How to Turn Knowledge into Belief

need_a_rideContinued from here.

I knew the Bible very well for decades before I actually started doing what it says to do. I could give wonderful advice about how to live a godly life … I simply did not do it myself because, in my heart of hearts, I did not really believe it, despite what I knew. Perhaps this is why God’s Word says that it is impossible to please God without faith. Knowing a whole lot about God doesn’t get us to the other side of the river any faster than not knowing anything about Him at all. In fact, it can even be a hindrance because someone who does not know God has not spent years talking himself out of stepping out onto the rickety bridge.

The key to experiencing God’s sufficiency is simple and yet very difficult – you must take that first step in faith. What is that first step? You need to give away whatever it is that you need, which is counterintuitive but is the key to turning knowledge into belief.

Let’s say you need more money: give more to those in need. If you need peace, give God thanks for all He has already done for you. If you need to feel loved, do something loving for someone else. If you need to feel accepted and valued, be accepting and loving to someone who is different from you. If you need to feel joy, do something for someone else that makes that person joyful. If you need more time to meet your responsibilities in this season of life, spend more time with God. This is the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping, and this principle is woven into the Bible in many ways and many contexts.

When you give away what you need, you are taking that first step onto the rickety bridge. You are also planting a seed that will bear fruit in the future if you do not give up. I know this seems counterintuitive, but God’s ways are different from ours, and the principle of sowing and reaping is one that God created. Whatever it is you need, give it to someone else, and God will show you that He is more than enough to meet that need.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car and asking, “Need a ride?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Believing God’s Word is the Key to Experiencing His Sufficiency

lifeContinued from here.

The key to experiencing the reality that God is more than enough to meet whatever you lack is believing God’s Word over how you feel. Belief involves more than knowledge. I knew for decades that God was bigger than anxiety, but I did not experience God being bigger than anxiety until I started believing it. Believe something involves taking action in reliance on that belief.

For example, I might know that a rickety wooden bridge is sufficient to hold my weight as I walk from one side of a river to the other. I might see other people walk along the rickety bridge, which adds to my knowledge base that the rickety bridge is sufficient. However, whether I believe it is sufficient will dictate my actions. If I stay too focused on the rapids below the bridge, I might fear them enough not to attempt to cross the bridge. My choice whether to cross the bridge is based solely on my belief as to whether or not it is safe. I might be able to recite stories about other people who successfully crossed the bridge. I may even be able to tell you 10 specific reasons why the bridge is safe to cross. However, until I actually walk across the bridge, I don’t really believe it is secure, and I am missing out on the blessings waiting for me on the other side.

As I remain positioned on the same side of the river, I might become angry with the builder. Why didn’t the person who built the bridge make it more secure? Why isn’t there another way to cross this river? I might become envious of the people who cross it and receive the blessings on the other side, making excuses for why it was easier for them to cross the river on the bridge than it is for me. I might lie to myself and others about why I won’t cross the bridge, saying that I don’t really want to cross over, when the truth is that, in my heart of hearts, I don’t really believe the bridge will hold for me.

Either I believe the bridge will hold or I don’t. My actions will be based upon what I believe, not what I know.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking across a river with a bird under the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Believing God’s Word over What You Feel

feelsContinued from here.

When we lack something we need, it feels natural to align our thoughts with our emotions rather than trust that God is going to meet that need. This holds true even when we know God is able. For example, we read about Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and we know that God is able to meet our physical needs in abundance. Even though we know this, when we look in the empty refrigerator and the depleted checking account, we react not based upon what we know but what we believe. Most of us believe what we see rather than what we know and react accordingly. This makes us double-minded and vulnerable to our emotions tossing us around like the waves of the ocean.

My natural reaction is to try to take matters into my own hands. I doubt that God is enough to meet my need, so I look elsewhere to meet it, which the Bible calls idolatry. When I seek out idols, God will let me do it for a while until I learn that idols cannot meet my needs.

For example, I needed unconditional love, but I didn’t think God was enough to meet this need because I wanted “someone with skin” to provide this. I sought it in marriage, parenthood, family, and friendships. God allowed me to experience disappointment everywhere I turned, and my breaking point was when my final two idols (my two best friends) left. I thought this would break me, and it did … it broke up my unplowed ground so it became fertile for sowing righteousness, and I reaped the fruit of unfailing love.

My experience and emotions told me that I was fundamentally unlovable. God’s Word told me that I was lavishly loved. As long as I followed my emotions, I experienced need. Once I chose to believe God instead of my emotions, I learned that God was more than enough to meet that need – so much that His love overflowed out of me, changing the dynamics of all of my relationships so that I no longer sought to receive love but, instead, to give it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of an arrow piercing Grace’s heart below the word, “Feels.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

God is Enough

helpOne spiritual lesson that was particularly transforming for me was learning that God truly is enough – actually, He is more than enough. This is a lesson that I am currently learning at a deeper level as I am learning to walk through the Christmas season without holiday depression. To make a very long story short, the Christmas season is my Achilles heel. As a child, the Christmas season was a time that the safety of school went away, and abusive family “friends” had greater access to me to harm me. Many Christmas songs and symbols have negative associations in my head, and I power through as best I can, trying to spend a little time as possible in a depressive funk.

This year, I have decided that I am finished with surrendering to my past and allowing it to control my present. Jesus died to give me victory over every bondage, even this one, so my prayer this holiday season (since before Halloween) has been for God to teach me how to walk in that victory. I have not done it perfectly, but I have not gone down the emotional well and don’t intend to … and not because I am strong. I am painfully aware of my weakness, but God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, and He is enough.

To embrace the reality of God being enough, I must rely on what His Word says, not on how I feel. It does not feel like God is enough. If I allowed my thoughts to align with my feelings, I would already be deep into a holiday depression. Instead, I must stand firmly on what God has to say about the matter, and He says that He is enough.

I have been praying this Scripture quite a bit since October:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. ~ 1 Cor. 10:13

I tell God that I am tempted to go down the emotional well, and I need Him to show me the way out. He always does. When I pray this, I don’t feel victorious – I feel weak. I choose to believe God over what I feel.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand and yelling, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Rejoicing in Spiritual Growth and Progress

finallyContinued from here.

And now, we have made it to Friday. I overslept on Friday, which is very unusual for me. I somehow forgot to set my alarm clock and awoke one hour late. This meant I didn’t have time to tithe the full first hour of my day to God, as it my custom. This has only happened a handful of times (probably fewer than five) since March 2013.

When this has happened in the past, I experienced sheer panic. Because I know I am not good, I am well aware that this first hour with God is critical to my having the ability to behave as God wants me to behave. I know painfully well that I am 100% dependent on God to make that happen, and I need that first hour alone with God to fill up with Him so I then have what is needed to pour out to others throughout the day. When this has happened before, I spent my time in the shower begging God to help me contain my sinful nature and not allow it to rule me.

I had a very different reaction this time. I told God that He knows my heart – that I did not intentionally choose to take that hour away from Him. I will always choose God over sleep. I engaged in praise & worship while I showered so I could still begin my day with God. I next had an abbreviated prayer time with God until I had to awaken my son, walk the dog, and go through my regular morning routine. I also had to ensure my husband did not oversleep since he had to get up early for another work trip. I did not have time to study the Bible, but I did recite the Book of 1 Thessalonians from memory later in the day so I could be in the Word, even without a physical Bible in front of me. And then after I dropped my son off at school, I engaged in praise & worship while driving my car to my appointment. So, even though I did not have my allotted hour of quiet time with God, I engaged the same spiritual practices in a modified way.

I was overjoyed to recognize the progress I have made in my walk with God because I now know that even when I mess up by oversleeping, God is bigger than my sinful nature. I had a wonderful day and felt God’s presence. I marveled at all God had brought me through that week and thanked Him for being so faithful to me, even when I was tempted to be unfaithful to Him.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and running through a banner that says, “Finally!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Choosing between Submitting to God or Selfishness

why_am_I_the_way_that_I_amContinued from here.

I wonder if perhaps I am so confident that I would (and have) stand up against group wrongs specifically because of my deep awareness of my propensity to do evil if I follow my sinful nature. I have no illusions about being a “good person.” I am painfully aware of the wickedness inside of me and that it’s only through God that I am able to choose a different path. I do not “do good” because it comes naturally to me: I “do good” because I love God! It’s a choice I make in spite of how I feel.

I am just as selfish as everyone else and perhaps even more so because of my painful history. Pain naturally turns our focus inward and keeps us thinking about ourselves – about how others have wronged us, how we deserve to be treated better, etc. I endured an enormous amount of emotional pain throughout my childhood because of the child abuse, and I grew into a bitter, self-focused woman who justified my own selfish and rude behavior as a result. I lived in “death” for decades, and I never want to return to that mindset.

The antidote to living a self-centered life is submitting to God’s authority and making my choices based upon how He says to live, and nothing about the Christian lifestyle comes naturally to me. It does not feel natural to spend the first hour of my day with God … or to defer my preferences to the people around me … or to pray blessings over people who harm me. None of this comes naturally or easily to me – it’s all a choice, and I choose it because I love God, not because I am good.

Now, here’s the really cool part – As I make the choice over and over to live life God’s way rather than my own, the Christian lifestyle becomes easier. For example, I have been tithing the first hour of my day to God every morning for over 4.5 years, so it now feels natural to start my day with God. In fact, it would not even cross my mind not to do so any longer. This is not because I am “good” – it is because I have been obedient in this area for so long that tithing the first hour of my day to God has become my “new normal.” It is now a habit.

The same applies to forgiving those who hurt me. I used to stew and complain about it – now, I pour my hurt out to God and prayer for them. As this has become my habit, I don’t find my feelings getting hurt very often. I choose not to take offense, and because I have already decided I am going to forgive everyone who hurts me, I don’t bother putting energy into negative feelings toward them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking at herself in the mirror and asking,  “Why am I the way that I am?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

“Group Think” and Being a “Good” Person

im_goodContinued from here.

When I awoke on Thursday, I simply felt better. I had a peace that I could not explain: I simply knew in the deepest recesses of my soul that I was OK – that God was in control. My son asked politely if his discipline was over yet and received my “no” without incident. My husband awoke with a determination to choose to positive mood, even though his circumstances had not changed. God was clearly at work in my family.

I had an interesting meeting on Thursday that got me thinking about a couple of topics over the next couple of days. The first was the topic of “group think,” which is when people go along with whatever the group thinks, even when they disagree. I stated firmly that I do not allow groups to drive my actions – that I would likely have been among the first resistors taken to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany because I am not going to mistreat people just because the group is doing so. The other person cautioned me against being too certain that I would go against the dynamics of the group (or, in this case, society) because most people do not, despite their good intentions. I responded by sharing my story of being fired for refusing to engage in false and deceptive practices back in August, which definitely involved going against the flow of the group and came with a cost.

Later in the conversation, this person called me “good,” to which I responded that I am not good – all that is good within me comes from God. This is a conversation I have had multiple times with a close friend. She loves to call me “good,” and I always tell her that I am painfully awareness of my lack of goodness. All she sees within me as “good” is a reflection of God’s goodness. I am well aware that I do not have even one emotionally healthy bone in my body. This person said we were going to have to agree to disagree on this topic, which is pretty much where things stand with my friend.

This got me thinking about whether there is a perhaps a correlation between the two topics. Most people believe that, at their core, they are “good people,” which may be why they believe they would not go along with the group to trample on other people. However, when all of these “good” people come together as a group and the leaders provide the opportunity to tap into the evil inside of themselves (their sinful nature), they are blindsided when their sinful nature takes over. Even Paul was vulnerable to his sinful nature, despite all he did to build up the Christian Church.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and saying, “I’m good.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]