A few days pass in the course of my life’s journey that I am not confronted with some degree of stress. Some days, stress is momentary and fleeting, and other days it escalates into full-blown worry until it is crippling.
Not only does my stress come in waves of intensity, but it also is born out of various kinds of situations. Often, my own stress is brought about by financial needs or by unmet expectations of those around me.
When we face a big decision, sometimes the decision-making process can feel more like a game show than a guided path. We can easily slip into the thinking that God is hosting “Let’s Make a Deal,” where we have to choose one of a slew of suitcases, hoping we pick the right one. When we face multiple doors and potential pathways, the freedom to choose can feel like crippling anxiety and pressure.
Thankfully, our God does not play games with us, nor does he leave us to our own devices when making decisions. Contrary to popular belief, decisions are not puzzles to solve, but privileges to steward with the guidance of our triune God.
“I see your problem. Here’s what you should do!”
I admit this is my initial thought when I listen to someone. As they pour out their heart, I need to remind myself that I am not in the “problem-solving” business, but in a “help-people-grow-in-Christ” ministry. By remembering the three components of Henry Cloud’s growth model — grace, truth and time — I can use a holistic approach for transforming personal issues into Christ-like character development.
Whenever I hear someone whom I respect start to talk about the secret to their success, particularly “the one thing” they attribute it to, I listen up. It’s interesting to compare what they say to what the apostle Paul, who wrote about half of the books of the New Testament, said was his secret: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). He was saying, “The most important thing that has helped me to be successful is to let go of the things that are behind me. I don’t look back. I don’;t go back to my past mistakes and relive my failures.”
How would you finish this sentence?
The role of God’s Spirit in the world is to __________________.
You may have thought about a word, a sentence, or a paragraph, or even struggled to complete the sentence at all. Admittedly it’s not as easy as we might think. In fact, depending on where you are in scripture, you might answer this question in different ways. In our short time together as you read this article, I’d like to give you two ways of thinking about the Holy Spirit as we answer the question: What is the Spirit’s role in the world?
In 1977, California pastor Jack Hayford and his wife visited England during the Silver Jubilee (25th anniversary) of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne (1952). They were struck by the grandeur of the celebration, and the manifest joy of the people in their monarch. While there, they visited Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, and famous for the magnitude and stateliness some Americans today know only through watching Downton Abbey.
When you became a Christian, Christ indwelled you through the person of the Holy Spirit. I know neither the how nor the where, but I do know that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence carries with it the assurance of our salvation.
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
God puts promises and dreams in our hearts. We know that we’re going to get well or that our business is going to turn around. But God doesn’t tell us how or when it’s going to happen. Too often if it’s not happening the way we think or on our timetable, we get anxious. We put God in a box and tell Him how to do it, when it should happen, and who to use, which only leads to more frustration. Here’s the key: Once you pray, once you believe, you have to leave how and when God does it up to Him. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes it’s taking longer because He has something better in store. You have to trust God’s timing and trust His ways. You have to release control. Release having to have it happen your way.
Individualism is one of the greatest threats to our faith. It encourages us to act in our own interests instead of looking to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Individualism values independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency rather than growth in community and dependence on God—two defining characteristics of Christian doctrine.
With the rise of “me” culture, individualism has become more prevalent. Personal freedom to do what we want has replaced biblical boundaries instilled by God for our protection.
Suffering is largely a mystery to me.
While God’s grace and presence have been unimaginably rich in my pain, I still don’t understand why particular believers who love God endure loss after loss until they feel hopeless and confused, covered in darkness. I don’t understand why people who have not strayed from God’s path, but are looking to him in all things, feel defeated and dragged into the dust. I don’t understand why God’s people, whom he treasures and protects, are led like sheep to the slaughter.