THE EXCUSE OF GOOD INTENTIONS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, July 1, 2022

King Saul is in trouble. After being told by the LORD to destroy all the Amalekites and their possessions, he is now trying to justify his disobedience by saying that God should honor good intentions. After all, shouldn’t God be pleased that they had selected all the best of the cattle and sheep so they could be sacrificed to the LORD? Short answer – If God had instructed them to do that, then yes, He would be pleased. But good intentions do not make up for disobedience. Besides, Saul only came up with the idea of sacrifice after he had been caught with the goods.

1 Samuel 15:20-22   “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

There is an old saying of disputable origin that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  But it is action that proves the heart, not intentions. An ounce of accomplishment is worth a ton of good intention. But being the people we are, stuck in the rut of self-affirmation, we prefer to defend our actions with the justification of our intentions. Unfortunately, we don’t treat others the same. Ian Percy, a modern day motivational speaker and leadership guru, said it this way – “We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”

This was true of Saul. He preferred to be judged by his intentions rather than his actions. But that is not God’s way. The truth is that actions are the reflection of intentions. Like Saul, we have simply learned how to generate justifiable intentions after the fact of the action, thus attempting to defend our honor and image. This simply won’t cut it with God, and Samuel let Saul know it. The end never justifies the means, especially when the end is revised from the original intent. The only thing we are ultimately responsible for is obedience to the LORD. Explicit obedience. Unquestioning obedience. Trust-in-the-One-who-knows-the-end obedience. There is to be no self-justification. No mid-course compromise. Just obedience.  “In the fulfillment of your duties, let your intentions be so pure that you reject from your actions any other motive than the glory of God and the salvation of souls”  (Angela Merici, early16th century).

So the next time you do something spontaneous and then try to catch up to the consequences with imaginary intentions, remember this – your actions prove what you truly believe. Your intentions may indicate what you want to believe, but your actions prove what you really believe. Make some changes. Start thinking about intentions before you act. Let the LORD be your God, and let His life be lived in and through you. It’s called sincerity, and the obedience it produces is what God delights in.

Pastor John

LEARN TO TRUST

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Yesterday’s devotional stimulated several responses from readers. Here’s one of them.

“I’ve been asking God for more faith and to help me be more faithful. He brought that to mind today as I was unexpectedly lying in an MRI machine. He showed His faithfulness to me by getting me into an open-sided machine within 2 hours of ordering the test (I didn’t have the chance to get too worked up about it). It was for my right wrist and, no, they could not put only my arm in. I asked!  After 2 tries to get me in, (I’m BIG-time claustrophobic!) I was finally in for 45 minutes. I started out so panicked that I couldn’t even remember Psalms 1, which I have had memorized for years. So I just talked to God, sang songs, and quoted what scripture I could remember. By the end of the 45 minutes my left arm, that had been holding on to the outside of the machine so that I would not be dragged further in, was almost resting by my head with just my fingertips holding on. I had remembered all of Psalms 1 including my new verse in 1 Cor 2:12. I was still a little stressed but no longer panicked. God just kept reminding me that He was still there and in control and as long as I stayed focused on Him, everything was going to be OK. And it was!”

Practical applications of trust. We all experience such opportunities daily. We choose to either prod through problems feeling deprived or pass through them focused on God’s promises. Every circumstance of life is an opportunity for the practical application of trust in God.

Psalm 84:15-17   “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.”

One of my wife’s dear friends shared something her spiritual mentor had taught her – the five steps to handling tough situations.

  1. Give the situation to God – turn it all over to Him and trust Him with the outcome.
  2. Do the right thing – no matter how you are tempted to manipulate the situation for your own benefit, always and only do the right thing.
  3. Be honest with your feelings – tell God and tell others how you really feel. Don’t cover up.
  4. Tell yourself the truth – focus on what you know to be true about the situation and the people involved, and let those truths control your emotions.
  5. Exercise grace – always grant the benefit of the doubt.

What great advice. Write them out. Carry them with you. They will remind you to trust the faithful presence of the Lord.

Pastor John 

THERE’S ALWAYS A GOOD SIDE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Psalm 84:10-12  Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

There are blessings to be found in every circumstance of life. Sometimes we need to be reminded of simple lessons like that. We need our attitudes adjusted. I received a reminder like that in church years ago. My attitude wasn’t bad, but my cold was really annoying me. I had made it through the first service with only two coughing spells, and they weren’t bad. Well, the first one was because I missed the mute button on my microphone and coughed right into it, bringing a collective gasp from the congregation. I think several of them were frustrated that I had awakened them from a nice dream. As I sat in the front row for the second service, a young man named Tom leaned forward during the offering and told me he had a story for me. It’s just what I needed to hear.

Tom is a new believer and is serious about his faith. He told me that he had been having a bad day at work on Saturday. He works in a fast-food restaurant, and the customers had been frustrating him all day. Several of his previous customers had paid for their food with quarters. He had grown tired of counting change. Why couldn’t someone just be normal and hand him paper money? He turned around from his station and confessed to the Lord that he was frustrated, and asked God to bless him. He turned back to his cash register to help the next customer. After taking the order, the customer handed him a five-dollar bill. He looked at it as he placed it in the cash drawer, and there, written in hot pink ink on the bottom of the bill, were the words you are blessed.

As he told me the story, he showed me the bill. He had exchanged it for one of his own. He was going to carry it in his wallet as a reminder to trust God. I could see in his eyes that God had taught him an incredible lesson. I needed the reminder as well. You see, no matter how frustrated we may be at the circumstances of life, we are blessed when we trust in God. It’s so simple. So why is it so hard to practice? It’s because we are more envious of what we don’t have than we are thankful for what we do have.

The great preacher Chuck Swindoll said it this way.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

“Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

“And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

As for me, I will choose to remember that I am blessed, because I trust in the LORD. How about you?

Pastor John

GOD USES THE SMALL

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The secular philosophy of humanism declares that all people are good. As a result, every person can look at themselves with pride. Our self-esteem should be nurtured until we become great in our own eyes. Such humanistic thought is the antithesis of spiritual truth.

In today’s Scripture passage, Samuel commends King Saul for the humility he had in his early years. In fact, Samuel says it was that humility that God recognized and rewarded by anointing him King of Israel. But his humble spirit was gone. Pride had now taken over, and God was about to take away his position.

1 Samuel 15:17-19 “Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?”

Samuel saw Saul’s pride. I believe that the questions Samuel asks of Saul were rhetorical. Samuel already knew the answer. The questions were for Saul’s benefit to see if he would admit to the truth. Samuel knew why Saul did not obey the Lord. It was because Saul was now motivated by pride rather than trust in God.

God honors a humble spirit. God chooses to work in and through the lives of people who are small in their own eyes. God is seen best in the lives of people who understand how undeserving they are for God to even be in their lives. That thought came to my heart in a very real way one morning when I visited an Amish farm. I was there to check on the availability of lumber from a sawmill operated by Daniel, an Amish farmer. Daniel and I had known each other for five years, and through a series of God-ordained circumstances, he opened up his heart to talk about his life. For over an hour I was able to share the Gospel with him and discover that he had no assurance of a place in heaven. At one point of the conversation, while referring to the recent improvements to his barn, Daniel said these words – “I don’t deserve what I have.” Immediately the LORD nudged me, and I told Daniel that’s exactly how I feel about my salvation – “I don’t deserve it.” After several moments, Daniel, in tears, came almost to the point of accepting Jesus as his Savior. But his cultural teaching got in the way.  

My point is that it was at the moment of seeing myself as small that God did His most powerful work. It is in humility that God is exalted. It is in our weakness that His strength is made available and visible. As the Apostle Paul said, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” Then, after asking God to remove his weaknesses, and hearing God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” When we are small in our own eyes, our eyes will see the Majesty of God. So will the eyes of others.

In our Saul story, notice how Samuel addresses the sin of the king. He says that Saul’s disobedience was evil in the eyes of the LORD. Here are some penetrating questions:

  • Are we minimizing our sins because culture minimizes them?
  • Are we looking at our sins through the eyes of culture or the eyes of God?
  • Do we justify sin in our lives because of its immediate benefit to us?
  • Do we classify sin into categories of “acceptable” and “confessable”?
  • Do we assign blame for our sin to others?

If any of our answers to the above questions are influenced by our culture or our pride, than we have chosen to deny the reign of the LORD in our lives. Saul’s disobedience was the result of pride. All sin is the result of pride. All pride rejects God as Sovereign LORD. Pride caused Saul to pounce on the plunder that was to be destroyed. Pride will cause us to pounce on the sin that is to be destroyed in our lives. Humble yourself before the LORD today and let Him be exalted in your life.

Pastor John

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, June 27, 2022

We say it’s a new phenomenon. It’s not. We say it’s a new philosophy, yet it’s as old as the human race. Humanism has been around so long as humans have been living with a sin nature, and that started with the first humans. Over the next several devotionals I want to address several humanistic issues in the life of King Saul that are indicative of the status of the Christian church – a status that may not be worthy of praise.

In review, Saul was told to completely destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. He did not obey. He kept the King alive and then approved of his soldiers keeping the best of the flocks for themselves. That’s when God came to Samuel and said, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” (1 Samuel 15:10-11) 

God is grieved by our choices and activities when they don’t conform to His standards. When we choose to pursue personal benefit and accomplish our own agenda the heart of God is grieved. Why should we expect that it isn’t? We are created in His image, and since we have emotions and feelings that can be hurt and grieved, then He must also.

The next morning after God had spoken to Saul, Samuel went to find him. He was told that Saul had gone to Mount Carmel to set up a monument to himself. I’m sure we can all see the slippery slope of self-centeredness upon which Saul is sliding. After having received the Lord’s instructions, and gaining the Lord’s victory, Saul not only made an intentional choice to disobey God, but then set up a monument in his own honor, as if he had been responsible for the victory. Saul is choosing to glorify himself rather than God.

When Samuel finds Saul, the king makes a bold statement. It is the statement of a person slipping more into humanism by trying to hide something. Saul says, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Liar, liar, pants on fire. Samuel points out the lie by saying, “So what is this I hear? I hear sheep bleating and cattle lowing. Where did they come from?”  Then here comes the next slide down the slope of humanism – the transfer of blame. Saul says, “The soldiers brought them.”  Saul took no personal responsibility for the actions he had approved, let alone for being king. He tried to blame someone else for what he had done.

You remember the first time that happened. It was in the Garden of Eden when God asked Adam what had happened, and he said, “It was the woman you gave me.” He blamed not only his wife, but bottom line he blamed God for giving him that wife. Adam thought that he could preserve some positive self-image if he could convince God that his sin was God’s fault. Saul tried to justify his actions by claiming they had kept all the livestock was so that they could be sacrificed to God. Saul says that they would sacrifice the animals to the Lord YOUR God (my emphasis). No longer did Saul consider God to be his God. God was Samuel’s God. You see, Saul had decided that he was the god of his own life, not the LORD God.

The humanistic philosophy of the world declares that we are basically good, and that evil comes from the pressures and failures of society. Secular teaching contradicts the sacred. The ramifications of humanistic teaching are diverse. One is that we are forced to place the blame for sin on someone else. The admission of personal responsibility for evil would mean that evil is generated from our own heart, which contradicts what secular people want to believe. This philosophy is the great deception of Satan and has been around since Adam blamed Eve and God for his own sin.  We cannot be forgiven for what we do not admit, so it is impossible to be saved unless we admit we have sinned. But secular thought teaches us there is no need to be forgiven because we are not responsible for evil. Any such thought would destroy self-esteem, and that is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Scripture.  

Our life’s throne has only one seat. It is not possible to share the reign of our lives. As soon as Saul made the choice to serve his own interests and follow his own desires, he became his own god, and the LORD God was removed from his throne. This is serious. We and God do not have a time share on the throne. God does not share His reign or His glory with anyone. When we choose to disobey God, we choose to be our own god. Every choice that we make that is contradictory to God’s character and will is a choice to remove Him from the throne of our lives. For each such action we must repent. Saul made up excuses. He rationalized. He attempted to justify his actions. He did not repent, and God removed His blessing from his life. The same will happen to us if we persist in sin.

Satan has mounted an attack against true faith, and the result is a great falling away from faith in these last days. Guard your heart, and do not start sliding down the slippery slope of disobedience. Recognize that one symptom of sliding is blaming others for your choices. Take responsibility for your life and surrender it to God. He alone is LORD, and we are not gods.

Pastor John

THE BIGGEST QUESTION

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, June 24, 2022

If you could ask one question to God right now what would it be? I would boil all the possible questions down to this one – “Who are you?”  I know, that sounds like I don’t know Him at all. That’s not the case. But I think we have all been far too satisfied with a small understanding of a great God. I believe that the more we know Him, the fewer questions we will have to ask.

For example, Samuel comes to King Saul to fill him in on God’s plans. God is going to bring justice to Israel by punishing those who stood in their way during Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. In the process of punishing the Amalekites, God instructs Saul to annihilate those people and all their possessions. That sounds harsh. That looks like injustice. That makes me want to ask God some questions. But all those questions would be motivated by a need to humanize God rather than exalt Him.

Many of the questions we want to ask God are based on our need to contextualize Him. As finite beings, we are incapable of fully comprehending the infinite. But our fleshly pride demands that we understand. The only way we can try to resolve this paradox is to humanize God – to bring Him into the context of human reason. We try to figure out why God does what He does and explain it so that it makes sense to us.

We humanize God by choosing to believe that God is for our benefit. When God’s will is to enforce perfect justice, as in the case of the Amalekites, our emotions aren’t prepared to deal with the killing of women and children. To ease our pain we would rather see His love and mercy. When God chooses grace and mercy, and let’s someone off the hook who has hurt us, we want justice. It becomes obvious in the questions we ask that we want God to serve our best interests. Not only that, but then we reserve the right to define what’s best for us. That way everything can fit into the neat and explainable box we call life.

That’s what King Saul did. Rather than destroy everyone and everything as God had commanded, he decided he would choose what was best and good. Here’s how the story reads – “But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.” Saul claimed the right to decide for himself what was good. He chose to have a small view of God that fit into his neat and explainable box. He believed that God was for his benefit.

Our emotions will tell us that there are elements of sin that are not so bad. Some sin may may appear to benefit us for the moment. But to believe such a lie is to have a false view of God. He is perfectly sinless, and perfectly just in destroying it all. He has asked us to do the same. The writer of Hebrews challenges us this way. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

God chose to punish the people who hindered His plan for His people. They were to be eliminated. God’s will is for us to do the same with every sin in our lives, because every sin hinders us from accomplishing all that God has planned for us. But that is only possible if we choose to fix our eyes on Him. God is not for our benefit – we are for His. Not that God needs us to exist – He doesn’t. He is self-existent. But He created us for His own glory, not for ours. His glory is accomplished when suffering sinful people become surrendered sacrificial people who serve Him and not themselves. His glory is exalted above the earth when His good is poured out into the lives of people who let Him define good. His glory is more clearly seen in the lives of people who are being transformed into His likeness, not the likeness of the world.  The Apostle Paul said, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Our goal in life is not to use God to make our lives better. Our purpose in living, since coming to Christ for salvation, is to surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit so that we reflect the likeness of Jesus Christ in ever-increasing glory. That process starts by asking the right question. “God, who are you?” Then, as God begins to answer that question, all the other questions will disappear.

Pastor John

ADMIT MISTAKES

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, June 23, 2022

King Saul had bound the military personnel of Israel with an oath that they could not eat any food until after the daily battles with Philistines. They were only allowed to eat after sundown each night. Disobedience was punishable by death. Saul had impulsively issued an order that was both unwise and unjust.  

Saul’s son Jonathon had not been informed of the oath, nor had he been a part of swearing to it. As he and the army entered the woods they came across a large flow of honey from what is presumed to be a large bee’s nest in the ground. Jonathon dipped his staff in the honey and ate some. At that point the soldiers told him about the oath. Jonathon declares the oath of the king to be foolish, stating that his father was trouble for the country by his order. Later that day, the king finds out what had happened, and to defend the integrity of his reign he orders his son put to death, claiming that it is the right thing to do before God.

1 Samuel 14:44-45  “Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.”

There is a huge lesson in this story about what to do when we’ve made a poor decision. We all make poor decisions at times. Sometimes the decisions are small ones and don’t affect many people other than us. We may impulsively choose to buy something we didn’t really need and then regret it later when an unexpected bill arrives. But many times our decisions dramatically affect others. We may impulsively say the wrong thing at the wrong time and deeply offended or hurt someone. I know there were times when raising our children that in the emotional heat of discipline consequences were enforced that didn’t really fit the offense. We’ve all probably worked for employers at times who had what we considered to be stupid rules in the workplace. Maybe we were the boss who made those rules.

When we make a poor decision, we have two choices. One choice is that we can stay the course. Pride says this is the best option. It’s the option Saul initially chose. Even if it meant the death of his son, he believed his integrity as king was at stake. He thought the only way to be respected was to prove he could stand by his decisions. How wrong he was. What it revealed was a huge level of insecurity in his life. It’s the same for us. When we feel we must earn respect and protect image by following up bad decisions with more bad decisions, we are exposing the sin of pride manifested in the character flaw of insecurity.

The other choice we have when we make a bad decision is to admit it, change it, and make it right. This requires humility. Sometimes it requires someone standing up to us. That’s what happened in our story. After Saul’s initial response to what Jonathon did, the rest of the army stood up for what was right and opposed the king. They reminded the king that what Jonathon did saved Israel, implying that what Saul had ordered had hurt the country. They corrected Saul’s perspective on who was following God. The king thought he was because he felt he had an obligation to enforce an oath. But if that oath was made outside of the will of God, which it was, then repentance is necessary, not enforcement.

There are two simple yet profound lessons for us in this story. First, be humble enough to admit when you’ve made a bad decision or committed a sin and make it right. Second, be strong enough to stand up for others when you know they are in the right. The soldiers of Israel made a difference in Jonathon’s life because they stood up for him and opposed the king. Every day we are confronted with situations of injustice, and we must take a stand for righteousness. Our culture is filled with wrongs. The love of God will give us compassionate hearts for those who are suffering unjustly. Jesus Himself described one aspect of His mission when He read from the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let our lives reflect the same mission. Stand up for righteousness by reaching down to those who have fallen. We will be lifted up by lifting others. We will be filled when we empty ourselves into others. We will be blessed when we become a blessing to others. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and He wants to do His work in you.

Pastor John

WHEN GOD IS SILENT

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The park ranger was leading a group of hikers to a lookout tower in Yellowstone National Park. Along the way he pointed out some of the famous sites in the park. He was so intent on the stories he was telling that he paid no attention when his two-way radio received a message. He turned it down. Later they stopped to look at some flowers and view some of the birds in nearby trees. Once again, his radio distracted the ranger, so this time he turned it off. As the group neared the lookout tower, they were met by a nearly breathless ranger who asked why the guide hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. From their viewpoint, high in the tower, some other rangers had observed a large grizzly bear stalking the group. They had been trying desperately to warn the hikers.

Many times we are so involved in personal activities and pursuits in this life, we don’t pay attention to the voice of God trying to get through to us. Sometimes we turn down the volume. Sometimes we are distracted by other things and don’t hear Him. Sometimes we even turn Him off. But we must know this – God is always paying attention even when we aren’t, and He is trying to get through to us.

But what about those times when we are waiting to hear from Him and He is silent? If God were like me, I could understand His silence – he is paying me back for all the times I chose not to listen. I am so thankful that He is not like me. His silence is never payback for inattentiveness. But His silence does have a purpose.

Today’s story of King Saul relates one of the reasons for God’s silence when we seek Him – SIN.

1 Samuel 14:37  “So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.”

In preparation for battle, the army of Israel had been directed by the King to not eat until after the fighting was over each day. The king’s own son, Jonathon, disobeyed that order. Even though the King’s order was poorly thought out and harmful to the soldiers, he was still the king, and God requires respect for authority. God wanted the sin exposed.  So when Saul came to the Lord to inquire about the next move the army should make, God was silent. Saul knew immediately that the primary reason God removes Himself from any situation is because He will not work where sin is honored.

Sin is not the only reason for the silence of God, but it should be the first place we look in our lives if He is silent. Here are some other examples from Scripture.

  • King David said in Psalm 66:18, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;”
  • The Lord spoke to Ezekiel the prophet about Israel’s sin and said, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?”
  • Elihu, the friend of Job, said, “He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked.”
  • As Solomon begins the book of Proverbs, he warns his readers that there will be a consequence to rejecting the truth and living according to the desires of the flesh. He says, “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.”
  • Jesus, while on the cross and at the moment the sin of the world was placed upon Him, quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 which says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The next verse says, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.”

When the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, God became silent. When we allow sin to remain unrepentant in our hearts, God will be silent when we seek Him. Again, there are other reasons He is silent at times, but this must be our first point of spiritual assessment when He is. Today, do an assessment of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the sin in your life. Be ready to be honest and humbled. Then confess it, repent of it, and accept His forgiveness. You will hear from God again.

Pastor John

QUIT TRYING SO HARD

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Dr. Richard Swenson made a difference in my life. I heard him speak at a Pastor’s Retreat several years ago. He spoke on the relationship between the Sovereignty of God and the pace of life. He loaded our minds with information and challenged our thinking about faith in God. He painted a scientific picture of our infinite God – a picture we had not seen before. Then, at just the right time, the Holy Spirit asked me a specific question – “If you really believe I’m that great and totally sovereign, why do you work so hard to make sure everything turns out right?”

There are only two possible responses to that question. One is that I don’t really believe that He’s that great and sovereign, and that somehow life depends upon my wisdom and strength. The other response is one of repentance, leading to complete trust in our Sovereign God. I chose the second response.

Life has gotten far too intense to live safely, securely, and satisfactorily. But the intensity of life is of our own choosing. Our faith has been placed in our own abilities to manage life rather than in God’s sovereignty. We have adopted the progress mindset of our culture and have buried contentment in the grave of greed. The pursuit of our dreams and desires has intensified the demands on our bodies. It has caused an increase in depression, irritability, anger, and frustration. We have become disorganized, fatigued, and are on the verge of burnout. Because we seek some form of release from the pressure, we turn to self-medication through alcohol, drugs, or sex, bringing moral failure into our lives. We suffer health issues like abnormal sleeping patterns, or intestinal and cardiovascular problems. All this because we have chosen to live at a pace we were never designed to live because we believe progress and prosperity are fulfilling. We have chosen that pace because we don’t really trust God to work all things out for His glory according to His purpose. We have decided we need to be in control.

As a result, the body of Christ suffers right along with our physical body. Come on, admit it. When we get busy and tired and overwhelmed with life, what’s the first activity that gets put aside? Church, right? Relationship with God is replaced with the lie that working harder at life will bring a better life. Now we are caught in the vicious downward spiral that brings cheering to the armies of Satan. We are too busy to pray or serve. We are too exhausted for relationships. Our joy is gone. We have become addicted to making life better by working harder at life, and we are in denial of our addiction.

But God wants to set us free. The truth is that He is in control of all life, and that when we sacrifice life for His sake, He will give us abundant life. When we admit our weakness, His power is released. The problem is that we really don’t understand or trust the God we claim to serve. If we really believed, then we would act like it. We serve a God who spoke the universe into existence. Nothingness obeys His voice.  He controls time, space, matter, and light. He monitors the position of every elementary particle. He is sufficient unto Himself.  He does not need anybody or anything to accomplish His purposes. He answers to no one.  He obeys only His own counsel.  He works on infinite levels all at the same time. He is God, and He is our friend. He is in control, and He can be trusted.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God’s grace is sufficient for you, and His power is made perfect in your weakness. Quit trying so hard!

Pastor John