Archive for June, 2012

Hardship

As a result of recent events in our lives, my husband now needs a ride to and from work each day, which is about an hour from where we live (and an hour from where I work).   This means a 2 hour drive, both morning and evening, 5 days a week.  Suddenly, I feel as though life has given me an extra 20-hour a week job, unpaid.

Like most people, I immediately wanted to grumble and complain and vent to my friends.  I wanted validation and sympathy.  I wanted to wallow in self-pity.  Fortunately, I have a few great friends who listened and gave me the sympathy I was looking for and helped to encourage me.  A little validation goes a long way.

Those friends must be praying for me, because within just a couple of days, I really don’t feel a lot of self-pity anymore.  Maybe a little.  As I was driving to work this morning, I spent time thinking about all of the blessings in what seems like hardship.  First and foremost, I know that God is working all things for good in my life, that He supplies all my needs, and that this is a blessing meant for my sanctification and to draw me closer to Him.  I trust in God for His goodness, knowing He is completely sovereign, so I trust His plan for me, even when it doesn’t seem pleasant on the surface.  I can admit the struggle and difficulty but also know that good will come of it.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my husband.  I believe it will draw us closer together.  I am thankful for a reliable car that gets good gas mileage, and for God’s protection over me during all the driving I have done over the past year in general.  I enjoy listening to the Bible while driving, and I like listening to sermons, as they take my mind off the stress of traffic, and now I will have more time to do those things.  I hope that my husband and I can listen to sermons together as encouragement in the morning.

I offer my time in the car to God as a sacrifice.  I offer my life as a sacrifice to Him.  My agenda never mattered to begin with; He has always been the author of my life.  My plans are laughable.  What I think is the best use of my time is but dust.  His plan for my time and for my life brings life.

As I have experienced God’s provision and the way He works things out, the way He answers prayers, I realize that number one, I am not in control anyway, and number two, He will supply all my needs and He will work all things together for my good.

I was reading a devotional this morning about being overwhelmed not so much by the sheer amount of things we have on our “to do” lists, but more so being overwhelmed by the anxiety and worry about those items.  This observation resonated with me.  Each day is an opportunity to serve and minister to those around me (first and foremost, my husband).  I can focus on today or this hour and feel it is a manageable chunk.  If I think too much about the next week, the next month, the next year, I get overwhelmed, thinking there is no way I can do this or that.

God’s mercies are new each day, and He gives us what we need for today.  I would love if He could just put a few million dollars in my bank account (literally and metaphorically), but then I would not need to rely on Him daily for my needs.  I would start to rely on myself and forget that I need Him.  The consequences would be disastrous, or meaningless and wasteful at best.

The reason for my faith, the reason behind my joy and peace in the midst of hardship is. . . through hardship and trials.  In God’s mercy, He has allowed trials and difficulty in my life.  As God has walked me through trials and hardship, I have grown closer to Him.  As I have experienced His love for me, His mercy, His goodness, His provision, and His patience with me during the trials in my life, I have grown as a person.  I have experienced more of the fruit of the Spirit growing in me (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).

I do not know what God has in store for me, but I will seek Him, trusting that His plan is wonderful.

Psalm 105:4

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

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Thinking on Fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7)

A friend asked me what I thought “fear of the Lord” means in Proverbs 1:7:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Many of us will know the textbook answer, but often it is good to think on what we already know, to continually remind ourselves of the Gospel (as Paul reminded believers of the Gospel in 1 Cor 15: 1-2: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.”)

I looked at several different translations of the Bible, all of which used the word “fear” but The Message version says “the first step in learning is bowing down to God.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary uses the word “reverence.”

I don’t ever read “fear of God” as the emotion we experience as we are afraid of something or anxious.  This type of emotional fear is not of God.  In the same way, I don’t see “love for God” as a warm, fuzzy emotion.  “Fear” and “love” are much deeper and are more evidenced by our attitude towards God and our behaviors than some fleeting emotion.

“Bowing down” implies making oneself less than, humble to, obedient to [God].  “Reverence” and “respect” imply working from the basic assumption that God is smarter that us, bigger than us, and more of an authority than us, so that even when we don’t “get” his law or “get” what He is doing, we work from the assumption that it is we who are flawed in our perceptions, not Him.  Thus we seek to follow Him and seek to know Him better.

I am reminded of Phil 2:7-8

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death —

even death on a cross!

It is true that my obedience or submitting myself to God’s law does not make Him love me any more.  Rather, I love Him (because He first loved me) so I act in obedience (and because He gives me the grace to do so).  Yet the more I grow in maturity, the more experience I have with obedience yielding good results (in general, the fruit of the Spirit – joy, peace, etc.).  Thus I am more likely to want to be obedient in the future.  My past obedience leads (not to God loving me more but) to increased knowledge of God and increased awareness of how He is working in me, how he is using my obedience in my life.

I think that knowledge of God and His character is synonymous with love for God (and maybe even love for His law/ obedience to it).

Fearing God, which seems to entail bowing down before Him in obedience and submission, leads to knowledge of His character and His love for me.

I do not learn God’s character or grow closer to Him by disobedience (“fools despise wisdom and instruction”).  A fool (or an unbeliever or someone who wishes to go his own way) does not learn about God’s character and His goodness.  A fool is blind to these things and does not get to experience the fruit of God’s love.  The fool does not get to experience deeper relationship with or knowledge of God.