On Focus, and Ignorance, During Hard Times

I decided to take a break from the Traits of a Godly Person series for this week. There are so many things going on in our world, and I often wonder should I talk about some of the more difficult issues. I like my blog to be a place of encouragement, whether it is to dress better or to grow in your walk with Christ. However, there are people out there, some of whom might be following my blog, that need a different kind of encouragement.

Life really can be stinking hard! Relationships are complex and often the source of our deepest and darkest pain. More often than not, people who are going through great difficulty do not feel at liberty to talk about the situations they are facing, which means, they are not getting any support or encouragement. People who are going through great loss, also, don’t always feel free to talk about their grief and pain. I’m not really sure, how we got to this point. Why is it that we are afraid to let people know that we are not okay? Why do we hide our pain behind a smile and tell everyone who asks that we are doing fine? Maybe it has to do with not being able to express the deep pain and sadness we feel. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think less of us, if we show them our reality. Maybe we are just too dang tired from trying to cope, that we’d rather not put in the effort to explain all that is going on.

Image by  lisa runnels  from  Pixabay

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

I think there is something much deeper and darker going on when we are struggling. Obviously, I believe in a real God and a real devil. I believe that Satan is our enemy and he is out to kill and destroy.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
Image by  steffenwienberg  from  Pixabay

Image by steffenwienberg from Pixabay

Our enemy is compared to a roaring lion. Why do you suppose Peter used the idea of a roaring lion, rather than that of a snake or some other creature? Obviously, lions are creatures to be respected. A lion can easily kill a man along with a host of wild creatures. Peter didn’t just make the comparison of the devil to a lion, but to a roaring lion. There is significance in the roar. Roaring commonly means, “This is my territory. Don’t get anywhere near.” Isn’t that interesting? Our enemy isn’t just trying to trip us up, he is trying to make us his own. He wants to claim us as his territory.

There are two problems that come up when we are going through difficulty that really affect our next step and our way of thinking. The first is our own focus. It is incredibly easy to focus on our pain. It is, our pain. The struggle is our struggle. Why wouldn’t we focus on it? This is made even harder when there is pain, illness, anxiety and broken relationships. Job loss is hard, but add to that a divorce and a persistent gall bladder problem and you are probably going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
— Proverbs 4:25 (NASB)

Why is our focus so important? When you are walking you need to watch where you are going. This is especially important if you are walking on a narrow road, a path along a steep gorge or across a Lego filled living room. in those situations, it might be important to not be looking at your cell phone, reading a book or closing your eyes. This is also true when we are driving. The need for this straight forward, pay attention routine is even more important when things are getting chaotic, such as heavy traffic or passing pedestrians or bikers.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When we are going through the hard bits of life, or even through the longer pits of life, we need to keep our eyes on our Savior. In fact it is even more important to focus on Him when we are faced with difficulty. I have been reading, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I started this book a while back, got about half way through and got busy, so put it aside. When I picked it up a week ago, I decided to start again at the beginning. There is so much good stuff in this book. Read these two quotes:

It is not the yoke, but the resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and Keeper, finds and secures the rest.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Remember how Christ tells us if we are weary and heavy laden we should come to Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
— Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

Murray was referring to these verses when he was talking about the rest that is secured in Christ. Now look at this next piece from the same chapter in Murray’s book.

With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross and the joy of life eternal in death itself.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Christ is to be our focus. Come hell or high water, this Warrior Prince named Jesus, has our back for every duty, every struggle and every cross we have to bear in this life. All you have to do is come to Him and believe He will do it.

The other problem that arises when people are going through hard times is the ignorance of those around them. How many of you have been struggling with a situation, only to have a friend give you advice on how to solve your problem? How did that make you feel? If you are like me, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, the last thing I wanted was advice. What I really wanted was an arm around my shoulders, a friend who would pray with me, not tell me they would pray for me, a sincere hug and two listening ears.

Image by  Anemone123  from  Pixabay

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

My dear friends, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to keep your mouth shut and refrain from giving advice when someone close to you is going through a hard time. Give hugs, give time, bring food, pray with them, listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then and only then, open your mouth and be sure you are speaking from the Lord, not from your own large vat of worldly knowledge. In addition to that, sincerely, truly and intensely pray for that person. You will not know all the details and that is okay. God’s bigger than you and will work it out. Just pray.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
— Proverbs 11:12 (NASB)
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
— Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)
Pixabay - hope

Life is difficult. Some of you are going through things that you never thought you would have to go through. Don’t give up. Keep you eyes fixed on the author and perfecter or our faith. And for those of you who are watching a friend or loved one suffer, don’t give up on them either. Pray, for and with. Love, help and even just sit in silence with them. For all of us, let’s remember this:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)



Traits of A Godly Person: The Choice to Abide

Before I actually get into the various Godly traits we are going to look at, I felt I needed to spend one more post leading up to the characteristics. What I have noticed, in my years of living a Christian life, is a definite disconnect between the flesh and the spirit. Obviously, this is expected. When we read, again, the passage from Galatians 5, we know that the flesh and the spirit are at odds with each other. We are commanded to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. Yet, it is our flesh that must do the actual action of walking. How, then, do we get our flesh and our spirit to come into line with the Spirit of God?

Image by  Iván Tamás  from  Pixabay

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

As I explained last week, once you accept the person and work of Jesus Christ as your Savior, His spirit comes to dwell in you. Let’s take a look at a few scriptures.

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
— Acts 1:8 (NASB)
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
— Acts 2:4 (NASB)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
— Acts 2:38 (NASB)
All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
— Acts 10:45 (NASB)

I am not going to get into a lengthy discourse on baptism in the Spirit versus filling of the Spirit and other such conundrums. My personal opinion is, we receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. Whether we can access more of Him versus less of Him, or whether you believe in angelic tongues versus foreign tongues is not the point of this series. The point I want to make is simple, we who have been washed in the blood of Jesus have access to His authority, power and understanding, by the Holy Spirit.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
— John 16:13 (NASB)
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
— Romans 8:16 (NASB)
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)

The difficulty I feel we have is maintaining a dynamic, open and moment by moment awareness of that fact. The Holy Spirt isn’t going anywhere, meaning once you have accepted Jesus, the Spirit is with you all the time, but I do think we move. We wander away from that closeness we are able to have with Jesus because we allow other things to become static in our open line to Him.

Image by  Annalise Batista  from  Pixabay

Andrew Murray was a minister in South Africa. Being of Dutch and German descent his parents send he and his brother to school in Scotland and the Netherlands, where they studied theology. Murray was a prolific writer and is best know as as a significant forerunner to the Pentecostal movement. He was a believer in healing and the continuation of the apostolic gifts. (Information taken from Wikipedia).

I am not a Pentecostal. I do however, believe that we can have a deeper, fuller, richer relationship with our God, not merely through intellect and rote memorization, but with the inclusion of our emotions and intuition. Do I believe I can hear God speak to me in His spirit? Yes. Do I think he cares what color skirt I put on today? No. I bring this up because, I have heard well intended Christians say, “God told me to do this or that….God told me to tell you….God wants you to go here, or marry that person…” I believe we can be lead by God to make choices regarding who we marry, whether we should buy a house, praying over a person who is ill and so on, but I also believe God gave us a free will. We can decide what to eat for breakfast, what movie to go see (even if it is a bad one) and who we are going to hang out with on Friday night. However, the right to choose, does not mean we will always choose right, and it is in this area of faulty decision making that we can sharpen or dull our ability to walk in the Spirit and hear God’s voice.

Image by  Jason Gillman  from  Pixabay

Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

One of the books that Murray wrote is called Abide in Christ. This book is an amazing progression into the deeper layers of God. I do not believe reading this is for everyone, but it is for everyone who really wants to grow, not only wide in their walk with Christ, but deep. Let me share a few quotes.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, “Come to me and abide with me,” but, “Abide in me.” The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete. He opened his arms, to press you to His bosom; He opened His heart, to welcome you there; He opened up all His Divine fulness of life and love, and offered to take you up into its fellowship, to make you wholly one with Himself. There was a depth of meaning you cannot yet realize in His words : “Abide In Me.”
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray

With versus in. The word with gives you the idea of coming along side or being next to. The word in is simply that inside or within. We can describe the idea of being with someone else by discussing a person’s proximity, but it is harder to explain the word in without using the word itself. In has a sense of being contained, surrounded, and protected. In also gives us the idea of a continuous connection that never goes away. Water that is in a glass, always has a connection with the glass. As long as that water remains in that glass it will be connected to it.

Image by  rawpixel  from  Pixabay

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

When we abide in Christ, we are in HIm. We are contained, surrounded and protected. We are always connected to Him as long as we abide. It is in this ability to abide in Christ that we will be able to begin to grow in our walk as Christians. As we abide, we will come to display the traits of a Godly person.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing
— John 15:4-5 (NASB)
Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
— John 14:23 (NASB)

I especially love that last verse, because of Jesus’ absolute familiarity with us. He’s willing to make His dwelling with us and that is exactly what He does. He is with us and we are in Him. With this in mind, we will begin looking at the traits of a Godly person next week.

Have a great week everyone!



Abide

What does it mean to abide? When we talk about our homes we sometimes refer to them as our "abodes". Simply put, our homes are where we abide. We sleep, eat, shower and live in these places we call home. Why then does Jesus say in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you"? How do we abide in Jesus? 

Think about the other people that live with you. Perhaps it is only you and your spouse, like my husband and I. Your children are grown and have (finally) moved into their own abodes. Maybe you are a multi-generational family with children, grandchildren and grandparents all living together. Whatever the situation, who we live with can affect our daily lives. Parents with small children are (hopefully) trying to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their kids. Their main concern is caring for those children. Families who are caring for their aging parents live their lives around the care and security of people who have their own sets of needs and sometimes health issues. Two people who are new to the empty nest syndrome may be trying to navigate rediscovering this stranger they married. All of these situations require time, effort and choice.

In the same way if we are serious about our relationship with Christ and we desire to abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we must invest time, effort and choice. Don't limit yourself to certain times of the day, after all, the people you live with are there on a regular basis. You can rationalize, "I don't have time to do daily devotions." Do you also not have time to clothe and feed your children? You do that without thinking. So too, our relationship with Christ should be done without thinking.

When you wake, pray before you get out of bed. When you are standing in the shower, recite those scriptures you are trying to remember or think on the words of a hymn or praise song. When you are driving to work pour out your concerns to Him. When you are at the grocery store thank Him for all the good things lining the aisles. Abiding is living with our focus on Him. Day in. Day out.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, ‘Come to me and abide with me,’ but, ‘Abide in me.’ The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete.....

Who would after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life?
— Andrew Murray - Abide in Christ