Month: April 2013

Faith in Tough Times

Life is tough, not by God’s design nor doing, but because we live in a broken world.  Yet, God’s grace, favor, power, and provisions are sufficient to enable us to overcome tough times through our faith in Him. In fact, it just takes a little faith correctly placed in the expanse of God to provide us a sense of peace and assurance that nothing can topple.

Now the question you may be asking is, “But how? My circumstances seem so huge and my faith so tiny.”

Here are some things that are working for me…

1) Trust in the power of faith. 

When we are met with the reality of tough circumstances, it’s easy for us to go into “I need to do something” mode. No doubt, there may be actions that are required of us to move forward through tough times, but always first from a foundation of faith.

Unfortunately, we don’t often respond to adversity from a foundation of faith, but from a foundation of doing. Think about all the “steps” you have been taught on what you need to “do” to get past tough times. Steps that are often directed at doing something about your circumstances.

The deepest question God has for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to believe about them?”  Satan’s question for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to do about them?”  Why? Because “doing” doesn’t please God and can actually block His work in your circumstances. Faith, however, pleases God and releases Him to work on your behalf in the face of your circumstances.

Have you ever noticed, the more you try to overcome your circumstances, the more you become entrenched in them. You become stressed, worried, panicked and restless. Yet, the more you believe beyond your circumstances, the more you overcome them, all while carrying a sense of peace, assurance, and calm. Faith takes you to a place of overcoming through your tough times that your doing could never take you. Our natural impulses tell us, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  But God teaches, “when the going gets tough, the tough rest in belief.”

2) Look past what you see.

Faith means we don’t look to our circumstances (however real they are) for our sense of what our reality truly is.  In essence, we walk by faith and not by sight. It’s not about denying an existing reality, but focusing on a deeper, truer, more important heavenly reality.  The facts don’t always tell us the truth. Could the facts be that you have just been betrayed by your spouse and your marriage is in jeopardy?  Could the facts be that you have developed diabetes? Could the facts be that you are in a difficult financial situation that seems impossible to get beyond? Yes, yes, and yes. But that is not the truth about you, your present, nor your future.

For the truth, we must set our eyes on the truth of who we are, and what are heavenly reality is. In fact, the Bible says, “As He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world”  Our earthly reality is defined by our heavenly reality, not merely by what we can see.  The facts are overshadowed by the truth.  As Jesus is in heaven, we are in this world, even when everything we see says it isn’t so. This world is not your home, nor the reality of who you are.

For example…

The facts may be…  you are divorced and lonely, or in dead end job that you hate, or struggling with an addiction, or dealing with a past of failure, guilt and shame, or suffering from a health problem.

But the truth is… in Christ (as a believer),  you are perfectly loved and lovable, adored by your Heavenly father, and capable and worthy of healthy relationships. You lack no blessing in your life, with so much to give and offer to make a difference in this world. You are secure, whole, and complete in Him. In Christ, there is nothing wrong or lacking with you. You are His son (or daughter).  You are positioned at the right hand of God seated with Christ. Every addiction, temptation, and struggle is below your feet. In Christ, there is no more condemnation over your life, no punishment, guilt, or shame. You are a new creation, the old is gone, the new is in. It is no longer your nature to sin, and sin no longer defines you nor your future. Your body is completely healthy and whole, with strength and vitality.  As He is, so are you in this world!

In fact, as you place your faith in the truth about who you are in Christ and your reality in Him, it becomes a part of the facts of your life.  Through faith, addictions are overcome, relationships restored and new ones discovered, lives riddled with guilt and shame are given freedom, sickness and diseases are healed, insecurities rendered powerless, and on and on and on!  Praise Jesus!

Belief (not doing) is the currency of heaven, it’s how your reality there becomes a reality here. All your striving, doing, and performing ironically do nothing but steal, kill and destroy your peace, rest, and provisions as they take the focus off of Jesus and place it on you.

3) Focus on Jesus

Satan uses tough times to distract our eyes off Jesus, who we are in Him, and what we have in Him. Satan wants us on a roller coaster of doing, instead of a steady course of believing. When you know you are perfectly loved by Jesus and the truth of who you are and your standing with Christ, Satan is disarmed. When you are spinning your wheels trying to muscle your way through your challenges, Satan is empowered.

Satan loves to use legitimate worries to sow seeds of unrest in your life. Why? because to rest is to believe.  To rest in His grace, control, work, and purpose for your life are hallmarks of faith.

In Psalm 23, God invites us to sit at a table in the presence of our enemies. Imagine that, in the face of your toughest times, Jesus has the nerve to say, “Come, sit down.”  “What do you mean, sit down? Don’t you see what is going on? Sitting down is the last thing I need to be doing!”

What Jesus knows is that if we don’t sit down in faith at the table and focus on Jesus instead of our circumstances, we will be overcome.  His invitation is for our protection. The realty is, in tough times, there is much less to do, but everything to believe. The table Jesus sets is filled with things to believe in… His nature, His character, His Grace, His work, His power, His forgiveness.

Focus on Jesus, He is your deepest, most true reality.  No matter what the facts are in your life, that’s the Truth! As you rest in Him, He will show you what to do or not to do.

You need only, believe!

 

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

Much More Than You Think

One of the things that breaks God’s heart the most is when we underestimate or under-prize the depth and expanse of His love.

We have portrayed God far too long as primarily a heavy-handed, temperamental judge who takes pleasure in throwing His weight around.  For many, they see God’s deepest desire for them as to spend their life constantly undressing themselves of the garments of sin as they simultaneously try to contribute more good than bad to their performance account.  They sadly see the foundational desire of Jesus upon their life as “Do more good, sin less” That’s the stride and striving of their life.

Somehow, we have called this pursuit “faithfulness.” But this term has really become a spiritual veil to an empty faith. A house of cards covering a secretly abandoned trust. The very thing we call “faith-full-ness” is the very thing that focuses our hearts and satisfactions “fully” on our performance and away from the performance of the only One who “Is good, and sins not.”  We are not trusting, we are trying.

Meanwhile, God is dancing to gather our attention away from ourselves and our striving. Like a playful, smiling father trying to capture the attention of his preoccupied children, God desires to turn our eyes away from sin and striving to His heart and His cheerful Grace-giving.

What a sobering thought, maybe we have missed it? The meaning and desire of Jesus upon our life. Maybe in all our thinking about sin and doing more good, we missed what our heart and minds were suppose to be captivated by. Has Satan distorted our sights once again with his not-so funhouse of mirrors.

God loves you much more than you think, and probably more than your ego can stand. Isn’t that our resistance? Our ego. We want to earn our part, to have merited our standing. Can’t we just have a little of the credit, or have paid a little bit of the price?  His love for me now has gotta have something to do with my living somehow.  Let me just have a piece of the performance pie, I’ll make the grade, or make up for the grade. Everything else works by a merit system, why can’t Jesus and living for Him.

God loves you much more than you think. He is not mad at you or passive-aggressively waiting to pull the carpet out from under you. He’s not like Lucy who entices you to kick the football with flirts of trustability only to wrench it out of your stride the moment you extend your faith. He loves you perfectly, completely, currently, and eternally. His love is not bound or influenced by your past, present, or future. The Grace card is not a score card, it’s a pre-paid card. You are forgiven all your sins and sinfulness, whether you asked or not. Your only escape from Grace is disbelief not disobedience.  Faith is what makes God’s Grace a transaction applied to your account. What was “paid in full” becomes “applied in full.”  In fact, when you look at the quality of Jesus, He is an overpayment for your transgression.  Faith is not asking for something to happen, faith is believing it has and will happen. While you are striving to live better, Jesus has already made you better. While you are trying to side step sin, Jesus has given you an entirely new walk. While you are trying to do good things, Jesus made you more than good, He made you righteousness.

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want your life, or for you to “give your life to Jesus.” In fact, He put your old life to death on the cross, knowing of it’s deep decay, deceit, and doom. How can you give what you don’t have? The cross was the second flood, this time of blood, drowning the old broken life of sin. You don’t have a life to give. Filthy rags, yes. Life, no. In His resurrection, He made you brand new. When you believe in Him and His work on the cross, you become reborn. What God has done becomes what is now. You are no longer you, you are “Christ in you.” You are forgiven (past, present, and future), righteous, having every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Not just a child, but a son (or daughter) of the living God.  You are an heir of the promise of God to rule and reign with Christ now and forever. You are seated with Christ at the right hand of God (from such a high view how can we have such a low sense of self and God).  You are royalty. A new creation. Without blemish. There is no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are no longer by nature a “sinner.” You are not defined by your performance, but by your faith in Jesus’ performance. Hallelujah!

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want you to live a sin-conscious life of striving, but a Grace conscious life of resting. He doesn’t want you to see yourself as a sinner in obedience training, but a saint in faith training. Right belief leads to right living. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. That’s why the job of the Holy Spirit is no longer to convict you of the sin of your disbelief in Jesus, but to convince you of your righteousness in Christ. He wants you to be free from the painful and exhausting  shackles of religion and all it precepts and prescriptions. No more going through the motions, much more living from your promotion from death to life, solely based on Jesus’ behavior, not yours. His work, not yours.  No more fake it to make it, much more believe it to live it.

God loves you much more than you think. In Him you are successful and significant apart from your achievement. He doesn’t want you living stressfully towards some future success or significance, but from the current and complete success and significance you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you trying to become something, He wants you living from the everything you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you pursuing life from a foundation of performance that can easily break down and brake away, but from a foundation of faith in Jesus who’s performance is perfect with His love, work, Grace and presence in your life never breaking down nor breaking away. Jesus doesn’t want you living with any insecurity, fear, or sense of lacking in who you are. He doesn’t want you walking into any moment or setting with even the slightest sense of insecurity, but with a complete assurance of the royalty and wholeness you already are in Him.

God loves you much more than you think.  He wants your life and living to be wrapped in peace and assurance, knowing of God’s full love and Grace for your life. If you were to do nothing more and become nothing else, He would love you just the same.  He is proud of you, as is. Your faith is what pleases Him, not your striving and do-gooding. You are blessed to be a blessing, so find what you love to do and enjoy God using it to build His Kingdom and manifest His love and Grace into the world. He will lead and prompt you each step of the way. So rest instead of rush. You don’t have to do anything, you get to do it, it’s a gift. Discover the joy that comes from manifesting the Grace of Jesus to the world in the way God designed you to do it, and enjoy it.  He loves you.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! –Romans 5:17

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: