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Posts tagged ‘doubt’

7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Dennis and Barbara Rainey/ Family Life Ministry

Concerned about economic, political, racial, and moral instability in our culture?  Disheartened by struggles in your personal life?  Here’s what to focus on when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

Dealing with the hardships of life

Life will never be easy. We will always face problems and hardship. That would be true even if our culture felt more stable than it does today, for the Scriptures promise us, “In the world you shall have tribulation.”

So how will we deal with loss, with grief, with fear, with suffering? How do we respond when things don’t go our way? And how do we teach our children to face the hardships of life?

Christians today need to know more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the mission God has given us. Here are seven things to remember:

1. God is alive. He has not disappeared. He is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, just as He has been from the beginning of time. As Isaiah 40:28 tells us, “… The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

2. God never changes. Psalm 90 (KJV) begins, “Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations … even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Inspired by these words, Isaac Watts wrote the following verses in the enduring hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” They remind us that our fears, though circumstantially different than his in ages past, are still the same:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

We all fear the loss of life, health, freedom, and peace. We fear the unknown future. But do you know who will be with us? Jesus, the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. God offers eternal life. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins have been forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You are a child of God, and as Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is encouraging.

4. God has won the battle. He has defeated death. History will culminate in Christ’s return. No matter what we experience in the world, we can find peace in Him. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

5. God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything going on in the world, or in your life. He is the sovereign, omnipotent King of kings. Even in times of uncertainty and chaos, Romans 8:28 (NASB) is still in force: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” So is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), which tells us, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

6. God will provide for your needs. Especially in times of economic uncertainty it’s easy to grow anxious about the most basic things, like whether we will keep our jobs, or whether our families will have enough to eat. But in Matthew 6:26-33, Jesus tells us we should not be worried about what we eat, or what we will wear:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

7. God has given us good works to do. Jesus’ words also remind us that there is more to life than meeting our daily material needs. When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we operate according to His priorities—we’re concerned about building our family relationships, and connecting the hearts of our children to God’s heart, and impacting future generations by proclaiming Christ. We’re concerned about God using us to reach and influence others with the gospel. That’s what life is really about.

Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. Have you considered that your best opportunities to fulfill this role—to represent Christ and His Kingdom—may come in times like these when so many need help and encouragement?

Consider this: If you are feeling troubled by the instability in our world, then many of the people you encounter each day are concerned and fearful as well. What makes you different is that you have a firm foundation in Christ. This is an opportunity for you to shine. If you have built your home on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27), you will remain unshaken. That in itself is a witness to the watching world that there is something different about Christians. And if you then reach out to help others who struggle without that foundation, that makes you rare indeed.

When life feels insecure and unstable, focus on these timeless truths. Read the never-changing Word of God with your spouse and to your children.  No matter what troubles we are experiencing in our world and in our families, He is in control. He will not abandon us. He will provide for us. This may look different than you expect, but His promises have not expired in the 21st century.

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Dealing With Doubt

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn/Ligonier Ministries

In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed.

So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt?

How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, as it sometimes feels, even unheard?

If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might ask questions like these: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?

When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential that we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Foundation of Our Faith

The sovereignty of God is a solid foundation for our faith. God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Rom. 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.

Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive—no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring about His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.

The Testing of Our Faith

Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward him. Though he did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in The Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the one, true, sovereign God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.

The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.

The Nurturing of Our Faith

In our times of doubt, God promises never to leave us. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”

Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores energy from sunlight, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.

The Hope of Our Faith

We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.

God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it: “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.

We can trust that God is refining us through our trials—and that one day He will bring us into His glorious presence.

The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).

God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty-some years, I’ve known a real person, and continue to know Him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice, He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

A PRAYER FOR WAITING ON THE LORD WHEN EVIL SEEMS TO WIN

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

   Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

Dear heavenly Father,

You send your Word with Swiss timing and uncanny precision. Whenever we’re vexed or fretful, you anticipate it. Whenever we’re confused or anxious, you’ve already spoken wisdom about the matter, in multiple places in the Scriptures. Whenever we feel vulnerable or angry, time and time again, you come to us in the Bible and bring us back to gospel-sanity. How we praise you for the counsel and consolation of your Word; the grace and power of the Scriptures; the truth and authority of the Bible.

It’s easy to get worked up over the apparent success of those who bring harm to others—evildoers who even get rewarded for their madness. The recent beheadings is glaring and horrific example. How long, O Lord, before you send Jesus back to put all things right? When will Jesus return to finish making all things new?

Though you won’t give us a date, you do give us yourself. You’re calling us to stillness and fretless waiting. Every day, in multiple contexts, we need to hear you say, “Be still and know that I am God.” No good comes from our obsessing about darkness and evil-making. Nothing profitable results from our spending extra time fertilizing our anger, fueling our disgust, fuming about how much evildoers get away with.

Satan was defeated at the cross, and he is filled with fury because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Having been humiliated, he will be eradicated. Death and dying, terror and terrifying, evil and evil-makers will be gone forever. For a Day is coming when the knowledge of your glory will cover the entire earth as the waters cover the sea.

Until that Day, we will work hard to push back the effects of the Fall, and offer our communities a foretaste of the world to come. How we praise you that the very righteousness with which you have already robed us is the same righteousness with which you are going to fill the earth. Fill our hearts with your grace and our hands with your mercy.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ reigning and returning name.

How To Stop Worrying So Much

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/TYLER EDWARDS

The art of casting all your cares on God.

Do you know what one the most commonly ignored commands in all of Scripture is?   “Don’t worry.”

Do you know what the most common command in Scripture is?   “Do not be afraid.”

The Bible tells us not to worry or be afraid, but you take one look at our culture, and you see how closely we hold onto those commandments.

It’s understandable, actually. Not worrying is easier said than done. We are all anxious about something: Relationships, finances, health, the future. We get stressed with work, with responsibilities, with decisions.

We might use different words for it, but it all boils down to one thing: fear.

We have lots of fears. We are afraid to make the wrong decision. We fear what we don’t know. We fear what we can’t change. When we run out of reasonable things to worry about, we start fabricating unreasonable ones. It’s like our minds are little worry factories manned by little worker elves that never sleep. We mass-produce anxiety 24/7.

Worrying Without Reason

So over and over, God tells us not to be afraid. He commands us not to worry. Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t worry without good reason or don’t worry unless it makes you feel better.” He just says don’t.

To help us obey the command, God tells us how to stop worrying. In Luke, He says “Trust in me. For if I take care crass of birds, how much more will I take care you my children?” In 1 Peter He says to cast our worry onto Him. To give it over to Him.

For many of us, giving our anxiety over to God feels like an almost insurmountable task. Our issues with worry and anxiety are beyond our own ability to handle. We need to address these issues with friends, and perhaps seek professional counseling. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need others to help you with your worry. That is not battle you were ever meant to fight on your own, and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can be free of it.

When you live a life free from worry, you’re living in the full truth of who God is. You’re living under the assumption that He is in control, He cares and He can do something about your circumstances.

The Response to Worry

In the church we talk about faith a lot.

Faith and doubt, it’s always those two together. But doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Not really. The opposite of faith is fear. That’s why God commands us not to do it.

We don’t need to be afraid because God loves us. He promised to take care of us. He never promises there will be no pain but He does promise to come back and to take that pain away.

How do we overcome worry? We need to equip ourselves with a proper understanding of God.

1. Equip yourself with the knowledge of who God is.

Is God good? Is God all-powerful? Does God love you? Will God take care of you? If you believe the answer to these are yes then our reasons to worry drop significantly It’s a trust issue.

2. Surrender.

We fear because we want to know, we want to be in control. God knows. God is in control. When we place our faith in Him. We can overcome our fears because we know He is good and He will take care of us. Lay your fears at His feet and leave them there. How do you bring your fears to God? Pray. When you were little and scared of monsters what did you do? You called out for daddy. It’s effective. When you are worried or concerned, pray.

3. Consider your witness.

Our relationship with God fundamentally changes our perception. Our worries about food, clothes, appearances and money become superfluous. We as Christians can meet the worries of the world with the confidence that God reigns over it all.

 4. Think about Jesus.

Consider what He endured for you. He was not guilty of sin but He paid the price for all sin. He suffered. He died on a cross. He carried the burden of our transgressions. If Jesus endured all that for you, do you really believe He would forsake you?

5. Know who you are.

You belong to God. You are His. When you have confidence and security in your identity as a child of God you will find that worry has hard time getting its hooks into you. Worry breeds in insecurity. Find your security in Jesus.

So give up on living of a life of “what if’s?” You can spend your whole life wondering about maybes and possibilities. All it will do is cripple you from dealing with things you can actually control.

Seek out friends and professionals who can help you deal with your inner turmoil. With their help, you are fighting a winnable battle.

Worry doesn’t prevent the sorrows of tomorrow. It destroys the joys of today.

Look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Mary sits at Jesus’s feet. Martha worries about many things. Jesus tells us not to worry because He wants us to be free from worry. He wants us to live life to the full. Worry and fear steal that away. We worry because we are focused on other things. We overcome our worry by focusing on Jesus. When we focus on Him the worries and troubles of this life fade into the background.

 

Persevering through Pressure

Hebrews 6:18

Doubts often steal into our lives like termites into a house. These termite-like thoughts eat away at our faith. Usually, we can hold up pretty well under this attack. But occasionally, when a strong gale comes along—a sudden, intense blast—we discover we cannot cope. Our house begins to lean. For some people it completely collapses. It is during these stormy times, during the dark days and nights of tragedy and calamity, that we begin to feel the destructive effects of our doubts—running like stress fractures through the structure of our lives.

For me, there are three times when the intensity of doubt reaches maximum proportions.

One such time is when things I believe should never happen, occur. There are times when my loving, gracious, merciful, kind, good, sovereign God surprises me by saying yes to something I was convinced He would say no to. When bad things happen to good people.

I once received a letter from a woman who heard a talk I had given entitled “Riding Out the Storm.” Little did she know how meaningful it would be to her. Just as she was entering into the truth of that message, she arrived at home to discover that her young, recently married daughter had been brutally murdered.

Why did God say yes to that? Why did that bad thing happen to that good person? The effect of such termites within our soul is great. They eat away at us, and doubt wins a hearing.

Doubts also increase when things I believe should happen, never occur (the other side of the coin). When I expected God to say yes but He said no. Numerous parents of young men and women have said good-bye and sent their children away to war, convinced God would bring them home again. But sometimes He says no.

Joni Eareckson Tada (and a thousand like her) trust confidently for awhile that the paralysis will go away—that God will say, “Yes, I’ll get you through this. I’ll teach you some deep lessons, and then I will use you with full health in days to come as I heal you completely.” But God ultimately says no. When we expect Him to say yes and He says no, doubts multiply.

The third situation in which doubts grow takes place when things that I believe should happen now, occur much, much later. Of all the doubts which creep into our soul perhaps few are more devastating than those that happen when we are told by God, in effect. “Wait, wait, wait, wait . . . wait . . . wait!” All of us have wrestled greatly with His timing.

These “pressure points” provide a perfect introduction to the verses in Hebrews 6. This is that great chapter that begins with a strong warning, continues with words of affirmation, and closes with words of reassurance and ringing confidence. It addresses the Christian hanging on by his fingernails as he feels himself sliding down the hill. It shouts: “Persevere! Hang tough! Be strong! Don’t quit!” Even when God says no, and you expected yes. Even when He says yes, and you anticipated no. And especially when He says to wait, and you expected it now.

If you’re in that painful space right now, my word for you is: persevere! Hope in God—this is not the end.

“BUT”

SOURCE:  Tim Clinton/AACC

“You face your greatest opposition when you’re closest to your biggest miracle.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” G. K. Chesterton

Often, the most powerful, life-changing miracles seem to happen in the “buts” of life.

Consider the story of Naaman. 2 Kings 5:1 describes him with glowing accolades.

Commander of the army of the king of Syria.

A great man with his master.

High favor.

A mighty man of valor.

Then out of nowhere – life-altering words.

But…he was a leper.

Think about that. Leprosy. The most dreaded disease of his day. A visible outward malady that in reality defined who he was. Putrefying infected sores that in time caused loss of fingers, toes, nose. Everyone who came in contact with him saw the miserable condition he carried with him everywhere he went. There was no hiding it.

Many Christ followers understand this reality in their own journey. No doubt, many of you are living there right now.

You love God, and you really do believe that God loves you. You read the Word, pray, give your tithes and offerings, attend worship services, desiring to obey and walk in His Spirit.

But…

The doctor gave you terminal news.

But…

Your spouse left, and the hole in your heart grows deeper and wider by the hour.

But…

Your position at work was eliminated, as was your pay check, and you find yourself in the unemployment line.

But…

A son or a daughter rejected a lifetime of nurture and admonition and the relationship is strained, broken and seemingly destroyed.

“Buts” that now seem to define who you are. “Buts” that perhaps even cause you to question God and His plan, much less His goodness. “Buts” that understandably cause you to ask “Where are you God?”

Let’s look again at the well-known Bible story of Naaman. At the recommendation of a young slave girl, he travels to find the prophet Elisha. Elisha sends a servant out to instruct Naaman to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Albeit reluctantly, and even with quite a bit of raging about how irrational the command is, he obeys.

I wonder how Naaman felt after he dunked himself the first time. No change. The second time. No change. Third time. No change. After number six, he might have been thinking that this was a horrible joke and a waste of time. The anger he had initially felt was returning. Someone was going to pay for this public act of embarrassment.

Have you been there? Faith…trust…obedience…and seemingly no change. You find yourself confused, distraught, and perhaps even a bit angry at God.

Then Naaman dipped the seventh time and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:14 ESV

He went back to the “man of God,” stood before him and declared, (now) “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel…” 2 Kings 5:15  ESV

God was in the midst of his pain. Faithfully at work in the “but” of Naaman’s life. Steadfast in His in plan in Naaman’s journey, which ultimately brought Him glory.

And God is in the midst of your pain also. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He is faithfully working in the plan of your life, and He will ultimately get glory by taking your storyand making it His story.

Don’t be defined by the “but” in your pilgrimage. Don’t give up. Keep believing that He is God, and that He is good.

Your miracle could be just one more “dip in the Jordan” away.

A miracle that will turn your life around.

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