Tag Archives: struggles

Not Equal (Leviticus 7)

I find it so interesting, and reassuring, that each tribe brought exactly the same offering to the altar, no matter the size of the clan, or its wealth. All had equal share in the altar, all were required exactly the same. It speaks to me of our own equal footing before God in regard to our sin debt, and His grace equally available to all.

But there was something not equal in this chapter, too, and I have overlooked it until today. God told Moses to give carts and oxen to each Levite clan, “as each man’s work requires.” For those families in charge of the lighter loads, Moses assigned two carts and four oxen. For those with the heavier burdens, Moses gave four carts and eight oxen. The holy things didn’t require a cart or oxen at all. Those things were to be carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites.

I have a friend whose husband died yesterday. Janie’s load is heavy right now. And I know God will supply exactly what she needs to carry on with a broken heart, and a burden too great to carry on her own.

The thing is, she has lovingly cared for her husband these past 20+ months since his debilitating stroke. She has spent every day talking to him, even though he could not answer her. She has read to him, or just sat with him day after day after day, assuring him of her love with kisses and by holding his hand or stroking his cheek. It has been a difficult time.

Many people may think, “I don’t think I could do that. I’m not strong enough.” And they are right to think that. When our life is about carrying a lighter load, God doesn’t give us four carts and eight oxen. If our circumstances require us to do what we need to do while carrying our burden on our shoulders, He will not give us the strength of two oxen.

But let me assure you, that for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, those of us who have a relationship with God Himself, we can count on all the oxen and carts we need when we need them. Not before. But exactly at the right time.

I’m praying for my friend today. She loves God, and Jesus is her Savior. I pray that she will recognize the strength that is hers through her relationship with God. I couldn’t do what she’s done, and what she is going to have to do in the days and weeks ahead. My burdens don’t require four carts and eight oxen right now. But Janie’s does. And I pray that she will find rest in the assurance of God’s strength, His love, and His Presence in her life.

I believe God gives His children what we need when we need it, that when we are at a place in life when we are crushed by pain, we find that Jesus provides exactly what we need to walk through it. One day my friend won’t need four carts and eight oxen. But she does today. And I trust that God is going to provide exactly what she needs.

 

December 3; Struggles and Saints

2 Corinthians 11:16-13:14; Romans 1

Sometimes I think we look at people like the late Billy Graham, or Ravi Zacharias, or Charles Stanley and believe they are super-Christians, immune to Satan’s attacks. We see them as godly, put-together, strong men in the Lord, and we forget they are (or were) as human as we.

Paul listed, rather embarrassingly, his achievements and the many ways God demonstrated His Presence in Paul’s life over the years. A person could look at that and think, “Wow! Paul is really special!”

Including Paul, evidently. The apostle admitted he struggled with pride, so God allowed Paul to carry a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. Paul freely talked about his weaknesses. He was human.

But I love that Paul used even his failures and struggles to learn something about God. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” he heard God say. (12:9)

Then in verse 10:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s strength wasn’t within himself. Paul’s strength was from God. And Paul learned that truth through the struggles.

Even saints struggle. That’s why we need to keep praying for each other. Have you prayed for your pastor today? He struggles. Have you prayed for your Sunday School teacher? What about the music minister, the nursery worker, the sweet elderly lady who makes the best banana pudding in the world?

A person can stand before thousands and preach the Word of God with power, and still struggle. A person can sit quietly in a pew week after week, smile and shake your hand, while battling Satan in her heart.

Let’s determine to pray for each other, even if the outside appearance is put together. If you struggle, so do they. That’s why today, I have prayed that God will do a work in the hearts and lives of any who read this post, especially those of us who are struggling.

Dear God, I pray that You will wrap Your arms around your people today and give strength to those of us who are struggling. I pray for victory over Satan’s attacks, joy over sorrow, wisdom over foolishness. And I pray that because of whatever it is we are going through, our relationship with You will grow sweeter and stronger. Thank you for your Presence, and your strength for struggling saints,

 

 

June 23; As Surely As I Live

2 Chronicles 24:17-25a, 25:1-40; 2 Kings 12:17-21, 4:1-44, 13:4-11, 8:1-2

It spoke to me this morning when I read about the Shunamite woman. She had treated Elisha with kindness, and as a result, God blessed her with a son. But years later, the boy died suddenly. The Shunamite woman, without hesitation, went straight to Elisha.

When Elisha heard her story, that her son had died, he immediately sent a servant with specific instructions. Then the woman said this to the man of God:

As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.

So often we hear of people facing hardship and loss and their response is to get angry with God, and walk away from Him. The woman had the opposite response.

And that’s the response I want to have myself. Whether good times or bad, I never want to leave God. I’ve lived long enough to have gone through some hard times. I’ve had loss, and faced giants. I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to walk away from my Lord. In fact, I will say I was probably the closest to Him during those hard times.

As surely as You live, I will not leave You, Lord.

January 25; Broken and Healed

Genesis 31-32

Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. He wanted to obey God and did on occasion. But there was enough of the old Jacob still in him that sometimes he made rash decisions, and really bad choices.

Like running away from Laban. Hadn’t God told him to go, that He would be with him? Yet Jacob packed up and snuck out like a thief in the night.

God told Jacob He would be with him, yet without consulting God Jacob sent one peace offering to Esau, then another, and another. He divided his entourage and figured Esau would only be able to destroy half of them that way.

Did you forget, Jacob? God said He’d be with you. Esau has no power over God. Dividing your stuff might make you feel in control, or self-sufficient, or that somehow you are giving God a hand. But you are wasting your time.

So here is Jacob, torn between trusting and obeying God, and the need to do things his own way (like he’d always done). It’s hard for most of us to let go of the wheel.

Jacob laid down to get some sleep, but ended up wrestling all night. A man – was it an incarnation of Jesus or an angel? – attacked Jacob and physically wrestled with him for hours. Tossing, lunging, pinning, grasping, knocking each other down, and rolling around in the dirt all night!

The result? Jacob got a name change. He had seen God and didn’t die. Warren Wiersbe says, “Jacob was broken to be healed, and weakened to be strengthened.” (With The Word, p. 38; Oliver-Nelson Books, Nashville, TN, 1991) Jacob got up from that wrestling match bruised, limping, and strengthened to meet his brother.

I said Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. But he reminds me of me sometimes, too, and I’ve been following Jesus for decades. Sometimes I have my own wrestling matches with God late at night, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling when I should be sleeping, thoughts and doubts and struggles lunging at me, pinning me down, grasping at my heart. I feel like I’ve been rolling around in the dirt trying to get the best of my struggle.

And I am reminded it’s at those times God is breaking me in order to heal me. He is revealing my weakness so He can be my strength.

Oh that I would learn to throw in the towel, to quit fighting a losing battle, and let God have His way in every detail of my life. I wouldn’t feel so beaten up in the morning. I might actually get some peaceful sleep.

And I would be ready to face the challenges of the day, knowing God’s a lot stronger than me or my problems.

January 5; What Is Your Answer?

Job 1-3

Job was the George Bailey of the ancient world. He was “the richest man in town.” Sure, he had wealth. But he was also rich in family, friends, prestige, reputation. He had it all.

And he lost it all.

The book of Job has many lessons for us concerning suffering. Who hasn’t wished at some time or another, that they’d never been born? Life is hard. Loss is painful. And sometimes things happen that we’re convinced we just don’t deserve. Job will have a lot to say about that in the next few days.

But I don’t think suffering is the main theme in this book. If you look at chapter 1, Satan is suggesting that people only worship God when they are blessed by Him; only when the bills are paid, and they get a good report from the doctor. Satan is still suggesting that.

And sadly, we often equate health and wealth with God’s blessings yet today.

Not that God doesn’t sometimes bless us with those things, but I think the main theme in the book of Job is worship. The issue at hand is, “Is God worthy of worshiping even when times are hard and we feel abandoned by Him? Or, is God only worth worshiping on good days?”

You probably know Job’s reaction to the news that his livestock and slaves were gone, and all his children were dead. He heard of one disaster after another, then another, and another. It was too much. He fell to the ground and said these words:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (1:21, emphasis mine)

In the first throws of unimaginable grief, Job praised the Lord. And we will find that…

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (1:22)

I think the main theme of Job is the question, “Is God worth it?” And that’s the question I’d encourage you to answer for yourself today. Does God deserve your worship regardless of your situation or your feelings? Does He deserve your worship when you aren’t getting the answers you think you need? Do you use worship as a bargaining tool to get what you want?

Friend, the truth of the matter is, God deserves our worship for the simple fact that HE IS.

Job won’t be happy about his situation. Job will ask some hard question of God. Job probably didn’t “feel” like worshiping God in the midst of his pain. But in all this Job will not sin, he will not turn His back on God or deny God. Job will worship God despite his circumstances.

And so should we. Because God is worth it. Do you believe that?

What is your answer?

Job 20-21; Zophar, Part 2

Let’s get one thing straight. People die. Godly people die. Ungodly people die. There are godly people who live to a ripe old age, and there are godly people who die young. The same can be said for ungodly people.

Furthermore, no matter what Zophar would have you believe, there are wicked, evil people who are living long lives of luxurious, seemingly carefree lives, while there are godly people without homes or food. The opposite is true as well.

It’s tempting to equate God’s blessings with the things we can see. I will say God blessed me with a career for 37 years which has allowed me to live comfortably in my aging years. God has blessed me with good health, a loving family, a precious church fellowship. The sun is shining today. The sky is blue. And I have eyes that can see it all.

I could go on. But you get the picture. Some of the blessings I enjoy today come as a result of choices I made along the way. I don’t apologize for that or feel guilty because someone else made different choices. But I clearly know nothing I have, no blessing that I’ve been given is deserved. God doesn’t owe me a good life.

In fact, if I did get what I deserve, I would be one miserable lady.

I guess as I read the conversations between Job and his friends, I am reminded that it is useless to try to explain why things happen in this life. I mean, I can say the reason someone gets lung cancer is because he smoked for forty years. But then how do I explain the one who gets lung cancer and never smoked?

Here’s what struck me as I read Zophar’s second speech and Job’s reply: If I really thought only ungodly people receive devastating doctor’s reports, why am I not stopping everyone from undergoing chemo, and instead get them to accept Jesus? Why don’t I pray with all the homeless people I see so God will give them houses?

I should be talking to cancer patients and homeless people (and neighbors, co-workers, family members) about Jesus. Not for anything they can see. But because their eternity depends on it.

Zohar was right about one thing. “the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts for a moment.” In light of eternity, the “blessings” people enjoy on this earth are merely a blink of an eye.

Do you believe that? Regardless of bank accounts, health reports, popularity, or influence, we all will stand before a Holy God one day and give an account for the choices we made while we were enjoying, or struggling with, life on planet Earth. If you know Jesus as your Savior, that’s all God will need to know. Account paid. Good job, dear one. Let the party begin.

But if your choices haven’t included asking God to forgive you, and accepting what Jesus did for you when He died on the cross, you’re on your own. Good luck trying to defend yourself before a Holy God. Do you honestly think you’ll match up? Really?

Let’s not get bogged down by things we can see. Let’s not waste time trying to understand God’s ways. His ways are not like ours. But let’s look at the true, and eternal blessing that comes from knowing Him personally. And let’s makes sure others know how they can be blessed in the same way.

 

Jan 8 – A Statement Of Faith

Job 17-20

Job is feeling insignificant, like what he is saying and experiencing isn’t important. His hopes and dreams are lost, and his friends seem to only want to explain it away. Job tells them there isn’t a wise man among them. (I smile)

In chapter 19 Job says even if he is suffering consequences for doing something wrong, like his friends suggest, “my error lodges with me.” Then he continues to try to explain to his friends what he is experiencing and feeling in the moment. I can almost hear him plead, “Just hear me.”

But then Job gives a powerful statement of faith, beginning in 19:25:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!

Once again this man of God acknowledges that God is alive and well, and one day Job assures his friends he will see God. Job is absolutely sure that this life is just the opening act, that the heart of the matter lies beyond the grave.

And Job trusts God even during this difficult and confusing time of life. My prayer is that you, too, have the same resolve. Even if you never get the answers you think you deserve during this lifetime, I pray the thought of seeing your Redeemer face to face causes your heart to faint within you, too. I know for myself, just thinking about looking into Jesus’ eyes brings joy and anticipation.

And in a very real way, the promise of being in the presence of the One who loved me and gave Himself for me, makes the cares of this life a bit more bearable, a bit less consuming.

I know that my Redeemer lives!