Friday, May 31, 2013

How to Face the Future with the Peace of God by Bobby Conner

   This is an encouraging word from Bobby Conner.  God tells us in His Word that in this world we will have difficulty but that He will be with us and will see us through.  Bobby does an excellent job of reminding us of that.  He also gives us 9 ways to encourage ourselves as we're going through adverse situations.
     Difficulties are Certain…But His Presence is More Certain!
       As followers of Christ, we are not immune from the difficulties of life. Scripture clearly declares that "all that will live godly in this present world shall suffer difficulty"(2 Timothy 3:12). Nevertheless, in the midst of troubles, God always provides a way of escape. The escape, however, is neither the absence of adversity nor the final end of problems. The escape is not a path toward a problem-free life; the "escape" is the company and help of a Person in the midst of our troubles, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who will be with us "in the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4).
      When our heart is broken and our dreams are shattered – when we face devastation beyond our strength or understanding – we have the guaranteed, blessed assurance of Christ's abiding Presence within us (Psalm 34:18). His Presence and precious promises alone offer peace and joy in the midst of chaos and disappointment.
      If we're facing unpaid bills, for example, we can experience peace and joy! Why? Christ is with us, holding our hand and offering His promise of provision (Philippians 4:19). If we're facing a serious doctor's report, we can experience peace and joy! Why? Christ is with us, holding our hand and offering His promise of healing (Exodus 15:26).
       The promise of Hebrews 13:5-6 releases confidence and courage to face every trial: 
...for God Himself has said, "I will never, never let go your hand: I will never, never forsake you." So that we fearlessly say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid: what can man do to me?" (New Testament Modern Speech)
stadiumIndeed, God's grace is available and adequate to sustain us no matter the nature of the troubles we face (2 Corinthians 12:9) – be our trial an illness, unemployment, betrayal, the loss of a loved one or unspeakable pain and injustice, or all of these difficulties together at once! Meditate on this promise of Isaiah 43:2 and let God's living Word impart lasting peace and joy to the depths of your mind and heart:
        When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.
        As Believers we are called to believe His Word. If we do, we will indeed experience victory in every battle (Joshua 1:8). Here are some simple steps to follow when you feel the storms of life swirling around you and your loved ones and your peace and joy are beginning to wane (Psalm 27:13). You can and will overcome in the midst of life's difficulties (Romans 8:37):

1. Choose to Believe
         How, you ask, can I face the future with peace and joy when my circumstances overwhelm me daily? Dear Believer, there is hope for you (Psalm 32:7)! First, you must realize that your future depends upon your choices in the present: adversity can make you bitter or better, depending on how you respond. The only right response is to choose to turn to God and believe His Word. Only then will you enjoy His Presence, experience true peace and overcome adversity (Isaiah 41:10).
Does this sound impossible? Do you feel that your troubles prevent you from turning to God and experiencing His Presence? The Scripture promises that we can turn to the Lord no matter our distress (Nahum 1:7). Nothing in Heaven or on earth can prevent us from experiencing His love: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" The answer is no one and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35)!
       For many Believers, life is a grinding test of endurance. Nevertheless, difficult circumstances will never separate us from God's love and protection. This same Scripture from Romans 8:38-39 in the New Living Translation reads:"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away."
      Scripture also reminds us that, "In Your presence [is] fullness of joy; At Your right hand [are] pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). In God's Presence is everything we need to overcome in every situation (Psalm 46:1).

2. Rejoice at Midnight
       We find a vivid example of overcoming adversity in the experience of Paul and Silas in prison. How were these precious men of God reacting to harsh imprisonment and gross injustice? Were they complaining, crying and lamenting their misfortunes at the midnight hour? Hardly! They were praying and praising God – and the result was freedom (Acts 16:25)!
sunrise      By the grace of God, a victorious attitude like theirs is exactly what we can experience during our times of adversity. Worshipping God despite our current circumstances, no matter how difficult, will surely gain us the victory in God's time and in His manner (Philippians 4:6-8). It's vital to understand that we worship and praise God now because He has already gained for us the victory – the battle has already been waged and won on our behalf. We have ample reason to rejoice!
       What, then, is our responsibility during times of difficulty? Our job is not to muster up the victory ourselves but to believe and declare God's goodness and then wait with expectancy to see how He intervenes. And surely our faith-filled rejoicing will get people's attention! Rejoicing in adversity is likely to cause a commotion in Heaven and on earth (Acts 16:23-40) and brings glory to God.

3. Rebuke Fear
       Powerful, simple advice is given to us in Psalm 56:3"What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord." Take this encouragement to heart: when you experience fear, turn to God, trust in His promises and all will be well! The Word of God promises that no weapon formed against you will prosper (Isaiah 54:17).
       What if fear intervenes? Fear is not a human emotion but, rather, a demonic spirit, an invisible personality of satan's army. Our responsibility as Believers is to rebuke that spirit of fear, not indulge or entertain our enemy, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).
       Be absolutely ruthless with fear: do not allow that evil foe to gain one inch of ground in your soul! Instead, take up the promises of God and fight. Never give up and never agree with your adversary. You are not destined to fear and fail but to trust and triumph, because "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

4. Ask Who is Talking?
       Where is this mighty war waged? The battlefield is in the Heavenly realm, yes, but also in your mind. The devil is constantly, mercilessly seeking to pull us away from God's peace by whispering his devious lies into our mind, deceiving us into thinking that his thoughts are actually our thoughts.
Just because you have a thought and it sounds like it is spoken with your own inner voice doesn't mean that you are the one thinking. This truth is vital to understand if you desire to experience God's abiding peace and joy. Only by understanding this truth will you be able to wisely discern truth and error – and rebuke error.
       In short: pay attention to your thoughts and ask yourself, just as God asked Adam, "Who told you...?" If you have fearful thoughts about whether or not you can pay your bills, pay attention and ask yourself,"Who is telling me to fear poverty?" If you fear sickness, pay attention and ask yourself, "Who is telling me that God will not heal my disease?If you have any negative thought or feeling whatsoever, pay great attention, compare your thoughts to the Word of God and ask yourself who it is who is speaking words of accusation, bitterness, rejection and fear into your mind. If it is contrary to the Word of God, the devil and his body of sin are talking lies!

5. Guard Your Mind and Heart
       Remember: as we think in our heart, so will our life be. We must guard our mind and heart with great vigilance (Proverbs 23:7). We must learn to stay firmly focused upon the promises of God (Isaiah 26:3). This practice alone will assure abiding peace. Think God's thoughts. Do not entertain the enemy's thoughts. It's that simple! God promises to keep us in perfect peace if we will keep our heart firmly fixed upon Him (Isaiah 26:3).
       Together with dwelling on God's thoughts, we must cast down the enemy's thoughts, "destroying speculations and every lofty thing that raised up against the knowledge of God...taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..." (2 Corinthians 10:5).
       Paul, the Apostle, was no stranger to hardships and adversity. Yet he confidently encourages each of us as followers of Christ to have our heart and soul firmly fixed on the Lord of Glory. 
     "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:7–8
        Peace is conditional according to our obedience: if we "dwell on these things," we will have peace. If we dwell on the enemy's lies, we will experience torment. We must learn how to keep our mind and thoughts focused upon the sure promises of the Word of God.

6. Encourage Yourself
      In the midst of hardship and unbearable pain, nothing can still a troubled soul like the gentle whisper from the throne of God, "Fear not, you are not alone, I am here!" Scripture is filled with encouraging passages revealing God's plan of victory for us. Consider Jeremiah 29:11"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope." And in Jeremiah 31:17, we discover that God's plans for us are filled with bright hope: "There is hope in your future..."
      In one of the most powerful and consistent themes in all of Scripture, God promises that His abiding Presence is never-failing; in fact, we're commanded to be fearless because He is with us! "Have not I commanded you? Be strong vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
stadium       Surely, God's promises are steadfast and sure. He will never abandon us. The Psalmist states,    "I've been young, and [now] am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).
      Through and by Christ you are more than a conqueror – don't doubt this truth for one moment. The victory is not in and through your own efforts but His: the battle is not yours but His. Simply choose to believe His promise for your situation and stand in faith. Instead of entertaining fear, stress and anxiety, entertain the Word and live a stress-free, victorious life, walking daily in the peace of God as a living epistle, testifying of His goodness and faithfulness wherever you go (Romans 8:37).

7. Look for Victory in the Furnace
       Consider this fact: the God of the universe is on our side! Because Father God did not withhold Christ the King from us, surely by Christ the King we are victorious over any scheme of the enemy (Romans 8:31-34). But when exactly does this victory happen? When do we rejoice? Consider the promise of Psalm 23:5-6:
       You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
        Notice that this victory banquet was prepared and celebrated in the presence of the foe. The child of God can be victorious and joyous even in the midst of difficult trials and suffering because of the sustaining Presence of Jesus Christ.
        A vivid example of this truth is the experience of the three Hebrew captives in the mist of the fiery furnace. They were still in the furnace when their bonds were removed and the Presence of God's Son was in their midst (Daniel 3:1-29)! This is truly the fulfilling of the promise of Isaiah 43:2:
       When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.
       Through and by Christ you are more than a conqueror. Again, the victory is not in and through your own efforts but His. The battle is not yours but His: simply choose to believe and then stand, even though you may still be in the fiery furnace. What makes all the difference? Looking for your Redeemer and trusting God even as the flames roar!

8. Value the Unseen
       Some of the difficult things that the apostle Paul faced, which he called "light afflictions," are recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23–27:
       ...I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
         Paul steadfastly withstood the hardships he faced. What was his secret? Paul did not lament his present difficulties but chose instead to focus on his faithful Savior. Paul gave God glory by paying attention to God's faithfulness and power, not to the enemy's disturbancesPaul determined to look at the unseen, eternal realm, not the temporal world around himIn making this choice to walk by faith, Paul pleased God!
       In other words, Paul regarded and valued eternal realities as more significant and worthy of his attention than passing, temporary troubles:
     "Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you...Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."2 Corinthians 4:14–18
        How could Paul refer to all he went though as "his light affliction"? This otherworldly perspective seems impossible for mere mortals and common Believers! Yet Paul, a mere mortal filled with the Holy Spirit as we are today, withstood his fiery ordeals because he was sure that all things would work out for good (Romans 8:28) – and surely they did!
       Even when we are going through persecution and trial, abuse and betrayal, heartache and bitter disappointment, we can have perfect peace that passes all human understanding because we know that God is working behind the scenes as our Redeemer. Never forget: God has a plan to use even the most difficult and disappointing events in our life to bring us into a deeper walk with HimWhat the devil means for harm and hurt, God will use for His glory.

9. Declare: "I AM Coming Through!"
       In Psalm 66:12, David writes, "We went through fire and through water; but You have brought us out into a wealthy place." It is important to note that Scripture often describes our trials through the use of two images, two very powerful substances; indeed two of the most powerful substances known to man: fire and water. What is the significance of these images?
       The Hebrew word mayim translated water in this Psalm is also translated in the plural, waters, as in "And the Spirit of the Lord moved upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew mayim not only suggests a watery place, but also that which is violent and transitory. This Psalm suggests that the writer "went through" a formless, violent, transitory darkness similar to the chaos described in Genesis before the Lord spoke light into existence.
       The fire mentioned in Psalm 66, the Hebrew 'esh, suggests not only the type of fire used for cooking but also a supernatural fire (in an appearance of God) or an altar-fire, as well as the fire of God's anger, the type of fire God sent raining down upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24). This 'esh is also the fire Abraham held in his hand when he sacrificed Isaac upon the altar (Genesis 22:7) and the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Although fire may burn, destroy and consume, it also purifies and transforms substances in the process.
       Although the Psalmist experienced the waters of violence and danger, and the fire of judgment and purification, he nevertheless "went through." Here is the key lesson of this passage: as a child of God, we are never overcome by the flood of darkness and chaos. We are never consumed by the heat and fury of destruction and judgment. We pass through while being cleansed, purified and transformed to become Christlike.
       Job says in Job 23:10"When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Notice the triumphant words, "I shall come forth." Notice that Job is still in the midst of his fiery afflictions when he makes this tremendous statement of faith. It is one thing to testify after you have passed through the waters and fire, but we please God and testify of His goodness when we declare salvation even as the waters continue to swirl and fire still leaps.

       Dear Believer, now is the time to declare the victory of God in your life. Don't wait another hour. This is not the time to draw back in fear, giving ear to the enemy, but rather to believe the trustworthy promises of God, declare His Word and stand, looking unto Jesus.
       Lastly, the word wealthy in Psalm 66:12 is translated from the Hebrewrvayah, which means saturation. Although this term is translated "wealthy" in the King James Version, rvayah, does not mean just finances, but "a wide abundance, a place of recovery, of refreshment, the place of His provision and Presence." The only other occurrence of the term is in Psalm 23:5, where the word is translated "runneth over": "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
      This is the promise of "coming through": we "come through" devastation to experience saturation, the "running over" of the Presence of the Lord! We "come through" trials to abide in our Beloved! We overcome to testify of His mercy and lovingkindness, to witness His power and faithfulness in the midst of our trials!
Rebuke fear, doubt and unbelief, dear Believer, to "come through" into Christ Himself!
I bless you and your loved ones. May the favor and grace of God be overflowing in your lives (Psalm 84:11)!

Bobby Conner
Eagles View Ministries


No comments: