Let’s face it life is difficult sometimes. We have to deal with so many demands on our life. There are demands from work, as people ask more of us. Demands on our family, managing to visit everyone can be a bit of a challenge especially like me if you have a big family. There’s also I’m sure hopes and dreams that you want to pursue. Maybe it’s to start your own business? Or maybe you want to travel the world? But life gets in the way. It’s funny how time can goes by so quickly in the whirlwind of life.
Then there’s our walk with the Lord. We strive to have our quiet times everyday, however it can be tough when you’re out of the house most of the day. Or when we spend the weekend with family, trying to find a quiet room as a guest. If we miss our quiet time we don’t feel quite the same do we?
Often with all these stresses it can lead to bad patterns of habits, and combined with anxiety psychologists call this the ‘fighter flight response’.1 This is basically where anxiety can take a person over to the point where they respond in unhealthy ways. Many turn to food and will comfort eat, and then feel guilty afterwards for eating so much. There is so much variety these days in the supermarket especially of chocolate, which doesn’t help. Some turn to sex either watching things they shouldn’t be on a computer, which of course has many destructive results. Others may turn to other thing such as hours of video gaming or TV.
Some of those things are ok to be enjoyed like food and TV, these things however aren’t foundations that can help us. There’s one thing we as Christians can stand on which is the strongest foundation and that’s the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 28 verse 11 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Jesus makes the point that when we seek him we will be content and find peace.
I’ve heard it said ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. Often in life we can go through cycles of depressive thoughts where we think of all the negative in our lives, instead of the positive. I experienced this when I went through depression. It was some of the darkest days of my life. Depression is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Many people would offer a ‘quick fix’ bit of advice to me and like a magic wand hope to wave my depression away. They would say things like ‘no need to feel like that as you have family and friends and a home’. It’s true I was privileged to have those things, however depression is illogical. It can’t simply be waved away. It is a disease as your mind takes into account all the negative you can’t help it. It’s like looking at the world with not only a glass half empty mind-set, but a ‘glass empty’ mind-set. I needed someone to understand, God understand your struggle.
Often we can be pessimistic towards God though. We can think or say things like: ‘God surely couldn’t understand me’. Or I’ve messed up so bad God would never forgive me’.
I heard a story of 2 brothers one was a pessimist and one was an optimist. The optimist was always cheerful, however his brother always noted that every silver lining had a cloud. To try and re-balance their sons the parents of the boys came up with a plan. On Christmas morning they filled the pessimist’s room with toys. For the optimist they told him his present was in the garage, and they filled it with horse manure. How would they respond to this? Well Christmas day came and the boys woke up, and discovered their presents. The pessimist was discovered in his room weeping pitifully ‘there are so many toys, I’ll never have time to play with them’. The optimist was discovered up to his armpits in horse manure, saying joyfully ‘there’s so much manure in here there must be a pony somewhere’.
Life can get us down and we can become pessimistic about things. But the good news we can be optimistic living in the truth of the Gospel. The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were persecuted for their faith in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey). Peter writes to them to be hopeful of their Heavenly reward that can never be diminished.
In 1 Peter 1:3-6 he writes ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials’.
As a Christian you are shielded by God’s power on this earth which will not perish. When we hop on our bikes we put our helmets on, when we get in a car we put our seat-belts
on, but these things can break, however God’s power is unbreakable. God’s promised are unbreakable. When we stand on God’s promises we chose to turn away from the enemies lies, and believe God’s Word instead. The enemy will tell us things like ‘you’re rubbish’, or ‘you won’t achieve anything’ or ‘nobody likes you’. However God sent his one and only son to die on the cross for your sins. God loves you and that is enough.
Now in Christ you are not condemned, Romans 8:1 says ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…’. Meaning you have now passed from death to life and God sees you ‘in Christ’. This helps change our perspective off ourselves and onto God and others. We can bear fruit in complete contentment and secure in God. As God’s people we become secure when we recognise that he has justified through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
It’s been 500 years this month since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the University Church of Wittenburg.2 Luther recognized that we don’t earn our salvation because of anything we’ve done, but rather we are justified through faith through what Christ has already done. We are saved through ‘faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone’. These affirmations are from what are known as the ‘Five Solas’ as hallmarks of salvation of the Christian faith. When as Christians we walk content in our salvation before God, we can have joy.
As Christians nowhere in the Bible are we promised an easy life, but rather Jesus says ‘take up your cross and follow me’. In other words despite your burdens and struggles still chose to follow Christ daily in the grind of life. It’s often said ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and the Bible advises that God allows us to suffer that we may be strengthened in him. The Apostle Paul encourages the Church in Rome that we can have peace with God amongst suffering. But he shares of the positives of suffering. He says in Romans 5:3 ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’.
The Devil will try to derail us and no one knew it better than Paul having suffered so much himself through: being Shipwrecked, snake bitten, beaten, and being imprisoned.
This is why Paul recognised the importance of a relationship with God, and seeing suffering as part of the Christian faith that could mature us. Charles Haddon Spurgeon suffered with depression most of his life, however he recognised that he could still praise God and trust God to help him through.
The brother of Jesus James echoes similar thoughts in James 1:2-4 he says ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’. Going through our suffering can mould and shape us into becoming stronger for the Lord. After I got through my depression I was able to help others who were suffering with it. I was able to relate to them. I was able to empathise with them. I was able to say ‘I got through that’. I was able to understand them coming from an authentic place.
I don’t know what you’re going through. You may be feeling lonely and needing a friend. You may be feeling lonely as a single person fearing you’ll never find someone. You may be feeling overlooked and marginalized at work, you may be going through difficult times in your marriage thinking your partner doesn’t listen or understand you. You may be suffering with an addiction or bad habits. Or you might be feeling like you’re failing as Christian and there’s no hope for you. Well I’m here to tell you there is hope. Proverbs 3:5 says ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…’. Romans 8:28 says: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.
If you weren’t valuable to God he would not have sent Christ to die on the cross for your sins. And it’s God’s love and kindness in doing this that should lead us to walk daily in repentance and faith in him. I want to finish by sharing some promises God has for you…
John 10:28 – ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand’.
Proverbs 1:33 – ‘…but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm’.
Psalm 23 – ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, a I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’.
Psalm 72:12-13 – ‘For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight’.
Amos 5:4 – This is what the LORD says to Israel: “Seek me and live
Philippians 4:7 – ‘And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.
Matthew 6:33 – ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.
John 6:35 ‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.
These are some of the promises God has given us from his precious Word. There are many more so maybe this week you can spend some time meditating on them and when you go through difficulties you can remember God’s promises for you. My prayer is that you will stand on what God has to say about you and not the enemy’s lies. God bless…