Thursday, April 26, 2012

Valley of Worry

How do you react towards life's surprises? If you're anything like me, you may tend to get overwhelmed in a matter of seconds. In fact, I think its safe to say you could put your watch by me: within 10 seconds I am deep in thought, figuring out my next step; around a minute to two minutes, I am in my worry-mode. Now, anticipating or planning in its entirety is not a bad thing, but when it along with the curtail of chronic worry, it becomes a problem. I feel like worry is something that we often excuse as christians; we think that it's an outward force therefore we have no control over it. In reality, it is the opposite and it teems from the well of pride within each of us. The root of worry lies in pride and is a slap of distrust in God. Why are you worrying? More than like your response goes something like this, "Well, I just don't know what's going to happen next! Life was going this way or my day was going this way and now it has all changed and I don't know what to do." Picking that response apart we discover that (1) You do not like NOT knowing what is going on that you have a limitation on knowledge, (2) You were comfortable in a position, (3) You don't like NOT knowing what you're suppose to do NOW. Am I correct? My worry often leads me into a twister of emotions that leads to erratic states of mind and everyone who cross my path gets a variety of quietness, or tears. Are you like that? Well, do not worry (no-pun intended) there is hope in God's Word that can be applied to EVERY surprise, twist or turn that comes your way. Follow me to the first chapter in the Book of James:

Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(J)If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire (X)when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

I have four take-aways from this passage that I hope will trigger my mind to recall the full extent of the passage:

  • Count the surprise or trial as all joy
  • Ask for wisdom in FAITH
  • Remain steadfast
  • Temptations to worry are not of God
"Joy" does not mean you have to paint on a smile when you receive difficult news, emotions in themselves are not wrong, but if they lay the foundation of fear and worry, we need to pray that God would grant us a different perspective. We need to read James 1:3 over and over, reminding ourselves of the stead and constant work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, perfecting our faith. Secondly, James says we are to seek wisdom. Notice he doesn't say, "Pray that God will relieve whatever trial you're experiencing, or that He will rescue you." I think so often my prayers center around escaping or returning back to the way things were when really, I should simply ask for wisdom in that particular situation. God, being an all-knowing God is the greatest resource we have. We can always have godly-insight from fellow believers, but He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. So within that 30-60 seconds before the worry sets-in, breathe and pray for wisdom. And ask in faith knowing that God will provide. Stand-up and put some girth behind your prayer: this is God we are talking about! Matthew 6, probably a more well-known passage on worry speaks volumes with the examples of God clothing the flowers of the fields in splendor and feeding the forsaken sparrows. If you cannot seem to muster the strength to ask for wisdom, just saturate yourself with scripture of God's faithfulness. He has scattered verses throughout the entire Bible revealing this amazing attribute of himself. Second Timothy 2:13 is the tail-end of almost a pep-rally-like passage, encouraging followers of Christ:

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Zero in on that last portion, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself." IS THAT NOT AN AMAZING TRUTH? If God were to be unfaithful, it would be as if he was denying Himself. So get it! Get after that prayer for wisdom with the strength from His Word with knowledge that God is faithful!

Thirdly, remain steadfast or endure. Matthew 10:22 says "...and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Furthermore, James touches on steadfastness later on in the Book in Chapter 5 where he says, "Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." Remember your trial gives God a channel with which He can pour out his rich compassion and mercy upon you. Job went through a boat-load of trials, trial after trial, after trial and he remained steadfast. Again, it's not that you cannot be emotional or even frustrated with the circumstance, you're not a robot, God has given you feelings but continue to remind yourself, God will be glorified --He is faithful because He desires glory and more importantly, He deserves glory! He's the only God that can turn our filthy moments in this life into treasures. 
And finally, worry is not from God. My mom always reminds me of this: it's not from God and you're dwelling on things is not going to solve it. Thinking ahead and planning is not wrong, but devoting precious moments of your day devoted to analyzing situations and circumstances over and over and over is as if you're running on a hamster wheel, never getting anywhere. Invest that energy into prayer, spending time in the Word and in fellowship with the community of believers. Seek counsel but go to the Lord first. Ask Him to take your thoughts captive and to help you to not give into the temptation to worry.

It's tough. I know it is. I feel like this would be a thorn in my flesh that I'm constantly having to surrender on a daily basis. I go through these waves with each season in life and get frustrated along with the worry, because I know what I am not to do but still do (You know Paul's "Do-Do" chapter :) So I know that this will continue to be a part of my life, and it won't be until my faith is fully completed and perfected that I will be free, but I can rest in knowing that I am free in Christ. This sin area has been covered in His blood and His grace is sufficient. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Tissue Boxes in Heaven

It is so easy to become overwhelmed in day to day events. Life is full of disappointments, frustrations and unexpected turns. I think Western Christianity sometimes gives off the impression that as a Christ-follower, you will never experience pain, suffering or challenges. Knowing that you will encounter pain and suffering probably may not immediately relieve those feelings, but I was reminded this past weekend in Pastor Mark’s message on “He is making all things new.” In the message, Mark reminded us of having an eternal perspective. Passages in Revelation 21 and 22 both touch on the things we have to look forward in the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21:4, scripture tells us that 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. I sat and thought about that, and applied it to my immediate struggles and was overwhelmed: No more struggle of selfishness and timidity, no fears of the next challenge in life or what other people think, no health conditions--worn-joints or pain with exercise; no need to have to count calories or fat grams or need to fit the profile I impose upon myself with the influence of cultural standards, no autism: oh how I wish we had freedom from the condition and my heart breaks for families that are continually battling with the challenges it presents; no bills, tuition fees, exams or need to meet qualifications for jobs. There won’t be a need for a tissue box in the New Heaven and Earth. Isn’t that wonderful? No tears! No Death! Mourning, crying, pain all of these things will pass away. I know the feeling of “Well, I just want to get married first, or I just want to start a family or establish a career, THEN God can return.” I am by no means discrediting those blessings that God has granted us while on earth—but I pray you will ask for an eternal, Christ-centered perspective in those thoughts. I pray that you would write down your list of immediate struggles and apply this scripture and see why the last few words of the book of Revelation state, “Come, Lord Jesus.” So perhaps instead of us getting hung-up on our day to day challenges or trying to anticipate the next struggle in life, you will pray for endurance now and take hope in the fact that there will be no tissue boxes in heaven. If you’d like to listen to Pastor Mark’s message, I encourage you to visit the website,