Archive for October, 2013

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

November is the official start of the holiday season in our house – Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas follows quickly behind it. I love reading the book of Luke in November because it tells the Christmas story so well. It’s the book that will be our New Testament focus this month. Near the end of the month we’ll begin to read the book of Revelation – God’s final words to us.

Our readings take us through the Old and New Testaments over a two year period. We’re winding up our two years this month and next, so here at Apprehending Grace we’re already thinking about our 2014 plan. If you have any thoughts about how you’d like us to organize the readings, let us know. Comment on the blog, send me an email or past a message on our Facebook page.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the November/December bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The November Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for November is below.

2013-11Nov RecRdg

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

Comments Comments Off on Resting at the River’s Edge – November 2013 Reading Schedule

Those who live in the presence of Elyon, the Supreme God who is above all other Gods, that person will remain forever under the protection of the Almighty God.
Psalm 91:1 (SJH)

I was pretty jazzed about God’s goodness and His promise in Psalm 91 after studying it recently…but I found myself jazzed about God with no practical way to get to the promise. In other words, He promises permanent rest and protection to those who live in His presence…but how in the world do I go from where I am now – visiting regularly, but losing that connection more often than I’d like to admit – to living in His presence – remaining there throughout the day? That’s the $64 million question.

And it’s one I’ve been meditating on and intentionally practicing lately so I wanted to follow up our study of Psalm 91:1 with some practical tips for living in God’s presence.

I have to caveat this blog – books and books have been written on this subject. This is a short blog. So I’m just covering some basics. My hope is that just a few of the basics will grab your heart and spirit and you’ll say “yes, I’ll commit to trying that for the coming month.” Because I can promise you, just reading this won’t help you stay in God’s presence. You have to practice it. Because we are pulled away from the Lord much too easily by this sinful world in which we live.

So pause to pray. Yes, right now. I’ll wait.

Confess to God your own unfaithfulness to Him and your desire to draw nearer. Tell Him that you want to live in His presence. Ask for His help. Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight those things in this list that best fit your situation or your personality. Or to bring to mind things not even on the list. Don’t forget to tell God that you love Him and are so looking forward to a closer relationship with him.

How do you remain in the presence of the Lord throughout the day? What activities or actions keep you in the presence of the Lord? As I’ve considered this question, it seems to me that they fall into three categories:

Do Things to Enhance the Relationship
That would include things like reading Scripture, praying, worshipping, serving others with the awareness that you are serving God. The key is to do them throughout the day.

  • Do you reserve your Scripture reading time for early morning? Consider adding a “walk through the Psalms” time to your day – during your morning coffee break or after you finish your first major task of the day.
  • Add worship music to your environment, either by playing it in the background or singing it to yourself.
  • Do you have a “prayer closet” wherever you spend your day? If you’re at home, maybe there’s a corner you can relax in for just a minute or two several times throughout the day. Or maybe it’s at the sink where you rinse the dishes before they go in the dish washer. If you’re in your car, this is an easy one! Just be disciplined to spend some of your drive time praying, not just day dreaming or strategizing about your next meeting. If you’re at work, your prayer closet can be anywhere you’re alone. Be purposeful about visiting it for short prayers throughout the day.
  • Regularly remind yourself of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Do Things to Maintain the Relationship Throughout the Day

  • Don’t ask “What Would Jesus Do?”, ask “Jesus, what would You do?” Read more about that here.
  • Consciously give your day over to the Lord. After my Bible reading each day, I plan my day with my calendar and electronic To Do list in front of my. I have set a recurring task on my To Do list that says “A Prayer – What Should I Do Today?” “A Prayer” puts it at the top of my list (because my list is alphabetical). “What Should I Do Today?” reminds me over and over again that I’m not the one deciding my priorities. Every time I look at my electronic To Do list throughout the day I am faced with that reminder.
  • Regularly “settle in” to God’s presence. My prayer/planning time with the Lord yields a short hand-written list of tasks and priorities for the day. I’ve recently started putting the words – “settle in” – at the top of my written To Do list. I see them every time I finish a task on my list. I am consciously working on including God when I transition from one task to another. I wish this came naturally for me. It doesn’t. But I am confident that God is faithful and as I regularly invite Him to plan my day and be a part of it, I will experience His presence more strongly.

Do Nothing to Cut Off the Relationship

  • Live holy lives – flee from sin.
  • Resist worry; practice faith instead. Worry instantly pulls you away from faith and into the hands of satan.
  • Identify stressors and deal with them. When I recognize that I’m beginning to feel anxious, I consciously stop and breath in deeply as I remind myself of the goodness of God. Then I breath out slowly as I release the situation into God’s hand.
  • Pray when you feel like complaining.

These things aren’t always easy, but they will yield a greater presence of God in your day. They will allow you to live in that secret place of His presence. And that’s a good thing.

If you have other ideas, share them. Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Comments Comments Off on Living in God’s Secret Place – How in the World Do We Do That?

God is so very good! I’ve been enjoying His goodness a lot lately. And still, I’ve been missing it a lot! It seems that the past few months have been tremendously busy. The pace is accelerating and I don’t always know how to slow it down. I’ve been pretty consistent about keeping my time with the Lord and have thoroughly enjoyed His goodness during those times. Yet in the flurry between times with the Lord, I am aware that I’ve lost my connection with Him. Of course He is still there and I know I can trust Him to always be there, but I’ve lost my sense of His nearness. So I’ve been missing Him.

There are times when my husband and I can spend the whole day together and at the end of the day I feel a sense of missing him. That’s when I realize that while we were near one another all day, we weren’t connecting. That’s the experience I’ve been having with God between those times of enjoying His goodness.

In my busyness, I also have not been sleeping well. There have been too many nights in a row in which my brain doesn’t fully shut down. I’m sleeping, but in my sleep, I’m still trying to work out the issues of the day. I’m waking frequently and struggling to get back to sleep. So I’m dragging during the day and when I’m over-tired, I usually feel a bit queasy. So as my friend from Texas would say, I’ve been feeling “puny” lately.

So one morning while in the midst of this, my Bible fell open to Psalm 91 and God spoke to my heart. (Which, by the way, isn’t how God usually speaks to me. He usually speaks through my systematic reading of Scripture. Today He changed it up a bit.)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High…” God is pointing out to me that I’m not “living” in His shelter throughout the day. I’m visiting each morning and often in the evening. Most days I love those visits. But like a visit to my grandma’s when I was a kid, when the visit was over, we packed up and left. After my visit with the Lord each morning, I’m packing up and moving on with my day.

The word translated “live” means to dwell, to settle in, to remain or abide or to tarry. It also means to marry. (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary).

We’re not to just visit with the Lord, we’re to live in Him. And we’re not to live with him as roommates, but intimately, as spouses.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

When I move from one project to another at work, I take all the paperwork associated with the first project and put it in a stack and move it to a corner of my table. Then I pull the paperwork associated with the second project from its spot on my table and move it to my desk. I’ve fallen into the trap of doing the same thing with God. Mentally, I’m stacking my “God project” neatly in the corner of my table and moving the pressing matters of the day to the front and center of my desk.

God is so good! He’s been putting up with this from me for longer than I care to admit. He’s been patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. He has been patiently waiting to do what brings him joy. Luke records the words of Jesus in this passage:

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:32 (NKJV)

Did you catch that? God is waiting patiently to give me the kingdom. He wants to do it. But I’ve only been visiting with him. He is waiting for me to move in, to live with Him – or rather, to live in Him. When I do that, I will find rest. I really need that rest!

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

Now the word translated shelter is “sayther” and can also be translated “covering” or “secret place.” In fact, you might be more familiar with the New King James Version translation of this verse:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

So what is this secret place? Where is this “sayther?” I had an idea where this was going, but I wanted to find it in Scripture. Scripture took me to where I expected to end up, but the hunt was worth it. Listen to these verses. In each case, the Hebrew word translated “secret place” is the word “sayther.”

4One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. 5For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:4-5 (NKJV/NASB)

What was the tabernacle? It was the tent of the Lord’s presence.

19How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. 20In the secret place of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.
Psalm 31:19-20 (NIV/NASB)

“In the secret place of your presence…” The secret place is the presence of God.

15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

The secret place we were made was not our mother’s womb, although that’s the final place where we were formed, but Scripture says that God formed us before the world began. We were first formed in the presence of God – it is there that all our days were determined. It was there that we were given the gifts and talents and personality that is unique to each of us. Wow! I was formed in the very presence of God. So were you!

The secret place, friends, is the presence of God. So let’s create our own translation of Psalm 91:1 –

Those who live – settle into, remain, not just visit – in the presence of the Most High – those people will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

This verse that is so familiar to many has an exciting meaning to it. It is a promise – that those who dwell, who live, who settle down, in the presence of the Most High God – Elyon, the Supreme God – will find rest. The word translated “rest” means remain permanently. When I learned that, the first passage that came to mind was John 10:

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 (NLT)

No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. Those who settle into the presence of God will remain permanently in the shadow of the Almighty.

Which brings us to the last word we’re going to look at – “shadow.” The word also means shade or defense. In other words, it means under the protection of. When we settle into God’s presence, we are covered by Him. He defends us and protects us. No one can snatch us from His hand. No one can harm us. He is the Supreme God, Elyon, God Almighty, El Shaddai.

This single verse says so much. When I put the full meanings of the words into the verse, this is what I get:

Those who settle into or remain in the presence of Elyon, the Supreme God who is above all other Gods, that person will remain forever under the protection of the Almighty God.
Psalm 91:1 (SJH)

It’s because of this sentence – this first verse of Psalm 91 that the Psalmist can write verse 2 with confidence.

I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Psalm 91:2 (KJV)

When we settle into the presence of God and stay there throughout the day, we can confidently face the challenges of this life because we know – we know – that we are under His protection. He is our refuge. He is our fortress. He is our God who is faithful and worthy of our trust.

God is so good. In the midst of my busyness, He stopped me in my tracks to remind me that He wants me to live in His presence, not just visit for a few minutes each day. He wants to give me the Kingdom. What a deal! What a good God!

Comments Comments Off on Those Who Live…

Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart
In the previous blog in the Living God’s Heart series, I wrote the following:

A broken heart is painful. A broken heart is a good thing.

It may be hard to agree with the second sentence – is a broken heart really a good thing? According to Scripture it is.

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)

That’s a good thing.

A broken heart is meant to draw us near to God – to help us hang on to Him and to help us understand, even if just a little, the tremendous price He paid when He suffered for each of us even though we had broken His heart.

If we’re not careful, though, a broken heart can be our downfall. If we choose to hold on to the pain of the broken heart, it drives us further and further from God and the purposes He has for our lives. I can’t love my neighbor when I am nursing the pain of a previous betrayal. I can’t give pour out my heart for others if I haven’t allowed God to heal it and fill it back up. I can’t even show sincere kindness if I’ve allowed my broken heart to become brittle and easily offended.

A few months ago I wrote about having an unoffendable heart and quoted this passage in Ephesians:

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

If we allow the brokenness in our heart to hold on to an offense, we cannot live a life of love. We cannot give ourselves up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice by loving others.

Are you struggling with a broken heart right now? One Scripture I like is this:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8 (NASB)

Sure, the first half of the verse is a lot more comforting that the second half, but both apply here. When your heart is broken and you are struggling with forgiveness (of others, yourself or God), don’t pull away from God. Draw near to Him. When you do, He promises to draw near to you. There is peace and forgiveness and healing at the feet of Jesus. Draw near to Him.

If you are struggling to let go of a hurt or forgive an offense, you are on the edge (or perhaps already over the edge) of sin. You are most likely double-minded – desiring to follow God’s commands and forgive but finding it difficult to do so. I’ve experienced that see-saw battle that wages as we seek to forgive what feels unforgivable. Double-minded is a good word for that condition. So draw near to God, confess your struggles and your sin, cleans your hands, purify your hearts. God will draw near to you.

Broken heartedness is painful. But, yes, it is a good thing if we choose to let it bring us to the feet of Jesus.

Comments Comments Off on Broken Heartedness Hurts – We have a Choice How We Respond

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

The phrase that grabs me in this passage is the title of this blog – “make every effort.” But before we get there, we have to deal with the beginning of verse 5. “For this very reason” the verse begins. What reason? Check out yesterday’s blog for more, but the synopsis is that God has given us everything we need so that we can participate in His nature and escape the corruption of the world. Whew! That’s quite a gift and quite a promise. And as a response to that gift, we’re to “make every effort.” Not because of an unpaid debt, although we clearly have one, but because of our appreciation for what He has done and our love for Him. He has given so much for us, we are to “make every effort” to live in the way that pleases Him.

That means living godly lives – faithful, good, self-controlled, consistent, kind, loving lives. During a recent study of this passage with a small group, someone asked if there was a logical progression to the characteristics we’re to display. I think there is, but I don’t think it’s absolute. The order they’re presented here makes sense to me… but God has a way of working outside the box. The point is that He is working and we should be responding to that working by making every effort to improve in each area.

Growth doesn’t happen simply from reading about it. It happens when we make a decision to respond to what we’re reading. It happens when we work toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

I love verse 8. It is probably one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It holds a promise that is important to me. If we possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus. I want my life to count for something. Possessing these qualities in increasing measure ensures that. They will keep me from being ineffective and unproductive. Let’s put it in the positive: They will help me to be effective and productive – they will help me to accomplish the purposes God has for my life.

I’ve been careful to reiterate the phrase “in increasing measure” each time I’ve cited the verse. That’s because I think we can get stalled out at any point and it’s at those times that we begin to lose our effectiveness. Paul repeatedly talks about the importance of finishing the race well. That only happens if we make every effort on to increase in our Christ-likeness an ongoing basis. When we retire from pursuing those qualities, we retire from effectively serving God. We lose our purpose. We become ineffective and unproductive.

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Peter 1:9 (NIV)

Those who don’t have the qualities described in verses 5 through 7 are nearsighted and blind. We have forgotten what God has done for us. We’re no longer productive and effective. We’re groping around for a purpose and a plan. Lack of spiritual maturity blinds us. Growing in Christ brings vision.

We don’t want to be like that. Peter didn’t want the first century Christians to be like that:

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)

Oh friends – because growing in these qualities makes you productive and effective and not having them makes you nearsighted and blind, be all the more eager to make your calling sure. God is the One who has called us, “by His own glory and goodness” (see the previous blog for more on this), but we confirm that calling through the walking out of our faith – changed attitudes and behaviors. Continuing in Christ, we have a “rich welcome” waiting for us at the end of this road. A welcome that begins our eternal life in the kingdom of our Lord.

We can be nearsighted and blind – without a plan or purpose – or we can make every effort to grow in qualities that help us to become more like Christ.

Let me encourage you as Peter encouraged first century believers – make every effort.

Comments Comments Off on Make Every Effort

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

If I went to the store and bought you a beautiful dress or suit, but you chose to continue to wear the clothes you already have in your closet, would you be enjoying that new dress or suit? Not really. You might enjoy looking at it occasionally, but you wouldn’t really be getting all the enjoyment you could out of it.

Or what if I were suddenly very rich, and I bought you a tremendously beautiful mansion, but you chose to live in a shack, would you be enjoying that mansion? Of course not.

Well, God has done more than that. God has given us the Kingdom, here on earth, but when we don’t move into that Kingdom, it’s a whole lot like choosing not to live in the mansion someone’s given us.

This week’s Resting at the River’s Edge includes 2 Peter and the first chapter teaches us about moving into that mansion. Let’s look at some of the verses a bit closer.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
2 Peter 1:3a (NIV)

I want to pause there. By His divine power. Peter is talking about God. By God’s power, He has given us everything we need for living a godly life. Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you find yourself saying “God, I don’t think I can do this anymore?” or “God, I can’t”? When you find yourself in that place, remind yourself – God has given you everything you need to live a godly life.  And then go to the rest of the verse:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

We receive everything we need by through our knowledge of Him. So when we’re struggling in life, perhaps we need to spend more time learning more about Him – getting to know Him better. Study His Word, spend time with Him in prayer and worship Him regularly. Enter His awesome presence regularly.

You know, when you live with someone, you get to know them. When you got married, you learned a whole lot more about your husband or wife than you knew before you lived with him or her, didn’t you? Of course you did!

We must live in the presence of God – in His secret place – to know Him.

Those who live in the secret place of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

We’re going to study that verse in detail soon. But first we’re going to look closely at 2 Peter 1. Let’s first look at the rest of verse 3:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

The One who has given us everything we need for life and godliness is also the One who has called us to Himself. He is the One who bid us to come to Him; who invited us and made it possible for us to come to Him.

He did that because of His own glory and goodness. When Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine so that we might come to know God, He didn’t do it begrudgingly or out of a sense of duty. He did it because it is part of His nature to give. Because of his own glory, because of his own goodness, he called us to come to himself

Meditate on that. Think about it. And while you think about it, think about what came from that act…The next verse reminds us of a very important point. Let’s start with verse 3 and read on:

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Through God’s glory and goodness, He has given us great and precious promises. What are some of these promises? Take a minute to name them for yourself. Take more than a minute and journal your thoughts.

The verse goes on to tell us the purpose of the promises. It says that God has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them 2 things can happen:

  1. We may participate in God’s divine nature.
  2. We can escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

God has given us everything we need to live Godly lives. No matter what our circumstances are.

If you’re struggling, get to know Him better. Study His Word, spend time with Him in prayer and worship Him regularly. Enter His awesome presence regularly.

Comments Comments Off on We’ve Been Given Everything We Need

Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartDeveloping a generous heart brings you face to face with a needy world. At some point, you will see and feel the immensity and desperateness of the need and your heart will be broken. You will see people who have no hope and long to be able to give more than you have to give.

A broken heart is painful. A broken heart is a good thing.

Christ died of a broken heart. Hear his grieving over his unrequited love for His people:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Matthew 23:37 (NIV)

It wasn’t just a New Testament/Israelites thing. Paul wrote to Timothy:

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NIV)

Just as Jesus longed to gather the Israelites under His wings, the One who gave His life as a ransom for all men desires that all men be saved.

He died so that men and women could live forever, yet His heart breaks because they reject Him.

Even those of us who know Him contribute to His broken heart. He longs to bless us yet we live lives of compromise that hinder Him from doing what brings Him joy.

When you love as much as Christ loves, your heart will be broken. When you give as much as Christ gave, your heart will be broken.

Yes, when we live from God’s heart, we live in His joy. Yet in the paradox that is living in Christ, we also live broken hearted. Grieved for those who don’t know Him. Painfully aware of the needs of those around us. Sorry for our own sin.

We don’t live in condemnation, but we live in humility.

A broken heart is a good thing. It is a very tangible way that we know we are becoming more like Christ. It also carries the promise that God will be near us:

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)

Don’t despise your broken heart. Don’t run away from it because it’s not happy or fun. Embrace it, knowing that it is a foreshadowing of joy. It will prompt you to give, which brings joy. It will prompt you to repent or change, which brings blessing. It makes you more like Christ.

Comments Comments Off on Broken Hearted

2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)

It seems to me that a study of joy would take us through a study of suffering. I haven’t done such a study so I can’t say that definitively, but the two seem to be intermingled frequently in the New Testament.  In this passage, James writes that “when troubles come” – because they surely will – “consider it an opportunity for great joy!” Anyone who preaches that life after Christ will be free from troubles is not preaching true to Scripture. Don’t listen to such preachers. They are not honestly and accurately delivering the Word of God.

When trouble comes, we to consider it an opportunity for great joy! That amazes me a bit. If you were to ask me “what opportunities for great joy are you seeing in the coming months?” my answer wouldn’t include the troubles I see on the horizon. (Obviously, I haven’t internalized and “owned” this teaching yet.)

By the way, that’s a great question to ask yourself periodically – “what is coming in the months ahead that will bring me great joy?” It’s also a great question to ask others. It helps to refocus us from the troubles of the moment to the blessings of God. But I digress.

My answer to the question would tend toward the more natural – I expect business to improve, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I am participating in a mother-daughter pageant with my mom in a couple of weeks, I am looking forward to just being with my husband and hoping for some special time with him, I am expecting to learn some new skills in the next two months. All those things have the potential of bringing me great joy.

You didn’t find in my list the challenges I see in the coming months. But James tells us that those challenges are opportunities for great joy! Imagine how different my outlook would be if I considered those opportunities I listed and the challenges I anticipate as opportunities for great joy! How much better my outlook for the future would be!

Faith Requires Energy
Verse three tells me that the challenges I anticipate in the next few months have the potential for increasing my endurance. Endurance increases as we increase our ability to maintain a higher level of energy. So whether running longer or standing in faith longer, we’re building endurance. Faith requires energy! It is not a passive thing. It requires actively engaging our faith muscle. And challenges increase our ability to do that. It increases our endurance.

I am not a marathon runner, but I have some friends who are. As they train, it is hard work, but they are so joyful when they have reached the finish line of their marathon. Exhausted, yes. But joyful at the accomplishment. How much more joyful can we be when we remain standing after battles that have challenged our faith? Yes, the training is hard, and yes, the battle is exhausting. But the victory in Jesus is sweet and precious and joyful!

So Let Your Faith Grow!
The phrase that stopped me in this passage this morning was “So let it grow.” I tried to keep reading, but I couldn’t. “Let it grow” Scripture says. Don’t do anything to hinder the growth of your faith or to limit the increase in your ability to endure. Hang on to faith and let it grow.

What might we do to hinder the process. Well, worry is the first thing that comes to my mind. When I worry, I am not increasing my faith muscle. I am increasing my ability to distrust God. I am feeding the thing inside me that believes that satan will win and God will not be my Savior and Redeemer and Protector and Giver of Life. I am feeding my unbelief. How can my faith grow in that environment?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me”
John 14:1 (NIV)

Wow! Two blogs on the same subject in two days! I guess God is trying to get my attention. Or perhaps yours! I thought I had gotten over my tendency to worry. Perhaps I’ve fallen into old habits. Perhaps at an underlying level I am stewing (aka worrying) over things I shouldn’t.

“Let your faith muscle grow”, God is saying. He’s got a good reason for saying it:

4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:4 (NLT)

As I grow in faith, as my ability to faithfully endure the challenges of life, I am made more perfect and complete in Christ. That’s the place I want to be.

This week, my personal assignment is to settle into God regularly throughout the day, enabling His peace and wisdom to be the place I live. More about that in upcoming blogs! For today, let your faith grow!

Comments Comments Off on Let it Grow!

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter