When the Righteous are Afflicted

Psalm 34:19, David, prayer, praiseLife is not easy.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  Striving to live a Godly life is not easy.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is very difficult indeed.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is coming against us.  As if every obstacle that could possibly appear has launched a coordinated attack on us, all at once.  I can assure you, this is not by accident.  We have an enemy that is in opposition to God and all that is good.

And when we visibly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ and try to stand up for good then we have drawn a line in the sand and planted a flag of battle that the enemy can’t help but see.  As we strive for good the enemy will come against us and will seek any and every way to afflict us, discourage us and try to get us to leave the fight.  (As an aside, I think it’s important to note that evil has no real power over the redeemed child of God.  God holds the lives and souls of the redeemed in His hands and nothing can ever pluck them out or change their ultimate destiny.  God is always sovereign no matter what it might feel like at the time!)

King David, one of my favorite Biblical heroes, knew affliction firsthand.  He had enemies that wanted to kill him from both outside his country and inside his own family.  He struggled with doing the right thing and with his own faith even while trying to lead a country and be true to God and what he knew was right.

In Psalm 34, David speaks about affliction but he also talks about the victory that we have in God alone.  When you have a few minutes you should read the whole chapter.  It isn’t very long but I promise you that it can change your outlook for the better if you read it and let it really soak in to your heart.

Here’s the verse that is the key idea for today:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.  Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)

What a statement!  What a promise!  If can’t help but get a little bit ecstatic when I read it.  Yes, David says, we will be afflicted.  And not just a little bit.  Our afflictions and our trials will be many.  There will be a multitude of things that come against us and no it won’t be easy to be in the midst of the turbulence.  But!  But!  The Lord delivers the righteous out of ALL of his afflictions!  Not just some.  Not just one every now and then.  Every single time we encounter trouble we are promised victory and the power to overcome simply because the Lord has declared it to be so.

You might have many troubles.  And some days it might feel like there is no end in sight and no victory could possibly come from what you are facing.  But take heart, Child of God.  You are not forgotten and God is not a liar.  He has declared that He will deliver you out of that trial and that someday, perhaps soon, your current affliction will be no more.

And when that day arrives you will know that God has delivered you and you can voice your praises to Him and tell others how God won the victory in your life.  This is what happens when the redeemed gather together and tell their stories of redemption!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:1-3) NKJV

Defined By What?

circumstances, tribulation, trialsI have at least two different sets of circumstances in my life that I wish were completely different.  On one of them a minor change would be all it takes to make things right.  On the other one, without being too specific, I think the problem requires a larger and more complex solution.  In both cases the answer to the dilemma is frustratingly out of my reach.

What do you think has been my response to these problems?

If you said “a lot of prayer” then you would be exactly right.  I keep asking the Lord to change my circumstances or, if that isn’t His will, to give me strength to get through it.  So far, His strength has been sufficient for me and based on His word I know that it will continue to be.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  I am learning to trust in God one step at a time even when I don’t like the looks of my current surroundings and I look forward to seeing the good that God will work from such a time as this.

Unfortunately I have also started to realize that I have let my circumstances define me for far too long.

I have made excuses as to why I can’t love more, pray more and serve more based on how tired and weak I am instead of acting in faith and believing that God would grant me strength to carry out His will, as it is revealed to me.  Instead of walking by faith I have walked by sight and I have looked more like a broken down child of the world than a spirit-filled child of the King.  Even as I have appeared to be outwardly fine my internal attitude and outlook has been completely colored by my situation.

I am not ok with this.

I am not to be defined by my circumstances nor I am called to expend my time and energy to change them.  I was not saved in order to live a trouble free life but in order for God to show His mighty power through my troubles.  And my circumstances may not change any time soon but God has granted me the wisdom to just be still and know that He is in control.  (Psalm 46:10)

Starting today I choose to be defined by something different.  Starting today I choose to be defined by my Heavenly Father, my relationship to His son Jesus Christ and the work that He desires to do in my life.  This is what defines me.

 

 

 

 

 

How Faith Grows

faith, persecution, trialsWhen writing, I find it sometimes is better not to start with a title or even a strong idea for a topic.  Sometimes you really don’t know exactly what is banging around inside your own head until you sit down and just let the words flow.

Being a reader I would imagine that this is making you nervous.  You are thinking, “if even the author doesn’t know exactly where this is going, do I really want to hang around for the ride?”  And honestly, that’s a valid question.  I would answer it like this: if you regularly read this site and trust the content that is presented on a normal basis to be factual, inspiring and (hopefully) interesting then I hope you will trust me enough to see this piece through.  If you’re new here or just don’t care for what I normally post then I would encourage you to look elsewhere.  Life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t inspire you, help you grow or enrich you in some way.

With that out of the way, I can now hopefully express to you what is on my heart.  And that expression would have to start with my own gratefulness.  If there has been a central theme to my Christian walk this past year it would have to be God showing me just how blessed I am through His redeeming power.  No matter how badly I mess up or how inadequate I feel at times, God’s redeeming power is greater.  His grace is greater than all my sin; always has been and always will be.  This is a great comfort to me every single day.

Learning to trust Him and His unseen hand is sometimes hard for me, but God is patient and kind.  Through circumstances, the teaching of other mature believers and the ministering of the Holy Spirit, I am discovering what a joy it is to be able to put all of my trust in the Lord.  My nature is to fret and to over analyze everything and then try to control and plan for all possible outcomes.  Not only is this exhausting, there is absolutely no peace of mind when trying to live this way.  This is not God’s will for my life and it is not God’s will for your life either.  He wants you and I to learn to trust Him absolutely and without reservation.

There is a process and an order to growing in the faith, just as there is a process and an order to all of God’s creation.  God is a God of order; chaos is not in His nature or part of His plan.  Just as a seed is planted in fertile soil and then through water and sunlight grows little by little in to a mighty tree, so must our faith grow.  Being the impatient man that I am, I want quick results and dramatic displays of maturity.  Wouldn’t it be better if this whole life of faith and journey towards Godliness could be accelerated somewhat?

All I can say to that is our sanctification and our holiness is a God-designed process and must not be rushed through.  God’s Word tells us that we grow from “faith to faith” (Romans 1:17) and that we should count our trials as joy because they are producing Godliness in us (James 1:2-4).  On hard days verses like those help to remind me that God is still working on growing my faith.  My part is to simply trust and obey.

I tell you this because I know that life is hard.  At times, joy and laughter can be in very short supply and if you are like me, the weight of your responsibilities can seem overwhelming.  But God is greater.  When I choose to focus on Him and make Him my priority He takes all of my burdens and cares and replaces them with peace and joy.  He wants to do the same for you, right now, today.  Commit to learning to trust Him with your whole heart and hold nothing back.  Let Him begin the work of faith in you and be patient as He grows you into the man or woman that you were always intended to be.