"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 22, 2015
There are times when what we think we need and what we realistically really need can be two totally different things. We often get our wants and our needs mixed up. I am guilty of that more times than not!
I can say that I need chocolate, when in reality I'm overweight and chocolate is not what I really need to be eating; but it sure does taste good and it's what I want at times. I may think I need that new pair of flip-flops or a new purse or a new article of clothing, but chances are, it's more of a want instead of a real need...... I'm treading lightly on that subject so my husband can't come back and remind me that I have plenty next time I want to buy something new to wear!
On the other hand, there are times when I'm dealing with a serious issue, and in my mind, I figure out what I think the perfect solution would be. That may be how I pray, for it seems as if God would be in agreement to the answer my mind has conceived; yet it doesn't always happen that way. I can often become so focused on that one particular solution that it's hard for me to comprehend any other possibility. And sometimes it's hard for me to accept that God may not answer how I want things to work out. My desires and my needs can become skewed at times when I'm praying.
God's "no" can be hard for us to understand at times. When someone is deathly ill and we pray for their healing and God says "no," how can that be for the best? When we are dealing with financial stress and we've been faithful to pay our tithe and handle our finances as wisely as we know how, yet it seems like we never quite have enough each month, how can that be good? When we've been faithful to God, yet that one thing that our heart desires and we feel that God has promised us has never come to pass, how can we accept that as being in our best interest?
I don't know the answer to all those questions in your situation. But here's what I've found to be true in my life: Sometimes I am able to look back and see that God had a better plan for me than anything I ever could have conceived; other times, I see how a difficult situation increased my faith and trust in God; then there are those occasions when God blessed my socks off in ways I could never have imagined; and then there are those times when God doesn't explain Himself to me, and I never really see the good or blessing of the situation and don't know why things happened as they did.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons God is trying to teach us it to trust Him. He wants us to be strengthened and to grow and mature in our faith. The only way we can do so is by going through times of testing and hardship. It's easy to trust when everything is rosy and going well; but true trust is either revealed and will increase, or is shown to be small and/or non-existent, when we face difficulties.
I went to see the chiropractor today. I have used this particular doctor of chiropractic for the past several years and go regularly for adjustments and ongoing maintenance. I told him this afternoon that the right side of my neck was sore and stiff, as if I had perhaps slept on it wrong. He said, "Okay, I can help with that," then proceeded to start checking and working on my left shoulder. I thought perhaps he had misunderstood me; so I reminded him that it was the right side of my neck that was hurting. Yes, he knew that! He told me that a muscle in my left shoulder was weak, therefore, it was affecting my right side. He did some adjustments in my left shoulder, then moved over to check the right side. Afterwards, he reminded me of some stretches that I needed to regularly do to strengthen my neck and shoulder muscles to keep them in alignment and to make them stronger.
That's an example of how we can be spiritually at times. Life throws us a problem and we think that's what we're dealing with. But then if it doesn't work out like we thought it should or wanted it to, our response can show that there is a deeper issue. I've seen many times when people face a hardship, their first response is to blame God and quit church; especially if the end result isn't like they had planned. Then it tends to snowball from there. They will do anything from becoming bitter and negative and critical, to believing that God doesn't love them and hear their prayer, to pointing fingers and blaming someone, to involving themselves in sinful behavior. The one hardship they endured showed that there was really a deeper issue inside their heart. In order to find joy and peace, they must first deal with spiritual aspect and then they can deal with the other issues. Getting into spiritual alignment first, will then help them get into life alignment.
This is something I've found to be true in my life: When I'm dealing with tough situations, that tends to be my entire focus. I find that it consumes my thoughts, as well as my prayers. Anytime I pray, it is all about me and what I'm dealing with, and asking God to help and come through and answer. But when I come to the place, where in spite of what I'm going through or feeling, I can pray for others and focus on them instead of myself, then I don't feel so overwhelmed. In fact, that is when worry about my situation begins to leave and peace enters my life. At times, God answers our prayers when we are praying for someone else and focusing on their need, instead of our own.
Don't misunderstand me, it's okay to bring our needs and burdens to the Lord!
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."
Also, Psalm 55:22 (NLT) says, "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."
Herein lies the problem too often; we pray about our worries and cares, but then we don't leave them with God, but continue to take them back and try to take care of them and carry them by ourselves. We don't truly give our burdens over the Lord and trust Him with the outcome. We worry that He may not answer to our liking. But genuine trust says, "Whatever happens, however God answers, I choose to trust Him with all my heart!"
I believe that perhaps one of the greatest examples of true spiritual growth and maturity is being able to trust God to handle each problem, and not question and doubt when He chooses to not answer like we would want. When we can have faith that says, "Whatever happens, God is still God, and we will still love and serve Him. Should He not answer as we desire, we have faith that He either has something better in store for us; or that He will be our strength and protector, even if we never understand His plan."
A few days ago, I saw that kind of spiritual growth and maturity in my husband. His response to something that he has been praying about for a long period of time was this: "I still believe that God can answer and have faith that He can bring it to pass. Should it happen, it would make life easier. But regardless of what happens, it's not going to affect or change my salvation or my relationship with God. If God chooses not to answer like we want, we will still trust Him and live our lives for Him."
Trust says, "I choose to serve God and live for Him, regardless of what happens." When we can come to that point where we honestly can do so, then life's problems and situations aren't going to seem so overwhelming. We can take our burden to the Lord and leave it in His capable hands, and stop trying to carry it around with us.
Psalm 68:19 says this (I'm going to give a couple different translations): (NIV) "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (NLT) "Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms."
We don't have to figure out all the "what ifs" and worry about what may or may not happen down the road. God bears our burdens and carries us in His arms, every single day, without fail!!!
I've seen others doing the same thing I've done before, too. That is, try to explain what God is thinking or planning. It's more comforting to understand what's going on, or at least try to.
More recently, though, I realized we are trying to psychoanalyze God. When I think of it in those terms, it sounds pretty arrogant. Who are we to figure out what God is thinking? I do want to know Him as well as I can, but I don't need to understand His ultimate plans.
We do have some clues. We know God made us for His pleasure. And we know His plans for us are good. But we know that we don't always cooperate with His plans, and neither do those around us. We know that He loved us so much that He gave us His Son so we could spend eternity with Him. And He wants our love and obedience.
He has orchestrated a situation where my father has to be in a nursing home. None of us can really understand why, or what God's plans are at this point. I've seen that Dad is a blessing to others there, and is kind to his roommate. I could guess that Dad will touch more of the lives of those around him. And I could guess that others of us will deepen our dependence on and love for God. But in the end, all I can really do is trust that God has a good plan, and this is part of it.
(These are overall my very favorite cookie!)
2 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 stick butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
Put stick of butter, milk, sugar, and cocoa in a saucepan and stir together. When mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Beat together until well blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. The cookies will (or at least should) harden as they cool.
Today, April 22nd, is my great-nephew, Jax's, 6th birthday. I was telling him yesterday morning that "tomorrow is your birthday!!" He asked, "So, am I still 5-1/2?" I told him that he was way passed that.... he was 5 and 364 days..... that he would only be 5 for a few more hours. He said, "Well, I wish I was 6-1/2 so that I was almost 7!" Wow, little does he realize how fast the years fly by!! But then, I remember always wishing to be older.... at least until I could drive and was out of high school.
If you want to have joy then celebrate the Lord regardless of the circumstance. - Tony Evans
We love you!
Loretta & Jon