The Correct Way to Receive from God

 

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

—Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV).

 

As children of God, it is our inescapable lot to rely on Him for things we need. As long as we are on Earth, there will be things we seek from our Father above.

But over the years, there have been many theories and doctrines concerning exactly what it means to “receive from God”, and how to go about it. Some of these theories are un-doctrinal and unfortunately misguided. In the Church today, these doctrines cause a lot of harm and frustration for God’s children.

In today’s post I’ll examine some of these misguided doctrines, then lay out what I believe is the way God expects us to approach the topic of receiving from Him.

Continue reading “The Correct Way to Receive from God”

Something Has to Die For Something to Live

Understanding the role of death in the Christian life

This past week, a friend of mine sent me a lesson God had shared with her that really touched my spirit. I asked her to put it together into a post for the blog and she graciously obliged.

This week’s post is by @Surabbie. I hope it blesses you as much as it blessed me.

Continue reading “Something Has to Die For Something to Live”

Struggling with Grace

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Failures

The past couple of weeks have been very challenging for me.

Faith-wise, I went from a place where everything was going pretty well—where I was deep in God and His work, sharing what I knew with fellow believers—to a place of apathy and pointlessness, where it looked as though nothing I tried to do turned out right.

Ironically, what I struggled with the most in this period was not sin or even doubt (though those were present also).

What I struggled with the most was Grace.

It seems weird that a Christian should struggle with something like this. Who struggles with accepting a freely-given gift? It sounds silly. Maybe that’s why it took me a long time to realize it.

It took me even longer to realize why.

Before I met God, I built my entire self-image around being an exceptional achiever. It was never enough for me to be a good student; I had to be a great one. I couldn’t just be an artist; I had to be a prodigy. Be just another boyfriend? Excuse you, ma’am. I had to be the best and most supportive boyfriend you could ever imagine.

I only felt worthy when I achieved something. I never felt comfortable with things given to me for free (except it was from my parents, cos yeah, I didn’t ask to be born, so suck it and pay up Mom). Whenever I achieved something by chance or “luck”, I would reconstruct the story in my mind to emphasize the small efforts I made—so that at least I could tell myself I’d “earned it”.

If it sounds like an unhealthy way to live…yeah, it was. But I couldn’t see it at the time.

When I came to Christ, I brought this mentality with me. I knew my salvation was by grace and not by works and all that, but in the back of my mind I decided that once I was here I was going to be the best darned Christian God ever saw. I may have been saved without works, but I was going to make this Christianity thing work. I would be the most committed, most serious, most dedicated child of God.

I knew I couldn’t secure my salvation by my works, but darned if I wasn’t going to impress God with them.

***

I think this is why so many new Christians I know are so focused on working for God as opposed to just getting to know Him.

Don’t get me wrong; working for the Lord is great, and is in fact our duty as Children of the King.

However, a lot of us grew up in environments that tied our sense of worth to our performance, and so when we come to God we naturally assume we have to “do things” to keep Him pleased with us.

That’s certainly what I thought.

But the Christian life turned out not to be as easy as that. One of my friends has a saying: “Christianity is not natural.” Therefore any natural attempts to be “good at it” inevitably fail. You can never build a consistent prayer life through discipline alone. It won’t work. The same with studying the Word. Or breaking sinful habits. Or acting in faith.

The more I tried to perform as a Christian, the more frustrated I found myself. This is what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

The more I tried to be a perfect Christian the more I failed.

Which, ironically, was what taught me to accept grace.

Because the principle of grace puts a wrecking ball to the performance paradigm. If our salvation is given to us freely, then we can’t sustain it by our own efforts. Neither can we impress the Father by effort, because there is nothing we do that He does not enable us to do. Even our desire to do good comes from Him (Phil 2:13), so how can we boast?

Trying to impress God with the work we do for Him is like taking a loan from a rich uncle and then trying to impress him with the car you bought with his own money.

It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Grace doesn’t ask us to impress the Father. It doesn’t even invite us to try. Grace rather invites us to accept God’s love and His mercies even though we constantly prove both to God and to ourselves that we really don’t deserve it.

And that was so hard for me to accept.

In the first place, it invited me to realize that I was fundamentally weak. For someone who built his self-image on being the best, this was a bitter pill to swallow.

 

“…He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

—2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Whenever I read this passage, I always took the God’s power part and ignored the many lines talking about “weakness”. Weakness? Me? Never!

But after a long time wrestling with it, I’ve come to realize it’s true.

Yes, I’m weak.

I can’t get my act together.

I’m a mess.

But God still loves me.

What’s more, He’s still happy with me.

The fact that God cares for me and provides for me and fulfills His promises to me (and even keeps making promises to me) without my proving to Him that I deserve it with a perfect track record makes no sense to me.

But that’s grace. And that’s who God is.

What’s more, that’s the only way the Christian life can truly be lived.

God doesn’t expect us to stop being weak. He expects us to keep realizing the depths of our weakness—so we realize our deeper and deeper need for Him.

I still struggle with it sometimes. Not gonna lie. There are days when I don’t get anything done or fall once again into a sin I swore I was done with, and then I send myself on a guilt trip and beat myself up over it and imagine how Jesus must be face-palming Himself up there by the Father’s right hand and after hours and hours of this—because I am a very neurotic person—the Holy Spirit asks me in the gentlest voice if I’m quite done with that.

Then He picks me up and sets me on my feet again. He never gets tired of picking us up again.

For though we are weak, He is strong.

Therefore when we are weak, we are strong.

Strong in Him.

That’s grace.

 

You Can’t Have Faith Without Uncertainty

You’ll need to trust God in spite of your mind

The Kingdom of God can be very frustrating for people who like to have it all figured out.

You know the type I’m talking about. Chances are you even are that type: people who want to know exactly how and why they’re doing something before they set out to do it; people who set goals and have measurable outcomes for everything they do. People who, in other words, know exactly where they want to go and how to get there.

These can be great virtues to have. It’s wonderful to be driven, to have five-year goals and a Plan B in case things don’t go as planned.

But when it comes to the Kingdom of God, these things are not so great all the time. In fact, more often than not they’re a hindrance.

Because the Kingdom of God operates on faith. And you can’t have faith if you (want to) have it all figured out.

***

The commonest definition of faith in the Bible can be found in the Book of Hebrews:

 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

 

The NLT, which is my preferred version (in case you hadn’t noticed), puts it like this:

 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I especially like the second one because it shows just how much faith goes against the ways of this world. The world will tell you “Seeing is believing”, but the Bible tells us we’re supposed to believe and be assured of the things we cannot see.

And it is something that is required of every Christian. (Habakkuk 2:4) It’s not something reserved for only “warriors of Christ” or when you’re feeling “in the Spirit”. Faith is required of us all. The Bible tells us it is impossible to please God without faith.

Why? Because:

 

“…Anyone who comes to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6

We come to God by believing He exists, even though we can offer no “concrete” proof for it. (In fact, all the scientific evidence points to the existence of no God.) When we pray, we don’t get an email informing us that our requests have been heard and Heaven’s administrative office will get to us shortly.

We have no proof that Heaven exists, or Hell, or that Jesus is not just some made up story to keep the little kids clapping in Sunday school.

If you’re a Christian (and I hope you are), then it means at some point you chose to not just believe, but act on something you could not prove or verify in any way.

So why is it that when it comes to living the Christian life, we want to know and prove and verify everything before we believe and act on it? Why do we want to have it all figured out first?

***

I personally know a lot of Christians who struggle to act on something they feel God telling them to do. And mostly they struggle because “What if I do it and it doesn’t work?” Or “What will happen after I do it? What will happen to me?”

If ever you find yourself asking such questions, I want you to know you’re in the right place—but you’re also missing the point entirely.

You’re in the right place because everything we do for God springs from that place of not knowing what will happen if we act. We all go through it. It’s just how it is.

But you’re also missing the point because not knowing what will happen is the whole point of obeying God in faith.

When you read the stories of people who were commended for their faith in the Bible, a common thread begins to emerge. I’ll give you a couple examples:

  • “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give to him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” –Hebrews 11:8
  • Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept going—believing that he would become the father of many nations.” –Romans 4:18
  • “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.” –Hebrews 11:7
  • “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us… But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you…we will never serve your gods…” –Daniel 3:16-18

 

I could go on and on, but do you see the connection? None of these people had any idea what would happen to them, but they obeyed God anyway. And God never offered them a Plan B. Yet they still obeyed.

That is what God commends as true faith.

Not knowing what will happen is the whole point of obeying God in faith.

There’s a famous story in the Bible about a guy who required concrete proof before he would believe that what Jesus had told the disciples He would do had actually happened. Jesus told the disciples beforehand that He would die and rise again (Luke 18:31-33), but when this man was told Christ had arisen, he wanted proof. He wanted to “be sure” before acting. He wanted to have it figured out.

But this man was not commended. Instead, his name has forever borne the taint of his refusal to believe because there was no “proof”.

These days, we call him Doubting Thomas. (John 20:24-29)

***

In my own walk with God there have been countless times when He has asked me to do something that has made no sense to me, but I’ve had to obey in trust and in faith. The one that comes most readily to mind is when God asked me to quit school.

Not once, but twice.

I am a two-time University dropout. In a world where education is everything and even first degrees are becoming useless, dropping out of University once was bad enough. Doing it a second time bordered on insanity. At least, that’s what everyone I knew told me.

Looking back, that was one of the scariest things I have ever done. My mind raced with terrifying scenarios. Who in this age would hire someone with only a high school diploma? How would I get a job? How would I survive? I raised all these questions before God, but His command remained the same: Quit school.

So I did.

And you know the funny thing? None of what I feared actually came to pass. After I quit school I got hired for jobs that even people with degrees were being passed over for. I found God’s hand of provision strong upon me, and it was truly astonishing. I can honestly say quitting Uni for the second time was the moment my life changed, because it was the moment I gave myself wholly to God’s care and provision.

And that’s not the only thing. I’ve quit jobs, left relationships and passed on wonderful-looking opportunities simply because God asked me to. In the moment I never knew why God was telling me those things, but in hindsight He’s always been right. Always.

But I had no way of knowing beforehand. No proof. Only the command.

Faith means accepting we will never have it all figured out.

***

Faith, by definition, comes with a lot of uncertainty. That’s what makes it hard. We are given no measurable goal, no physical promise, no proof that what we are doing (or have been asked to do) will work.

The only thing faith has to hold on to is God’s word, which doesn’t make sense to the natural mind (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Ironically, this is the very thing that makes faith the most sure and reliable thing there is.

Because plans fail, economies crash and loved ones die. Governments change and school degrees become useless. And even the things that don’t fail will all one day pass away.

But the Word of our God lives forever. (Matthew 24:35)

You trust Siri and Google Maps to get you where you want to go even if you’ve never been there before, so why can’t you trust the Eternal God to guide you? Even if obeying Him takes you where you’ve never been before?

Think about it. If Google crashes, your Maps will be useless. But we don’t worry about that because the thought of a whole Google crashing is ridiculous in our minds.

But if a company made by human hands is so trustworthy in our eyes, why do we find God so difficult to trust?

Why do we second-guess Him so much? Why do we act like when He tells us to do something it’s now our job to think through His plans as though we could come up with a better one? As though God’s instructions are flawed?

Do you think God didn’t look at the economy before He asked you to quit your job? Or that He doesn’t know good men were hard to find when He told you that person was not right for you? You think He doesn’t know how exactly you should go about building that company He has asked you to start?

So why are you waiting to be “completely sure” before you follow Him where He’s leading?

Look, you can’t have faith without uncertainty. If you’re waiting for your mind to be convinced before you do what God tells you to do, you will never do it.

Faith means accepting you will never have it all figured out.

But it also means knowing you don’t have to have it all figured out, because God already has it all figured out.

So trust Him.

Have faith in our God.

For He will never, ever fail you.

Made Perfect; Being Made Holy

Addressing the question of sin in the Christian life.

“Our High Priest (Jesus) offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time … For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”

—Hebrews 10: 12 … 14. (NLT)

 

Isn’t it strange that even though we’re Christians we still sin?

Especially when the Bible says things like how we have “died to sin” (Romans 6:2), or how anyone born of God doesn’t continue to sin (1 John 5:18). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read verses like these and then I look at my life and I think…well, did I miss something here? Is my salvation flawed in some way? Or am I the one flawed in some way?

And this isn’t made any easier when the church and/or other believers and/or unbelievers sometimes condemn us for every mistake we make. Sometimes, we are the ones who put that weight of condemnation on ourselves.

“If I’m really saved, then how come I mess up so often?” you may ask. “Is Jesus proud of me? Can He even tolerate me?”
Continue reading “Made Perfect; Being Made Holy”

Are You Chasing Egypt?

How do you respond when following God isn’t what you expected?

 

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Numbers 14:1-4 NLT

This scripture talks about the Israelites after God had brought them out of Egypt. After wandering in the wilderness for a couple of years, they had finally arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land. The land flowing with milk and honey.

Keep in mind that this promise was what kept them going through some pretty harsh circumstances. Their answer to everything, I imagine, was “Just wait till we get to the Promised Land!”

It is therefore inevitable that they would have built up a mental picture of what the Promised Land would look like. After being in the desert so long, they probably pictured green rolling hills, bubbling streams, and trees rising to the sky.

Instead, they got a land inhabited by giants. The only things rising to the sky were the walls fortifying the cities. (Numbers 13:25-33)

And the people began to complain.

Continue reading “Are You Chasing Egypt?”

Seeing God in the Randomness

Find hope in your darkest moments. God is writing a better story.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like my life is going nowhere.

Sometimes I have wonderful, meaningful days. Days that fill me with hope and a sense of purpose. Days that make me happy to be alive.

And then, sometimes—more often than I’d like or would care to admit—I have days that feel empty and lifeless. Days that make me question myself and—let’s be honest here—make me question God.

Every time I climb out of one of these ruts, I hope it’ll be the last time. I look forward to living a content, happy, meaningful life all my days.

But then, a few weeks later, I find myself in the pits again.

Continue reading “Seeing God in the Randomness”