These are my notes from my Sunday morning message that I promised to post for VCC folks. References to previous blogs will take you to that blog if you click on its title. You can also listen to the message (and a few of my other messages) by clicking here. It will open in a separate window.
- Standing in the midst of the smoking rubble of a completely destroyed city, having experienced rejection again and again, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a lament. In the middle of that lament, he says…
- “My soul has been deprived of peace (shalom); I have forgotten what happiness is. Then I thought: My future is lost, as well as my hope from the Lord. Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. I continually remember them and have become depressed. Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:17-26 HCSB) Later Jeremiah says, “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea when I said, ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’” (Lamentations 3:55-57)
- What we see here with Jeremiah is a “transfer of his trust” from himself and his perception of things back to the One he knew who alone could be trusted.
- We often see this transfer of trust in David’s psalms as well. Here’s one example of many: “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. (Psalm 3:1-6 NIV 1984) There are many more psalms like this, of course.
- One more example from our friend, Simon Peter: During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little trust,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31 NIV 1984)
- Each of these passages show us a person “transferring his trust.”
- Worry (fear, anxiety, etc.) is an invitation to transfer our trust from ourselves to God. We all have faith. It’s where that trust is placed, it’s where our confidence really rests that’s important, of course. Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Don’t trust your own understanding of things…”
- When our world is shaken to pieces, it’s natural for us to lose focus and become afraid. The fear in that moment is not sin but is instead a wonderful reminder of Papa’s invitation to transfer our trust back to Him. How do we do this? Here are a few of the most important things we can do.
o We were created for a relationship with God, and trust is an essential part of any relationship and is especially important in our relationship with God, of course.
o Interestingly enough, trust grows from our being in a relationship with someone, but it’s also required in order for the relationship to grow. We trust as we get to know them, but we will only get to know them if we trust at least a little!
o We trust someone deeply because we know he/she can be trusted and because we know they care about us. We trust God because we know He treasures us and can do anything He wants for us because of His love for us.
o The challenge with our trusting God is that the devil’s full-time job is to undermine our trust by misrepresenting God. (This started with the first temptation in the Garden when he undermined Eve’s trust in God, and this strategy continues to this very day).
o God is good—all the time. Anything that says otherwise: pain, tragedy, evil is not from God but from the enemy. God when He finished creating the Universe said that it was “Very good.” There was absolutely no evil present in the world, and that perfectly good world is an accurate reflection of the nature and character of God. Evil did not enter the world through God but through the rebellion of a powerful angel followed by Adam’s rebellion.
o So even though God is Perfectly Good, the enemy tries to get us to focus us on the bad, seeking to smear God’s reputation and undermine our trust in Him.
o So what is God really like? He is like Jesus and He is like what He tells us to be towards others. For more on this see my previous blog entry entitled Why??? written on 8.30.17. You may also want to read my blog on "What is God Like?" by clicking here (it will again open in a separate window), and here for part two.
o Do we really get this? Do we understand that God never brings evil, never intended evil to be part of His creation, and will someday and somehow redeem all of it? (To see how you’re doing with this, give yourself a “religion check.” If you tend to focus on your behavior—sin management, doing the right thing so you won’t get in trouble, etc.—you are revealing your need to get know Papa a lot better. The Christian life is not about avoiding sin but about living to delight the One who delights us.)
o I trust that you can see why this is so very important! We are not likely to trust a God who sends evil or somehow “allows” it for our good, etc. But that’s not what God is really like! The following quote from The Shack nails it: “Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
o Even Martin Luther understood that God was completely good. Many hundreds of years ago, he wrote this remarkable thing about prayer: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of God’s willingness!”
o Do we need to stop and let Holy Spirit adjust your thinking right now? :-)
2. Refresh your understanding of who He really is. How?
o Remember His Fingerprints on your life.
§ Thanksgiving/Gratitude are wonderfully helpful in helping us transfer our trust back to Papa.
§ That’s why Paul includes “thanksgiving” in Philippians 4:6: "When your anxiety detector lets you know that you are indeed anxious and filled with worry, make your concerns known to God, with all kinds of praying sprinkled liberally with thanksgiving for all the amazing things God has already done to reveal His love and faithfulness." (TW paraphrase)
§ I have a blog entry on this, too, entitled Worrying About Worry posted on Sept. 23, 2009.
o Remember His Word.
§ God’s Word reminds us of His absolute trustworthiness. As Pastor Tony has been reminding us, it’s good to ask God for specific promises when we are struggling to trust Him.
§ But remember that for God’s word to have power in your life, it has to be seen and experienced in the context of your intimate relationship with Him.
§ Scripture speaks to me in the time of testing because of my relationship with Him, not to cause me to have a better relationship with Him. In other words, because I know Him so well, His words mean everything to me!
§ God’s word doesn’t create faith in you as much as it reminds you that He is trustworthy and has given many, many promises that you can count on because He is the Promise-Keeper!
§ If you trust Him, you will trust His word (and that leads to even more trust).
o Remember His kindness and faithfulness to and through others.
§ Have you already found yourself being renewed by the amazing Harvey stories about people helping people? I have! And I see God’s hand in it all!
§ Philippians 4:8-9 comes to mind where Paul encourages us to intentionally focus our minds on good, true lovely things. You see, it doesn’t “feed my faith” to look at bad news, etc. I don’t mean we ignore things completely, but rather we can make good decisions about what we focus on. I don’t need to know everything about bad things—that puts the emphasis upon me and my need to understand (Proverbs 3:5-6 again). But I do need to refresh my mind often by thinking about the good I see in others and in what others are doing.
§ We all “meditate” don’t we? It’s probably best to meditate on what God is like, what He’s doing, His word, what His people are doing, etc., instead of what the enemy is doing (worry is simply meditating on the wrong subject! Kris Vallotton: “Expecting something bad to happen is coming into agreement with the wrong Kingdom.”
§ You see, in order to trust Papa I need to be able to hear what He is saying (all the time), and it’s much easier to hear Him if I am meditating on good stories that reflect God’s goodness, love and power.
3. Surrender your need to understand everything!
o Proverbs 3:5-6 eliminates our asking “Why,” doesn’t it? (Think about it--asking "why" comes from a desire to trust our understanding!)
o God rarely answers the “Why” question because He translates “Why” into what you are really saying: “Papa, I’m afraid,” and because we almost certainly wouldn’t understand His answer to “Why” anyway.
o Instead of telling us why, God’s answer is almost always, “I am with you” or “I will be with you.”
o Which would you rather have: answers to your questions or God’s Presence? Yes, sometimes He will indeed show us some reasons for things, but most of the time He knows that what we need most is not one more answer but rather His Presence and power at work in our lives.
o Remember, too, that biblical faith (trust) always includes a longer view—one that stretches into eternity (which we definitely can’t understand at present!). Read Hebrews 11:13-16 and you will get a glimpse of what I mean by this. The bottom line is that a lot of things in this present life won’t make sense until we see them from Eternity’s perspective, and because of this, we gladly surrender our need to understand things. Remember, we are encouraged not to trust our understanding, and if we refuse to surrender our need to understand everything, we won’t be able to “trust in the Lord with all of our heart.”
o Clinging to the need to understand means that you are trusting you and your perception of things, exchanging your very limited perception of things for God’s embrace. Surrendering our need to understand everything frees us to transfer our trust fully to the One who really does understand everything and works it all to our good.
4. Shift your focus back to Him and return to His embrace.
o “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon the face of a saving God.” A.W. Tozer (The Pursuit of God)
o Faith is ultimately a decision, not a feeling, a choice to look at God and not anything else, a choice to lean upon, trust in, rely upon the Totally Trustworthy One.
o “Whenever I am afraid, I will choose to lean upon Him, to fully rely upon Him.” Psalm 56:3 (TW paraphrase)
5. Continually rely on and give support to the people around you.
o We were never meant to live the Jesus life alone. The most common word for believers in the New Testament is “brothers/sisters,” and that means we are family and were never meant to walk this journey alone.
o We need the encouragement of others in order to keep our trust securely transferred to Papa God, especially in difficult times.
o And amazingly enough, it also strengthens us to strengthen others. How can you not be encouraged while encouraging others with stories of God’s fingerprints, His Word, etc.?
o I love how the Passion Translation reminds us of this (Hebrews 10:23-25): “So now we must cling tightly to the hope that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises! Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.”
- Remember Jeremiah? The books of Jeremiah and Lamentations contain reflections of his intimate, if bumpy at times, relationship with God. It was Jeremiah’s intimate relationship with God that enabled him to shift his focus and transfer his trust to God. And we see that this intimate relationship started with Jeremiah’s call in Jeremiah 1:8 “Do not be afraid of those to whom I send you, for I will be with you to protect you,” says the Lord. (NET)
- Does that promise sound familiar to you? It’s the same one God makes to each of His children!
- I close with a quote from an earlier blog entry I wrote about Jeremiah on February 5, 2011 (“Standing in the Smoking Rubble”).
Oh, Papa God! How truly amazing you are! Even as I stand in the rubble, smoke clouding my vision, your radiant goodness gives hope. How can I not hear your invitation to trust you and wait quietly for the goodness that is yet to come?!!