“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31
Trusting God is not comfortable. It doesn’t belong in a Hallmark card picture — a colorful valley, a quaint village, a church steeple, with a sentimental slogan. Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful.
Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the early Hebrew lexicographers, defined the verb “wait” in Isaiah 40:31 with reference to the medieval German verb for “twist.” That is, waiting on the Lord can involve tension and pressure and stress. How could it be otherwise? Waiting is pent-up irresolution. It is not a light thing to wait trustingly for the Lord:
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, . . . so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:6
“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” Psalm 143:6
My point is this. You may be going through hell right now. You may be bewildered, gasping, frightened. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t trusting God. It might mean you are trusting God.
Isaiah really understood something. He understood that it’s in this tension that our strength is renewed. How so? There is something about coming to the end of ourselves and our own strength and wisdom — that’s when our hearts finally crack open, and the love of God pours in. When we have nothing of our own left, when nothing will suffice but that which is directly and immediately of God, that’s when God alone is our sufficiency, and we find him to be so.
-Ray Orlund is Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can read more of his thoughts at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/
If only we had more money.
If only I had a date...
If only I could get my house really clean.
If only I had alone time.
If only I could sleep more.
Feeling inadequate and out of control of any number of life stresses, I feel small and weak. Instead of being humbled, I tend to reject the discomfort of my need, and become prideful. I demand control, believing that if I regain control, I will be restored. My wandering, grumbling heart searches for some end to my familiar fatigue.
IF ONLY I’D HOPE IN GOD
Here’s what my “if only’s” tell God: what he has given me in some moment is not good and I’ll hope when the conditions are met, not in him. Exhaustion is an occasion to demand, grumble or to find hope in God, again.
Recently, frazzled and mumbling “if only’s,” I opened Psalm 23 with a chaotic heart, throwing a silent fit with God: "OK, fine! I will read my Bible. I know that is what you want." The Psalm surprised and confronted me with words that exposed the sin of my misplaced hope.
God whispered through his word: "Daughter, I am your only restoration."
I foolishly believe I could escape exhaustion by submitting my “if only” list for God to fulfill totally missing that he is my greatest restoration. If God would just give me sleep or alone time, then I would be OK. But God, relentless in his faithfulness, reveals all the measly hopes of my soul being restored, because nothing actually satisfies a craving heart more than Jesus. When I’m tired, weak, and tempted, he gently leads me to himself.
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2
It is he who restores my soul. All of the alone time and money in the world can’t compare to God’s presence. Clean homes and date nights are blessings, but meaningless without God’s presence enjoyed. Sure, sleep boosts my weary body, but my soul is only restored by Jesus.
GOD IS THE MEANS AND THE END
It’s not magic, though. I don’t just limp toward God’s word, open and magically return to my joyful and rested self. Sometimes, it is a tooth and nail fight to resist grumbling and doubt in my heart. To let God restore us is to want him more than the effects of being restored. Get that? It’s like wanting coffee merely for an energy boost, rather than its taste and aroma, too. God is not the way to get rest. He is both the way and the destination for our soul rest.
A QUIET, PEACEFUL JOY
As we submit our hearts to Jesus, weariness becomes a quiet joy. Our gloom turns to peace. God’s word gives us hope, as our weakness is laid at his feet, telling us that his power is made perfect in our weakness.
The precious gift of weakness shows us how powerful Jesus really is. It’s amazing. Wearily, we can come to the Father and he always meets us, comforts us, speaks to us, and holds us close. The only soul restoration is in God alone, and there’s no “if” to it: he always satisfies.
By Trisha Wilkerson for The Resurgence. For more resources like this, go to www.theresurgence.com
Good Wednesday morning friends. We continue to hope that you are having a fun, restful, and Christ-drenched summer, that He would be even more satisfying than long days at the pool, or ice-filled cups of sweet tea and lemonade. One of the greatest mistakes we can make in the Christian life, is to think that Jesus's main purpose in our lives is to make us "healthy, wealthy, and wise." No-rather, He came to rescue a people for Himself, so that He might become the all-satisfying treasure and pursuit of our lives. Pastor John Piper puts it this way:
Being satisfied in God (or anything) always seems easier when all is going well. But when things you love are being stripped out of your hands, then the test is real. If God remains precious in those moments, then his supreme worth shines more brightly. He is most glorified.
This week, rather than a message to read, we've shared a story with you from a ministry named Desiring God. It's a love story between a husband and his wife, but it might be different than what you expect. As you watch, consider Jesus and ask, "Right now-am I treasuring Christ as greater than all things in my life?"
Hear Pastor Piper again as he introduces this story: "The most meaningful testimonies I receive are when people tell me that it was a vision of the sovereignty and goodness of God that got them through the most difficult times of their life. Here is one of those testimonies. I tremble with the glad responsibility of introducing you to Ian & Larissa Murphy in this video. Tremble, because it is their story and so personal. So delicate. So easily abused. So unfinished. Glad, because Christ is exalted over all things."
You can find more resources like this at www.desiringgod.org.
Almost every Christian I know has a deep desire to tell friends, family, and coworkers how they can have a relationship with Christ. But the most common reason we don’t “go there” is we are not sure how to do it without being perceived as pushy, judgmental, or awkward. So we wait, and wait, hoping the other person brings up the topic– and when that that doesn’t happen we can easily get discouraged.
Here are 5 simple steps to have a spiritual conversation with anybody without feeling pushy, awkward or judgmental.
Step 1. Read. Believe it or not it’s one of the best things you can do to share your faith because it gives you something to talk about. Read whatever you find interesting – news articles, blogs, books – anything to stimulate your mind. Because when your mind is stimulated, it’s easier to have meaningful, significant conversations with people. You don’t have to read for hours. Just reading for 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your ability to get into spiritual conversations with people.
Step 2. As you read, identify connections to your faith in Christ and questions that come to mind. For example, I recently read an article title “Analytical Thinking Weakens Religious Belief.” It was an article directly related to faith that raised important questions. Making mental notes of such questions helps you get into spiritual conversations down the road. But the books or articles you read don’t have to be spiritual. They could be on any topic. For example, you may see an article on marriage or divorce that never mentions anything about faith. The very fact that faith is not mentioned in the article may be worth noting. Why did the author leave out the subject of faith? The combination of reading and identifying connections to your faith is very helpful because it primes your mind for spiritual conversations. It gives you meaningful topics to discuss with your friends as well as questions that will steer the conversation a spiritual direction.
Step 3. Share with your friends the things you are reading – or better yet, ask them, “Have you read anything good lately?” As your friends share what they are reading your mind will be used to making spiritual connections and asking good questions. For example, if your friend is reading a book on leadership you could ask, “What does the author say are the most important character traits in leadership?” Or, “I’ve often wondered if a person’s belief in God is a help or hindrance to them being a better leader. What do you think?” Don’t feel pressured to linger long on a spiritual topic or to force a conversation in a particular direction. Simply ask a good question and see where it leads. If the conversation turns deep, great. If it doesn’t, no problem. You will certainly have other opportunities. If you can’t think of a good question in the moment, you can always follow up later and say, “I’ve been thinking more about what you said about ____ (topic) the other day, and wanted to ask you more about that.”
Step 4. Listen well and reflect back what your friends are saying. This is where I have often blown it. Once a spiritual conversation comes up, I’m so eager to share what I think or believe I find it hard to really listen to the other person. Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s much more important to listen and understand another person’s perspective than to explain my own. “Tell me more about that,” or “Why do you feel/think that way?” are questions that draw people out and keep them from feeling defensive. You don’t have to argue or debate with them. Just listen and reflect back what you hear them saying. At some point, they will likely ask what you think, which will give you an open door to share your faith. If not, you can always follow up later. Which leads to the last step…
Step 5. Follow up with your friend after the conversation. After your friend has had a chance to share what they think, regardless of whether or not you were able to share your perspective, the door is now open for you to have a follow up conversation. One way to re-open the conversation is to share with them an article on the topic you discussed. “I was thinking about our conversation the other day and thought you might find this article interesting.” (Click here on sending a article with spiritual content to a friend.) Or the next time you are with them you can say, “I’ve been thinking more about what you said the other day and would love to share with you some time my thoughts on the topic.”
Once your get in the habit of talking with people spiritually, it becomes increasingly easy to “go there” in a gentle, tactful way. And once you have had a meaningful spiritual conversation with a friend it’s much easier to talk specifically about the Christian faith.
For additional tips on sharing your faith visit: www.CruPressGreen.com.
Pete Kelly has worked for 20 years in collegiate ministry, seven of those in Leadership Development. He now serves as an Executive Director of Fund Development with Cru. To read more from Pete's blog, go to http://christcenteredleaders.wordpress.com.
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