Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘Faith’

With God, There is NO _____________

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege/J.C. Ryle

The pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

  • There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.
  • There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.
  • There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.
  • There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.
  • There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.
  • There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

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–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 27-28. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

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Why Hasn’t God Healed Me?

SOURCE:  DR. LARRY KEEFAUVER/Charisma Magazine

The invitation had just been given for anyone who needed prayer to approach the altar. John came forward, kneeling in silent contemplation–silent except for the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I stood behind the prayer rail and knelt in front of him as he extended his hands to grasp mine. His body trembled as he sobbed. Behind him stood his wife, one hand resting on John’s shoulder and the other raised heavenward as she prayed silently and wept openly.

“I just got back some tests on Friday,” John whispered. “The doctors say I have prostate cancer. Pastor, I don’t know if I have enough faith to go through this. Will you pray for me?”

As I anointed John with oil and prayed with him for healing, my mind pondered the phrase “enough faith.”

For years I have heard preachers imply that faith in some way is quantified. The myths seem to circulate unabated: “If Susan had just had enough faith, she would have been healed,” or “When Bill’s faith gets strong enough, he will be healed,” or “If everyone in this room all believed at the same moment, then all would be healed.”

But is healing really based on your faith alone? What should be your perspective when God doesn’t heal immediately?

If you are to understand why God doesn’t always heal now, you will have to peel away the layers of myth that have been so tantalizing to embrace. You will have to dig deep into the Scripture for yourself instead of consuming the “fast food” of your favorite popular name-it-and-claim-it theologian. And you will have to decide to walk by faith instead of simply mouthing the platitudes of faith that have so easily supplanted God’s Word in your daily confessions.

The truth is, while the lack of faith may hinder healing, healing does not depend on faith. I have witnessed both the faithful and the faithless being healed. And I have seen those of great faith die. In fact, everyone Jesus healed eventually died.

Those around the tomb of Lazarus lacked faith, and certainly Lazarus was in no position to exercise faith–he had been dead four days (see John 11:39-40). Yet Lazarus experienced a wonderful healing: He was resurrected.

A man once said to me after a friend’s funeral: “Life’s greatest enemy is death. She lacked faith. She doubted. So she lost and thus died.” Yet this deceased friend was a believer who had surrendered her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. She lives eternally with Christ in heaven. How silly to suggest that people die because of a lack of faith. Does this mean that people with enough faith will never die? Of course not!

If death were the enemy, why would Paul write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” or “We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:7-8, NKJV). We must avoid the myths of faith and healing and embrace the truth revealed in Scripture.

The Myths of Faith Healing

Some believers focus exclusively on faith as the key to healing. Yet Jesus healed many who apparently had no faith. Some were healed because their friends had faith. Others were bound up by demonic spirits and healed by exorcism, even against their wills.

The truth is that God heals. The myth is that God always heals now at the initiative of our faith.

Faith teacher Frederick K.C. Price has asserted: “The seventh method of receiving healing–[which] I believe is the highest kind of faith–is the highest way to receive healing…If you believe you receive it, you will confess that: ‘Bless God, I believe I am healed. I believe I have received my healing…I believe that it is so. I believe that I can walk in divine health all the days of my life.’ You are reading after one man who will never be sick, and I’m not being presumptuous.”

Myth is mixed here with truth. The highest kind of faith is, “I believe in Jesus,” not just, “I believe.”

It is true that faith must be our initiative. But even our initiative comes through the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Our faith helps us receive healing, just as the lack of faith hinders healing. But healing does not depend on faith. Healing depends on the Healer.

Healing is the will of God. Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren wrote: “Jesus clearly shows us God’s will in healing…the Word of God declares that ‘great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all’ (Matt. 12:15). When Jesus healed all, He was obviously doing the will of His Father, because He only did that which the Father wanted Him to do.”

Youngren adds: “This is why you can come with boldness asking God for healing. God is on your side. He wants the best for you. He is good.”

So, if God wills all to be healed, then can your faith move His hand to heal you? In the words of the Hertz rental car commercial: “Not exactly!”

Your faith moves Him to save you (see Rom. 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8). And in your salvation is your healing: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'” (Matt. 8:17; Is. 53:4-6).

But your faith does not effect your healing now. When you are healed rests entirely on what the sovereign purposes of the Healer are.

Consider this biblical example. In John 5 Jesus healed one paralytic at the pool of Bethesda though a multitude thronged that place daily to be healed. Why was one man healed at that moment while others were not?

John 5:19 gives the answer when Jesus confessed, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.'”

Bible scholar Jack Deere correctly observes that the initiative for the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry did not begin with Him but with the Father. “He healed only the people He saw His Father healing,” Deere writes. “The only firm reason for the healing of the paralytic that we can derive from the context of John 5 is that the Father willed it, and Jesus executed His Father’s will…We are ultimately faced with the conclusion that sometimes the Lord works miracles for His own sovereign purposes without giving any explanation for His actions to His followers.”

The second myth about healing is that if you stand fast in faith, you will be physically healed in time and space. Ken and Gloria Copeland have declared that healing will come if we have faith in our hearts and God’s Word in our mouths. But, they add: “It may take time for it to manifest in your body. So stand fast in faith, giving thanks to God until it does. Focus on God’s Word, not on physical symptoms.”

In what do we “stand fast”? The “rock” on which we stand isn’t faith or healing but Christ alone–the Healer. In Hebrews 10:23 we are admonished to hold fast to the profession of our faith. But in what is our profession of faith? Certainly, it is not in faith or in healing.

Be careful that your faith is not in faith itself–or, worse yet, in a faith teacher! Just believing hard enough, long enough or strong enough will not strengthen you or prompt your healing. Doing mental gymnastics to “hold on to your miracle” will not cause your healing to manifest now.

So what is faith? It is more than believing in your heart that God heals. The truth is that God is the God who heals. Faith is trusting the God who heals. Faith is a radical, absolute surrender to the God who heals. Faith is not holding on for your healing but holding on to the God who can do the impossible.

The truth is that your healing may manifest in eternity, not in time. If your trust is in God who heals, then when He heals you is secondary to belonging to the Healer. Certainly you will thank Him if He heals you today. But if your healing comes beyond death in eternity, will you praise Him now for that?

Paul did just that: “‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:55-58).

The third myth about healing is that if you just confess your healing, you will be healed right now. But you should confess the Healer, not your healing.

In his best-selling book, The Bible Cure, Dr. Reginald B. Cherry encourages us to “speak to the mountain” of our illness when we pray. That is important in prayer. But praying it and saying it won’t make physical healing manifest now.

Positive confession does not effect healing. If that were true, anyone who believes in mind-over-matter mental exercises could heal people. Only Jesus heals.

Our confession should be in Him, not in being healed now. Jesus sternly warned: “‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven'” (Matt. 10:32-33).

It’s time we throw out the lies that cloud the truth about faith and healing. It’s time we embrace the scriptural truths that shatter shallow myths and bring us freedom to confidently trust God.

Freedom in the Truth

When God doesn’t heal now, you can apply essential truths about faith and healing that are anchored in Scripture. I’ve identified four key actions we should take when we face a serious illness:

1. Have others join their faith to yours in bringing your infirmity to Jesus. “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 2:3-12).

Don’t try to face sickness alone. An essential key to healing in the New Testament is the power of corporate faith and praying in agreement with others (see Matt. 18:19-20). When you gather with others to pray, the presence of Christ dwells in your midst. Because He is the Great Physician, with His presence comes healing power.

Throughout the healing miracle accounts in the Gospels, we observe that friends brought the sick to Jesus. In Mark 2, a paralytic man was brought by his friends to Jesus. The Syro-Phoenician woman brought her daughter to Jesus (see Matt. 15:22; Mark 7:24-30). A father brought his demonized child to Jesus (see Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42).

Join your faith with others to seek the Great Physician. When sickness has weakened, fatigued and discouraged you, seek out others who will pray in faith.

2. Seek to receive a touch from God. The woman with an issue of blood exercised her faith by going outside and searching for the Healer. She did all she knew to do to reach out through a crowd and touch Jesus (see Matt. 9:20; Mark 5:25-27; Luke 8:43-44).

When you are sick, you might be tempted to isolate yourself from settings in which you can touch and be touched by the presence of Christ. At times, you may not feel like going to worship services. You may feel too weak to sing and praise God. You may be too tired and discouraged to call the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray in faith for you.

Resist this temptation to stay at home in isolation. Healing flows through the body of Christ. His body is the church. Break out of your loneliness and seek the Healer.

3. Submit yourself to the authority and will of Christ, trusting Him as your Healer. The centurion’s faith in Christ opened a door for his servant to be healed (see Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Likewise, the authority for your healing does not rest in you or your faith. Claiming your healing and speaking the right words do not guarantee your healing now or at any future time. Your faith opens a door for you to receive your healing from Christ.

I prayed with a woman who demanded that God heal her. When I questioned her attitude, she exclaimed, “I have the authority as a child of God to command God to fulfill His promise of healing for me.” She believed a common myth that has been spread by some faith teachers, who believe that we can command God to do our bidding.

Our authority isn’t over Christ but in Christ. We reign with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:4-7). The sons of Sceva presumed to have healing authority but quickly learned that authority rested in the person of Jesus, not simply in the repetitious use of His name (see Acts 19:13-16).

The truth is that all authority for every matter, including healing, rests in Jesus: “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matt. 28:18). From Christ we receive imparted authority to say what He says and to do what He does. Submit to His authority for your healing.

4. Believe on His Word, not someone else’s advice or counsel. Whenever Jesus spoke the Word, people were healed (see Matt. 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7). The psalmist said, “He [the Lord] sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). Listen to the Word of the Lord for your healing. No one else’s word, faith or assurance will do. When God doesn’t heal now, trust His voice and believe His Word.

Proverbs 4:20-22 reads: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”

When God doesn’t heal now, trust His Word–not your circumstances or human advice. God has not abandoned you. He’s not taking a vacation. He is right there by your side as you put your trust in His tender care.

 

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Dr. Larry Keefauver is a former editor of Ministries Today magazine and founder of Your Ministries Counseling Services and PowerHouse Families. He is the author of Lord, I Wish My Teenager Would Talk With Me(Creation House).

Handling Your Personal “Jericho”

Source:  Taken from an article by Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Rae Lee

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)

It takes tremendous courage to persevere in the face of overwhelming problems.  And faith in God is the only thing that makes that kind of courage possible.

Joshua, a godly hero in the Old Testament, persevered by holding on, standing firm, keeping his course, and being patient. His persistence was based on his faith in God’s promises.

The city of Jericho blocked the entrance to the Promised Land for the children of Israel. This land belonged to God’s chosen people. He had promised it was theirs. However, there was an obstacle: the daunting fortified city of Jericho.

Joshua turned to God for guidance. What did God tell him to do? March around Jericho for seven days, then shout and blow horns! This may have seemed strange to Joshua, but it was God’s plan. God’s wisdom versus human wisdom.

Joshua chose God’s plan . . . and the Israelites won the victory.

Every Christian has to deal with a personal Jericho from time to time. Sometimes these obstacles seem impossible to overcome from a human perspective. But with God . . . all things are possible.

Are you facing an obstacle? It could be anything. Debt. Health. Relationship. A habit or addiction. The list of possibilities is endless, but the answer is always the same: Jesus.

[The above] scripture, God says not to be afraid. He is here to help you.

Turn to God. Turn to his Word. Place your faith in him. He will give you the strength to persist. As you trust in him and him alone, be persistent as you wait for the walls of your Jericho to fall. In his way. In his time.

Father, I feel overwhelmed by this problem in my life. Thank you for reminding me that you are with me. Help me stop focusing on the problem and turn my focus to Jesus. To your Word. Help me overcome fear by trusting you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. 

Don’t Look Back

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.” Hebrews 11:8-10 CEV

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God called Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him and enter a world of the unknown.

Abraham obeyed without hesitation.  He set out, leaving relatives and friends, leaving the security of his home, leaving his culture and religion . . .… and followed God.

And he didn’t look back.

Abraham could have spent his days complaining or grieving over all he had left behind. He could have rebelled against being taken out of his comfort zone. But he didn’t. Why? He believed God. He believed God’s promises. And he set his eyes on “the eternal city that God had planned and built.”

The apostle Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him yet. He had made many mistakes in the past, but he forgot the past and looked forward to what lay ahead, pressing on to the eternal prize. 

He didn’t look back.

Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you have already stepped out of your comfort zone but really want to do an “about face.”

In every situation we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. If we look back and dwell on what was, we can’t be effective in the here and now. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do today and press on to what he has promised us for tomorrow.

Father, help me to put the past behind and focus on what you want me to do today. Help me to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and not look back. In Jesus’ name . . . …

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Why Can’t I Quit Worrying?

SOURCE:   Mike Bechtle/Discipleship Journal

I felt defeated.

Worry took up a lot of my time, as job concerns, a mortgage, church demands, family issues—especially teenagers—all took their toll.

I had tried to quit worrying. I read articles, had conversations over coffee (worrying about whether my budget would allow a latté instead of a plain decaf), and determined to handle my concerns differently. Each time, my resolution worked—for a while. Soon, however, the old patterns reappeared, and my thoughts became more concerned with the situation than the solution. Like yo-yo dieting, I would stop worrying only to sink back deeper than before.

I worried even when there was nothing concrete to worry about. It had become a habit.

 Try, Try Again

My failure to conquer worry wasn’t from a lack of knowledge. I’d memorized Phil. 4:6–7 as a child and listened to countless sermons on the passage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The passage was usually summarized like this:

  1. Worry is a choice (and we’re not supposed to choose it).
  2. We should bring everything to God in prayer.
  3. God will give us peace.

So when the tires on our family car were as thin as balloons, but we couldn’t yet afford to replace them, I decided to try the formula once again as a counter to my twin worries of finances and safety. Based on these admonitions, I chose not to worry about the car. I prayed about my concerns. I asked God for peace.

But peace didn’t come, and soon I began to worry again.

Why didn’t it work? If the instructions were true, I could only see two conclusions: Either I wasn’t doing my part (stop worrying, start praying), or God wasn’t doing His part (provide peace).

My theology told me God doesn’t lie, so I figured He would do His part. That left me. I must not have been trying hard enough. Now I really felt guilty. The worry was my fault, but I felt helpless.

Missing the Obvious

One summer afternoon, I reread Phil. 4:6–7 to see what I had missed. I looked at each word carefully, trying to discover what I was doing wrong. Then, by accident, my eyes wandered on to verses 8 and 9:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Suddenly, the light came on.

Somehow, I had never seen the connection between these two sets of verses. Yet here was a logical progression of thought that finally made sense: Verses 6 and 7 tell me what not to do; verses 8 and 9 tell me what to do instead.

Worry took a lot of time and mental effort. My mind would be filled with concerns for hours at a time. When I tried to stop worrying, I had time available. Until I filled my mind with something different, new thoughts of worry just crowded in.

Weed Control

I found a helpful analogy right in my own front yard. In some parts of my lawn, the grass is thick and green. In other areas, it’s sparse and dry. There are even a few places where the grass is missing entirely.

When I mow the lawn, I notice that where the grass is healthy, there are no weeds. Where the lawn is sparse, there are a few. Where there is no grass, the weeds flourish.

Every time I notice the weedy spots, I think, “I really need to pull those things.” So I do, but within a few weeks they’re back—and I’m pulling them again. One day it hit me: I don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I needed to invest time making the grass as healthy as possible. The more grass I had, the fewer weeds I’d have to pull.

The same applies to worry. Worry is like the weeds. God’s peace is the grass. Instead of just focusing on eliminating my worries, I needed to cultivate God’s peace.

Changing Your Mind

So I had a new challenge: to cultivate a mind characterized by peace. But how could I do that? I was an expert at growing worry, but I had a brown thumb when it came to growing peace.

Romans 12:2 held the key: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse didn’t tell me to behave differently; it said to think differently. My pattern was to focus on the negative, reviewing everything that could go wrong in a situation. I had to learn new ways of thinking.

When my son was little, we would occasionally bake a cake or cookies together. One time I said, “The recipe calls for two cups of sugar. Let’s put in two cups of salt instead.”

“No way,” he said. “The cake would taste awful.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. There’s no way the cake will taste good with that much salt in it.”

He knew the ingredients we put in would determine how the cake turned out. That applies to life as well. What we watch on television, listen to on the radio, or talk about are the ingredients for our attitudes. Our attitudes come from our thoughts. Our thoughts come from our inputs.

Just as I care for my lawn by providing water, nutrients, and insect control, I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading Phil. 4:8–9 was like reading the ingredient list on a bag of grass seed. It told me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind, thoughts that were

true: consistent with God and His Word

noble: worthy of respect

right: just and holy

pure: morally clean

lovely: pleasing and gracious

admirable: highly regarded

excellent: top quality

praiseworthy: deserving of high recognition.

But what if this didn’t work either? I was comforted to see that God’s instruction included a promise: God’s peace will stand guard—not only over our hearts, but over our minds. “The peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds” (v. 7). Instead of listening to Satan’s lies, my job is to plant thoughts focusing on God’s truth. God’s job is to make them grow into peace.

Practicing, Not Perfect

Now came the test. How could I apply these verses to the areas that concerned me the most? I picked several problems that led me to worry, prayed about each, then selected an alternative to focus on.

I didn’t know where the money would come from for unexpected car repairs. I asked God to free me from worrying about it and asked Him to handle the situation. When my thoughts slipped back to worry, I consciously focused on what was true: God promised to supply all our needs and had been faithful to do so in the past.

I stewed about the impact of management decisions where I worked and realized that I often talked with coworkers who were the most negative about the organization. My worries were being fed by these conversations. My prayer was for God to handle the situation in His way and for me to trust Him for the results. When tempted to worry, I made the effort to focus on what was noble and admirable—and spent my time conversing with those who were more realistic about the situation.

I worried about my family members’ safety when they were out alone at night. So I asked God to protect them and focused on what was true and pure. God loved them more than I did and never left them alone. That allowed me to make good choices about things that were not true, such as changing the channel when my TV choices centered too much on violence and fear.

My thinking didn’t clear up immediately. Redoing a lawn takes some time and effort. Once it’s done, maintenance is a whole lot easier. When a weed invades a healthy lawn, it’s obvious. But if a weed appears in a larger patch of weeds, it just blends in with all the rest, and I’m overwhelmed with the task of dealing with them all. In the same way, a thought of worry is more obvious when my mind is filled with peace. As my thoughts became more peaceful, worry became a trigger that reminded me to analyze my thinking. Whenever I recognized anxiety, I filtered my thoughts through the grid of Phil. 4:8–9.

Do I still worry? Yes.

But now I’m sensitized to the fears that pop up in my mind, and I have practical, biblical tools for replacing those thoughts. When we fill our minds with what matters most, our minds are not at the mercy of what matters least. My job is to tend the garden of my mind. God is responsible for the harvest of peace.

What is Trust — Really?

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 67

A Picture of Trust

Therefore we do not lose heart.” 2 Cor. 4:16

Trusting God proved to be the pattern in Paul’s life. Even when the Lord did not immediately relieve his sufferings, Paul continued to view everything that happened to him as God’s sovereign will (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

This doesn’t mean that Paul never had doubts or that he never asked God to relieve his suffering (2 Cor. 12:7-8). But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was willing to believe that God had something better in mind (vv. 9-10).

Food for Thought

Think of the last time the Lord’s response did not match your request.

What does trusting God look like?  [It]doesn’t mean wearing a painted on smile when troubles come and practicing the art of denial when doubts arise. Those verses in 2 Cor. 12 show the apostle Paul “pleading” for God to take the thorn in his flesh away.

So, then what does trusting God look like?  “But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was” — what’s that next word? That’s right –“willing.”

Trusting looks like a willingness to believe in God’s goodness toward us in the middle of pleadings and tears and sufferings and doubts and questions.

Trusting is choosing to believe that God desires the best for us, his children.

That’s not always easy, but as Paul would attest, it’s always worth it!

The problem with caring too much or “over-caring”

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

While walking downtown Main Street the other day I met a beggar coming my way.

My mind hit a momentary pause button and then I re-indexed and ran a few thoughts through my head about how I should respond to this man.

As he came closer to me, he popped the question.

“Mister, can you spare a dollar or two. I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday.”

I told him it would be a privilege to help him.

With a quick glance to my right, I pointed to the local Subway restaurant and told him I’d love to buy him a sandwich.

He said that he didn’t want a sandwich, but preferred I give him a couple of dollars to help him out.

I declined to give him cash and attempted to carefully explain that to him.

He was fixed on what he wanted.

I let him know that I could not help him that way, but would love to serve him.

He declined and continued on to his next prospect.

Within minutes of that encounter he became a fading event of my past, one of a million things I have done in my life that I hardly remember anymore. I was not perturbed, bothered, upset, or annoyed that he was working me.

It was just one of those events that happens to all of us. It was a quick opportunity to discern the Spirit and ask the question, “What would the Savior do in a moment like this?” You deal with it the way you believe God would want you to deal with it and you move on to the next thing that He has prepared for your day.

I did not dismiss this man or show a lack of care for him. It could possibly be analogous to the rich young ruler who wanted something from the Savior. The Savior encountered him and sought to serve him, but believed it would not be wise to give the young ruler what he wanted the way he wanted it.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. – Luke 18:22-23 (ESV)

The rich young ruler did not want what Jesus was offering. He had another motive. I’m not sure if this young man ever became a Christian. Minimally he became a Bible illustration regarding salvation.

I don’t think I was unkind to the beggar-man. He asked for money for food. I offered him food instead. He decided that he did not want the food after all. He wanted the money. I believed I did what I was supposed to do. I went on with my day. I tried to care for him, but did not feel tempted to over-care.

When caring becomes over-caring

Brent has been my friend for many years. We went to high school together and then separated shortly thereafter as marriage, family, and work took us to different places around the country.

Years later we reconnected. During the intervening years Brent’s life went from good to bad. His wife was about to leave him, his children did not have a heart for God, and Brent’s head was immersed in the worldly cares of this life.

He wanted to meet to work through some of these problems. We met. And we met. And we met again. And again and again and again. We met for nearly six months.

During this time Brent proved to be stubborn and disinterested in the kind of change that was necessary to bring reconciliation to his family. He said he wanted to change, but he was not willing to do what it took to change.

I prayed and pondered many hours about how to help this man to change. I would present change this way and then talk about it another way. It didn’t seem to matter. Nothing worked for Brent.

Not being deterred, I would back up and start all over again with a totally new approach. That new fangled approach did not work either. Over time I started becoming critical of Brent. Initially I never said anything, but sensed my heart growing frustrated with him.

After awhile I began to go home and tell my wife about how difficult he was being–about how rough and challenging the counseling was going. As the weeks went by and my personal investment in his life grew, I began to grow impatient with him.

It wasn’t long before I became harsh and unkind toward Brent. Sadly, I actually had a growing disinterest in helping him. He was not listening. I was over-caring. The investment had grown deep and the change was not happening according to my expectations.

Being concerned – Being responsible

Have you ever over-cared for someone or something? Have you ever cared too much? If you are a Christian with the love of God in your heart, I suspect you have. Have you ever over-worried? Have you ever been over-anxious?

Let me ask the questions this way:

  • Do you generally feel responsible for certain people?
  • Or can you guard your heart from being responsible, but still show concern?
  • Do you know the difference between being responsible and being concerned?

It is one thing to be concerned for someone regarding whether they change or not. It is a wholly other matter to be responsible for people–including your own children. I’ve illustrated the two positions with the stories above.

I am concerned – I was concerned for the beggar on the street, but I did not sense a responsibility to change him. I wanted him to change. I even thought about how I could serve him before he popped the question. But I did not feel like it was my job to make him change.

I did not act disinterested by showing no concern and I did not cross the line as though his change was my responsibility. I offered him some food and hoped to continue the conversation by introducing Christ to him. He wanted one thing–money.

I am responsible – With Brent it was a different story. I crossed the line from being concerned to thinking it was my responsibility to change him. I treated him much different from the beggar in the street or the way Christ interacted with the rich young ruler.

I forget what my role was with Brent. It’s simple: my role for all people at all times is to be concerned, but I am not to be responsible for anyone. I cannot make people change.

Righteousness is not something that can be forced on anyone. It is a personal choice between an individual and God. This has been my story regarding how I have changed through the years. No one could make me change, except for God.

  1. They could water.
  2. They could plant.
  3. But they could not give the growth.
  4. Change is God’s job.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV)

When the water boy sins

I am forever grateful for the people who have loved me enough to speak into my life. I love all water boys and seed throwers for Jesus. But I do not hold anyone responsible for my personal change.

Sometimes I can forget this very basic truth about the Gospel. Sometimes I can cross the line from being God’s water boy and seed thrower to trying to make a person grow–to change or what the Bible calls repentance.

When I forget my role, it is as though I believe I am responsible for their change. There is a world of difference between being concerned for someone and being responsible for someone. If I cross that line it won’t be long before I’m sinning against them.

You may ask, “How do I know when I have crossed the line from being concerned for those I help versus feeling responsible for them changing?”  That is the million dollar question and it’s easy to answer.

When I begin to over-care for a person there are certain things that begin to happen in my heart. Initially they are not discernible to the human eye, but if I don’t take these heart sins to God, they will soon manifest in behavioral sins that are clearly discernible.

What I try to do is keep an eye on my heart by sensing when I am caring too much. If these sins (below) begin to rear up then I know I have crossed the line from being appropriately concerned for someone to caring too much for someone.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of heart attitudes and behaviors that I commit when I’ve crossed the line. If any of these things happen to you, then may I suggest that you are caring too much–that you have forgotten your role in the change process:

  • I’m tempted to become angry when a person does not change.
  • I’m tempted to become critical when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to gossip about him to others.
  • I’m tempted to be cynical and lose faith in God that he will ever change.
  • I’m tempted to become impatient when I am with him.
  • I’m tempted to exhibit more sadness than joy when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to uncharitably judge him because he won’t change.
  • I’m tempted to worry or become anxious as though his lack of change is because of me.

When I sense these sinful temptations in my soul, then I know that my trust is slipping from the Savior of the universe to my own abilities, agendas, and preferences for this particular individual (think Brent here).

I am mini-Messiah, hear me roar

In short, I have become a Mini-Messiah. In those moments I have become a functional atheist–a man who believes the change process rests more on him and his opinion of how things should be than whatever God may be thinking or doing in a person’s life.

This is hardcore pride that must be repented from. In the case of me, I have to reposition myself within the framework of God’s purposes for that individual’s life.

If I do repent of my pride and realize that my main purpose is to water and to plant the seed while trusting God to bring the growth, then my human ability to serve my friend does not impede what God is doing in his life.

However, when I begin to feel more responsible than God wants me to feel, then I typically sin against the person–according to the list above. My sin then becomes a distraction in the helping process. My faith for change and the timing for change must be fully in God’s will, especially when I’m helping a seemingly unchangeable person.

For me, the tipping point is usually a person I have spent more time with rather than a person I will meet only briefly. That is why it was easier for me to not become emotionally attached to the beggar. He was a temporary encounter. That is also the reason I crossed the line with Brent. He was a long-term investment.

Typically people will sin against a person they have spent a long time praying for, pulling for, and generally helping and hoping that they will change. That is normal. The more time you put into somebody’s life, the more you expect them to change.

A lot of mothers are this way with their children. They are tempted to cross the line from being concerned and helping to taking it personal and getting in the way or becoming a distraction regarding what God might be doing in their child’s life.

It is one of the toughest lessons for a parent to learn. Can we discern and obey our roles in the change process, especially with our children? One of the triggers that will let you know if you have crossed the line is when you begin to sin. If you’re sinning, you’re not helping.

If you are becoming more anxious, worried, fearful, fretful, impatient, frustrated, or some other sin, then you’re out of line and in the way. You must repent and trust God. This is one of the most remarkable things about the Savior. He was cool in all contexts. He shared His Word and went on His way.

He was not uncaring and He would not force His righteousness on anyone.

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