Thursday, November 12, 2015

True Joy and Satisfaction

This week I had an aha moment. As I was preparing for my women's Bible Study, one of the questions struck me deeply. It asked what we seek to live by - the things that proceed from this world or every word that comes from the mouth of God. As I pondered this question, the light came on and I began to understand the struggles of my heart over the past few weeks. Since returning from a funeral several weeks ago, I have been quick to anger, easily irritated, and critical of my boys and my husband.

During my study of God's word this week, the Lord opened my eyes to see again that true joy and satisfaction can only be found in him. The things of this world will never satisfy. When I seek to find my satisfaction and my joy in the things of this world, like food, obedient children, everything in order with everything in its place and everyone doing what they should be doing when they should be doing it, I find that these things never satisfy. Not only do they not bring joy and satisfaction, but they put me in bondage and keep me from finding satisfaction in the only One who gives true joy. For I will only find true joy and satisfaction in Jesus!

In Hebrews 3 and 4, we are exhorted to not harden our hearts in unbelief as the Israelites did when they wandered in the wilderness. Unlike them, let us believe by faith, that we might enter into the eternal rest of Jesus. Let us trust in Jesus as our Savior and king and hold fast to our confidence firm to the end. "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." The Israelites sought to find their rest, not in God, but in the things that God gave them - in water, in food, in peace from their enemies. And they never ultimately found rest, for they never realized that their rest was found in God and not in the things of this world. Now we are called to not harden our hearts as the Israelites did, but to look to Jesus for our rest.

Only Jesus satisfies, and only Jesus brings ultimate joy and rest for all of eternity. When we seek to find our rest and joy and satisfaction in the things of this world, we will always find that they will never truly satisfy. When I seek to find rest in a clean house, obedient children, and in keeping up with a packed schedule with everyone where they need to be at the right time, I will find that this does not satisfy or bring me true joy. My children are not perfect, and they will disobey, grumble, and fight among themselves. Traffic will happen. There will be moments when I have to choose between staying on schedule and stopping to wipe tears, comfort a heart that has been crushed, or listen to a story that matters a lot to the sweet boy who is telling it. Then, if I am seeking satisfaction in these things, I will become overwhelmed as I try to catch back up to my grueling schedule, or I will respond with irritability and anger as my day hopelessly continues to run 10 minutes behind throughout the course of the day with no way to catch up. I will respond with anger to interruptions that slow down my ability to catch up or quarreling boys that require my time to sort things out and help their little hearts. At this point, my search for satisfaction has put me in bondage to time and order. And even if everything does go perfectly one day, with children obeying and playing well together, a clean house that remains clean all day, and a perfectly kept schedule, I will ultimately find that this doesn't satisfy. It just leaves me wanting more. Instead may I look to Jesus for rest, for joy, and for satisfaction. For when I (when we) look to him, we will find that he gives us eternal rest. He gives us joy and satisfaction for all of eternity. When we trust in Him, we will never hunger or thirst. He will satisfy us fully. So may we find our joy and satisfaction in Jesus today!

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." John 6:35

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

Photo Credit: Misha Seger Photography

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Our Helper Who Fights For Us

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:5-8
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:13-14 
When we think of the attributes of God, most of our minds quickly turn to his peaceful, saving attributes. We think of him as our heavenly father, whose steadfast love never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end. He is our Savior who loves us and brings us peace with God. But in Exodus 15:3, we see that God is also a man of war.

Although we cannot see it, we are in the midst of a cosmic battle between God and the forces of darkness. The god of this world is blinding the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel that God is shining into their hearts. The devil is actively scheming against us with lies, accusations, and half-truths in an attempt to persuade us to doubt and disobey God. Satan is in direct opposition to God, and this battle is of eternal significance.

In this battle, our God is a man of war. He does not sit idly by as Satan wreaks havoc on this world. He battles for his people. And the same right hand that brings deliverance to his people brings judgment on his enemies. The Lord is sovereign, and as Pharoah learned in Exodus 15, if you fight against God, you lose. Our God strikes terror into the hearts of his enemies. He overthrows them and will completely and ultimately destroy them.

So when we are in distress, let us call on the Lord. For when we cry out to him, he will answer us. He is the God who saves, and he will be faithful to save us. Not only will he answer us, but he promises to set us free. This does mean not that our circumstances will suddenly change and we will no longer suffer from the temptations and trials of this life. But what it does mean is that our saving God will set us free from the bondage of sin. In this spiritual battle we are fighting, God promises that when we cry out to him for help, he will help us in the midst of our circumstances. He will be our refuge in the storm. As we look to him, he will free us from our anger, our bitterness, our fears and anxieties. He will free us from sin's power over us.

The Lord, the man of war, is on our side! Therefore we have nothing to fear. In this world we will have troubles. Jesus has already warned us of this. But we can take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world. We may suffer persecution or harm from others during this lifetime, but ultimately people can do nothing to us. Their harm is only temporary. God's salvation for us is for all of eternity. Just has God has saved us through the death of Jesus on the cross, he will surely bring us home. Oh what a day that will be! One day Jesus will make all things right for all of eternity and completely and ultimately destroy all who are in opposition to him.

Not only is our God, the man of war, on our side, but he is our helper. What hope that gives us. We are on the winning side, and we have the Lord helping and strengthening us daily to continue the fight. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, so the Lord has given us weapons to wield that have divine power to destroy strongholds. Satan hates us and delights in seeing the power of sin strangle us. But with Jesus on our side, we will look in triumph on him who hates us. Since Satan is fighting in direct opposition to God, when he fights us he is also fighting God. And when someone fights against God, the sovereign man of war, they will lose.

This is our hope. God helps us and gives us his divine power to destroy the strongholds of sin in our lives. When we cry out to God, he answers us and helps us and frees us from the bondage of sin. He frees us from the bondage of fear, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and anxiety. God frees us from sin's power over us. So now we can look in triumph on him who hates us.

So often as Christians we think of God's saving grace as a moment in time when he saved us from our sins at the cross and brought us into his family. But we forget that we need his continued help and grace every moment of every day. Once we have been redeemed and justified by the blood of Jesus, we often try to continue to sanctify ourselves in our own strength. But as Psalm 118 says, "it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." When we trust in ourselves and try to fight against sin in our own strength, we are fighting a spiritual battle with the weapons of the flesh. When we battle this way, we will surely fall. We will find ourselves fighting a losing battle against an enemy who delights in seeing us broken under the bondage of sin.

But thanks be to God, he does not leave us here! In the midst of our brokenness and distress, when we cry out to the Lord, he always answers us. Even as we are pushed so hard that we are falling, he promises that he will help us. He will not leave us to be crushed under the bondage of our sin. He will give us his strength to fight. He will be our salvation! So no matter where we are today, let us call out to the Lord. No matter how defeated we feel in the battle against sin, let us cry out to the Lord in our distress, and he will answer us and set us free!