Monday, August 31, 2015

A Strategy for Waiting-Keep the Faith


Dear Friends,

It isn’t easy to continue going to church or trying to exercise a ministry during, or immediately after, a period of pain and suffering – and yet there is healing if we do so. I know how difficult it can be to go to a worship service and hear everyone singing happy hymns. One more happy chorus and I’ll scream! you think. But there is a certain therapy in worship and service. This is true because in ministry we often meet a lot of people who are a whole lot worse off than we are.  It’s like the old saying, “I was sad because I had no shoes–until I met a man who had no feet!”  In Christian service, we usually bump into quite a few people who have no feet!  In helping and encouraging them, we find a measure of relief ourselves.

What did Jesus’ followers do while they were waiting for the Comforter to come after Jesus had ascended into heaven? “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). They also went to a great deal of trouble to choose a disciple to take the place of Judas, who had killed himself after betraying Jesus–and can’t you imagine the emotions this process brought up for all of them? At this point, their only instructions were to wait for the Holy Spirit. They waited in faith, restoring the apostles’ number back to the original twelve in the anticipation that their little organization–their body of Christ–would indeed move forward and continue Jesus’ ministry on earth. On the day of Pentecost, “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). During their wait, all they knew to do was pray and stay together–and that’s what they did.

I find the examples of these faithful people practical and helpful. While I am waiting for God’s work in a difficult situation, I can realize my character is under divine reconstruction. I can try to normalize my routine (with lots of English cups of tea and a big pair of pruning shears or similar helps).  I can continue my religious disciplines, whether I am feeling “connected” or not, and keep up whatever ministry is feasible for me. I can also try to mend whatever fences I can, and try not to worry too much about the ones only God can mend at some future date.  Persisting in all of this will help me regain my spiritual perspective.

Are you in God’s waiting room?  Are you waiting for a baby to be born?  A prodigal to return?  A spouse to reconcile?  Are you waiting for someone to share your life with?  For a job?  For a cure?  Wait on the Lord and not on the answer.  Try to concentrate on His person, His plans and schedule – His business. Job’s growing faith did not stop the agony, but it helped him find a measure of productivity in his life, to the extent that the Scriptures say, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Improving Our Prayers

Dear Friends,

One thing that happens while we are waiting for God to act in a difficult situation is a marked improvement in both the quantity and quality of our prayers! If anything can help to pull us in line with God’s plan for our prayer life, it is time spent in the waiting room.

Think about a hospital waiting room. All of us must have gone through the harrowing experience of waiting for our names to be called. It certainly helps soothe our apprehensions to have someone to talk to, doesn’t it? In the same way, that part of our on-going relationship with God we call prayer becomes the conducive environment for a talk with Him about our fears and phobias.  It’s sad, really, that suffering has to pay us a visit before we get around to paying God a visit and getting our prayer life back in shape, but that’s the way it is with many of us.

One of the things I have learned as I’m waiting for it all to be over is to pray in the absence of rewards. As we grow in our relationship to God, we come to realize prayer is a whole lot more than a heavenly shopping list; it is our lifeline to God. We learn to say, “Lord, what will You show me, teach me, or make of me?” rather than, “Lord, what will You give to me or do for me?” So often we feel self-righteous when we pray–as if God owes us something and will reward us as a master rewards his pet dog that begs in the right way for a biscuit. If we pray expecting to be rewarded with a “treat” (the answer to our prayer request), we have not advanced very far in the school of prayer. The problem of praying without rewards, however, is that we can become discouraged. We must exercise perseverance if for no other reason Jesus’ exhortation to pray–even when nothing seems to be happening at all (see Lk. 18:1-8).

I will never forget being in God’s waiting room on one occasion, praying on and on for something important to happen. I expected to see some sign of “God activity” in this serious situation, but I could see nothing to encourage me. Sitting by a still lake early one morning, I asked the Lord why my prayer effort was not being rewarded.

What reward do you want? I seemed to hear Him asking me.

“Well, Lord,” I said, “it’s not as if I’m asking You to wave a magic wand and make this situation disappear–I’d be quite content just to see some small evidence that You are involved in this.  Some little sign that You are working some good out of all this trouble.”

As I sat looking at the pretty lake, God put this startling thought into my mind: Jill, do you believe there are fish in this lake?

“Yes, of course.”

Then God’s still, small voice asked me another question. How do you know? You see no evidence. The surface of the water is like glass! Then, Jill, do you have to see a fish jump to believe that they are there?

I knew well enough what the Lord was asking me: Jill, do you have to see a sign to believe I am hearing and answering your prayers? Know only the fish are there. I always hear and always answer. Trust the timing to me! I tried from then on not to schedule His answers on my timetable and to trust God to work out His plan–how, where, and when He would.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, August 17, 2015

On the Way to Soon

Dear Friends,

Job, as someone has put it, was in God’s waiting room.  There is nothing quite as difficult as waiting. When we are in the middle of some particularly difficult situation, time appears to stand still.  Our problem is exacerbated by our Western lifestyle and mindset, which often reflect our “instant” society. In America, it seems we cannot bear to wait for anything. What is more, we regard instant service and gratification almost as rights.

Not long ago, I found myself in a tough place. As I hunkered down to wait my situation out, I couldn’t help searching the Scriptures for glimpses of hope it would all soon be over. I realized I was on a journey–the journey to “soon.” I couldn’t help but notice how often that little word soon kept popping up in my Bible readings. I remember complaining petulantly to the Lord, “Not ‘soon’–‘now.’”  I didn’t like being on the way to “soon” one little bit!

Waiting is not my favorite thing to do, especially when I’ve waited for something extremely important–a child to be conceived, a teenager to give just one little hint he likes belonging to me, a relative to come to Christ. But nobody knows how quickly “soon” will be except God, and He doesn’t tell! His knowledge is withheld not to tease us but to test us! Waiting for closure always exposes the caliber of my faith, the intensity of my patience and trust, and the shape of my character. But when I’m waiting for some particular, painful trial to be over, there’s bound to be some bright, well-meaning saint who lovingly, and often with ill-concealed satisfaction, comes around to tell me how much deeper I’ll be when it is finished. I want to scream, “I don’t want to be deeper! I want to stay shallow and have the hurt go away!” Perhaps you are on that journey today.

Job had said, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job knew he was in God’s waiting room. That’s what that little word when means; it points to sometime in the future. When is not now. Yet on this journey to “soon,” we find something is happening to us.  We are being “golded.” There’s nothing like the fires of affliction to put a gold glow on our souls–on our character.


Warren Wiersbe says, “God never wastes suffering. Trials work for us, not against us. God permits trials, that He might build character into our lives!” Paul puts it very well in Romans 5:3-5: “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Knowing God is intent on painting us with gold helps a little when you are “on the way to soon.”

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, August 10, 2015

Our Advocate in Heaven

Dear Friends,

Job would have found his dejection complete, apart from his tenacious faith.  His friend Elihu gave him some support, but it was God Himself who helped him to persist.  The answer to Job’s needs was not to be found in questioning his own heart actions or by doubting that God had forgiven him, but rather in trusting that his pain was not being treated with indifference in heaven.  Though Job had few earthly friends, he believed he had one in heaven.  “Even now,” he reminds himself, “my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend” (Job 16:19-20).

“Even now,” Job is saying, with shining faith, “in the immediateness of my need, heaven debates my dilemma, and my Advocate is taking my case right to the supreme court!”  Those two little words, “even now,” have always been a great comfort to me.

As I waited six hours in a hospital waiting room with one of our children, who had broken her arm, I kept repeating that phrase: “even now.”  While the bureaucracy ground away oh so slowly down here on Earth, I believed that heaven was busy with our crisis.  On another occasion, as I stood outside a rough place crowded with teenagers – many of them from gangland – feeling frightened and alone, I felt I didn’t have a friend among all those wild young faces looking at me suspiciously.  I breathed a prayer, “Even now – give me Your words for these young people, Lord.”  As I traveled down to Liverpool with a knot in my stomach to tell my widowed mother we were taking her beloved grandchildren and emigrating to America, I prayed, “Even now – Lord, help me tell her tenderly – it’s so hard,” and He gave us both grace to accept the parting.  As waves of homesickness engulfed me in those first few years in America, especially at Christmastime, I would glance heavenward and pray, “Help me relax in the knowledge that we are in the right place, and that ‘home’ is the will of God – even now!”  My friend, Jesus in heaven, pled with His Father on my behalf – “as a man pleads for his friends” --  and I discovered that the heavenly Father always answers the prayers of His beloved Son!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, August 3, 2015

Criticism From All Sides

Dear Friends,

The devil loves to criticize.  He started it all in the Garden of Eden, introducing the very first critical thought into God’s perfect world.  “Has God really said you shouldn’t eat of the fruit?” (Gen. 3:1) he asked Eve, subtly suggesting that God must be an old spoilsport, unfair and unkind to withhold something so evidently pleasurable from them.  Satan criticizes God to Eve and, after getting exactly what he wanted in the lives of God’s children, thoroughly enjoyed hearing Adam begin to do Satan’s work for him.  When God asked Adam what he had done, eating the forbidden fruit, Adam answered, “The woman you gave me got me to do it!” (Gen. 3:12).  So Adam criticized God for giving him Eve, and he criticized Eve for giving him the opportunity to sin!  Whereupon, not to be outdone, Eve criticized the snake:  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13). The spirit of ungodly criticism is from the pit of hell, and is a destructive force in all our relationships.

And it doesn’t stop with our relationships with others; some of the devil’s greatest victories occur when he gets us to be our own destructive critic.

But aren’t we called to examine our own hearts?  Didn’t David say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Ps. 139:23)?  There certainly is a spiritual self-judgment that is healthy, but some aspects of ourselves are beyond our ability to evaluate.  There are some things that only God can fully understand, and so Paul says, “I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait ‘til the Lord comes” (1 Cor. 4:3-5).

“Wait ‘til the Lord comes.”  It sounds so simple, but it may well be that some of us will be in God’s waiting room until the second coming of Christ before the full story is ever told.  Can we be content to leave it with God?  Can we live with what we feel has been a personal failure, yet choose not to call it failure – or success – but leave the outcome and the evaluation with the God who sees it all clearly?  Can we accept that a soured relationship may remain unresolved, and we may never know exactly what we said or did that contributed to the trouble?  Coping with criticism – from within and without – begins with a willingness to not rehearse the details again and again, but rather commit the whole thing to God and get on with our lives.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine