How do we learn to have faith? Is it acquired through osmosis by being part of a Christian family? Is it something that grows over time? How do we grow in faith? More importantly, how do we instill our faith in God, in our children and other family members?
Today I would like to talk about three things: surrendering control, obedience, and submission. When we ignore God in the day to day matters of our lives, we are effectively saying to Him, “No, I can do this without Your input.” We don’t want to release full control of our lives to Him. We may hear what He wants us to do, but we don’t obey Him. Without obedience to God, we are ignoring His will. Without submitting to His will, we miss out on the blessings He had planned for us. These three things: surrendering control, obedience and submission, must be present in the life of every believer. Yet, for some reason, that word “submit” seems to rub people the wrong way.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15, KJV).
Have you ever wondered why in the middle of a taunt about the King of Babylon, a rant about Satan (aka Lucifer) was suddenly there? I did. Mainly, when in other translations, it reads "star of the morning" or "morning star" (rather than Lucifer). I started to wonder about it while writing my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today.
You might think that's a strange thing to think about when writing a book on the seven churches of Revelation. But not really. Not when you come across this verse in Revelation:
He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28, NASB, emphasis mine).
Here's how my brain works - right away, I see "the morning star" and think about Satan because he was called that in Isaiah 14:12, and I ask the question, "Why would Jesus give us Satan? That doesn't make sense!" So, of course, I did a word search and then a little more searching, and the following is what I found out. This is an excerpt from my book He Who Has an Ear.
Prayer, if you haven't discovered it, can move mountains. When God answers our prayers, we stand in awe and shout to the world, "Look what God did!" Giving Him all the glory. It's only right we should do that. After all, He is God. But sometimes, God doesn't answer prayers, and we wait, and we wait, and we wait some more, and during the time we are waiting for an answer, two things are happening. God is working behind the scenes, and Satan is working overtime, putting doubt and anger into our hearts and minds because we aren't getting our prayers answered.
This is when maturity in your faith comes into play. First, you have to realize that God is going to answer your prayers. However, it might not be how you want them answered. God sees the big picture. You don't. Trust Him to do what is right. You can either accept God heard you, or listen to the voices in your head that are making you doubt in God's love.
When I was in the hospital in 2011, battling a dangerous infection after surgery on my legs, I had one particular night that was horrible. I would say the pain was the worst I have ever experienced (that includes childbirth). My prayers were frantic pleas to God to make it stop, to send a nurse to give me something, to take me now. I was beside myself with pain, and my thoughts were all over the place.
It was at my moment of deepest despair, of feeling alone in my pain, of being unable to bear it a moment longer, that I heard this in my mind, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It was Jesus' cry from the cross. And I finally got why he screamed it. It wasn't that he felt God had left Him or was ignoring Him. It was a cry of despair. A cry of frustration. A cry similar to mine. A cry that hid beneath it all the thoughts that were coming to the surface, bubbling over, with no way to control them. A cry of agony over the pain that was crushing him and threatened to swallow him up. You may know those times, they sound like this:
"I'm so afraid, Lord. I feel alone in this like no one understands."
"I cannot bear this anymore. When will it stop?"
"Are you there? Do you hear me? Please, let me feel your presence so that I know everything will be alright."
"How much longer, Lord? I cannot bear it."
Of course, my pain was nowhere near what Jesus experienced. But the thing is . . . He experienced it. He understood my heartfelt cries entirely, and it was at that moment that I knew I wasn't alone, and if my pain continued, I wouldn't like it, but I would be okay with it because there was a purpose in it. Jesus' suffering and His death had a purpose, a great purpose that freed us all from sin and the sting of death. Not physical death, but spiritual death, because to be separated from the Father forever would be agony.
I may never know this side of heaven if what I am going through today has any purpose. Right now, I can only see that I have enormous amounts of time on my hands. I would use it differently if I were able. I would be volunteering somewhere or visiting with my friends. Maybe even clean my house (my least favourite thing to do, but now I would give anything to be able to do it). But, for now, God has ordained that I am to endure daily pain, swollen limbs, infections, sleepless nights, body spasms, and the latest development - a fractured hip. He has ordained that for me for this time in my life, and God has His reasons. And I'm okay with that.
In my book He Who Has an Ear I put it this way:
To refine gold, it must be hot enough to burn away the dross or impurities. It is known as a "refiner's fire," and this is what Jesus was saying the Laodiceans needed to go through. They needed to be refined or tested so all the dross in them could be cleaned out. Then they would be truly rich. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it's this: When God wants to deal with something about me, He knows I'm not seeing clearly or haven't worked towards refining, I can be sure I'll go through a trial. Of course, when those trials go on for months, one starts to wonder, "What am I not getting?" But it may simply be that the dross is gone, but God knows He has to "test the gold," as it were, to see if it endures.
You see, trials aren't just to refine us, to make us more like Jesus. They are also sent to strengthen godly attributes. Sometimes God's glory, like gold, can only shine through us after we have been tested. For some, that may mean a terminal illness, a financial setback, or the loss of a loved one. It is how you deal with those times that will determine how refined you are.
All that to say this, if you are suffering right now and in pain, either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually you are not alone. God has never left you, and He never will. He understands more than you could imagine, and He has a plan. Rest in that assurance until He comes again, or takes you home. He loves you, He cares about you, and He has not forsaken you. Your life is not without purpose, and God will use it for His glory, no matter what your circumstances.
Trust Him today with what you are going through. He's got you in the palm of His hand.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ (Jeremiah 7:1-4)
In Jeremiah chapter seven, the Lord told Jeremiah to stand outside the gates of the temple. He then told him to proclaim His words to the people that were going into the temple. God very angry with these worshippers. They had become so degenerate they were chasing after false gods. They were also stealing, murdering, committing adultery and even burning their children as sacrifices to false gods. Yet, on the Sabbath, they showed up to the temple to worship God, BELIEVING that all was forgiven because THEY WERE GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE. And God told them (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You think that is going to save you from my wrath? You think by walking through these doors on the Sabbath, you are automatically forgiven of all your sins, cleansed, and made new just because you're here? I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh!" (Jeremiah 7:9-15)