People over the years have asked me a question, or a variance of it, “Why church? Why ministry? Don’t all the aspects of dealing with people’s lives, the nuances of relationships and more exhaust you? Why do you do it?” There is a vast expanse of life that we get to live. I was born in 1970 and if I look back over my life, I have lived a life time. I have been with Mandy since 1988 and we were married in 1994. I have been in school, studied. I have worked in Dry cleaners, video shops, and owned my own Pizzeria’s. I know how to start a boiler and compressor as well as an industrial Dry-cleaning machine. I can light a fire in a pizza oven not using my hands but a pizza shovel. I know how to clean the condenser on a cold room and can even make pizza from scratch. I know how hot a pizza oven should be and how to cook eight pizzas’ in a pizza oven.
I also know where hospitals are (Not that, that is necessarily a good thing). I have lived in town houses, clusters and free-standing homes. I have had a wedding, been there for all three of my children’s births and seen them grow and develop. I have worked in project management, studied and continue to study.
I have been in hospital, have had 49 surgeries, seen the inside of way too many casualties between my own family and our church family. We have replanted Willow Hill Church three times. With each move losing families and friends. We have lost loved ones who have gone to be with Jesus. We has loved and lost, suffered pain and hurt, but there has also been immense joy, peace, purpose and satisfaction.
The past is gone, the present is being lived and the future beckon’s me ahead. In every aspect of life, in every stage of life, in every event of life, we can get caught up in trying to understand the ‘Why?’ We examine everything that happens under a microscope. We diagnose, and impose our own preferred outcome to situations we encounter. We cry out to God and say, “God why is this happening to me? I’m not asking for a perfect life God, just a normal one?”
Problem being, what is normal life? Normal is a setting on a washing machine!
Can you give me an example of anyone in scripture who lived what the world perceives to be a normal life?
Could I suggest a different way? Could it be that we should take a step back and living for the bigger picture? The reason being from a divine perspective, what happens to you is not as important as what happens in you. To live for the bigger picture, we need to trust and obey God. But we won’t obey God if we don’t trust Him.
D.B. Towner said, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey” Don’t these words sum up what is important to live a healthy Christian life? The reality is the trust and obedience are two sides of the same coin.
John Wimber illustrates it this way: Think of a mother at the beach with a toddler. The toddler is drawn to the waves like a magnet and she needs to watch him every second. As he grows she stands close by as he plays ankle deep in the sea. A few years later she, sits close to the surf, eyes fixed on her child who is in water just above his knees. As he continues to grow, she will sit with a friend watching her son boogie boarding in the surf.
Trust grows a we mature. We let go of our lives and seek to live for the bigger picture, we let go of control little by little. As we encounter God’s faithfulness we begin to let go and trust Him more and more.
That’s the place where trust begins to grow. And when we trust God we can easily begin to walk in obedience to Him. Why is that? Well if you trust God and know that His plans and purposes for your life are perfect, it’s easy to obey Him. You know that it is best for you.
Things begin to shift and we begin to live for Jesus no matter what the circumstances or emotions.
It can be difficult I understand that. We face, illness, hurt, pain, betrayal, financial pressures and keep asking, “Why God??!!” I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had over the years with peoples who have said a variance of, “I’ve tried this Christian and church thing, it just doesn’t work for me. I was hurt and disillusioned, and my life never got any better, in fact it got worse”
In the show Greys Anatomy, a Rabbi who is dying in ICU says to his doctor when asked why believe responded, “Faith wouldn’t be real faith if we only believe when things are good!”
John Wimber put it this way, “In essence, obedience can be defined as utter surrender to the one we trust. Obedience is something we do – inspired or uninspired – because we commit our wills to be in alignment with God’s purposes and directives”
Serving Jesus becomes a joy, not a duty. Not something we have to do, but rather something we get to do.
We are called to trust and obey God. Because faith wouldn’t be real faith if we only believe when things are good!” When we do this, our eyes are lifted from the current difficulties and situations we face to gaze into His loving face. We are able to put our hands into His and walk this road and live for the bigger picture.
Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote the following: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (31) What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (33) Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (36) As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." (37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:28-39
Do you see it? God is in control and it helps us live for the bigger picture. Let Paul’s words ring in your heart and resonate with your spirit, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. NOTHING - will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”
God works in “all things” not just isolated incidents for our good. Paul is not saying that everything that happens to us is good, after all we do live in a fallen world. But what God will do is use circumstances both bad and good for long term good. But remember that God’s goal is not to make us happy, but rather to see us become more like Jesus. His goal is that to make us more Christlike. And as we trust and obey through life’s circumstances, we become more and more like Jesus, we begin to discover our true selves and all that we were created to be.
I would encourage you to keep a journal. A record of what God has done and how He has worked in your life. You will be able to go back and see why God said no to certain things. Why He said “Wait” and why He said “Yes” Retrospect is always helpful. And possibly some of our questions will only be answered in eternity.
Jesus is famous for saying just that. You can abandon yourself to God, who is present. “Let go and let God” is an old and wise saying—unfortunately way more widely said than practiced.
Daniel’s three friends, facing death in a “fiery furnace,” were commanded to bow to the image set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. Their response to the king was that they did not even need to think about it.
Dan 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. (17) If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. (18) But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
Their God would or would not deliver them, but in either case all was well. They would not bow.
Jesus said in the Beatitudes that even the most deprived and insignificant people on earth could be blessed by living in the kingdom: The poor, those who mourn, are persecuted, those without reputation or standing, the meek. Remember? Jesus said, “Blessed are they, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:3–10)
The blessedness wasn’t in their condition of being poor, mournful, or disrespected. They were blessed because they could enter the kingdom, and to be in the kingdom means to be blessed no matter what else happens. They can rest in that, you can rest in that. Their future and your own, in God is secured, and your present condition redeemed. Forever.
When we face trials in life do we press into this understanding?
In my experience we don’t. Things begin to go wrong and we question God. We walk away from Him. We stop coming to church? I walked this road for many years. Coming to faith at sixteen and then through facing trials and difficulties I walked away from God for a long time.
Isaiah’s words ring so true for that season in my life when he said, “GOD, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: "Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me-- The very thing you've been unwilling to do.” Isa 30:15 (MSG)
In this moment with whatever you are facing, are you willing to settle down in complete dependence on Jesus?
I spend much time with people. Helping, praying with, supporting. Leading, mentoring, stretching. Often people are living in the quagmire of life and are struggling to get out of it. They are caught up in their own situations that they cannot see anything beyond their own present circumstances. They are unable to live for the big picture.
Living the for big picture in a sense is a place with God, it’s a place where we live. This living for the big picture is an eternal living, it is a sense of place, a place where God is. When we are in that that place, we don’t have legitimate grounds for worry.
Yes, we go through difficulties in this life. The bible never promises that we will not. Will you trust and obey settling down in complete dependence on Jesus, or not? In the grand narrative of your life, the promise from God is that He has this in hand and all will work for the good. Nothing is going to separate you from His love that is in Christ Jesus. The past is gone, the present is being lived and the future beckon’s you ahead. Live for the bigger picture! Is it time to realize that faith is not genuine faith if you only believe when things are good, settle on your dependence on Jesus, and get on with big picture living?