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Martin and Katherine Luther

In 1527, the plague approached Wittenberg, Germany, home of Martin and Katherine Luther. Some say it was this looming calamity that prompted Luther to write one of the great hymns of the church: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” [1]

In fact, our congregation sang the ancient lyrics this past Sunday, although we were accompanied by keyboard, guitar, and drum—not organ. I was struck by the second line of the third verse:

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

My mind wandered a bit. I wonder how many scriptural truths promise the result of triumph through us—verses like “My God will meet all your needs.”[2] There must be hundreds!

A bit of research revealed that Luther based his hymn on these scriptural truths from Psalm 46:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (v. 1)
  • We will not fear though the earth give way (v. 2)
  • The Lord Almighty is with us; God is our fortress (v. 7)

Even though Luther and his family stayed in Wittenberg to care for the sick and dying, he wouldn’t have expected God to spare him or family members from the plague. Luther knew God doesn’t always intervene; he never promised heaven on earth.

But Luther understood: with God as our spiritual refuge, we find the comfort, strength, and support we need through the darkest valleys (Psalm 23).

God will lead us to triumph and provide victory over fear.

Another confidence-building scripture is tucked into the book of Nahum: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (1:7).

If we put our minds to it, every one of us can attest to the truth of those statements, because the Lord is good to all. [3]

Consider a few ways God demonstrates goodness to his people, and see if examples from your own life don’t come to mind.

  • He draws us to himself, gifting us with eternal life as we believe in his Son Jesus [4]
  • He provides mentors and experiences that grow our faith as well as blessings that increase our joy [5]
  • He attentively cares for us and spares us from grave errors in judgment as we obey him [6]
  • He bestows comfort and security during difficult times and augments the delight of happy times [7]
  • His Word guides us in perfect wisdom day by day, year after year [8]
  • He empowers us to accomplish tasks we never could have completed on our own [9]

“It’s important to rehearse the lovely, rich truths and promises that remain when other things change. Keep telling these truths, in all their many-sided glory, and one day, walls already cracked will crumble and fall.”

Jim McGuiggan [10]

Picture your fears cracking, crumbling, and falling in a heap in response to the weight of God’s truths.

That’s a picture of triumph!

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for Your gracious invitation to leave our concerns with you and free ourselves of anxiety. As I affirm your truth, you provide fortitude and peace.

One day, the father of lies who provokes all fears WILL be defeated. As Martin Luther wrote, “One little word shall fell him!”[11] We eagerly look forward to that day.

(1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 16:20; Philippians 3:20)

Addendum: Martin Luther and his family were all spared during the plague of 1527.


 

[1] No copies of this hymn have been found before this date, but a growing number after, leading various scholars to support this theory (https://www.challies.com/articles/hyms-stories-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god/).

[2] Philippians 4:19

[3] Psalm 145:9

[4] John 6:44; 3:16

[5] Proverbs 12:15; 18:15; Psalm 4:7

[6] Psalm 27:10 HCSB; 37:23-24

[7] Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 16:11

[8] Psalm 32:8. However, I must confess to not always being receptive.

[9] Philippians 4:13

[10] Quoted by Beth Moore in Praying God’s Word, 138.

[11] From the last line of verse three, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

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If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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Mr. Ribeau studied young Michael’s work, checking for crooked stitches and traces of glue. But after just two years of training, the young book-binding apprentice was already quite proficient.

“You’ve done a fine job, my boy!” Mr. Ribeau praised.

A small smile curled on Michael’s face. “Thank you, sir. This is the last book for today. May I go work on my experiments, please?”

Mr. Ribeau chuckled. “Of course. Off with you!” 

Michael scurried to the back room where his master had given him space to investigate his favorite subject: electricity.

Interest had begun five years before in 1803 when Michael became an errand boy for Mr. Ribeau. Michael would read the books that came into the London shop for binding. Even though he attended school for just two years, Michael read with competence.

The volumes on science especially intrigued him, and he desired to conduct his own experiments. Kind Mr. Ribeau had made it possible. He also provided extra pennies now and then to attend scientific lectures.

Another book captured Michael’s attention: The Improvement of the Mind by the famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts. Michael determined to follow Watts’ advice including: read worthwhile books, take thoughtful notes, and “ever maintain a virtuous and pious frame of spirit.”

No doubt Michael’s heart was primed for such a book, since he came from a Christian home. And as he grew into manhood, Michael embraced his faith in Jesus with ever-maturing dedication. 

One day Mr. Ribeau presented Michael with four passes to attend presentations by Sir Humphrey Davy, a renowned chemist. At each lecture, Michael took careful notes. Later he bound them into a beautiful book.

Sir Humphrey Davy

In 1811 at age nineteen, Michael completed his apprenticeship, but had no desire to become a bookbinder. Though just a tradesman with little schooling, he sought a position with one of the scientific institutions, including Sir Davy’s prestigious Royal Institution.

With that application, he sent his precious notebook from Davy’s lectures, hoping to convince the great chemist of his passion for the sciences. But no position was available.

In 1813 an invitation arrived for Michael to interview with Davy, and he was hired as a laboratory assistant. Michael quickly proved himself, assisting Sir Davy at his lectures. Six months later, Davy selected Michael to accompany him on a two-year lecture tour through Europe.

When they returned, Michael pursued his scientific studies with passion. He researched steel, hoping to make it stronger. He sought to improve lighthouse lamps, prevent corrosion of ships, clean up the pollution in the Thames, and preserve art works and sculptures.  

Young Michael Faraday

Michael was the first person to liquefy chlorine and discovered a new element, later named benzene, that’s used in dyes, nylon, and plastics. Further discoveries included the process that produced refrigeration and the potential use of ether as an anesthetic.

But he didn’t neglect his first love, electricity. Michael invented the transformer and the dynamo that created electricity without a battery. His discoveries also paved the way for the electric motor. In fact, Michael Faraday has been called “the scientific genius who gave electricity to the world” (1).

Such research propelled Michael into elite circles. He became director of the Royal Institution where he’d begun as an assistant to Sir Davy. Oxford University awarded him a doctorate, and he was invited to become a member—even president–of the prestigious Royal Society. He declined the position.

Michael Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution: Prince Albert and his sons in the audience. Wood engraving, 1856, after A. Blaikley. Contributors: Alexander Blaikley. Work ID: xt5crqqq.

In spite of great success, Michael Faraday remained a humble man, uninterested in the fortune he could have amassed, manufacturing his inventions.

To Michael, the pursuit of scientific studies was a holy calling, and to understand even a fraction of nature’s workings was a gift from God (2) –much more valuable than money.

But not all his waking hours were devoted to science. Faraday was an active church member, serving as elder for more than 20 years, frequently leading in worship and even preaching.

Faraday also demonstrated faith-in-action. For example:

He proved himself a forgiving man on many occasions. One time the elders removed him from their circle—even church membership for awhile–because he accepted an invitation from Queen Victoria for Sunday lunch, which meant he couldn’t be at church. 

But Michael continued to attend services and remained cordial to all, including those who’d hurt him.

Michael demonstrated grace. He and Sir Davy differed in opinion more than several times, but the younger scientist always expressed admiration for his mentor.

Michael’s generosity was also well known. He supported charities and visited the poor. And when his mother became widowed, he also supported her.

Throughout his career Michael expressed gratitude to God that he, a poor, uneducated tradesman should be privileged to explore the beauty and synchronization of God’s physical laws of creation.  

In 1861, the aging Faraday wrote to a friend, “The contemplation of death [is] a comfort—not a fear. Such peace is alone in the gift of God. . . His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope” (3).

Michael Faraday proved himself a man of intelligence and integrity, but also of strong faith in God, and in the end, peace.

Michael Faraday. Photograph by W. Walker & Sons. Work ID: hjz8gkmw.

Isaac Watts would have been pleased, and no doubt so is God (Psalm 147:11).

Notes:

1. https://www.revshirelymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

2. https://crev.info/scientists/michael-faraday/

3. Ibid

Sources:

https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/michael-faraday-gods-power-and-electric-power/

Heroes of the Faith: Michael Faraday

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/drinking-from-a-fount-on-sundays

https://christiantoday.com.au/news/michael-faraday-his-christian-faith-influenced-his-science.html

https://creation.com/michael-faradaygods-power-and-electric-power

Michael Faraday

https://www.revshirleymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

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Perhaps you’ve also heard these definitions:

  • A pessimist is a person who is seasick during the entire voyage of life.
  • An optimist is a person who goes in a restaurant with no money, and fully expects to pay for his meal with the pearl he finds among the oysters that he plans to order.
  • A realist is a person who does precise guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

M-m-m. According to those tongue-in-cheek definitions, who would aspire to any of these three attitudes?

Truth be told, pessimists often do identify worst-case scenarios and sometimes think God doesn’t care or he’d intervene. Optimists can believe God will always make good things happen, if we just have enough faith. Realists might not focus on the negative, yet still be cautious about expecting God’s involvement in their circumstances.

But what if he desires that we expect great things–things like strength to endure, help to solve problems, provision for needs, and guidance for decisions? Nineteenth century pastor/author Andrew Murray suggested:

It occurred to me that we Jesus-followers might aim past pessimism, realism, or optimism, toward up-timism. No, you won’t find that word in Webster’s. But according to the Nancy Ruegg Dictionary of Words We Need the up-timist looks up toward God, trusting that out of his love, goodness, and wisdom, he will do what is right.

Up-timists also take to heart the promises of scripture, they remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and affirm who he is in all his glorious attributes.

This doesn’t mean up-timists are perpetually giddy with cheer. But even as tears of pain or grief course down their cheeks, they rest in their Heavenly Father with joy. They’ve learned how to be “sorrowful but always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Consider these words from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon: “We ought to be glad and rejoice forever in that which God creates. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brothers and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. . . How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!”[1]

These words were penned when Spurgeon was deathly ill. Though he rallied for a time, the great theologian graduated to heaven six months later.

In the letter to his people excerpted above, he included a main characteristic of the up-timist: hope.

Hope is the confident expectation that God will use our painful circumstances for good . . . it’s what allows us to choose to rejoice amid hardships and to say to God, “I will rejoice in You.”[2]

By contrast, pessimists are often characterized by fatalism, realists by over-confidence in their own perceptions, and optimists by wishful thinking.

But up-timists affirm such confident expectations as these:

  • The Lord preserves those who are true to him . . . Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:23-24).
  • Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6).
  • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114).

Hope isn’t an automatic response in times of hardship, even for up-timists. We have to exercise our determination. One way is to speak truth to ourselves–with conviction. The scriptures listed above offer a good place to start.

Other truths include:

  • I know God has a purpose in this circumstance (Proverbs 19:21).
  • I know God will bring me through (Isaiah 40:29-31).
  • I know God is a good and loving Father, and he’s working toward the eternal perfection of his kingdom, for the benefit of all who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Note how God is at the center of the up-timist’s hope. She expects God to work in her life and in the world, anticipates the fulfillment of his promises, and looks forward to seeing his will unfold.

Note also that “hope doesn’t change what we see, like the lens of optimism or pessimism, hope changes us to withstand the journey this side of heaven with enduring joy, peace, and contentment.”[3]

So–would you describe yourself as an up-timist? How does that point of view impact your life? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] https://www.epm.org/blog/2019/Oct/23/godly-optimism.

[2] Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, 95.

[3] Kim Striver, https://www.coreradiate.com/blog/optimist

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That title comes from the New Living Translation of Hebrews 12:2:

Isn’t that a strength-infusing image? Picture our Lord Jesus wearing a spotless white robe, sitting tall on a regal white horse, a golden sash encircling his chest.  See his face glowing like the sun, eyes blazing like fire. And in his hands rests a scepter of iron. Everything about him conveys authority, glory, and power.[1]

Statue located in Hendersonville, TN at Trinity Music City. Photo by Brent Moore.

But more important than how he looks, of course, is what he does. And that list is extensive. 

We have a Champion on our side—an all-victorious One—who is ready to help us win this race of life as we stay focused on him.[2]

Scripture reveals remarkable truths about our Champion. The following sixteen statements not only create an acrostic, but offer glorious reasons for praise.  

Our Lord Christ is:

Jesus, the Son of God through whom all things were created and through whom we live.[3]

Everlasting Father, protecting and providing for us now and always.[4]

Sovereign over all, reigning with wisdom, righteousness, and mercy.[5]

Unfailing and unchanging in his personal love for each of us.[6]

Savior to all who believe in him.[7]

Overcomer of our arch enemy, Satan, who’s already been defeated.[8]

Upholder of justice and truth, always acting with integrity, always speaking rightly.[9]

Rescuer from every evil attack, who will take us to heaven when the time is right.[10]

Conqueror of death who brought us the good news of salvation, offering life to us that never ends.[11]  

Hero of impeccable character and omnipotent power, willing to help us every moment.[12]

Alpha and Omega, the all-sufficient One who always was and always will be.[13] 

Mighty Warrior King, coming to earth again to establish his glorious kingdom.[14] 

Perfector of our faith, who will never give up on us.[15]

Intercessor for all believers, continually pleading for us before God.[16]

One and only Word of God—communicating and manifesting the magnificence of God to us.[17]

Name above all names, the result of his absolute perfections and humble sacrifice in our place.[18]

And what will be the result as we focus our contemplations upon Jesus our Champion?

His influence will penetrate to the core of who we are.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

We’ll begin to act and react like Jesus, talk and even think like Jesus.

And in the process we’ll become champions ourselves—victors and conquerors, able to triumph over whatever comes our way.[19] 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for being my Champion. What a glorious relief to know that you—the all-sufficient One–go before me each day, ready to defend, protect, guide, and provide. May I keep my eyes fixed on you to bolster my faith and grow me more like you. I do want to live in confident victory!

2 Corinthians 2:14a; Deuteronomy 31:8;

Psalm 91:14-15; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:4

Scriptural support for this post:


[1] Daniel 7:9; Revelation 19:11-15; 1:13-16; Daniel 7:14

[2] Philippians 3:7-12; Hebrews 12:2

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:6 NLT

[4] Revelation 21:4

[5] Ephesians 1:19b-21; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 42:1; James 5:11

[6] John 15:13

[7] John 3:16

[8] John 16:33; 1 John 3:8

[9] Jeremiah 33:15; Revelation 19:11; 1 Peter 2:22

[10] 2 Timothy 4:18; John 14:2-3

[11] 1 Timothy 1:10 CEV

[12] 1 John 2:1; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 4:13

[13] Revelation 22:13; Colossians 1:13-20

[14] Isaiah 42:13; Psalm 72

[15] Philippians 1:6

[16] Romans 8:34 GNT

[17] John 1:1; Colossians 1:15; 2:9

[18] Philippians 2:6-11

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37

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Pretend you’re on an ocean liner headed from New York City to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more.

You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this ocean-voyage illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, to help us understand God’s sovereignty:

  • Our all-powerful God wields total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship.
  • We’ve been given much freedom within the confines of God’s sovereignty to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I for one find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God.

As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He’s chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow humans free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who couldn’t fulfill their responsibilities.

But our Ruler is supremely capable. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Isaiah 25:1).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on humankind (Daniel 4:35).

Consider how circumstances must have seemed to the people of Judah as the barbaric Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B. C., murdered all the nobles, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.

That wasn’t an isolated case of oppression either. Good people have suffered at the hands of the wicked for eons, and it breaks our hearts. It breaks God’s heart too (Isaiah 63:10). 

Our question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people doesn’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he’s doing.

And he will have the last word.

So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Who’s in Charge Here?, apply the oil of gladness, delighting in who God is—your all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in thIs affirmation: “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sovereign Lord of the universe, I bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! I stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

But for those times when I cannot understand your plan or your ways, help me stand in the truth of who you are.

(Revised and reblogged from February 26, 2015, while we enjoy the company of out-of-town family.)

Photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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Many who follow Jesus long for the fulness of blessings he’s promised, like intimacy with God, peace of mind, and life to the fullest (1).

When these blessings aren’t apparent, it’s natural to wonder why. A person might think, I just need to try harder, become more disciplined. Maybe I should severely limit recreation and sacrifice more.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-discipline and sacrifice are part of a dynamic Christian life (2), and actually become delights as we mature in our faith.

But what if:

Intimacy with our Heavenly Father doesn’t require a monk-like lifestyle but stillness and spending time with him in scripture.

“The world applauds achievement; God desires companionship. The world clamors, “Do more! Be all you can be!” But our Father whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

If Bible study sounds like a chore, talk to someone who considers it a joy. Learn from them how to experience the same.

Faith doesn’t require long prayers about inadequate faith, but simply resting in what we know about God.

“If you feed your faith, your doubts will starve to death.”

Debbie MacComber

One way to feed your faith is to keep a journal of events that give evidence of God’s work in your life, his guidance, provision, and blessing (3). I promise, you’ll be amazed.

Peace doesn’t come from distracting ourselves with busyness, but from knowing God, focusing on him through worship, and meditating on his attributes.

Reverend Croft M. Pentz expressed it this way:

“No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.”

Croft M. Pentz

And Ruth Bell Graham discovered:

We’d do well to learn from her experience.

Hope isn’t generated by wishful thinking, but by affirming the Word of God.

Some of you will remember the old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” The second verse offers this encouragement:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
  Standing on the promises of God.

–Russell K. Carter

For every hope—of a problem to be solved, a relationship to be healed, and a need to be met—there are scripture-promises on which to place our hope. To trust God is to trust his promises. 

Contentment isn’t the result of having all desires fulfilled, it’s the result of gratitude for what we already have.

When we begin to thank God for such delights as the friendly wave of a neighbor, the worshipful toll of church bells, the bright lady bug on a stem, we soon realize how many gifts he bestows.    

Add to his daily delights the assurance that God is with us to support, within us to empower, and going before us to lead the way (4).

Most of our wants pale in comparison to the glories we already enjoy. . .

. . . in creation . . .
. . . in relationships . . .
. . . in usefulness.

A rich and satisfying life doesn’t come through self-centered gratification, but through obedience to God’s ways.

“God’s commands are designed to guide us to life’s very best” (5), including the qualities we’ve considered in this post: delightful intimacy with God, restful peace, constant contentment, and more. That’s a life overflowing with joy.

Pursuing this kind of rich, satisfying life is a bit like making soup! Every ingredient that goes in the pot impacts the flavor of everything else in the pot. In the spiritual realm, everything we do, say, or even think impacts the flavor of our faith.

Gratitude produces contentment but also impacts our worship and quality of life. Faith grows our knowledge of God, but also grows contentment and spiritual strength. Scripture study instills peace, but also nurtures hope and tightens our connection to God. The list could continue but you get the idea.

The bottom line is this:

The question becomes, what actions will we pursue to genuinely impact the flavor of our faith?  


1. James 4:8; John 14:27; John 10:10

2. Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:2

3. “Christmas Afterglow” includes several examples.

4. Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Deuteronomy 31:8

5. Henry Blackaby

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixnio.com.

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You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com (3).

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“This is the property,” his agent told him, as they flew over a great swath of swampy real estate—about 43 square miles worth.  “What do you think?”

The passenger, W.E., smiled with satisfaction. He hardly noticed the scrub pines, cypress groves, and marshy ponds dotting the landscape. In his mind’s eye he saw beauty and grandeur. “I like it!” he cried.

Ground view of the kind of landscape W.E. saw that day

Within days, W.E. and his associates were arranging to purchase the land from the various owners. The final price tag: five million dollars (the equivalent of about 43 million today).

That was in 1963. In 2011, the property was estimated to be worth over 1.3 billion dollars, because of W. E.’s vision and his ability to accomplish what he started.

Development of the property began in 1965. It took thousands of workers and six years to complete the initial phase of W. E.’s plan.

First, the acreage had to be cleared, then lakes dredged as well as canals built in order to control the flow of water. Before the first foundation could be poured, the land had to be elevated. Millions of trees, shrubs, and plants were also installed.

Some might say what followed was pure magic, as the massive project resulted in Disney World. And ever since its opening in 1971, the visionary genius of Walter Elias Disney has dazzled the senses of visitors.

Someone else sees value in places where most of us don’t. The King of the universe recognizes worth in you and me, scrubby and nondescript as we might be. In fact, he smiles with satisfaction on his people of faith, because what he envisions is the beauty and grandeur of what we’re becoming.[1]

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:

And what does God’s good work include? Here’s a partial list:

  • He guides us to know what’s right and then empowers us to do it
  • He creates the desire within us to follow his way of wisdom
  • He draws us toward a heavenly perspective that impacts our choices and motives
  • He grows our love for one another
  • He develops godly traits that minister to others and provide us satisfaction as well
  • He transforms us, day by day, into the beauty and grandeur of Christ’s character[2]

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles” wrote Charles Spurgeon—miracles that include wisdom, love, godliness, power, and more. Such transformation is much more spectacular than turning swampland into a stunning park. And God will never stop developing his miracles within us until we’re home with him.

Our challenge is to submit to his work.  

God wants to dredge self-centeredness from our spirits so rivers of living water can flow freely. Then we’ll enjoy the continual, life-giving spring of contentment he provides.[3]

God wants to place us on the foundation-rock of his Word, providing peace and security—especially when the storms of life threaten to overtake us.[4]   

God also wants to establish us like trees planted by water. Then we won’t fear the heat of difficulty or a drought of deprivation, because our roots grow deep into the river of God’s delights—delights like His love, his truth as found in the Bible, his strength and presence.[5]

Walt Disney and his team did accomplish incredible feats of innovation, design, and technology. But God shaping us into beautiful, joyful, purposeful people?  That’s mind-boggling miraculous.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, loving Father, for continuing to grow me in your grace until your task within me is finally finished. Thank you for never giving up, for completing what you start. May I be an enthusiastic participant in your good work!

Sources:

https://dozr.com/blog/building-disney-world

https://d23.com/we-say-its-disney/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/megandubois/2021/09/23/looking-back-at-50-years-of-walt-disney-world-history-and-business-strategy/?sh=a0fc33fff209

https://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140323/17091/making-walt-disney-world-20-amazing-photographs

Notes:


[1] Psalm 147:11

[2] Psalm 119:33-37; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[3] John 7:37-39 and footnote to v. 38, The Woman’s Study Bible

[4] Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 119:24

[5] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 36:8; Ephesians 3:16-19

Photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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