I’ve wanted to start a blog now for about three years, but something always seemed to get in the way. I now know that, that something is me.
Be it procrastination, intimidation, or just plain fear, l realize now that getting over that initial hump is the worst part, and in many cases it’s all downhill from there.
I love Nike’s motto: “Just do it.” Sometimes you just need to sit down and get to work. Don’t worry how it will come together or how long it will take. Just do it. Set your mind on the goal, and don’t stop until you get there, no matter how many bumps or challenges you may face, or encounter, along the way.
The hardest lesson for me to learn over the course of the 10 years I have been a disciple is to have faith despite obstacles, persecution, hardships, disappointments or when it looks as if there is no way in sight.
(March 7th was my spiritual birthday when I exclaimed, “Jesus is Lord”) WHOOOOHOOO!!!!
I wanted to write a special post marking my 10th anniversary of being a disciple of Jesus, so I am dedicating this entry to that!
Reading the passage below recently reminded me of an elemental truth that is oh so hard to hold onto:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? (NIV)
“If people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing.” (NCV)
This scripture really pierced me in a new way this week. That is something I love about the Bible. No matter how many times I read it, it has the ability to touch, convict, rebuke or encourage me in a new way each time. Not so surprising considering God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
The scripture says “if we claim to have faith, but do nothing (meaning action), then our faith is worth nothing, or useless. It’s like having a book on the shelf that has never been read. Years go by and the only thing that touches it is dust.
Normally, we equate deeds with an action outside of ourselves. This may include any number of things. For example, people may want to demonstrate their faith by reaching out to others. For some, it may mean applying for a job and trusting that after their part is done, God will do his.
An example that sticks in my mind is from the movie Hitch. Yes, Hitch.
There is the part near the middle of the movie where Alex Hitchens (Will Smith), the main character of the film and “date doctor” is teaching one of his clients, Albert Brennaman (Kevin James)—a goofy, overweight financial counselor—the rules of kissing.
Hitchens spends his life helping rather “hopeless” men romance the women of their dreams. Yet, any number of factors may get in the way from each male being able to swoon his princess of choice: poor hygiene, bad pick-up lines, or just plain lack of courage.
Hitchens' motto goes a little like this:
“Luckily, the fact is that just like the rest of us, even a beautiful woman doesn't know what she wants until she sees it, and that's where I come in. My job is to open her eyes. Basic principles: no matter what, no matter when, no matter who... any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom.”
Hitchens tells Brennaman to give 90 percent, or move in towards the lady he is trying to kiss 90 percent of the way, thus allowing the woman to lean in the remaining 10 percent.
With God, I see it this way: We give 10 percent and God gives 90. ALWAYS.
Still, though, God requires effort on our parts. We can’t expect God to find us a job if we don’t do our part when it comes to preparation, job seeking and networking.
When reexamining this scripture, I realized that the action part, or “deeds” also strongly ties to our thoughts. We can’t necessarily control every thought that comes into our minds. But there are several ways we can safeguard ourselves.
For one, if we tend to struggle with lust and desire to overcome this struggle, we literally need to starve the desire and let it die.
What I mean is, for example, if you know that something someone may wear (or not) usually triggers lustful thoughts, then if someone is immodestly dressed, it is probably a smart move to look away before you are tempted to entertain thoughts. Protecting your heart is also about protecting your eyes.
And since images are everywhere, you might want to reconsider what television shows, movies and/or magazines you normally watch or pick up.
Is what you're feeding your eyes and ears encouraging and causing you to think about,"whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things?" (Philippians 4:8)
But what about those who struggle more with heart sin compared to outward sin?
Heart sin may include: being too hard on oneself, self-doubt or worry to name a few. How about not forgiving oneself?
Sometimes I feel like I have forgiven everyone else, but myself. I've found it hardest to forgive myself.
I heard once that worry is practical atheism. When we worry it's as if we are trying to assimilate control over a situation that we really have no control over. The worry gives us a false sense of security, but also can lead to a lot of other problems, including health issues.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Couldn’t this also apply to our action internally and choose to trust God instead of our fear, or like emotion?
Kind of like cognitive behavioral therapy we can do with ourselves.
Despite being in the heat of an emotion, or even at times paralyzed by a certain emotion, we still can maintain a level of control.
We can “talk to” ourselves. The logical (brain) can level with the emotions (heart) going on inside.
In essence, God is saying that faith is not just a feeling. Just like true love is not, and cannot, be just a sentiment that waxes and wanes with one’s emotions, faith cannot be either.
Despite emotions and/or desire at moments, we choose to love another person the way God would have us love.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
We choose trust, patience and service over even the worst of feelings or circumstances: feeling wronged, hurt, angry, or just plain lazy.
In the same way, whether we are seeing God work on our terms our not, we choose to have faith in what he is doing.
The hardest thing for me to trust God in is that my needs will be taken care of, that my child-like heart will not be ignored or shut down and that my deepest need to be loved will be fulfilled.
Because who are we really to demand our way with God anyways?
He wants to hear our hearts' deepest desires, pains, joys, fears, etc., but in no way is it respectful to him or anyone else to demand our own way.
My way, my will, or I will find it elsewhere. It's as if we are having a spiritual tantrum.
And, yes, I have had these before.
In the moments when it is the hardest to trust God, or to understand what he is doing, is when I can make a decision to hold onto the promises he has made.
I can choose to believe that God is who he says he is and not doubt or worry that he is not.
All of my life I have always asked the question “why?” to just about everything, honestly driving my parents nuts a good portion of the time.
When doing mathematical problems, I realized that I was not content at problem solving if I didn’t understand why I was doing it. Never mind the fact that I could do it well and get the right answer. I didn’t have the reason it worked, and this stumped me.
For example, how in the world does A2 + B2= C2? I may never know the answer to this, but it just does. In order to complete the problem I need to have some sort of belief or confidence that it is going to work.
Otherwise, why use it?
With God, I am learning that faith works in a similar way. I don’t always understand the what, when, where, or how He is going to do something, I just need to trust.
If I begin to question His ability to do something, or even His desire, I begin arguing with God himself, thus defaming his character.
I begin accusing Him that He is not who He says He is. And this must not be.
Let's not collapse these two ideas together: God's ability and desire to do something is completely separate from His will.
And at the same time why wouldn’t God want his children to have the desires of their hearts? He does, but He knows best.
Think about that for a moment. Can you remember a time when you desperately wanted something, I mean desperately and God didn't give it to you and you thanked him later? This is what I am talking about!
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
I have found several loop holes where doubt or selfish ambition can sneak in and prolong the blessing from coming, or if at all.
1) Lack of Faith:
“But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor’ and he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
2) Wrong Motives:
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
3) Any Number of Reasons: Including timing, or things too lofty for us to understand in the spiritual realm, such as with Job
God's response, or lack thereof, may include not being ready for what we are asking, it may not be in our best interest, or we fail to see that God has already given us as an answer to our prayers.
But if we know our conscience is clear and motives correct, then we just need a little bit of patience!
So I need to remind myself of the promises God does make.
He does not promise, marriage, wealth, fame, success, or even a specific job.
And he reminds us not to worry about what “we will eat or wear.” (Matthew 6:28-34)
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."
One of the hardest areas of my life to trust God in is his desire to take care of my needs. Despite the logic that tells me otherwise, I am extremely fearful because of the way I grew up.
My mother struggled with depression for some of the most important years of my emotional development. My father worked in the evenings and wasn't always emotionally available. Mostly because he did not know how.
What I needed in those moments was validation, comfort and emotional protection and guidance. Comforting words such as this would have immediately dissipated even the most crippling fears:
“Erin, it’s okay for you to feel this way. I know you are hurting but we will get through this. Let’s be prayerful and patient.
What are we able to do in this exact moment?”
I didn’t expect my father to fix it, I just wanted him to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok, or at least we could come up with a solution together.
The most amazing thing is that my father has become more of what I need as I get older. Maybe I needed him to speak to me like an adult sooner?
Either way, I am happy that he can validate me now because I appreciate it so much more.
God has really done wonders with my mother and she and my relationship is also better than ever. She now can provide me the emotional support, guidance and care she was unable to during those years.
But when reflecting on these situations still, I have the choice to continue looking at God through the lens of how I grew up, or I can look through a different lens: one that reveals God’s true character through the scriptures.
I can choose to trust what He says in His Word and find “proof” for all the ways He has conducted himself in my life so far, and all the ways He has taken care of me no matter the circumstances.
When I take the time to see things through the right glasses, I see an entirely new perspective. And this perspective gives me so much hope!
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.