Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beauty From Ashes With A Surprise At The End

We can say all we want to the world about Jesus but if people do not believe God exists and if they do not trust what the Bible says they won't care. Shouting at someone a hundred times that Jesus loves them is not going to convince them that Jesus is real. Quoting a hundred perfectly good Bible verses at them is not going to convince them that the Bible is true. There is so much false and misleading information out there now, especially thanks to modern communication technology, that it takes something personal to remove the filters of doubt. It requires some sort of crisis of faith.

When I speak of crisis of faith it does not necessarily mean a physical crisis. It is simply that God doesn't become real to many people until they are at the point where there is no one else to turn to. It could be a mental thing where a person is plagued with all kinds of thoughts and questions. It can be a thing of depression and hopelessness. It can be a financial, health, relationship crisis, or anything that puts us into a state of crisis, when we realize that we are helpless to help ourself and there is no one else who can do anything either. It can also be a simple matter of wrestling with the question of God's existence to the point where you know you have to make a choice to believe or not because you can't leave it unanswered.

For many of us our faith is born out of crisis, when we end up calling out to God in our loneliness and despair or from our situation of desperation. We were in some sort of mess, probably of our own creation, and we said, "God if you exist I need you to show yourself to be real. Help me." Or it could have been along the lines of, "God, I know I have made a real mess of things but I am told you love me. Please forgive me and help me deal with this." There are probably a thousand variations but they all express that moment of recognizing that we need Jesus. Let me tell you that it doesn't stop there.

All of us know that life is never what anyone says it is going to be. It is filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, sunshine and rain. As disciples of Jesus we hold onto the fact that God uses the sunshine and the rain for our good. He uses days of great blessings and days of great trials to better us, to increase us, to help us grow. The Word tells us:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

"In all things" is pretty inclusive. I am sure you can think of many things in your life you would rather have avoided, yet God did not allow those things to go to waste. In some manner he has used those things, or at least he desired to use those things, to prosper you. It is in some of the darkest times in your life that God has been the most vibrant to you. You grew in your faith, in your trust. You made a decision to trust God instead of shrinking back. With the psalmist you declared:

But I trust in you, O LORD; 
   I say, “You are my God.” (Psalm 31:14)


Such a declaration changes you, removes the filters from your eyes, causes you to rise up, reveals the glory of God in you and provokes ceaseless praying and worship. You are able to see the truth of our life:

No king is saved by the size of his army; 
   no warrior escapes by his great strength. 
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; 
   despite all its great strength it cannot save. 
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, 
   on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 
to deliver them from death 
   and keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33:16-19)


That's the thing about a crisis of faith, you have a choice to either grow or shrink back. Our Father desires to do something great with the disasters of our life, even when we are the ones that have caused them by our own sin. He wants to make something beautiful but we have to give him permission. We have to submit ourselves to him and trust him no matter how dark the clouds or vast the army.

Jesus taught his disciples an important lesson concerning faith after he had withered the fig tree. He said:

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22) 

The important thing to realize here is that the only way you can know this is if you encounter a few mountains in your life. God uses those mountains; he may not have put them there but he uses them to make you something more than what you were. It may not have been the way you preferred, it may even be an ugly thing that leaves you less in people's eyes. But is it not better to be more in God's eyes and less in the eyes of the world then the other way round?

It does not matter how long you have been a disciple of Jesus, you will always be faced with the same question when you face the mountain; do you trust him to remove it when you ask? Do you dare ask to be delivered from your enemies, rescued from the pit, strengthened for the valley? Do you dare ask for healing from your suffering, direction in the darkness, victory in the battle? Do you trust Jesus? Do you have faith in the Father? It is in these fires that we are forged and we become the heroes of the faith that he has called us to be.

I was going to conclude with that but as I was writing an image of a broken, bruised and hurting heart came to mind. Of a woman sitting in a cocoon of loneliness, weak, convinced she is nothing and is worth nothing, as if God sees no value in her. Perhaps dear soul this is your first time reading my blog and perhaps you have read it in secret for years. It is the first time I have done something like this, and it is specifically for you. I have been prompted because he loves you. Know this, out of the ashes of your heart Jesus wants to grow something fantastically beautiful. Perhaps you're right, that you don't deserve it but that is not the way it works. He does not grow beauty from ashes because we deserve it but because he is righteous. That's how we can be assured it is true because he does it according to grace and not merit. He loves you. Perhaps many don't but he does and he wants to lavish that love upon you, to heal your wounds, to give strength to your arms and legs, to breathe new life into your lungs, to renew your mind and transform your heart. He wants to show the world the beauty he has made you to be.The only question is, do you trust him enough to ask him?

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I must say Pastor, your words in these articles are amazing. Your blog is my favorite of all the other things I read about faith and love for Jesus. Your words remind me of myself, when I read them. Coming out from the Darkness to see that Jesus does Love and you only need to have faith. At the end where you mention the lady in despair, it is touching to the heart. For maybe a year or so, I lived in depression, with no real friends, and very little communication with others. But something inside me, told me, to rise up and believe, to call out for help.