What is it about faith that keeps demanding of us greater testings? Just when we come through one trial that proves us faithful, our heart declaring, “Lord, I will trust you for everything,” here comes another test, increased in its intensity. This experience is shared by Christians worldwide.
Consider the ever-increasing demands on Abraham’s faith. God asked him to pack up his family and travel to an unnamed destination, yet by faith, Abraham obeyed and was greatly blessed. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
At one point, God told Abraham to behold the starry sky, saying, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them … So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). In other words, “Abraham, that is how many children, grandchildren and family you are going to have. They will number as many as the stars.”
Abraham’s response was a lesson for us all: “He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (15:6). When God promised Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age, Abraham believed God and Isaac was born. And when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, again he obeyed and his son was restored to him. Time after time Abraham put his faith in God, and he was considered righteous in the Lord’s eyes.
By the time Abraham turned one hundred years old, he had endured a lifetime of incredible tests of faith and through it all, Scriptures says that he had trusted God. The Lord said of this faithful, obedient man, “I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (18:19).
God himself said of this man of faith, “I trust Abraham. He has a proven faith.” What a marvelous thing it is to be considered faithful in the eyes of the Lord.
If our leaders declared they had absolutely no idea how to govern and provide direction, our nation would be confused and fearful. But that very thing happened in the time of King Jehoshaphat when three enemy armies were closing in on Judah. This mighty king called the nation together and instead of presenting a war plan and a decisive declaration of action, he stood before the people and poured out his heart out to God: “Here they come, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:11-12).
What kind of plan was this? No program, no committee action, no brilliant war plans. Just a simple declaration: “We are in over our heads and don’t know what to do — but we will keep our eyes on the Lord.” Believe it or not, even the greatest saints who ever lived did not fully understand the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Look at all the different denominations we have — and disputes over doctrine. Men today are still in the dark about so many things.
The urge to “make things happen” on our own comes to all of us at times and we may start to get ahead of his plan. Also, the enemy comes against us, causing us to reach that point of panic when the heart cries out, “What do I do now?” God has an answer for us: “I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7).
It is important to understand, however, that “keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord” does not mean we fold our hands and sit around letting God do it all. It means waiting until he shows the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
God is eager to provide guidance to you, his dear child, so spend time in his presence and keep your eyes upon him.
Much of the generation entering adulthood right now is desperately wounded. Some of these young men and women may have grown up fatherless or motherless or maybe a parent was emotionally detached. They have grown up with no direction in life and have not sensed the caring oversight that comes from a loving heavenly Father. Because of this, they are turning away from the Christian message completely.
Even those looking for hope in Jesus look around their church and wonder, “Everyone is raising their hands in worship like they feel really loved. Why don’t I feel that same way?” They react to their wounds in various ways, of course, but one side effect is universal. They carry with them a sense of being unworthy.
Jesus addressed this state of mind directly in his Sermon on the Mount while speaking to an anxious, wounded generation: “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? ... Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you” (Matthew 6:25, 28-30, NLT, my emphasis).
What incredible news for any generation — but especially for a wounded one. The heart of the message is Jesus’ question: “Aren’t you far more valuable to him?” It is actually a statement, in fact, and it cuts straight through all anger, stress, anxiety, frustration, and deep sense of failure.
Today, God wants to show you how valuable you are to him, how powerfully you belong in his family. He has made you to be an heir, with a great heavenly inheritance. And most wonderful of all, you are his valuable treasure and he wants to have fellowship with you!
These mortal bodies of ours are but mere shells and the life is not in the shell. It is a temporary confine that enshrouds an ever-growing, ever-maturing life force and acts as a transient guardian of the life inside. The shell is synthetic in comparison to the eternal life it clothes.
Every true Christian has been imbued with eternal life. It is planted as a seed in our mortal bodies that is constantly maturing and it must eventually break free out of the shell to become a new form of life. This glorious life of God in us exerts pressure on the shell, and, at the very moment resurrection life is mature, the shell breaks. The artificial bounds are broken, and like a newborn chick, the soul is freed from its prison. Praise the Lord!
As a child of God, at the precise moment our Lord decides our shell has fulfilled its function, we must abandon our old body. Paul said, “To die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21). That kind of talk is absolutely foreign to our modern, spiritual vocabulary. We have become such life worshipers that we have very little desire to depart to be with the Lord. But was Paul morbid? Did he have an unhealthy fixation on death or show a lack of respect for the life God had blessed him with? Absolutely not! Paul lived life to the fullest but he had overcome the fear of the “sting of death” and could say, “It is better to die and be with the Lord than to stay in the flesh.”
Those who die in the Lord are the winners and we who remain are the losers. I encourage you to refocus your attention on the glorious city that God has prepared for those who die in the faith (see Hebrews 11:16). Ask him to cut you loose from the ties of this world so that you might look forward with precious anticipation to being in his presence — whenever that may be.
Have you ever just wanted to run away from it all? But where would you go? And what would you do when you got there? You might be surprised if you knew how many good Christians secretly harbor momentary thoughts of walking away from everything. The thought of having no responsibilities and burdens sounds pretty enticing.
Christ has set a goal for his followers — a life of total trust, childlike faith, and victory over all the power of the enemy — but many are still going through struggles. Even though they enjoy peace with God, they endure family pressures, illness, heartbreak and trials.
God fully understands man’s impulse to run in time of crisis. That is why he provided Israel with cities of refuge where people in crisis could run for shelter and protection. Six cities were set aside so that any Israelite who was overwhelmed or in danger might “[flee] to one of these cities that he might live” (Deuteronomy 4:42).
In times of trouble, there is no place to run but to the Lord. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). When many of Jesus’ disciples were forsaking him, he turned to the twelve and asked, “Will you run away, too, like the others?” Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
The child of God has a place to run to when he is bowed down with care. Hear the cry of the Lord, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
You may never understand what you are going through at times, but when you feel swamped and fearful and deserted, flee to your secret place of prayer and pour out your heart to the Savior. Then do as Moses directed, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13).