What Now, Lord?
It happened as I was driving home one night. You’ve probably experienced it before. The Holy Spirit points out something in your life that needs to go, and you know it’s the start of a season of spiritual growth.
I wish I could say I responded with excitement, looking forward to what God wanted to do in my life. But I didn’t.
Instead I threw my hands up in exasperation and groaned, What now, Lord?
It may sound slightly irreverent, but I felt like I’d already come through a series of these spiritual “growth spurts,” and I was tiring of the routine.
In the last year and a half I had emerged from a dark night of the soul experience in which God had led me to deal with bitterness and resentment that had taken hold in my heart. Prior to that, He had brought me through a season of testing through which He taught me to trust Him more. And before that, He had taken me through a season of forgiving painful offenses (and offenders) from the past.
Bitterness, trust, unforgiveness, what could be next? I wondered.
I felt like I’d been through the wringer and had finally come to a place where the hard part was all over.
Can’t I have a break, Lord? I asked, thinking back to the spring breaks I enjoyed in college. For a short time, there were no tests, studying, or homework, just relaxation and fun. Having an extended period like that during which I could just “coast” spiritually would be nice.
Not gonna happen.
Okay, that’s not the exact words that the Lord used, but it sums up what He said. He taught me an important lesson that day.
As long as we are still on earth, God is still working on us. We will never reach the point where we can say we are finished until we get to Heaven where our transformation will be complete.
I don’t know who first penned the popular saying, “God loves you where you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there,” but that person was right. The Bible describes it as a pruning process where God shapes our hearts and our attitudes to bear spiritual fruit for him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2 NIV).
We don’t have to dread this process. It is simply God wanting to make us more like Him. Having the Holy Spirit point out our faults may not feel good, but Scripture tells us that God’s discipline is a sign of His love for us.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV).
The Lord encouraged me that day that though I’m not always where He wants me to be spiritually, He still loves me right where I am. Day by day He is shaping my heart and my character to match His.
That night I decided to embrace the work that God wants to do in my life, even when it means working through the hard stuff. Instead of asking, “What now, Lord?” in frustration, I’ll respond with an eager “What’s next, Lord?” because I want more than anything to be like Him.
If God is putting His finger on an area of your heart that He wants to work on, don’t resist. Allow Him unhindered access as He works in your life.
And on those days when you feel like you have jumped over one spiritual hurdle only to slam face-first into the next one, remember that we are all a work in progress.
We can be encouraged by the same promise that Paul used to encourage the early Christians at Philippi.
Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30: 5 (NAS)
Waiting on the Lord
By: Jeanne Phillips, author, crosswalk.org
I am still 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 and wait for the LORD. – Psalms 27:13-14
I read a book a few years ago for couples discerning marriage called The Exclamation. The author pointed out that God could answer the question “Should I marry him/her” in only three ways: Yes. No. Wait.
I think the toughest of the three is, “Wait.” It’s not just that we live in an impatient society (we do), and it’s not just that we can be selfish, demanding creatures (we can), and it’s not just that we tend to want life on our own terms (we do) — it’s that waiting requires surrender of one of man’s most precious commodities: time.
Our lives are finite. Each day is precious, each month, each year, because we only have but so many. So when the Infinite God whispers to His limited creatures, “Wait,” our responses often sound something like this:
“You see, you don’t get it, God. Sure, it’s easy for you to wait – you have all of eternity. But I really need some answers. You gave Amy answers, and Chuck answers, and Lori answers, so it’s only right and fair you give me answers. After all, you said ‘whoever seeks shall find’ and stuff, so now I’m seeking, and ‘wait’ just isn’t an acceptable response.”
I think it’s even tougher to wait when we have pain lingering in our pasts. We may wonder, “Why should I trust God? Last time everything ended in disaster.” I speak from experience here. I’ve had to wait on an answer to prayer for a long time now – even for someone of my youthful age. I know how tough it is to receive the umpteenth “not yet” from God. I know what it’s like to look back on painful deferments and feel like life is slipping by.
Yes, waiting isn’t for spiritual wimps, but for those strong of heart. Obeying a “not yet” from God requires true faith. It’s handing over our days and years and months to God, trusting that we won’t regret holding off. It’s believing God’s plan is truly the best plan even when several other enticing options tempt us. It’s deferring what is good for what is best.
And there’s the reward of waiting. Even in the midst of my own unanswered prayers, I still believe God isn’t out to get you or me. He doesn’t ask us to wait to torment us. In His infinitely perfect nature, He sees what we can’t and wants to give us more than we’re currently asking for. All the times I’ve ignored God’s “wait” and taken matters into my own hands, a lot of precious time was wasted. But those that wait on Him will experience joy that far surpasses any temporary pleasure that comes with forging ahead alone.
Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30: 5 (NAS)
“For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” – Philemon 1:7 NASB
Paul was motivated by his relationship with Jesus. He considered himself His prisoner. Paul realized that this commitment impacted lives in practical ways. He and others had experienced this impact through the testimony of Philemon.
Paul described how others had been “refreshed” by Philemon’s actions. He used a Greek word that Jesus used when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus can take away our burdens. He can refresh us and give us peace. As His followers, we, too, can have this impact.
Philemon’s life had this influence also. Through his example, he had helped relieve others of stress and worry and fostered the presence of peace and rest. He had been a positive role model, demonstrating how to apply Biblical principles.
His actions also were a blessing to Paul himself. Recognizing the impact of Philemon’s ministry, Paul had been encouraged. Believers are to have this kind of impact on others – the impact of lives totally committed to Jesus. What happens when we seek first the Kingdom of God and are filled with the Spirit?
Be sensitive to ways God can use you in the lives of others. Seek to be a source of encouragement. Demonstrate this concern by being a compassionate listener. Pray for others. Be ready to share the resources you have been given to help meet their needs.
Streams in the Desert – October 5
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
After a while, the stream dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:7)
The education of our faith is incomplete if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual establishment. The dwindling stream by which Elijah sat and mused is a true picture of the life of each of us. “It came to pass … that the brook dried up”—that is the history of our yesterday, and a prophecy of our morrows.
In some way or other we will have to learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may be good for a while, but the Giver is the Eternal Love.
Cherith was a difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, and then it was all as clear as daylight. God’s hard words are never His last words. The woe and the waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and not to the finale.
Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried up, it has been that we might learn that our hope and help are in God who made Heaven and earth.
—F. B. Meyer
Perchance thou, too, hast camped by such sweet waters,
And quenched with joy thy weary, parched soul’s thirst;
To find, as time goes on, thy streamlet alters
From what it was at first.
Hearts that have cheered, or soothed, or blest, or strengthened;
Loves that have lavished so unstintedly;
Joys, treasured joys—have passed, as time hath lengthened,
If thus, ah soul, the brook thy heart hath cherished
Doth fail thee now—no more thy thirst assuage—
If its once glad refreshing streams have perished,
Let HIM thy heart engage.
He will not fail, nor mock, nor disappoint thee;
His consolations change not with the years;
With oil of joy He surely will anoint thee,
And wipe away thy tears.
—J. D. Smith