The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” -Luke 17:5 (HCSB)
A particularly unfortunate event has showed me pretty clearly how lacking my faith truly is. It is easy to proclaim the goodness of our great Creator when things are going well and quite another to “keep the faith” when things seem bad. I feel like my life has been shattered by recent events. Of course, when I examine things logically, I discover that, at the root of my discomfort, is fear: the fear of things that have not even happened, but could happen.
The are certainly legitimate reasons for sadness in some of the news I have received recently, of that there can be no doubt. Someone I have known for the past ten + years has received bad news recently from his doctor and is now engaged in a battle against a formidable illness. I feel bad for him [as well as his family] and the struggle they must be having with all of this, especially during the holiday season. I feel especially bad for them because I don’t believe they share the same faith as I do– what little I seem to have of it.
Please God, forgive me for my lack of faith and help me to grow in grace and knowledge of You through your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus. I pray that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may nurture my faith and be a blessing to others.
And Jesus, replying, said to them, Have faith in God [constantly].
Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him.
For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].
-Mark 11:22-24 (AMP)
Part of having faith is speaking as if things are when they might not yet be. This is an idea that has recently been driven home to me when I think of what a friend is struggling with a very serious disease. I know that nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. Absolutely nothing!
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)
It is common to hear [in certain twelve step fellowships] that the best way to get out of your own trouble is by immersing yourself in the needs of others. For many people newly introduced to the 12 steps, this is big news– as they are often the most self-centered people imaginable. That said, once folks swap bad habits for good ones (like caring about others) they quickly realize how good it feels to be of service to those in need and how it ultimately is self-serving as well!
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)
Many years ago, someone told me that the way out of any depression or bad mood I might be experiencing was to think of others and take action on their behalf [whether I feel like it or not]. Getting out of myself and thinking of another’s needs (regardless of how bad I might think my problem is) is the best possible cure for self-pity and [sometimes] fearful reaction to any given situation. I always feel better when I am thinking of others and living as Christ compels me to. Like any habit, it becomes more natural the more it is practiced.
A blessing in my life this holiday season has been the few hours I have spent ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. I don’t say this to somehow put forth the idea that I am some sort of “super Christian,’ because I am not. The little bit of effort I put in toward helping others is a mere drop in the bucket when compared to what God has done for me, quite often using loving, generous people accomplish His task. The pay-off I receive from getting involved is immeasurable, to say the least. I don’t know in what capacity I will serve there in the future (once the kettles are packed away for the season) but I hope to find something I can do to help others in some way to ease their burden. It is a blessing and, for the most part, a true pleasure to be involved. I have made new friends and met many people of integrity and true Christian character, as far as I can tell. In my youth, I sought good feelings through artificial means (drugs and alcohol) and that led me down a road toward a very bad life filled with self-centered deceitfulness– let alone physical problems I was beginning to incur. I have since found out that the way to feel good is to help others. It’s one thing to throw a buck in a kettle or make donations to favorite charities along the way and quite another to roll up your sleeves and actually give of yourself in time and effort.
One thing I have learned along the way this holiday season is that serving Christ is a full time job– one that I have not been all that great at doing. The good news is that, with God’s unending grace and support, I am able to rectify that as I grow in my relationship with Him. The more I serve others, the more I see the need to do more! I hope you feel the same way. May God richly bless you and motivate you to service this Christmas season.
Lately there’s been some rough patches for my wife and me (circumstances, not our marriage). Basically, we have been very blessed with things through our lives and especially in our life together– but there comes those times when uncertainty creeps in and fear of the unknown must be contended with. When our faith is tested is the time we must be vigilant and stand firm in Jesus to reap whatever benefits are ultimately coming our way. There’s an old expression “this, too, shall pass” that has significance and is worth focusing on when things seem tough.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. -1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)
It’s easy to talk about giving thanks to God in all situations (1 Thes. 5:18), but quite another to do it when one or more of those situations isn’t pleasant. God has a way of getting messages through to me when I need to hear them, but I must be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit when He is talking and not muddy the waters with my own attempts to solve problems and master situations on my own. I’ve been getting that message loud and clear recently and I thank God for it.
Please consider supporting your local Salvation Army during this blessed season.
Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord,
and He will give a reward to the lender.
-Proverbs 19:17 (HCSB)
I will be glad and rejoice
because of your constant love.
You see my suffering;
you know my trouble.
-Psalm 31:7 (GNT)
So often we hear preachers (especially on TV) who insist that (with the proper amount of faith) all ailments will be healed and we will live a life of material and spiritual prosperity in Jesus. While I agree that a life of spiritual prosperity in His love (which includes serving others) does offer an abundance of serenity and confidence (true prosperity), there is no guarantee of some of the blessings these teachers promote.
But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. -2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (GNT)
Paul was left with affliction and God made it clear that He wanted it that way for His reasons. Most translations call it a “thorn in the flesh…” but whatever it was, it was something that Paul prayed to have removed and yet God chose not to. Sometimes, that’s the way it is. When our Lord is glorified, it is always in our best interests that it is so. What He always gives us is enough love and protection to see us through the darkest times. May all glory to be God our Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit, as we ponder the meaning of His Word and the promise of this holy holiday that will soon be upon us.
The New London, CT Salvation Army needs your assistance this year more than ever.
The Lord says, “Now, let’s settle the matter. You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool. -Isaiah 1:18 (GNT)
The idea of God forgiving His children is certainly not something new to the New Testament. Throughout history, God’s forgiveness of His people is recorded in Scripture. The requirement has always been faith in God’s love for us, not our good deeds. This is not to say that a Christian is not known by their fruit, but they are to act out of love, not fear that they will be punished if they don’t accomplish good works. In the book of Hebrews, we are given accounts of how famous biblical characters found their salvation and it was always through faith.
It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval. -Hebrews 11:2 (GNT)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
It’s easy to feel grateful and say nice things about God and your fellow man when things are going great, but how about when they are not? When the chips are down, are you willing to concede that God has a better plan for your life and you may not know exactly what that is right now? Believe me when I tell you that I am not writing this from a position of “holier than thou,” because I certainly am not intending to do so. What I do know is this: when I am able to be in that place with God that I can thank Him for whatever circumstances I am in, I find a peace that truly does pass all understanding.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
May God bless you as you continue to seek His peace.
Jesus (quoting Scripture): “Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes. -Matthew 22:37-40 (VOICE)
Had a great time this past Saturday ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at a nearby Wal-Mart. In fact, I learned much during the experience that is difficult to put into words. The actual act of ringing a bell is a small effort that offers immense riches in payment. Faith in action is what our Lord requires of us when we are believers and it always feels good to get out of myself and think about others. The look of children passing by that I let ring the bell and occasional stories and comments I heard from people I encountered are priceless. I hope we can all put aside our petty doctrinal differences and embrace the living God this holiday season and remember the love our Father showed us by giving His only Son to teach us so much and eventually die for us. Of course, thank God, we know that’s not the end of the story!