- 2015Dec 17
Jesus is on the throne, now and forever. It seems I've been reminded of this continually lately. Life's circumstances have clouded my vision a bit, but with this simple reminder, I have consistently been brought back to the truth.
Troubles lose their weight when we see and believe this reality deep within our souls. This truth gives us a heavenly perspective on the circumstances we face and allows us the ability to endure trials with confident assurance that our God is in control.
Now, I cannot pretend to know all the reasons why God allows difficulties into our lives, but when confronted with them, I often think about what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. He said, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11b-12, emphasis mine). Did you catch that? Paul learned how to be content. He learned how to face every circumstance thrown at him. Quite simply, we are not born with a propensity toward contentment, nor do we naturally face trials with joy, but we can learn to do so.
Elsewhere, Paul says, "I rejoice in my sufferings" (Colossians 1:24). James, the brother of Jesus, echoed Paul's sentiments when he said, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3). Trials are not meant to destroy us but are intended to test and discipline and strengthen and purify us.
We know that our God is good and faithful. We know God is sovereign and in control of all things. We know we are loved by God with a love that is far beyond comprehension. And we also know that it would be inconsistent with God's character for Him to allow difficulty into His children's lives that He did not intend for good. Our loving Father is not out to hurt us, but to mold us into the image of His Son, for our good and His glory.
James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him." During certain seasons of life, it can feel like we're made to endure one storm after another, but when this happens, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus, "who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven," is not only with us in our battles but is fighting for us (Hebrews 8:1, Matthew 28:20, 2 Chronicles 20:17).
Right after Paul wrote about learning how to endure all things well, he said, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). This is the key, my friend. To live in complete and total dependance on Jesus––our Lord, our Savior, our Shepherd, our Counselor, our Prince of Peace, our Intercessor, our Advocate, our High Priest, our everything. May both you and I keep our eyes fixed on Him.
"To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!"
- Psalm 123:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
- Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
- Hebrews 4:15-16, emphasis mine
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
- 1 Peter 5:6-11, emphasis mine
- 2015Dec 10
All of life should be viewed through the lens of the Gospel. A lens colored by who God is and who we are in light of Him. It's a top-down approach, one largely neglected by many of us who choose instead to see life and the world from our own vantage point. In this bottom-up approach, we falsely define God, our circumstances, and the world in light of who we are. We allow our views to subjectively contaminate how we see life and our Creator.
It's easy to do. It's easy to choose the wrong lens––to see God and our lives through the lens of suffering or the lens of betrayal or the lens of sickness or the lens of loss or the lens of discouragement. And it's certainly easy to allow our feelings to color what we see, but ultimately, if we choose any lens but the Gospel lens we pick up distortions and grossly misinterpret just about every part of life.
Truth is what we seek. Not our truth, not someone else's, but God's. He is the one who defines life and gives truth, not us.
J.I. Packer said, "Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord.” Brother Lawrence wrote, "Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”
True understanding, and perseverance through life's storms, comes with knowing God. In knowing who He is and how He sees us. Now, of course we will never be able to mine the depths of who God is, but committing ourselves to a life-long pursuit to grow in the knowledge of God is something that will yield unimaginable fruit. It's something we will never regret doing.
- 2015Dec 09
Last week, I wrote about how important it is to engage in the pursuit to know God. About how we can use a Biblically accurate understanding of who God is to see the world and ourselves as they truly are. All truth, remember, begins and ends with God.
There is, of course, so much to know about our God. Truly, we will never be able to fully grasp all that He is, and I think that's okay. I don't know about you, but I don't want a God who is able to be fully grasped by a mind limited by humanity. I love how J.I. Packer put it. He said, “A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man's image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all.”
But God does reveal Himself to both you and me in Scripture, so that we might find joy in Him. As John Piper wrote, “But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.” And so, our pursuit of God persists.
I think, perhaps, one of the greatest revelations we're given about God is that "God is love," (1 John 4:8). The Apostle John once said, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.... We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:10, 19 NIV). Love originates with God. God is not just loving. He is love. The complete embodiment of love. And it is the love of God that sustains us.
One of the many things I love about our God is that when we walk with Him, He makes each of us feel like we're the only one He could possibly love so much. Like there's no one else in this world that He sees at any given moment. Like we're His favorite.
All throughout scripture, we hear God say things like,
"'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine'" (Isaiah 43:1).
"...you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you..." (Isaiah 43:4).
"'...behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:20).
God loves us. So much so that we're told, "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing" (Zephaniah 3:17). God sings over us. Can you believe that?
Understanding the love of God for you is perhaps one of the greatest things you can know. We are loved with an unquenchable love. A love that pursues us relentlessly with unfathomable devotion. A love that will never, never let us go.
We're given assurance given of His love in Romans 8:34-39. It says,
"Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
'For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Know who you are in Christ. Know that God loves you. That He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20). Remember that, if you've given your heart to Jesus, you are a child of God. You are His. And you are loved.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.