At his ascension into heaven, Jesus assured his disciples that he would continue to be with them – at least in spirit – always (Matthew 28:20); and Paul taught that Jesus works for our good in all things regardless how they appear at the moment. (Romans 8:28 One alternative rendering of, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him,…” being “God works together with those who love him to bring about good.”) In fact, Paul had experienced the sustaining power of God to such a degree that he claimed to have found the secret to contentment in any and every situation; doing all things – and bearing all things – through Christ who strengthened him, acquiring peace in the midst of the good and not-so-good life had to offer. (Philippians 4:12,13) He had discovered that God often saves us through our weaknesses and trouble in order to reveal himself through his power in sustaining us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), the stand we take in spite of the way he chooses to handle the situation being evidence of our trust and trustworthiness as well. (See Daniel 3:17,18)
As a consequence of Paul’s faith and God’s faithfulness, he was, “…not anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, (able to) present (his) requests to God.” Philippians 4:6; patterning his expectations after those of Christ himself. (Luke 22:42) He had come to the conclusion that God is the personification of love (1 John 4:16; John 3:16 & 4:7-10), and that he works out the very best for our lives in and through all things; that what may at times appear to be God’s silence or inactivity in certain situations is never a sign of disinterest. He responds as he sees fit, rescuing and blessing according to his identification of need, bringing success to our lives according to his definition of it.
Yet therein lies the struggle we often encounter in our prayer lives and in our acceptance of God’s will. We are slow to understand that he is not our servant, we are his; our reasons for existence being to honor and glorify him, the purpose of our earthly lives, in large part, being to prepare us for heaven. The accomplishment of that often best achieved when we experience difficulties as we seek him more ardently during those times. (See John the Baptist – Matthew 11:2-4 and Lazarus – John 11:1-44) Even the ultimate failure – in our eyes – having a purpose and reason in God’s plan for us as, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:5 and, “The righteous perish, …devout men are taken away,… to be spared from evil.” Is. 57:1 Death in Christ having an aspect of reward and blessing – redemption from illness and the evil of the world; receiving a degree of health and well-being we would never experience during our best days on earth.
The problem is often one of perception on our part; as with the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25), who were unable to make sense of the facts as they unfolded before their eyes. Because they didn’t feel God’s presence at that moment, they believed he no longer cared or was no longer in control. While the truth of the matter was, they had forgotten Joseph, who exemplified the faith of a true man of God whose life none-the-less often didn’t seem to make sense, only to discover that his life was being played out in the exact center of God’s will. (Genesis 37,39-45) The Psalmist reflecting Joseph’s attitude in beseeching God to teach him the proper way to consider life’s opportunities and the most effective means of implementing that knowledge, gaining insight into the possibilities of life as viewed from God’s perspective. (Psalm 90:12)
James pointedly questions our self-determination in deciding what we will or won’t do without seeking God’s will first, describing our lives as a mere mist that briefly appears and then just as suddenly vanishes. (James 4:14) Paul contrasting our vision of reality with that which we will gain when we are fully redeemed saying, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 For in truth, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 The answers to our doubts and misgivings being found in the peace that transcends understanding through a faith that God knows best, wants the most for us and works to bring that about in and through all the circumstances of our lives – according to his will and way. (Philippians 4:7)
Scripture is replete with challenges for us to trust in God along with assurances of what His response will be when we do. Such as, “Here is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy one of Israel says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,…” Is. 30:15 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6 A successful Christian life is, therefore, fully dependent on trust; trusting God at times because of the circumstances he has brought us through and sometimes trusting God in spite of them; Jesus encouraging us to, “…not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1
Check back next week for more of what’s happening – even when we can’t see it taking place.
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