I Really Want to be Like Jesus…

I really want to be like Jesus…

Instead, I disappoint my friends, speak harsh words, and let the dumbest things get me off track.

It was one of those days. By lunchtime I was in tears over the ways I had failed. I flopped on the couch at our Take Heart office, totally discouraged.

Then my eyes drifted up to a picture on our wall, one of the framed pieces we’d used in our prayer chapel:

enterhisrest Enter His rest. Be still in His silence. Be renewed in His quiet.

As I read these calming words, I began to feel the peace of Christ wash over me, reminding me of the forgiveness that is available to all who ask.

I was reminded that God called us to Himself “while we were yet sinners.”(Romans 5:8) When Jesus said “come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” he didn’t say we had to get it right before we came.

In fact, he was calling to the discouraged. To people like me who start the day by the Spirit and too easily slip into the habits of the flesh.

I closed the office door, eased back down into the couch, and the tears that fell became tears of gratitude for the love of a Good Father. One whose arms are always open. One who calls us to be renewed in His Presence. One who readies us to go out again, to work out our salvation, learning to be like Jesus one moment at a time.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt:11:28-30

Fighting Fair with God

madwomanShe was mad. Mad at her husband. Mad at her boss. Mad at the world. And mad at God. She ranted about how badly life had treated her. And how she couldn’t understand why God didn’t fix things for her.

My heart reached out to her. She had really been through a lot. Some of her struggles were truly not her fault. But other problems were, at least in part, the result of her own bad choices.

To blame God for not rescuing her from her own poor choices—well, that just wasn’t fighting fair.

But—in fairness—while my friend’s rantings made her error more obvious, one look at the mirror told me that she wasn’t the only one who sometimes blames God for problems she walks into all by herself!

Scripture gives plenty of examples of people struggling with God, pleading with God, pouring out their troubles and asking for rescue. And I absolutely believe God would have us fight things through with Him rather than walk away from Him.

But, as I look at the Scriptures, I see certain principles of fair fighting, certain truths that can turn our rantings at God to a growing trust in God.

  1. Remember who God is.

I think of Job, who truly didn’t deserve his hard times, but was still chastened for questioning God. God’s reply to his complaint:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” (Job 38:4) and

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” Job 40:2a

When we pridefully challenge God, we dishonor Him by forgetting that God is Creator and that we are created. We fail to acknowledge how little we understand about His purposes for the world and for us.

David also had plenty of troubles. And he very openly poured out his anguish and complaints to God, saying things like:

“My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3)

“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

“My God, my god, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

But even as David questioned God’s presence and provision, he never forgot who God is. Look at these verses from the same three psalms:

In Psalm 6, David calls on God to save him, “because of [his] unfailing love” (v 4 ) affirming that because “the Lord accepts my prayer,” “all my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed.” (v 9 and 10).

In Psalm 10, David says that “the Lord is King for ever and ever,” the God who hears “the desire of the afflicted.” (v 16 and 17).

In Psalm 22, immediately after asking God why He has seemingly ignored David, David says “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them (vss 3-4).

Taking time to remember who God is gives us an important perspective check. God is good. God loves us. But God is sovereign and does not answer to us.

  1. Remember who we are.

 When my friend and I blame God for our circumstances, so often we forget

  • Our own limited perspective
  • Our personal responsibility

After hearing God’s answer to his railings, Job replied, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5)

When we remember who God is as Creator and who we are as the created, we realize the arrogance of our arguments, and come before him humbly.

And, as Paul reminds us in Romans 3, that humble place is not only because we are created. It is because we are fallen:

“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

When I bring my complaints before God recognizing my sin, I am less likely to blame God for things that are my own fault. Instead, I am humbled to ask God to forgive me, to transform me, and to help me. And I am reminded that it is God’s grace that works to redeem my messes for my good and His glory. 

  1. Remember that God has the best plan.

When I rant at God, it’s often because I know what I want. I think I know best, and I’m not getting it!

Yet when I think about requests God has said “no” to in the past, it’s very often with a sense of gratitude. Because looking back, I catch glimpses of the work God was doing that I couldn’t see at the time—character building, preparing me for even greater blessing.

I believe God is pleased when we bring Him our hurts and even our frustrations with His apparent lack of help. And sometimes we have to wrestle with God about intense feelings of hurt and disappointment. Like barren Hannah, we can pray “out of great anguish and grief” (1 Samuel 1:16) But as we fight fair, remembering who God is, and who we are in relation to him, we can also leave the fight with faces like Hannah’s that are “no longer downcast” (v 18) because of a restored trust in our good, loving God. 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, at FreeDigitalPhoto.net.

 

Trust…?

I listened as two friends fretted about sending their children to overnight camp for the first time. No calls home. No daily reports. Five days without knowing how their children were.

Their kids were with loving, responsible church members, but it was still hard to let them go. asburyhills

It’s funny how much we think we trust someone until it really matters.

Even God.

I say I trust God. But the proof of our trust in God comes in our actions.

I say I trust God to watch over my kids, but will I reject worry while they’re away at camp (or kindergarten, or college)?

I say that I trust God to love people through me, but will I stick with the hard relationships while He does? 

I say that I trust God to provide for my needs, but will I live generously and joyfully, even when times are lean?

Truly trusting God is hard, but it’s a crucial part of our faith. Author Brennan Manning says “The stakes here are enormous, for I have not said in my heart, ‘God exists,’ until I have said, ‘I trust you.’” 1 Trust is the action that confirms our belief.

James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. Perhaps trust is the first and most important of those works, those proofs of our faith.

It was hard for my friends to leave their kids at camp. But they did, because ultimately they knew the adults supervising them were trustworthy.

The more we know that God is trustworthy, the more we act in trust. We learn of God’s trustworthiness through His Word, as we pray, and through the faith of those around us. Then, as we act in trust ourselves, we allow God to prove his faithfulness in very personal ways.

 

1Manning, Brennan (2010-10-12). Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God (Kindle Location 145). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.