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In 2 Chronicles 1, after the death of David, Solomon “established himself firmly over his kingdom (verse 1, NIV).” That evening, after making sacrifices to the Lord, God appears to Solomon and asks him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you (verse 5-7).” This is the ultimate test of someone’s heart.

Stop and think for a moment. If someone with the ability to give you anything you wanted asked you what you wanted what would you say? Pose that question to anyone on the street and how many would say they want wisdom and knowledge? How many would request the things God lists in verse 11: “wealth, possessions or honor… death of your enemies.” These are the desires of the flesh, selfish desires.

But Solomon, humbled by the task before him, asks for “wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours (verse 10).” God said to Solomon in the next verse, “Since this is your heart’s desire.” Solomon didn’t just want wisdom and knowledge for himself, but to faithfully perform the task that God laid before him.

When God gives you a difficult task that overwhelms you, a task you feel ill-equipped to handle, how do you respond? Do you seek the counsel of this world and follow your own desires or do you seek wisdom and knowledge from God? Is your heart’s desire to faithfully perform the task he has given you, humbly admitting you feel ill-equipped without his guidance? May you continue to seek the wisdom of God in prayer and His word — in honor and praise of our Lord.

Over the years I have read Luke 9:10-17 and heard many sermons about this passage where Jesus feeds a massive crowd with 5,000 men and likely more. But this morning as I read this passage again a phrase in verse 17 made an impression on me: “They all ate and were satisfied (NIV).”

In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus “called the twelve together (verse 1)” and “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (verse 2).” He instructed them to “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town (verse 3-4).” Essentially Jesus told them God would provide for their needs.

In verse 10 Luke wrote that the apostles returned and “reported to Jesus what they had done.” Then they withdrew to Bethsaida, but the crowds followed so Jesus “spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing (verse 11). At that point it was late so the twelve told Jesus, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here (verse 12).”

Remember these are the same twelve that Jesus sent off at the beginning of this chapter and told them to bring no food with them and not to worry about lodging. The same twelve that he empowered to “drive out all demons and to cure diseases (verse 1).” But now they simply wanted to send the crowd away. Which leads me to believe is why Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat (verse 13).” All the twelve could see was the five loaves and two fish in front of them.

Jesus proceeded to show the apostles that God would provide all their needs. In verse 16 he took the loaves and fishes and “gave thanks and broke them.” Then he had the disciples distribute them to the thousands in the crowd. Imagine how the apostles felt as they handed out the food and there was enough for everyone — the same apostles who wanted to send the crowd away; the same apostles who Jesus empowered to do miracles. They saw that, “They all ate and were satisfied (verse 17).”

How often do we doubt God’s ability to provide all our needs? Is our tendency to send the crowd away, to send away those God puts in our life because we don’t see how God can provide at that moment? Do we tend to want to handle things on our own, packing a large suitcase of our own provisions instead of relying on God? Jesus continued to teach his apostles to rely on God, to have faith that God will take care of their needs. Jesus continues to teach us the same thing today: “They all ate and were satisfied (verse 17).”

Jesus told his disciples, ‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith.’” — Luke 12:28

© 2019 CGThelen

Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest pit of sadness, as sorrow overwhelmed me, I cried out to God to somehow free me from the suffering. When tears flowed seemingly from no where, I cried out to you Lord, “Let this pass.” When my body tensed, my breathing quickened and my heart rate increased, I cried out to you God. Tears flowing, filled with sorrow, I cried to God to let this pass, but you gave me the words of your son Jesus instead: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Luke 14:36, NIV).”

God has created us for a specific purpose. He has uniquely crafted us, chosen us to do his will. Our obedience, as difficult as it is at times, is essential to carrying out God’s plan — to help others find the path to salvation through Christ Jesus. Through our struggles God deepens our faith. He uses our pain to help build empathy for others who experience pain. In the Kingdom of God nothing is wasted; fruit is born out of our suffering.

When I feel alone and full of grief, I recall the words of Jesus: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34).” Even though Jesus shared with his disciples the deep emotional pain he felt, they ultimately abandoned him in his time of need. Jesus understands the feeling of loneliness; he understands suffering for God’s purposes. In Christ Jesus you are not alone. He will never forsake you.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:32-36

© 2019 CGThelen

“Not another delay,” I thought as I sat at the airport gate waiting for my plane. Just a week ago my plane was delayed two hours and now on my return trip it was happening again. As I stuck my nose in a book to pass the time, I sighed and tried not to get stressed about it, thinking that maybe God had a purpose for it

By the time I finally boarded the plane, I wondered if perhaps God would place me next to someone he wanted me to talk to. Maybe the delay was so someone could board the plane? But as it turned out I had a row of seats to myself. I settled in the window seat, just glad we were finally ready to take off and forgot about God’s purpose for the delay.

A few hours later we made our final approach to land. As we descended I had the perfect vantage point, to see a magnificent golden sunset break through the clouds (picture below). At that moment it hit me that if the plane wasn’t delayed, I would’ve missed that amazing sunset. The timing as well as my window seat were perfect for me to experience a sunset in the clouds.

I praised God for that moment and for the beauty of his creation. It was as if he was telling me, “See how beautiful my timing is?” So often I get caught up in my agenda and my time frame that I lose sight of the potential God has in store for me for the day. I get annoyed by delays or things that interfere with my plans instead of looking for God at work in my day. I thank God that he patiently teaches us to follow his way.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. My you trust in his plans for you this day; may you see him at work today.” -Romans 15:13

© 2019 CGThelen

Sometime a certain passage of scripture jumps off the page and sticks with me for awhile. This week Psalm 118:6 stuck with me: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” This verse seems to resonate even more today as we start a new year.

Indeed, what am I afraid of in this world? If I truly believe in Jesus Christ, if I believe he is with me, I have nothing to fear. If I believe my eternity is secure with Christ, what can mere mortals do to me? There is nothing they can do to take away my salvation in Christ Jesus. They can seek to discourage me from sharing Christ, seek to thwart my ministry to others, but God is victorious.

Psalm 118:6 is a call to trust God, to keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He showed us how to stand up to opposition to the message of salvation. He showed us how to trust God and his plan for our life. Jesus taught us not to be afraid of mere mortals. May we seek to be bold with our faith in 2019 and trust in the Lord when we face situations that stir up our fear.

© 2019 CGThelen

For the last year I have been watching my granddaughter grow and develop. It is amazing to see how she has matured from a helpless infant to toddler. She is walking now and able to explore so many more things that are now within her reach. In a world we have known for so long, everything is new to her.

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This is what I think of when Jesus said in Mark 10:15, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (NIV).” A little child is curious about the world and wants to learn about it. They don’t walk around and analyze everything they see or question its existence. A little child is full of wonder and amazement at the world. They hunger to learn about it.

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So many things prevent people from receiving the Kingdom of God. Approaching God as a child means we trust him to care for us, to provide for us. It means depending on him to protect us, knowing he will guide us away from dangerous things that affect our faith. It is that childlike wonder at the vastness of the world God created and his infinite love for us.

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Don’t let others hinder you from approaching Jesus with your childlike faith. Run to him with wonder and amazement at the grace he gives us, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:4).” Let Jesus take you into his arms; let him place his hand on you and bless you.

© 2018 CGThelen

I had anxiously waited for this day to come. With great anticipation I approached the building where I would finally get to tour the Hall of Fame. All the great heroes I had read about from young on were memorialized here.
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My guide greeted me at the door with a warm smile and presence that made me feel like we had been close friends for a long time. “Welcome,” he said as he opened the large ornate door and motioned for me to enter. I stepped through the entrance into a large lobby area with a polished marble floor and vaulted ceiling with a painting of the universe.
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“Ah,” my guide remarked as he observed me gazing upward. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3, NIV).” I nodded. “It’s important that you understand what we recognize here as greatness,” my guide continued.” I looked at him and said, “The great things they did for God.” My guide shook his head no. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” he explained. “This is what the ancients were commended for (11:1-2).”
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I frowned wondering what he meant. How could someone be commended for just having faith? All the other hall of fames I had visited recognized people for their deeds, their great accomplishments. My guide smiled and motioned for me to follow him through a modest wood door. We entered a dimly lit hall with small gallery lighting illuminating signs with names printed on them. “That’s it?” I exclaimed. “I came all this way to see a bunch of names on a wall?”
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My guide gently smiled and said, “Come, follow me.” As we walked past the names of so many of my heroes, my guide would stop at each one and explain. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (11:8).” At Moses, my guide said. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (11:27).” 
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We continued down that long hallway as my guide told the stories of all the great names of the faithful. At the end of the hallway we walked around a corner into another long hallway and stopped. I stared at the walls, confused. “These walls are blank. Why?” My guide smiled at me with a gleam in his eye. “These walls are reserved for the faithful yet to come. There is a place for you if you choose to follow God in faith.” I frowned as he continued, “If you choose to persevere and run the race marked out for you (12:1).” He paused and placed his hand on my shoulder, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (12:2).”
#WednesdayWalk through the Bible — Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3.

© 2018 CGThelen

I have often found comfort in Psalm 91 during traumatic times in my life, particularly verses 1-2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (NIV).” Finding refuge and rest under his wing (verse 4) is a comforting image of God’s care and concern for us. But when I read Psalm 91 yesterday, the word “fortress” in verse 2 resonated with me.

As a fortress, God also defends us against the forces of evil. We need not be afraid because the arrows of the evil one bounce off the fortress of God that surrounds us (verse 5). We do not need to fear the evil that stalks us (verse 6). “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (verse 11).”

Verse 14 tells us God offers protection to those who acknowledge Him; he answers those who call his name. Declaring that God is your refuge is more than just a place of rest; it is also a declaration that you put your trust in God as your fortress against those who pursue you with evil intent. By declaring, “The Lord is my refuge, my fortress, my God, in whom I trust,” we verbalize that we put our faith in God and his eternal purposes, not the temporal ways of the world.

© 2018 CGThelen

For as long as I have been a Christian I have sought to have a heart after God. I have questioned God about many things in my life including many traumatic events, but I have never questioned my belief in God. But last week a fellow believer posed a question to me that I have wrestled with since then: “Do you believe God is who he says he is; do you believe his promises?” She was encouraging me to let go of all my efforts, my own ideas of serving God, and to rest in him. She described it as a funnel where I keep running around the outside trying to do things on my own. Then she asked me, “What happens if you stop running?” I looked at her and said, “I fall into the dark hole at the bottom of the funnel, the unknown.” She nodded, “Exactly.”
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She pinpointed my greatest fear — the fear of the unknown. What I viewed as efforts to serve God were more driven by not wanting to fall into the unknown; of not wanting to fall completely into the hands of God. “Do you trust God to take care of the things you are trying to fix on your own?” I hesitated to answer. The revelation that I did not completely trust God brought tears to my eyes. I thought I was totally devoted to God, to following Christ Jesus, but her words revealed I was still clinging to the sides of the funnel with my own selfish motives and my works.
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She went on to explain that falling into the unknown, falling into the hands of God, releases us to let his Spirit work fully within us. Our efforts become a response to God’s call, a nudging of the Spirit. A heart after God is the first step, but God calls us to a deeper relationship with him. He asks us to trust him and his ways even when they don’t make sense. “Just be still,” she advised me. “He is calling you to still waters, a place of rest.” It is a place where you can hear God’s call.
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Running around the funnel on my own is tiring. Resting by still waters sounded attractive, but was it enough for me to stop running around the funnel? My fear of falling into the unknown still caused me to cling to the edge of the funnel. Even though I know God is there at the bottom with open hands to catch me, I can’t seem to let go. I feel God’s tug on my life, yet I still keep running around the funnel, too scared to fall into his hands.
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This seems like a crisis of faith I am in. Will I let go of my own efforts and fall into a deeper relationship with the God of the universe who is patiently waiting for me; am I willing to die to self so I can fully live for Christ? It is not so much a question of belief, but a question of if I will give all I am to follow God even if I don’t know where he is leading me? Can I really let go of my efforts to control my life and let the hand of God guide me?
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The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. – Gen. 12:1 (NIV)
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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Matt. 16:24 (NIV)
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Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. – Matt. 4:19-20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

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