Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Feeling God with Your Faith

Dear Friends,

A friend of mine has just died of cancer.  Shortly after she was diagnosed, I spent a day with her.  She was such a wonderful lady.  She was emotional and relational in personality.  She kept saying, “Jill, I can’t feel him near me anymore.  All my life I’ve been able to feel him near me, but now, just when I need him the most, he’s not there!”

At this point, my friend found out that, like Job, she had a clear choice.  As Warren Wiersbe says, she “could ‘curse God and die’ or ‘trust God and grow’!”  Grow how?  Grow in the area of her faith.  She was to learn that when she couldn’t feel God with her feelings, she could feel him with her faith – and that felt different!  The “feelings” of faith are feelings of knowledge –or “knowingness”.  The Holy Spirit, after all, doesn’t come into our lives to do his deepest work in the shallowest part of us – our emotions.  But rather he comes into our lives to do his deepest work in the deepest part of us – our knowings.

And that’s the test that suffering brings.  God doesn’t test our feelings for him, but rather our faith in him.  He tests our trust!

At the end of Psalm 139, David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart:  test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  He knows that God knows everything about him.  After all, God has created him – knitting him intricately together in his mother’s womb.  He believes that God sees his thoughts even before he, David, gets around to thinking them!  So he opens up his life before God, acknowledging that God knows everything, and asks God to show him if there is any “offensive way” in him.  “You can see my anxious thoughts, Oh God,” he says.  “Do these offend you?”  Why would our anxious thoughts offend God?  Perhaps because God expects us to trust him with our anxieties.

God doesn’t worry – but if he did, he would possibly worry about our worrying!  He wants us to stop being anxious.  He has promised to supply our needs.  When our feelings grow anxious, our faith can calm our fears.  We have a decision to make.  God wanted Job to say, “I know you are there – even though, at this time, my feelings deny your very existence.  I feel so desolate.”  Our feelings about God can get in the way of our knowledge of him.  We can begin to believe he isn’t there at all, simply because we can’t sense His presence.

Yet, if by faith we can affirm what we know deep down in our souls, this will calm many of our frantic fears and bring the tranquility of order to our confusion.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thankful Hearts

Dear Friends,

Do you want to do the will of God? Then “cultivate a thankful heart.” So often we think that doing the will of God means sacrifice, or going to a far-off culture with the gospel, or being persecuted, etc. The will of God can be all these things, but it will only be some of those things for some of us. Developing a thankful heart is the will of God for all of us who profess to love and serve Jesus. 
         
My husband, Stuart, preaches a wonderful sermon called “the gratitude attitude.”  I need to listen to it regularly. I find my rebel heart much more engaged with the “gratitude attitude.” Being discontent comes naturally to the race from Eden who weren’t content with paradise! Living with resentment is quite understandable in the sinner, but what part does it play in the lives of the redeemed? How can sinners saved by grace dare to whine and mutter their way through life? It all started in Eden when Eve, having bitten into the apple, began to whine about it being too sour, or not hard enough, or not as nice as a Granny Smith’s! Her dissatisfaction was catching and she hastened to find a recruit for her cause. Adam bit – and so it began.

I call it the G virus or the grumble germ. From the moment man moved outside the garden gate, grumpy human beings have grumbled their way through the centuries.  And neither does it stop when we are lost to grace. The forces that tempted man at the dawn of ‘man time’ are the same forces that tempt us to be unthankful and resentful today. Satan still whispers, “If you can’t think of anything to whine about because you’re trying to cultivate a thankful heart, I’ll give you a hand. Have an apple!”

He tempts us to think we never have enough of anything or anybody. “You poor thing,” he hisses. “That husband of yours is always out looking after other people. He doesn’t have anything left for you! I’d complain if I were you. When he comes in tonight try pouting until he notices and then when he asks you what’s wrong say, ‘Nothing!’ Make him guess what’s wrong.” We whine about the fact that we don’t have enough money, or time for ourselves, our church, our friends. Have you noticed it’s not that we have nothing? It’s just that something in our hearts called the ‘greed need’ is telling us we would like just a little bit more! The devil is into this “little bit more” thing. Have you noticed nothing is ever enough? But then paradise wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve, so what’s new?  Next time you hear the hiss of the snake in your garden, resist him and say “thank you Jesus” out loud – he will disappear in a hurry. The evil can’t stand being around thankful Christians. If you’re going to cultivate a thankful heart, try going to sleep singing hymns and spiritual songs.  Allow the wind of His Spirit to grace you with a “gratitude attitude.”

Having traveled extensively in Third World countries these last years, I have been greatly convicted by the attitude of my sisters and brothers who live incredibly difficult lives with much to complain about. But what we would call hardship, they call inconvenience. While teaching in a restricted country where a knock on the door could mean imprisonment for daring to gather to study the Scriptures, I thought about all the whining we do in the West. We, who are drowning in our freedoms, comforts, and materialism get hardship and inconvenience mixed up. These people don’t! I asked the Lord to show me how to, like them, cultivate a thankful heart. Here are a few practical suggestions: Stop whining! Go on, you can do it; it’s a decision. Count your blessings.  Choose one blessing a day to thing about. Share something you are thankful about with your husband, parents, or friend. Write a personal note to someone you’ve never thanked for something. And Smile at God. That’s called praise!

And remember “a thank-you a day keeps the devil away!” He hates it when you’re thankful, but God loves it!  Who do you want to please?

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine