When life takes an unexpected, difficult detour, we might catch ourselves thinking, Can God be trusted?
Can God be trusted when a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis?
Can God be trusted when a natural disaster wipes out our home and material possessions?
Can God be trusted when evil takes an innocent person’s life?
Can God be trusted when we pray and pray and pray over a specific concern, but nothing happens in response to our pleas?
Let’s turn to Scripture for the answer when we find ourselves asking the question, “Can God be trusted?” This verse sheds light on our query:
“Jesus said, ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me’” (John 14:1 NLT).
Jesus’ words tell us that God can be trusted.
His words also tell us that trusting Him requires intentional action on our part. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” implies that we have control over anxiety in our lives. We can choose to let anxious thoughts run rampant or we can choose to trust God instead.
Letting our hearts be troubled yields no benefit. Worry can’t change what’s already happened and it won’t help resolve the current challenge. It does, however, encourage fear to take root. It makes it difficult for us to rest well at night and ties our stomach into knots.
I’ve let my heart be troubled too many times to count, and guess what? Doing so has never made my life easier. So why live like that, right?
We don’t have to let challenging circumstances disturb our inner peace. If we take Jesus’ words seriously, then we can rest assured that trusting in God is the better way to respond. Here are five good reasons for choosing that better way:
God promises His presence. He is with us no matter what happens in the course of a day. Nothing we face takes Him by surprise. Why, then, should we be afraid or anxious? (Joshua 1:9)
God promises to give us wisdom, and lots of it. When we face circumstances that baffle us, we can ask Him for insight, and He will answer. (James 1:5)
God promises victory. He’s on our side if we belong to Him. Who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31)
God promises to turn negative situations into something good. He specializes in transforming the bad into beauty, the sad into splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)
God promises joy. Sorrow may last for a night, He says, but joy comes in the morning. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. (Psalm 30:5)
What difficult detour or challenging circumstances are you facing today? Can God be trusted in the midst of them? The answer is yes.
Take a moment to thank God for His promises and that they apply to your situation. Take another moment to bask in the beauty of this song by Chris Tomlin. Don’t let your heart be troubled. God is a good, good Father, and He’s got this.
Friends and family supported Sailor-Man and I when we prepared to move to Nepal to volunteer with a faith-based organization for three years. Everyone, that is, except one nay-sayer.
“You’re making a terrible mistake. You have no experience. You’re not qualified to serve overseas,” this person said.
I believe that the enemy of our souls hoped the criticism would cause us to question God’s calling and cast it aside. His ploy failed. We determined to follow the path God laid before us regardless of what others said. His voice alone mattered.
David Endured Criticism
David is one of my favorite Bible characters because he experienced many of the same things I’ve experienced. Dealing with criticism was one of those things.
On one occasion, David went to see several of his older brothers who were in the Israelite army and engaged in battle with the Philistines. That’s when he witnessed the nine-foot bully, Goliath, taunt the Israelite soldiers as he’d done twice a day for the past 40 days. As soon as the Israelites saw the giant, they ran away in fright.
When David offered to fight Goliath, his oldest brother levied criticism against him. “What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28 NLT)
When King Saul heard about David’s offer to fight Goliath, he said, “Don’t be ridiculous! There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33 NLT)
When Goliath saw David approach him, he hurled insults and curses at the boy: “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. (1 Samuel 17:43-44 NLT)
Perhaps the enemy of David’s soul hoped criticism would cause him to lose courage and run away in defeat. If so, his ploy failed. David wasted neither time nor energy trying to figure out a smart comeback. Instead, he chose to be unoffendable and to keep his focus on the truth—God’s voice alone mattered.
Let’s Respond Well
Friend, others will say unkind and undeserved things about us. They might question our integrity and calling. They might mock our God-given dreams, strengths, and passions. Rather than offering support to our Spirit-led endeavors, they say, “You’re making a terrible mistake. You have no experience. You’re not qualified.”
Let’s choose not to listen to those voices. Let’s not let criticism deter us from doing what God has called us to do. Let’s choose to be unoffendable to keep our focus on the truth—God’s voice alone matters.
What’s your natural response when someone hurts you? Mine is to stew about what’s happened or been said, and then I have internal conversations that sound something like, “I can’t believe she said those things about me,” or “How could she do such a thing? What’s wrong with her thinking?”
Our natural response is to take offense—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot—and hang onto it. After we’ve had a chance to process what’s happened, we might ask God to forgive the offender. Or maybe we’ll ask Him to get even.
But here’s the thing—if we profess to be Jesus’ followers, then we need to do as He did.
Jesus was innocent of all wrongdoing yet He suffered ridicule and an excruciating death. As He hung on the cross, a crowd gathered to watch and soldiers gambled for His clothing. A lesser man might have spent His dying breath uttering curses over them, but Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive these people for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus recognized that the crowd who cheered for His crucifixion and the soldiers who hammered spikes through His hands and feet were not His real enemies. The unseen forces of evil led by Satan himself were the ones bent on His destruction. Knowing this, Jesus was able to pray for those who mocked and crucified Him.
Consider this truth when someone hurts you deeply: “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
When someone hurts you, remember that he or she is not your real enemy. Their behavior is rooted in unresolved issues and sadly, you’re taking the brunt. Hurting people hurt people.
When someone hurts you, spend your emotional, mental, and spiritual energy fighting the real enemy—Satan. He wants to keep the offender stuck in whatever issue they’re struggling with, and he wants to sink you in anger and unforgiveness. Let’s commit to not giving him the upper hand.
One of the most important battle strategies, then, is to pray. Here are some suggestions for how to pray when someone hurts you.
Ask God to help you see the offender through His eyes. Maybe this person is under alot of stress at home or work and is at her wit’s end. That doesn’t make it okay to treat others poorly, but it might explain a few things. Maybe she needs understanding and a helping hand—a practical demonstration of kindness that will help her survive the challenges she faces.
Ask God to show you the root of her behavior so you can target your prayers. Maybe the offender’s behavior is rooted in jealousy toward you. Don’t just pray that the relationship will be restored, pray for her to realize that she’s jealous and why, and that she will develop contentment with her circumstances instead.
Ask God to ensure the offender’s well-being in every part of who she is—mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Doing so is akin to donning protective gear against anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. It’s impossible to harbour anger and unforgiveness when praying for the offender to flourish.
Ask God to bring the offender to repentance, restore her soul, and lead her in paths of righteousness.
Here’s a suggested prayer: “Holy Father, thank You for Christ’s example when He did the hard thing and prayed for the forgiveness of those who killed Him. Please give me the strength and integrity to respond to my offender in the same way. Lord, do not hold this offense against her, but draw her to repentance. Grant her an accurate understanding of who You are and of Your free gift of grace and forgiveness. Give her a heart that seeks after You. Lead her to a place of freedom from strongholds in her life. Restore her soul and lead her in paths of righteousness. I ask this on the basis of who You are—the God of truth and justice, the God who promises to be my Defender. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
May this song by Matthew West bless you today, my friend.
Praying in Jesus’ name is something I’ve done from childhood. Why? Because I heard my parents, my Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastor end their prayers with, “In Jesus name, amen,” so I followed suit.
I’ve been guilty of rattling off these words without much thought to their significance. It has done me good to pause and to ask, “Why is praying in Jesus’ name important, anyway?”
Here’s the thought that comes to mind in answer to that question: We pray in Jesus’ name because it encompasses His character, authority and reputation.
Jesus is God incarnate. He conquers death, overcomes evil, and transforms lives. He grants sight to the blind and enables the lame to leap and dance. In His name, the mute sing and the deaf hear. Broken bodies are healed, and broken hearts find hope.
There is no name higher than the name of Jesus. No name possessing greater authority. No name more reputable.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:9 ESV)
Praying in Jesus’ name releases His power.
Here are a few examples of prayers I pray often. Becoming more mindful of the power of Jesus’ name has helped me bring these requests to God with greater confidence.
“Heavenly Father, a friend fighting cancer is losing hope. Surround and fill her with a sense of Your presence and peace. Have mercy on her and heal her body and soul, please. I ask You this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Dear Lord, the world seems to be going crazy. Amidst heart-stopping news broadcasts, rise up and show Yourself strong. Rush to the rescue of the innocent suffering around the world. Conquer evil once for all. I ask You this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Oh God, my children and grandchildren are growing up in a society that gives You little regard. Protect them from the evil one, and teach them Your ways so they can shine as lights in the darkness. I ask You this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
Because of who Jesus is, praying in His name gives us faith to believe that God will hear and answer in a way that is completely right and in the right timing. It bolsters our confidence to expect the impossible and fills us with expectant watchfulness.
What concerns are on your heart today? Turn them into a prayer, and bring them to God in Jesus’ name—the name that is above every name on heaven and on earth.
What does it mean to cling to God? Perhaps my experience in a church nursery gives a good visual.
I was volunteering one Sunday when a young couple came to check in their toddler for the first time. The father signed the child into our program while the mother prepared to hand her to one of the volunteers. The little girl immediately sensed that something was up, so she threw her arms around her mom’s neck and hung on for dear life to the one she knew loved her most.
An online dictionary says the word “cling” means “to hold fast” or “to adhere closely.” That’s exactly what the toddler did to her mother. She held fast. And that’s what Joshua told Israel—the children of God—to do to their heavenly Father. “…But you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day,” he said. (Joshua 23:8 ESV)
“Cling to God” Means to Forsake All Other Gods
In the King James Version, writers used the word “cleave” rather than “cling.” The same word is used in Genesis 2:24 –“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Here, the word denotes forsaking others to focus our love on one and only one. That’s the same idea Joshua had in mind when he told the Israelites to cling to God only.
At the time he spoke these words, Joshua was elderly and knew he would die soon. He called all of Israel’s leaders together and reminded them of God’s faithfulness to them over the years. Then he exhorted them to love God and remain faithful to Him. They were to forsake all other lesser and false gods in lieu of devoting themselves to Yahweh.
Cling to God Because He Deserves Our Loyalty
Joshua mentioned a particular aspect of God’s faithfulness several times in the verses surrounding Joshua 23:8. That is—the fact that God had fought their battles on their behalf. He’d promised them the land, and then He delivered by going before them and taking out the enemies. By clinging to Him, the people would be giving God the undivided loyalty He deserved for being their mighty and invincible warrior.
At the same time Joshua exhorted the people to cling to the true and living God, he warned them not to cling to the customs of the survivors of the enemy nations. If they chose to compromise by falling into sinful thoughts and behaviors, they would break the covenant relationship God had established with them and they would pay the consequences.
Joshua said, “Be very careful to follow all the instructions written in the Book of the Law of Moses. Do not deviate from them in any way. Make sure you do not associate with the other people still remaining in the land. Do not even mention the names of their gods, much less swear by them or worship them. But be faithful to the Lord your God as you have done until now.” (Joshua 23:6-8) So – no compromise. Love God only and remain faithful to Him.
How Can We Cling to God Today?
How do we cling to God in everyday lifet? First, by reading and obeying God’s Word. Joshua told the Israelites to be careful to follow everything written in Moses’ book of the law and to not deviate from it. We, too, are to be careful to obey and not deviate from God’s words. Timothy wrote, “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Let’s dive into the Scriptures, explore what they meant to the people in whose day they were written, and discover how their principles still apply to us today.
Second, we cling to God through worshiping Him alone. We acknowledge Him as the only true God and refuse to listen to the voices of lesser gods vying for our affection. Money, material possessions, power, position, and even social media – none of these things deserve our devotion. Only God—the One who created us, and who saves, heals, and sustains us—deserves our love, praise, and worship.
Third, we cling to God by refusing to compromise. As our society slips further and further from God’s standards, our human bent becomes expert at justifying sin. We become masters at making excuses for doing what we want to do rather than doing what we know we ought to do. But clinging to, or cleaving to God means we stand firm on His truth even when it’s inconvenient or costly.
And finally, we cling to God by surrendering ourselves to Him. We let Him fill us with His Holy Spirit. We let Him take control of our desires rather than letting our desires take control over us. We let Him lead us in the way He wants us to go rather than pursuing our own path.
In Matthew Matthew 22:35, an expert in religious law asked Jesus, “What is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Jesus’ words, spoken two thousand years ago, remain true for us today. We are to cling to the Lord with everything in us. Let’s hang onto Jesus and His teaching with all our might. This is the way to life and victory in our faith journey.
May I pray for you? “Father, thank You for teaching us the importance of clinging to You. Help us love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give us the faith and strength to follow hard after You and to live surrendered to You. Everything else falls into place when we keep You in first place. Help us do that and do it well. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I have three adult married kids. None live locally, so we stay in touch through phone calls, emails, Facebook, and What’s App. I like to know what’s happening in their lives so I can pray specifically, but they get busy with their families and their work and don’t always think (or want) to tell me about the challenges they’re facing.
When they were young, I often felt like a parrot repeating the same prayer: “God bless my kids and keep them safe.” Everything changed when I learned how to use Scripture as the basis for my prayers. I soon realized the power in aligning my requests with God’s heart as revealed in His Word.
One of my favorite prayers came from Matthew 22:37-38. “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (ESV)
Since Jesus spoke this directive and called it the first and greatest commandment, I knew it was ultra-important. I wanted my kids to love God with every part of their heart, soul, and mind. If they did, I reasoned, then everything else would fall into place. Their love for God would govern their attitudes, priorities, goals, passions—everything.
I still pray Matthew 22:37-38 for my kids, and now I pray it for my grandchildren as well.
I want those I love to make wise decisions, demonstrate humility and practice generosity. I want them to live with integrity, prove themselves trustworthy, and demonstrate compassion for others. Loving the Lord with every part of who they are will play a role in their developing these qualities.
Unlike my generic, parrot-like prayer, “Bless my kids and keep them safe,” Jesus’ words found in Matthew 22:37-38 are rich and packed with life-changing truth. God’s Word is powerful and alive, and it’s chock-full of verses to use as the basis for our prayers. Used correctly, it’s a mighty weapon that accomplishes much in the heavenly realm. So, praying Scripture for those we love carries a power we can’t comprehend.
Using Scripture, we can bring our requests before God with confidence that we’re praying according to His will, and we can expect great results.
Are you familiar with praying Scripture? If so, please share one that you pray for those you love.
I’m currently working on a new writing project, the first of a three-book series about about the names of God. In full disclosure, I look at the scope of this project and fearful thoughts enter my mind. The biggest fear, at this time, involves meeting the August 31 deadline.
Meeting that deadline would be no problem if I could sit at my desk and write full-time six days a week, but that’s never going to happen. Two new grandchildren are due within the next six weeks, and I want to be available to help when called on. I’ll travel later this month for a speaking engagement, and then I’ll travel to Florida to attend the National Religious Broadcaster’s convention in May.
I have to refuse to entertain fearful thoughts or they will paralyze me. Instead, I turn to prayer: “Father, You know what’s necessary for me to write this manuscript. Please provide creativity, the ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice, and the ability to manage time wisely so I can do this job while balancing it with other aspects of my life.”
God will prove faithful, of this I am sure. After all, who’s better able to meet our needs than the God of the universe?
Acts 17:24-25 says, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in manmade temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.”
God has no needs. He’s complete and lacks nothing. He’s the source of everything that exists both seen and unseen. Therefore, He’s sufficient and fully able to satisfy every need we have.
I’m trusting the God who lacks nothing to supply my needs with regards to writing my next book. For what needs are you trusting Him today? Pick one from the list above (or come up with your own) and write it in the comments section. I’ll pray for you, my friend.
Hearing God’s voice sounds a tad mysterious, but it’s not, really. As God’s children, we can expect our heavenly Father to speak to us, and we can expect to hear Him. That’s part of the beauty of having a relationship with Him.
When my daughter, Kim, was a high school senior, a lot of people asked, “What do you plan to do after graduation?” Kim appreciated their interest in her future, but she found the question stressful because she didn’t have an answer. While many of her friends had plans in place, she didn’t feel as though she had clear direction. One day she broke into tears and shared her frustrations with me. This led to a great conversation about hearing God’s voice.
I told Kim about Isaiah 30:21, a verse I’d found especially helpful when seeking God’s guidance in the past. It says, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”
This verse applied to the Israelites, but it’s true for us today, too.
Within the context of this verse, the Israelites had again turned away from God to follow idols. They’d also made military alliances with Egypt rather than trusting God to protect and defend them. Because of these actions, the prophet Isaiah came to them and urged them to turn from going their own way and to follow God’s way instead. Isaiah reassured the people that God would hear their cries for help. If they would ask Him for guidance, He would speak to them and tell them which way to go.
This promise of hearing God’s voice is not a Scriptural stand-alone. John 10:3-4, for instance, beautifully aligns with it. Jesus said, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him [the shepherd], and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
The shepherd, of course, is Jesus, and the sheep are those who have placed their faith in Him for salvation. By speaking these words, Jesus let us know that He talks to us and we can hear and recognize His voice.
The same two truths are evident in Isaiah 30:21. The words, “a voice will say” presumes that God speaks to His people. The words, “your own ears will hear him” assumes that we can hear Him.
Hearing God’s voice is possible for all His children.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “I’ve never heard God speak. There must be something wrong with me.” If this is your situation, I want to put your mind at ease with encouragement from John 4:24—“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
In biblical times, God communicated with His people in a variety of ways. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush and later invited him to talk with Him atop a mountain. He appeared to Gideon in the form of an angel. He did the same with Abraham and with Sarah’s servant, Hagar. Nowadays, He communicates in a different way – through the Holy Spirit speaking to our spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus said this would be so: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.”
Have you ever awakened from a deep sleep with a sense of urgency to pray for a particular person? Have you ever felt an inescapable nudge to call or text someone with whom you haven’t connected for a long time? Maybe you’ve felt compelled to write a check to a missionary, or to ask the grocery store clerk how she’s doing, or to pay for the order belonging to the person behind you in line at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe you were in a heated conversation with someone and were just about to say something regrettable when you sensed a “shush” inside.
God speaks through His Holy Spirit’s whispers and nudges. He communicates to us through song lyrics, a friend’s wise counsel, the beauty of creation, and a child’s innocent words. Sometimes He talks to us through a sense of uneasiness that we cannot shake, or a conviction that grows stronger over time. Always He speaks through His written Word.
Hearing God’s voice depends largely on our heart condition.
If we’re bent on doing our own thing as the Israelites were—by making idols on which to lavish our affection and casting our confidence in false gods rather than the living God, then we’re going to have a tough time hearing him.
Sometimes the noise of our daily hustle and bustle drowns out His voice. This can be true even for those of us involved in career ministry. We get so busy serving God that we don’t spend time seeking His face or listening for what He may want to say. Occasionally God tells us something we don’t want to hear, so we choose to tune Him out.
God speaks to His children—that’s a truth on which we can rely. If we can’t hear Him, it’s not due to His inability to communicate. It’s because our ears and our hearts are on a different frequency. We need to make whatever adjustments are necessary to tune our ears and hearts to the same frequency as His.
In my daughter’s situation, she and I turned today’s Bible verse into a daily prayer. Together we asked God to speak to her and to direct her in the way she should go after she completed high school. We also asked Him to give her a heart to hear and obey what He said. We trusted Him to answer because He is faithful to do what He says He will do.
In response to our prayers, God gave Kim the idea of attending a one-year Bible school program. She applied, and He opened the doors for her to go. She took a leap of faith in trusting Him for the finances needed, and He honored her for doing so.
God wants to speak to us because He wants relationship with us and He desires our best. Oh, that we would cherish hearing His voice as much as He cherishes us.
May I pray for you? “Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us enough to communicate with us. Thank You for talking with us as our best friend and wise counselor, as our teacher, comforter, and guide. Lord, we long to hear Your voice. Open our ears and tune our hearts to You. Help us distinguish Your voice from so many others clamoring for our time and attention. And grant us joyfully obedient hearts to do as You say. In Jesus name, amen.”
Living in a northern British Columbian community for three months provided an ideal visual of what it means to be surrounded by God because, no matter which direction I looked, I saw mountains standing like sentries around me.
The psalmist described a similar scene: “Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.” (Psalm 125:2 NLT)
An online dictionary defines the word “surround” as “to enclose on all sides.” It means “to encompass, encircle, envelop, and, to form a circle about.” That definition describes the topography around Jerusalem. The city is located in the middle of a low mountain range and is literally encircled, or enclosed on every side by seven peaks higher in elevation than itself.
Who is Surrounded by God?
The psalmist compared the mountains around Jerusalem to God’s presence surrounding His people. According to Psalm 125:1, “His people” are “those who trust in the Lord.” We become God’s people when we place our faith in Jesus alone for salvation – not in just doing good deeds or being a good person. We agree with Scripture that Jesus is the only way to God—He is the way, the truth, and the life—and we trust Him alone for the forgiveness of our sin. But that’s just the beginning of trusting Him.
Our faith journey gives us opportunities to trust God for wisdom when we face difficult situations. We trust Him to guide us when we face major decisions. We trust Him to give us the strength we need for our daily tasks. We trust Him to do the impossible when we face impossible situations.
These are God’s people, and these are the ones surrounded by God.
Courage Fades When Troubles Surround Us, But God Brings Hope
The reassurance that we are surrounded by God becomes especially meaningful when life gets hard and we feel like we’re in an empty, howling wasteland. The psalmist described our common human experience when he wrote, “For troubles surround me—too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” (Psalm 40:12)
Criticism comes from one direction. Uncertainty from another. Betrayal. Shame. Illness. Loss. Disappointment. They’re all there, bringing fear, despair, and hopelessness.
God knows exactly how we feel, and that’s why He brings hope. That’s why He gives us written reminders and visual images to help us remember the truth: we are surrounded by God.
Here’s another truth on which to meditate: Because we are surrounded by God, troubles cannot touch us unless He gives them access. And if He allows them into our lives, we can rest assured He never intends for them to destroy us. Nothing can defeat us when God’s beautiful and majestic presence surrounds us. (Psalm 125:1)
We Are Victors When We Are Surrounded by God
No matter what troubles we face, their power over us cannot destroy us. We will rise above because God said so. As if to erase any shadow of doubt, He gave us a promise found in Psalm 32:7: “For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.”
Songs of victory surround us. Songs of triumph envelop us. Songs of battles won encircle us because we are surrounded by God. He encircles His people with His beautiful and majestic presence. Walk in this truth. Live from this truth. Doing so changes everything.
May I pray for you today? “Heavenly Father, thank You for surrounding us with Your beautiful and majestic presence. When troubles come our way, remind us that You are before and behind us and all around us, encircling us with songs of victory. Help us to hide in You, to find our refuge in You alone. Help us face the hard and the hurtful from a place of courage made possible because of Your great, unfailing love and presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.”
Watching my two-year-old granddaughter engage in a church service helped me understand what it means to imitate God. Here’s how it happened.
When the worship team began playing their music, I picked Lexi up so she could see the goings-on. She didn’t miss a thing. She noticed when someone clapped, and she did likewise. She saw those who raised their hands in praise, and she played copycat. She watched as individuals folded their hands in prayer, and she did the same. This little child learned to engage in worship by imitating fellow worshipers in everything they did—singing included, even though she didn’t know the words. Watching her made my heart smile.
Imagine the smile we bring to our heavenly Father’s heart when we imitate Him.
The apostle Paul gave this directive to the believers in Ephesus: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)
We might wonder how it’s possible to imitate someone we can’t see. That’s a valid question, and God answered it by sending Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, so we imitate the invisible God when we follow Jesus’ example. Everything He did was motivated by love – love for His Father and love for mankind.
Paul said this was how the believers in Ephesus were to live. And this instruction, my friend, remains true for us today. As God’s dear children, we are to imitate Him by living a life filled with love for Him and for mankind.
The latter part is easier said than done sometimes, right? Anyone can love other people when they’re pleasant. When they share their time and resources with us. When they listen to what we say without interrupting or passing judgement. When they laugh at our jokes and share the same interests and keep their promises.
But loving other people is challenging when they’re more focused on their own interests than on ours. When they don’t listen to us with their heart, don’t value the things we value, and don’t keep the promises they make to us. Loving others is hard to do sometimes, especially when they don’t love us back as we wish they would.
Aren’t you glad God never gives us impossible commands?
When He tells us to do something hard, He always gives us everything we need to obey. In this case, He’s given us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to love even when it’s hard. But He’s also given us an example to follow—that is, Christ’s example of loving us even when we didn’t deserve it.
Romans 5:8 explains it well. It says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God didn’t withhold His love from us until we deserved it. Rather, He poured out His love on us when we didn’t deserve it, and He did it through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
Let’s think about how we can imitate God in everything we do by living a life filled with love toward others even when our emotions tell us they don’t deserve it.
Watching my two-year-old granddaughter imitate those engaged in worship brought a huge smile to my heart. Imagine God’s smile over you as He watches you imitate Him in everything you do. Imagine His delight in watching you live a life filled with love, especially sacrificial love as Jesus demonstrated so well for us.
Two Gifts for You!
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