Category Archives: Humility

How Do We Keep On Going?

On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?”

Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”

“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”

But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.  After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)

Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately:  How do we keep going in tough or totally discouraging circumstances?  Today’s red letter statement gives us insight into an answer.

In the statement, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  What impresses me is that Jesus said this at the beginning of his ministry.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus doesn’t start talking about his impending death until Luke 9.  But in the Gospel of John,  he speaks about it early on, just after he calls his disciples and performs his first miracle.

It shows us that this was always so much in the forefront of Jesus’s mind.  That’s mind blowing to me.  It’s so different than the way I think.  I love to be productive.  If I were Jesus, I would be working towards creating tangible results.  I would want to see the evidence that I’m impacting people and creating a movement for God.

But Jesus served ceaselessly with the knowledge that his efforts would seem to fail.  All of his followers would leave him.  His movement would be virtually extinguished.  He would be condemned to death by those he sought to help.

Can we serve God like Jesus, knowing that we may not see the fruits of our labor?

We can, if we have the mindset that Jesus had.  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”  I think he answered the Jews with these words, not just because he wanted them to remember later and have faith, but because the words were the very basis of his faith.

Jesus was fueled by his belief that he would be resurrected.  He knew that his life on earth would feel ineffective at times.  It was his life after death that would change the world.

There are two lessons we can get from looking at the perspective of Jesus.

First, let our goal be “death,” not accomplishment.

Jesus said later in his life, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)

Jesus knew that, just as the “death” of a seed results in the growth of a plant, his death would result in the growth of the church.  And then, as a plant continues to regenerate, so would the church.

Today, we die to self and sin, knowing that this results in growth and regeneration.

  • We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.. . . 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. . . So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (II Cor 4:10, 12)
  • If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (Luke 9:24)
  • For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.  (Rom 8:13)

As it was for Jesus, the basis of our faith is the resurrection.  We believe that our labors bear fruit as God works through our death.

Second, look less for gratification on earth, and more for gratification in heaven.  Hebrews says about Jesus, “Because of the joy awaiting him,  he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Heb. 12:2)  The real joy, for Jesus, didn’t come until after his death.  That’s not to say that he didn’t have joy on earth.  He most certainly did.  But the true gratification came later.

And the sure belief of this coming happiness gave Jesus the strength he needed to hold up through the daily rigors of his ministry.  It gave him the fortitude to submit himself to a humiliating and tortuous death.

Can I find the same kind of strength?  Because I’m realizing that I need to ask myself,  “What if I knew that all this work I’m putting into serving God would fall flat?  What if I knew that the result of my labor would be my death ?  Would I still go out every day and deny self and give?”

As I said before, I’m so results oriented.  But I need to look further than gratification on earth.  The gratification I’ll have in heaven needs to become my biggest motivator.  I confess, that when I was younger in my faith, it was so hard for heaven to be a motivator.  As I get older, I’m finally seeing this better.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  Matt 6:19-20

Jesus lived by those words.

How do we keep going in discouraging circumstances, when everything seems to be going wrong?

We look at how Jesus kept going.

We picture the surpassing bliss we will feel when we’re safe in the arms of our loving Father in heaven.

We believe in the power of surrender, of repentance, of prayer, of nothingness before God.

We say, “The only hope I have today is in death. I have no answer to Satan, except that I die and put myself and my work in God’s hands.”

And then we let our faith swell until it’s bigger than every failure, saying, “And I believe that God will work the power of life on whatever I put to death in him.”

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.  (Matthew 13:31-32)

I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (I Cor 3:6)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Humility, John, Perseverance

Clearing Out Self

When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables.  So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those selling doves He said, Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!”

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.(John 2:13-17)

Here’s a model of what Jerusalem looked like in Jesus’s time.  The temple is in the foreground.

temple

I can picture how excited someone would be who was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  I can see them anticipating being physically close to God, because back then, the Lord resided in the Most Holy Place at the temple.  As they approached, they would see the temple gleaming the sunlight, high up on a hill.  How their hearts would thrill!

Contrast this with what Jesus found.  As he entered the temple, the courts were teaming with vendors and money changers who were clamoring for attention.  There wasn’t a sense of reverence and communion, but instead, of profiteering.  The sacred act of worship had become a transaction.

Jesus saw greed.  He would preach later, “No one can serve two masters. . . you cannot serve both God and money.”  (Matt 6:24)  People were serving the master of money.  Idolatry was thriving in the very temple where people went to be with God!

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Here are some practicals we can take away from this red-letter statement by Jesus.

Make church about God, not about us.   Not long ago, my small group read Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Churches.  In it he talked about how churches are now structured around a consumer model. “We are actually ruining people by making them consumers,” Chan said in an interview.  “Because you’re supposed to be turning them into servants.  We don’t come to be served.  We serve and give our lives as a ransom for many. It’s at the core of what we understand it means to follow Jesus Christ.  And we’ve twisted it and it’s evil.”

Do we make church about us, and our needs?  Or do we come with a pure motivation, seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and giving ourselves as a living sacrifice?

Make our private devotionals a time of reverence and communion.  Today, we are the temple where the Holy Spirit resides. (I Cor 6:19)  The question is, are we coming to the temple in the same way the worshippers of old would come to the temple? Are we excited to connect with the seed of God that is within us, which helps us connect with the God who cannot be contained? Do we realize how amazing it is that we can be close to the Holy One who created and sustains the whole universe? Do we make sure our time with him is devoted to him only, and free from distractions?  Or is our temple crowded, and noisy with other things vying for our attention?

This song illustrates what the attitude of worship should be.  I’ve included a video and some of the lyrics.

Who else commands all the hosts of heaven
Who else could make every king bow down
Who else can whisper and darkness trembles
Only a Holy God

What other beauty demands such praises
What other splendour outshines the sun
What other majesty rules with justice
Only a Holy God

Come and behold Him
The One and the Only
Cry out, sing holy
Forever a Holy God
Come and worship the Holy God

We so need to meet with God, and bow down to him, and pour out our hearts as we are overwhelmed with the utter realization of how awesome and holy he is.

Yesterday, I had a one-on-one phone call with my life coaching teacher to evaluate the final for my class.  For the final, I coached someone, and my teacher listened and transcribed the session.  So in our evaluation conversation, we discussed in detail how my coaching was, what I did well, and what I could improve.

I was discouraged that my instructor told me that I’m still trying too hard to be in control of my coaching sessions.  The goal is to let the client steer the sessions.  I keep trying to take the wheel, and direct them.

It was sobering that she told me this, because I know I do this, and I was trying not to.  It’s so hard to change!

But at least it gives me a very clear picture of how I need to be with God.  I need to completely let him steer, instead of trying to grab the wheel.  This morning, while I was praying, I pictured a stage on which God was the only player.  I cleared the stage of everyone else, especially me!  And I thought, “This is what my days have to be.  God has to be the one on stage, not me.”

My youngest daughter got me a new journal for Mother’s Day, and I’m using it to keep a list of what I see God doing.  I’m trying to live out the words of Jesus, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.”  I’m taking note of what God is doing, and tooling my actions to match his.

God is teaching me in so many ways to clear out self.

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

There’s so much we need to clear out so we can worship God.  We need to deal with our materialism, our love of self, the desire to control.

Idols don’t belong in the temple.  They ruin what it was meant to be.  And what it was meant to be is amazing.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Phil 3:7-8a)

Leave a comment

Filed under Glory Above All, Holiness, Humility, John, Red Letter, Surrender

Feeling Useless, Becoming Useful

Now six stone water jars had been set there for the Jewish rites of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

So they filled them to the brim.

“Now draw some out,” He said, “and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine  (John 2:6b-9a)

One thing that strikes me about this is that Jesus can work with what’s there.  It’s like he says, “Hmmm, there’s no wine.  Let’s see.  What around here could I use?  Oh look, there are some big purification water jars.  That’ll work.  I’ll have them filled with water, and change that into wine.”

Jesus doesn’t have to have the perfect resources in front of him.  He can use what he has.  I think this is a good point, because we so often look at the limitations.  For instance, today, I don’t have a car.  I want to say that I can’t make it to my hair appointment.  But then I remember that I have a bike, and the salon is not far away.  There’s something I can work with.

Jesus finds what he can work with, in a much bigger way. And then he uses it.

The trouble is that the fixing we need Jesus to do is often tougher than manipulating molecules.  We need him to move the hearts of people.  Ok, let’s be real.  We need him to move our own grumpy, self-loving, comfort-seeking, faithless hearts!

Can Jesus work with the contents of our soul, like the contents of a jar?

He can, if we’ll get super intentional about being humble.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  I P 5:5

God works with us and through us when we’re meek and lowly, not when we think we have things figured out, or when we rely on our own wisdom and strength.  We have to see him as the resource we need in every instance.

And to do this, we need to empty ourselves.  We have to daily become nothing, as Jesus did.

  • John 5:19 – “The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
  • John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
  • John 7:16 – “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.”
  • John 8:28 — “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”
  • John 8:42 – “For I have not come of myself, but he sent me.”
  • John 8:50 – “I am not seeking glory for myself.”

Let’s model humility, and encourage others to seek it, so that God can work with the impossible situations we need changed.  Satan is having a field day.  Negative self-talk and emotional baggage reign.  Fears and bitterness control us.  Pride directs us.  These things are destroying us and our relationships.

Let’s embrace the blessings of being poor in spirit.

A couple of days ago, I spoke with a friend who was at the end of her rope, and I told her, in a sense, “This is a good place to be.   You’re desperate.  You’ve run out of ideas and motivation. You have nowhere to go but God.”

We don’t like feeling desperate and out of control.  We’re ashamed because we think we should be able to do better.  But that’s a good place to be, because then we are most aware of our need for God.  We’re finally at the place of nothingness.

And then Jesus can change our water into wine.  We’re a resource he can use for his purposes.

Last night, a sister who has been going through tremendous challenges brought two visitors to Bible talk.  The visitors got so much out of the evening.  They were very grateful that she brought them.  Isn’t that the way God works sometimes?  This sister thought she was going crazy with stress, but she stayed focused on God, and that’s when he used her.

Somehow, it’s when we feel the most useless, that we are at a point when we can be most used.

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2:12-13)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not in vain. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  (I Cor 15:10)

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also those of wood and clay; some for honorable use and some for dishonorable.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  (II Tim 2:20-21)

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, John, Surrender

A Heart That’s Prepared

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.  The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.  Isa 3:-16 26

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah, this passage seems appropriate for today.  I’ve seen so many scenes of devastation from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane

Hurricane2

This reminds me of these verses, because it shows how we can be walking around one day, feeling rich and all together, and the next day, find that everything is in ruins.

Now I am not at all saying that the hurricane was a part of God’s judgment, like the disaster forecast in this prophesy.  I’m saying that we need to be careful to not be complacent and full of ourselves, thinking we have it together and taking what we have for granted.

We need to be careful to not be haughty.  God doesn’t look very kindly on the haughty in this verse.  The Hebrew word means, “to raise up to a great height.”  It’s used of King Saul when he’s described as being taller than the other people.  It definitely conveys the idea that you think you are above everyone else.

And that is what the women that God condemed were acting. The passage even goes on to describe them in kind of a comical way, with necks that are stretching up.  I get this picture of society gals with thier noses in the air.

haughty woman

I would enjoy laughing at them, if I didn’t know that I can be that way too.  Oh sure, maybe it’s not so obvious.  But how easily do I get down to the level of a servant? I have to say, as I have served hurricane victims this past week, my heart has some work to do!

Here are some great verses that help my heart in this:

  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:3)
  • Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)
  • But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  (James 1:10)

It also helps my heart to remember that the things I take for granted could be gone at any time.  It could be my turn next.  Here are some verses to help me think more soberly:

  • So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (I Cor 10:12)
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Prov. 16:18)
  • Then [the rich man] said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. ” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:20

Life can change at any moment. I’ve seen that first hand this week.  And at this point, I am thankful for the wake up call to my heart.

Let me do a better job of being prepared, and be better able to say, as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it happen to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

It’s easy to think it’s all about me, that I have it together.

God says that I need to stop stretching my neck, and instead, bow before him.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Luke 12:40)

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, Isaiah

Hearts That are Bowed

The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty,

for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),

for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty and all the oaks of Bashan,

for all the towering mountains and all the high hills,

for every lofty tower and every fortified wall,

for every trading ship and every stately vessel.

The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled;

the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. (Is 2:12-18)

This passage talks about a day that is coming when man will be totally humbled, and God alone will be exalted.  Today we call this the “The Day of the Lord.”
On one hand, the Day of the Lord is Judgment Day.  Romans 14 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'” (Romans 14:9b-10)

And Romans 14 refers to Isaiah 45, when God proclaims,  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.'”

But I think there is more to the Day of the Lord.  This chapter we’re reading in Isaiah starts with, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

The time of humbling will not just happen at Judgment Day, it is a part of the “Last Days.”  What does it says will happen in the Last Days?  The Lord will be exalted.  It’s the same theme.

And man will find humility.  The beginning of the chapter goes on to read:  “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’”

People will no longer follow their own ways.  They will look to God to be taught how to live.

Today, I believe we are living in the Last Days.  I believe that it is a time when people can see the uselessness of their idols and their empty way of life, and seek God instead.

Why do they seek God more at this time more than they had in the past?  Because of Jesus.  Look at this parallel passage in Philippians:

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

There’s something incredible in the story of Jesus.  It alone has the power to put us on our knees.

We see his humility.  We see our sinfulness, in comparison to his example.  We see how he took the punishment that should have been ours.  We see how he loved the least, the sinners. We see his power, his miracles.  We see the astounding work of resurrection from the dead.  We see his words, which resonate more with us than anything else on earth.  We see forgiveness, and salvation for our own souls.  We see value, and everything we esteemed pales in comparison.

Under the force of Jesus’s example, we can humble ourselves.

Or we can continue to be caught up in the conceit of our our lives, and be humbled on Judgment Day.

Lately people in our church have been going through some serious stuff!!  So my friend Marisha decided to have a few of us over to pray last Thursday.

prayer-night.jpg

We got on our knees and made fervent petitions to our Father.  It felt good to be on my knees, abject before the All High.  I wanted to kneel lower, and lower still, to be nothing, to put myself completely in God’s hands.

 

Since then, when I find myself awake in the middle of the night, my thoughts racing, I remember and picture myself being yet again on my knees, completely humble before the Lord.

It helps my heart like nothing else.

We are in the Last Days, and the Day of the Lord is coming.  Let us remember to live with hearts that are bowed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, Isaiah, Prayer, Uncategorized

I Need Thee Every Hour

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.

So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them!  

Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and the glory of his majesty.

The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has a day in store against all that is proud and lofty, for all that is exalted shall be brought low. 

Isa 2:7-11

Here’s another scary and convicting passage.

The sin the people commit is that they are “proud and lofty.”  They exalt themselves. They’re all puffed up about the possessions they have.   They think they’re great because of “work of their hands,” their accomplishments.  This is what they worship, not God.

What sobers me about this passage is God’s attitude towards them.  He says to not forgive them.

This is the strangest thing ever.  It’s not something you see often in the Bible.  Isn’t God the one who punishes, but then relents? “For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful; He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”  (Ex 34:6)  

Isn’t this the God who counseled us through Jesus to forgive seventy times seven?

How does this fit in with this passage later in Isaiah? “‘In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.  . . “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.”‘ (Is 54:9) 

Because many theologans believe that God really is saying in Is 2:8 that he is not going to forgive the Isrealites for their pride.  They quote verses like Ps. 69:27, “Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.”

And it reminds me of how Jesus spoke in parables because, “They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”  Mark 4:12

I don’t know what to make of all that, but one thing I can see is that arrogant hard hearts are a huge problem with God.

And here is what I am thinking. The source of the Isrealites’ pride was that they forgot their need for God.  They attributed their wealth and their success to themselves.

It reminds me of Revelations 3:17: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

It also reminds me of the first verse of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  (Matt 5:3)

How much do we remember that we are poor and needy for God?

Last night, we had planned to have a midweek service at the park, and play games.  As the time for the service approached, the sky began to fill with dark clouds.  When Ken and I got to the park, it looked like a storm was brewing.  Not many people had showed up.  We prayed, and some of us started a game of volleyball in the ominous gloom.

midwk6

Then we began to hear the rumbles of thunder.  Soon we saw flashes of lightening.  We kept staying, holding onto hope, but the lightening got closer.  So finally, Mike, our leader, volunteered his house for us to go to instead.

 

About 15 of us straggled over to Mike’s.  There, we ended up having the best time! We had pizza, and sang songs and played games.

midwk3

Now I’m not saying anything about those who decided to not come because of the rain.  Of course that’s very reasonable. But I feel like those who came to the park and the house were those who felt a keen need for the fellowship.   They felt their need for the spiritual.  They felt their need to see God in the faces of their brothers and sisters.

midwk5

Ah, I know I need to remember my need for God more.   As the song says, I need thee every hour.  Like the Jews, my heart can get so preoccupied with what I’m doing.   I can think I have all sufficiency in my own little world.

I forget that what I need is that wonderful, harmonious fellowship of being with God in the moment.  I need to see his beauty. I need to feel his goodness.  I need to connect to his peace.  I need to live with his deep meaning and purpose.

Let’s make it our goal today to humble ourselves and bring ourselves low.  Surely it is scarey to think how easily we can be arrogant, and how seriously God takes it when we get that way.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, Isaiah

Psalm 35 — Learning to be Needy

“Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.”

That’s how David started Psalms 35.  It’s so encouraging to think that we have a god who will get personally involved in our struggles.  We NEVER have to fight alone.  If we ask, God will be right there at our side, fighting with us.

And that means a lot to me, because I can feel alone as I struggle with depression, health challenges, insecurities and concern for loved ones.

The dictionary definition of fight reads: “to take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons.”

That was certainly what David was involved in, and wanted of God in Ps 35 —

Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. . .

May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away . . .

may ruin overtake them by surprise– may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

But it doesn’t sound like my life.  I have trials, but I’m not in a smack down.

smackdown

And then again, I am.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms..” (Eph 6:10)

There’s a grueling battle going on that Satan wants me to ignore. Behind the scenes, he is constantly plotting, constantly working destruction.

And I tend to coast through life, oblivious.  I mean, I know I’m going through some challenges, but I  forget that I’m under attack at the heart level.

I don’t see the lies and deceptions, which are Satan’s main weapons.

satans-lies

I don’t see the way Satan warps my desires and thinking.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  II Peter 2:11

It’s easy to see some of the desires I shouldn’t have.  I know not to be selfish, like this:

selfish-desires

But other things are harder to identify.  Like this:

self-glorification

These are some of the harmful desires that trick me:  wanting personal glory, to be in control, to please people, to be comfortable, to avoid conflict, and to be perfect.  Ack!  I think I’m doing good, until I take a magnifying glass to my heart and realize how much these desires are tangled in my motivations, taking me in the wrong direction.

So I’m trying to focus on good desires instead:  wanting God to be glorified, his will to be done, to love him and make him smile.

walking-on-sunshine

Another good desire is the desire to see and hear God.  That’s what David asked for in verse 3, “Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’”

David knew God had his back, but sometimes he needed reassurance.  We’re all that way.  Wouldn’t it be great if, right now, God put a hand on either side of our face, looked us in the eye and told us straight out, “I am your salvation.  Calm down.  I’ve got this.”

But we don’t see or hear that reassurance as often as we’d like.  Because, just like Satan, God often works behind the scenes.

I read a great story recently on Facebook.  A sister in Brazil named Taraneh Matos shared that when she became a disciple, her father was very much against it.  He cut her off, and it was heartbreaking.  She prayed for their relationship to be restored.  One day she was looking through some old photographs, and saw a picture of her dad running in a race.  Running next to him was a man in a HOPE worldwide tee shirt. (HOPE is an organization associated with our fellowship of churches.)

running-with-dad

Taraneh cried, and was tremendously encouraged.  She related why in her post, “Often God is working on things even before we ask- we are just not there to take a picture of all those moments.

How many times is the same true for us?  How many times is God working on things, but we’re not there to take a picture? How many times is God running alongside us, or alongside a loved one? I would say a lot!! (Taraneh’s father did come around, and their relationship is better.  Yay!)

God is with us, working and fighting on our behalf, and we really want to know this.  Because we start to see that we’re in over our heads.  David knew that, in the physical battle he was fighting, he couldn’t overcome by himself.  The same is true for us in the spiritual battle.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:19, 24)

We have to realize how wretched and desperate we are.  Look at what David said in Ps. 35 that he would do when victory came:

My whole being will exclaim,

“Who is like you, Lord?

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

David had been anointed king.  He was a war hero.  Yet he identified himself as poor and needy.

Should we not be the same way?  Look at what Jesus said in Revelation 3:

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Rev 3:17

poor-and-needy

So this is what I’ve been working on this week.  I’m reminding myself that I am poor in spirit.  I don’t have to pressure myself to be strong.  I just come to God as a beggar, admitting my weakness, and asking him for strength.

I’m realizing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I need God for so much more than strength and overcoming temptation.  I need his guidance and direction.  I need his Spirit to fill me with love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.  I need his wisdom. I need forgiveness.  I need connection with him.  I need him to provide for my physical needs.  I need him to watch over my loved ones.

Others need him, but they don’t realize it, so I need him to help me pray for them, reach them, and serve them. I need him to work in the world to bring justice and peace, to help the sick, the poor and the oppressed.  I need his will to be done.

The cool thing is that becoming poor in spirit is helping me to do things with a better motivation.  Because serving God had become about performance, and that meant it was about ME and my efforts.

Now it’s more about God, looking to him always.

I have a long way to go.  I forget often.

And, or course, that’s what Satan wants.  He wants us to forget how much we need God.  He wants us to forget about the invisible smack down.  He wants us to forget that God is with us, and will fight for us.

Let’s help one another to remember!

Let’s increase our neediness.

Because the more we need HIM and not SELF, the more we get out of the way, the more God can work and fight on our behalf.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, Surrender