Today’s post is a nod to my pastor, John King, and a sermon he delivered a couple of weeks ago. You can watch it here.
I used to fancy myself as an easy-going, roll-with-the-punches kind of person who loved change and adventure. Truth be told, the older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that I am not nearly as flexible and welcoming of change as I would like to think. In fact, my stubbornness regarding the subject is not so unlike that of a pig I once knew.
The fact is, life is changing. Some of it’s good. Some, not so much. Either way, I’m finding it challenging to deal with much of it. But I’m reminded that God is still God. The following four points are those laid out by my pastor along with my own two cents.
1) . Lay claim to the nearness of God. “You will never be where God is not.”
In fact, Psalm 139:7,8 says the same thing:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”
Just because it doesn’t feel like God is there in the middle of our chaos doesn’t mean He isn’t. Emotions are God-given and have their place, but when the rubber meets the road, truth is what we fall back on. And the truth is that God will never leave us or forsake us.
2). Rely on the character of God.
In his sermon, Pastor King told the story of JJ Jasper who was given some devastating news that he was going to have to tell his family. Before he did, though, he sat them all down and asked them to start listing off everything they knew that was good and true about God.
This is quite possibly the most valuable exercise we can do for several reasons:
- It’s an exercise in recalling what God has done for us up to this point. What characteristics of God has He displayed in the past? How has He answered prayer in the past? How have you seen Him work in your life?
- It’s an exercise in renewing our mind: It replaces the doubts, questions, and worry we have regarding our situation and replaces it with truth.
- It’s an exercise in reciting His praises. There is nothing quite like singing the praises of God to drag us out of our pit of self-pity and into the realm of truth.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9, ESV).
3). Pray your pain out.
“When you’re going through tough times, it’s not a time to stop praying. It’s not a time to pray sweet little prayers.”
We have the freedom to tell Him how we feel. He already knows anyway. I have found myself over the years praying something like this: “Lord, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I feel like the magnitude of my situation requires words I don’t have, that the ones I’m using are just not reaching your ears, that possibly my situation is too big for you.”
Ever felt that way? Ever wondered if your situation is the one situation that will trip God up?
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:25-27, ESV).
Tell me one other belief system in the world whose god, in spirit form, intercedes on behalf of his followers when they’re too distraught to know what to say. There are none. Only our God is so intimately involved with the daily goings-on of His people who even when words fail them, he fills in the gaps. Amazing.
4). Don’t isolate yourself.
I will admit that when things get hairy, my initial reaction is to hibernate, to hole up in the deepest corner of my house and sulk. The last thing I want is to be surrounded by other humans with just as many problems as me especially if it’s other people who have contributed to my current state of frustration. Besides the fact that this is a case of me pointing one finger at someone else with three pointing back at me (immaturity at its best), it’s also unbiblical. We are not an island meant to do life alone.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).
Adoption into the family of God comes with unparalleled perks. Just as the Holy Spirit speaks for us when we can’t, the family of God is a built-in support system for whatever we’re going through. Don’t run from the one thing that God designed so specifically for the way He made us. We are relational. We need each other.
What Child is this? The simple truth is this:
The Child is everything we need. There is no substitute for Jesus. God’s plan of redemption is complete in this Child. We don’t need, nor can we, add anything to Him. He’s completely perfect. Completely redemptive. Completely restorative, loving, all-encompassing, not lacking in anything, completely gracious, merciful, and good.
I pray this Christmas will be especially meaningful to you as you remember God’s great Gift of hope to us. Merry Christmas.