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?

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Do you know the temptation that accompanies trouble? Authentic Fellowship, Part 3

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1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.   1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul was concerned, The Thessalonian church had experienced trouble from the very beginning. He was afflicted with thoughts that they may have drifted away from the faith and each other. He was concerned:

1. that their troubles would knock them off their faith and off Christian fellowship.

2. that their troubles would open them up to the Tempter’s work of emptying out their faith in Jesus.
What a relief when Timothy came back and shared the good news! The church still exists. People still remember Paul affectionately. The believers are still trusting Jesus even in their troubles.

Troubles and Temptations
Paul knows how isolating troubles can be. Its tempting to keep it all to yourself, to feel forgotten and of no value to God and others. However, authentic fellowship is the place where we can let others know of our troubles and experience the comfort and courage of the Holy Spirit together. During change and pain a circle of brothers and sisters in Christ can make the difference for our faith. But there is a vulnerability during these times. Will it knock us off our faith?

Other Apostles and Christian leaders know of this vulnerability too. James wrote of mature communal faith this way: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will rise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James  5:13-16

Praise and Prayer
Praise and prayer are experienced in authentic fellowship. Participation in each other’s good times and difficult times is part of authentic fellowship. The amazing part of authentic fellowship is that the focus both in trouble and in good times does not get fixated on the individual and his or her pain, but instead turns toward God and our graceful communion with Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What if it was raining cats and dogs?

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24And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?

26The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Here’s one strange English idiom: “Its raining cats and dogs.” Meant to describe a heavy downpour it surely describes a devastating downpour.

What if life brings you a devastating downpour? What if pressure is mounting because of your faith in Christ?

The challenge under pressure is to keep our view of God large. When the church in Jerusalem experienced pressure during the arrest of John and Peter they prayed. When they celebrated their release from the authorities they prayed. They prayed not for relief but for courage. How could they do that?

They kept God large through the revelation of Jesus Christ— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sovereign Lord.

Creator of Heaven and earth.

Inspirer of the prophet’s message.
Promise keeper.

Messiah, Anointed one.

King.

When the downpour comes, me must remember Jesus. He shows us God’s plan that continues even through the downpour.