I would like to share with you the reading plan I am currently on. The plan aims to help you grow in trusting and believing God’s promises.
Trusting and Believing: Devotions from Time of Grace. (www.timeofgrace.org)
These are readings from Day 1 to Day 13.
Knowing is not yet believing. Believing is not yet trusting. Some people can’t accept the concept of God’s existence. They see no particular order in the universe that would demand the existence of a grand designer behind it all. Some people know that there is a Creator, but only as someone to acknowledge from a distance. Some acknowledge the creator’s existence simply to satisfy the thought that all living things came from something. Some people have come to know about the one true God by hearing the bible’s message yet they still feel alone and disconnected.
And then there’s trusting. Life makes it hard to trust and believe the way the bible calls us to do. I cannot deny that I’ve felt so many times that God has abandoned me during my most trying times and I have questioned his existence. I have shed countless tears and felt very desperate. But hearing, listening and trying to understand God’s word has done so many things. Life has a purpose, and all we have to do is trust God to lead us to that purpose. Trusting means living in the serenity that everything will be okay. Trusting means that you know a smiling and utterly competent God will be waiting to catch you when you fall–and also when he invites you to jump. Trusting means that you are totally convinced that you will emerge a winner no matter what happens in your life.
Why is it so hard to trust God?
Fear holds us back from trusting and believing. Fear paralyzes. Fear makes our painful memories much more intense. Fear breeds despair about the future and makes us not like our present very much either. fear makes us blind to the blessings we have and fear makes it difficult, even impossible, to believe that there will be good things to come. But during these bleak times, Isaiah has some wonderful words to say. You could trust and believe in a God who is not going to let you lose your true treasure. In fact, God would actually be using the hard things in your life to help you!
He said in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”
When you find yourself being afraid, take a deep breath, listen to these words of God, and remember that you are being cradled in God’s very big hands. You are safe.
It’s really hard to trust God when you feel guilt in his presence. Guilt comes on two levels: there’s head guilt and heart guilt. In our heads we know that we have broken God’s rules for our behavior. But guilt is also the wretched feeling of shame and failure in our hearts. Sometimes we let God’s Word get us halfway there. We hear the gospel message and know that we have been forgiven, but we don’t feel forgiven. We still feel dirty; we still feel the intense disappointment we must be to God.
The bible tells us that personal confession is a necessary part of healing the emotional baggage of guilt. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession is God’s way of getting the poisons out. It’s like draining a wound, it cuts through all the pretending, denial and defense. To get rid of guilt, we first objectively hear what Christ has done for us and subjectively, by confessing our sins, actually naming them, saying them out loud to our God without blaming others and without pretending, cutting through the denial–then we will get on the path to emotional healing as well. Our minds will know forgiveness. Our hearts will feel forgiven.
Everybody has been bullied. Everybody has been pushed around, ridiculed and mocked. People assume that those doing the putting down must feel powerful, but actually it’s the reverse. People who hurt other people really don’t like themselves much, and so they want to drag others down to their own level of emotional misery.
Honestly though, we’d all have to admit that there are things about our own lives that we don’t like, and so we don’t like ourselves all that much either. Here’s why we need God so much. We depend on God’s high opinion of us to give us a reason to believe not only in him but in ourselves again.
Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Lord thinks you are so precious and valuable that he was willing to die for you in your messy state. He didn’t wait for you to clean yourself up first. He died so you could belong to him. If He thinks you’re valuable, then you must be! If he thinks you’re worth dying for, then you must be precious indeed. If he sends His Holy Spirit to live within you, then you are not helpless. If he loves you, then you can love yourself again.
Is it good to be skeptical? If you’re a scientist, skepticism is considered a badge of honor. Scientists live to prove things and it’s by doubting, trying and testing that the great principles and laws of the universe are uncovered and the properties of matter better understood. Is it good to be doubtful and skeptical of God? Is it a good plan to devise tests to prove God’s existence, love, wisdom or power? Not such a good idea. Doubting God was the first human sin. In the string of things that Satan planted in the minds of Adam and Eve, the first step was to doubt God’s Word.
The Lord’s words banish doubt. When our life shakes with doubt, listen to your God talking to you. Let his calm voice assure you that nothing is too hard for him and that everything is going to be all right.
Think how much harder it is to feel confident when you’re exhausted. “Good tired” is how you feel at the end of a productive day. But you also know “bad tired,” don’t you? Bad tired is when you are physically and emotionally drained by the selfishness of others, or worse yet, by your own foolishness and bad judgement.
Fatigue wears down your cheerfulness and patience. Fatigue breeds pessimism and bitterness. The Lord Jesus knew personally what severe exhaustion felt like, and he wanted his tired brothers and sisters to know that there was relief for them.
He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
You can understand and even sympathize with people whose poverty and hardships have made them suspicious of God’s love and power. Has it ever occurred to you that prosperity is an even greater spiritual burden?
Jesus told his shocked disciples once, in Matthew 19:24, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
He said this from sad experience, because his encounters with the wealthy were usually not pleasant. God gives money to people as a tool to make his agenda happen. He provides treats because he is kind and loves to see us happy. Alas, money can easily become god to be pursued and worshiped for the power it gives.
Children love to pretend. They have a rich fantasy life and effortlessly slide into their own parallel universe. The plan is to quit pretending when you are an adult and learn to see and accept reality.
If only. I bet you know plenty of other adults who are still pretending. Single people move in with each other and pretend to be married. Married people act as though they are single. Sedated by drugs or alcohol, people pretend that their lives are fine. People pretend to be financially successful but behind the scenes they stagger under enormous mortgages, home equity loans and maxed out credit cards. The worst kind of delusion is to pretend that you are morally good enough for God. You can blame other people for your sins. You can compare yourself with people farther down the food chain and feel superior. You can indulge in selective memory, remembering only what makes you look good.
God’s view? Living in a state of spiritual denial is deadly. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” You need help. God’s help.
It’s hard to trust in God for the future if you think that your present life is a dry, parched desert. That’s not reality though; it’s just ignorance. Or worse–blindness to the wonderful things that God has been doing for his believers.
In Ephisians 1:3,4, St. Paul wrote to some Christians who were being tempted to think they had nothing, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.”
As you put Jesus’ gospel glasses on, as you see yourself as loved and forgiven, you can start noticing the good things that have been there all along: faithful friends, dear family members, skills and gifts, daily bread, flowers and sunsets, and a faithful Savior whose promise of everlasting life cannot be taken away from you.
Whatever intense emotion you are experiencing right now will color your entire worldview. If you are in pain right now, it can be very hard to be optimistic, to trust that your future will ever be better.
In John 16:33, hours before his death and resurrection, Jesus predicted terrible hardships for his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Here is our hope–not in our tired and aging bodies, not in our brilliant minds or wealth, but in the words of the One who has suffered like us and for us and who has conquered death, hell and pain for us all.
Some people find their trust in God draining away because he doesn’t seem to be doing what they want when they want it. Think for just a moment what God’s greatest desire for you is. It is not to make you wealthy, famous, powerful or even comfortable. It is to get you through the minefield of your earthly life safely hoe to heaven.
Let God’s ultimate goal for your life be your goal too. Replace confusion with this kind of clarity: 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
People want badly to believe that the world is steadily evolving into a higher state. It is a wonderful thing to be self-sufficient and to work at bettering yourself. It is a terrible thing, though, to suppose that we don’t need God. We are not evolving into better people. If anything, people are slowly devolving into beasts.
There’s a better way. The wise counsel from Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Every day in every way we are loved and blessed by our dear Father, Savior and Counselor.
We need to let go of the things that hinder our trust in God. You don’t always have to be in charge. Let go and let God work. He knows what is best for us. Trust that he knows.
Despite doubting, cursing, and blaming God for all the unworldly experiences I’ve encountered, He has received me with open arms and loved me without any apprehensions. He has blessed me beyond belief and I have so much to be thankful for. Learn to live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Trust and surrender to him, let him direct your path and hear him say “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life,” (Psalm 32:8).
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