Instruction

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 NIV

Instruction

Every day we are learning. We learn from past experiences, we learn from what others teach us (erroneously or not), we learn from what we read, what we watch, what we absorb through various means of media; we are constantly learning.

God can and will use many things to teach us his ways. The Psalmist mentions the use of afflictions as a blessing rather than a curse. “It was good…” How often are we overcome with afflictions and declare, “Wow this is great”? Well, I know I am not usually responding that way. Often it is not until the trial is long past that I can see any good. Sometimes I have never understood the good. There are some circumstances I hope and expect to understand someday when I see Jesus face to face but until then I ask, “What am I to learn?” I don’t want to miss what the trial was teaching. For whatever reason God has allowed the hardness into our lives, we can be sure there is something there to be learned.

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

Afflictions bring us into obedience, and Christ Himself learned this lesson! What a privilege to be tested in the same way as the Son of God! How do you react to the test? Does it bring you to obedience or do you feel compelled to rebel in anger and self-pity?

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15

We can’t talk about afflictions without mentioning Job. Surely, this righteous man of God knew a thing or two about suffering unjustly! What happened? God spoke to him through his afflictions. Which, by the way, God sovereignly allowed to come upon Job for no other reason than the devil asked God if he could test him! No secret sin to be revealed in Jobs life, only the certainty that Job would remain faithful to God and not curse him or fall into the poisonous cycle of cynicism. God delivered him, and spoke to him while he was suffering. God meets us in our affliction, and teaches us there. We must not shut our eyes or cover our ears to his message during that time! Self-pity is the number one silencer to the voice of God. Focus on yourself for a while and you’re sure to lose sight of any lesson God was trying to teach you.

“I applied my heart to what I observed and I learned a lesson from what I saw.” Proverbs 24:32

Are we determined to see Gods message? This is another vital point in the afflicted one. We must press on and wrestle if we are to discover the lesson God has set before us. I don’t want to leave any trial without that “blessing”. I have said as much in my prayers, “Lord, I am not leaving here until you show me what I am to know!” Sometimes he wants us to persevere and show some determination. Do we give up or press on? How focused are we on getting taught?

“We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Romans 5:3

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Peter 2:19

How else can we experience Gods pleasure over our passing the test unless we’ve been put to the test? How else can we mature as believers unless we are stretched like an archers bow? Are we willing to endure trials in faithfulness to receive the prize that is waiting? Do we trust that we will gain what he has promised through the refining fire?

We behave what we believe. If we’re not behaving like we trust him, we need to find out exactly what we believe about him.

“Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” Isaiah 49:13

Know that God is not pleased that we must endure suffering, but he is pleased when we come out of it shining with a crown of endurance! We can be sure he is pleased when we have sought his face and desired to learn his lessons with the pain! We can know that he is waiting to tell us, “Well done!” And won’t that be a marvelous day indeed! Well worth any trial!

Lastly, may our afflictions teach us not only how to trust our Lord, seek him, lean on him, and listen to him, but also to be contented with him.

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, (Every situation!) whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Christ Himself gives us His strength to endure any trial allowed in our path. That alone should elicit a shout of praise, “Teach me more of your wonderful ways!”

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide and for using whatever means necessary to teach me your ways. I confess the times I have indulged in self-pity and loathed over my circumstances. I confess the times I have focused so much on my own misery I have completely missed you in the trial. I don’t want to leave here without understanding your lesson for me at this moment. Teach me your word and help me to trust you more. Bring me to that state of contentment in any situation; that is my prayer. I want to hear you say “Well done” when I see you face to face so I ask for your endurance through these difficulties. You have called me to press on, and I accept this calling with joy!

Advertisements

I Wanted A Piece Of Fruit; God Gave Me A Smoothie

For the last few days all I have been craving is a good piece of fresh fruit. That doesn’t sound so complicated I suppose….except for one little hitch. I can’t afford to go buy one little piece of fruit right now. It’s not that I don’t have food in my house, or that I have a puffed out bloated tummy like a starving child in Africa. No, I am well fed. It’s just a tough time for us, and right now we have no grocery budget, and have to make due with what we have in the cabinets. None of that happened to be fresh fruit or any type of fruit juice. *sigh* Ok, not the end of the world, I can drink some water and pretend.

When I look at my circumstances, they don’t look desirable. In fact, one could say they “suck”.  Someone told me the other day, “It always seems that bad things happen to good people. And you’re better than me because at least you go to church, and look at all this stuff happening to you. I don’t understand it or think it’s fair. You derserve better.” I suppose if I had entertained that line of thought I could have easily talked myself in to one massive pity party like I have done so many times in the past. But this time I knew it would be different. This time I had trust. This time I was not going to allow my circumstances and the storms of life to affect my attitude and spiral me into a fit of worry. Hey, if I have to live off of cereal and bread for two weeks, then so be it. I’ll live. It could be worse. In the past I would have been freaking out, wringing my hands, upset because I couldn’t eat exactly what I wanted. Upset because I didn’t know how rent was going to be paid or how needs would be met. Having major anxiety attacks and major anger problems. But this time was different. God got ahold of me. I knew that no matter what, I was where He wanted me to be, and He was my Provider. I knew I could trust Him. It might not be what I wanted (No Steak and Shrimp, God??) but it would be what I needed. So I relaxed and let God take care of it. Trusting God didn’t change my circumstances. It changed ME. That’s when the light bulb went on. This whole thing isn’t about crying out to God when I need something and watching him fix it and make my life easier. It’s about trusting Him even when my circumstances DON’T change. It’s about loving Him, praising Him, and fixing my eyes on Him even when everything around me gives me every reason to lose hope. To turn my back and complain. To say “It’s not fair!”  First God wants my undivided attention. He wants my trust in Him, and he doesn’t want that trust to be conditional based on what He is doing for me. Just think…if everything was always so grand in my life, then would I really appreciate or even notice the awesome ways God moves around me? Probably not. God isn’t just in the big things, He is all around me in the little things, in all the details. And he wants me to SEE HIM in it, and PRAISE HIM for it! Every day should be an AWESOME GOD day! Not just the days that are going well, or the successful days or the happy days. God allows these things in my life to show Himself to me in an even more intimate way. What a loving and nurturing God! He says:

“‘I will satisfy with…abundance and my people will be filled with My bounty.’ declares the Lord.'” Jeremiah 31:14(NIV)

Well, you wonder, did your awesome God give you your fruit?? Let me tell you. My dear friend surprised me with a couple bags of groceries, after a day at the park. Along with that was a bag a freshly picked oranges from one of her neighbors trees. When I brought the groceries home and started unloading them, I quickly realized that not only was God involved, but He was ALL OVER this! Every item pulled from these bags was something my family normally eats, and some were things my daughter had been asking for for weeks! Now, mind you, my friend was not aware of any of our normal eating habits, likes or dislikes. All she had was the leading of the Holy Spirit, and she followed it! As my daughter slept during her nap I took one of the bananas my friend gave us, and two of the fresh oranges. Found some ice cream in the freezer, and made myself a wonderfully delightful, fresh fruit smoothie. And as I sat there in the couch in silence reflecting on the awesomeness of my God’s provision I thought, “Hey, all I wanted was a piece of fruit, but God gave me a smoothie!”

What’s my point? Simply this: God allows us to face things in our lives to reveal Himself to us more through our circumstances and through other people. He used a friend of mine today, who I have only known for a few weeks, to greatly bless my family. Her generosity and kindness was God honoring and her faithfulness to Him is no doubt going to be rewarded. But how could she have served unless someone was in need? In the same way, all of us have needs or circumstances, and God makes us, as His children, a perfect match to fulfill those needs in each others lives. We just have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, and be obedient to His voice. Maybe we should look at trials differently. Maybe we should take a moment to stop, and ask God to show Himself to us. What is it that He wants us to see? Who is it He wants us to help? Who is it that He may use to help us?

The bottom line is that He uses all of us to enrich each other, but ultimately He is the sole Provider, and the sole Caretaker.

“Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” Psalm 16:1

Preserve-(Hebrew definition)

a prim. root; to hedge about (as with thorns) i.e. to guard; to protect; attend to…etc.-beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep(-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save, sure, (that lay) wait (for) watch(-man)

If you look at the original Hebrew definition of “preserve” you see all that it implies. We could re-phrase this verse in many other ways to understand it further, based on this definition, and therefore gain a greater knowledge of how God truly cares for us.

Mark me, O God…”

“Look narrowly after me, O God…”

“Observe me, O God…”

“Regard me, O God…”

“Save me, O God…”

“Lay wait for me, O God…”

“Be my Watchman, O God…”

“Put a hedge about me with thorns, O God…”

“Protect me, O God…”

“Attend to me, O God…”

“Be my Keeper, O God…”

He IS our Hedge, our Keeper, our Protector, our Attendant, our Watchman….He regards us, He saves us, He observes us, He looks narrowly after us….

What a God!! What is there not to trust? Even in the small things, in the big things, in ANY thing. HE IS THERE, we need to look for HIM, and He will be found. Allow Him to use your circumstances for His glory, before you throw up your hands in frustration. Ask Him to satisfy your soul with His goodness, BEFORE your circumstances change.

“For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9