The Weary Christian

If you are trying to live a spiritual life anywhere close to New Testament Christianity, you will experience times of weariness. Weariness with trials. Weariness with trying. Weariness with sin. Weariness with failing. Weariness with ministry. Weariness with fighting off temptations. It comes in all types and sizes.

There are a lot of saints experiencing spiritual fatigue.

If you are one of them, you are not alone (1 Corinthians 10:13). Spiritual weariness has been around as long as people have been around. I’m sure that Job grew weary in his trials. That Noah grew weary of people refusing to listen to his warning of impending judgment (120 years!). That Elijah grew weary when he thought that he was the only one standing up for God. That Peter grew weary with his failure. That Paul grew weary in his travels and trials. That the early Christians grew weary in their persecutions.

If you are a weary Christian, you are in good company.

God did not design the Christian life to be easy. Jesus said, In this world you will have tribulations (John 16:33). Enough tribulation will eventually lead to weariness.

That’s why God promised to give us strength. He gives power to the weary and to those who have no strength He gives strength (Isaiah 40:29). A few verses later the prophet wrote Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

The answer to spiritual weariness is power. Not our power but His Power.

God knew that we would struggle with spiritual fatigue, so He offered to give us His power and His strength. It is only as we live in the power and strength of God that we will be able to overcome spiritual weariness.

In the New Testament we are encouraged with these words: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).

Spiritual weariness is to be expected but it is not to be accepted. As long as we have the power of the risen Lord Jesus available we don’t have to give in.

That power is explained in the words of scripture; sought in prayer; made available by the death of Jesus; and applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit.

It is possible to live in power not in weariness.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

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What’s With All the Anger?

I can’t prove it and I don’t want to overstate it, but it seems like anger has taken over. We live in an angry world. Just watch the news or read any online news site and you’ll see it. Anger abounds.

It was evident in the Senate hearings for the Supreme Court Justice. It showed up in the women’s final of the U. S. Open. Nike has experienced it. John Gruden knows what it’s about. Bob Woodward has raised the level.

If that isn’t enough to convince you just check out Facebook posts!

And it’s not just in the United States. It’s in every country. Political parties promote anger to get their voters to the polls. Athletes hype themselves up on anger. The rest of us resort to anger when we don’t like what someone else has done.

It really doesn’t take much to set us off.

The Bible has something to say about anger.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:3

But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Colossians 3:8

Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:20

Yes, I know it also says Be angry and do not sin (Ephesians 4:26) and a lot of Christians use that as their go-to text to justify their anger. Go ahead, try it – getting angry without sinning. You won’t get far with that.

God lumps anger in with bitterness, blasphemy, and filthy talk. Things most Christians try to avoid at all costs. Things Christians condemn in others while harboring anger in their own lives.

Talk about hypocrisy.

The fact is that God condemns anger in the strongest terms because it is the exact opposite of what He is trying to accomplish in your life.

You can’t have anger and holiness. The two cannot coexist. You’re either going to have one or the other.

So the next time that you’re tempted to speak about someone in anger, or lash out on Facebook in anger, remember that you and God aren’t on the same path.

And He’s not the one that needs to change.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Wise Women

One of the issues that churches wrestle with is the role of women in the church, especially in the area of leadership. Can a woman serve as the Pastor? Can women be Elders or Deacons?

What exactly is the role of women in the church?

It seems obvious that we will never reach a unanimous consensus. Those who believe that some leadership roles are restricted just to men have built their case from specific teachings in the Bible and are not likely to change. Those who believe that there are no restrictions on women serving in leadership roles have done the same.

Too often there is more heat than light in these types of discussions. That’s not helpful.

Regardless of which side you find yourself on in this issue, I want to remind all of us that there are significant roles that women can perform in the church.

One of the most significant roles is the role of the wise woman of Tekoa.

2 Samuel 14 records the story of a woman from the village of Tekoa who moved King David to action when even his advisers could not persuade the king to act. As a result she has become known as the wise woman of Tekoa.

There are other examples of women in the Bible that were used in very special ways by God. Women like Easter, Deborah, Anna, and Mary come to mind.

What is so intriguing is that these women lived in totally male-dominated cultures. Women were not only subservient to men but were often viewed as property to be owned and used by men. To advise kings, lead armies or speak words of prophecy were not only unusual but violated every standard of society. But thank God these women were there.

As a pastor I’ve been privileged to have some of these wise women in my churches. Women who were in the right place at the right time for God to use them. And I have benefited greatly from their wisdom. They are often older women. They don’t normally have much to say in public meetings but aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said in private. They don’t perceive themselves as wise, but they have accumulated a life-time of keen observations of people and events. They have walked with God, learned from the Word of God and talk with God as friends talk together. They have an intimate relationship with the Almighty.

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from these women, but one that stands out is that none of us know when or how God will use us if we, like these wise women, are spiritually ready to be used. One of the intriguing things about these women is that they don’t always know that they are speaking words of wisdom at the time they speak. It is simply that their collective time with God has given them a godly perspective on life so that when they speak they speak wisely.

That should be the goal – and it is an attainable goal – for each of us. To speak wisdom into every situation and event of life. That is only possible as we are immersed in the wisdom of God’s Word. Psalm 19:7 says the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple (spiritually unwise).

Wisdom for life can only come from the Word of God as we apply it to our everyday lives.

The challenge then is to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul who wrote, See then that you walk (live) circumspectly (accurately), not as foolish people but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Spiritual Apathy

Apathy refers to a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. It’s OK to be apathetic about some things in life but in other areas it’s dangerous.

There’s no problem if a wife is apathetic about sports or a husband is apathetic about shopping for shoes. It is a problem, however if she is apathetic about taking her blood pressure medicine or he about wearing his safety helmet on the construction site.

Apathy in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in the Christian life apathy is never a good thing. It was apparently epidemic in the church in Laodicea and they were severely chastised by God (Revelation 3:14f).

Unfortunately, many Christians suffer from the sickness of spiritual apathy.

It is one of the most ignored problems in the church today. We’ve reached a spiritual low where we’re just happy if people show up on Sunday morning for an hour. They don’t have to DO anything, just be there and we’re good with that.

The problem is that you can have a full church of apathetic people. Church attendance alone is not an indication of a vibrant, connected, ministering church.

The malaise of spiritual apathy is far more dangerous than we recognize. At its core it’s a heart condition. Life is lived by the dictates of the heart (Proverbs 4:23). If you find yourself uninterested, unenthusiastic, or unconcerned about spiritual things it’s because your heart has fallen into an apathetic state.

Rarely, if ever, does spiritual apathy manifests itself in open rebellion. Instead it’s a secret thing, sometimes not even evident to those around us (although often evident to others before we even admit its presence in our lives). Spiritual apathy doesn’t care; it’s an I-can-take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward spiritual things: Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, church, witnessing, our world view, our mental and emotional filters, relationships, service etc.

The thing about spiritual apathy is that it rarely strikes like a bolt of lightning. Instead it sneaks up on you; it’s a process that you don’t see coming. Few Christians become apathetic overnight – but they do over years. We all know people who at one time were faithful but who over time stopped attending church, reading their bibles, praying, witnessing – in short, stopped living the Christian life in any meaningful way.

Spiritually apathetic Christians rarely admit it, either because they are spiritually blind to their own condition or because of the hardness of their hearts. But make no mistake about it, spiritual apathy will damage your Christian life as much as any outward sin.

That’s why it is imperative to maintain a connection in Christ (John 15). Because the alternative is to slowly dry up and become useless to the Kingdom of God.

The key is to guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), or to keep it with all diligence (NKJB). Because once the heart falls, the rest of life will be close behind.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Trusting God

I started a new series in our church yesterday called Unreasonable Faith. Sometimes in the Christian life, God askes us to do things that from our perspective might seem unreasonable, even impossible.

Let me stress that they are not unreasonable when you look at them with spiritual eyes. But most of the time we aren’t looking at life through the eyes of faith and it’s then that things begin to appear as unreasonable.

I began the series with a sermon called Unreasonable Trust.  Even in the darkest times of life God wants our complete trust in His goodness and in the fact that what He does is always right (Proverbs 3:5-6) even if we don’t understand it.

He wants (from a human perspective) an unreasonable trust. He wants our complete, total trust in every situation.

There is so much to say in a sermon like that, that you can’t say everything. But my wife reminded me that I left out something very important. I never answered the question What can I do that will help me trust God more?

So, let me give you a couple of ideas how you can build that kind of trust in God.

Remember the Past

It’s all over the Old Testament. Whenever Israel was down, discouraged, despairing, or even forgetting God, they were reminded of the past. Specifically of the things that God had done for them in their ancient history.

He brought plagues on Egypt; He parted the Red Sea; He gave them water from the rock; He led them through the wilderness; He provided manna for them; He gave them meat to eat (all mentioned in Psalm 78 and other places).

The point was that as they remembered these events, they would be reminded of the faithfulness of God – that He was worth trusting. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 78, said that the value of remembering was that they might set their hope in God, and not forget His works (Psalm 78:7).

The point is that God is worth trusting because of what He has done for you in the past.

What has God done in your life, sometime in the past, that you need to remember today?

Build Monuments

When Israel crossed the Jordan river into the Promise Land, God told them to build a monument using twelve stones from the river. One stone for each tribe.

The purpose of the monument was so they would never forget what happened at that time and in that place (Joshua 4:1-7). And when their children in future years asked them the meaning of the stones, they could tell them what God had done. They were to be stones of remembrance.

Again, the point was that they could trust the God of the past to be their God today.

I’m not suggesting that you build a stone memorial when God answers your prayer or is faithful to you in some other way. There may be other ways you can build a monument. If you’re into journaling, write it down. Take pictures if that’s appropriate. Have your children color pictures and hang them in the upstairs hallway.

Do something to remind you that God is worth trusting.

Know Him Better

There is a direct relationship between how well you know someone and how much you trust them.

Do you remember the game you use to play where you fell backward and hoped that another player would catch you? Sometimes it’s called Trust Fall.

If you didn’t know the person who was supposed to catch you, it was harder to trust them.

The same thing is true of God. You’re only going to trust God to the extent that you know Him.

When the Bible tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5) it’s implying that you know God with all your heart.

The better you know Him the more you’ll trust Him.

So, spend time in your Bible, praying, meditating on the Word, listening to the Word, worshiping and praising Him. You’ll be amazed at what it will do for your trust.

Complete trust in God won’t come naturally. You’ll have to be intentional about developing it.

It is possible.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Understanding God

If you think that’s a preposterous title, you’re right.  The fact is, we cannot understand God. At least not in the way we want to.

No one can. No one ever could. Job struggled with understanding God and even when he gained a better understanding of God (Job 42:5-6), he still only knew a fraction about God. David struggled to understand God. That’s why he said things like, teach me (Psalm 25:4), lead me (Psalm 25:5), and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

The vast majority of what we know about God is because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. Not because of our intelligence or investigative abilities.

And that puts us in a difficult place.

Since we can’t understand God the way we understand each other, we don’t know why He does what He does in our lives unless He reveals it to us. And He doesn’t always chose to do that.

We can’t understand why He doesn’t do away with all pain and suffering. We can’t understand why He doesn’t answer prayer the way we think He should. We can’t understand why He puts (allows – I’ll let you battle that one) us through the fires of life. We can’t understand that He loves us (He said that!) but treats us like He doesn’t love us (we think that!).

The list of what we don’t understand about God is long. Longer than what we DO understand.

And that’s where faith comes in (Hebrews 11:1, 6).

God wants us to relate to Him on the basis of Faith, not on the basis of familiarity. You don’t have to understand every little detail of God’s plan to accept it by faith.

The issue is how much do you Trust Him, not how much do you Understand of His ways.

Yes, there are things about God that we can understand. But again, it comes back to His revelation. We can understand all that God has told us, but we cannot understand what He hasn’t told us. And there’s more that He hasn’t told us than there is of what He has told us.

But He’s told us enough so that we can Trust Him.

He’s told us that He loves us (1 John 4:9, 19). He’s told us that there is mercy for us (Ephesians 2:4). He’s told us that grace is available (2 Corinthians 12:9). He’s told us that there is hope (1 Peter 1:13). He’s told us that there is a better day coming (Revelation 7:17). And so much more.

And we believe it – we accept it by faith.

It’s not necessary for you to understand everything about God. Or even to understand a little about God. It IS necessary for you to express faith in His wisdom and love for you.

When you don’t understand God, live by faith.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Frustration is Coming!

Frustration! It’s defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. Man, do I get that feeling – often! Too often.

We all get frustrated. If you aren’t frustrated today you will be another day. Frustration is Coming!

So how are Christians supposed to handle feelings of frustration?

I don’t know all the answers but here are some things, in no particular order, that you might want to work through.

A. Ask yourself if your feelings are legitimate. It might be that you are upset or annoyed over something that you shouldn’t be. Your feelings of frustration may have more to do with you than with whatever is stopping you. Feelings are tricky things.

Read Jeremiah 17:9.

B. Ask yourself if this is what you should be doing. It may be that God doesn’t want you to change whatever you’re trying to change. Or achieve whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. This will involve prayer – perhaps a lot of prayer to determine if God is stopping your efforts.

Read Psalm 73:24.

C. Ask yourself if whatever is frustrating you is in line with the Word of God. This relates to #2 but is slightly different. Too many times Christians want to do things that are not in agreement with God’s Word and they are frustrated when God stops them. He’s doing it for your own good.

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

D. Ask yourself if this is something that you need to put on hold and come back to at a later time. Today may not be the right time. Tomorrow (figuratively) may be the right time. You might not be ready yet, whereas with more spiritual growth you might be.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-8.

E. Ask yourself if you have included God in your plans. Many times in life we strike out on our own to achieve something without consulting God. Have you searched the Bible to make sure your plans are not contradictory to what the Scriptures teach? Have you spent time in prayer asking God to direct your steps?

Read James 4:13-17.

F. Ask yourself if you are Trusting God or if you are Trusting yourself (or someone else, or your plans). The book of Proverbs makes it clear that we are to walk in trust and when we do, God will guide us.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6

G. Ask yourself if it’s really that important. Sometimes we are frustrated over things that are really not that important in life. Don’t burn up valuable time and energy on things that are not worth it. Be discerning.

Read Philippians 1:9-10.

Frustration may be a good and necessary sign that we need to step back and reexamine our desires, decisions, and plans.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve