Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day Twenty Two: Troubling Expectations

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14:21-22
            The Return to Antioch in Syria
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Stop and Consider: Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Questions Asked of Me: Why is a hardship inevitable in the nature of things? What does it tell us about God? What does it tell us about our world and our enemy?
I thought that when I accepted Jesus that my “hardships” would be finished. I hoped that because I now had a relationship with Him that I would no longer have to pray the “Dear Jesus, if you get me out of this one I promise to ___________.” That was not the case. Since knowing Him, I have still had to go through a lot; but I haven’t gone through it alone as was the case before. And, being on the other side of it, I know that it was necessary. Jesus trusted me through tough times. He showed me strength I didn’t know I had and is continuing to use it for His glory.
When I had hiccups in the last two years; different trials thrown in my path, there were those that said “Where is your God now? How could He let you go through this?” Those words of doubt just made me stronger. Standing up for Him and having to say it out loud was just affirmation for myself; me telling them but actually being more convicted in my faith in Him with each “Doubting Thomas” conversation. Looking back now…. I am thankful for that and hope that it helped “Thomas” as much as it helped me.
Detour: I loved the way Beth laid out trials in our reading today. “…..But we must first recognize that the inevitable nature of hardships can motivate us to redirect our energies. Fear of trials sometimes depletes more energy than facing trials! Once we accept the inevitability of hardship, we can redirect our focus from fear of trials to faithfulness. In the face of tribulations, we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”
She could not have pegged me more succinctly. I feared moving to Nineveh; loathed it really. I was acting like a spoiled brat that didn’t get what they wanted from Mommy in a store and had to physically be dragged from one department to another. Jesus physically dragged me 18 hours and I think it is pretty fitting that just this week, I learned that Owasso (the real name for the city I live in) means “Trails end.” Lovely.
But I finally accepted what He was doing in moving us here; it was Sunday night nearly two weeks ago after our first small group in our new church. I just prayed and said “Uncle….. Jesus if this is where You want us, I can accept that. Please give me an open heart to the things You have been trying to show me but I have been unwilling to see. I promise You here and now that I will accept any echoes given and opportunities offered.”
When I finally redirected my “fears” of the unknown and gave it to Him (something that was His to begin with but I kept taking back); the faithfulness that I was lacking…. the reason for beginning this study in the first place 22 days ago, began to come back and fully consume me. “…..we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”  Yes….it was right on time. Even my two weeks of pouting and mourning the life I had in Michigan was a trial that He knew I had to go through; with the reason being only one He needed to know.
Beth says more: “Be encouraged to know that difficulty is not a sign of immaturity or faithlessness. The Holy Spirit will do His job and let you know if you are suffering because of sin. Otherwise, remember – we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord Jesus, I am encouraged to know that when we endure, it brings us favor with You. For we were called to this, because You also suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we should follow in Your steps. You did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in Your mouth; when reviled, You did not revile in return; when suffering, You did not threaten, but committed Yourself to the One who judges justly (1Peter 2:20-23). Grant me, Lord, to pay any price in exchange for the gift of Your hard-won salvation.
            1Peter 2:20-23
But how is it your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Dear Jesus:
Thank You for letting me realize my stubbornness. I am appreciative for opportunities to come back to You; no matter how much or how long I pouted and feared what Your plan was for me. I do want to follow the example You set for me and will continue to do that no matter the doubt or wonder of what comes next. I’m sorry for my behavior in the weeks leading up to this move and even when we arrived at “trail’s end.” I can’t imagine how embarrassed You must have been of me or the head shaking that was going on, but I am thankful that You led us to the church and small group we needed before it spiraled any further. I am amazed at the opportunities, friendships, and gifts that You give to me and I know that the echoes shown to me after accepting where I was instead of fearing it was just more affirmation that I should never fear where You lead and I should never worry about what comes next. Remind me that the hardships I go through are for Your glory, so that I may enter the kingdom of God and not a punishment. You have it all under control.
Jesus, thank you for never giving up on me but knowing that I will come around. Please let me be worthy of the gift of salvation that You have given to all of us, and the next time I have fear of the unknown or doubt where You are leading me…just give me “that” look or put me in timeout so I snap out of it even quicker. I promise it will end then and there.



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