Sunday, February 23, 2014

Difficulty Equals Opportunity

"Every difficulty and every temptation that comes our way,
 if we receive it correctly, is God’s opportunity." 
[Quote from Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings.] 

I read that quote this morning during my quiet time. Hmmm. Something to think about.
Difficulty = Opportunity. 

Oh yes, I think I'd like to get in line for some of that opportunity--two extra scoops, please! Sorry, my sarcasm is showing. Honestly, difficulty is not something anybody looks forward to.

As I sit here, I'm processing what's already been a difficult week for my family and it doesn't show signs of letting up any time soon. Thankfully, there have also been some wonderful moments this week.

The devotional went on to talk about how David's run-in with a lion was an opportunity for God to show David that God was with him and through God he could face whatever came his way. When these "lions" come into our own lives we should recognize it as an opportunity from the Lord, "no matter how fierce it may outwardly seem."

So it appears that the "lions"we face today help us to face the "Goliaths" of the future. I don't know whether these current difficulties are lions or Goliaths. I suspect they are a little of both. When I've gone through difficulties in the past they sure seemed like Goliaths in the moment they were happening. Then sometime later, when a new difficulty arose, I looked back and thought, "that was nothing compared to now."

Shortly after reading this devotional, I listened to a sermon by Charles Stanley. His message was about having courage in the midst of a difficult time. Funny how the Lord orchestrates these things! He used Paul as an example of someone who had courage to persevere despite many difficulties. One would say he had to Endure (my One Word for the year 2014). Ah-ha! Then the phrase that popped into my head during this message was...

Don't Give Up!

This was a phrase I heard many times during another difficult time. It was always a sweet reminder to have hope in God, to keep praying, to persevere, and most of all to trust God.

I'll end with the following scripture and a link to a favorite song:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. 
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. 
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  
Through suffering, our bodies continue to share 
in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus 
may also be seen in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:8

This is my command—be strong and courageous! 
Do not be afraid or discouraged. 
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Nuggets of Wisdom: HOPE

It's been a while since I've shared some Nuggets of Wisdom. It used to be a regular feature on this blog, but thought it would be a good time to bring it back this week. It's been somewhat of a theme week for me.

Below are a few things I've run across this week that are "little jewels" I have found inspiring and helpful. I'll share the quote and then a few of my own thoughts.

Nugget #1

"When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. ...The longer you wait for your prayers to be answered, the closer you are to a breakthrough." From Jesus Today by Sarah Young

It's so easy to get discouraged when things aren't going the way we planned or hoped, isn't it? We have hopes and dreams unfulfilled, day after day, week after week, and year after year. We pray fervently for someone and still don't see a change day after day, week after week, and year after year. Little by little the time between our petitions get a bit longer and sometimes we just give up. Then the Lord reminds us to keep praying, to keep waiting on Him, to place our hope in Him. The Lord uses the testimony of someone else to remind you: He Remembers. He hasn't forgotten. Oh, how sweet that reminder is.

Nugget #2

"...there is never a time when we cannot hope in God, whatever our need or however great our difficulty may be. Even when our situation appears to be impossible, our work is to 'hope in God.' Our hope will not be in vain, and in the Lord's own timing help will come." From Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman.

Well, this has been a week in which I needed to hear these encouraging words of hope, of promise, or God remembering me. It hasn't been a bad week at all. Rather it's been a week of sameness. I get up in the morning, go to work, come home, and go to bed. Very routine and sometimes dull. Oh, yeah I've been doing things around the house, on Facebook, some reading, that kind of thing. But sometimes I long for other things, a slightly different life. At the same time, I'm trying to embrace these quiet days of routine as all part of God's blessing. I am continuing to put my hope in God and his timing. I am thankful for that reminder this week: None of this is in vain; nothing is wasted.

Nugget #3

"You may be sure that God will never say to us, 'Stand still,' 'Sit still,' or 'Be still,' unless He is going to do something." From Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman.

I am always anxious to jump in and just "gitter done,"so sitting still and waiting on God to act often feels painfully slow. But, allowing God to work in His time in His way is always the best choice. I place my hope in God. I was talking with a friend with week about this very topic of "being still" before the Lord. This has been a recurring phrase in my life for the past two years. Over and over again, scripture has reminded me that I am supposed to be still in one particular area of my life: my singleness. It's the same one I've referred to above. And that leads me to one other nugget related to all of this...

Nugget #4

" requires us to do nothing at all, while our human nature screams to interfere. In these cases we believe; therefore, we do not act. Wisdom is knowing the difference between the two." From Believing God by Beth Moore.

This quote will require a little background. Faith often requires action such as when God told Abraham to pick up and move or He told Noah to build an Ark. But, sometimes faith means taking no action. A case in point is when Jesus was being arrested before the crucifixion. He could have done something about it, but Jesus chose to trust God's plan.
     When the world screams at me that I need to do something about my singleness, it's hard not to get worked up about it. I mean, I really would like to do something about it. But, I have to keep going back to God and asking Him what what He wants me to do about it. The answer always comes back to: Wait. Be still. God wants to do something in my life and frankly I think He doesn't want to share the glory with me. Ha! But, I can place my hope in God and not in my self. Self always thinks she knows what should be done, but self is often wrong.

So, let me tie all this together...

Did you see a common thread running through all of these? It's the word Hope.
     Hope is lost when we don't see a future. When we can't see what God is doing, we can't see a future, and it's dark, that's when faith has to kick in. I've used this quote before on this blog and even have it posted in my kitchen:

"The greatest lessons in faith are learned in the dark." ~ Tony Evans

When we are hopeless (or discouraged) we cannot see the future or what God is doing. The future looks dark and God keeps telling us to be still because He knows the plan. You see, God knows the plans He has for us and it's a good one (Jeremiah 29:11). God does His best work behind the scenes. We just continue to look to Him for our hope and our future.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, 
because anyone who comes to him must believe 
that he exists and that he rewards those 
who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Jigsaw Puzzles: God Sees the Big Picture

God is always working behind the scenes.

More often than not, we can't see what God is doing all around us. Sometimes we can't see it because we aren't looking. Other times we can't see it because we aren't meant to see it. Often, it's only much later that we can see what God was doing--how all the pieces of that mixed-up puzzle went together.

My family loved to put together jigsaw puzzles when I was growing up. That activity was an indoor winter sport for us. Someone would pull out a 500 or 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, place all the pieces on the dining room table, and begin working on it. It was not unusual for a puzzle to sit on the table for days. Frankly, I can't even remember how that impacted dinner! It didn't matter, though. Every member of the family participated in one way or another--even the occasional guest who dropped by. Sometimes we would walk by the puzzle on our way to do something else and be so drawn in that we couldn't walk away until a puzzle piece was picked up and put in the exact spot it was meant to go. Other times, several of us would sit around the table and chat as we searched for the missing pieces. Oh, how the pace picked up when the end was in sight! Did you ever know someone who hid the last piece just so they could be the one to finish the puzzle!!!

I was reflecting on circumstances this week that just didn't seem to have an end in sight or make a lot of sense. The Lord brought to mind events in my past and how He brought things together--little by little--until the puzzle was complete. Prayers were answered, sometimes above and beyond what I imagined and in ways I would not have expected. And many times God had to take me through some frustration in order to get me to and through those times so that He could answer my prayers and accomplish His plan.

Yes, I was able to clearly go back in time (15-20 years) and see how my life was a lot like those family jigsaw puzzle sessions. Little by little, He was (and still is) putting each piece in place. Once in a while it looked like He had forgotten or stopped working on the puzzle. No, He hadn't forgotten. God was faithful to complete that puzzle. It encouraged my heart as I remembered these things and applied them to my current circumstances.

Each phase of life seems to be a puzzle and I'm anxious to see what the big picture will look like when I'm finished. God's not in a hurry, though. It reminds me of Habbakuk who was frustrated that it seemed like God wasn't doing anything. But the Lord replied to him:

"If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, 
for it will surely take place. 
It will not be delayed (Habakkuk 2:3)."

And Paul reminds us that:

"...we know that God causes everything to work together 
for the good of those who love God and are called 
according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28)."