Continuing our exploration of the ''fruit of longsuffering,'' we have emphasized that Gods ways are often far beyond our human understanding. And, 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 always for a purpose. Being able to trust Him, rely upon Him and have confidence in Him in these times is absolutely essential. Trusting God simply means cleaving to Him with unreserved confidence no matter how we feel, what we see or what we understand. Its being fully persuaded that what He has promised, He will perform in His timing and in His way. (Romans 4:20)
Trust incorporates many things. From knowing what His will is to walking it out and, of course, the whole process in between. Like many other principles in the Christian life, trust doesnt just happen automatically; its a learned experience. Simply saying ''Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him'' (Job 13:15) 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 the next time.
The bottom line is that we can only learn the ''fruit of longsuffering'' by living Gods Cycle of Trust, like we learned in last months article. If we fall down in any one 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.
Knowing His Love produces our obedience, which brings about His presence and the ability to persevere through any trial. Living Gods cycle of trust will allow us to say, truly mean and live out, ''Though You slay me, yet will I trust You...''
Personal Example: Chip
Heres a personal example:
Five years ago, when I was in the middle of writing the book Faith in the Night Seasons, God allowed one of the biggest trials of my trust in Him ever - probably the hardest thing I will ever have to face. One Saturday night as we all sat around the dining room table eating dinner, came the unthinkable phone call: ''We are very sorry to inform you that your son, Chip, has just died.''
Our beloved ''Chip,'' our firstborn son, Charles Jr., had suddenly died of a massive heart attack while out jogging. He was only 39 years old, married with two precious little girls, three years old and six months old. Chip had not seen a doctor for five years. He had been in excellent health and had no prior medical problems. He had run for fun and pleasure all his life, from high school races to recent city-wide events. He had personally known the Lord for about 20 years and had just recently recommitted his life.
There is no reason on earth why this tragedy should have happened. There is no human understanding for it and we could spend years trying to figure out ''why'' God allowed it. The fact is that He did, and only He understands the full ramifications of ''why.'' Chuck and I have chosen, by faith, to leave all our questions at the Cross, and implicitly trust God in it.
This is where faith choices fit in. Faith choices are choices we make by faith, not feelings. God, then, in His timing and in His way aligns our feelings with the Godly choices we have made. Well talk more about faith choices later on, but that first year after Chips death, I probably chose, by faith, a hundred times a day, ''to give the situation back to God'' and unconditionally trust Him in it. I certainly didnt feel like making those choices, but I did it out of obedience. And God was faithful to eventually align my feelings with my faith choices.
Accepting a Situation We Cannot Understand
Through Chips death, Ive learned that trusting God is simply accepting a situation I cannot fully understand and no longer being troubled by it. Because God has taught me His cycle of trust, I know by faith that there is no sorrow so great that He cannot somehow ''recycle'' it to bring forth a blessing. And this is exactly what He has done with Chips passing.
The first blessing we were able to see as a direct result of his death was that my 86-year-old Christian Science mom, my daughter-in-law and my grandson all came to know Christ personally. Another blessing was that my other son, Mark, came fully back to the Lord. And, finally, moms 96-year-old ''boyfriend,'' Doug, accepted Christ as a result of seeing the change in moms life. Both she and Doug have since passed on. But, the biggest blessing for us is that we now know exactly where they are - at peace with Chip and waiting for us to join them. These are all miracles that Chip would have willingly given his life for. And, in a sense, he did!
So, its true, there is no sorrow so great that God cannot somehow use it to bring forth a blessing. If we are living Gods cycle of trust, well be able to recognize the blessings when they come, because well be expecting them. If, however, we are unable to live Gods ''cycle of trust'' for whatever reason, well find ourselves on a path towards doubt and unbelief.
Only Two Choices in the Eye of the Storm
Because trials often come upon us suddenly, they can produce either of two results: 1) We can be left with more trust and faith in the Lord, or 2) We can be consumed with doubt and disbelief in His care and love. Many of us have experienced both.
If we know what Gods basic will is for our lives (to form Christs character in us) and we unconditionally trust Him to do so, then well be able to experience a ''peace that passes all understanding,'' even in the midst of our trials. If, however, we are confused about what God is doing in our lives and we dont trust Him (were not living His cycle of trust), then well experience doubt that He is even there, unbelief that He cares and, eventually, a hardness of heart and a falling away from the faith. If we give in to doubting His Love and care at this time, we can easily lose our way.
Doubt is the first step towards that spiral. Nothing will bring us down faster than doubt because it affects every choice we make. Doubt in Gods faithfulness and Love will influence everything we do. Everything we think, say and do is either impacted by our faith in the Lord or by our doubt in His existence. Doubt robs us of our vision, immobilizes our actions and defeats our even trying. It also thwarts every effort we might want to make in the future!
Doubt can easily spiral out of control and lead us to discouragement, which then breeds confusion and results in depression. This is the enemys formula for defeat - his cycle of defeat! Doubt - discouragement - confusion - depression - loss of vision - disorientation - despair and defeat. The feeling of ''giving up.'' And, oh, how many of us have fallen for it!
Doubt can be traced back to unbelief in Gods Word and His promises. His Word is our fixed point of reference. His Word is infallible. (John 8:44) But it happens that when a persons trust in God is shaken, faith in His Word also wavers. At such a point, we must not only guard against the enemy inserting doubt into our minds about Gods faithfulness, but we must also be careful that he doesnt twist Scripture, which can lead us to uncertainty - especially when things dont turn out as we hoped. The enemy not only wants to insert doubt and twist Scripture, he also wants to attack us with a misconception of certain Scriptures. We must be ready for these assaults, ready to defend God and His Word at all costs. And the way we do that is by continually saying by faith, ''Though [You] slay me, yet I will [choose to] trust You.''
So when Gods promises seems to fail and His vision tarry, its not a time to grow weary and give up but, rather a time to trust Him even more.
Choosing to Believe
The only way we can ever counteract doubt is by an act of our will - i.e., by choosing to believe by faith (not feelings) that no matter what happens, God will never deceive us, never let us down and never abandon us.
We must submit ourselves to the trial that God has allowed, accept what is happening and allow the Holy Spirit to resolve it for us. We must love God without the need to see or understand exactly what He is doing. God is involved in every aspect of our existence and there is no sorrow so great that He cannot somehow ''recycle'' it to bring forth blessing - as seen in our Chips passing.
Only our unconditional trust will allow us to unabashedly accept His promises, even though we cannot see or understand how they will ever come about. This is expressed and shown beautifully in the life of Abraham whom God had promised an heir, and who ''against hope believed in hope'' (Romans 4:18-21) and also in Hebrews 11, which lists the saints, who ''all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.''
Thus, the triumph of faith is seen just as much in the bearing of a temporary defeat as it is in the securing of a victory. Overcomers are simply those who, regardless of how they feel or what is going on in their lives, are ready to die rather than give up trusting God.
God always has a reason for the things He allows in our lives. He is preparing us for a future which He alone knows. He is preparing us as His ''bride.'' He not only wants to make us perfect (holy), established, strengthened and grounded in Him, but also joint heirs. (1 Peter 5:10)
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