Tag Archives: Trust in God

Discovering God in the Psalms: Victory over Darkness

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NKJ)

Children are typically afraid of the dark. It is in the dark where “things go bang in the night” and where unseen dangers may lie. Darkness is defined as the absence of visible light. Darkness is changed only by the introduction of light. One can never fully appreciate the value of light until they have experienced the unsettling feeling of being “in the dark.”

Although children fear the darkness, there is one time when they ignore that fear—when it’s time to play “hide and seek.” Darkness provides the “perfect condition” for its execution; it is in the darkness that a person can remain unseen as they blend into the trees’ shadows and the surrounding houses. If, however, this game were to be played with God, one would find themselves at a marked disadvantage. Why? Because darkness and light are alike to Him—the night shines as the day. It is God’s omnipresence that provides the believer the “perfect condition” for victory over darkness.

Light and darkness are a natural phenomenon associated with day and night. People also use the terms metaphorically, especially in Scripture where the two are given theological significance. In the Old Testament, God acted at Creation to separate and distinguish between darkness and light, night and day (Gen. 1:4, 5, 18). Darkness was also associated with judgment and distress (Ex.10:21; Ps. 91:6), God’s hiddenness (Dt. 4:11; 5:23) and divine intervention (Isa. 9:2; Ps. 18:28). Darkness is a powerful New Testament image. While darkness is used as a moral metaphor to describe sinful acts and sinful life style (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11), it also used to describe the evil power, holding people in its dominion (Col. 1:13).

Darkness in our scripture text references the oppressive nature of darkness. “Hide” in Hebrew means to “to crush or bruise.” In the Old Testament it is used only here and in Genesis 3:15 and Job 9:17. Even believers feel spiritual darkness’ crushing power as it attempts to control them through their unredeemed flesh (Rom. 7:17-25). It is here that God’s omnipresence can lead believers to victory through darkness.

Darkness cannot hide. It is God’s presence (through His indwelling Spirit) that exposes and dispels darkness. Believers are rescued from the realm of darkness to become children of the light (Eph. 5:8, 14). They share a place in God’s kingdom of light (Col. 1:12) and even act as light in this dark world (Mat.5:14-16). The believer’s life reflects Jesus’ light and ultimately declare his praises (1 Pet. 2:9). It is in Christ that we have victory over darkness. Jesus Christ was the “change agent” that was introduced into darkness (Mat. 4:16) giving life and light to all who would receive it (Ps. 36:9).

The prophets promised that one day God Himself would live among men to replace the sun as their “everlasting light.” Isaiah 60:19-20 reads:

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

Praise God for His Light.

Encourage Yourself

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.   Joshua 1:6 (NKJ)

Donald Lawrence, gospel music songwriter and producer recorded a song that should resonate with believers living in the 21st century.  It is entitled “Encourage Yourself”.  Each verse and chorus repeats the need to continue moving forward when everything (and everyone) is pushing you back or holding you down.   

Sometimes you have to encourage yourself

Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test

And no matter how you feel

Speak the word and you will be healed

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

I know we typically think of encouragement as coming from outside ourselves, but it’s important to remember that we, as believers have a personal responsibility to “speak over and encourage ourselves in the Lord.”  How do we do that?  By speaking the truth—that which we “know” by faith.   In our text, Joshua had reason to lose courage.  Moses was dead and he now must lead over 2.5 million Israelites into the Promised Land.  And who would be there to encourage him?  The Lord and Joshua himself (Josh. 1:5).

Satan—our model for discouragement

 During times of weakness, Satan will use his favorite “tools” to wreck our confidence.  He will use discouragement, deception, and disappointment to thwart our efforts to move toward God and His purpose for our life (Jer. 29:11).  Discouragement is by far his favorite.  The base word for discourage means to deprive of or cause to lose courage (des- “away” (see dis-) + coragier, from corage “spirit”).  It is Satan’s plan to lead us away from a “spirit of courage”.

 It’s what “we know” that makes the difference

So what do we need to know that will help us encourage ourselves?  I will define each point with selected scripture you can memorize to combat Satan’s attacks.

We need to know Who God is.

  • You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
  • The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

We need to know who we are—our identity in Christ.

  • The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)
  • Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

We need to know our citizenship.

  • For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
  • For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Encouragement for believers is more than a pat on the back or a hearty “at-a-boy”.  Encouragement is the discipline of building endurance and resolve for the journey God has set before us.   Although encouragement often comes from our families and our “tribes” (communities), it is in those quiet moments of doubt or desperation, we need to “speak words” (God’s Word) that “heal” and can cause “giants to fall”.

Encouragement in the Gloom

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;

But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 20:7  (KJV)

 After reading the morning paper, this thought came to mind–“the gloom deepens.”   Later that day my incoming mail  reminded me of the rising costs of utilities and health care.  More gloom!

I watched the evening news as it featured escalating tension in this country on all fronts–social, political, and economical as people become overwhelmed with “just living”. Heightening tension between the “have’s and the have nots”, fear as a result of mass shootings and gun violence.  Abroad there is civil disorder and conflicts around the world.  The gloom continues!

While these events are serious and very real, how are we, as believers in Christ, to respond to their underlying message of gloom? We are to be encouraged!

 We have been told in God’s Word that we will go through troubling times, much like those we are currently experiencing.

  • You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.  (Matthew 24:6-8, 12)
  • People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  (2 Timothy 3: 2-4)

But God has promised in the midst of these life storms to faithfully care for us. We can trust in Him!

  • “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:14-16)
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Knowing God can be trusted and is faithful, we can respond to the gloom message with a different voice than the world.

  • “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– He who watches over you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121: 1-3)
  • “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

Today’s news will soon be behind us. Tomorrow there will be something “different” to grab our attention–as a nation, as a family, or as an individual. The thing that remains constant is that God is still in control. It is in Him we will place our trust. The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

Do not let the world’s reaction to the current financial and social upheaval dictate how you will respond. The world reaction is based on its dependency on itself–its wisdom, its power, and its resources. That dependency is resulting in fear and panic. We will trust in the Lord.

Necessary Weakness

You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.   2 Chronicles 20:17 (NKJ)

I must admit that I have often felt ill-equipped for many of the opportunities I’ve been given.  Although my initial response is usually one of “caution and fear”, I always eventually experience God’s abiding presence and strength in the midst of my challenge.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is my “touchstone” (go to) scripture: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  I continue to learn daily to totally depend on HIM and the importance of necessary weakness.

In this postmodern society, self-initiative and personal accomplishment is glorified and cheered.  “Tooting your own horn” or “celebrating oneself” masks the prideful tendency of mankind to gloat in his own works with little glory given to God (Jeremiah 9:24).  Individuals tend to compensate for potential weaknesses through their dependency on academic degrees and personal experiences to provide, what they view, as viable solutions to life’s challenges.  As a rule, declaring one’s personal weakness is not well received by the world.

Even “God assignments” entrusted to both laity and clergy are first evaluated through the lens of personal capability and competency versus going first to God for instruction and empowerment.  We even view our spiritual gifts and talents as the only means to sustainable ministry success.  How foolish!  We fail to see the real ingredients for usefulness to God is weakness and inadequacy.

Also read:  Is it OK to be Weak?

Jehoshaphat gets an A+ for his quick recognition of his situation and his inability to handle what threatened the nation of Judah.  He put first things first—he “feared”, he “sought the LORD”, and he     “fasted”.  In their weakness, Jehoshaphat and Judah fixed their eyes on the LORD.  And the LORD responded and told them to “set yourself…stand still…and see salvation” (2 Chron. 20:17).

Imagine what would happen if we as a country, would acknowledge “our fear” concerning our nation’s future and cooperatively fast and pray (2 Chron. 7:14).  Visualize the impact if our churches collectively, regardless of denomination, would “cry out” to God to save our children from Satan’s attack resulting in senseless suicides and killings.   Picture the transformation we would experience in our communities and in our families if we would “stand before God” and declare our total dependence on Him and Him alone.  BUT we have not.  We continue to do what is “right in our own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  Through failed social programs, fractured political platforms, and misappropriated power, we unsuccessfully attempt to “fix ourselves” rather than acknowledge our weakness and need for God.

Let us pray for wisdom and humility to embrace our personal and collective weakness—to realize the spiritual truth that in weakness God’s glorious power is released.  Paul understood the truth of necessary weakness and dependency on the Lord.  May we begin today to do the same!

I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it…even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:6-10, NLT).

 

 

In God We Trust-2018

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:3, 4 (NKJ)

As I prepared to write this week’s WordBytes, I searched the web for topics that were trending in the news—items that would give me a hint of the “heartbeat of the country”.  What I discovered was amazing yet not surprising; the trends included “life, conspiracy, hip hop culture, marijuana, motherhood,” and yes, I even found Jesus Christ in the trend.  This wasn’t the total list but what my spirit was drawn to was an earlier WordBytes I had written that seemed to offer a response for the current trending topics.  Interestingly, this particular WordBytes ranks as the most read in the history of WordBytes. With that, I present the most viable and fail proof option for whatever your concern today—trust in God.

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As Election Day 2016 draws near, I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time reaffirming the true source of our confidence—God.  Campaign advertisements continually bombard us via social media, telephone, and television; each candidate promising to serve faithfully and with integrity.  How ironic that our discussion on trust should follow our recent series, “In Search of Truth” as we listen to “half-truths” and “outright lies” presented by all political parties on the ballot.  Who is one to trust?  Our text for today summarizes the best place to put our trust—in God.

The background for today’s Psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21:8-15, where we are told of David’s escape to Gath, the stronghold of the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel.   The Philistines were well acquainted with David for he had killed their champion, Goliath, when he was only a young shepherd boy (1 Sam. 17).   Now because of King Saul’s jealousy, this young man runs for fear of his life to a place of even greater peril and sure death.  He now stands captured by his worst enemy, the king of the Philistines.

Psalm 56 is identified as a song for the distressed.  We would agree that David was in distress.  We sometimes describe it as being “between a rock and a hard place.”   Like David, we sometimes find ourselves wedged between many rocks and brutal hard places.  Sometimes this happens as a result of others, like Saul, and other times it is the result of our own disobedience and waywardness.  In those times of distress and fear, we are to call out like David—“In God, I have put my trust.”

Trust (batach) in Hebrew means “bold and confident”.  The description means to literally “throw oneself down, extended on the ground, upon his face.”  Can you imagine that picture?  David, literally throwing himself on the mercy of God, fully confident and bold; defiantly proclaiming, “What can flesh do to me?”  Did he recall the many times God intervened on his behalf as King Saul sought to capture and kill him?  His eye was not on the source of his fear but on the Deliverer of his soul. David’s spirit was humbled, cast down in full confidence and trust in Almighty God for his life—not the Philistine king.

As you face the many challenges of life that tend to shake the very foundation of your faith:

  • Put your trust in the One who is able to deliver us from all harm. (Ps. 46:1)
  • Remember those times that God stepped in to deliver you and brought you to a point of safety. (Ps. 91:1,2)
  • Exchange your fear for bold confidence. (Ps. 20:7)

Stretch out on “mature” faith, like David, and expect miracles, signs, and wonders.   Although we flippantly have inscribed on our coins, “In God we trust”, it’s now time to write upon our hearts the Psalmist’s words, “I have put my trust in God.”

SELAH:  Is there something I your life that is causing you great distress? Perhaps your stress is being generated by things you have no control over—the state of the economy, unending political wrangling or social injustices that are currently in news headlines.  Maybe it’s your health or the changing needs of your immediate family.  Perhaps your anxiety is as a result of your own poor decisions or relational conflicts you must deal with.   Regardless of the source, go to God.  He cares for you.  Declare the following prayer and know in God you can always trust.

God of creation and God of salvation, I put my trust in You.  Though the earth may tremble and the mountain be carried into the sea, I put my trust in You.  Though life may be hard and the challenges daunting, I put my trust in You.  I trust in You and You alone because You are MY GOD and MY FATHER. I am Your child.  These things I ask in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

Faith to Persevere: The Application

“All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.”

Hebrews 11:13 (NRS)

 

All the Faith Hall of Famers “died in faith” not having received the promises but having seen them afar were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13). The word “promises” in this text from Hebrews speaks specifically to the promised Messiah and their future heavenly inheritance.

As “partakers of God’s glory”, we have begun to receive the promises of God on “this side” of eternity (2 Pet. 1.3-11) with the glorious assurance of eternal life on “the other side.”  Informed with that knowledge of God (2 Cor. 4.6) and empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), we can move forward with that which God has set before us “being fully persuaded, that what He (God) had promised, He is able also to perform (Rom. 4:21).

Here are three (3) key principles we can adopt from the Faith Hall of Famers to develop persevering faith.

  1. We must believe that He who promises is faithful. This requires that we know Him “personally”. Our schedule should include daily communion and fellowship with Him to better understand His will and His ways (Col. 1:9; Rom. 8:27). Would you put your life in the hands of someone you don’t know personally?  Our confidence comes from knowing Him (Deut. 33:12).
  1. We must understand His promises for our life. This is not only those promises we want for ourselves but those He has designated in His Word for us.  Some scholars have cited 365 promises of God for His people—one for every day of the year. All the promises of God are “yes and amen” (2 Cor. 1:20).
  1. We must look past our experience here on earth. While we acknowledge our presence on “planet earth”, we must remind ourselves daily that we are “pilgrims” traveling through this temporary period called “time”.  “Seeing afar of” requires visual acuity beyond our natural sight resulting in seeing beyond what we can see.  (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

I close with these words from Oswald Chambers concerning faith that perseveres:

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do—He reveals to you who He is. Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

SELAH:  Meditate on Hebrews 11:13 and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what holds you to this earth and unable to “see afar off”.

The God Who Keeps

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling.” (Jude 24, NKJV)

Economic upheaval and social strife at home.  Civil wars and natural catastrophes aboard.  All these cause us to continually feel anxious, apprehensive, and nervous.  The belief that God keeps us gives comfort and assurance at a time when both (comfort and assurance) are greatly needed.

In the Old Testament the most popular use of keep is nastar and shamar.  Nastar means to guard, protect, or preserve.  We see this in Isaiah 27:3 when God speaks of His protection of Israel, “I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”   Shamar is similar in meaning—the sense is one of “watching over someone or something.”  It is likened to a hedge strategically placed for protection.  In Number 6, the LORD uses shamar in the priestly blessing for the children of Israel.

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:

The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

The New Testament continues this thought of protection and preservation with its Greek meaning of keep—tereo.   In John 17:11-12, 15, Jesus prays to the Father to keep those He will leave in the world.

Holy Father, keep (protect) through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept (protected) them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep (protect) them from the evil.

God’s also extends His keeping to our emotional and spiritual needs.

You (God) will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.  (Isa. 26:3) 

 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

God’s promise to keep us in “His reach and watchgives us blessed assurance that cannot be matched.  We can confidently “trust in God” without fear for He has set Himself as our sentinel and watchman.  He is the God who keeps. (2 Tim. 1:12)

Good to the Last Byte…

The aforementioned blessings can be a great source of comfort to those who are experiencing uncertainty in their life.  The next time you are asked to pray for someone, bless them by giving them God’s promise of His keeping.