Superhuman Faith

Recently in my Bible reading, I’ve been taking a deeper look at the life of the Apostle Paul (also known as Saul). He didn’t do anything halfway. Even before his conversion, he was passionate about eliminating the new believers. In Acts 8:3 it says, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” Acts 9:1 says, “But Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest…” He went all in!

So it’s no surprise that once Paul had an encounter with Jesus, he used this same passion to disciple the followers of Christ. But he didn’t have it easy. As a matter of fact, when the Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision about Paul, He told Ananias, “…Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). From the outset of Paul’s ministry, he was on a path of suffering.

Even on his first ministry excursion he had to escape for his life by being lowered down the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). I’m not sure about you, but at that point I probably would have questioned if I had heard from God. But not Paul. He continued on despite constant persecution and threat of death. Not only did he continue on, but his zeal for Christ never wavered. Wow! I wish I could say that.

When he and Silas were thrown in prison, their response was to pray and sing hymns to God (Acts 16:25). I think eventually I get to the point where I’m praying and giving praise to God in the face of adversity, but it’s not usually my first response. When I’m faced with opposition or discouragement, I tend to question God’s goodness to me.

Paul almost seems superhuman to me, with an extra measure of the “Jesus gene.” But I’m reminded of James 5:17a which says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…” I believe the same is true of Paul. He wasn’t some extraordinary person. Yes, he was chosen by God, but so are we (see 1 Peter 2:9). I believe what sets Paul apart from me is that he found his joy in God, not his circumstances; and he took God at His word and trusted and obeyed Him.

I am far too fickle with my trust in God. I have really good moments where I’m “all in,” like Paul. But then I waver at the slightest opposition. My prayer is that as I continue to study Paul’s life, I will learn how to trust and obey God as he did. And be able to confidently say, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Happy Thanksgiving

Have you noticed how difficult it is to remain thankful when things aren’t quite going according to plan? Or is that just me?! I often find myself telling my daughter to find something to be thankful for no matter what, after all, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
But when the rubber meets the road, I’m not always very good at following my own advice. So what better time than Thanksgiving to take a moment to be thankful? So here are some of the things for which I’m grateful:
  • God’s presence
  • Joy
  • The refining process (not always fun, but definitely worth it in the end)
  • God’s protection of my kids’ hearts
  • His protection of my heart
  • God’s love shown to me through those He’s sent to support and encourage me
  • Peace
  • Strength
  • Comfort
  • God’s direction
I’m sure if I sat here for a while longer, I could continue to find things for which to be thankful. But just taking these few moments to be grateful has refocused my heart and helped me to be ready to enjoy a festive Thanksgiving with my wonderful family.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wanting His Presence Over His Answers

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like going through hardships and difficulties. If I had a magic button that I could push to make all bad things go away, I certainly would use it. Sadly, no such button exists–at least not that I’ve found.

So often, I want God to rescue me from my struggles. “Just make it go away, God!” (Seriously, I’ve prayed this prayer.) After all, isn’t that why I’m a Christian, so I can avoid hardships?! Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the Bible says. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (NLT, emphasis mine).

So what’s the point? I’m learning that hardships and suffering are permitted in our lives for a number of reasons. One of them is to draw us closer to God. (They’re also used to refine us. But that’s a post for another day.) As I’ve walked through my own brand of suffering, God has faithfully reminded me that He is with me. While I know and firmly believe He can swoop in and “make it all go away,” I believe He is giving me something greater–His presence.

Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you go through the deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” (NLT, emphasis mine). I love the realness of this verse. It’s basically saying, “Look, you’re gonna go through some really hard stuff. But I will be with you and these things will not overtake you!”

Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I hold your right hand–I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you'” (NLT). This has been a particularly comforting verse for me. Envisioning the God of the Universe holding my hand–like a father holds his daughter’s hand–has allowed me to walk through things I never thought I could face.

There are so many other verses that promise God’s presence. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT
  • “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 NLT
  • “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

While I still want the bad stuff to go away, I’m learning to pray as Moses did: “… If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place” (Exodus 33:15 NLT).

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