When we pray, we are acknowledging our inability to change the situations ourselves. We are crying out to God for His guidance and compassion. We are humbly asking for His mercy and grace. We are casting our burdens at His feet because they are too heavy for us to carry alone. We are desperately seeking peace and answers.
This week, I was praying earnestly for a dear friend. This friend has an adult daughter with some significant health issues. Health issues that need intervention, and answers. And the answers don’t seem to come easily. As I prayed and listened for God’s voice in what seemed like answerless spaces of prayer, I heard it clearly. “When you don’t get the big answers you want right away, look for My hand in the small things while you wait.”
You see, sometimes, big answers take big amounts of time. But small things? Those happen every day. Let’s think for a minute about the small things we can rejoice in.
A job and income-provision.
Healthy and loving relationships-connection.
God’s word at our fingertips in a variety of ways-abundance.
Overall good health-blessed.
Loved by family, friends, and Jesus himself-care.
Assured of eternal life with Him when I have accepted His finished work on the cross-joy.
Those small things can easily be taken for granted. We’re so used to having them, that we forget that they too are provision from the Lord. That He is continually caring for and blessing us in these ways.
Our second default should go to praise. It may seem challenging to praise God when things are difficult. If I’m honest, sometimes it is difficult for me too. However, being able to thank God and praise Him for who He is and all He has done, allows my focus to shift from the struggle to the Savior. In the midst of our trials, we sometimes forget that the end of the story is already written. We can forget that God wins. This means that we win too.
Try praising Him by remembering these scriptures from Psalm 34:
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry”. Ps. 34:15
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. Ps. 34:18
“The righteous may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”. Ps. 34:19
“The Lord will rescue His servants; no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned”. Ps. 34:22
When my heart is downcast, and my emotions are wrung out, I can feel like I am losing the battle inside. I feel like the process of turning my sorrow to joy is too big of a challenge. God knows this too, and He gracefully places multiple scripture passages in His word for us to remember what is so easily forgotten.
John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” These are powerful scriptures! He has overcome the world! We are more than conquerors through Him!
When I read such powerful statements in the bible, they begin to chip away at my downcast and disturbed heart. When I let the truth of His word seep into the worried recesses of my soul, I find not only comfort, but the strength to carry on. The hope to wait on Him and trust His plan. When I look for (and see) the small things provided by His hand while I wait for the big answers that my heart truly seeks, I get a glimpse into the heart of God. I feel His heart toward mine.
He desires to bring me peace with His presence. He is more than able to turn my worries into memories. He can turn my spiritual weaknesses into victories of faith!
2 Corinthians 12:9. “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When God says, “My grace is sufficient”. He means it. It’s more than just a nice saying. It is truth. His power is made perfect in weakness, our weakness. God is not surprised by the events in our lives that are seemingly pulling us under. He stands at the ready, life vest in hand. Because His grace is sufficient, we are right where we need to be. Dependent on Him.
“You turn mourning to dancing.
You give beauty for ashes.
You turn seas into highways.
You’re the only One who can!” (Song-Graves Into Gardens-Elevate Worship)
Lord, somedays it’s so easy to sing your praise and to worship you. I am thankful for those days. But other days….other days, not so much. Lord, forgive me. You haven’t changed. You are ALWAYS worthy of praise. But Lord, my flesh is weak within me. Sometimes my soul is downcast. On those days, during those times, hep me to praise you anyway. Remind me to look for your hand in the small things while I wait for the bigger answers my heart seeks. Amen.
Last summer I went on a long-distance trip. My hubby and I ventured to Colorado, and on to Indiana to see relatives. It was a wonderful 17 days away from home exploring, hiking, driving across large parts of the country, and visiting family! Neither of us had been to Colorado before, and I fell in love with Summer Colorado. (I’m not interested in Winter Colorado…..snow is a four letter word in my book!) When we got to Indiana, I saw Lightening Bugs, or fireflies, for the first time! All in all, it was a terrific trip, one we’d like to do again someday.
Before we left on the trip, we spent months planning it. We mapped and re mapped routes. We viewed our hotel options along the way. We checked into what sights we wanted to visit as we traveled. We looked to see the freeways and highways we would use to make our route the fastest and most direct. We checked the weather. And we considered what cities to stay overnight in that might be the safest as tried to avoid the “big cities” as much as possible. We ultimately planned out as many details as we could foresee needing to, ensuring that everything was “just right” for our big adventure. That seems logical and smart, doesn’t it?
But when it comes to the adventure that is our faith, being logical and smart is only a part of the equation.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. We can take courage from those words. But verse 2 provides us with some inspiring words as well. “This is what the ancients were commended for.” Let’s look at one of those “ancients”.
Abram. You may best remember him as Abraham, the father of many nations. Father Abraham, as the song goes, had many sons. There was much that God wanted to do IN and THROUGH Abram. But before God could truly work in Abram’s life, he needed to relocate. Up until that time, Abram had a decent life. He lived with his immediate family, in his homeland, the place where he grew up. He had roots in the community, and he had extended family there. He had work, a full life, and he was comfortable. But in Genesis 12 God speaks to Abram. “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” It’s that last line that gets me.
Go to the land I will show you.
WILL show you. Not HAVE shown you. But WILL, future tense. I find this part of scripture astounding. Abram didn’t have a map, he didn’t check for stops along the way, he didn’t check the weather. He didn’t even know where he was going! He just went. God said “I will show you” where you’re going. He started out on his journey without even knowing his destination ahead of time! Let that sink in for a moment. Consider how very different that is than the kind of planning you and I put into a vacation. But this trip was far more permanent and important than any other vacation or trip Abram might take. This was his calling. He was on assignment from God.
Remember, “ faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Hebrews chapter 11 is also known as the Faith Chapter in the Bible. Many heroes of the faith are listed here and are commended for their faithful actions, or their obedience. Try this; in the following examples from Hebrews 11, replace the word faith with the word obedience, as you read them.
By faith, Noah (when warned about things not yet seen)…built an ark.
By faith, Abram…went, even though he did not know where he was going.
By faith Moses parents hid him for three months.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.
By faith the prostitute Rahab…welcomed the spies.
Now go back and read each one and stop to consider what might have happened if they had NOT obeyed in faith but held back in fear. There would have been huge consequences to their lack of action. Those of us in the future (like right now!) would be living a different life. It is a fact that when people of God obey His call, the chain of events that occurs because of it, changes lives. Moving forward, the ripple effect that takes place, can literally change the course of history! Translation: your obedience can have a lasting effect on the history of your own family and possibly even further than that. Future generations (like you and I) are changed and blessed because of events in the faith life of believers, centuries ago!
What’s important to note is that those heroes not only heard the call, but they followed through. They didn’t have it all spelled out for them ahead of time. There was no map for Abram, no blueprints for Noah, no promise of safety for Moses’ parents, and no bridge for the Israelites that crossed the Red Sea. I like my plans all tied up neatly with a bow, sealed and guaranteed for me ahead of time. I use the map app on my phone for directions, I choose hotels with free cancellation, and I prefer to know alternative routes in case of traffic.
But that’s not faith. That’s having a plan.
Having a plan is smart when you travel, in fact it’s smart for a great many areas of life. But when it comes to our faith life, things change a little. When we feel that God is placing something in front of us with intention (sometimes referred to as being called) we need step out “in faith”. We may need to move forward with our direction from God before all the details are mapped out and secure. We shouldn’t always wait until all the unknowns are known. We can have peace knowing that God’s plan is always for our best. That if He has placed something in or on our heart, He will make a way. He did that for the heroes of the faith, and there is no reason to think that He won’t do the same for us! When we step forward in faith, what happens is that we see blessings on the other side of our fear. Blessings that God has been waiting to show us! Remember that God told Abram “Go to a place that I WILL show you” and Abram went. What happened in Abram’s life after that time of faithful obedience was that he THEN became the father of many nations. And now, thousands of years later, you and I can be encouraged as we read the story of how God blessed him AFTER he obeyed.
I want you to grasp the truth that Abram didn’t leave AFTER God laid out the entire plan and route for him. He didn’t obey AFTER God showed him all he would receive as a result of his obedience. He WENT because God asked it of him. He went when he simply believed that God knew what was best for him. And THEN God blessed him!
Have you felt like there might be something that God is tugging on your heart to do? Have you struggled with knowing what that feels like? Or if it’s all in your head? Here’s some things that I have learned. That leading from God can feel like something that you are excited about or interested in (like a ministry to get involved in?). Sometimes it feels like a purpose that tingles just below the surface your skin (like something you are passionate about that could help people). Usually, it requires a risk or change (is it a new job or a location change?). Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense (with regard to what others expect of you, or even financially). Often it is something you just can’t stop thinking about!
Pray about those “feelings”. Pray about your fears. Tell God about it, and then listen. There’s no need to rush. As you pray and seek God, the Spirit will keep bringing that thing to your mind. As you pray, listen to how often it comes up in your conversations. Consider how you just can’t get away from it. As you pray and seek Him in this, He will show you clearly if you listen intently. Proverbs 3:5-6 in the NLT says it beautifully. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
It may feel “safer” to stay where you are, to avoid risk or change. You may feel “safer” when you choose not to get involved in that new thing. But when God is in it, He directs us, and He blesses our obedience. Romans 8:14 tells us; “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” I want to be led by the Spirit of God! I want to walk in obedience as His child! Psalm 128:1 also tells us this: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” You and I are BLESSED when we walk in obedience! Blessed when we follow what He asks. Even when we can’t see the entire route. Even when we don’t understand the whole picture.
We don’t’ have to. Abram didn’t.
God does not want His plan for us to be a mystery. He desires to bless us through the purposes He has planned. And He wants to use you to make a difference! Having a different future starts with obedience through faith now!
Step forward in faith!
Father, there is nothing that I desire more than your blessing over me. I confess that in my humanity, I often try to figure everything out before I step out in faith. I trust you when you say that you have my best interest on your heart. I trust that you will lead and direct my steps. And Lord, in this moment , I know what you have put in my heart. My desire is to be careful not to get ahead of you as you lead, but I know I can’t stay put any longer either. I am asking you now to show me which path to take. And I amtrusting thatas I follow your lead, that you will shine your light brightly on my path!
As a warm weather girl, I always look forward to the spring and summer months. Like many things in nature, I really “come alive” when the weather turns warmer. And when it does, it’s time to get outdoors again!
On a recent hiking venture, I came to a bridge. This bridge was not long, but it was a bit high, and it did cross some water. The bridge seemed stable enough, and I was certain that many people, even that very day, had probably gone across it before me. But what if? What if the bridge wasn’t able to hold me? What if it was trustworthy for all the others but not for me?
I held back and observed a while.
Where I was hoping to go was on the other side of the expanse that the bridge crossed. I had to cross that bridge to get there. There was really no other way, but the what ifs had me trapped in doubt.
Hebrews 11 is affectionately known as the “Hero’s of the faith” chapter. Here we see a list of some of the big-name heroes of old, whose names we easily recognize and associate with faith.
By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months…
By faith…Noah built an ark…
By faith, Abraham went to a new place, even though he did not know where he was going…
By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land…
And on and on.
So, what makes the difference between big faith, and not so big faith? How do we measure faith? When you consider the faith life of those you know with “big faith”, what is it that makes them different? Why is their faith bigger? I’ve got one word for you. Obedience.
What if we trade the word faith for the word obedience in the hero chapter? “In obedience Moses’ parents hid him. In obedience Noah built an ark. In obedience Abraham went to a new place.” The correlation between faith and obedience is striking.
It’s easy for me, and probably you too, to talk about faith. We have faith in God about many things. We have faith that God will care for us and for our family. Faith that He will meet our physical, financial and emotional needs. Faith that He will help us in our trials and difficulties. And faith that He will lead us clearly in the decisions we need to make. But sometimes it is easy to toss the word faith around as if it were a supernatural power, too lofty to grasp. But what if…. what if we switched the word faith for obedience?
Let’s consider it this way. Great faith is faith in action. Each of us knows someone to whom we attribute great faith to. I’m willing to bet that the reason you feel that way about them, is because of the way they ACT on their faith. The confidence and ability they have to really trust God with their hurts, struggles, decisions, and the changes in their life.
Often, we say “I want more faith!” We want greater faith in the One who loves us. We desire the faith to move mountains as in Matthew 17:20-21. I suggest to you today that what you really want is more obedience!
Faith transitions to obedience, and obedience deepens into trust.
When we act on our faith with obedience, our faith deepens. When we put “feet on our faith” and step out in trust, we allow God to work. From the examples given in Hebrews 11, what we see is faith in action. God did not supernaturally build the ark for Noah, or hide Moses Himself, or even pick up Abraham and move him while he slept. Those faithful followers of God obeyed. They believed God would do what He said He would do, but they first had to act. Their faith meant nothing until they acted on it. Their story in scripture would not be listed in the “Faith Hall of Fame” if they had not actually stepped out and acted!
Obedience can be scary.
Very recently I was wrestling with faith and trust. I had been feeling like God wanted me to act on my faith, and for a while I was excited and ready. But then…I got scared. I began to back peddle a little bit. I was trying to “be really sure” that I was hearing God correctly. I was fairly certain that I had heard Him clearly a few months back, but now that it was time to actually obey, I put the brakes on. Through my doubt and apprehension, when I thought I was “making sure” of Gods will, what I was really doing was holding back. What I lacked was obedience.
After some study of scripture, and much more prayer, I heard God again, loud and clear. So loudly and clearly, in fact, that it left me full of joy and faith! I can’t explain to you the amount of peace and fulfillment it brought me to truly arrive a place of perfect peace with God and His plan for me! I was ready to step out on that bridge, so to speak. Ready to trust His ability to keep me safe as I headed to the other side.
Is there a situation in your life where you feel God calling you to action, but you are fearful? Are you holding back right now because you are scared about the outcome? Is there a phone call you need to make? A relationship that needs healing? A friendship that needs to end? A move you need to make? A ministry you need to step into? A job you need to change?
If the Israelites had not obeyed God and stepped into the wind tunnel of the Red Sea, they would have been overtaken by Pharaoh’s army. If Abraham had stayed in Ur, God would not have fulfilled His promise to him that he would inherit the land. And if Noah had been too scared to obey God and build that ark, then sister, you and I would not even be here today!
I’ll remind you now, that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Can you trust God where you do not see? Can you trust Him with your heart? With your finances? With your relationships? The answer is yes! A very loud and confident yes!
Pastor and Author Larry Osborn says this; “Faith looks at God and says, “I know your character. I can trust you.” And then it steps out onto the bridge.”
God honors our obedience! If I truly trust God, then I will display faith in action. I will step out onto the bridge, and I will be blessed!
Father God, I know I can trust you. I know that you are always working for my good. Please forgive me for not stepping out in faith and obeying you when I clearly hear you leading me. Give me the faith to believe. Speak to my heart and remind me of the heroes of faith and their obedience to you. Remind me of the fabulous life of faith and blessing they led because they fully obeyed and trusted you. Thank you for not giving up on me while I deepen my trust in your plan. Amen.
It happens every day doesn’t it? Usually, around 4 p.m., we start giving serious consideration to the looming question of “what’s for dinner?”
On some days, dinner becomes a bowl of cereal, or we might overpay for takeout, just to put “food on the table”.
But on our best days, we have a plan. We have prepared ahead of time. We have thawed something out, we have chopped the veggies, or better yet, it’s already in the crock pot! On those days there is peace of mind knowing that we will not be scrambling at the dinner hour to meet our needs.
Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
What we see in this scripture is God’s provision for now, and His provision for later too. God sends the rain and snow to earth to water the plants and to sustain life on earth in the present. But He also sends the rain knowing that the same plants that need rain immediately to flourish, will use the water to grow and supply seeds for the future. This is God providing for us now, and later.
Often times we live in the now.
We pray in the now.
We worry in the now.
And we plan in the now.
But Isaiah reminds us that God sends rain to provide for our futures too, with seeds of faith. You see, if we get rain for our plants to grow, for us to drink, and to make bread with today, but we do not have seeds for the future, we won’t have what we need to sustain us.
The same principal applies to our spiritual lives.
Let’s face it, some days there is just too much to do. And it starts as soon as our feet hit the floor in the morning.
Maybe you woke to a little one crying for your attention. Maybe your eyes pop open with a to do list rolling through your brain. Maybe you didn’t sleep well (or at all) because of worry. Maybe you didn’t get up as early as you needed to in order to accomplish all that you wanted (or needed) to that morning before having to rush out the door.
Those things happen to all of us. It can be difficult on days like that, to give God time. To sit at His feet and read His love letter to us. So many issues press in on our time, and we succumb to the crisis of the immediate. Whatever screams the loudest for our attention, gets it.
But what happens when we take the time to put Him first? When we read His word and consider how we can apply it to our lives?
We gather seeds for the future. We begin to arm our hearts with truth that will sustain us. We deepen our faith roots and have an abundance of “seeds” that we can fall back on when needs arise in the future. We have provision for the present and assurance for the future.
On the days when you don’t think you can, when there’s just too much happening, do it anyway. On the days when your heart is heavy and you just don’t want to, do it anyway. On the days when you don’t think you need it, do it anyway.
You will be glad you did. And you will be planting seeds for your future. You will have a “harvest” to fall back on in the dry times.
Jesus will meet you there. When you and I “store up His word in our hearts”, He can bring it to mind to comfort and lead us on another day. But the opposite is also true, we cannot “draw water from an empty well”. Nor can we harvest seeds that have not been planted. We need to prepare.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I am not talking about perfection. Naturally, there will be days that we don’t get in the Word. There are legitimate circumstances that prevent that time from happening. But…when we faithfully make spending time in his word our goal and priority, instead of only trying to “squeeze it in somewhere”, we can be certain that the truths of scripture will make their way deeper into our lives where it matters most. Then God can use them as seeds, as future provision.
Somedays, we need His word right now, like bread to take away our hunger. Other days, we hold on to it like seeds for the future. Both are important, both are good. But we can strive for better than just the crisis of the immediate.
So, I challenge you. Read His word every day. For a week straight? A month? Just do it. You will find that you are able to recall loving truth to lead and comfort you when your “dinner time crisis” looms. You will have a plan; you will have it “in the crock pot!”
Then God says that His word “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just like rain. (vs 11)
Have you ever watched a fellow Christ Follower go through something painful or difficult? Did you observe them handling it with such peace and joy that you were unable to truly comprehend how that was even possible? Did you think to yourself, “If that were me, I’m not sure I would be able to deal with it with as much grace as they are”? Maybe you pondered your own spirituality and the “real-ness” of your own faith.
This is me right now.
Can I just be open and honest with you? (If you keep reading then I guess the answer is yes!”) Right now, today, at this moment, I have 2 dear friends that are experiencing a fresh diagnosis of cancer. Two women that I love deeply and have known for an awfully long time. Two women whose faith is the real deal.
And they inspire me.
These women have spent their entire adult lives loving Jesus, pursuing a relationship with Him, and deepening their faith in His power and love.
While nothing can truly prepare the human heart for a difficult health diagnosis, there are steps that we can, and should be taking consistently now, to draw close to Him. Steps that will be of significant value should we be faced with something similar. Steps that will help us to prevent a complete crisis of faith.
Let’s consider Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Here we see a parable (or story with a lesson) from Jesus. This is the parable of a man who chose wisely, to build his “house”, or life, on a firm foundation. He did not choose mere “sand” that would wash away when the rains came, he chose rock, strong and sure. The idea here is that as we live out the time that God has given us on this earth, we are free to build our life on whatever foundation we choose.
If we want, we can choose to build our lives on the foundation of worldly things. Money, prestige, self-importance, or even comfort and ease. God gives us free will, we have that choice. But scripture tells us that “the wise man” chooses a firm foundation. Spiritually speaking, he chooses a life of serving others, putting God first in decisions to honor Him, trusting God even when life gets hard, and living with generosity. We do this by spending time in His word. By seeking His will. By having relationships that build us up and point us to Jesus. The implied Rock from the parable is Jesus, our rock and our redeemer.
All through scripture we see times of guidance where God tells us that “life will get hard”. Storms in life come to everyone, inside the faith and those outside as well. They WILL come. That is one thing we can be certain of. But will we be prepared?
The two women that I am loving on and praying for right now, have done just that. They have developed a pattern of deep and abiding faith. They have intentionally placed their trust in the Lord in times where life has shown them no kindness. This is not the first time that they have encountered extreme difficulty. But it IS the first time that they have had cancer.
And you know what? They are responding the same exact way to this trial, with faith and trust.
How does someone who has gotten a cancer diagnosis and pondered the thought that their time here on earth with those they love could possibly end (in a time frame that is too soon) and yet, stay faithful? How do they avoid becoming despondent and bitter toward God for allowing them to have cancer? How do they continue each day with joy and faith? It is because they built their house on The Rock.
Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” NLT
God promises to comfort us in our troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…” Did you catch it? He comforts us IN OUR TROUBLES. He doesn’t shield us FROM them. He promises to comfort, or strengthen, us while they are ongoing. Don’t think that if you “do everything right”, that somehow you will escape difficulties. Jesus himself was perfect, and He had more heart ache and suffering than you and I ever will.
But God says that He will be with us, walking along side us for the journey, enduring the hurt with us and helping us to find purpose in the pain.
This is what I am seeing with my two friends. They did not wait until the storm came to find shelter in the Rock. They built up that foundation in advance, in preparation for a storm they didn’t see coming.
What I see are two women who have been faithfully pursuing Him and have let Him lead and use them for many years already. What I am seeing is a continuation of their faith, not a drastic shift out of desperation. More of a natural readjustment into what is next. A soft curve, not a sharp turn.
They have purposefully built their lives on a foundation of faith. This faith is real, and it runs deep. And in that way, they have prepared spiritually for what they are facing right now. When you and I consistently spend time with the Lord, by reading His word, learning from it and applying it to our lives, then we allow His presence to guide us through life. That’s how we build and grow a faith that will withstand any storm. We are preparing in advance for what may come.
Friends, we WILL face trials. We WILL have difficulties in many areas of life. We WILL, sooner or later, call out to God for mercy and grace. And He WILL respond.
But if we are to enjoy peace and trust and love the way my two friends are, that relationship needs to strengthen and grow now.
I have a desire to make some changes in my life. I have been thinking about them, getting council for them, praying, talking, and searching out ways to make them happen. This has been going on for a few months. And nothing has changed. Not any of the things that I want to see changed anyway. Mostly I am waiting and trusting God for the change. Sometimes it feels like nothing is going to change, that there is no way things can be different. In some ways, I feel trapped.
Scripture gives us accounts of people throughout history that have been trapped.
The Israelite’s, God’s chosen people, were trapped in slavery. They had been for over 400 years. Think about that. Hebrew families had been slaves of the Egyptians for as long as they could remember. In fact, they didn’t know anything different, but their heart knew it was not right. They desperately wanted a way out, but none seemed possible. And none was possible for 400 years. The time was not right. Finally, they were released from slavery and sent on the now famous journey through the wilderness with Moses. Oh the joy and excitement! At least at first. But then they came to the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army was quickly coming upon them to capture them, and the Red Sea had them trapped with no way through. They were certainly panicked. Wishing they had never left. At least they were alive as slaves, but now they faced a certain violent death of their entire family at the hands of their captors. Just place yourself inside their heads for a second, there by the shore, a million or more people, trapped by the water in front of them, and horses and chariots racing toward them. Fear. Trapped. Hopeless.
But God made a way through for them! You will recall that He sent a strong east wind to blow all night, that cut a path through the sea, and the people were able to cross on dry land! Then God released the waters, and destroyed the enemies of the Israelite’s, and God Himself. Exodus 14.
Then there’s Rahab the prostitute. She was living with her family in Jericho, a city about to be overtaken by the Israelite army. She knew that The Lord had “given the land” to the Israelites. That her city, her family and her life were all about to be taken from her. She was in grave danger. But she had also heard of all the Lord had done for the Israelite’s at the Red Sea, and she knew how He had helped them conquer the two Ammorite kings at the Jordan River. She had real fear! She knew, apart from the Lord, that her family would be massacred when the Israelite army got to Jericho. She was trapped with no way out, and no where to go. Then the spies came to town, and God provided a way for her to help them in Joshua 2. Then a little later in, Joshua 6:17, we see that God did indeed, make a way for her.
And yet, another event of God’s faithfulness is found in Acts 16:16-40. Paul and Silas are in prison, for preaching the Good News about Jesus. Prisons were not nice places in those days. Their feet were shackled to a wall, with no food, water, sunlight or way of escape. A very strong and dedicated jailer kept guard over them. Yet, they trusted God. So much so, that they are found singing praises to Him at midnight! Those imprisoned with them could hear, as could the jailer. Their hope was in God to deliver them, there was no other possible way out. And then it happened! At midnight, God sent such a strong earthquake, that the foundation of the prison was shaken, and the doors to their cell flew open! God made a way for them. (They didn’t run away, they stayed so that God would be praised for His miraculous ways. They did get out of prison though…..go read and see!)
And now there’s me, and probably you too. Waiting for something to change. Is it a job? A marriage? A friendship? A health issue? A move you want to make?
For me, it’s easy to relax through the stories in scripture.
mostly because, it’s not me in the story ( I am not personally affected)
also because, I know the ending (that story is finished)
It’s not always so easy to relax through the story of my own life, because it is me in this story, and this story is still being written. I do not have the benefit of knowing how it will end. But that, my friend, is faith.
“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” Hebrew 11:1
So, I wait. I wait for God to make a way through for me. Scripture (and my own life experiences with my faith) show me that, when the time is right, He will indeed make a way for me. His plan, His timing, His purpose. My ways are not His ways. Isaiah 55:8-9.
If you are trusting God for something right now, keep it up. Waiting is not fun, it seems long. But the Lord will make a way, when the time is right. His time. He will not let you down, trust Him. He will make a way through!