If it isn’t clear by now, I’ll say it again — what got me through years and years of waiting, depression, and pity parties was the Word of God. I listened to expository preaching weekly and had frequent discussions with “older women” in the faith. I ate up passages that declared God’s faithfulness. I delved into study; I underlined; I cross-referenced; I journaled. I cried out to the Lord for understanding, and He answered me (Proverbs 2:1-8). While He didn’t rescue me immediately, the entire process took 10 years, He gave me peace in His scriptures that saw me through it. So this is my exhortation to you, Sister, read the bible. Study it. Know what it says. Find pleasure and peace in God our Father.
I was reading in Psalm 119 yesterday and was reminded of how the Word of God carries us through our afflictions. In his distress, the Psalmist cries,
25 My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to your word.
26 I have told of my ways, and you have answered me; teach me your statues.
28 My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to your word.
38 Establish your word to your servant; as that which produces reverence for you.
49 Remember the word to your servant; in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction; that your word has revived me.
75 I know, O Lord, that your judgements are righteous; and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
81 My soul languishes for your salvation; I wait for your word.
89 Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth and it stands.
92 If your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
165 Those who love your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.
The psalmist clearly had great affliction and distress. Yet he found peace and hope as he studied the ordinances of God. The more He studied God’s word, the more He understood the God of heaven and loved His scriptures. I only gave you a few snippets to whet your appetite; I highly recommend you read the whole psalm and discover the beauty for yourself.
There is so much treasure to be found in a study of God’s word. It is through His word that he speaks to us and guides us. We may take to heart Paul’s commendation to Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
My favorite way to study the bible is through my bible reading plan. Right now I am doing the M’Cheyne plan in my bible app, which allows me to read in several different areas at once. When my reading brings me to Leviticus, I am also in the Gospels, the Prophets, and the Epistles. I also really enjoyed doing a chronological plan. While reading the Kings, I may also be reading the Prophets, and while in Acts, I also may be reading the epistles that Paul wrote at the time. Reading in this way brings depth and dimension to the words on the page. New connections are made as I see how God and His character remain the same throughout scripture. I try and journal what I am learning as I read. I say ‘try’ because sometimes I get lazy :0 I may change my plan from year to year, but I cannot imagine going back to reading just one book at a time.
What’s your favorite way to read the bible?
Last time I talked about one of my all-time favorite verses, Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” When things are going wrong in our lives, our first instinct is to be anxious, or worry about it, and then to strive for a way to fix it. But scripture says we are to act in a way contrary to nature and logic. We are to seek His will, not ours, and He will take care of our needs. We are to dwell on His kingdom, not our self-dom. We must shift our focus off of ourselves and onto God.
I have struggled with this idea from time to time. There was a time where I took a lesson from the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 and therefore was praying unceasingly for my problem. I beseeched God to grant me deliverance. I felt like I was doing the right thing; after all, didn’t Jesus tell us we were supposed to pray like this? But all it did was make me moody and discontent. Why?
My perspective was askew, I was praying and dwelling so much for myself and not for anyone else. My problems had become the center of my world. In reality, we need to have balance. We need to be persistent in prayer, i.e. not giving up, but we also need to be lifting up the needs of the saints. When we become others-focused then it shifts our point-of-view away from ourselves. Here are some ways we can do that.
1. Pray for Others
When we are in the midst of a trial we tend to get pretty selfish in our prayers, asking the Lord to help us through our present situation. As a matter of fact, we tend to become pretty self-centered all around as our primary focus is on our problems and our worries. As far as we are concerned we have it worse than anyone else and no one else has problems like us.
However, when we take a step back and look at the world as a whole and not just our tiny part we see that this is entirely untrue. When we focus our prayer time on other people and their needs then we are able to be more realistic about how our problems relate to the bigger picture. We get pulled out of our self-centered focus and remember the rest of God’s children.
Once a month I go a women’s prayer meeting and bible study, and I always leave with a fresh perspective of the issues I am dealing with. Not because we prayed for them as a group (which we did) but because of everyone else we prayed for! I’m reminded that I’m not the only person who is dealing with hard things; just because another person’s trial looks different than mine doesn’t mean it’s not just as hard!
In the past year I have sought to be more intentional about praying for others needs before I pray for my own. Through that, God has burdened my heart for a couple of women whom I lift up often. I feel as deeply for their needs as I do my own. The word of God tells us to pray for others, don’t rob yourself of the blessings of obedience.
2. Seek to Minister to the Needs of
We have been reminded that we are not the only ones with problems and needs, and while praying for them is a great start, we should not stop there. God intends for the Church to help one another. We are to: bear one anothers burdens (Galatians 6:2), regard one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), encourage and build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22) among other things.
While I was living in very tight quarters waiting for God to work, I continued to work with my youth group and serve the people of the church. I made meals for new moms and those in need. I listened to the needs of others and encouraged them with scripture that I had been reading.
Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first the kingdom of God and all these things (food, clothing, basic needs) will be added to you.” That has been a life-verse for me. When I focus on those things God has called me to do and the people He has asked me to help then I can trust He is going to take care of me.
In an earlier post I posed the question, “what can we do during the waiting time?” While the short answer is to be still or cease striving, I think there is something we can do — Seek first His kingdom and righteousness. Change our focus. Stop worrying about that which we are waiting for, and direct our attention instead on what God wants us to be doing with our lives.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34
This has been, and continues to be, a life verse for me, as it has kept me going through all of life’s ups and downs. When we had bills due and not enough money to pay them, and I would start getting anxious and think, “what should we do,” the Lord would guide me to this verse. My husband and I have served in the youth ministry ever since we got married and every year we spend a week during the summer at camp. It has always been always a great week of seeing the Lord work, but it has also been a week of no work and no paycheck. When I would get anxious because the bills were still due, the Lord would point me to this verse. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So in faith we would go serve the Lord at youth camp. And He always took care of us. Money didn’t necessarily fall from the sky, and we may not have have gotten extra from anywhere else, but we always had enough.
I’ve been reading the autobiography of Brother Andrew, a man who smuggled bibles behind the iron curtain during the Cold War when communist persecution of the church was prevalent. There are so many examples of seeking first the Kingdom of God in his life. So many times that he and his wife had a great need but no funds. Fulfillment of that need was impossible in his own strength. But, with God nothing is impossible. So they prayed and continued in faith to seek to build God’s kingdom, and God provided for their needs.
One instance of great faith was when he had his heart set on producing special small bibles for Russia in order to make it easier for more people to have one. But there was a huge cost involved. The only way they could think to come up with the money was to sell their house — the house they were currently living in. They knew God would provide another place for them to live, and they felt strongly about the enormous need for the people of Russia to have bibles. Because of their faith and desire to serve the Lord they put their house on the market. A week later they received a call from the Bible Society saying they would support the production and pay the entire cost upfront! Andrew only had to purchase the bibles he needed at the time and for half the cost! What a praise and an answer! They immediately took their house off the market. The Lord knew their need of a place to live as well as the need of making special bibles for Russia and He provided abundantly.
But what about those of us who are not missionaries to foreign countries — how do we seek first the Kingdom of God? Let’s go to the Word of God — Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tells me, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In light of that, one thing I am to be doing is teaching my children about God. When my mind is set on presenting the gospel and on discipleship rather than worrying about whatever the problem of the moment may be, then I am seeking first the Kingdom of God. I am to be focused on doing God’s will for my life and trust that He not only knows my needs but will provide for them.
That is just one example of God’s will for your life now, right where you are. In the next post we will look at other ways we can be seeking His kingdom.
What are some ways you can be focusing on building the Lord’s kingdom right now, where you are, in the midst of the chaos?
We know that our God is able to do anything. We may have even grown up singing,
*Our God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY; there’s nothing our God cannot do!*
But what does that mean in our everyday lives? How does this knowledge give us hope? We are prone to even forget this all-important truth as we deal with our everyday struggles. In my youth group and family devotionals we have been learning the characteristics of God. They are two different studies, but it is amazing to see how the two have been intertwining! It has been so encouraging to be reminded that God is eternal, holy, unchangeable, all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good. Because God is all of these things perfectly and infinitely we can trust Him with ALL of our cares and know that He will do what is best for us. And that gives us hope.
God is Perfectly Wise
Wisdom is different from knowledge. Knowledge is factual; Jeopardy contestants may be knowledgeable but not necessarily wise. Wisdom is the knowledge applied in ways that are good and right and helpful. God’s holy nature guides His wisdom so that everything He does WILL be the best thing.
First, let us discuss the wisdom of God for a moment. Romans 16:27 states that He is the only wise God and Proverbs 8:22-31 says that through wisdom God created the world. Psalm 104 and Job 38-41 also discuss God’s wisdom in creating and sustaining the world. Every time I go outside and observe the majesty of the tall oaks and cedars and the delicacy of the flowers, I know. When I consider the complexity of the human body and the harmony with which every living thing works, I know. As I contemplate the reality that in the past 6,000 years day and night, summer and winter, springtime and harvest have not ceased to come year by year, I know that God created the world in wisdom.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
I recently read in Daniel 2 when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a disturbing dream and called for all the wise men of the city to not only interpret his dream, but know the dream without being told it first! He was tired of phony magicians and ‘yes’ men. But no one could do that! Only God! He revealed this dream to Daniel — a dream that was in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind alone — God knew it! He knew it because He had planted it there, a dream telling of future nations to come. God is all-wise.
God is All-Good
You do not take pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells in you. Psalm 5:4
You are good and you do good. Psalm 119:68
For He is good and his salvation endures forever. Psalm 106:1
The verses state the fact that God is good, but what does that mean? First, He is good to ALL of His creation, we see this in the evidence of beauty and sun and rain on the good and the bad (Psalm 145:8-9; Matthew 5:45). Second, He is good in that He grants salvation to those who believe in Him (Romans 5:8) Because of His goodness He is willing to forgive. He grants salvation, mercy, and grace to sinners who repent and confess that He is Lord. We have His blessing instead of His wrath.
In a reading through the book of Mark, one thing that strikes me is how many times Jesus had compassion on people. Just regular people who were in pain; who couldn’t solve their problems on their own and cried to Jesus for help. They were poor, destitute sinners who had nothing to give in return. Even when Jesus was tired or in need of physical refreshment, He couldn’t refuse them. Mark 1:41 says he was moved with compassion when a leper came beseeching Him for healing. Jesus earthly ministry shows the goodness of God.
God is All-Powerful
Hebrews 1:3 tells us, He upholds all things by the word of His power, and Isaiah 40:26 says, He calls the stars by name because of the greatness of His might and strength. Nothing is to difficult for Him and no one can ward off His hand (Jer, 32:17, Dan. 4:35). The bible is replete with examples of His power; in one of them we see him protect three men in the midst of a fire that was so hot that the guards who were outside the fire died. His protection was so encompassing that the men didn’t even smell of smoke! Elsewhere in the book of Daniel we see Him shut the mouths of lions so that they did not devour Daniel.
Among other things, we see that God has power over nature, which we see in the dividing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14 and the raging storm being stilled through Jesus words in Mark 4. However, because God is all-wise and all-good, we are not afraid of His power — we can know He will use it for what is good and right and best all the time!
When we understand that God is perfectly and infinitely wise, powerful and good, we can trust that He has our best interests in mind and is able to accomplish all things for our good. We can believe the truth of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who were called according to His purpose.” He is absolutely able to take care of whatever needs I have regardless of how difficult or big. Praise the Lord! Go to Him in prayer and trust that He has your life in His hands.
Last time we talked about recognizing the blessings and provisions that God has poured out in our lives. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the need of the moment that we forget the times that God has provided in the past and how blessed we truly are. As I was reading through the book of Mark during my daily bible time, I made the observation that even the disciples were prone to forget who Jesus truly was and what He could do. Here are some things I noticed when I was reading through the following familiar gospel account.
Jesus provides food for the multitude
Do you remember the true account of the feeding of the 5,000? Jesus was in a secluded place and five thousand men, not to mention the women and children, had followed him, desiring to hear his teaching and hoping for healing. It came to be evening and the disciples were concerned about how this multitude was going to eat. When they came to Jesus about it, He responded, “You give them food.” In disbelief, they tried to find solutions.
Should we buy food? Six months wages wouldn’t be enough!
Should we send them away to buy food? Hmmm.
Andrew had found a boy who had 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. They were thinking, “No way this will feed all these people!” But they brought him to Jesus anyway as their only solution.
Then Jesus did the unimaginable — he had everyone sit down and He prayed to bless the food. He started passing around what was a minuscule amount of food and … it … just … kept …. coming! He fed all those thousands of people and ended up with more leftovers than He started with! God’s provision is abundant!
On another occasion Jesus and His disciples were in the countryside with 4000 men in addition to women and children. In a similar fashion he fed all of them from only seven loaves and a few small fish. They ate until they were satisfied and had seven baskets of food leftover!
Do you not understand?
We know the stories; God’s provision is amazing. But the conversation I want to zoom in on happens a few days later. Jesus and His disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. They had already gone to another town, had a run-in with some Pharisees, and now were headed back. Jesus wanted to warn them about the leaven of the Pharisees, but they were distracted. They had realized, to their horror, that they had forgotten to bring bread. There was one loaf, but it was not nearly enough to feed all of them They began discussing this and wondering how they would eat. Sound familiar? Listen to Jesus response:
“Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”
They *said to Him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?”
And they *said to Him, “Seven.”
And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:17-21
These 12 men had been walking with Jesus for over a year and had front row seats for many miracles, including these two where he provided food. Yet, in the midst of the dilemma, they had forgotten that Jesus could provide the most basic of needs. They forgot that they could place all their cares, needs, and burdens on Him and He would take care of it.
Jesus can provide for us too
What about us? If we know Jesus as Savior then we have personally experienced the greatest miracle of all — going from death to life!
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 2:1-5
Salvation is our greatest need. If God had seen fit to send His Son to suffer the wrath that we deserved, why would He not also provide for our other needs as well? And not only does He promise to help us, He is able to help us. God is absolutely able because he is perfectly wise, all-good, and all-powerful — you can read more about that in this post.
When we are waiting on God, trusting in Him to provide, we have to know that He CAN provide. He is completely and totally willing and able.
Sometimes trusting in the Lord means we act even though we don’t understand why — we just know we are trusting in Him. This is where I was this morning. Yesterday I was planning to spend money on this amazing bundle of courses that was going to help me with all the in’s and out’s of blogging. I was so excited to learn everything I’ve been searching for and pay one relatively low price for the whole bundle. Well … let’s just say that wasn’t God’s plan for me. Through several ways God showed me without a doubt that I was not supposed to buy that bundle. This would be the third time in the last few months that I tried to spend money on an e-course only to be told no. I was getting the message that at this point I wasn’t supposed to be spending any extra money on my blog.
Does this change God’s will for my life??
All of a sudden, I was at a loss. What am I doing? Am I even supposed to be blogging anymore? From the start my goal was, and continues to be, to glorify God in all that I write. I felt as though I needed to learn this stuff to grow in my blog and if He didn’t want me buying it, then maybe He didn’t want me blogging. I have struggled with promoting my posts so that other people can see them and read them and hoped to learn to do that better. I have struggled with learning all the regulations and fine details of the business side of it and hoped to learn about that. Then there’s that controversial word — monetization. There are operating costs, even though I try to keep them at a minimum, not to mention the needs of my family. I’ve struggled with balancing the idea of monetization without having a site so full of pop-ups and ads that distract from my main purpose. Again, I was hoping to learn that as well.
But the nudging of the Spirit told me, “Just write. Just focus on writing and I’ll work out all the details.”
I didn’t understand, but I went to my quiet time and prayed for God to teach me from His word. My bible plan has me reading from four different portions of scripture every day and two of them for that day were exactly what I needed to hear. Colossians 3:2 says, “set your mind on things above (spreading the gospel) not on things on earth (blog stats).” Just write. God will work out the earthly details.
Then my plan brought me to Psalm 37 — this happens to be one of those psalms I turn to a lot when I need guidance and a large portion of it is underlined. Verses 3-5 and 7 say,
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him
So that is what I am doing — committing my writing to Him. Praying that I will glorify Him through it. Trusting that He will bring my message to the people who need to hear it. I will delight myself in Him and rest patiently in Him and know that He will give me the desires of my heart (which, incidentally, will also be His desire for me because I will have been delighting in Him).