Discouraged. Waiting. Trusting. Rescued.

It was a tough week. A wandering and wondering week. Many battles between the old nature and the Spirit. Doubts. Debates. Turmoil.

The Dragon of Discouragement had breathed his fire all week, but by Saturday he tired of threats and stood ready to devour me whole. The last post on Eternity that I had planned … never took shape.

Sounds gloomy, I know. Don’t stop reading here, though.

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I find comfort in the Psalms. Not only do they remind me of the goodness and unfailing love of God, they also depict writers who are so much like I am—seeking God with all their heart, yet sometimes so utterly paralyzed or sabotaged by human weakness. Many of the prayers in the Psalms I can make my own.

Somewhere I had read that Psalm 40 was “the writer’s psalm.” But it’s also the social worker’s psalm, the bookkeeper’s psalm, the taxi driver’s psalm, the care giver’s psalm, the teacher’s psalm, the mother’s psalm, the father’s psalm, the friend’s psalm ….

So on Sunday morning I went to Psalm 40.

Every now and then, the Scriptures absolutely startle me. Yesterday, that happened again.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair …  (Psalm 40:1-2a)

And I heard the word again, “Wait.”

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Have you ever heard someone describing an experience when the Lord’s direction came to them as clearly as if someone had actually spoken? One woman told me once, “It was as clear as if I’d heard a voice saying…”

The closest I’ve come to that was a number of years ago, also during a time of questions and agonizing. Then, the word came clearly: “Wait. See what I have for you. Wait.”

And here, at the beginning of the very psalm I was planning to read as my prayer and cry for help, was the same clear word. Even before my prayer came out, the Word spoke: “Wait patiently for Me.”

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There’s so much more in Psalm 40 that gives us comfort. Verse 3 talks about God giving us a new song, making us hymns of praise for what He’s done. Verse 4 exclaims that there is great joy for those who trust the Lord. Verse 5 looks backward to great things He has already done and forward to His plans for us, “too numerous to list.”

But for the present, for me in that hour, the word was “Wait.”

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Now when you wait for something, you expect it, you know it’s coming. Wait for God. Expect His rescue. King David had a whole lot of tough weeks; at times he was even so discouraged or frustrated that he felt God had forgotten him. But he always knew rescue would come. He knew that unshakeable hope is found in only one Person and one Place.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)

Wait quietly? I am much better at stewing and worrying and, really, getting quite carried away with my own fretting.

These words also came, this time from King Jesus: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (See John 14:1)

There it is in a nutshell. That’s faith. “Trust me.”

He says Trust me when we are all too aware of our humanity, when our old nature rises up and stomps on our best intentions. He says Trust me when we are doubting, when we’re discouraged, when we feel too weak for the battle. He says Trust me when we’re haunted by the past, fretting about the present, or worrying about the future.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; and trust me.”

That’s not just a last resort, clinging to a straw when we are desperate. Trusting Him is the ONLY place we can go to live fully the life He died to give us. Trusting Him is the ONE place He wants us to live.

“Just trust me.”

The assurance of my King comes while I wait quietly.

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A Confession and Cry for Healing

He suggested it, the boat trip across the lake. It was His idea, even though it was an ordinary move, a simple transition, and we got in the boat without much thought. None of us would have predicted the huge storm that bore down upon us and battered our small vessel so that I was sure we would all drown.

I bailed frantically, but my small efforts were of no effect against the huge waves that broke over us. I was angry with Him. It seemed He did not care that we were in such peril. Or at least, He was doing nothing about it. Did He not understand how fragile our craft against these storms? Of course He can sleep – He is God, what can a storm do to Him? But this storm could have killed some or all of us—why was He asleep and silent at a time like this? If He loves us as He says, why was He letting us drown?

Then, with one word from Him, the storm was over. And I see that once again, I have not done what I long to do. I have failed to live by trusting the Lord God Almighty who loves me.

He didn’t ask me to walk across the water to Him. All He asked was that I trust in His presence, that I rest safe in His love. Yet now, after the storm has calmed, I hear Him say, yet again, “Why were you so afraid? You have so little faith.”

His brother, James, wrote, Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

So now I confess. After all these years with Him, after I have seen with my own eyes proof of His care and provision and love—yet still I doubted. How little my faith. I hear His words and feel my own sorrow.

Lord Jesus! Hear my cry. Heal my unbelief and teach me to rest secure in Your love.

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Chapter 24: Faith — Don’t Underestimate God

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

All material is copyrighted and cannot be used without permission of the author.

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Chapter 24
Faith — Don’t Underestimate God

Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

       Now that will preach, won’t it! That doesn’t even sound like much faith is required; a mustard seed isn’t very big at all. Faith that small can move a mountain? Wow.

       Then why isn’t my life going better at times? I guess sometimes my faith is even smaller than a mustard seed. My problems have always stemmed from one and only one thing — I don’t trust God. If I trusted Him, why wouldn’t I do things His way? Simply put, because I don’t trust Him and I think if I don’t do things my way I might miss out on something. So I cave in to my fear and make a mess.

       I do it in every arena of my life. I’ll shave the truth a little at the office or manipulate a little at home. I’ll put a round corner on that deal I’m doing or I’ll try to tell my friends my side of things to get them to endorse my irresponsible actions. I’ll put myself before a friend or before my wife, fearing I’ll miss out if I don’t.

       It goes on and on . . . I just don’t trust that He will supply my needs and what’s good for me. I don’t believe He wants what’s good for me; I believe He’s out to take something away or restrict me. After all, us free spirits need a little elbow room, right?

       How can we have such little faith? As Christians, we say we believe our God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. We say we believe He healed the lame and the crippled and the blind, He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, then He himself rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples and others.

      But no, He couldn’t fix our marriage. There’s no way He could get involved in our finances and get our checkbook squared away. Of course he parted the Red Sea for Moses, but He couldn’t handle our businesses or our jobs or our kids while they’re away at college. There’s no way He could handle our addictions or get someone out of an affair. He couldn’t repair that friendship or that parent-child relationship. Certainly He could never help me forgive someone or help them forgive me. No, that stuff is way too big for Him. He needs to stick to small stuff like making dead guys walk around or restoring sight to the blind or creating kangaroos and azaleas and clouds — the simple things. He couldn’t possibly handle my stuff; it’s too big for Him.

       The second we say that in our minds, we start taking matters into our own hands.

       Oops, that’s what got us into this mess in the first place.

       Maybe, though, God is too busy for me; yeah, that’s probably it. Let’s see, He sent His Son to die for me, yet I’m not important, hmm…  I’ve got three kids and a grandson, and I’m not about to even have them spanked for anyone else, much less killed. Yet God did that for me . . . and I think I just don’t fit into His schedule? Besides, my issues are too trivial for God; I’d even be ashamed to ask.

       Where do we get this stuff? This again is just lies; we’re deceived into separating ourselves from the Father and not trusting Him with our concerns large or small. I love it when my kids trust me enough to come to me with their concerns. Why wouldn’t my heavenly Father want me to come to Him?

       I’ll just share this very personal story from my family.

       When my daughter Sara was entering her teen years, she was going through some difficult things. Kay gave her a mustard seed spice bottle with that scripture printed on a small piece of paper inside the bottle.

       The Christmas Kay and I were separated, Sara put the bottle and scripture in my Christmas stocking. Finding it, I burst into tears and realized if I just held on to my faith, God could repair my marriage. I believed when no one else did, and God showed up strong in the middle of my crisis. He moved mountains of issues right before my eyes. He created Kay, yet I had doubted that He could sway her — until Sara handed me that message.

       OK, how about it? Got any mountains in your life that need to be moved? Is your faith even as big as a mustard seed? Do you believe God has a plan for your life? Do you believe in Him to help you carry that out? Are there things in your life that need more faith in Him? Are you shorting yourself because you just don’t believe He wants the absolute best for you? Here’s where the rubber really hits the road; the challenges you’re facing right now in your life — do you think God can handle them?

       Would you be willing to try something new? The next time you think a situation is hopeless or you think the only way through it is to grab it by the horns your way, would you just pray instead for Him to show you His awesome ability to move mountains?

       Just believe He will, start digging, and get ready for the show. Even the slightest flicker of faith as small as a mustard seed saves my butt over and over.

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Next:  Serve Others     

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Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

Weary and discouraged? “What do you choose to see?”

I am trying to open my eyes today, because it is the only thing that will keep me going. I am straining to see, looking through a dark and blurry glass.

It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going, because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)

Moses moves the children of Israel out of Egypt, no longer afraid of the people who had kept them as slaves for 400 years.

Walking away from that which held them captive for centuries! Walking away from a power that previously crushed and crippled! Walking away, without fear.

I want to walk to freedom, without fear, keeping my eyes on the One who is invisible.

But what if today I cannot open my eyes, much less see? I am blind and captive and weary.

So I go to the Scriptures for daily manna, ask for the Bread that gives life. I ask for eyes to see, eyes of faith.

Father, let me see.

Let me see the One who is invisible. Isn’t that what faith is? Seeing God in whatever we are looking at? Seeing, in the midst of all of my life, His gifts, His glory and power, His working for our good? Eyes not open to the One Invisible see only hopelessness, no redemption.

Eyes that can see are eyes of faith, able to live.

But Father, I cannot see today! Today, I cannot walk by faith. Help my unbelief.

The answer is gentle: You have eyes, child. What do you choose to see?

It is truth. Christ, the Truth, came to open eyes that are blind. His Spirit does that now, every day.

The Spirit reminds me: I have eyes. I have just been looking at the wrong things.

I have been looking at the Egyptian slave drivers, at bricks that must be made without straw, at the king who drowns baby boys in the river, at enemies who pursue me to snatch away my freedom, at the impossible Red Sea, at barren desert around me.

I must shift my soul’s gaze.

Let us run the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Jesus, the One who opens our blind eyes, also gives us new eyes of faith.
     Eyes to see the invisible.
     Eyes to see things that will last forever (2 Corinthians 4:18).
     Eyes to understand the hope, riches, and power given to the child of God.
            Ephesians 1:18)

Jesus, the Truth, will perfect my faith … is perfecting my faith. But if I do not keep my eyes on Him, daily take in the Living Water and Bread of Life, I become discouraged and weary.

Interesting, that the Hebrews 12 passage says that if you keep your eyes on Jesus, you won’t become weary and give up. And that’s exactly what happened to the Israelites in slavery. Even when Moses brought them God’s promise of rescue and a new land of milk and honey, they refused to listen. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. (Exodus 6:9)

Jesus, you have opened my eyes to the Invisible One. You are Truth. You have initiated my faith. Perfect it! 

The Might of Higher Communings

One more statement to add to the list of swallowings: My human desires swallowed up by His divine nature.

 

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)

 

Read the first statement in that passage again, and try to answer this question honestly:  Do I believe that?

On the days when you feel overwhelmed, on the days when all that is mortal within you rises up and shows its ugly face, on the days that living a godly life seems like a hopeless ideal … can you still believe that God makes available to you everything you need to live a godly life?

Even more radical, can you believe that your nature can change, that you can share God’s divine nature? Wow. Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? Spirit, help our unbelief!

Tucked between those two statements is the secret of “how” this happens. We have received all of this by coming to know him, and by acting on the promises He has made us.

In Diary of an Old Soul, George MacDonald writes:

And he who thinks, in his great plenitude,
To right himself, and set his spirit free,
Without the might of higher communings,
Is foolish also…..

How we long to have our spirits set free. On those days when discouragement, defeat, black moods, temper, selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, and a host of other mortal powers threaten to shipwreck our lives — how our spirits cry to be free of those things!

We struggle to right ourselves. But we’re very much like the disciples of Jesus, tossed about in a little boat in the middle of a stormy lake. We know we can’t save ourselves. All we can do is cry “Master, Master! We’re going to drown!”  

Only the Master calms the waves. Only the Spirit of God can cleanse us. Only the “might of higher communings” sets us free.

Isn’t it wonderful that Peter is the one who writes this to us? Peter, the disciple who walked on water, and then sank. Peter, the one who declared Jesus was the Son of God, and then deserted Him when He was arrested. Peter, who surely knew just as many ups and downs in his faith walk as we do, but whose life was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now Peter knows his death is near, and he encourages us, tells us that God gives us everything we need to live godly lives.

We receive what we need by coming to know God and by acting on His promises to us.  

Psalm 25:15,20

My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.

Only the LORD releases us from the snare, from the mortal. He rescues us, guards our lives, holds us in His hands, gives us everything we need to live His life. 

Our mortal is swallowed up by his divine nature. Amazing.

This is the hope to which you’re called today, child of God.