Hi everyone. I read the news and I see a lot of people having tough times. Although I don't hear a lot of people speaking about how the tough times in America are affecting them. So I thought I would start the ball rolling. Yes, my family and I have been hit pretty hard by the downspin of the economy. But it looks as though I am coming out of some tough financial times. I'm not out of the woods yet by any means. But there is hope. And so, while I am able to catch my breath, I thought I would pass along how I have survived our latest struggle without going crazy. And my hope is that I am able to help others out there by what has worked for me. My hope is that from what I've learned that it may also help others who may be going through tough times. Here are three thoughts that I hope will help you:
Faith, Faith, Faith, Faith, Faith! As Christians we are given such valuable and powerful resources at our disposal. We are given a direct line of access (through prayer) to the Creator of the universe. Hmmm, could He help us out? Of course! And God hears our prayers – not because we are such wonderful people, but because of our faith that Jesus' sacrifice provides us with an open line to God. Instead of God looking at our sins and mistakes, God looks at us as if we are clothed with Jesus' own righteousness (Romans 13:14, 1 Cor. 15:53-54, Gal. 3:27). Wow! A direct line of contact to the Sovereign over all creation? Who can truly fathom what this means. But let's make better use of it – are you with me?
Next, what are we to have faith in? It's easy for us to trust in things like our brains, experience, our hard work, etc. But isn't it God Who is in control? Isn't it God Who brings blessing and trials in our lives? And so, the starting point for our faith in times of trial is believing that the trial helps us to know God better. And the best way to grow in faith and the knowledge of God's character is by taking in God's Word.
Faith comes from God's Word (Romans 10:17). And if we believe we are saved by Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, and that by our faith and repentance of dead works we have received God's Grace and forgiveness, then we are trusting in God's Word. This is the essence of what a saving faith is – trusting in God's Word and the promises that God's Word contains. So here are two of the foundational promises that Christians are to have faith in:
Those who fear God and repent and are baptized receive God's salvation (Mark 16:16);
Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus has fully paid for any punishment that is owed for any sins we have committed. And by faith and God's Grace we are forgiven by what Jesus has done (Eph. 1:7);
And so, if it is easy for us to accept in faith that Jesus provides us our salvation and forgiveness, why can't we just as easily accept these other promises of God's Word:
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Tom: these "things" include at least God's provision of food, drink and clothing.)
Romans 8:32-33 - What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
**Philippians 4:19 - And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 - casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Psalm 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Lord's Prayer – give us this day our daily bread… (Luther rightly taught that this Petition in the Lord's Prayer was meant to include all of our daily needs including food, clothing and shelter);
Isaiah 41:17-20 - When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. … that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Psalm 69:32-34 - When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. 33 For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
As Christians, we will face tribulation (John 16:33). (I bet you didn't expect this one, did you?)
- Who is God? If we can accept the promises that are listed above that God provides for the needs of those who fear Him, then why is it so hard to trust in these wonderful promises? Why do I struggle so easily to accept these promises when trouble comes knocking at our door? I think there are two reasons for this – first, that because we are so sinful, it is difficult to believe that God will REALLY help us in this battle. But as I read these promises, I understand them as unconditional.
But I think the second reason is what is really at the heart of our lack of trusting in these promises. Maybe I'm the only one, but I have a tough time in seeing God as super-loving towards me. Instead, it is much easier for me to see God as the angry-nun-with a ruler. And this nun is just waiting for me to mess up and give me a whack! But this picture of God could not be farther from the truth. Yes, of course, God wants us to grow in our faith and obedience. But God wants Christians to grow in faithfulness through an understanding of His love, and not through His power and wrath. I base this on Romans 2:4 which says:
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (see also, Philippians 2:12-13: …work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.)
And so these verses show that it is God's kindness leads us to remove the dead works in our lives. And God keeps working in us to no longer desire the things that we used to desire when we were ungodly. God does it all, and if we understand with humility the limited role we play in the process, we might be in a better position to see more clearly how God is responsible for helping us and cleaning us up.
So praise God with a Psalm like these two:
Psalm 3:7 - Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! (Tom: I love this picture of a silent Giant God rising to save the day)
Psalm 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
- This struggle is only temporary. Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Our final plane ticket is already written, and each day brings us closer to this destination: in heaven with our glorious God. Keep focused on this and it can't help but make the trial seem puny in comparison.
And so, here is my quick summary:
God loves me.
God will provide for my family and me.
This is only temporary.
I hope you will take these Bible promises to heart. And so, if you are going through a financial struggle like we are, or if there is something else that is difficult in your life, I understand your pain. But get up, read God's Word, sing a Psalm, and remember that even in tough times, we must be thankful that God thinks we are up to living faithfully through this tribulation. As God Word teaches:
Be joyful always;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not put out the Spirit's fire; (1 Thess. 5:16-19).
May God bless you and your loved ones through whatever battle you are facing this week. In Christ, /s/Tom