Over the last several months we have been talking about what Gods will is for all believers. Romans 8:29 tells us that we are to be ''conformed into Christs image'' by the process of sanctification. In other words, God wants to reproduce His Life in us so that others might come to salvation. But, before God can transform us, we must first trust Him implicitly.
This is where many of us seem to have trouble. Trust, as we said last time, incorporates not only knowing what His will is, but also walking it out. However, before we surrender our lives to the Lord and allow Him to conform us into His image, we must know without a shadow of a doubt that He really loves us.
Nothing will bring us down faster than doubt, because doubt affects every choice we make. Doubt in Gods faithfulness and Love will influence everything we do. It robs us of our vision, immobilizes our actions and defeats our even trying. Consequently, when Gods promises seem to fail and His visions tarry, its not a time to grow weary and give up, but rather, a time to trust Him even more.
An Example: Shar
Let me give you an example:
Shar lost her oldest son in a horrible automobile accident. He was only 20 at the time, but he loved the Lord with all his heart. Shar had been a Christian for years, had taught numerous Bible studies and had exhorted many others to know Christ. But losing her son had absolutely crushed her. She could not understand how a loving God would allow such a tragedy to happen to a family who loved Him so much.
The more she questioned God, the more doubt and unbelief grew in her soul. As we said, doubt is the first step down the enemys ''cycle of defeat'' (see here) and will affect everything we think, say and do. Eventually, Shar found herself at the lowest point in her walk with the Lord. When she prayed, she couldnt hear His voice. When she read the Bible, the enemy twisted its meaning to convey something totally opposite from what was intended. And when she went to Bible Studies, she didnt get anything out of them. So she just stopped praying, reading and going. In other words, she just gave up! She felt God had covered Himself with a cloud in her deepest need and had abandoned her.
Shar became so discouraged and depressed that she wanted to just die. She no longer cared about anything or anyone. She dropped out of church, stopped seeing her friends and quit all social activities. The Lord, however, would not let Shar remain secluded. And, in His Love He arranged a special weekend for Shar and I to meet. Shar wasnt going to attend the meeting where I was speaking, but when she heard I had just lost my son through a similar accident, she decided to come.
God set this weekend aside, not only to minister to me, but also to show Shar how much He loved her and to what extremes He would go to communicate that Love to her. After the seminar was over Friday evening, the two of us went outside, sat under the stars, and as best we could, gave our sons back to the Creator. The love that flowed between us and the Love we experienced from the Lord that night is something neither of us will ever forget. It was Christs Love, His life, flowing between us, ministering to us, encouraging us and lifting us up. We felt Jesus, Himself, had come and touched us.
Shar is now back in church and, once again, fellowshipping. The last I heard, she is doing very well. God allowed still another very difficult night season in her life but from what others have told me, she has received it from Gods hands and is glorifying Him through it. She didnt give up but is learning the fruit of longsuffering.
How Does God Communicate His Love?
Granted, you might say, so God loves us. But how, then, does He communicate that Love? We cant box the Lord in. He will show us His Love in His own way and His own timing. But one of the first ways He does so is through His Word. This is where it all starts. This is how He talks to us, and this is how we hear His voice. Check out Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 43:2-4; 1 John 3:1 and Psalm 18: 4-6, 9, 16-19. Our responsibility is simply to choose, by faith, to believe what His Word says, knowing that in His perfect timing He will align our feelings to match that choice. It all begins, however, with reading His Word!
The next way the Lord communicates His Love to us is through Christian brothers and sisters, just as He did with Shar and me. We are a family. We are extensions of His Love to each other. He is constantly giving us opportunities to allow Him to love others through us. Thus, its important that when you are asked to pray for a person, be faithful to do so. We must also be willing to do anything else the Lord might lay on our hearts - call, write a note, visit, take a gift or make some other personal sacrifice. Each time we let God use us in a personal way, its a touch from Him, saying to that person, ''I love you.''
A third way that God communicates His Love to us is through situations and circumstances. There is nothing quite so wonderful and comforting as knowing that God has personally orchestrated our circumstances. However we must be very careful here, because often in difficult situations there are very few ''outward'' signs of a loving Father. But, if we are really looking, we should be able to see His handprint of Love getting us through even the hardest of difficulties.
An Example: Gifts From the Heart
Heres a personal example: I was one of those very fortunate people to have had an ''ideal'' mom. We were best friends for over 60 years, with never a harsh word between us.
In November 2000, we found out Mom, who was 86, had pancreatic cancer with only a few weeks to live. I immediately flew to Northern California to be with her. By December she was so sick that we had to place her in Hospice, a beautiful facility for the terminally ill. I stayed at my brothers weekend house, which was only three minutes away, so that I could visit her two and three times a day. My brother, when he could, would come down on weekends; but his own family lived in San Francisco and, because it was the holidays, he could not come as often as he wanted.
Even though Mom was still in the hospital, the people who owned Moms apartment knew that she would not be returning, so they asked if we would move her things, since they had a chance to lease it to someone else. My brother and sister-in-law came down and helped, but they had to leave early to get back to their family for Christmas.
So the night before Christmas, I found myself alone in Moms empty apartment, packing up a few treasures that she had already designated for my brother and me. (She had absolutely beautiful things - antique treasures from my grandparents and great grandparents and from her travels all over the world - all labeled with dates, historical descriptions and to whom they were to go to.)
As I was packing all these beautiful treasures, the thought struck me that throughout my whole life Mom and Dad had always made our Christmases special. They loved the holidays and they always made such a big deal about them. Even after I married, they would come to our home with their arms loaded with gifts. They continued to do this till the year my Dad died.
This particular year, however, because Mom had been so sick and because it had been such a difficult time for my own family financially, we (the Misslers) had decided not to exchange gifts at all. The thought struck me: Here it was the night before Christmas and my precious Mom was again making our Christmas special. She was still alive, so there was no sting of death; and yet, again, she was giving us all gifts of love from her heart.
God had arranged it that way. Now, it didnt have to be Christmas Eve; it could have been July or August or March. There was only a 1-in-365 chance that it would be Christmas. To me, it was Gods perfect orchestration - His handprint of Love helping me get through a most difficult circumstance.
Mom went home to be with the Lord January 4th. The next day ''happened'' to be my birthday and, coincidently, the same day we were to read her will and open her safe deposit box. Now, neither my brother nor I knew what was inside that box. But when we opened it, we found the most incredible love letters to both of us, telling us how much she loved us and how we would always be in her heart.
And, in my love letter, was a birthday gift that I will never forget. She told me that she wanted me to have her beautiful gold ring with a diamond cross on it that my father had had made especially for her on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Its something I will always cherish and will always wear to remind me of my Proverbs 31 mom. Again, only God could have orchestrated this to happen on my birthday (again a 1-in-365 chance to be so). Gods hand print of Love even in the most difficult of situations!
Truly, God is involved in every single aspect of our lives, and if we are looking, there is no sorrow so great that He cannot somehow recycle it to bring forth a blessing.
No Fear in Gods Love
Gods Love is our foundation, our building pad and the rock upon which we build our whole spiritual house. Without this foundation our lives would crumble. Hope in His Love is what gives us faith to see beyond the near term, beyond the current situation, beyond the problems and look to Christ for our final victory. If we really knew how much God loves us, there would never be any reason to fear what He might allow into our lives.
But, we each need to get to the point in our walks with the Lord where we can say and mean, ''Because I know You love me, even if You slay me, I will trust You.'' (Job 13:15) In other words, even though everything in my life is turned upside down, I will still trust You because I know You love me!
How Much Do You Trust God?
If you are in the middle of a very difficult situation, and doubt and unbelief have already crept into your thinking, then dont wait another moment. Turn to the Lord right now. Make the appropriate ''faith choices'' to give all the confusion, dismay and disappointment over to Him; and say, as did the father of the ill child in Mark 9:24, ''Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.''
The first step in Gods cycle of trust (see here) is knowing how much He loves us. Ask Him to prove it to you through His Word, through others and by seeing His Handprint of Love even in your difficult circumstances. If you are looking, I promise you will see Him!
The God of the Bible is a loving and compassionate Father, who will use all the events in our lives to rid us of sin and self, so that He might replace it with Himself. He continually is stretching and shaping our faith so that we will be able to endure any circumstance, and say with absolute conviction, ''Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust [You].'' (Job 13:15)
Isaiah 43:2-4 tells us that when we pass through the waters (trouble), He will be with us; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow us: when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned: neither shall the flame kindle upon us. For, He tells us, ''You are precious in My sight and I love you.''
Therefore, we are not to fear, because He is with us!
[To be continued next month: In Obedience, Learning to Love God. This article has been excerpted in part from Nans new book, Never Give Up: The Fruit of Longsuffering.]