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How to Make the Fog Work for You: A Journey of Faith Part III

Fog Forest

What does it mean to ‘have faith’? And how does that look in everyday life?

This has been God’s challenge to me in the past few weeks, as I debated over a big decision regarding my job. I’ve been pretty faithless during this entire  process (I’d rather eat a cactus than search for another job), and even though I knew my mindset wasn’t ideal, I didn’t think it was a major issue.

Then a friend asked me to speak at church, and gave me a topic: How did Jesus do life?

During my study of the Book of Luke, I noticed that when Jesus commended people, it was usually about their faith. In fact, faith seemed to get him pretty excited. And then I remembered a verse from Hebrews 11:

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6 NIV)

Ouch. This was a bigger problem than I’d given it credit for. When the Israelites were faithless and didn’t believe God would deliver the Promised Land to them, they lost the privilege of entering it. Instead they wandered the desert for the rest of their lives and it was their children who saw the fulfillment of God’s promise.

I don’t want that to be me. Hence this series on faith.

As I work on my attitude and get ready to give my talk at church, I’ve been studying the Bible’s most well-known chapter on faith: Hebrews 11.

The whole thing is a description of faith, and a bunch of examples of what faith looked like in the lives of people in the Old Testament. I’ve been making a list.

Here’s my two favorites for this week:

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going… Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God. (Heb 11:8-10 MSG)

Faith looks like: Obeying even when you don’t know where you’re going.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Heb 11:11-12 NIV)

Faith looks like: Believing God’s promise, even when it looks impossible.

I like the first one because right now, as I start a new career, I feel like I have no idea where I’m going. Yeah, on the outside it looks like I do. This new job is full-time, more secure, better paying and holds greater opportunities than my two old part-time gigs.

But I didn’t expect to get it. I expected to work part-time jobs and focus my energy on becoming an author. I expected God to use me through my role as a mentor–something I’ve had to give up to take the job. While this new opportunity is awesome, it’s unexpected, and I don’t quite know where I’m going with it.

But Abraham was in the same position, and having faith panned out pretty well for him. He fulfilled God’s purposes for him, and came to know God in a deeper way. Can you imagine what a shame it would have been if he had’ve said, “No thanks God, I think I’ll stay where I am”?

And then the second part takes it to a whole new level. Abraham trusted God when He promised something–even something that seemed so far out of reach. I have trouble believing God when He promises me reasonable things. I think I would’ve struggled a little if God told me I’d have a baby when I’m in my 70s and my husband’s 100!!!

But again, look at what Abraham would’ve missed out on if he had no faith.

In my position right now, I feel a little like I’m walking through a thick fog, feeling my way around. I’m making progress, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

But looking at this from Abraham’s perspective, the fog might not be an obstacle. It might be an opportunity. He didn’t need to see where he was going; he needed faith.

So do I.

 

 

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God’s Not Using Me: A Journey of Faith Part II

I feel like God isn't using me.

Everything is about to change.

Two weeks ago, in the third post of my series on contentment, I wrote that I had another decision to make regarding my career.

Usually this is where I stress and panic, unsure of which direction God wants me to go and worried that He won’t clue me in.

This time I prayed about it with faith. I did my best to be confident that God would come through and guide me. But as each day passed without a word from heaven, my confidence slipped.

I realized this on Monday, after I read the story of David and Goliath in my morning devotions. David’s confidence in God really struck me. A whole army was quaking in fear, and David said, ‘What’s the problem guys? Impossible odds are nothing when God’s on our side!’ (Okay, that’s my paraphrase, but you get the gist. The whole story’s in 1 Samuel 17)

Then he grabbed a few pebbles and went to face the giant alone. Just him and God.

That’s what I call confidence.

So I prayed for confidence. I realized that if God was happy with either path, they must both lead to fulfilling his purposes. Neither would be a mistake. And I decided that if it was offered to me, I’d take this new opportunity.

On Tuesday, I did get an offer. I took it. Now I’m saying goodbye to my kids at the boarding school (which is very sad) and preparing to start a new job as a training content developer (which is exciting!).

Even though I believe God led me to this decision, after making it I’ve been attacked by fear. The change back to full-time work means I have to give up being a mentor at a local youth program, give up working with the boarding students at school and I won’t have as much time to write my books. It seems all the places where I thought God was using me are disappearing. And with them, so is my David-like confidence.

It all adds to an old fear I’ve had that God isn’t using me. This one goes back a few years, and stems from a general frustration that I can’t see much good happening in the world because of anything I do. My childhood church never grew. My youth group kids backslid. The first girl I mentored dropped out of the program and stopped talking to me. I often get frustrated that no matter what I do, my life seems completely ineffective.

Yes, some positive things have happened. I saw dozens of people convert on my mission trip to India. Some of those youth group kids stopped backsliding and turned to God again. But it feels like my list of positives should be longer than that.

I have a friend who gets used by God all the time. This person is a leader in the church, also runs effective independent ministries and always seems to be getting really specific instructions from God. No one would ever doubt that this person is getting used by God.

Why does that never happen to me?

While mulling this over, God’s revealed several possibilities.

  •  If God uses me in an obvious way, that doesn’t require much faith. It’s easy to have confidence when you can see everything going right. This situation could be designed to grow my faith.
  •  If this isn’t some type of faith-building exercise and God really isn’t using me, there are three other options:
    1. God doesn’t want to use me. For some reason He has decided that He will have plans for everyone else in the world, except me. (I’m starting to see how ridiculous my thoughts are.)
    2. I have some sin stopping God from using me. This could be a possibility. Have I been jealous of someone? Arrogant? Or is my sin just a big fat lack of faith? I’m going to pray that God will show me if there’s anything that needs changing, and that He keeps helping me with the faith thing.
    3. I am not obeying God, so He’s not using me. I don’t see anywhere in my life where this has happened (except for sometimes not obeying his command to have faith), but again, it can’t hurt to pray that God will show me if there is something that needs fixing.

The idea that God has decided I will be the only Christian left out of His plans is clearly a silly fear being thrown at me by the devil. But it’s one that’s been effective for a long time.

But let’s look at the truth. The truth is, God loves me and has included me in His plans. However, I don’t always see His plans or understand them. I can also be held back by sin, fear, faithlessness and disobedience.

So it looks like the answer’s pretty simple: Have faith that God’s plans will prevail, and that I am a part of them. Pray for help in clearing my heart of disbelief and sin. And then have some more faith while I keep moving forward!

What about you? Have you ever struggled with this issue? How did you deal with it?

 

Oh, and did you want to hear the end of last week’s story about the person breaking into my house?

Turned out, it was our housemate. We’d gotten home late, seen her bedroom door shut and car in the drive and assumed she was asleep. She had actually been picked up by friends and we’d locked her out.

Next time, she knows to call out loudly and let us know who it is!!!

 

 

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters

 

Brand New Day!

Welcome to the new and improved site, everybody!

Along with the new-look website, I am making a few changes. I will now post regularly on a Friday, (and occasionally throughout the week), and I will regularly update my ‘recommendations’ page.  Keep an eye out for some great books and websites!

Today I have a guest post up over at Jennifer Slattery’s blog; check it out and join the conversation here.

Jennifer Slattery

Here’s a taster:

“I don’t believe Your timing is right.”

“I don’t believe You can accomplish Your purposes through my life and writing.”

“I don’t think You can reach the hearts that are ready for You.”

“I don’t think You can take care of my financial needs.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying this to God?

Probably not. Few people say these things out loud, or even in their heads. But the other day I realized that I was saying all that to God through my actions….

 

You’ll have to visit Jennifer’s site to see the rest!

Step Two is a Killer

Background - 3D notebook with the points marked in the list

There are eighteen inches between my head and my heart, but sometimes it feels like eighteen miles.

I’ve only recently started to comprehend that just because I know something, it doesn’t mean I believe it. Not in a way that affects my actions, anyway. For example, after twenty-odd years of knowing that God is trustworthy, I discovered that I Don’t Trust God. And last week I published a guest blog post claiming that I Don’t Want to Succeed, because true success is found in God. But was that really true? This week I’ve gotten frustrated with a lack of ‘success’ in my productivity, my writing and growing my author platform. Even though I should know better.

So what’s been missing? I’ve had the lightbulb moments; I have the knowledge necessary to change. That’s Step One. But as it turns out, that’s not enough. It’s Step Two that’s really the killer; I have to follow through with action.

Not rocket science, I know. It’s actually pretty obvious that change requires action. But I don’t think I’m alone in this situation—not by a long shot. Many people get stressed, lose their tempers, give in to negative thoughts, aim for the wrong goals… the list could go on. And I’m not talking about one-off incidents.These behaviors are consistent patterns in our lives. Yet we know we should trust God, count to ten, think positive and put God above all else.So what are we all missing? Step Two.

For me, Step Two involves not expecting knowledge to automatically translate into change. It means adjusting my thought patterns. And it requires recognition that this is not a five-second decision, then ‘poof’: I’ve changed. It’s a process, and it takes work. And that leads me to the all-important Step Three: asking God for help.

The Bible is clear; we are as capable as jellyfish in the desert on our own. But, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Phil 4:13 NKJV) Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s possible. With God’s help, I can remind myself of His truth when I start to feel stressed or frustrated. I can take time out to spend with Him, let go of my worries, and replace them with peace. I can recognize negative thoughts when they start and hit them out of the park.

So what about you? Think for a minute. What is that thing you do that you wish you didn’t? Have you ever had an epiphany, but later realized that things are still the same? Maybe it’s time for Step Two. (And Three.)