Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

First Reaction

“…Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12).

When trouble comes, is our first response “I’ve got to do something” or “I’ve got to pray”?

Let’s make prayer our first reaction, not our last resort.

Amen!

Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

A Prayer For The New Year

“Especially would we make mention of the goodness of the Lord during another year. Each believer here has trodden a different pathway to some it has been a very smooth road, to others a very rough climb: to some a deep descent into the valley of sorrow and humiliation. But Thou hast led Thy people by a right way. With all the twisting of the wilderness march, we are persuaded that when Thou leadest us about, still we go the nearest way. Thou knowest best, and oftentimes to retreat is to advance, and to be beaten back is to make surest headway. We would again in the recollection of the whole year, whatever it may have been, lift up the song of grateful praise, raise another stone of help to record the loving-kindness of our God.

“And now do we hoist sail and draw up anchor to sail into another year. O Thou blessed Pilot of the future as of the past, we are so happy to leave all to Thee; but in leaving all to Thee we have one wish, and it is that Thou wouldst in the next year glorify the Father’s name in us more than in any other year of our lives. Perhaps this may involve deeper trial, but let it be if we can glorify God. Perhaps this may involve the being cast aside from the service that we love; but we would prefer to be laid aside if we could glorify Thee the better. Perhaps this may involve the ending of all life’s pleasant work and the being taken home—well, Thy children make no sort of stipulations with their God, but this one prayer ascends from all true hearts this morning, ‘Father, glorify Thy name.’” —Charles Spurgeon

The Transparency That God Loves

Have mercy … heal me … deliver me … save me … (Psalm 6:2, 4).

A mark of a godly leader is one who is not afraid to share his vulnerabilities.

David freely admits his fear of punishment, his need for God’s help, and his grief that robbed him of sleep.

But he also admitted just as freely his rock-solid assurance of God’s help:

  • The Lord has heard my weeping
  • The Lord has heard my supplication
  • The Lord will receive my prayer

Godly leaders are confidently transparent before God and before those around them. God delights in that transparency, and He delights to answer vulnerable prayers.

This is Part 17 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

Saturday In The Psalms—In Over My Head!

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck! (Psalm 69)

Not just up to David’s neck, but he felt like he was in over his head! Ever been there? You feel like…

  • …there’s no solid ground to stand on
  • …you’re stuck in deep muck
  • …the floodwaters are rising fast

David cried himself dry and hoarse because of the troubles ganging up on him!

One of David’s motivations in asking God for help was not just to alleviate his own suffering, but to not be a burden to other God-followers—“Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.”

So David made his prayer to God, believing that God would completely vindicate and rescue him. And as he prayed, he praised—“Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

When you’re in over your head, there’s nowhere else to look but up! 

Our prayer: Holy Spirit, when I feel like I’m in over my head, may You remind me to lift up my prayer and my praise to my Savior. Don’t let other God-followers be ashamed because of me, but let my deliverance be the reason they continue to look expectantly to You!

10 Steps To Help Someone Through A Tragedy

Christians should be the best at loving others and supporting them through a tragedy. When someone’s world is rocked by an unexpected heartache like a miscarriage, a suicide, a difficult medical diagnosis, or even a hurricane, here is my list of 10 steps to help someone through this trying time. You may watch this short video, or see the list of 10 items below…

  1. Just be there for them.
  2. Listen.
  3. Listen.
  4. Listen to them some more.
  5. Don’t try to “fix” their problem.
  6. Weep with those who weep.”
  7. Don’t defend God (like Job’s friends tried to do).
  8. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you insight.
  9. Remind them of their responsibility now—your choices to go forward, how will you honor their memory, how can you help others in a similar situation, what does this make you think about your eternity?
  10. Stay in touch for the long haul (remember the birthday of their dead loved one; be them for the anniversary date of a marriage, the day their loved one died; go to those doctor’s appointments with them; roll up your sleeves and work alongside them). Use your creativity to proactively be there for them.
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