I received an email yesterday from an old friend of 28 years. Past the exchange of niceties and updates, they shared with me that they have been struggling. Upon reading their words I became angry. Not angry at them. It was a righteous anger that rose up from my spirit listening to their struggles and understanding that the root of them is born from lies of the enemy and are causing them hinderance and harm. Here is what they wrote:
“I let my trials get the better of me and stopped praying for quite some time and still struggle some times. I even wondered if there was a God at all because He sure does like seeing me squirm.”
Anger at the slander of God came over me like a tidal wave. Satan has planted a lie deep in the church that God is a punisher and a tyrant. No matter how much we pray or attend church, or seek God, if we are approaching a God who we believe is a tease or a tyrant, how could we ever have confidence in Him? That is not God’s character. Why would God allow His Son, who was SINLESS be tortured, suffer, and die so that we, who do sin, could be free to come back to Him, and then spend the days of our life watching us squirm just for His enjoyment?! It doesn’t even make sense! It is a LIE. I know exactly where my friend is standing right now though. I have been there. I spent decades of my life there. The way that we view God will determine how we approach Him. If we have an abusive father on Earth, who comes home and no matter what we do or say, he yells at us and punishes us just for the pleasure of watching us squirm, will we want to draw near to him or will we shrink away from him? We will likely avoid him at all costs! What Satan does is he relentlessly pushes us, tempts us, antagonizes us, wears us down, and then when we are weary and tired, and perhaps slip into sin or apathy in our faith; he points an accusing finger at us and condemns us, causing us to feel guilty and uncomfortable; and then he whispers in our ear that it is God making this happen and then he disappears leaving us broken. HE is the one who delights in our squirming. How do I know that? Because I lived in that place for so long and then when I saw it for what it really was, it became clear, that just as it is the character of a bully or abusive person, your accuser taunts you until you stand up to them and then they shrink away. A bully hates to be confronted. They flee because they have nothing to back what they do. They are hollow and shallow and have no foundation or real strength.
James 4:7 - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Because Satan is cunning and he knows us well and our patterns of behavior, he will prey on us and the things that he knows we struggle with. As I said in a previous post, he effectively preys on our identity more than any other thing in our lives.
There is, in much of the church a religious spirit. Religion places much of it’s focuses on the trials, laws and regulations. We need to break this religious spirit that is focused on trials and set our eyes on the God who is conqueror of all and realize that our provision is in HIM. Our peace is in HIM. Our strength is in His JOY.
Nehemiah 8:10 - “…Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Conversely what does Satan do?
John 10:10 - “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”
So many people focus on the trial in the storm instead of focusing on the solution to the trial. God doesn't bring the storm. Satan does. What did Jesus do in the storm? He rebuked it!
Mark 4:39 - "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."
I admittedly guilty of this too. But God doesn't like to see you squirm. He calls us to praise Him THROUGH the storm! He wants to see us strong, happy, healthy and victorious!
Romans 8:37 - “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Yes there will be tests in life. We are promised that. But according to God, we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him! He wants to see us push out past those trials into His Light. A seed is buried in the ground and it's birth and rooting process is not without struggle. It has to break out of it’s shell. It pushes and twists and fights it’s way through the dirt. For what? To reach the light! To absorb it’s life giving energy! To open up into the glorious air and sunshine. To be able to grow into it’s designed purpose! God is our breath of life! (See the song below. SO GOOD!) We absorb His light and breathe His life giving breath in! We are alive in Him! If we are still buried in the dirt, it is only because we have not pushed through into the presence of God yet. It is not that God holds us under the ground in trials and enjoy seeing us squirm with the process of breaking through. He gives us water, and warmth and encourages our strength to break through.
Let me also be clear. We should walk in life encouraged, but it is right to be humble and reverent before God; not puffed up or thinking more of ourselves than we ought.
Romans 11:20 - “… Do not be arrogant, but tremble.”
John 15:2 - He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
God prunes us as needed so that we WILL bear fruit, not so that we wither away and die in a posture of lowliness! Branches are pruned of the part that is not bearing fruit! It is our religious and poverty mindset that needs to be pruned away! It doesn’t bear fruit!
What is in our heart pours out from our mouth. If it is a message of poverty it is because our heart believes we are in poverty. If it is a message of hope and love, it is because our hearts are drinking in the goodness of who God is.
Luke 6:45 - “… For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Bill Johnson, Lead Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding California, quoted so beautifully in his book, God Is Good, “I can’t afford to have a thought in my head about me that He doesn’t have in His head about me.”
We must come to an understanding of what God thinks of us. How do we do that? Get into His Word and then ask Him. He doesn’t want religious drones, He wants children who are seeking to know who their Dad is and seeking out His character.
Jeremiah 29:13 - “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
To live as a Christian without hope is to not understand God's character at all. Yes, there are moments we all struggle. I am not talking about that. I am talking about unpacking and living there. I am talking about building a life around poverty thinking and calling it humility. We need to stop giving God the credit for the Devil's work. He is desperate for relationship with us. So much so that He sacrificed His own Son to make it possible. God's love is furious for us.
Ephesians 3:16-19 - “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge---that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Blessings to you all in Jesus’ name,