Saturday, 30 October 2010

Learning to Trust God (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Do you trust God?  I can honestly say that I don’t….not completely…not in every area of my life; otherwise if I did I would LET GO of my need to control the outcome of every circumstance and LET GOD in his perfect love, infinite wisdom and sovereignty take the reins.

Because God sees the big picture and knows all the facts, He has infinitely more wisdom than we do. In his Word, He promises to make our paths straight when we trust Him (Prov 3:5-6).

When we look at circumstances from our limited perspective and choose to try our own solution we often find out the hard way that it was the wrong choice because we didn’t trust in His infinite wisdom. Of course, we cannot see the long-term consequences of all the events in our lives. But we can trust the One who is in perfect control of everything that happens.

"One of the marks of maturity," says Charles Swindoll, "is the quiet confidence that God is in control ... without the need to understand why He does what He does." Recognizing that we are finite and will never be able to fully understand the ways of God we are faced with a choice; we can either struggle to understand or stand firm accepting the truth that God is God, there is none like Him. He makes known the end from the beginning… His purpose will stand, and He will do whatever he pleases. (Isaiah 46:9-10)

God never asks us to take a leap in the dark. He asks us to believe and trust something which rests upon a firm foundation, and it is the only foundation---His word. Personally, I do believe in God and the saving grace of His son Jesus, through experience I trust in God’s faithfulness and mercy so why is it that I continue to struggle with fear, doubt, worry and anxiety?

Who plays on my FEARS? The enemy makes false evidence appear real if I let him-why give satan all that power.
What is the underlying cause of my DOUBT? I do not fully trust anyone not even God with my circumstances.
Why do I continue to WORRY? In other words why do I torment/distract myself with what ifs and things that may never occur? I want to please pple/be perfect/have control at all times.
 When does my ANXIETY get out of hand? When I focus on the bigness of the giants that stand before instead of on the one, true God who is pouring His strength into me. My focus will determine my behavior and influence my faith.

Anxiety or worry is normal, it is an emotional response to a thought or circumstance that we perceive as negative. Contrary to what some people think, worry is not some trait that is inseparable from our nature. Rather, anxiety occurs because of the way we respond to a problem or troubling situation.

You can choose what to think about by taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2Corinthians 10:5) and you can decide how to respond to a circumstance. Your ability to choose is part of God’s gift of free will to every one of us.

How do I respond? Seeing as “Let go…Let God” is easier said than done I thought I would share with you some practical ways to overcome worry and anxiety.

Before I begin, rest assured knowing that it is not the Father’s purpose for you to be controlled by worry. He may allow an unpleasant situation in your life to develop stronger faith, stimulate spiritual growth, or change a bad habit or negative attitude. But He does not set you up to feel anxious. God is always at work to bring you to a place where you will increasingly trust and obey Him and receive more of His blessings. Refer to His Word in John 16:33 for this reminder; I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

The first step is to HUMBLE YOURSELF

My solutions would not let down my fa├žade of being in control out of pride insist that I can and will handle it myself in a worldly/fleshly way dealt with it –busyness/shopping/TV My pride was a barrier to God’s help because I was too prideful to admit struggle to anyone, even God.

God’s solutions

Come to me- Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Cast your burdens-Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Humble yourself- 1 Peter 5:7

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

The second step is to SUBMIT/SURRENDER YOUR LIFE TO GOD

Paul’s moment of surrender occurred on the Damascus road after he was knocked down by blinding light. For others, less drastic methods are needed. Regardless, surrendering is never just a one-time event. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31  I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For me personally, on some days I am simply praying Lord make me willing to be willing to fulfill the purpose you have planned for me. Amen!

I was recently reminded that there is a moment of surrender and there is the practice of surrender, which is moment-by-moment and lifelong. The practice of surrender requires perseverance; like me you may have to re-surrender your life hourly, seeking God to make you willing by His grace. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:24 If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me.

Currently, God is working on me to release my hold on the things at work that I have no control over. I have a hard time delegating, or even wanting to delegate, because I have been justifying my existence through my hard work, and equating success with struggle; I equate results with struggle. And so I sort of wear my struggle like a badge of honour. And all of that is the opposite of trusting God & allowing Him to be in control.

I have come to realize that the standards and expectations I set for myself are too high, especially at work. Through God's grace I am learning to give myself a break, lighten up, be easier and go slower. Take it easy, have more fun. Love myself more, laugh more, appreciate more and accept that mistakes are OK and that when it comes to my to do list I will never get it done... tomorrow's another day.

As for my personal life, there too I have a habit of striving for excellence. I want to be the best mother, best daughter, best sister and best friend sometimes at the expense of my own well being. You see not only am I nurturing and compassionate but when someone is in trouble I tend to take on their burdens and rush in to try and fix and rescue. This also is the opposite of trusting God & allowing Him to be in control.

Many of these habits have created anxiety and worry and the more I try to control it and my emotions the more I become frustrated. I have asked God for discernment and wisdom in this area and he has blessed me by allowing me to turn my thoughts more quickly towards Him. To submit my will to his and to persevere and press on clinging to the hem of his garment despite what is going on in the world around me.

Finally after months of prayer and through God's grace and faithfulness I understand that ultimately God is in control. That despite my struggles...tomorrow's another day!

Wow! how true, revealing and a good reminder to trust in God and put him first in everything. I've often considered the difference between want and need and through experience have come to realize that it is always better to wait for God to provide what I need then go after what I want.

This is so utterly true and waiting on God is always better then when we go after it ourselves. We miss the blessings in our impatience.

Then, RENEW YOUR MIND WITH SCRIPTURE

Through bible study I have learned that the greatest source of encouragement can be found in the bible. There are verses for every situation in life. The Bible testifies to God’s promises, blessings, provisions and my identity in Jesus.

These same verses have helped me change my old habits. I believe the WORD to be TRUTH and can more readily choose to focus my thoughts on the greater things. I am MORE willing to surrender my life to God and allow Him to be in control.

I pray that as I share with you the truth of God’s word you will be blessed with more of Him and a better understanding of the difference He can make in your life.

For most of my life I have allowed worry and anxiety to consume my thoughts and direct my circumstances. I was also a perfectionist, people pleaser and would justify my actions at great lengths; often overcompensating and apologizing for things that weren’t even my fault.

I appeared happy on the outside but was a burden bearer on the inside. I portrayed a strong, independent character but truly I was guarded and trusted no one. The thick layers of skin that covered and protected my heart offered a false sense of security.

In the past, I have worried about anything and everything with a “put the cart before the horse” kind of mentality. I would often anticipate the “what ifs” of any situation so that I could be prepared with solutions for whatever outcome-inevitably the “what ifs” didn’t materialize and all that time and stress were wasted. It wasn’t until 2005 and through seeking God that I came to realize that my “worrying” was my mechanism for maintaining control of any given situation and also a way of gaining acceptance from others. After all, if I had all the answers I would be praised for being good and smart….or so I thought!

This has been a difficult habit to break and definitely a work in progress. As the layers were being peeled away healing was taking place. This also showed me that repetition is key to healing and learning.

Repetition is part of the process, part of healing. It reinforces my foundation. It is God’s way of refining my character.

Although I am now aware of my struggles with anxiety and worry this revelation has come to light slowly after much refining. I have discovered that “I have to live it to learn it” and seeing as I don’t always get in the first time, God’s grace has been sufficient to get me through. Also, when I focus on God through scripture, worship, praise and prayer things improve.

This has also meant that I must be willing to make God a priority, to put Him first in my life and seek Him in all that I think, say and do in good times and in trouble. For if I abide in Him He shall remain in me.

What better way to do that then by RENEWING MY MIND WITH SCRIPTURE

Today, when I find myself allowing anxiety or worry to take hold of my feelings or thoughts I meditate on scriptures such as:

But seek first his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. These verses from Matthew 6 reminded me that nothing is worth more than this day and that God will provide whatever I need. Not necessarily what I want but what I need.

Psalm 91 reminds us of all that God will offer in times of danger. He doesn’t promise a world free from danger, but He does promise his help whenever we face trouble;

·       Offers safety
·       Assurance of protection
·       His eternal perspective/not our temporal perspective
·       Trouble will come but it will not overtake us (vs10)
·       Assurance of rescue
Finally, in vs 15 we are reminded that if we call upon him, He will be there, we can rely/count on Him- When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.

2 Timothy 1: 7 -I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline
Romans 12:12 -Be joyful in hope, patient in times of trouble and faithful in prayer
Psalm 37:4 -Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart

The truth of God’s word has greatly helped me turn away from my anxious and worrisome nature and helped me keep my shortcomings in perspective---I am still a work in progress (finally, I am ok with that). It reminds me of the significance or persevering, not giving up and keeping a good attitude while we wait on God to provide His blessings.

I have noticed that once I appropriate verses for myself, personalize them and make them my own they offer a great source of courage that can carry me through any of life situations! Praise God, all glory is His!

Next, CLOSELY GUARD YOUR THOUGHT LIFE

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace Romans 8:6

Now that you are turning away from fear, doubt, anxiety and worry and drawing closer to God the enemy will do his best to distract you from seeking God. One of his most common and successful tactics is to entangle your mind with negative thoughts. If our mind is divided with problems, we’ll be unable to put God first. So the question remains, how can unproductive thought patterns be put down before they begin? Our best defense is the Word of God.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Anxiety is an emotion caused by fearful thoughts. Changing one’s pattern of thinking generally causes the apprehension to dissipate. When your thought life becomes negative or counterproductive, deliberately choose to set your mind on something else.

As I share this, I speak from experience, knowing that my past thoughts have lead me to be the person I am today thankfully however, God is now leading me to become the person He has called me to be. So if you don’t like where you are headed begin to think godly, positive thoughts and God will change your destiny.

There are a number of ways you can stop an unhealthy train of thought. For instance, you can praise the Lord and thank Him, turn to solving a different challenge, or find wholesome entertainment. For me it involves; Resist, Redirect, Renew (Ps 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, renew in me a steadfast spirit).

But perhaps the best way is to meet God in prayer and focus on biblical truths.

Finally, TURN ANXIETIES INTO PRAYERS

When it comes to worry and anxiety, God’s word is clear and leaves no room for debate. Last week, I shared with you the words Jesus taught about worry and the reasons for which we need not worry.

Now I leave you with the fourth chapter of the book of Philippians vs 6-9 which directs us to worry less and pray more, reminds us that what we put in our mind determines what comes out in our words and actions and encourages us to ask God to help us focus our mind on what is good and pure knowing that it takes practice but can be done.

Take it from someone who has been there, done that, got the T-shirt-----anxiety can cripple us emotionally and hinder our productivity. Or it can drive us to prayer and prompt spiritual growth. Knowing what I know now, I choose to respond to worry in a godly manner, I hope you make the same choice for not only will God be glorified, but you to will be set free from anxiety’s paralyzing grip.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
From past experiences I have come to learn that prayer should always be our first response instead of our last resort --- too often I have focused on the problem instead of God --- only succeeding in feeding my fear, not solving anything. Any change in me, no matter how big or how small I owe to God.

So back to my first question, Do you trust God?

I now know that I do, more and more each day and that’s ok because at the moment nothing is worth more than this day!

For as the Psalmist says in Psalm 118:24- Today is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

So finally, I won’t worry about tomorrow, I am trusting in what God says; today is the day!

Published October 2010 - please note that many of the practical tools and principles outlined are taken from In Touch Ministries - Charles Stanley. This writing is not one of my original pieces.