Overwhelmed?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Have you noticed some people just say, “Morning,” but not “Good morning”? Almost as if they are waiting to see if it’s actually going to be good. I think many people wake up overwhelmed before their feet hit the floor. If the cliche says, “When it rains it pours,” to them it seems like it’s always pouring! 

In our series, we’ve been asking if certain statements are in the Bible. Statement #7 is God won’t give you more than you can handle. Is that in the Bible? Well, kinda. 

Many people would say, “Yes, it’s in the Bible” based on 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

Remember that context is king, so we need to look at the whole setting. For this verse, I would suggest going back to the beginning of the chapter (1 Corinthians 10:1-14). Paul is telling us that Israel’s bad examples are a warning for us. What’s the warning? It boils down to not becoming overconfident in our own abilities—“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (v. 12). 

Overconfidence exposes us to temptation. James does a really good job of defining temptation as our own evil desires that have met an opportunity to give in (James 1:13-14). When the pressure is on, perhaps I’m tempted to…

  • …cut corners 
  • …water down the truth 
  • …tell a little white lie 
  • …justify helping myself to something that isn’t mine 
  • …excuse my unforgiveness

I like some of the insights we get from the Amplified Bible on 1 Corinthians 10:13. 

One phrase reminds us that “no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted” to us. God is helping us grow through those tempting times. 

Another phrase from this verse says that God “can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure.” God knows the perfect time and temperature of our trials to remove the impurities from our lives. 

Paul’s conclusion—his “therefore”—is found in the next verse: “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). “Flee” means we are to take hold of ourselves to stay away from dangerous places, and “idols” are anything we put in place of God. 

Notice the verse says, God…will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Sometimes I set myself up to stumble when I’m…

  • …physically tired 
  • …hangry 
  • …spiritually drained 
  • …emotionally frazzled 

Even in these things God will give us wisdom if we ask Him (James 1:5), but we must apply the wisdom He gives us. 

So God tests me to purify and strengthen me. God will never overwhelm me or set me up for failure, but I may overwhelm myself and set myself up for failure if I’m not being careful about the idols I set up in my life. 

So If you are feeling overwhelmed, if you are feeling like there’s too much, if you feel like you’re giving in to temptations, ask yourself: 

  • Am I getting enough sleep? 
  • How’s my diet? 
  • Have I made Bible reading and prayer a priority this week? 
  • Are there any relationships that are draining me? 
  • Have I confessed my shortcomings? 
  • Have I asked God for wisdom? 
  • Have I obeyed what God has already shown me? 

God will never give me more than I can handle in His tests, but sometimes I give myself more than I can handle. It’s time to remove those idols and stumbling blocks from my life.  

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, I’ve shared links to all of the messages here. 

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Listening To Obey

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Have you ever been confronted by someone claiming, “The Bible is full of contradictions”? 

How about this one: God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7) vs. at Meribah…[the Israelites] tested the LORD (Exodus 17:7)? 

Whenever we see a possible contradiction, remember this: Context is king. We have to look at these two accounts in their proper context. 

In the Exodus account, the Israelites have just been delivered out of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The pursing Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the waters closed back over them and they drowned. Three days later we find the Israelites grumbling over a lack of drinkable water, which God miraculously supplies. A month after that they are complaining about their food supply, which God miraculously supplies. And right on the heels of that they are again complaining about not having water to drink, which God miraculously supplies (see Exodus 15-17). 

It is after this second miraculous supply of water that we read that phrase we are considering: the Israelites tested God. The Hebrew word for “tested” is nasa which equates to, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or “I’ll believe it when I see it!” or as The Message paraphrase puts it, “Is God here with us, or not?” 

In Psalm 81, God Himself is speaking in vv. 6-16, so He is the One who claims, “I tested them at Meribah.” The Hebrew word for “tested” in this instance is bahan. This means to investigate closely, to spot and bring out the impurities in fine metals. God not only makes the claim, “I tested them,” but He is also the One who tells us to Selah—pause and calmly consider. 

Consider what? After the first instance of grumbling about water in Exodus 15, we read, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians’” (Exodus 15:25-26). 

Notice the words decree, law, and commands. Asaph says something similar in Psalm 81:4, “This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when He went out against Egypt.” 

God is talking about laws before the Ten Commandments are given. What is the law He desires to be obeyed above all else? In a word: Listen. 

  • If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes (Exodus 15:25). 
  • I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to Me, O Israel! (Psalm 81:7-8) 

God brings us to these moments of tests to see how we will respond. He doesn’t need to know, but we need to know how we will respond. When we find ourselves wringing our hands, or grumbling, or saying, “Is God here with us, or not?”, what does that tell us about our own heart? He wants us to be wholly His, so He has to bring out the impurities. That same word bahan is used when God speaks this word: “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Asaph uses the Hebrew word for “listen” five times in Psalm 81. This word means listening with an attitude to obey. In order for us to hear God’s voice, we have to listen with an attitude toward obedience. This is not, “Oh yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it!” but “Oh yeah! I will obey it so I will see it!” 

As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit dropped these questions on my heart which I encourage you to ponder as well: 

  • God is always speaking to me. Am I making quiet time to listen to His voice?  
  • God sometimes has to discipline me. Am I open to His purifying? 
  • God has wise counsel for me. Am I obeying it?
  • God knows the best path for me. Am I walking in it?
  • God wants to subdue my enemies. Am I asking Him to do it?
  • God has abundant blessings for me. Am I listening to obey?

God will only speak a new word to me when I have obeyed His previous word to me.

When I am in distress, I need to train myself to Selah so that I can say, “God has brought me to this test, what do I need to learn? Am I listening to God’s voice with an attitude to obey?” 

May our heart’s posture always be, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening and ready to obey whatever You speak to me.” 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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7 More Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

It may sound like an oxymoron—defiant joy—but it’s a powerful combination that Stasi Eldredge unpacks in her book. Check out my full review of Defiant Joy by clicking here. 

“Times of testing can also be times of refining and growth. The counterintuitive truth is that suffering can deepen our hope. It enlarges our hearts so that we can know the love and presence of Jesus in ways that we would not if we did not go through the stretching the process.” 

“The waiting can be hard when you are hungry, but when you know a feast is coming, you know that the waiting won’t last forever. Dear ones, the waiting is not going to last. But there is no shame in being hungry while you wait. … In our waiting God often deepens our hunger as well.” 

“We are alive. And to be alive means that we will feel. We don’t need to deny it, and we don’t need to have it rule us. We dare not marry it to cynicism, and we must not fuel it with fatalism. It is not the end of our reality. It is instead a clue that we are strangers in a strange land. And we are passing through. Sadness touches us all, but God can use it to enhance the beauty and joy of the lives we are living. Sadness can fuel our hope. It can arouse our expectancy.” 

“God displayed His fierce, constant love for us once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. The essence of His heart is no longer up for question. Because of all that Jesus won for us and our choice to receive it, God promises that we actually have nothing to fear.” 

“satan comes to rob us of our joy, our peace, and our connection to and faith in God. He whispers lies to us when we are vulnerable and does his best to warp our perception of our lives with his depressing and evil spin. His endless attacks can wear a person down if they are aware that the perceptions being suggested are coming straight from hell.

“satan is very good at stealing. He’s devoted all his malice to separating us from intimacy with our good Father and the experience of deep joy that comes straight from Jesus’ heart. The evil one uses the circumstances of our lives and of the world to bring discouragement and despair. That is why we must remember that though happiness is rooted in our circumstances, joy is rooted in eternity.” 

“Depth of character doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t come at all to those who refuse to admit the difficulties in their lives are painful. It comes when we fix our gaze on Jesus and the reality that this life is only part of the grand scheme of things.” 

“There is something forged in all of us that can only be forged through fire. Perhaps intense periods of struggle, pain, betrayal, persecution, and rejection are the times when the baptism by fire that Jesus talks about occurs. When we cling to Jesus and proclaim He is good in the midst of the licking flames, our spirits rise in a strength that is proven unshakable, and God is glorified beyond reckoning. Our pain becomes the terrain of God. It becomes sacred.” 

Check out some more quotes I shared from Defiant Joy here.

Poetry Saturday—Pressed

Annie Johnson FlintPressed beyond measure ; yes, pressed to great length.
Pressed so intensely, beyond my own strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure from foes, and pressures from dear friends.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving His staff and His rod.
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living my life for the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured. —Annie Johnson Flint

Charles Spurgeon On Difficulties

C.H. Spurgeon“O tested soul, perhaps the Lord is sending you through this trial to develop your gifts. You have some gifts that would never have been discovered if not for trials. Do you not know that your faith never appears as great in the warm summer weather as it does during a cold winter? … Afflictions are often the dark settings God uses to mount the jewels of His children’s gifts, causing them to shine even brighter. …

“For how can you know if you have faith, until your faith is exercised? You can depend upon the fact that God often sends trials so our gifts maybe discovered and so we may be certain of their existence. And there is more than just discovering our gifts—we experience real growth in grace as another result of our trials being sanctified by Him.

“God trains His soldiers not in tents of ease and luxury but by causing them to endure lengthy marches and difficult service. He makes them wade across streams, swim through rivers, climb mountains, and walk many tiring miles with heavy backpacks.

“Dear Christian, could this not account for the troubles you are now experiencing? Could this not be the reason He is dealing with you?” —Charles Spurgeon

7 Final Quotes From “The Ministry Of God’s Word”

The Ministry Of God's WordI’ve been sharing some of the many quotes I highlighted in Watchman Nee’s book The Ministry Of God’s Word. You can read previous quotes by clicking here, here, here, here, and here. This is a book that I have called a must read for pastors, and you can read my full book review by clicking here.

“A minister of the Word ought to be attentive to how he speaks. The words he speaks must come through discipline, since God creates the words for us through His disciplining us. … How much you can speak depends upon how much you have learned inwardly. … It is more than your preaching His Word; you as a person must be so chiseled and tested by Him that the word which comes out of you is God’s Word.” 

“Let us realize that the minister of the Word must be tried first. Without any trial there can be no word. If other brothers and sisters should enter into trial before you, you have nothing to help them. Even if you should try to say something, it falls as an empty word. What use is an empty word? Word is formed in fire. … Hence the ministers of the Word are those who are chosen by God to be dealt with first, to be tried first, and to know the Lord first, so that they may minister Christ to God’s children. … If we expect to have a big ministry we should be ready to receive more dealings.”

“The Word of God is full of emotion. It should not be recited verbatim in a mechanical way. It ought to be pressed out through deep feeling. … One’s emotion must be so refined that he can rejoice when God’s Word is joyful and wail when the Word of God is sorrowful. His feeling follows the Word of God closely. This is not performance. Please never learn to perform. … The more spiritual a man is, the richer his feeling. … The more lessons one learns before God the more enriched his feeling will be.” 

“A minister of the Word should know that God is building up his ministry through each trial and difficulty. Do not be so foolish as to deem it best to flee from trial. If no thorn, then no grace, hence no power and little ministry. You may speak the Word but you do not possess the strength of the spirit to push it out. You need the Word; you also need a usable spirit.”

“In preaching the gospel, if you make men a little bigger, you make the gospel somewhat smaller. … Spiritual humility comes through our being enlightened by God to a real knowledge of our self, where as soulish self-abasement is the result of looking at man, comparing ourselves with others, and being afraid of men.” 

“We need to take good care of our mind that it may be usable when God wants it.”

“He who desires to minister the Word must learn how to speak simply. … Always remember that God’s Word is for men to understand, not for them to become confused about. … Hence a very important point in ministering the Word is to climb high before God. The higher we climb the more God’s Word is released. God rejects low thought, low-quality persuasion, cheap metaphors or words. Reach high and yet be clear.” 

 

On The Record

When Jesus is getting ready to feed the multitude that had gathered to hear Him speak, Jesus asked Philip a question: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). It seems like a fair question, but the next verse gives us insight into Christ’s motivation behind the question:

Jesus asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.

Jesus had something in mind, but He wanted to know what Philip had in mind. If Jesus had not asked Philip to be on the record up front, Jesus could have multiplied the loaves and fish, and then Philip could have said, “I knew You could do it! I knew it all the time!”

But to test us, Jesus needs to get us on the record. The word test means to know the value of something; to know its strength; to know what it’s capable of.

My faith cannot be grown if it’s not tested. It cannot be accurately tested if I’m not on the record first. Jesus knows what He’s going to do: Glorify the Father. I can say that’s what I wanted all along after the miracle is done, but then my faith hasn’t grown one iota.

I can only see my faith grow when I am on the record (as Philip was) in saying, “How in the world could we get enough money to fix this problem?” Especially when Jesus isn’t even going to use money to fix that problem!

Here’s the principle:

NO testing = NO growth

It’s only when I see that my faith is not as big as it should be that I can say, “Lord, I believe You, but help my unbelief.” He will bring me into a test so that I can grow, and the Father can be glorified. It’s scary being on the record, because only then can I see how much more growth I need!

Hard Times

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I have to go through these difficulties?” Or maybe: “What is being accomplished through this pain and heartache?” I know I’ve asked these questions of myself—and of God—numerous times. I have come to three conclusions why Christians must go through hard times:

  1. So that I know that I can trust God to help me pass this test.
  2. So that God will be glorified in helping me pass this test.
  3. So that others will know that God can help them pass their test.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when [not “if”] your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:7)

Others will see this and be encouraged to trust God too! Look what Thomas Paine wrote in The Crisis:

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

So to help in your hard times, may this prayer from Charles Spurgeon encourage you:

The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty, but, on the contrary, must be established, settled, abiding.
 
May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock!
 
May your faith be no baseless fabric of a vision.
 
But may it be built of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite.
 
May you be rooted and grounded in love.
 
May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest.
 
May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of Hell, and all the storms of earth shall never be able to remove you.

UPDATE: I shared a series of messages on this topic called Where’s God? You can check them out by clicking here

Thursdays With Oswald—Not Imitating Jesus

This 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.

Not Imitating Jesus

      God does not expect us to imitate Jesus Christ: He expects us to allow the life of Jesus to be manifested in our mortal flesh. God engineers circumstances and brings us into difficult places where no one can help us, and we can either manifest the life of Jesus in those conditions, or else be cowards and say, “I cannot exhibit the life of God there.” Then we deprive God of glory. If you will let the life of God be manifested in your particular human edition—where God cannot manifest it, that is why He called you, you will bring glory to God.

From Approved Unto God

This so encourages me, because it tells me that every difficult situation I’m in is God-engineered. He put me in these tough spots because He wants the life of Jesus to be seen through me. And He wants to be glorified. If God desires these things, then He will give me His Holy Spirit to strengthen me to shine in difficult places.

Shine on!

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