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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Focusing on the good, not the bad

Lately, through various outlets such as my Bible reading, messages, and my recently finished Bible study, the Lord has been showing me something I need to work on in my life. It seems as if He were slowly revealing my eyes to this topic, and I wanted to share it with you here on my blog.

A lot of times we go through many trials and bumps in the road, mostly unexpected twists and turns in life. As a Christian, we know that we will suffer but we never seem to expect we will have to go through so many trials! It always hits me by surprise, and during those moments I am prone to be discouraged and upset over circumstances. While reading through Deuteronomy, I came across this passage in my reading,

And you murmured in your tents and said, 'Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
(Deu 1:27 ESV)

I am pretty sure I laughed when I read that verse. How could the Israelites ever possibly even think that God hated them? He had promised to be there with them throughout their journey into the promised land!!!! Had they not noticed all the miracles He had performed for them? But the Israelites only saw the image of defeat in their minds because they felt the Amorites were too powerful for them to overtake. The Israelites weren’t looking at the big picture, rather they were only seeing the giant standing in front of them that they couldn’t defeat by themselves. They had forgotten the power of the Lord. And even though Moses assured the Israelites that God would fight for them and defeat the Amorites, they didn’t believe it! They were so focused on the bad, they didn’t know that good would ultimately come out of the situation. And yet again we see a similarity in the New Testament in this passage

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
(Mar 8:31-33 ESV)

Jesus had specifically told his disciples the impending trials that would come upon Himself, but that in the end all would be well for them when He would rise from the dead. Apparently though, all the disciples could think about was the awful impending doom of Christ’s death. Somehow they never realized that Christ would rise from that death and not be bound to physical death. In another version it explains that once Christ told them this, they were filled with despair. They had missed the big picture!
Trials do and will come our way. A lot of times though, we focus on the horrible moment, the difficulties, instead of realizing that trials are to help produce endurance in us, and that they momentarily produce pain, but in the end the outcome is good whether we realize it now or later. Instead of focusing on the problem, we should take a look at the ultimate picture. The outcome in the end will produce sweet fruit, just as is told in Isaiah

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
(Isa 35:1-6 ESV)

Those who are weary, those who are going through tough times, notice that there are streams in the desert. There’s always a good side to a bad situation. Recently, I had been praying to the Lord about something I was going through. When I received my answer from the Lord, it was not the answer I had hoped for. It was the answer that caused me grief and distress. As I started to wallow in my sorrow, I suddenly realized that God had been so good to me in that moment. I realized He had given me a stream in the desert place. He had answered my prayer! Did you hear that? He answered it! Oh yes, it wasn’t the answer I wanted. I know that the ultimate answer to that prayer will produce more good for me than harm; I just cannot see it now, but I have to continuously train myself to realize that God’s plan is always better than my own! It was the answer that ultimately caused me grief, but He took the time to incline His ear to my prayer and listen, meaning that He cared and cares for me. I stopped right there to thank God just for answering my prayer. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture and just say, “What good in this situation can I thank God for right now?” Sometimes though it is tough to do that, and I still seem to think like the Israelites, “The Lord hates me!” It sounds silly, but I think we’ve all been in that situation where it just seems like God keeps pounding us with unbearable trials. When we take a close look at the Word of God and read it, we can definitely see that just because we have trials in life, doesn’t mean God hates us. As I was finishing up my Bible study in Jeremiah, these passages really stuck out to me.

For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.
(Jer 51:5 ESV)

And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the LORD, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished. "For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the LORD.
(Jer 48:35-38 ESV)

The context of the first verse is after Israel and Judah have finished their punishment from God for serving other gods. God tells them that even though they did evil and though He punished them with another evil country, they would be avenged by their oppressors. He still loved them enough to bring ultimate justice in the end. The context of the second verse is about a nation who never served the Lord that is soon to be punished. Notice how the verse says that God mourns over their impending destruction? My first thought was, “Why would God mourn over someone who never knew or cared about Him? They deserved to be punished. They brought the punishment upon themselves and God is sad because He has to punish them?” Then I realized that it’s just like our God to show compassion to those who don’t even care for Him. If God so loves those who don’t care about Him, how much more the ones He has saved? He cares for His children greatly! Though He may allow tough times to come into our lives, He continually watches over us, knowing the ultimate end will produce good for us and to His glory! If God mourns over the sufferings of those who are not His own, how much more His children as well? That is comforting to know that He literally goes with us through those trials, experiencing the same sorrow as us. There are definitely streams in the desert place, just carefully look around you and you’ll find them.

1 comment:

  1. Amen to that. It sure is hard to see those streams at times, but it definitely adds so much import to the fact that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Thank you for this.