Did you ever hear the old saying, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? Well, it’s just as true if we say, “Looking for joy in all the wrong places.”
So often, we suffer greatly in that quest for joy—we come up short and shaken. Duh—that’s because you’re looking for joy in the wrong place. This earth is cursed because of sin; everything is tinged with some of that brokenness, so that joy you seek will always be fleeting. Nothing here is perfect, only God is perfect. And in His perfection and in His presence will you find that joy so elusive in the natural world.
Disappointments, rejection, lack, loss—we categorically feel it in our lives, and sometimes the journey can really stink. But all that changes in Jesus. Many times the circumstances don’t change but, with Christ in you, you change and can rise above the situations.
Develop intimate closeness with the Lord (by spending some quiet, focused time in His presence), and when the things and people around don’t bring the joy you need, you still will have a deep, unshakeable inner joy that comes from Him. It’ll change your whole life, so that even when a dark and foreboding event starts rising, you can remain in the peace and wisdom of God.
I don’t mean to bury your head in the sand and not face the circumstances, but to face them with His wisdom, peace and courage. That surpasses anything you can come up with! People, places and things can never give you what God can…settle for nothing less! Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
You feel refreshed, invigorated in the Lord stirred by some sermon or some song. You then lay out a plan to assure a successful prayer life, an abundance of time lingering in the presence of God and running rough shod in victory over sin and temptation. Oh, yeah…an invincible soldier in the army of the Lord!
Then wham! Reality hits you and you fail miserably in all areas. So what happened? Are you a failure in God’s eyes?
Well, as I read the accounts of God’s Biblical heroes, I find that success was not the common thread…the common thread was their passionate relationship with God. Moses argued with God, Jacob wrestled with Him and dear old David broke more than just a few of the Ten Commandments!
So, it’s not your success God is looking for as much as your passion for Him, your willingness to allow Him to dominate your life. I don’t mean to infer that He will brush your sins under some religious rug—no way. I am just telling you that you don’t need to fret over your failures but rather focus on letting God own more and more of your thoughts, words and deeds. That will bring success.
Just let Him inside you and let Him rule; He’ll take it from there. Don’t concentrate on doctrinal positions or some ethereal spiritual happening—just concentrate on Him. When you fail, He will forgive. When you flourish, He will smile. But whatever you do, don’t turn your back on Him as the Israelites did! Don’t let today’s major distractions pull God away from being your central theme, your passion.
The usual daily busyness of our overstimulated culture can easily usurp the Lord from being your friend and your mentor…the One to Whom you go and the One you bring with you in all you do. Never, ever, no matter what is going on, stop thinking about God. Let Him be the central motivation in all you say and do and your failures will fade and your successes in Him blossom. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
So many people struggle with the suffering and chaos that either surrounds their lives or that they see in the world around them. They curse God and shake a fist at Him for such a mess.
Well, news flash, Bubba—God did not create this mess! He created beauty and order that reflected His perfection (Romans 1).
It was Adam’s disobedience that offset the order and now all of mankind and the whole world are under the bondage of sin and death. And you have the same choice Adam had—obey God and live or disobey and have death and chaos enter in (John 16:33). Your choice! Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
What the heck was that all about? Did you ever find yourself asking that question after you’ve gone through a challenging and hurtful trial or situation? You’re not alone, that’s for sure.
For those who don’t know the Lord, or who are off on a religious tangent not born in His truth, the usual response to the bad situation is a negative response to God. The broken nature tends to excuse its brokenness and shake a fist at God instead of at the evil.
The question that comes up is “Why did God allow that to happen?” The answer to that is clear but, more often than not, the answer is rejected. God clearly implores us to trust Him. That is hard and must be practiced because, as painful as it may be to admit, we do not naturally trust God! Only with a deep and sincere conversion of your inner nature can you even try.
God tells us to trust Him with our whole being, for in that nothing can separate us from His peace. The problematic situation may still exist but with His peace in your heart, the viewpoint about the situation changes. Everything you do, though, is used for your training to trust God. Growing in the grace of God (which comes with each adversity), allows us to recognize and fight back the works of evil meant to destroy our relationship with God. Remember Joseph’s words to his brothers, the same brothers who had sold him into slavery, “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20).
God wants us to trust in Him, not to fear evil, and to know, that no matter what, God can bring good out of every bad situation…IF we let Him! Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
Ever talk to yourself? C’mon, admit it, you do! Well—do you get very far when you roll around your one-sided opinions in your brain? This “brainstorming” spiritual things with the natural mind will never get you too far.
Instead—just like you physically shower and get dressed in the morning—take a minute and “spiritually shower” in the word of God and get “spiritually dressed” in the robes of righteousness in Jesus. Let the mind of Christ be your mind—let His will be your will—let His emotions be your emotions.
Yes, it’s a real discipline but you have to do it. You would no more go out physically naked to start your day…so why go out spiritually naked.
Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." And Colossians 3:12, "Put on (clothe yourselves) with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
“I need a volunteer.” How many run away, far away, when they hear that question? The military makes it easy. Sarge says he needs a volunteer, looks over the group standing at attention and says, “You, you, and you…report to me after formation.” Simple!
God is not like that though. Ever wonder about that? The God of all power does not force His creation to come to Him. Perfect love might do that but perfect justice can’t allow it…and God is both!
For me, it’s simple, too. For example, I run races and get a medal when I cross the finish line. But you have to be registered in the race. Just running doesn’t get you the medal–registering does. No one forced me to enter; I volunteered, went through the grueling training and the more grueling marathon and got the medal. Mind you, now, I didn’t have to come in first to get the medal, I just had to register and complete the race.
So it is with the Lord. He won’t force you to sign up. You have to come to Him and register (saved, born again…whatever you want to call it). The neat part is He has paid your registration fee (with His life) and the race is free…you just have to come. From then on, He’s your trainer, too, and will never leave you nor forsake you out there. He will help you all the way across the finish line (eternity with Him).
What are you waiting for? C’mon, sign up for the race and get your number…it’s free! Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
“Hurry up, let’s get this over with!” Is that your attitude to spending some quiet time with the Lord? You can’t see Him but you can see that list of things that need to be done! Oh, the pressure! Well—get over it! Push back those demands—get into that haven of rest.
I don’t know about you, but when I give God time, He just miraculously gives it back to me…some appointment cancels, someone does something for me that was on my list or maybe the three-hour project only took one hour! It’s amazing how God honors us when we honor Him. It’s a pretty wise investment if you ask me!
It’s a sacrifice of time, of course, just like your tithe, but so enriching to wrap yourself in the presence of the Lord. Be still in His presence; ask the Lord to control the thoughts spinning around in your head. Relax—put that head on His shoulders, so it won’t spin right off yours! (Job 22:21) Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
A life in Christ is like going to school. It involves lots of studying, learning, sacrifice, money and time. The only difference is – you don’t get to graduate – at least not here!
Just when you think you have something mastered, God shows you that you need the next level “course” in that area. It is constant and ongoing. Never, ever become complacent in your current level of experience in the Lord. The devil wants you a “baby” but the Lord wants you a bulwark of faith!
Many of you have degrees from prestigious universities. Others have degrees from the less prestigious, but often more effective, “University of Adversity” or the “School of Hard Knocks”. But no one on the planet has a degree yet from the School of the Holy Spirit…that graduation is yet to come. And it comes when you pass over into eternity with our great and glorious Teacher, Jesus Christ.
Until that time, buckle down, do your “homework”, read and study as He leads you and do well in the “lab of life”. Heck, you’ll be “Summa Cum Laude” with Him in heaven! Endure the fire—it’s producing pure gold!