Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

            A few hours ago a friend and I were musing about the difficulties we’ve experienced in our lives over the past year. “I wonder if God is taking a nap,” may have been uttered. Both of us have been through our fair share of suffering, but if it was a contest I’d have to say she is the winner, hands down. So in a lot of ways I remind myself that as bad as I think my situation is, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be (don’t we all try to make ourselves feel better with that statement?). Our conversation sort of ended with a, “Well, life sucks, time to go take a shower now.”

            As I’ve been doing a lot lately, I stood in the shower after our talk and stared at the wall, thinking, praying, complaining, questioning…and finally I just had to ask, “Why does it have to be like this, God? I mean, why does it have to take thirty years for someone to find out they’ve been married to a monster? Why has it taken me over a year of suffering without any answers or diagnosis? Why, if we have to suffer, can’t it just be quick? Why couldn’t she have found out about her spouse a year into her marriage? Why couldn’t I have gotten a diagnosis last year when this all started instead of being turned away time and again by doctor after doctor? Why, why, why?”

            Of course I know better than to ask “why,” but for some reason I chose to go that route with God anyways. And as it happens when things like this are going on, God has been strangely silent during my prayer times. But this time (maybe He’d heard enough whining?) He chose to speak to me. He said, “What if it’s not about you?” And that was it. He allowed me to stew on that one for a while. So I stood there staring at the walls, having just received a verbal crack upside the heart with a truth so simple yet so profound I couldn’t even respond.

            Then I thought of Job, how he probably suffered more than any human being in the history of humanity (besides Jesus), and how he never had the privilege of knowing the “why” behind his tragedy. Not that he didn’t ask, but God never answered him specifically (at least, not on this side of heaven). And then I think of how many people throughout the course of time have been helped because of Job’s story. How many people have suffered and turned to the pages of that book to find the answer to their “why” only to stumble across chapters 38-42, and realize they probably won’t ever know their “why” either, but somehow gaining a measure of hope from his story.

            Then I think of how much my friend has suffered, and I consider how much my spiritual life has grown just through knowing her, and as a result of watching her suffer. Maybe, just maybe, my suffering isn’t about me at all. You know, we say it all the time (and I hate hearing it, honestly) that “God is just teaching me a lesson right now, I’m trying to listen to what He’s saying” as if God is some cosmic sadist getting some sort of pleasure out of causing us pain, just to teach us a lesson. That is not the God I know from the Bible, my God isn’t a sadist. My God came to give me life to the full (John 10:10), not cause me misery in order to teach me something. But, that doesn’t mean pain or suffering isn’t a part of the process of life, in general. And who am I to presume to know the plans and purposes of God, anyways? How do I know what God is doing in someone else’s life as a result of my suffering? The truth is, I don’t know, and neither do you. We don’t know who is watching us or being ministered to through our pain. We don’t have a clue as to what God is up to about 99% of the time. We only know what we wish He were up to, or what we expect Him to be up to, and most of the time (at least in my experience) he rarely delivers as expected (I find He delivers far better than expected).

            I sit here and think of all the people who have influenced me in my life, and many of those people suffered a great deal. A lot of what God taught me had to do with watching them respond to their circumstances. And all of this gives me pause. Because if my suffering isn’t even about me, that means God is using me for some greater purpose in someone else’s life, even if I’ll never know who, what, or why. Who am I to be used by God? All of a sudden my “why” turns into an “Oh, thank you, God, for choosing me!” Not that I am happy about suffering (who is?) but knowing all of this actually has nothing to do with me gives me some measure of peace within the ugly process of hurting.

            Throughout the past few weeks God has brought a verse to mind repeatedly, and it’s worth noting here, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” Ephesians 5:16, NLT. The reality is we are all going to suffer. Some of us will experience great loss. Some of us will die younger than we had thought. Some of us will be considered “Modern day Jobs” by our friends. Some of us won’t really suffer much at all. But one thing we all have in common is that from the moment we take our first breath, we are already beginning the process of losing time and dying. So as William Wallace shares in the movie Braveheart, “All men die, not every man truly lives.”

            Within the process of suffering a pathway to true living exists, through embracing the pain (not with a giddy, happy, la-la kind of feeling, but in an embrace of surrender) and trusting that God is choosing to use us in His master plan in ways we won’t be able to comprehend. That maybe this journey we’re on isn’t even about us, it’s about Him and seeing how intricately he fits the pieces of our puzzles together to bring ultimate life abundant to us and others, all for His glory. Like Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What Satan meant for harm, God used for good.”

            Then again, maybe none of what I’m saying here makes sense to anyone but me. I don’t know. I just know that at least in my suffering, I am gaining a bit of relief in knowing it’s not about me at all. And I’m finding a way to be thankful in it, even excited about it, because I know God is working something incredible out. And whether I know what it is on this side of heaven or on the other, I will understand it eventually, and when the final picture is brought together, I know I’ll be smiling as Jesus looks at me and says, “It hurt, but it was worth it, don’t you think?” Yeah, it is, Jesus, it is.

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When Jesus Won’t Fight For You

When Jesus Won’t Fight For You

 

He called me out smack in the middle of the class, thirty or so people staring wide-eyed as I sat there in tears. “It’s easy to ask Jesus to fight for us, isn’t it? Because then it’s His fault when we continue to struggle,” he said.

Just before receiving that verbal slap in the face, I had shared an extremely sensitive situation with Steve—in front of the entire Sunday class. I had confessed dealing with a major temptation, and thoughts of giving in were all-consuming, I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I had spent a great deal of time during the weeks previous begging God to deliver me from the inevitable. At one point I called an old friend and mentor out of desperation and confessed my inner torment. She counseled me, “Girl, you need to get on your knees and give it God. Ask Him to fight for you.”

Well, that sounded good, and that’s what I did. But why wasn’t it working? Tearfully I vomited out my situation to Steve as the class looked on. I told him how I’d been begging God to deliver me; to fight for me, but it just didn’t seem to be working. That’s when he stopped everything and called out the BS in my thinking.

Maybe you’ve heard it before? I know I’ve heard it prayed numerous times over the years, “Oh Jesus, fight for so and so.” I’ve had people pray it over me and I’ve prayed it for others. It sounds great and I had never thought this phrase or prayer was unbiblical until Steve served me a healthy dose of truth that morning.

“Guess what, Rebecca, Jesus already did fight for you—and He won.”

Wait, what?!

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14

Notice the verb tenses used here: has, brought, have, instead of is or bringing. These are all past tense. It’s a done deal.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:15

“You have been raised with Christ.” Colossians 3:1

“He has reconciled you.” Colossians 1:22

“In Him you were also circumcised…not with the circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” Colossians 2:11

“God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:14

Is it sinking in yet? Maybe you should take a few moments to slowly read through the book of Colossians if you’re still in doubt.

The truth is, Jesus fought and won the battle for our freedom on the cross, and the moment we surrendered our life to Christ, inviting Him to take over what we realized we couldn’t do for ourselves (salvation), the war was over. Unfortunately for us, the hardest part is to really believe this truth—that the war was fought and won at the cross. That is where our Enemy comes in and the ball gets put in our court. Jesus says, “I’ve already won. I already fought for you. Now it’s your turn to use the weapons of warfare I’ve provided to resist your Enemy.” You see, Satan will spend the rest of his days trying to convince us we are helpless. And you know what? He’s pretty damn good at it. Just look around—you won’t have to look far to see churches full of lifeless defeated Christians, struggling from day to day just to exist and go through the motions. This, friends, is not the “life to the full” we’ve been promised.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Now how exactly can our Enemy steal, kill, and destroy what Jesus has already done? He can’t! But he can deceive us into thinking he can (the devil is a schemer!). And this great illusion by the greatest Counterfeiter of all time is what trips us up. Satan’s ruse is all smoke and mirrors. It’s a mind game, and it’s a good one, one that takes a lot of Christians out entirely through depression, apostasy, suicide, and lukewarm worldliness, among other things.

As children of the God of Angel Armies (The Lord of Hosts) we have been given the authority and responsibility to fight against the Enemy with the weapons Jesus has equipped us with. But this isn’t the crazy whack-a-mole type of violent fight we conjure up in our imaginations. It’s a remarkably motionless fight. Really, it requires a lot of standing around.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemesPut on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand…be alert and keep on always praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:11-18

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. Because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

Fact: The day of evil is coming. We will be tempted, we will be sought after, and we will be preyed upon. It is an inevitable fact of life if you’re a child of God. And yes, it will suck, it will hurt, and you’ll feel like giving up.

Fact: You do have a responsibility in this. Jesus has already fought and won this war. But the battle for your life continues and is opposed by your enemy. Jesus equipped you to resist these attacks with weapons like the belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith…etc.

Fact: It will be hard. In fact, it will be harder to resist these attacks by standing firm on faith and truth then it will be to give in to the doubt, depression, and defeat of the Enemies lies (“You’re a failure, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never succeed, God can’t use you, and you’re such a hypocrite, just give up, might as well do what you’ve been doing, change is too hard…”).

Fact: Resisting the Enemy is a choice we all have. We can choose to stand on the word of truth, or listen to the whispers of temptation, shame, and doubt. We can choose to believe that Jesus won this war, or we can choose to keep asking Him to do what he’s already done. Most of our inner struggles boil down to a choice we aren’t making (to believe the truth!).

Fact: When we are being attacked, we will not want to pray. Our spiritual life will be opposed. We will feel as if we have no business talking to God. Things like anger, bitterness, shame, regret, and guilt will interfere and distract our communion with God. This distraction is just that—a distraction. It is not a reality. God has not left us. He has turned his ear from us. He hears us even when the Enemy whispers to us that our prayers are bouncing off the walls. This is why we are admonished to pray without ceasing. Keep talking to Jesus! Continue to pour your heart out to Him! HE IS ALWAYS THERE. Once again, stop asking Jesus to “be with” you or “be with so and so.” This is another one of those prayers He can’t respond to because He’s already answered it! He is always there and He will never leave. Instead, replace such requests with, “Jesus, help me to experience your presence because I know you are with me. Thank you for never leaving me even when the Enemy tries to convince me I am alone.”

Friends, Jesus has already fought for you. Now you get to stand firm on that truth. He has never left you. Ask Him to help you see with new eyes and trust His word with both your head and your heart. Ask Him to align your emotions with the truth and resist the Enemy whenever you are tempted to doubt what you know is true. You have a choice—the ball is in your court. Resist him and he will flee. That is God’s promise to you; now you must choose to stand on it.

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Related articles:

If You really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

Why You Might Need to Stand on Your Head 

“Where are You Seated?” by Cheryl Lutz

Hello friends,

I have a special (and brief) request from you, faithful readers. My dear friend and fellow spiritual warfare warrior, Cheryl, is trying to expand her teaching ministry, and would love to have the support of others who are as passionate about sharing the truth as we are. Please read her short note below and consider taking literally a second of your time to click the “follow” button on her website. It is free and would greatly encourage her! Thank you!

~Rebecca Aarup

 

Where are You Seated?

by Cheryl Lutz

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-6)

 

“The minute you entered the kingdom of God, you were outfitted for battle.  Each piece of your armor was provided in salvation.  And although ultimate victory is secure, you must put on each piece of the armor if you’re going to win the battle.  Not a piece can be missing.  Then, you must stand firm!” Kay Arthur

 

Please consider subscribing to my blog as we seek to overcome our fear of the ancient foe through finding peace in our identity.

 

My next post will be, “What is Spiritual Warfare?”  Please take a minute to write a question you would like to see addressed, or leave a comment stating what comes to your mind when you hear the words “spiritual warfare”.

 

All who leave a comment will be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of Chip Ingram’s book, “The Invisible War” !

___________________

cheryl-lutz-6466-200pxCheryl Lutz is passionate for women to discover the heart of God. A pastor’s wife for twenty-three years, Cheryl possesses a vibrant love for God and how He reveals Himself through His written Word. Cheryl brings more than two decades of teaching the Bible to the women of her congregation. Her ability to glean truth from His Word in bold and engaging ways endears her to the women she leads. A robust confidence in Christ and in His healing power has emerged through her victorious battle with the enemy. Cheryl connects to the heart of women daily through her transparency and desire to help raise awareness of the intense spiritual attacks Satan launches, especially against those in public ministry.

She is elated to be a part of a ground floor outreach to women in Haiti who care for orphans. Sisters for Haiti has a heart to train these precious women to not only feed and clothe orphans, but most importantly, to disciple them spiritually.

For speaking engagements, please contact Cheryl Lutz by e-mail at clutz40@gmail.com. To read more, visit Cheryl’s website, and follow her on facebook and twitter.

Satan, God, the Flesh and Spiritual Warfare

If you read my recent post (So, What is YOUR Word) you already know that my 2012 was defined by “perseverance”. To elaborate further, the perseverance revolved primarily around spiritual warfare (consider one of my most popular posts this year: Freedom is Here). Yes, there were health issues, financial issues, and relational issues, but the biggest issue was Satan. (And no, I’m not saying “the devil made me do it”.)

I didn’t kick off the New Year asking God to give me a new word; I had already learned my lesson from 2012. However, God has clearly given me a new focus: spiritual warfare. Perhaps the appropriate “word” would be: fight.

Let’s be honest here, you probably aren’t reading too many articles about spiritual warfare, Satan, and his evil spirits, are you? Neither am I. So my mission in 2013 is to change that. After all, there are plenty of people writing about relationship problems, financial woes, and health issues. There are plenty of people writing awesome devotions and providing good soul-food to inspire and encourage. And for the majority of 2012 I also wrote about a variety of things from devotionals to health and fitness to marriage. This year I am choosing to focus on what I’ve learned and experienced regarding Satan, spiritual warfare, freedom and truth, so I can really help someone live in the spiritual abundance they were created for (as well as keeping myself well grounded). Step one involves identifying the problem. So in my next post (and many more to follow) I will address some of these questions:

Is there an Enemy?

What does he sound/look like?

What is the difference between the flesh and the devil?

How can I recognize God’s voice over my own desires?

Is Satan really messing with my mind on a daily basis?

Are there really spirits out there trying to control me?

If I am a Christian, aren’t I immune to demonic power?

Should I address spiritual warfare with my child, and if so, how?

I hope you’re well-armored, because the more you know about the schemes of the devil, the more opposition you can expect to encounter. This isn’t for the faint of heart. This is serious, this is life or death.

I’m going to share a passage I read and pray with my daughter every morning before we start our day (she is five years old).

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all the strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spiritual world. So, use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will be standing up.” Ephesians 6:11-13

If you’ve subscribed to this blog because you enjoy my devotionals and other articles, don’t worry, I share all of my favorite Christian influencer blogs/articles/devotions every day on twitter and my facebook author page, so if you’re on either of those services and are following me, then you are already receiving great soul-food material from great Christian authors every time they post something new. (Authors like Beth Moore, Joel Rosenberg, John and Stasi Eldredge, and many more, along with some “lesser” known names whom I’ve stumbled across in the writing world and whom have a great voice for truth.) I also host an online women’s ministry which shares a great deal of inspirational/devotional material from women all over the world. My social networking sites are used primarily for the spreading of truth from other great writers to make transforming teaching readily available to you at your convenience. I will also continue to post articles I have published in other periodicals here on this website, along with the occasional book review (again, another way I like to share truth from the voice of other believers), as well as information about my upcoming book releases.

Buckle your seat belts and hang on to your Bibles, this ride is about to get bumpy!

Dear Critical Christian….

Dear Critical Christian,

I was so delighted to hear your request to understand my purpose in your life and the life of other Christians. I will address a few issues you seem to have recurring trouble with, and offer suggestions to help eradicate those feelings.

Critical Christian, I realize the family around the corner may appear to be in constant financial distress, but please try to refrain from suggesting the wife get a “real” job. What you may not understand is she is doing exactly what God has called her to do by raising her children at home and teaching them as instructed in Deuteronomy 6.

Critical Christian, I know the music is a bit loud every week at church but your mind may be put at ease through demonstrating your acceptance and understanding of your Pastor’s worship decisions. Reading 1 Timothy 6 will prove beneficial in this area. If it seems more than you can bear, you could consider a different congregation with the more aesthetically pleasing sounds you prefer.

Critical Christian, I understand you hold personal convictions regarding the use of alcohol, but I must refer to Romans 14. The family across town may not hold the same convictions as you. Just as you believe going to the theatre is perfectly fine while they choose to not own a television or view any secular media. Each person is subject to God equally, and will answer for their choices. Pointing fingers at everyone else’s decisions is tiresome work and I wouldn’t want you to get an ulcer.

Critical Christian, I know you feel bitter about the success of the family next door, but I would like to point out they have worked hard for more than three decades to attain what they have. They did not win the lottery but saved and sacrificed most of the time to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off, and now they enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as generously sharing their goods with their neighbors.  Be assured if you work hard, be a good steward of God’s blessings, make wise choices and generously give to those in need as God leads, you too will reap great rewards. I cannot promise your reward in this life on earth but can assure your reward in the Kingdom of God will be great. Matthew 25:14-30 illuminates this principle well.

Critical Christian, I sympathize with your ill feelings towards the family across the way and their poorly behaved children. I understand they are loud, rude, and often troublesome. I thought you may want to know that despite appearances, their parents have recently given their life to the Lord. As new believers they are uncertain how to apply Biblical principles. It may be good to remember you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, and it’s probably best to focus on your own family and training your kids as commanded in Deuteronomy 6. As you understand my work in your life to a greater degree, you will be given opportunities to share it with other believers.

Critical Christian, my time is running short and there are many others requesting my presence in their lives, so I must end this letter.  I pray you come to a perfect place of peace, letting nothing offend you as is written in Psalm 119:165.

Love God’s law with all your heart and serve Him with gladness. Memorize Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and practice it always.

Preach truth with your life always more than your words, for your life will validate your words.

Read Matthew 5-7. Study Matthew 5-7. Invite the Holy Spirit to live Matthew 5-7 in your life daily.

You may also enjoy reading words of wisdom in James 1:20-26.

Finally, Critical Christian, remember that to speak the truth in love first requires a heart of love. Any words of truth from a heart divided will certainly fall on deaf ears. You may consider memorizing Ephesians 5:1-2 as well.

Study Jesus and His example, for he and I are intertwined as one. There is no greater demonstration of my work than through His life and message.

A final warning: your experience of me may be hindered if you become deceived with your fleshly desires or the Enemy’s lies, so keep in fellowship with the Father always. John 15 explains this well.

The best advice I could leave with you regarding my work in your life is found in 1 Peter 5:5-10. Clothe yourself in humility and my presence will pour over your life continuously.

Sincerely,

Grace