A few weeks ago, I wrote about “What Would Happen If We Fully Surrendered To God?” in reflection on a D.L. Moody quote.
As I wrote it, another quote of His came to mind that I couldn’t shake and felt was the perfect follow up:
“I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of selfishness and ambition and self-seeking and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride and conceit, ambition and self-seeking, pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. I also believe that many a man is praying to God to fill him, when he is full already with something else. Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray that He would empty us. There must be an emptying before there can be a filling; and when the heart is turned upside down, and everything that is contrary to God is turned out, then the Spirit will come…”D.L. Moody
To put this idea into a bit-sized summary:
If we desire to be filled more with God’s Spirit,
We have to be empty of the things that are not of God.
As a note: I believe that all Christians are filled with the Spirit of God at the time of salvation, but that our sanctification process (becoming more like and nearer to Jesus until we reach heaven) is what D.L. Moody means by being more “filled” with His Spirit. That the idea of being “filled more” with God’s Spirit is more about empowerment and more surrender to God and His Spirit and not regarding salvation.
This idea of further emptying ourselves of things that are not of God is complemented with how there are so many verses that tell us to focus on “things above, and not on things below” (Colossians 3:2) or to dwell on good things (Philippians 4:8), or to not be drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Because when we’re full of something,
We can’t be filled with something else.
When we’re full of things that are not of God,
We can’t be filled more completely by God.
The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it another way:
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”Hebrews 12:1
When we cling to other things (and are full of other things)
They keep us from fully pursuing and following Jesus (and being filled more fully by His Spirit)
Have you been praying for God to fill you with His Spirit?
Maybe it’s time to complement those prayers with additional surrender in your life.
Surrender is an ongoing practice and journey that God has us all on,
And it won’t be over until heaven.
So, what area do you need to surrender in?
What area do you need to let go?
What/who are you clinging to?
What/who are you “filled” with?
Give it all to Jesus.
Surrender fully to Him and His plan.
And may you be able to cling to Him all the more,
And enjoy even more of His Spirit in your life.
As you may have seen on Facebook last week:
From Florida to Washington State.
What many of you might not know is that we made the opposite move (Washington State to Florida) in 2012 to help start a church.
And ever since we moved to Florida we’ve had people ask when/if we’re going to move back to Washington.
And our response has always been the same: “God called us to move here, and we don’t know for how long. He may call us somewhere else in two months, two years, two decades, or never.”
And throughout our time here, we’ve continued to pray that God would show us where/when He wants us to move if He wants us to be somewhere else or to be doing something else.
And 7.5 years later, He has told us to move to Washington State.
As we began sharing this with others we were met with a mix of sorrow and celebration and also with people recognizing that they also feel God is moving us that direction.
I don’t know what God has for us next, but we know that God is moving us towards something.
Some family and friends have even mentioned that God might move us somewhere else shortly after we get to Washington.
We don’t know.
But here’s what we do know:
God has a plan,
And God promises to lead us,
As long as we look to Him and keep following.
There are several things in this move to Washington that don’t make sense to us (yet) but we are trusting that God has plans and reasons that He hasn’t revealed yet – and He is doing that on purpose to keep us trusting Him.
Following God doesn’t always make sense or follow a specific pattern, but it always involves looking to Him for guidance and to godly counsel and Scripture for confirmation.
A Relationship, Not A Formula
Throughout Scripture, we see that God doesn’t want us to simply copy and paste a formula for life, but instead He wants us dependent on an individual relationship with Him, lived out together with others in His Church.
This is because God wants us to live by a relationship based off of faith instead of a calculated impersonal “check the right boxes” kind of life.
If God always worked in a specific way, then we could simply do the “right” things and get specific results in a way that is just as personal as putting money into a vending machine.
But God wants more than a vending machine relationship.
He wants a real and personal relationship.
Here’s some examples in Scripture that show how God rarely worked in the same way twice:
God parted the Red Sea before they stepped in the water for Israel to cross,
Then He required the priests to step halfway into the Jordan before stopping the water for them to cross.
God gave the children of Israel victory over their enemies by having them march around a wall,
And also by having them strategically fight in classic warfare.
God provided mana from Heaven,
And later provided fields and vineyards for Israel to work for their food.
Jesus healed many by touching them or speaking to them,
And He also healed the Centurion’s servant from across town without ever seeing him.
Following And Obeying Jesus
Part of having a real relationship with God is seeking His will on a daily basis not just checking off all the “boxes” in life.
It can be as simple as speaking words of truth and life to someone,
Giving to someone in need,
Choosing to read His Word,
Spending time with Him,
Even taking a different job or moving across the country.
God has made clear many things in Scripture and He has called us to obey Him each step of the way.
Sometimes we don’t know what that next step is (as I wrote about recently in a blog post titled: “God’s Will For Your Life When You Don’t Know What To Do“).
Other times, we hear clearly from God, are confirmed by Scripture and godly counsel, and have direct steps to take.
The most important thing is that we seek Jesus in everything, and follow Him wherever He leads.
Whether in the unique and exciting or the mundane and normal.
So, wherever your life is right now,
And follow Him.
Being a Christian is far more than attending services on Sundays,
And that has never been more obvious than with the social distancing situation we have right now.
So, what can Christians do besides simply watching a video streamed online service?
Obviously, being stuck at home limits a lot of opportunities you have to live out your faith in Jesus, but here are 8 things you can do even now.
As a note, these are great things to start getting in the habit of and to continue doing even after life has returned to normal.
1. Study the Bible and share what God is teaching you with others
If you’ve never studied the Bible on your own, this is a great time to start. I’ve written a two-part blog series on how to study your Bible if you need help (here’s part 1 and part 2).
Whether taking extra time to study, or even to simply read, your time with God’s Word will never be wasted.
As a “part 2” to studying your Bible, it’s extremely important to be sharing what God is teaching you with others – and I don’t mean simply posting about it on your Facebook page. You can do that, but I mean to take a few minutes to personally encourage someone. It could be a private message, a text, a phone call, or even a conversation with someone in your own home.
Regardless of how you do it, take some time to be in God’s Word and to personally share your experience with others.
2. Call people to pray with them (and then continue to pray for them throughout the day)
One of the most valuable things we are given is the ability to pray – and you don’t have to be next to someone to pray for them!
Simply call someone, ask them if there’s anything you can be praying for them about, and then do it right then on the phone with them! And don’t forget to continue to pray for them that day and the rest of the week.
3. Spend some time reflecting on God’s Word and repenting of sin
As I have written about before in another two part series, repenting of sin should be an ongoing part of a Christian’s life (you can read these posts at these links: part 1 and part 2). Having our lives and routines disrupted can also be a stressful time that requires even more repenting than normal, and so this is a great time to start this godly habit.
Engaging with our faults and areas we’re not like Jesus can be difficult, but is essential to living a life that glorifies God.
4. Fast and spend that extra time praying
Fasting is an often overlooked part of the Christian life, but I hope that your time in isolation revitalizes this important spiritual discipline. Sometimes it’s hard to fast when you’re going about normal life, but with so many normalities being uprooted right now, this is the perfect time to fast without having all of the normal day-to-day distractions. You can read another post I’ve written on fasting at this link.
5. Financially give to your church and to others in need
Tithing has been a spiritual discipline and practice since the very beginning of Judaism, and generous giving to the church and those in need is still something Christian’s are to practice today. Especially with people not attending Sunday morning services, tithes being given to the local church will plummet, while the needs they are trying to meet in the community go up, so I encourage every Christian to continue to give to their home church.
Obviously, if you’re now out of work you may not have anything to give, but I’ve personally found the benefit of continuing to give even when times are extremely difficult.
But it’s not just giving to churches, there are many people in need right now and there are many ways you can give to others. Whether simply giving money, or providing help or supplies that others need can be extremely valuable and a way of giving to others.
Here’s a post I’ve written on one of Jesus’ teachings on giving.
6. Find ways to be generous towards and caring for those around you
Jesus clearly teaches us to treat others as we would like to be treated, to put others above ourselves, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
One specific way you can show love towards those around you is by simply offering to pick up things for others when you’re taking a trip to the store. Some people are too concerned or too high risk to leave their house even to pick up essentials and these people need help. Others can go to the store, but if you’re already getting something, then you can save them a trip and potential exposure.
By doing so you are individually helping them and also helping the general quarantine situation by helping keep fewer people from leaving their home.
7. Serve your church from a distance
This one might be a little more difficult because each church is different.
The easiest way to serve your church is to simply ask if there are any needs.
If you normally serve in kid classes then you might want to offer to help create curriculum for the upcoming weeks or to video record how to do a craft for the parents to do with their kids.
If you serve on the web or tech teams you can see how you can continue to help keep the entire church informed on what’s going on and keep things up to date.
If you play on the worship team then you might be able to help record worship songs that are personal to your church to send to members during/before/after service streaming times.
You might also be asked to simply check in on some of the elderly in your church or help in some other way.
Overall, every church is having to pivot how to best serve their congregation and there is almost always a need for volunteers to help.
8. Ask God to show you opportunities
This last one is something we, as Christians, should always be doing.
Life is full of twists and turns and opportunities that God has prepared in advance for us if we would simply seek His will (Ephesians 2:10).
I hope during this time of unknown and uncertainty, you will take this opportunity to seek what God might have for you.
Pray for opportunities,
Keep your eyes open for what you can do,
Take action when God presents opportunities.
BONUS: Video chat over board games and movies
Obviously, there’s a lot of good we can do during times of social distancing, but don’t forget there’s still ways to have fun too! There are plenty of ways to play games at a distance or even watch movies – I heard there’s even a Chrome extension that allows you to sync the movie you’re watching on Netflix with someone else to watch it together. Technology is pretty amazing so take advantage of the ways to stay connected with people even when you can’t be with them in person.
I wrote a few week’s ago on “Surrendering to God’s Plan” and, as God would have it, I was (unrelated reasons) reading through some notes from a book I had read and came across this wonderful quote:
Mr. Henry Varley challenged D.L. Moody that, “the world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by a man who is fully consecrated to Him.”
D.L. Moody reflected on what Mr. Henry had told him: “He said ‘a man.’ He did not say a great man, nor a learned man, nor a smart man – but simply ‘a man.’ I am a man, and it lies with each man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I decided I would try my up most to be that man.”
There’s nothing wrong with being smart, skilled, gifted, or anything else.
But there is something wrong with feeling like those things could ever be enough on their own.
Because they’re not enough.
Which is probably why God often calls people without many of those things as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God can obviously use any gifting, position, wealth and whatever else He has given you.
But He will use you far more when you are surrendered to Him.
So, what would happen if we let go of our high esteem of those things,
And instead, focused on a simple and complete surrender to Jesus.
To His will,
What would God will do with and for and through you and I if we were fully consecrated to Him.
As D.L. Moody realized:
“I am a man, and it lies with each man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I decided I would try my up most to be that man.”
Will you choose to be that person who gives up their life completely to God?
Will you and I get to see what God will do with and for and through and in us if we become fully consecrated to Him?
I pray that we do.
Because I can’t imagine anything else more worthwhile.
If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably asked this before:
“What’s God’s will for my life?“
When you decide to follow Jesus and surrender your life to Him,
It begs the question: now what?
What does that mean for my life?
Like me, you might be asking for some specific things you have to choose between.
Should I pursue this job, or that job,
This opportunity or that opportunity,
The list goes on.
The reality is that God rarely opens up the heavens to tell us the specifics of most decisions.
But He does tell us that…
He is with us (Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13)
He will guide us (John 14:26, John 16:13, James 1:5-6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 37:23-24)
And that His plan will come to pass (Philippians 1:6, Psalm 57:2, Isaiah 14:24, Proverbs 16:9)
God promises that when you seek Him and His will, He will guide you and that nothing you choose with good intentions and heart towards Him will ruin the plan He has for you.
And so for the times God isn’t clear: it’s ok to simply make a choice.
Sometimes that means choosing left,
Sometimes that means choosing right,
Sometimes that means waiting.
And that’s ok.
God is bigger than the decisions we make,
And you can trust Him,
Even when you don’t have clear direction.
Focusing On What We Do Know
I wrote another blog post titled “Trust God, Even When You Don’t Know the Details” based off of one of my favorite quotes:
“Don’t abandon what you know,
For that which you don’t know.”
When I don’t know what decision God wants me to make,
I find it helpful to reflect back on the things I do know He wants me to do.
And, another quote that I think reflects this perfectly says:
“We are all knowledgeable beyond our level of obedience.”
None of us is perfect, and therefore, we all have shortcomings from the clear things taught in God’s Word.
The Bible doesn’t tell you what job to take, or person to marry, or where to move,
But the Bible does tell you to:
Love others as yourself,
Work hard in all you do as unto the Lord,
Stay sexually pure,
Stay in Christian fellowship,
And the list goes on…
In fewer words: repent of sin, love others as God does, and “be holy as He is Holy”.
It’s a pretty high standard of clear things we ought to do in life.
So, when you’re unsure of some decisions or direction that God hasn’t made clear,
Sometimes it’s good to reflect on the things He has made clear.
What things in Scripture has God made absolutely clear,
That you’re currently not doing?
I think sometimes God wants us to make a decision of faith without clear direction,
But I think He also sometimes uses the lack of clarity to point us to the things He has made clear.
So, instead of focusing on the things you don’t know,
How about you take a few minutes to reflect on the things you do know,
They might help you see what next thing you need to do.
Because sometimes God wants you to simply wait, and to keep doing the things you do know are His will.
Your Next Step In Life
It’s easy to get caught up in the thinking/wondering what God wants you to do, so here are two simple questions to get you going:
1. Are there any areas of your life (big decisions, small decisions, basic commands of scripture, etc) that you know God wants you do to?
2. What are you going to do about it?
I hope you’re able to move forward with confidence and excitement knowing that God has a beautiful plan to make you more like Him and share His love with others.
It won’t always be how you would want it to go, but God promises to use everything
The difficult, the easy,
The painful, the fun,
The simple, the complex,
And everything in between
For your good and to glorify Him.
So, go out and keep following Jesus.
If you have lived for any amount of time, you’ve had difficult things come into your life.
Maybe it was an external situation or person.
Maybe it was an internal hardship or struggle.
But we’ve all faced difficulties that we’d simply rather avoid.
And our God is in the business of turning these difficulties into launchpads for good things to come.
I’ve been reflecting on how God uses our trials for good things in His plan, especially the last couple years as my wife and I have felt like we’re in a massive transition and waiting period in our life (you can read more about at this link).
And, although our God has plans and reasons beyond all that we can comprehend, I think there are two things that God consistently brings out of our trials that are worth giving special attention.
I hope these are encouraging to you and that they even help you see what God might be doing as you transition through difficult seasons in your life.
Please note that I’m not saying God necessarily brings any trials into our lives, but that, regardless of why we experience a difficulty in our life, that God is able to use it for our good and His glory.
1. To Make Us More Like Him
One of the key benefits to experiencing trials in our life is how they can mold us more into the image of Jesus.
Although I believe that every good change in our hearts and lives are from the Holy Spirit’s work within us, I believe that going through trials can reveal to us areas that God knows we already lack and can cause us to surrender those areas to Him so that His Spirit may do that work within us.
I write that because I don’t believe that trials are simply tools to have us try harder and do better (as some believe), but that God can use our trials to cause us to draw nearer to Him and to be transformed by Him.
As the saying goes:
God whispers in our joys,
Speaks to us in our daily lives,
And shouts to us in our pain.
Our trials and pains often bring us back to the God Who we tend to drift away from,
and can even reveal specific areas for Him to work in us.
Case in point: a couple years ago, my wife and I went through the most difficult year of our life. And a few months after the main difficulty was over, I was asked by a friend what we learned and how we grew from the experience.
I didn’t have an answer at the time.
But about 6 months later, it dawned on me.
I ask for forgiveness quicker than I use to.
I’m more sympathetic with the unknown struggles of others than I was two years ago.
I generally trust God more, especially when I have to trust that He’s working in spite of what others are doing.
And these things were direct results of that difficult year.
I have no idea all that God accomplished through that time,
But I can definitely see that He used it to mold me to be more like Him.
Here are two verses for you to reflect on as you consider some ways that God has used your trials to draw Him near to Himself and to make you more like Him.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”Psalm 119:71
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”James 1:2
2. To Position Us For Our Next Steps/Calling
Sometimes, one of the greatest things God can bring out of our trials isn’t even what He does in us, but where the trial can bring us.
I think the simplest examples would be Joseph, Esther and Paul.
None of these characters seemed to experience a lot of personal growth from some of their trials, but they were able to be used by God in incredible ways because of the position that their trial brought them.
Joseph: He was sold into slavery, was given high authority, only to loose it all again by being falsely accused and thrown into jail… only to be taken out of jail years later to become second in command in Egypt and save the surrounding nations from a famine.
You can read Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. It is summed up well in these verses:
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.“Genesis 50:19-20
Esther: As a young Jewish girl, she was forced to become the wife of a gentile king and live a pretty secluded and lonely life. But through her, God was able to save all of Israel from complete genocide and extinction.
You can read her story in the entire book of Esther. It is summed up well in these verses:
[Mordecai passing on a message to Esther to encourage her to use the status God has given her to save Israel from genocide] “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?“Esther 4:14
Paul: As the writer of most of the New Testament and arguably the most prominent person in the early church, Paul accomplished a lot. What is most amazing is how much he accomplished while in prison. Being in prison allowed for a few of the books to be written that may not have otherwise (such as Philippians) and also gave him an audience with some rulers that he would not have had otherwise. Paul is clearly an example of someone who does not wait for a difficulty to end, but finds what new leverage he has in the mist of each trial.
You can read about much of Paul’s early adventures in the book of Acts and also through the many books he wrote in the New Testament. I think his attitude to leverage any opportunity a trial provided him is best described in this verse:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me [being in prison] has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”Philippians 1:12
All of these characters experienced an incredible opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible without the pain they experienced first.
I wanted to use three examples of people who’s stories emphasize how God used their trial to position them rather than grow them, but our God tends to work in multiple ways at the same time.
In addition to considering how God has made you more like Him through trials you’ve experienced, consider where He has brought you through these trials as well.
Waiting On God Through Trials
Obviously, God has a much bigger and more complete picture than we do, and so there is so much more He can be working in and through our difficulties, so I encourage you to be patient.
To wait on God,
To keep your eyes on Him,
And allow Him to bring about the good He has in store.
As one of my favorite verses reminds us, God’s plan is different than ours AND His plan is better:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8–9
If you’re looking for more encouragement through a trial you’re going through, here are two other posts I’ve written on that subject:
4 things to remember when facing trials
Verses For When You Face Discouragement And Hard Times