I’m not a fan of waiting for things. We live in a culture of expecting things immediately, and so when it comes to having to wait for something, we don’t always have the patience required to see it through.
I remember as a kid growing up, the pain of having to wait for Christmas Day to come, or for the summer holidays to finally arrive, wishing the time would speed up just a little.
But there’s something that happens during the waiting. The Bible is full of stories of people having to wait, and it’s during the waiting where God equips and readies the people for what is to come. We see it with Joesph in Genesis, where he spent years in prison before he finally stepped in to what God had for him. But, without the time spent waiting, Joseph would not have been prepared for what was to come, the waiting was necessary. Painful at times, I’m sure, but necessary nonetheless. It’s in the waiting where we are sharpened and prepared for the coming season ahead.
Last year was one of waiting for us, one of constant anxiety and strain as we endured 9 long months of pregnancy before the safe arrival of our boy. After what had happened the previous year, every minute of this pregnancy was a battle. Waiting was not fun. There is a song which I listened to a lot during this time, called Take Courage, by Bethel music. The song has the lyrics,
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting. Hold on to your hope, as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing, He’s never failing.
These words really resonated with me, as we held on to the hope of a successful pregnancy, and the promise God gave to me in the days after losing Elias. The promise that within a year, we would have another child. God’s word and His promises will not fail. We don’t always know why some things happen the way they do, why we must endure such pain or trauma, but can we hold on to the hope that God has good things in store? If your situation is not currently good, Then take courage, for He is still at work.
And so, as I look forward to the new year and all that it may bring, as I wait for His lead on things within my life, it’s a choice I must make daily to hold on to the hope that He knows what He is doing, that He is bringing us to a place of fulfilled promises, joy and life. And it’s my prayer for you, too, that as you may be in a time of waiting and discerning, that the God of fulfilled promises will sustain you and guide you through all the decisions you need to make. It’s often only when we take the first step out that we see God at work.
In my church small group we recently read through the book of Job, highlighting anything which stood out along the way. Not always the most uplifting book to read, but at the same time I found it to bring some comfort and also new revelation, which I wanted to share in this post. Have a look at this…
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. Job 36:16-17.
Several things stood out to me as I read this verse. Firstly, the idea of God wooing us away from a place of distress into a place free from restriction. How often in life do we allow our focus to be on things which cause us anxiety or fear, which, the more we look at it, the greater the distress it causes us. God is inviting us to move away from that place and to sit at our table in comfort. He is our comforter and provider, yet we all too often can forget that.
The second one is this – “judgment and justice have taken hold of you” – judgment is reserved for God, and yet we take it upon ourselves to judge or demand justice for situations out of our control. Before Adam and Eve ate the apple, humankind had no knowledge of good and evil, no ability to judge what was good or evil, fair or unjust. The bible mentions several times to leave the judgment to God, and yet we choose to allow the judgment mindset to take hold of us, choosing rather to trust our own abilities and judging rather than God. Living with this mindset creates distress in our lives, so can we give it to God, and trust that His judgment is just and timely? That can be easier said than done, especially when we feel like someone has done wrong to us, or if we have gone through a hard season, but we need to adopt the opposite mindset, that of love, rather than judgment.
I don’t believe it was Gods intention for us to live under the mindset of judgment, as this passage says, but that He want to woo us out into an open space, a place where He has laden our table with choice food.
This morning, as I left the train station for a meeting, I noticed a rather angry looking and sounding seagull above me on the street light. As it loudly squawked at me, it then began a series of dive bomb attacks on me, each time getting a little bit closer to making contact. As I made a hasty get away from my attacker, I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous situation I found myself in, made even more funny by the conversation I had with a friend only last night. This friend is an anaesthetist, and was telling us of how common it has been during his time working in A&E for people to come in exhibiting seagull related injuries, from overly aggressive birds.
Later on in the day, as I returned to the station for my train home, this time with a work colleague ( safety in numbers), we noticed the same seagull sitting atop its perch on the street light. As we approached, we laughed at the thought of it once again preparing for attack, and my colleague made the comment of how can we fear being attacked by a bird, even though it was relatively big, but by comparison to us, it should be an easy victory for us. Sometimes the attacker seems to be indestructible, swooping and squawking at us, we can become intimidated and forget that actually we are more than capable of victory.
Really it’s the same in our lives when faced with an attack from Satan, the enemy. Whether it be by words, thoughts, feelings, fears, doubts, whatever his tactics are of trying to intimidate us, remember that we already carry the victory. Our God is bigger. Through he may make loud noises and swoop down to try and scare us off, he is, in fact, nothing more than a pest, a scavenger with the sole desire of pushing us off course. Well, today I choose not to allow fear to cause distress or anxiety for the road ahead.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking the devil is on the same level of God, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to preach up in Aberdeen with a team from bethel who were out for a mission trip. It was the first time I had preached since losing our son last year. I wanted to share with you what I spoke about that night…
Recently I have been enjoying spending time with God whilst cooking dinner, and so as I was cooking and asking God what to talk about, I heard two words from Him- Go Again.
These words were actually words we said to one another after Elias died. We can’t stay here in this pit of despair, we have to keep moving. As the Psalm states, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t sit down and make camp. Sure, we get knocked down and taken out, but we need to get back up, to move forward, to go again.
Romans 8 is one of the most encouraging chapters in the bible, and it’s what I focused on in my sermons a couple months back.
We were saved by hope, but hope that is looked at is not hope – for who hopes for what they look at? But since we hope for what we do not look at, then we look forward to it with endurance. Romans 8:24-25
The word Hope Paul uses in the Greek language is Elpis, which means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation!” Though we may go through struggles and trials, we live with the hope of what we cannot yet see, this eternal salvation. That’s Gods promise to all who come to Him. It’s what has kept me going these last few months, the confident knowledge that, one day, I will be reunited with Elias, in eternity. What we see here is only temporary. The pain and grief of loss is not permanent. As Abraham said once, we are merely aliens passing through this land, we don’t belong here. And yet, we experience pain, loss, uncertainty, but with the promise that all will be restored to us.
The word Paul uses for endurance in this passage translates to mean “in the face of aggression”. Regardless of what we face, we hold on to this Elpis hope, this confidence that one day every tear shall be wiped away as we enter into enteral salvation, through Jesus.
In the same way also, the Spirit takes hold together with us in our weaknesses – we don’t know how we are to pray so that our prayers will correspond to the need, but the Spirit intercedes with deeply emotional heartfelt groanings.
Ever felt like you don’t have the words to pray? Here Paul tells us that even in that moment, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us when our words fail us. God wants so much for us to succeed that He instructs Holy Spirit to pray with us and for us when we don’t have the words. The word for groanings there is a violent ailing and loud noise, it’s not a passive prayer.
If God is for us, who can be against us? … he will also give us all things as a favour, as well as giving his own son!
Guess what? God is for you! He is so for you He sent His son to die in your place so that you would not die but have eternal salvation. Whatever you’ve been through or are going through, have confidence that God is for you and with you and has good things for you!
I know what it’s like to go through stuff, trust me, these last few months have been horrendous, but we have determined to hold on to the truth from Romans 8, God is faithful, and He is calling us to get up, to move forward, to go again.
I love how God doesn’t waste a thing. He literally makes all things work together for our good, so, as I heard Kris Vallotton once say, if it’s not good right now, then God is not finished with what He is doing in your situation. He is always shaping us, always preparing us for the next season.
I spent six years living in America, where I felt God was preparing me and shaping me, breaking off old habits, mind sets and hurts, and bringing me into a place where I could receive from Him, and where I could have an impact on others around me.
Something God has been teaching me a lot recently is that once we have been in a season of preparation, we are then equipped with all we need to thrive through the next season we are coming in to. Whatever comes our way, God has given us the answer, the tools needed to succeeded through the situation. Sometimes we spend so much time looking at our problem and asking God to help us, when God has already helped us in the previous season, and has given us what we need to work through whatever has come our way.
The Bible says that God never puts us in a situation we cant get out of. If we believe that as truth, then that means whatever we are faced with, God has a strategy for us to get through. What keeps us from moving forward can be a mixture of fear, doubt, lack of trust or lack of fully understanding who we are in Christ. If we become focused on our lack, we will never move forward. If we instead focus on what is already in our hands, then nothing can hold us back. It’s like when a you are teaching a kid to ride a bike. For a time they require stabilizers and guidance to be able to ride the bike without falling over and hurting themselves. Once they have mastered that, its then time for the stabilizers to come off. There can then be a moment of doubt before they head off, but if they learn to put into practice what they have just learnt, they will soon be riding their bike. Yeah, they may fall once or twice, but the key is to get back on and get moving again.
Too often we put ourselves in a self imposed wilderness season, because we wait for the Lord to do something in our life, when He has already given us what we need to walk over into the “Promised Land”. We wonder where God is, when He is wondering what we’re doing hanging out in the desert! Let’s not be like the Israelites and spend more time then we need to out in the desert. God has a Promised Land ready for you, all you need to do is move forward. God wants to give us the wisdom we need to thrive through our circumstance, rather than us sitting back expecting Him to provide for us. Of course, God can and does bring in provision when we need it, but He also invites us to partner with Him to bring about the solution.
Happy New Year! Thought it would be a good idea to get 2016 off and running finally with my first blog of the year. How is this year going to be different from the last one? It seems like every January, we all set the same goals, most of them unrealistic, and by February we are feeling bad while tucking in to a pie or bar of chocolate that we had vowed to give up at least until Easter. Last year, we got one day into our fast when our year got lives got flipped on its head with Emma having her first of two back surgeries a year ago yesterday. A lot can happen in a year.
So far, this year is different in that we have had to make zero hospital visits, and long may that continue. For me, I have begun this year with one simple goal: To give God my best. I don’t want to be giving Him my second thoughts, or rushing to read a verse before going to bed at night, but I choose this year to give God my best. I felt like God was challenging me on this about a month ago, and so this is my response to that challenge: to begin each day with devoted time to Him, on my own but also with Emma. I am choosing this year to, if need be, get up earlier just so I can have time with God. Sounds simple, but life can get crazy busy some times, and if we don’t set standards within our lives from the outset, then we will simply meander through life without much direction and without much connection with God.
So, may 2016 be the year for you, the year where long awaited hopes and dreams become fulfilled, where relationships are renewed and where you enter into a more full and real relationship with God. When we put down our busyness and make time to give God our best, everything else will come into alignment. God is speaking to us, always, but it’s up to us to make the time to listen out for His voice.
Each day we have a choice for what we are going to partner with. Several times over the last few weeks, I have caught myself having anxious thoughts, and in that moment, my choice is whether or not to continue with these thoughts of anxiety. I was listening to a sermon by Shawn Bolz, and something he mentioned really stuck out to me. He was reading from Philippians chapter 4, which gives insight into how to remove any anxiety from our minds before it has the chance to take hold of our lives.
Do not be preoccupied about anything, but let the things you ask for be pointed out to God by means of prayer and earnest requests with gratitude. And the peace of God, which conquers all processes of thinking, will keep watch over your minds and what you think about by means of the Anointed One Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (The Source Translation)
There’s a couple things I love from this passage. Firstly is Paul’s encouragement to not become preoccupied or filled with anxiety over what is or isn’t happening. Instead, we should point our requests out to God through prayer and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving releases us from anxiety. Feeling anxious over your week? Begin to give God thanks for what is about to happen. Press in to God for more.
Second thing I love from the passage is that the peace of God will actually watch over our minds, even as we work through our situation, waiting for the breakthrough we have been pressing in to. Peace that transcends all knowledge and understanding is available to us in place of anxiety.
So next time anxiety comes your way, flip it on its head by giving God thanks, by allowing yourself and your mind to be filled with His peace that will more than sustain you through any situation you may find yourself in.