Category: Encouragement

Spiritual Muscle Development for Stronger Faith

We’ve all been asked (or more likely told) by God to wait on Him. Any of you who know my story, you know God has had me here all too often…and if you don’t know, suffice it to say I know a thing or two about waiting on God.

I know several people right now who are in this situation and I’m constantly torn between the pain I feel for them as they wait in the hottest part of Gods refining fire (Malachi 3:2) and the joy I know they will experience as they push through in faith as He refines, purifies and glorifies Himself through them. It is a double edged sword of hope on one side and pain on the other.

And that is why I wanted to share Paul Tripp’s latest post…in the hopes that those who find themselves waiting on God in one form or another would be encouraged and strengthened by these truths from the bible.

So, what happens inside of you when you are asked to wait? Is waiting, for you, a time of stengthening or weakening? Have you ever stopped to consider why God asks you to wait? Let me point you to one of his purposes.
Waiting Is Giving You Time

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.

Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles? (see Psalm 27:4)

It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength. These are bad habits that all of us are tempted to give way to.
Habits of Unfaith

Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are naturally convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love. It is tempting, in the frustration of waiting, to actually begin to believe that you are smarter than God.

Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by God.

Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the “If only_____,” the “What if_____,” and the “What will happen if_____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. And I am able to think my life is out of control because I have forgotten God’s wise and gracious contol over very part of my existence. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.

Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.

Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.

Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.
One of His Primary Shaping Tools

The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.

So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise.

What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (e.g., as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.

Is God asking you to wait? So, what is happening to your muscles?

Just in case you’re ready to worship after that I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs on worshiping and waiting…

Who Is This Wretched Man Living In A Non Continual Victory Over Sin?

I am a wretched man.  And earlier tonight I felt like a divided or conflicted man.  It’s a feeling I’ve felt before after realizing my sin, but tonight was like no other.  I knew I needed to write about it here and share what I believe God showed me.

I know that I’m saved by Grace and not by my filthy works.

Thank God for that.

I know also that Jesus came to earth in human form and “became sin”, without sinning so that I could be “credited” with His righteousness, without my doing anything righteous.

Again, thank God for that.

And in and through all that, I am comforted, challenged and encouraged by Romans 7:14-25 when I listen to Paul describe what I believe to be one of the great challenges of genuine followers of Christ.  And that is…how are we to respond to failures to triumph over the sin in our lives?

One of the reasons I made was to showcase the glory of God.  The tagline says it best…”it’s why we’re here”.  But another reason in the beginning was to share with the world, both believers and non-believers, what God is doing through, to and for me.

Tonight’s post is an outpouring of something I can’t contain.  My prayer is that it helps my readers deal with, think about and fight against the ongoing, ever-present sin in their lives.

In my continual battle to crush sin in my life, like all Christians I win some and lose some battles, realizing that Christ won the war by dying on the cross and raising from the dead.  But sometimes when I blow it, I’m shaken to my core, as I was tonight.

I began thinking about Paul’s words as I prayed asking God to forgive me and telling Him how broken I was about my condition and actions.  As I read the verses, a few things struck me that were significant, but one thing stood out.  And that is that this is clearly a man who LOVES God and dearly, deeply loves the LAW of God.  Non-believers can’t do that.  And the thing that became crystal clear to me is that there is a genuine, proper response that Christians should have to their sin.  And this passage is the model for that response.

Let me share 2 quotes from 2 Godly men that summarize this passage.

The first is J. I. Packer.  J. I. Packer wrote an article on this passage in 1999 and he has this to say about this passage:

Paul is not telling us that the life of the “wretched man” is as bad as it could be, only that it is not as good as it should be, and that because the man delights in the law and longs to keep it perfectly his continued inability to do so troubles him acutely. . . . The “wretched man” is Paul himself, spontaneously voicing his distress at not being a better Christian than he is, and all we know of Paul personally fits in with this supposition.

The next quote is John Piper paraphrasing the proper response laid out in these verses.  He says the Christian should say,

· I love the Law of God. Verse 22: “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.”

· I hate what I just did. Verse 15: “I am doing the very thing I hate.”

· Oh the wretchedness I feel in these times! I long for deliverance from this body that constantly threatens to kill me, and that I have to mortify day after day. Verse 24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (see Romans 6:6; 8:10, 13).

Nobody should want to live this way. Or settle to live this way. That’s not the point. The point is, when you do live this way, this is the Christian response. No lying. No hypocrisy. No posing. No vaunted perfectionism. Lord, deliver us from a church like that – with its pasted smiles, and chipper superficiality, and blindness to our own failures, and consequent quickness to judge others. God give us the honesty and candor and humility of the apostle Paul.

This is encouragement for the person who loves God and His laws.  The Christian experience is not perfect, but it is real.  The enemy wants to lie to us and convince us when we fall that we’re cast out and useless to God or that He doesn’t love us anymore or that there’s a limit to His grace, mercy and love.

Rubbish.  Complete and total garbage.

Be distressed by your sin.  Do not make peace with it, but continue to fight with it deep within you.  For the rest of your life.  Understand your condition and fight the good fight until in that twinkling of an eye, you are changed.  Be encouraged by others who have fought the fight before you.  And most of all, by the living Word of God that transforms us, changes us, and brings us peace, hope and life.

Share your thoughts, struggles and encouragement below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Finding God In Tough Times – 7 Biblical Facts To Lean On When Things Get Tough

  1. Finding God In Tough Times God is all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing.
    Nothing gets by Him, nothing surprises Him and nothing catches Him off guard.  While there are things that disappoint Him, we must never forget even when He’s disappointed, He’s not surprised.
  2. He is Creator God.
    He created the heavens and the earth which we call the universe and everything on it, in it and around it…put simply, He created EVERYTHING.
  3. He loves every single person He created.
    He knows them intimately even to the cells of their body and the hairs on their head being numbered.  That includes us.  He loves us more than we love ourselves or even more than we love our own children.  He loves our children more than we love them.  His love is unimaginable.  We should reflect that love to others.  In doing so, we fulfill what we were put here to do; glorify His name by making Jesus our all consuming passion.
  4. He wants the best for us.
    This is a natural outpouring of number 3.  He isn’t always going to make our paths easy (in this world you will have trouble), but he will make them straight (Proverbs 3: 5-6; but make sure you read what your/our part is in that one…it’s critical).  Another even clearer scripture is this one:  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11 Make no mistake the Lord loves us and wants the best for us even when we can’t see it.  Our problem is how we define “best”.  We think of best in earthly perspective; money, health, fame, riches, happiness because of our circumstances.  God defines best as how much glory your life, even in and through your suffering at times, brings Him.  In other words, the best He can give us is Him and when your happiness comes from Him DESPITE your circumstances.
  5. We have a part to play.
    Sometimes I think Christians fall into the temptation of thinking that all they have to do to be in good standing with God (and be an effective Christian) is avoid sin, go to church and tithe.  I know I have before and still struggle sometimes with feeling vindicated or good enough or entitled.  But the question is What does God require? Hopefully you’ve read Worship by Joseph Garlington that I recommended a while back, but if not, I HIGHLY suggest you get it and read it.  In the beginning he reminds us of an old testament scripture where God told the people; no worship, no rain.  I’ve quoted this several times on stage.  There are conditions sometimes for provision.  I think sometimes we forget that about God.  Don’t misunderstand me, we could never EARN our way into heaven that’s what being saved by Grace is about and we should all be thankful for that one.  BUT, we should ask…What Does God Require? We should all be asking ourselves that question every day.  For that day, for that situation, for that hour, for that time, for our lives, for our family, for our church, for our team, for our FILL IN THE BLANK HERE.
  6. He is God, we aren’t.
    Sometimes as believers, we seem to outgrow our “britches” as my grandma used to say.  See, our kids don’t always know why we’re having them do something or endure something or wait for something or go through something, but we’d NEVER hurt them or subject them to pain unnecessarily.  Neither would He and even more so.  And finally…
  7. Is my focus on the earthly aspect or heavenly aspect?
    It’s good to refocus and re-align every now and then and especially at cross roads like you find yourself and I find ourselves in at times.  But always, all the time, in all ways, in every situation, with every person, our focus should be sooner rather than later the heavenly aspects of the thing.  The question I always ask here is God what do you want me to learn here?  What do you want me to see here and how can I affect the Kingdom positively in this thing.