Our subject over the last few months has been longsuffering and the ability to never give up - no matter what is occurring. Again, the mail I have received on account of these articles has been overwhelming. Truly, this is where many of us are living in these end times.
Because trials can come upon us suddenly and without advance warning, they seem to end up in one of two ways. If we know what Gods basic will is for our lives and we trust Him, then well have the confidence and the faith that no matter what we see or feel, God is working out His perfect plan in His timing and way. However, as so many of us are finding out, if we dont know what Gods will is for our lives and we dont trust Him, then our faith and our confidence erodes in trials and we sink.
So, lets take a minute to review exactly what is Gods basic will for our lives and how we can trust Him in it. Its easy to say that God will use our trials and our suffering to accomplish His will, but what exactly does this mean?
Gods will for all mankind is that we might have a personal and eternal relationship with Him through salvation. As John 3:13-17 says, Christ came so that all might be saved. Gods will for believers, however, is much more specific. He wants all Christians to be conformed into His image by the process of sanctification. (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 6:1) In brief, He wants to reproduce His Life in us, including the fruit of longsuffering which, as we said, was one of Jesus most precious characteristics. (John 10:10a)
I have always taught that Gods basic will for our lives is that we be conformed into Christs image, but for some reason I never realized the full ramifications of this statement. Not only does God want us to be conformed into His image of Love, joy, peace, etc., but also to be conformed into His image of endurance, longsuffering, forbearing and perseverance. This is what the process of sanctification is all about.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century wrote: ''The wondrous theme of the Bible that frightens so many people is that the only visible sign of God in the world is the cross. Christ is not carried away from earth to heaven in glory, but He must go to the cross. And precisely there, where the cross stands, the resurrection is near; even there, where everyone begins to doubt God, where everyone despairs of Gods power, there God is whole, there Christ is active and near. Where the power of darkness does violence to the light of God, there God triumphs and judges the darkness.''1
Trusting God Is Essential
If we are going to learn longsuffering and the ability ''never to give up,'' then we must learn to unconditionally trust God. This is the means by which Jesus accomplished all that God intended Him to do. And, its the same with us.
What exactly is trust? The Greek word is peitho, which means ''to rely upon, to have confidence in or to believe in.'' Think about it for a moment. Trust encompasses absolutely everything. Everything we think, say and do is built upon either trust in someone or trust in something. Most of us have learned the hard way that if we put our trust in material things or other people, well usually be let down. That leaves us with just two other options: either put our trust in ourselves, which again most of us have found out to be deadly (see Proverbs 28:26), or put our trust in the Lord. We cannot do both. We cannot fully trust in God and trust in ourselves at the same time. We must choose one or the other.
For Christians, Hebrews 2:13 tells us that there is only one correct answer. We must unconditionally trust in the Lord and Him alone. He is the only One who has all the answers to life. He is the only One who knows all the intricate plans He has for our individual lives. And He is the only One who can control what comes in and out of our lives. Trusting God means cleaving to Him with unreserved confidence no matter how we feel, what we see or what we understand; being fully persuaded that what He has promised, He will perform in His timing and in His way. (Romans 4:20)
By experience, most of us have learned that Gods ways are often far beyond our human understanding. Thus, if we are to walk with Him, love Him and experience His Life through us, we must unreservedly cling to the assurance that whatever He allows in our lives is for a purpose. Being able to trust Him, rely upon Him and have confidence in Him in these times is absolutely essential. If we give in to doubting His Love and His care at this time, we can easily lose our way. Its impossible to do His will and learn longsuffering without being able to trust Him completely!
The Lords Cycle of Trust
One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 37:5, which says: ''Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He will bring it to pass.'' Trusting God is simply knowing and being absolutely assured that He will do all He promises. Remember the definition of perseverance - the certainty that what we are looking for, will happen. Trusting God is the basis of that perseverance.
Trust incorporates many things, from knowing what His will is to walking it out. And, of course, it incorporates the whole process in between. The more we understand what trust really is, the more well be able to confidently walk out His will. Like many other principles in the Christian life, trust doesnt just happen; its a learned experience. Simply saying Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him is far different than actually living out being slain and still trusting Him. Trust begins with one faith choice at a time. When we experience Gods faithfulness in the first incident, well have the confidence to make the same kind of choice in all the rest.
There are eight principles that make up Gods cycle of trust. These eight principles (each of which makes up some form or aspect of trusting Him) will take us from ''beginning knowledge of God'' to ''intimate knowledge of Him.'' These are principles that you and I have bantered around for years and thought we understood. But perhaps well see, for the first time, how these terms are interrelated. They not only depend upon each other but also build upon each other. Consequently, unless we are ''living'' the first principle, well be unable to go on to the next. And if we are not living that one, the third one will be out of our reach. And so on. All these principles are related and must go in the order God has laid them out. Again, each defines some aspect of trusting God.
So, after almost 50 years of being a Christian and many, many stumbles and falls, this is what I see as the Lords cycle of trust: (You check me out. We have the same Guide Book.)
- First, we must know His basic will. We must know what He desires to do in our lives. Romans 8:29 tells us He wants to ''conform us into His image.''
- Next, we must know He unconditionally loves us. We must know this not just in our heads but in our everyday experience.
- As a result of the above two things, well be able to trust Him enough to obey Him by faith, not feelings. And, the way we obey Him is:
- Choosing to love Him - continually giving our selves over to Him. And,
- Choosing to renew our Mind - continually dealing with our sin and self. And,
- Choosing to have absolute faith - continually walking by faith, not feelings.
- If we are doing the above, well have the ability to see Him in all things.
- And, as a result of all of the above, well be able to patiently endure all He allows.
In simpler terms, knowing His Love produces our obedience which brings about His presence and the ability to persevere through any trial.
These are the principles that make up the Lords cycle of trust and leaving any one of them out puts a hole in our ability to trust Him fully. Each principle depends completely upon our living the previous one. Leaving out one of the precepts will prevent us from going on to the next one. For example: theres no way we can love God (lay our wills and our lives down before Him) unless we first know that He loves us.
So the bottom line is: we can only learn the fruit of longsuffering by living all eight of Gods principles of trust, His cycle of trust. If we fall down in any of these steps of trust, chances are well feel like giving up, letting go and turning back. And, most likely, well not survive our crises without confusion and devastation.
Interestingly, this cycle of trust is a chronology of my own walk with the Lord. First, I learned about His Love and what His will was (when my marriage fell apart). Then, He proceeded to teach me what He desired from me (obedience): how to love Him, how to renew my mind and how to have naked faith (through desperate circumstances in my own life). As a result of applying these principles to my life, I began to see Him as I never had before. So, again, His Love in my life produced a willingness to obey Him in all things, which resulted in my seeing Him and being able to endure through harsh and tragic circumstances.
Even for us older Christians, trusting the Lord completely during horrific trials and tragedies is still hard. The route our natural minds take when everything falls apart in our lives is not towards trusting, enduring and persevering, but towards discouragement, confusion and depression. Being willing to unconditionally trust the Lord and not lean to our own understanding is absolutely essential. (Proverbs 3:5) Only living Gods cycle of trust will allow us to say and live out, ''Though You slay me, yet will I trust You...'' (Job 13:15)
(Well talk about the enemys ''cycle of defeat'' in future articles.)
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To be continued next month: Blessings Resulting From Sorrows. This article has been excerpted in part from Nans new book, Never Give Up: The Fruit of Longsuffering.
|The Lord's Cycle of Trust||The Enemy's Cycle of Defeat|
|Knowing His will (faith in His plan for our lives)||Doubting God's plan for our lives|
|Knowing God loves us in spite of what has occurred in our lives||
Discouragement over what has occurred - God doesn't love me
|Obediently choosing to do His will||Confusion overwhat His will is|
|Loving Him - laying our wills and lives down to Him||Depression - holding tight to our own wills and lives|
|Constantly renewing our minds||Complete loss of vision - hopelessness|
|Walking by faith, not feelings||Disorientation - emotions out of control|
|Seeing Him in all things||Despair and darkness|
|Persevering - no matter what the circumstances||Total defeat|
|NEVER GIVE UP||GIVE UP AND DIE|