Do you want to live a life that is pleasing to God? Do you hope to one day hear Jesus say to you “well done, good and faithful servant?”
I presume the answer is yes. Let me tell you where to start.
You start with faith. Specifically, you start by believing that God exists. That He is. That He created the universe and everything in it and that He sustains it by His mighty power and in wisdom. It has to start here. Think about it. If you went Facebook and said “Has anyone ever heard of a woman who calls herself Dolly and who says she lives in Pidgeon Forge TN? I know people swear she’s real, but I don’t believe it. I think the whole Dolly thing is all made up!” Knowing Dolly, she’d probably be really relaxed about the whole thing and say “I guess everyone’s entitled to his own opinion. But here I am!”
It’s hard to imagine Dolly would ever think to herself “that guy on Facebook who doesn’t seem to like me very much and who thinks I’m not real? That makes me so happy! That just makes my day!” I know the illustration is imperfect, but the Bible is pretty clear that God is not pleased by our unbelief. The writer of Hebrews warns “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart.” Unbelief is not a pathway toward pleasing God.
But it’s not just believing that He exists that pleases God. We must also believe that He is good. All the time. God is not pleased when the people who He created ascribe to Him an evil or unkind motive, anymore than any of us would be pleased if after giving good gifts to our children they accused us of not caring or not loving them.
So when the writer of Hebrews says “without faith, it’s impossible to please God,” the faith he’s talking about begins with those two elements. “He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him. Faith involves more than those two elements, but it begins there. It can’t be less than that.
So let’s make this practical. In the circumstances you’re facing in your life right now – the hard, challenging, maybe even painful circumstances – are you responding with faith? Or with unbelief? In the midst of the problems or challenges in front of you, can you find your way back to the beginning steps of faith? Can you say “Even with what’s in front of me, I still believe there is a God. And I still believe He is good. I may not be able to make sense of my circumstances, and my pain may be very real. But I’m choosing to go back to square one, and to reaffirm what I know is true. God is real. And God is good.”
Two thoughts about choosing faith in the midst of pain, discouragement and doubt. First, King David in the Bible provides us a template for how he did this in his own life. Over and over again, the Psalms of lament, he cries out to God in the midst of his own pain and confusion. He acknowledges to God that He feels abandoned and uncared for. But over and over again, we see him moving from his pain back to the basics of his relationship with God. He reminds himself of the goodness of God.
In Psalm 13, for example (one of my favorites), David begins by asking the Lord “How long will you forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I have sorrow in my soul all day long?” From that place of distress, David cries out to God for help. “Answer me, O Lord My God” he declares.
But then, he refocuses his own heart on the reality that God exists and that He is good. “I have trusted in your steadfast love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to you. You have dealt bountifully with me.”
That’s just one example of dozens of times in the book of Psalms when David follows the path from the trouble and turmoil of his life back to the beginning point of his faith – his belief in the goodness of a very real and very present God.
The other picture in scripture of a man who, in the midst of pain has to realign his heart and his thinking is found in Mark 9, where a man in distress comes to Jesus seeking help. “If you can do anything,” the man says, indicating that he has his doubts about just how much power Jesus has, “have compassion on my son and me. Help us out.”
“If you can?” Jesus says. “All things are possible for those who believe.”
I love the man’s honest response. “Lord,” he says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Jesus has compassion on the man and grants him the relief he was seeking. His faith steps may have been baby steps. But Jesus’ response was not a half way response.
Those who would seek to honor and please God will believe that He is and that He is good. Even in the midst of trial and sorrows. As He sees any of His children taking that first step of faith toward Him in times of turmoil, His heart is glad. He is pleased.
Whatever the circumstance in front of you today, will you go back to the beginning point of faith and rebelieve what your soul knows is true. There is a God. And He loves you. He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.
MEN’S RETREAT – MARCH 4-5
Men. It’s that time. I know that over the last two years we’ve become conditioned not to make plans because who knows what might happen. Well, it’s time to start making plans again.
First, decide now to be part of the men’s retreat next weekend. This Sunday is your last chance to register. You can click here right now to reserve your spot!
FIRST TUESDAY MEN’S GATHERING – MARCH 1
|And just before the retreat, we’ll be getting together for our First Tuesday Men’s Gathering on March 1. The topic this coming month is the ongoing battle with lust and pornography. Our guest via Zoom will be Dr. Joe Rigney who has written a helpful book on this subject called More Than A Battle. If you haven’t yet downloaded the syllabus for our upcoming First Tuesday gathering you’ll find it here. |
This First Tuesday event is for every man in our church. I’m expecting our time with Joe to be something every man will find helpful.
Last week I encouraged you to take 10 minutes out of your day and to pick five people in our church to pray for. And then I asked you to let those people know you were praying for them.
Did you do that? If you did, thank you. Thank you for making prayer a priority in your life.
If you didn’t stop and ask this question. Why didn’t I?
“I’m just too busy.” Really? 10 minutes?
“It just feels awkward.” I get that. But I can tell you that the note I received from one of you saying that you were praying for me did not make me at all uncomfortable. I was grateful for your kindness and boldness!
Is there some other reason you decided to skip over that simple request? Like maybe you don’t really believe that praying for one another should be a priority? Or that it really makes any difference at all whether we pray for one another?
What’s the reason you chose?
And whatever it is, can I ask you to reconsider? Here again is what I’m proposing.
Click this link to open the Redeemer online church directory. Scroll through the list of names. Pick five (or more).Pray for the five you pick. Send a text or an email to the five people and tell them you prayed for them. Just say “I took the prayer challenge in the newsletter and you were one of the five people I prayed for.” You can add anything else you’d like to your note.
Will praying for one another more often, more regularly, really do anything? Let’s find out.
Every farmer knows that you can’t leave a garden untended and expect a bountiful harvest. Taking care of the garden is hard work. And as we’ll see in our study of John 15 this week, God is a diligent gardener who works hard so that His garden will produce good fruit. He cuts off dead branches and prunes the living branches. This Sunday, we’ll explore what Jesus has in mind when He refers to God as the Vinedresser.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!