Life in trials

Life circumstances push faith to the limit. We wonder why our ‘faithful God’ has abandoned us. Such trials expose the extent of our faithfulness to God’s word.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92)

We can be so angry with God for allowing affliction that spiritual death takes hold. Affliction exposes how much we learned to delight in the Lord and His law in the easy times.

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. (Ps 119:93)

Those who have been through trials with God can testify that His Word preserved their lives. Through His Word they had an inner strength to face impossible odds.

Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. (Ps 119:94)

From this place of having proved God’s Word, God’s servant calls out for salvation to the only one worth calling to.

The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. (Ps 119:95)

The fruit of this proving ground is that there is a confident hope of God’s salvation, and so sufficient peace to ponder God’s work while most at this point would struggle with anxiety.
96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

Perfection is limited in that it is predictable. God’s Word is boundless because when the Lord fulfils His Word we are always surprised by the twists with which He does it.

 

The original Bible study is found at this link – Faithful Word

Poor in spirit

When presented with the impossible, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. When my peers flout their wealth, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. Much of Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ can be summarised by this. We need to have courage, look reality in the face and acknowledge that we are in a weak position. Then we look to the King as against our abilities, networks or resources for the impossible to be fulfilled.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3

The poor in spirit are not necessarily materially poorer, but they know their wealth is not the answer.  Wealth can take many forms: our money, our heritage, our network of friends, our skills, our profession, our family, knowledge of the Bible, our spiritual gifts, … Those who have these advantages find it hardest to let go of the security found in wealth and entrust themselves to the King.

People who allow the Word to speak into their lives and take action are the poor in Spirit. They act not knowing how the end can be achieved, for at the start they don’t have the resources. They act confident that their Lord will back them up. This poverty of spirit requires a surrender of life and reputation into the hands of the King. It is not easy. ‘When I step out in faith the question lurks in the darkness: Was this God’s idea or my presumption?’ We learn the difference as we develop in our relationship with God.

Spiritual emptiness

Why does the Lord take us through periods of spiritual emptiness? We long for intimacy in worship and the word, but encounter dryness.

This seems to be the experience of the Psalmist in Psalms 42&43 (combined as one).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

This seems blasphemy to a culture exalting intimacy with God. How could God distance Himself? Yet the Psalmist writes –

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

When this spiritual emptiness is experienced there are consequences, a rawness to life. One is on edge and brought to the end of natural defences. One is tempted to fill up through satisfaction of physical senses that only scream louder.

In years gone by, the Psalmist may have believed in a ‘technique that worked.’ After gaining intimacy with God through such techniques and then losing it for no apparent reason one gains perspective that God is after more than experiences of wellbeing.

43:3 Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

The break through comes not from our efforts but from the Lord. The Psalmist calls on the one who seems to have forgotten him, recognising that the Lord’s purpose is as much about character as the experience of His presence.

 

For greater detail see the study for the whole passage.

Do I hear?

God speaks out, but many who hear protect themselves from His voice.  They dismiss what they hear as thunder, and then complain that He never speaks to them. The response of people when they heard the Father speak to Jesus was – “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered, others said an angel had spoken to Him.” John 12:29 In order to get through to hardened hearts God has to thunder louder and louder. He moves from words to circumstances, which are harder to cope with or understand by far.

God speaks through people, but do we listen?  When God spoke through Stephen the response was: “At this they covered their ears and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him.” Acts 7: 37.  When we don’t want to hear God, we cover our ears or turn up the music to drown out the noise.

I can say, “I am different; I listen!” But do I?  I hear from God on many themes, yet there are subjects where I cover my ears; areas that are too sensitive or where I don’t want to listen. When God asks me to say something hard to someone I don’t think will be responsive, I don’t want to hear Him. If I don’t hear then I don’t speak. By not speaking I become an unwitting participant in the hardships of those to whom God is trying to get through. I am denying them the opportunity of a still small voice and leaving only the message that can be dismissed as thunder.