Friday, June 10, 2005

Rejoice for He is Faithful

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!
It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you
again, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1).
I have been surrounded by turmoil and crisis and drama lately…even in my own life. As I’ve mentioned before, there are several situations involving friends that have me feeling quite heavy…there are unusual things going on at work…and areas of concern within my own family. What I am challenged to remember as I look around me and at my own heart is that no matter how circumstances or feelings change, God is the same. And, how I am called to respond is the same. That is the tricky part.

I am reminded of Peter stepping out on the calm sea, full of faith, to walk to Jesus. Then the waves kicked up and suddenly his attitude changed. The man who said “Just tell me to come and I will” was now looking at the violent waves and freaking out. The sea wasn’t churning when he stepped out…and now things were different. But they were only different to him.

The faith that was required to walk on calm waters is the same faith required to walk in the midst of waves…it is no different because God doesn’t change. He is the same God in times of blessing that He is in times of hardship. Which is why Paul can say, as he does later on in Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).” In fact, our rejoicing is our safeguard from the storm.

Remember in one of the Ruth posts, I quoted on old hymn that said:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill He treasures up his bright designs, And works his sovereign will. Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face."~
William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet from Olney Hymns

Storms will come…that is certain. What is equally certain is that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), therefore, what is required of us (holiness, steadfastness, faithfulness…and rejoicing to name a few) does not change either, no matter how our circumstances or feelings do. This is the walk of faith…and how we cultivate godliness…by exercising faith, practicing righteousness and being faithful in all things. This is also what will protect us from the storm and keep it from being destructive to our lives and our faith.

Will we always do it perfectly? Of course not…but God will honor and bless our striving and use it to develop godly character that is better fit to stand through the next storm. Choosing to rejoice is also an act of humility. It is saying to the Lord, “You know better than I do!” And the Word tells us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).”

There is much grace to be found, much comfort and much strength when we humble ourselves before God during a storm and purpose to think more of being pleasing to Him than being pleased ourselves.

How do we do it though? Well, its not easy, but then it sort of is.

In those moments when our stomach is churning and our head is full of scary thoughts and images…when we break out into a cold sweat or our heart starts pounding...rather than use that as a queue to fret and think on all the bad things that could happen...or lash out in anger…let that be a signal to go to the Lord. Let fear or anger be the alarm bell that sets off rejoicing.

Rejoicing in what? In the risen Christ…in his mercy…in evidences of His grace in the past (even the midst of the current trial)…in His sovereignty…in His promised faithfulness. For it is great and boundless. He has already met our greatest need in dealing with sin and reconciling us to himself…is any other crisis bigger than that? I would suggest that it only seems bigger because 1) it is the thing that is happening right now and 2) our main concern is that things go the way we want them to and/or 3) we aren’t regularly determining to live with the cross in our view.

I know that has been true for me. But, praise be to God, who is faithful when I am not. Who pardoned me and is sanctifying me, even through my weakness! He truly is faithful! Which reminds me of another hymn…

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

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