…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:13
How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth? To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth? To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face? Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived? And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.
“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.John 14: 15-17
When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human. Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament. So it’s not as though they were created suddenly. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.
So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.
It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire. It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work. It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.Romans 8:26
I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying. My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down. One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.” That’s great advice. It says it right there in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit will help us pray. Will give us the words to speak to God.
Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans. He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us. I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc. We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts. To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil. To whisper to us “love this person right now.”
We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power. And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.
This is what the Lord says to his anointed,to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:I will go before you and will level the mountains;I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.I will give you hidden treasures,riches stored in secret places,so that you may know that I am the Lord,the God of Israel, who summons you by name.Isaiah 45:1-3
When I was 17, I moved across the country, away from my family to the Midwest for college. I was unsure what God had planned for me there, but I knew that I needed a new adventure and was excited to strike out on my own. It is difficult to describe with words that first feeling I had when my parents dropped me off at school and drove away into the distance to go back to California. I watched their car drive out of my university and eventually out of sight. For the first time, I was truly on my own. I felt my stomach drop and tears welled up in my eyes. Reality hit and I began to immediately doubt my decision.
Those first months away from home were difficult. I spent many nights deep with sadness, missing my old life at home. Other nights I would be filled with joy at the exciting new venture I had bravely took head-on. Amidst the rollercoaster of emotions, I always had one underlying questions – What did God have planned for me here?
I wasn’t really a believer at the time, but I had gone to church my whole life and *generally* knew that God had a plan for our lives. Being from San Diego, I knew it was no coincidence that I ended up in Saint Charles, Missouri. It was random and I had zero connections to the area other than being recruited to play field hockey there. Despite not proclaiming Christ as my Savior yet, something inside of me knew there was a reason God brought me to this place.
Rewind back to the initial verse I kicked off with. Isaiah 45: 1-3 discusses a prophesy of Cyrus, who is a pagan leader God chooses to deliver the Israelites from their captivity. These verses were written 200 years before Cyrus was born. Meaning, Cyrus’ life was already planned out way before he was ever a thought in his parent’s minds. God had a plan for Cyrus’ life – He has a plan for yours too.
God planned to use Cyrus in mighty ways, even though he was no mighty person. God chose him, predestined him to be the deliverer of God’s people. God wasn’t particularly favoring Cyrus, rather he was caring for His people as a whole by providing them a way out of their suffering through Cyrus.
I know that God loves me, cares for me and sees me as beautifully and wonderfully made. But just as much as he sees me as His child, He also sees me as an instrument to His Kingdom, a vessel for which he can work through me. Just as he did Cyrus.
I quickly found out that God’s plan for me in Saint Charles was to find salvation in His son Jesus Christ and to dedicate my life to serving Him – no matter where I was living, working, etc. God saved me so that He could use me on my field hockey team, amongst my roommates and in my workplace. Just as Cyrus’s plan for his life was written 200 years before he was born – so was mine, and yours.
When I look back to my years in college, I am reminded of the good and perfect plan God had for me during my time there. Every day was certainly not good and perfect, but the things He brought me through and the lessons He taught me showed me that He truly is a good and perfect God.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.Psalm 119:105
God has already prepared a way for us. This truth alleviates me from worry and stress about tomorrow – something to which I still occasionally fall victim. God wrote the story of our lives generations ago, and has every intention of carrying out His good and perfect plan for us. All we must do is surrender control and open our hands to His authority.
I’ve told my friends that looking back over my life so far, I really have only one regret. It’s that I wish I had a closer relationship with Jesus when I was the parent of young kids. My husband and I attended church fairly regularly. But I was wrapped up in childrearing worries and stresses and didn’t know how to turn all that over to God. I could’ve enjoyed many more hours of sleep had I not been such a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” person. I found myself, during a very long season of self-doubt about my parenting skills, constantly praying for patience. Literally praying every single night for about two years for patience. You see, I was so afraid of turning into my mother – screaming at my kids and losing control – that I thought patience was the answer. One Sunday, our pastor’s sermon was about praying. He said, “If you keep praying about the same problem over and over and over maybe it’s time to start praying for something different.” He had a knack for speaking on issues near and dear to me. So that night I stopped praying for patience and instead prayed for ways to help me deal with difficult situations.
As I’ve grown closer to Jesus, He has taught me a lot of lessons. He’s still teaching me. And step-by-step He has moved me closer to my original plea for patience. You see, I wasn’t ready to learn the hard stuff yet. He just wanted me to start turning to Him when I was in need, when I was broken. Patience may be a virtue but it is a heck of a hard thing to have and use regularly.
I first needed to learn what standing firm, standing safely in God’s arms even meant. I didn’t have the wisdom needed to grasp the joy in hearing that the Lord is coming near. I heard on a Joyce Meyer’s podcast this morning that God gives us a lot of leeway and grace when we first become Christians. But once we hear the Word and gain His wisdom, expectations change. We are expected to act as His children, not as children of this world. Think about that. Every time we attend church, do a Bible study, listen to a Christian podcast, see a Christian post on social media we are hearing His Word. We are learning the nature and expectations of God. And He expects us to live as He prescribes.
Wisdom that we glean from God yields patience. And when we are patient, that glorifies what we have learned from God. We cannot be steeped in the nature of God without also knowing and acting in patience. Why? Because patience means love. It means grace. It means forgiveness. Thank God He is patient with us. I never feel God rushes me to learn a lesson. In fact, my lesson in patience has taken about 26 years.
I looked up on-line “how to be patient.” I came across a website that focuses on self -improvement. Here’s their reasons why we should learn patience.
We make better decisions by assessing situations rather than going in emotional and blind.
We have less stress by understanding some things take longer than others.
Our relationships are improved because we are more flexible and understanding.
Doesn’t that all sound like something God would want from us? Being wise, giving our stress up to God, and loving and being grace-filled toward others.
They then described a 6-step process for learning patience:
Understand and counteract triggers
Increase your self-confidence
Put on your “positive glasses”
Change your attitude – “why are you in such a hurry?”
Visualize worst case scenarios
Release tension and stress through eating right, exercise, enjoying activities
Now imaging trying to do all that without God. Here’s my Christian re-do of these six steps:
Pray for God to reveal the areas where you struggle with patience (sometimes we pretend we aren’t being impatient and justify our actions)
John 16:24, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Recognize that God loves you. Accept He wants the very best for you.
John 16:27, “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
Remember that joy can be found in trials. And most of all that God has delivered for you in the past. He is faithful.
2 Thes 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
Rejoice each and every day, if not every hour, for all the great things in your life.
Prov 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
To be honest, visualizing worst case scenarios has been helpful to me. If I’m waiting in a long line at Costco and start getting impatient I think, “Well, what have I got to be impatient for anyways?” or “Well, if I’m late because of this line I can call ahead and let them know.”
Matt 6:27, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Yes, eat right, exercise, enjoy new and old activities. And pray. And pray. And pray. Give up all those thoughts, those worries, those fears, those negative emotions to God. Cry out to Jesus and ask Him to remove whatever negative thought you have right then.
1 Samuel 2:1, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.”
When we get closer to God – become fluent in His character – that is when He can work His ways in us. And God is always patient with us. My friend and I were having lunch today and she said she is starting to have more moments in her difficult life where she looks up and gives a little smile – recognizing those growth moments God has put in front of her. As for me, I described for her my process of writing and how I study the topic, pray, and then start writing. I rarely stop writing one of these posts until I am done. The words just come out of me onto the computer. My whole body is focused on getting these words down. I told her how weird it was that I was interrupted multiple times while writing this post. And as I drove home from lunch, I was listening to a praise song and it hit me. Patience. The topic of this post. And I had just been tested. I was not annoyed about the interruptions. I felt blessed hearing from a few friends. And normally I would’ve been distracted during lunch, thinking about what else I needed to write. I would’ve failed my friend who I need to support during this time in her life.
I called my friend from my car and said, “I just got it! Patience! I was tested!” And she said, “I realized that while you were telling me. And I’m glad it finally came to you.” Maybe this whole actually studying God’s Word really does work. Time to look up and smile.