Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, 

what a glory he sheds on our way! 

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, 

and with all who will trust and obey. 

Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way 

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 

2 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, 

but our toil he doth richly repay; 

not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, 

but is blest if we trust and obey. 

3 But we never can prove the delights of his love 

until all on the altar we lay; 

for the favor he shows, 

for the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

4 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, 

or we’ll walk by his side in the way; 

what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; 

never fear, only trust and obey. 

I remember this hymn well from many years ago. It’s so catchy and such a classic, but the truth is….I wish I would have let its word sink into my brain better back then!

It seems not much pleases God as much as His children trusting Him. Isn’t that why Abraham is often mentioned in the Bible as an example to follow so frequently? Or King David? People that please God have this in common – they chose to trust God. They chose to obey God, not always perfectly of course, but still that choice was made.

N1706P22004CTrusting God pleases Him….so what angers God? Well from the Israelites experience of wandering 40 years in the desert and never being allowed to enter the Promised Land, I’d say it’s testing God – not believing He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He loves us enough to take good care of us as He promises. Our unbelieving hearts that are always going astray….this angers God. (Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’)

When we don’t chose to trust God and obey Him, we spiral downward in our pride and stubbornness, in arrogance that we know better. Our hearts become full of sin and hard as a rock toward God. We become unable to hear Him or see Him and if we persist in our sin and foolishness, God may eventually give us over to all the consequences of a life lived without Him. Sure, it may seem we won, we got our way. But really we may lose everything.

Thankfully God often still grabs our attention to bring us back to our senses enough to repent. But then what? Where do we go from there? We either obey God and prosper in His eyes or we don’t obey God and stray from Him again, and again.  I see where He could get really tired of fickle and often unfaithful hearts. I’m so thankful for God’s patience and mercy.

Let’s trust Him today. Wherever we are, easy or hard, straightforward or completely bizarre, joyful or heart-wrenchingly sad and painful, His way is the way to go. There really is no other way that leads to good things. 

Keep our hearts soft today, Lord. Help us trust you no matter what. Help us obey, quickly and humbly.

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The Abundance of God

girlonmountainAs I think about God’s abundance today, two Old Testament stories come to mind, both involving Elisha the prophet in the book of 2 Kings. The first account is of a desperate widow that will soon lose even her sons in order to pay her debts. 

2 Kings 4:4  Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

 

We may feel we have nothing, and in our eyes, we don’t. But, God sees all sorts of possibilities with the little we have. It all hinges on our trust and obedience. What Elisha told the widow to do seemed odd really, silly. But she did what he said and therefore was part of a miracle, an unending jar of oil. I love how that oil didn’t stop flowing until they ran out of jars. God’s abundance is only limited by our low expectations and our lack of faith and obedience.

The second account takes place right before the prophet Elisha dies. The king of Judah, Joash, comes to Elisha unsure what the future will bring the divided country. Elisha instructed him to strike the ground with his arrows. Again, a strange request. But Joash obeyed and was blessed. He could have been blessed even more had he struck the ground a few more times. Just another reminder to do what God tells us to do whole-heartedly and with abandon!

II Kings 13: 14-19 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The Lord‘s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

God cares about everything that happens to us. He loves every person and wants each of us to come to Him to be forgiven and saved from our sin. He sees us in our need and in our fear and wants to encourage and strengthen us. It doesn’t matter if we seem to have nothing, materially, or socially or inwardly. He does. And He is the giver of good gifts.

It takes faith though. We must believe in Him and be obedient to His commands. It may not make a lot of sense. Why collect jars from all over town? Why strike the ground with arrows? Why give that last bit of money to a needy person? Why give up your day to work on a friend’s house when your own house is a wreck? Why meet with that hurting friend when you don’t really have any answers? Why…

What God instructs doesn’t always make sense but we should all agree, He knows better than we do what needs to happen. Right? And most likely He will be blessing not only that needy person, but the one that chooses to obey Him as well.  God is a God of abundance and excess. He doesn’t do things halfway. And when we obey Him with that same whole-hearted abandon,  He gets the glory and amazing things happen.

 

Whatever God Wants

C162QP34004CBeing a dreamer and loving big dreams, I can quickly become very excited about the future. Ok, that’s a huge understatement! Far too excited is more accurate.

But aren’t we supposed to be excited about the future, anticipating big things, dreaming big dreams?

Not necessarily.

It really depends on whose dreams and whose plans we are banking on. When God gives us plans and dreams and hopes, I don’t think we can do too much to prepare for them. Say you are sure you are to be a missionary. Pray often, read up on it, talk to people, check out countries and ministries, dream big!  But if it’s just your own dream, and you really don’t know what God has for you yet, focus your prayers on wisdom, guidance, obedience. Pray hard for missionaries and the lost, but don’t obsess over your own plan, assuming it’s God’s plan for you.

Whatever God’s plans are for you, it’s going to be a perfect fit for you as long as He leads you to do that. And when He prompts you to move on, well, then that new direction is going to be the perfect fit for that time. Get excited about the doors God opens for you. Don’t waste you time trying to pry open a door you want to open on your own. It’s pointless. All you’ll find is disappointment and heartbreak. The most noble causes are wonderful, but they are also part of

God’s timing and plan.

If your “big dream” right now is being  a stay-at-home-mom, changing diapers, kissing sweet cheeks, do it with all your heart. If it’s a fast-paced career or the mission field, or flipping burgers…whatever it is, do it with all your heart. Do your best. See where you can grow and learn and bless others. When it’s God’s time for you to do something else, don’t worry, He’ll let you know!!

A good friend of mine and I were having a talk awhile ago. I was doing my usual dreaming (my own dreams). I was thinking of all the wonderful things I could do for God…all great dreams, noble dreams. Then I asked her to expound on what she would like to do for God, waiting for a similar list. She wisely said,

“Whatever God wants me to do.”

Amen. Lesson learned.

A Complex Equation

N1007P41006CTrust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I’ll admit, one flaw in my thinking most of my life, has been that life should be easy. We should be carefree. Obedience should be effortless. Keeping focused on God should be a given. Choosing Godly decisions should be easy.

But it just isn’t easy and that is pretty disappointing and frustrating to me.

I do imagine life in the Garden of Eden was easy and most likely heaven will be. But this life certainly isn’t! It is a blessed life though, walking through it with Christ.

I picture myself chained up to a heavy weight. I want it off completely. I want no hindrances, absolute freedom and the ability to do whatever I please. Instead, becoming a Christian,

Jesus carries it for me.

Some days, this is great and I handle it fine. I do know now what freedom is like. Other days I just fixate on the fact that chain is still there. There are still things I can’t do and I’m not OK with it. If I push Jesus away, I’m completely weighed down again. Living life absolutely independently is really not an option. I have no choice but to get over it and fully accept the arrangement I’m in – always needing to rely on Christ. Free, yet not absolutely free until heaven one day. A free person, yet a slave to Christ. My life is mine, yet my life isn’t mine at all.

There’s just nothing easy about reality. Reality is really a daily challenge. All the difficulty, hurt, trials, and pain is absolutely balanced out with the blessing and joy of a redeemed life in Christ. But it’s not a simple equation – it’s very complex! It’s not “life is easy and fun”. It’s “life is quite difficult, and really impossible on my own + Jesus frees me from all the cares and worries of this life = content me.” Now go live life to the full list and love it. Or spend it having a pity party and missing out on some pain and also on countless joy and blessing.

Class over. 

Our Perfect Best Friend

 For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. Proverbs 5:21

Quite a humbling verse! God knows everything about me, but somehow thinking of Him examining my path makes me uneasy. I have to remind myself that

God is on my side.

He is for me.

Instead of picturing God facing me, stern look on His face, judging my path, I have to remind myself that God is grace. That doesn’t mean He’s any less holy, perfect or righteous. But He stands with me, arm over my shoulders speaking to me gently about my path.

I can ask God questions like, how do I avoid that in the future, Lord? Or I’m picking up a pattern. Will you help me change this? And He does. Or even comment, I don’t know why I do that. I really need help! He is happy to help me in any way I need.

I can rest easy in His presence and be open to His thoughts, convictions, and insights. Not that I will always love His input, not that they will always be my favorite words… but He speaks with love and kindness. It’s not, you’re a failure. It’s more, look my daughter, this isn’t good for you. Let’s work on freeing you from the snare.

We can think of God as our Best Friend, Ally, Counselor and Advisor. The thing is, He is still our Lord and we do need to be obedient to Him. So, we are in this unique relationship, knowing we are completely loved and known and also knowing our obedience and submission is necessary. Our Best Friend always knows best.

God is a friend, no doubt about it. He is for us and is not the accuser of His children. But, neither is He just like a human friend. It’s not a 50-50, compromise in everything friendship. We are mortal, sinful people and He is the Creator of the Universe! He chooses to walk with us, guide us, comfort and always love us. We can take comfort that He examines our paths. And we can decide ahead of time, when we disagree, we go with God’s way. It’s an interesting and amazing relationship He invites us into.

Overcomers

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37 

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. I John 4:4

We are overcomers through our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us the armor we need to be effective warriors and promises us the victory through Him.

I hear these reassuring words of truth and they are very encouraging and empowering! Yet one of our best weapons is plain and simple

humility.

With sin in our lives and hearts, any courage we receive first and foremost meets our pride. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s easy to just take these courageous words of God and try to apply them to my own strength. 

But somehow, it’s our humility and admittance of our weakness on our own that is so crucial and easily missed. There’s a reason for armor – it protects something

weak and vulnerable.

That’s us. We’re not doing ourselves any good by feeding our pride and human strength if we head out to battle without that armor! Sure, we may feel more courageous but it’s pure foolishness. Without God’s sword and shield, our haughty, courageous thoughts will only get us killed.

It’s our weakness that God plans to shine through. I don’t think He enjoys helping us defeat the enemy when we then grab all the glory and just get cocky. Let’s keep an eye out as we are engaged in battle and as God brings us victory…

who gets the glory?

Outwardly do we praise Him and speak of our incredible armor that made our victories possible? And inwardly, are we remaining humble? Let’s ask God to reveal any pride we may be purposefully or even unintentionally feeding. Humility is where our power lies and it is a daily, hourly challenge. God will help point out areas He is addressing and correcting if we ask Him to reveal that to us. And yes, that will be a sure start to our practice of humility, no doubt there!

Planting a Dream

It’s great to want to be used by God to accomplish His purposes. I know He looks for willing hearts and lives that are open to His plans and His dreams. He values our decision to be obedient and submissive to Him.

It’s pretty easy for me to dream my own big dreams. Yet, when we dream without God’s input…we seem to find only pain and disappointment. That’s why I became a reluctant dreamer! Other people just stop dreaming altogether and settle for the nightmares of this world.

God’s dreams are even bigger than we can imagine. But they often start imperceivably. That’s why it’s so important to have wise and mature Christian friends and advisors to bounce our ideas and hopes off of. They will help us identify which plans are our own and which plans are God’s.

We can save ourselves so much frustration and disappointment if we ask God to plant His dreams in us. While we wait, we learn about Him, share Him with others and learn to serve as He leads. This alone is a wonderful and blessed life! Is it really just excitement we are looking for?

I think so. Sometimes I think I’ve just been an excitement junkie more than anything. Can you relate? Whether it’s my competitive nature, or pride or the need to feel important, I don’t know. It’s been great to realize though that God already has an exciting plan for all of us when we see life through His eyes. I don’t have to envy other people for their exciting life. The people involved in God’s wondrous plans are no different than you or me…they have just given God full control of their lives. It’s really quite freeing to admit that without God, I can do nothing. But like Matthew 19:26 says “with God all things are possible.”

So how does God prepare normal, everyday, sinful people to be outstanding men and women of faith? How does He prepare us for all He has for us? The soil of our hearts is dry, barren and full of rocks.

Out comes the heavy duty farm equipment. It can easily take years to remove all the huge boulders of sin and thorny briars of selfishness and pride littering this field of our heart. God tills the ground with His truth and supplements the barren soil with nutrients, strengthening our weak character and morals. It takes time, lots of time and lots of patience. He works out an irrigation system, the Holy Spirit, so water is plentiful and always available. All the while…we may feel nothing is happening. Does God care, we wonder. Does He even know I’m here? Yes, of course He does!

And then when we aren’t sure any more what God is planning, we begin to reap the first crop…that of peace and contentment. Peace that He knows best, contentment that what He has for us is the best plan.

Now the field is ready and lo and behold, it no longer matters to us what the plan is as long as it’s God’s plan. Our impatience is tilled right out of us and we find we only care that God is present and takes care of us. We don’t need to DO anything, we need to RECEIVE whatever He has for us, His dreams, His plans. Now we are ready to see the amazing happen.

A soul at peace is  a soul ready for planting.