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…”
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,”
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.
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.
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.
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, His plan, His way.
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)
In summary: 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.
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.”
“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.”
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.“
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?“
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.”
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.”
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:
“You can be a Christian alone, But you can’t live the Christian life alone.”
Throughout scripture we see that our faith and relationship with God is personal and individual, but we also see that we are commanded to live this faith out in everyday life.
Towards other believers and non-believers alike.
But, specifically for this post, I want to encourage you on living out the former of the two:
Living life with other Christians.
As Christians, we are called to Encourage each other, Bless each other, Help each other, Pray for each other, Worship together, Hold each other accountable, And generally live life together.
And this simply can’t all be done on a Sunday morning.
And so you have to make time in your week, You have to prioritize making these relationships happen, Or our busy lives will simply get in the way.
Adjusting To Life Stages
My wife and I have always loved to have other people over.
For dinner, Game nights, Coffee, Doesn’t matter.
When we didn’t have kids, we would have people over a lot, but we also would also go out to spend time with others constantly.
Out for coffee, Over other people’s houses, Taking day trips, Everywhere and anywhere.
But then we had kids.
And going out became less and less feasible, Especially when our oldest started Pre-K.
Bedtimes got earlier, And getting out of the house was sometimes way too much work.
And so we had to adjust.
We started hosting even more in order to keep up relationships.
Sometimes when the boys are still awake, And sometimes after they’ve gone to bed.
But we knew, because of our life stage, that it was unreasonable to think that we’d be able to keep up with our previous out-of-the-house activities with two young kids.
And so we bring the people to us.
Now that we’re “fully” moved in to our new home, we have been trying to get back in the habit of having people over 3 times a week – and it’s been completely worth it.
Yes, sometimes the house is still messy, and not all put together But friends really don’t care.
Because we’re inviting people into our real lives, Not our Instagram lives.
Yes, having kids complicated our lives, But we adjusted.
I’m not sure what’s complicating your life, Maybe it’s a weird work schedule, Or school, Or kids, Or something else entirely.
But how can you invite people into your life?
Maybe it’s going out, Maybe it’s inviting them over, Maybe it’s coordinating your grocery shopping to spend time with others there (I’m serious – why not?).
Because we are called to build intentional relationships with other Christians, regardless of our stage of life.
I considered leaving the post off with simply spending time with others, But to be honest, we, as a Christian culture, have settled for watching a sports game or movie or playing a board game as sufficient for “Christian community.”
And it’s simply not good enough.
There’s nothing wrong with those things, in fact, they’re important too, But there has to be more.
When we look at Scripture, we see a community that shares their struggles and pain. Their ups and downs emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally and every other area of life.
We’re told to build one another up, To pray for each other, To confess sin to each other, To hold each other accountable, To teach one another, To ask for forgiveness, To forgive, To share in one another’s burdens
And these things don’t just happen because we’re in the same room for a couple hours.
Regardless of where you’re meeting with other Christians, or what the “event” was for.
Please don’t pass up the opportunity to do the above.
Push past the normal “I’m good” and find out how people are really doing, Offer to pray for each other, Set forward your own real problems and issues, and you’ll be surprised how quickly others open up back to you.
It can be awkward at first, But push through the awkwardness.
Because it’s worth it.
It’s what Christian community is really meant to be like.
3 Steps To Build Intentional Relationships
So, here’s three questions for you to consider and a couple ways that have helped us break past the “fake” community relationships to build real Christian community in our friendships.
1. How will you intentionally invite others into your schedule?
For us, we had to intentionally find ways to get people into our home because of our two young boys. We do meet up at parks and other places, but we’ve found it easiest to really build relationships within our own home. And, you know what’s amazing? People seem to really enjoy being invited over, even if everything isn’t “perfect” and it brings a different level of intimacy that a lot of people don’t get anymore because hosting has become so uncommon in our culture.
2. How will you intentionally invite others into your real life, sharing your struggles, pains and joys, so that you may engage with them on a deeper level?
It’s amazing how many people will open up once you show them that your life isn’t perfect either. Whether it’s personal struggles or physical imperfections such as our house not being perfectly spotless or things we still have to fix/finish in the new house. The perfect “Instagram Life” has people on edge now-a-days always comparing and so when you show your imperfections, it allows for everyone to take a sigh of relief and let their own imperfections show.
3. How will you intentionally invite others to seek God with you during these times through prayer, discussion and encouragement?
One of the best things we decided to do after we moved was to offer our guests to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to pray together when they come over. We ask them ahead of time so that we’re not springing it on them, and so that they can decline if they would like, but these times of praying with friends who come over have been some of the best times we’ve had with them. It’s funny how simply asking to pray with or for someone can have such a dramatic impact on their lives and your relationship together – and it only takes a few minutes!
I hope this has been helpful for you in seeing the possibilities of intentionally reaching out to build Christian community around you and I hope you take the steps to make it happen, it’s certainly worth it.
I wanted to add on another idea from last week’s “Drive vs Direction” post with another quick reminder that stems from 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:23-24.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Just like in last week’s post, we have a choice of where we put our foundational drive: our core purpose and meaning in life.
We will all eat and drink, but you can choose to do so for God’s glory or not. We will all work, but you can choose to do so for God’s glory or not.
So what will you choose?
One of the most influential things I have ever read on this topic came from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech:
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
I don’t remember when I first read this quote, but I do remember when it most impacted me.
When I was working at Starbucks, this quote came to mind and I remember for a couple solid weeks that I was constantly thinking about this quote and asking God to help me to do everything for His glory. Everything as unto Him. Even the boring, repetitive work of cleaning, making coffee and serving customers at Starbucks.
Now, I always would do my best at work, But something was different when I had this mindset.
I didn’t merely do my best, I did my best tirelessly, I did my best… almost to the point where I would enjoy working in a way I hadn’t before.
And I’m so thankful God did that in my heart.
Because my co-workers took notice.
I was already one of the hardest workers, But something else was different now.
And then the best part happened:
I had some coworkers complain about our jobs, And they said they wished they could do something they love to do like I did.
And that was a way to share the Gospel with them that I never saw coming.
I got to share with them that I don’t actually enjoy our jobs anymore than they do. Free coffee is awesome, but come on; coffee customer service is not what I’d call “fun”.
BUT, I got to share with them what (or Who) makes all the difference: Jesus.
Simply doing my work unto Him opened up an opportunity to share the hope I have in Jesus and talk about how they could have the same hope and relationship with Him as I have.
And THIS is what I believe Peter meant when he wrote 1 Peter 3:15:
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15
The reason for the hope that is in you
I think we’ve misconstrued this passage to mean that we need to study and know the reasons “why we believe what we believe.” To study the history and apologetics of the Christian faith.
Those things aren’t bad, but Peter didn’t say to “make a defense to people who doubt Jesus’ resurrection.”
Peter said to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.“
And my defense for having joy at work?
My defense for having hope through trials?
My defense for forgiving when someone wrongs me?
My defense for asking for forgiveness when I wrong someone else?
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
I think you get the point.
A hope to be lived out, or an idea to be shared?
I have no problem with apologetics and learning a defense of scripture and history.
But, the Gospel is not merely an idea to be shared and defended.
No one will care what apologetics you learn and know, If your life looks no different than their own.
And, truth be told: Jesus doesn’t care either.
You can know all the right things, And still not follow Him.
You can say all the right things, And still not know Him.
You can even do a bunch of good things, And they still be meaningless and empty.
In fact, Jesus says that many will come to Him saying that they prophesied, cast out demons, and did many might works in His Name, and He won’t know them (Matthew 7:22).
Paul echos this idea that you can have a super Christian life with miracles and sacrifice and still be or gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
You know how to make it all worth it?
Surrender to Him. And do everything as unto Him.
Which brings us back to the original passages:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Last week, I wrote about how I got to teach on the life of Peter in our church’s kids class and how we talked about his example in following Jesus with all of our lives (you can read that post here).
But I skipped something we talked about with them, because I thought it deserved its own post.
Last year, I read a book called “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs which was extremely insightful and encouraging regarding submission to God and contentment to Him. I encourage you to read it as well. I wrote a blog post sharing some favorite quotes and ideas from the book that you can read at this link, but I highly encourage you to read it for yourself.
Our call to surrender to Jesus.
In Peter’s life, we come across an all-to-familiar problem that is often found in our own lives:
Peter was willing to give up everything for Jesus, But only on his terms.
Here’s what I mean:
Peter is famous for telling Jesus that he will die for and with Him, only to deny Him shortly after.
But I think Peter was ready and willing to die for and with Jesus that day.
But only in the way he wanted, Not surrendering to what Jesus wanted.
In that famous scene when Jesus is being betrayed, Among a crowed of armed guards and angry men, Peter draws his sword and strikes the first blow!
I truly think Peter expected to die that day.
You don’t go up to a crowd of armed people and start a fight you’re clearly going to lose, unless you’re ready to die with your leader (who already said He was going to die).
So what went “wrong”?
Simply this: Peter was willing to die for Jesus while fighting and standing his ground, But not by laying down his sword and his life without a fight.
He was willing to die for Jesus on his terms, But not on Jesus’ terms.
And that is not surrender. That is merely sacrifice on his own terms. And I think we often get them mixed up.
Sacrifice is giving up your things, Surrender is giving up your will to someone else’s.
It’s been said that “a god you fully agree with is just a mirror of yourself”.
Expressed another way: if your “god” can’t tell you “no” or you can’t be wrong before your “god”, then it really isn’t your God. You’re simply projecting what you want onto someone else and calling that person “god”.
Similarly, a “god” whose plan you never have to adjust to is simply just you projecting your plan onto your “god”.
And Jesus hasn’t called to simply sacrifice for Him. He has called us to surrender.
We even see this being expressed later when Jesus restores Peter to ministry, as He tells Peter that his death will be one of surrender (John 21:18-19).
7 Areas Of Surrender
When we aim to surrender to Jesus, it’s not simply sacrificing (as we saw with Peter). Here are 7 areas to consider as you aim to fully surrender to God in your current season of life:
What is God calling you to do? Are you doing it?
When has God allowed this difficult season in your life? Do you trust His timing of when it started… and when it will end?
Where is this happening? Whether a physical place or maybe a specific area of your life, do you trust God in what He has allowed?
Why is it happening? God promises to not waste any trials or circumstances, but sometimes we cannot point to a reason until long after – and sometimes we won’t know this side of heaven why God allows for some things to happen. Do we trust that He is good and that His ‘why’ is worth it?
How is it happening? Going back to Peter’s example from earlier: sometimes we can be ok with what we need to do or go through, but only on our terms. How is God wanting you to proceed with areas of difficulty in your life?
Who is this happening to? Sometimes it’s easier to go through a difficult time ourselves than to try to watch and comfort a close friend or family member go through something. Whether it’s a “why them” or “why me” situation; do you trust God with the who?
I don’t want to come across as unsympathetic; surrender is painful and difficult.
But surrender is worth it – as long as the One you are surrendering to is truly good.
And, God IS good Even when our circumstances tell us otherwise.
I’ve written this verse out many times before, and will continue to quote it:
“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.”
God’s thoughts are different than ours, And just in case we got the wrong idea from that statement:
God’s ways are also better than ours.
Not just different, His ways are better.
So, as difficult as it can be, Let us surrender to Him, In every area of life.
What is next for you?
I’m not sure what you may be struggling with at this moment, but I thought I should link to other posts on related subjects at the bottom of this one. I hope this time of reflecting on submission has brought you nearer to Jesus and that if any of these below resonate with where you are right now, that they do the same.
Yesterday, I got to teach in the older kids class at our church.
We’ve been going through the book of Mark and are about to cover the crucifixion, but before we got there we were doing some character studies. I got to teach on the life of Peter.
Peter is probably one of the most relatable characters in the entire Bible.
He’s very passionate, He gets a lot of things right, And gets a lot of things wrong.
Peter was one of the disciples closest to Jesus (part of the famous trio: Peter, James and John). He got to be part of a special group even within the 12 disciples, which was already pretty special, and because of his passion and drive, he got a lot of other special experiences with Jesus too.
Some of Peter’s highlights are…
The only disciple to walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33)
One of three to see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8)
One of three to see Jesus raise a girl from the dead (Mark 5:35-43)
The one to answer Jesus and confirm that he knew Jesus was the son of God (Matthew 16:17)
The one so committed to Jesus that he said he was ready to die for Jesus near the end (Mark 14:29-31)
And some of Peter’s low points are…
He quickly sunk on the water (Matthew 14:30)
He couldn’t stay awake for a few hours when Jesus asked Him to (Matthew 26:40)
Jesus had to rebuke Peter’s thinking that in line with Satan’s (when He told Peter “get behind me Satan”) (Matthew 16:23)
He denied Jesus (multiple times) (Mark 14:66-72)
Overall, we see Peter to be a great example of our own Christian life: We have high points, And we have low points.
But what causes Peter to be a good example for all of us is his resolve to continue to follow, repent and run after Jesus in the midst of his highs and lows.
We discussed Peter’s life more in-depth with the kids class, but the big idea we took away was that Peter is an example for us to follow in three simple ways. It’s through these three things that Peter continually does that we see him continue to grow in his relationship with Jesus and to be used by Him.
Get to know Jesus more
Peter had the privilege of getting to live and talk with Jesus for a few years, but we have Jesus’ Word (the Bible) that we can read, and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) living inside of us, Who also reveals the person of Jesus to us. It is through knowing Jesus more that we will grow in our relationship with Him and become more like Him.
Live Passionately For Jesus (Hold Nothing Back)
One of Peter’s biggest strengths was that he never did anything halfway. Walking on water was the perfect example. When everyone else was staying in the boat, still processing what was going on, Peter said “Jesus, if it’s really you, tell me to come out on the water with you!”… and he did. In order to live a full life with Jesus and be transformed by Him, you have to be willing to lay everything out on the line and pursue Him with all of your life.
Have A Lifestyle Of Repentance And Reliance On God
I’ve written about the importance of confessing sin and repentance in the past (here’s a link to part 1 and part 2) and it’s no surprise that this is one of the things we see clearly in Peter’s life.
Through his ups and downs, we see him continually turn back to Jesus and resume following Him.
No excuses, No hesitancy.
He’s corrected, He repents, He follows Jesus with the same tenacity he did before.
Peter was someone who learned to be humble in his own eyes and to rely on God’s grace through the ups and downs of his spiritual walk following Jesus.
May we do the same…
As I challenged the kids in our class yesterday: may we all do the same.
May we pursue knowing Jesus more from His Word and from spending time with Him.
May we live passionately for Jesus and pursue Him holding nothing back in our lives.
And may we have a lifestyle of repentance whenever we fail so that we may receive the grace and forgiveness that God offers and may continue to run our race of faith with endurance until the end of our lives.
May we get to heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In 2019 I read over 20 books! Which is far more than I’ve ever read before (I can’t suggest audio books enough).
With that said, they were all very good, but I thought I’d share my favorite 7 books with you and a brief summary of each in case you’re interested in reading any of them as well. Enjoy!!
(I’ve written this list putting my favorite book first, at the top)
#1: Letters To The Church by Francis Chan
Our church read through this book together in the beginning of 2019 and it was definitely a great read. Francis Chan has such a passion for Jesus and His Church that shows though every book he’s written and His message is always so clear and simple: Let’s desire nothing less than a complete and whole relationship with Jesus. It’s a great book that I suggest you read if you haven’t already.
#2: The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
This book was so encouraging and inspiring to read as it follows David Wilkerson though many ups and downs, both in the ministry and in his personal doubts and struggles. It has many extremely important reminders for the Christian life and I can’t recommend this book enough.
#3: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
This was one of the first books I read in 2019 and it’s still one I reflect on occasionally a year later. I can still remember listening to it and pausing it to reflect on the truths that he wrote. This is also a book I’ve shared some favorite quotes in a previous post which you can read at this link.
#4: Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
Dangerous Calling is certainly geared towards Pastors and church leaders, but I can see benefit for anyone to read it. Paul Tripp gets extremely personal in the book and is such a breath of fresh air when it comes to some of the issues often left ignored or even hidden on purpose today. If you are in church leadership in any way, I cannot recommend it enough, and even if you aren’t, I think this book would help you know how to better encourage and pray for the leaders in your church.
#5: The Case For Miracles by Lee Strobel
I read “The Case For Miracles” kind of on a whim. The book came up in a conversation and I decided to check it out – and I’m so glad that I did. This book is filled with tons of stories of God working in miraculous ways and gives ample reason to believe that we serve a God Who is clearly still working today. There was fantastic insight, interviews and stories throughout the book, but my favorite part was actually the chapter dedicated to when God doesn’t provide a miracle. In a book surrounded with miraculous stories, he was sure to cover what to do and believe when we don’t see the miracle we prayed for. I quote the book a little in a recent post “What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith?” but I think you should also read this book in its entirety for yourself.
#6: The Next Right Thing – Emily P. Freeman
My wife suggested I read this book as we’ve experienced a massive amount of loss and transition in our lives these past 2 years. The author is a well-listened to podcaster who compiled and expanded upon a series of episodes to write this book. It was a great devotional style read, with her own prayers at the end of each chapter and action steps/things to consider that summarize the stories and ideas for that chapter. This book was specifically good for our previously mentioned situation in life, but I think anyone, at anytime, could benefit by reflecting on the things she writes about in this book because they are simple, yet overlooked, practices that we should incorporate into our daily lives to continually be sensitive to what God has for us, even when we’re not explicitly in a life stage of change.
#7: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
A.W. Tozer is one of those authors who I could just keep pulling quotes from. So many things he wrote were simply said so well that I write it down and just kind of sit there thinking about it. This book in particular was an incredible one to read because it was so broad in its topic that it felt like each chapter was a different mini topic with tons of encouraging and thought provoking quotes. I definitely suggest reading this book and taking the time to think about the various areas of Christian living that he covers.
Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.
Below is my reflection on the verses from week 4. Here are the links to week 1, week 2 and week 3 if you want to check them out.
If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.
Sometimes, all we need is just a little encouragement that we’re not alone. That others have faced the doubt and struggles we have. Press on, don’t give up. Many have gone before us and have held onto this truth: Jesus is for us, so who could be against us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Are you persecuted for the good you do? You’re blessed.
Are you reviled by others and have false things accused of you? You’re blessed.
Regardless of our circumstances, we have a reward in heaven that cannot be taken away.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
They definitely took Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the previous reading seriously. They encountered great persecution – and were filled with joy and praise from it! I wonder how our daily responses would be different if we focused our eyes on Jesus through our suffering instead of ourselves and our pain.
And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
So often we assume we did something wrong when we’re in a trial. And sometimes that’s true! We can bring things upon ourselves, but there are many things that happen that are not a result of poor decisions and they shouldn’t surprise us: God will use even those to make us more like Him and to glorify Him in our lives.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12–13
Day 27: CATCH UP DAY
Even in the most difficult suffering, we can know that God is using even our suffering for our Good and His Glory as He continues to make us more like Him.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Because we know that God uses even our deepest sufferings, we can take joy that today’s tears will sow into our character and steadfastness of faith.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
One of the biggest factors of joy is contentment. May God give us the grace to be content in Him in the midst of all circumstances.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This Christian life, following Jesus, is not meant to be lived alone. May we encourage others, and be encouraged, as we continue to live for Jesus.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.