Magnolia – April 10, 2017
In my last post, I spoke of how the Lord paved the way for me to follow Him, and how grateful I am for His providential care in my life. Of course, as with everyone, the choice was mine to make, but I am living proof of what the power of God can do when we decide to follow Christ. I haven’t regretted it.
For long-time believers such as myself, it’s easy to forget what it was like before we accepted the gift of salvation, but I was quickly reminded by participating in a group exercise several weeks ago that got me thinking about the “big picture” of my faith. On each side of 3×5 cards, we were asked to write down what life looks like with God, and without God, and how things could have been much worse had He not been pursuing us.
This is what I wrote:
GOOD isn’t enough – Lame
BAD gets worse – Hopeless
UGLY leads to – Death
GOOD feels great! – Joy!
BAD prepares for ugly – Strength!
UGLY can be overcome – Victory!
Here’s what I mean…
GOOD things in my life, though enjoyable, were ultimately empty. Dissatisfaction leads to a never ending quest for more. Joy is shallow and fleeting, if this life is all there is.
Likewise, the good things I did for others apart from God, while nice, have only a temporary effect with no eternal worth. I can do nothing truly “good” (in the highest sense of the word) on my own.
BAD circumstances are a part of life, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. However, without God, they can easily devolve into even worse predicaments. We can grit our teeth and bravely move forward (like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western), but without God we all eventually become run down, discouraged and even despondent. We make fear-based decisions or use the limited wisdom of the world. Either way, sooner or later the wheels fall off, leaving us in worse shape than before.
God often uses bad circumstances to get our attention, but some of us take quite a few hard knocks before we turn to Him. Yet He never stops pursuing us.
UGLY events, such as accidents, unexpected death or other tragedies bring us face to face with our own mortality. Recently an extended family member suddenly passed away, so lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about eternity.
Without God, even the ugly parts of life that don’t “do us in” will break our spirit at the very least, and can indeed prove to be fatal, for relationships, for our mental health and for our physical bodies. Without God and faith in Jesus, I would still be lost in my sin, and my eternal future would look very bleak.
Now for a poetic intermission…
Without the Lord, I’m nothing
– a face without a smile;
A drone with little emotion,
yet quite easily riled.
Without the Lord in control,
I’m just an empty shell.
No thoughts of the future,
It’s too far off to tell.
But Jesus is the same today
as He was yesterday;
The future’s already known to Him,
and He faithfully shows the way.
My joy restored, I sing out loud
Praising the Lord Most High;
For without Jesus, I go empty,
but with Him, I never run dry.
With Him is perfect love
which casts away my fear;
He comes close to me
when I humbly draw near.
For with Him is life
without Him is sin;
But with Him there’s forgiveness,
and I can begin again!
Okay, now for the best part…
GOOD feels great! I gratefully acknowledge that all I have is from God; life and priorities are focused on things of eternal worth. Each day as I look to God, spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, He transforms me. Spirit renewed, I’m more keenly aware of both the beauty and pain in the world. In response to the needs I see around me, deep satisfaction is found in serving others, as He leads. Relationships bring a thousand times more meaning and fulfillment into my life, because I’m part of a larger family, sharing the same hope, faith and struggles with others.
As I learn and grow ever closer in relationship with God, there is an indescribable peace, deep joy and strong love not found anywhere else but in full surrender to a loving Savior. I know because I’ve experienced it in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of many believers around me.
BAD situations force me to rely on and draw courage from God. Though life isn’t perfect and not every problem is solved instantly, there is an incredible comfort and strength simply knowing that God loves me, He walks with me, and He knows me inside and out. I am known by the God of the universe!
Like most people, I do still occasionally whine about what’s going wrong in my life, but once I shift my focus off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Him, a powerful sense of hope and peace floods in. He reminds me of His promises, and I claim them boldly in prayer, often personalizing them to my situation. Just the other day I prayed, “Lord, I will not be anxious about anything, but I pray with thankfulness as I present my needs to You, knowing Your peace – a peace that passes all human understanding – will calm my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
UGLY trials and disasters are possible to overcome because I’ve learned to trust God through lesser calamities. When under pressure, as I lean fully on the Lord, He gives me wisdom to make good decisions. With every step taken in faith, confidence, contentment and joy builds, carrying me onward. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
My faith gives me hope, but also an eternal perspective on my troubles. Specifically, I don’t fear death! For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When my earthly life is through, I’ll transition to an eternal life filled with indescribable love and peace, because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. In trusting and following Him, victory and joy can be ours here on earth and forever in heaven!
I shudder to think how my life would be without God. Exhausted, hopeless and empty, to say the least. But thanks be to God for His infinite grace and love, for by it I have been redeemed and continually transformed from the inside out!
Go With God!
My prayer is that you are also “with God”, and trusting Him no matter what life throws at you, whether good, bad or ugly. Jesus didn’t promise that life with Him would be easy, in fact He said in this world we will have problems, but He has overcome the world, and so shall we!
When life is good, bad or ugly, we can have joy, strength and victory with God, through Jesus!
Note: This post is much longer than I’d intended, but it’s what I felt led to share. I never know what God will lead me to write, but it’s always a fun and rewarding adventure! Thanks for coming along with me on it!
Blessings to you, this day and always!
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