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Top Click of 2013 on Women Walking Wisely: “What Does Real Trust Look Like?”

woman with magnifying glassI want the real thing.  Nothing fake.  Nothing counterfeit.  Just the real thing.

Unfortunately, I rarely can afford the real thing . . .  I don’t wear designer clothes.  My wedding ring contains the only diamond I own.  My beauty regimen consists of cheap products from Target–no fancy name-brand cosmetics here.

There is one thing I cannot afford to have if it is counterfeit:  Trust.  Specifically, trust in God.  I can’t afford fake trust.

I have tried fake trust before.  It has looked like this:  I encounter a trial.  I say the appropriate Christian cliche to myself or others, “I trust the Lord.”  Then, I quickly fall into worry, anger, demands to get  my own way, hurtful responses towards those I love, and self-protecting solutions–all which compound my problems.  Sound familiar?  Probably.

The problem with this kind of trust is that it always fails.  My faith falters.  Peace eludes me.  I make sinful choices.  Why?  This trust fails because regardless of what I say, the object of the trust is ME, and I will fail me every time.  The object of my trust must be GOD, and GOD ALONE.  Apart from Him, I will never walk wisely and victoriously through suffering.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see that biblical trust is active reliance on the one true God.  Think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Ruth.  Consider Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, and Esther.  Remember Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Stephen, and Paul.  These are just a few of those who have gone before us, walking wisely in this world by not trusting God merely with their WORDS, but with their ACTIONS.  Their trust was genuine.

Genuine biblical trust is a combination of knowledge, belief, attitude, and action:  Knowledge of the character of God, Belief in the truthfulness of who God is and what He is like, an Attitude of humble confidence in the Lord, and the Action of submitting to God’s care–“casting all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

“So,” you may be asking, “HOW am I to ‘cast’ my cares on the Lord?  HOW am I to respond to a trustworthy God?  What does trusting God look like in every day life?” 

To answer these questions, I encourage you to read and print the following list, and then put it somewhere you will see it regularly.  When you find your mind wandering (or marching) down the path of worry and despair, turn around and follow this path of active trust as you “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”  (II Corinthians 10:5):

1.  Acknowledge and believe the truth about God’s character.  Recount the attributes of God.  Remember His deeds of faithfulness throughout the Scriptures, in your own life, and in the lives of people you know.  Literally list all the ways that He has been faithful.  In prayer, begin thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.  If in your distress you are unable to do this, pray the Psalms.  “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

2.  Confess your unbelief and lack of trust in Him.  Admit to the Lord your lack of trust.  Ask Him to forgive you for your unbelief, worry, fear, anger, etc.  Find rest and comfort in His promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

3.  Cry out to God for help.  Ask your Heavenly Father for a steadfast heart that is loyal to Him despite your circumstances; “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)  Also, pray that He will move in your situation in very specific ways; “In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  

4.  Rely on the encouragement that comes from Scripture.  Read the Word.  Listen to it.  Memorize it.  Think on it.  You will be renewed as your mind is transformed by God’s Word.   His promises are the lifeblood for strengthening your faint heart.  If you are at the point at which you don’t know where to turn in the Bible, read any of the Psalms, stopping to think and pray through the verses that encourage you in your situation.  “My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to your Word.” (Psalm 119:32)

5.  Obey God’s revealed will in Scripture.  If God has given a command or a principle in Scripture that applies to your situation, then obey it.  Glorify the Lord in your life by doing what He commands.  Accept God’s wisdom, even if it is hard or doesn’t make sense to you.  Obey His Word, and leave the results to Him.  “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people, and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7: 23)

6.  Focus your attention on God and the eternal.  Focus . . . refocus . . . and focus again.  We are creatures of habit who often return to trusting ourselves and focusing on our troubles.  If that is where you find yourself, walk again through this path of trust that I have outlined.  Trusting God wholeheartedly takes practice!  Direct your attention to the unseen:  who God is, what He has done, His promises, His commands, His salvation, His glory that awaits you, and His very presence today.  ”Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3)

Fully trusting God in the midst of our troubles can seem like an impossibility, especially when our trials appear insurmountable and our own weaknesses seem over-powering.  But, God does not command us to do anything that He will not give the grace, strength, and ability to accomplish.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)   

Lean hard on Him.  He will not fail you.

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When Sparrows Fall

sparrow back in handThis past week one of my closest friends sent me a link to a sermon from Matthew 10:28-31, “When Sparrows Fall,” given several months ago by her pastor, Britt Merrick, at Reality Church in Carpenteria, California.  I listened to it alone one night, and then I shared it with my husband a couple days later.  It was such a needed and powerful encouragement to both of us that I want to share it with you, too.

After a leave of absence from the pulpit for ten months, Pastor Merrick shares with his congregation the lessons he learned as his eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, continued to battle cancer.  During his sabbatical from the ministry, Merrick learned that in his darkest hours, the question to ask was not “Why?”, but rather “Who?”  Speaking from experience, but even more importantly speaking from the Word of God, he genuinely and passionately offers the hope and encouragement that is only found in the presence of our heavenly Father. 

Are you in a dark hour?  Are your trials (in the family, work, ministry, or your own heart) so heavy and heartbreaking that you cannot seem to find your way? Remember what Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Please listen . . . and find Rest for your weary soul.

God in the Storm: Jonah 1

This past week I was in a storm.  It was not a storm of wind and rain.  It was a storm of the heart and mind.

I was despairing and angry about my circumstances.  I was facing a dilemma for which I had no solution . . . and that just frustrated me to no end.  I did not run to the Lord.  Instead, I fled from His wisdom and peace by sailing away in my fears and discontentment.  The storm grew, and I was sinking.

By no chance, I have been studying the book of Jonah with some dear friends.  Near the end of our hour together this past Saturday morning, the question was posed, “What did you learn about God from studying Jonah 1 this week?”

As I sat back and listened to their answers, I was convicted.  And I was comforted.  I would like to summarize for you some of the answers that were shared around my dining room table as these women recounted who God was in the storm of Jonah 1—and in the storms of their own lives when they also have fled from the Lord.

1.  God is sovereign over the storm.  “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up” (Jonah 1:4).  Not only did God use the storm, He sent it!  The Creator exercises power and authority over His creation (including calamity), and He is also sovereign over the smallest details of life:  “Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.’  So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah” (Jonah 1:7).  As it says in Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.”

2.  God is present in the storm.  “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.  So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. . . Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, ‘How could you do this?’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them” (Jonah 1:3, 10).  The saying, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” was first attributed to the American boxer Joe Louis, but Jonah was one of the earliest examples of this truth:  You can’t escape the presence of God; His dominion is not limited; He is everywhere, even in your storm.

3.  God is purposeful in the storm.  “He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea.  Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them . . . So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging” (Jonah 1:12-13,15).  The storm achieved the purpose for which God had sent it—to get Jonah back on track.  It was not a storm of fate.  It was not a storm of vengeance.  It was a storm with purpose, and God always achieves His purposes in the storms of our lives.  As it says in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God and there is no one like me . . . saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish my good pleasure.”

4.  God is mercifully pursuing through the storm. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Ninevah the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me. . . Then the men [sailors] feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. . . And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:1, 16,17).  God pursued Ninevah.  God pursued the sailors.  God pursued Jonah.  It was a storm of correction and discipline, redemption, and declaration.  In His mercy, not because of any merit of their own, God went after these people to show them the error of their ways, to pour out His grace upon them, and to declare to them the greatness of His name.  Likewise, the Lord pursues us in our storms.  What a tender mercy.