Meeting God through my troubles.

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What happens in your gut when trouble shows up? Perhaps you feel like you are living in the lands of perpetual trouble! So, your gut hasn’t settled down in days. One of the important questions I’ve been asking myself as a follower of Jesus when it comes to trouble is: Ok, what can I learn with God in these days and through this struggle? The good news is that God has been meeting His people through struggle for a long time!

1“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. 2Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

6“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.  Deuteronomy 8:1-6

Its tempting to rush through these famous verses. I’ve had to re-read them more than once. Did you see what God was up to when the children of Israel sojourned through the wilderness for forty years? Through those years in the wilderness God says He was building them up for a relationship with Him.

 

The wilderness — a land of struggle

The wilderness — the context for their struggle — served as the school for their character. So what was God developing in the wilderness? He was developing their character. Obedience to God is a character issue. Character is the grid through which you habitually respond to the stuff that comes at you in this world. A person who obeys God has a reformatted grid about themselves and life. Even their appetites have been examined in respect to God.

 

The anxiety in my gut!

In these verses Moses says their hunger in the wilderness served a purpose in God’s work. Their hunger was an opportunity to humble themselves and trust God. God abundantly supplied manna for their hunger and they learned to trust Him for their daily bread. But they also learned something about humanity: we cannot live on bread alone. We will truly live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

When trouble comes, my gut tells me something is not right. The anxiety in the pit of my stomach makes my world and options seem smaller. But its in these moments that I’m learning to seek God. I’ll tackle what’s in my capacity to tackle by applying His Word to the situation. And, I will let God be God as I relinquish control to Him. That’s when the extra-ordinary provisions of God begin to show up!

 

Learning new reflexes built up by faith.

I love these verses from James, who having been trained by faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, could write the following exhortation to the Believers about troubles:

2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:2-5)

Are you in trouble of some kind these days? Perhaps you will be helped in prayer for the next month:  Lord I’m in trouble, what are You showing me about Yourself through these troubles? What do You want to build up in my character? I want to trust You as the good and loving God, so the Cross of Jesus Christ will be my reminder: you are my Deliverer. You are my Provider. You alone are God, worthy of my life and love. You are faithful. What adjustments must I make in order to be faithful, respectful, and full of love toward You?

Someday… when I win the lottery.

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1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.  2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Generosity is a matter of character. And like many aspects of character we assume we can actually “put it on” or simply “start doing it” when we “grow up” or when we have more responsibility and capacity. So we may assume we will establish a standard of giving when we have a lot more money than we have today. But that’s not the way it works. You won’t become generous because you have a big salary, or win the lottery.

Our “Secret” of Giving
As Christians generosity is meant to flow from our disciple-life with Jesus. The secret of the Macedonian’s generosity was not that they were wealthy people. Their secret of generosity was that they “gave themselves first to the Lord” and “then by the will God” to the apostles and their work. The tithe was not the beginning point for them; rather their relationship with Jesus and His church was their starting point for giving.

Set your Standards of Giving
The standard of giving that you have today is likely to be your standard of giving in the future, unless you begin to change it in response to Jesus and allow for a Gospel-shaped generosity in your standards. This is how character develops. Its a hardened habit built over time and testing. Then the tithe under the grace of Jesus becomes a generosity baby step. Paul tells the Corinthians to see that that they excel in the grace of giving not through the force of a command but through the force of Jesus’ love in their hearts!

8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9