Tag Archive for trust

Do Unto Others: Part 6–Courageous

So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.  Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

 

The world can be a scary place, no matter what stage of life you’re in.  We’re all afraid of different things, and we all have our own ways of dealing with that fear.

 

One thing we all have in common, though, is a need for courage.  Courage is the character trait that allows us to take on things that are bigger than we are.  It comes from knowing that we have access to a power that is stronger than whatever it is we are facing.  For this reason, the key to being courageous is making sure that we know and rely upon that power.

 

It all comes down to trust.  It is one thing to believe that God can fight the battles that are beyond our strength.  But do you trust that He will?  Do you trust Him enough to keep moving forward even when it seems like a risky thing to do?

 

The answer to that question depends on the answer to this one.  Do you believe that God wants you to succeed?  I’m not talking about the Joel Osteen “I’m-believing-God-for-a-new-Mercedes” kind of success.  I mean do you really believe that God DOESN’T want you to fail at life?  Do you believe that He knows what’s best for you and has a plan to help you stay on track for that?

 

If you do, then you have either learned or are in the process of learning that obedience is the quickest path to success.  This means that you pray about major decisions, and even the minor ones.  Now I don’t know that it’s necessary to ask God if I should order Sprite or Root Beer at the local diner, but I wouldn’t, for example, buy a car without praying for a green light from above.

 

If you have established and cultivated this kind of a relationship with God, then you have also learned that fear and faith can not occupy the same mind at the same time.  So when we say we “lack courage” or that “our courage has failed us,” what we really mean is that we have not been putting our faith to good use.  Here is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen (or at least happens less often).

 

Practice trusting God with the little things.  Ask Him questions about things you could typically handle by yourself and see if He leads you in a different direction.  Maybe start with “Which route should I take to work today?” or “Should I get gas now or wait to fill up later?”  Simple routine stuff that you do all the time that doesn’t really require “divine intervention.”

 

The point of this exercise is not for the Holy Spirit to save you 3 cents a gallon.  It is to form the habit of trusting by essentially turning your life into a big game of follow the leader.  If you trust that God won’t lead you where His grace and power won’t keep you, then you’ll keep following until it becomes second nature.

 

Forming courageous habits is particularly important for parents.  Not only do our kids look to us as an example when they’re young, but someday they’ll be grown and won’t look to us for leadership anymore.  We need to do our part to make sure they have courage of their own to lean upon when they run into their own problems.  So what can we do now, those of us that still have kids at home?

 

  1. Remind your kids of God’s faithfulness. Keep track of His answers to your prayers and tell those stories often.
  2. Train your kids to seek out other godly mentors besides you. They will probably always want to come to you first, but you won’t always be around. Your kids need to know that they have some control over feelings of isolation, a control that they can carry into adulthood.
  3. Teach them obedience. The Bible is full of examples of God giving specific instructions, such as in the verse at the top of this post. The Bible is just as full of examples of what can happen when you don’t follow those instructions.  Although obedience requires surrender, there is power in this surrender, because you are setting yourself up to succeed by keeping in step with God’s plan for you.
  4. Practice integrity by saying what you mean, meaning what you say and finishing what you start. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Trust me on this—if you fail on this one, your kids will pounce on it and use it against you at every opportunity.  The result of that will not win you many spouse points either.

 

Fear happens.  Fear of failure happens a lot.  Please don’t beat yourself up when it happens to you, as though the fear of failure were a failure in itself.  Don’t worry about what other people are going to think of you if you screw up.  Anyone who would think badly of you for making a mistake isn’t somebody you ought to be concerned about impressing anyway.

 

Be strong and courageous.  Follow God even if nobody is following you.  Acknowledge that your hands are sweaty and that you feel sick to your stomach and move forward anyway.  Not everything in life is easy or fun, but with God on your team, ALL things are possible.

 

 

Whose Money Is It Anyway?: Part 3–Tithing

The Lord All-Powerful says, “Try this test.  Bring one-tenth of your things to me.  Put them in the treasury.  Bring food to my house.  Test me!  If you do these things, I will surely bless you.  Good things will come to you like rain falling from the sky.  You will have more than enough of everything.  Mal 3:10 (ERV)

 

 

The Bible has many examples of people testing God.  Most of them occur when Israel was wandering in the desert for 40 years after Moses led them out of Egypt.  The New Testament frequently refers back to those instances as warnings of what not to do in a relationship with God.

 

Yet here, near the very end of the Old Testament, God is straight up inviting us to test Him.

 

In 2003, right after I became a Christian, my pastor preached a sermon on the verse above, emphasizing that in this instance alone, God wants us to test Him.  I had never thought of tithing that way before.  In my mind, tithing was like a church tax, or else something that only extra-credit Christians did.

 

Besides, I had very little money at the time.  I was living on my own and trying to pay down debts from my recently failed first marriage.  What did I have to offer God that could win His favor?

 

Did your red light buzzer go off just then?  It should have.  For one thing, God’s favor is just a part of who He is.  There isn’t anything we can do to earn it.

 

And for another . . . does God really need MY money?  He’s God.  I don’t think He’s short of funds.

 

What I have come to learn is that it really isn’t about the money itself.  It’s about trust.

 

God entrusts us with His wealth according to our ability to handle it.  Jesus illustrates this principle in the Parable of the Talents, which can be found in Matthew 25:14-30.

 

But trust goes both ways with God.  He wants us to trust Him not just concerning the money, but also with our general well-being.

 

I chose the translation of the verse at the beginning of this post specifically for the phrase “Good things will come to you like rain falling from the sky.”  To the people hearing this prophecy from Malachi firsthand, in the middle of the fourth century B.C., this would have been a literal message.  They weren’t concerned with having new Cadillacs; they were concerned with their crops, as there was a great drought going on at that time.

 

So in context, what God was saying to Israel at that specific time was, “You want me to stop holding back the rain?  Fine.  Stop holding back your tithes.  I DARE you to give me back the first 10% of what you only have because I gave it to you in the first place.  Do that, and watch what happens.”

 

Now today, many folks who are not proponents of tithing argue that this was a specific message for a specific people in a specific time; therefore, it does not apply to us today.

 

But for me, I just couldn’t get past those words, “Test me!”  God is always testing me to prove my faith; now He wants me to test Him?

 

So that’s exactly what I did.  Here’s how it worked out.

 

The first thing that I had to wrap my brain around is that tithing is not something you do when you can afford it.  It’s 10% of what you have, even if that’s very little.  It’s not about the amount you’re putting into the collection plate.  It’s about trusting that God will bless the 90% you have left.

 

Once I got over my guilt about the tiny little checks I was writing each Sunday and just went with it, I started to notice things happening in my budget.  Like how I never ran out of money at the end of the month, regardless of how bleak things appeared at the beginning.

 

Over the years since then, I have noted many other instances where the math just didn’t add up at first, but things worked out better than I could ever have planned it.

 

The most recent example is this.  After our honeymoon, my wife told me that her dream vacation would be an Alaskan cruise.  Those aren’t cheap, but I told her then that if we started saving, we could set a goal to do that for our 10-year anniversary.

 

So we saved for nine years, at which point, I said, “Honey, we can do this, but it will wipe out our savings.”  We went forward with the plans.

 

Long story short, we went on that cruise and land tour in Alaska.  We just got back a couple of weeks ago.  Counting the flights out and back, it was a two-week adventure.  In my life, I have owned several cars that did not cost as much as this trip.

 

And we still have over three fourths of our savings intact.

 

Not only that, but we had beautiful weather the entire trip (which just does not happen in Alaska).  At nearly every stop, the guides on our excursions were amazed at all of the “rare” things we got to see, such as orcas, humpback whales bubble net feeding, the Hubbard Glacier calving, and the peak of Denali in clear sunshine, just to name a few.

Diana and I at the Talkeetna River with the peak of Denali over my right shoulder.

 

Indeed, God poured out his blessings on my family during this trip, but really, it was just a very obvious and visible manifestation of how He has blessed us, and our finances, all along.

 

Even during the extended periods of unemployment that I have had, I have never felt like we were “in need,” because God doesn’t respond to need.

 

He responds to faith.

 

And that is what tithing is really all about.  It is a tangible expression of the faith that God will meet your needs and then some.  And he blesses it every single time.

 

Do any of you have stories of God’s faithfulness regarding your finances?  I’d love to hear them!