Friday, 14 October 2016

God Has The Answer

Dear Friends,

A few months ago our son, Josh, had some important decisions to make. He was coming to the end of his A Levels and was offered work as an apprenticeship in Accounting.  It was just what he wanted to do. The offer was a good one and it was with a company he liked. At the same time he was offered work in a church as an intern. It came out of the blue, but again was something he was interested in. Now what was he supposed to do?  He wanted to do what God had planned for him, he just wasn't sure what that was.

God makes us a promise in Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you." (AMP)

As his Mum there was part of me that wanted to tell him what was best for him, but this wouldn't have been right. It was not my decision to make. It was for him to decide. Jason and I told him that we would support him in whatever he decided and we would be there to talk things through with him. We would also be praying for him.

How did Josh come to his decision? Well, this was what he (and we) did.  You might also find this helpful when applying it to any decisions you need to make.

1. We prayed.  He prayed.  We also asked people to pray for him. We knew God had the answer so we prayed for God to direct and guide him. I find such encouragement from the following verse in James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him." (AMP)

2. We talked it through together, looking at both the options. I believe that God gives us common sense and expects us to use it.

3. Reading the Bible is also important.  God reveals his will through his word and will often confirm his will to us as we read it.  I've certainly known this to be true in my own life.

4. Joshua talked with one of our church leaders.  It's always good to be able to share with a mature Christian who you respect.  Someone outside of the situation can be more objective and see things differently.  Although it is useful to consult with another person, we need to remember that our final decision is not based on whatever anyone else may say but is based on what we ourselves believe God is saying to us.

When we genuinely seek God's will, he will not punish us if we get it wrong.  Either he will make it clear that we are to go in a different direction or he will use it for our good.  Nothing is wasted with God.

We told Josh that we are proud of him and that whichever option he went for, we would support him in the decision he came to. Josh came to the decision that God was directing him to take a year out to work as a church intern. He contacted the accounting firm to see if they would be willing for him to defer his training for a year . But, even if they didn't, he had made up his mind to still honour God by taking the year out and trusting God with his future. The firm replied that they were happy for him to do this, as long as he achieved the exam grades they were asking for. We saw this as an answer to prayer as it's not their usual practice.  

Josh is now into his second month working as an intern and is enjoying what he is doing.  I know that this year will be so good for him.  it will take him on further in his faith and will also develop him as a person.

He did really well in his exams, but didn't quite get the grades needed in a couple of his subjects.  He has informed the accounting firm but hasn't heard yet as to whether they are still happy to have him next September.

I don't know the future, but I know God has the answer.  David says of God in Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw me when I was still an unborn child.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place." (GW) 

I don't know whether Josh will train as an accounting apprentice next year or whether he will be doing something different.  But that's OK.  As long as Josh keeps looking to God for his direction, there is no need to worry about the next stage in his life.

Not only does God have the answers when it comes to your life and my life, he is the answer for our life. 

"The secret [of the wise counsel] of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will let them know His covenant and reveal to them [through His word] its [deep, inner] meaning." Psalm 25:14 (AMP)

With our lives in his hands we have no need to worry or fear about what tomorrow may bring.

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands." Psalm 138:8   (HCSB)

To Think About:
What do you do when you have a decision to make?

How have you seen God's direction in your decision making in the past?

Is there a decision you need to make today which is troubling you?  What do you need to do which will help you?


Friday, 7 October 2016

A Difficult Season

Dear Friends,

Some people may see a season of change as a frightening challenge whilst others see it as a challenging adventure. Are you facing a new season right now?  Perhaps your son or daughter has left for university and you are facing "empty nest syndrome", or you're learning how to parent a newborn baby (or house training a new puppy in my case!), or coping with health issues, a change in your employment, a new stage in your education, or changes at church etc.

In the Bible, Joshua faced a new season when God called him to step up from being Moses' assistant to become the leader of God's people.  A huge task lay before him and he had some big sandals to fill!

Going into a new season can be scary.  We can assume Joshua was fearful because God says to him: "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

Joshua may have been afraid of the responsibility.  Perhaps he was afraid the people wouldn't follow him.  He knew exactly what they were like, the way they criticised and complained.  He knew they wouldn't hesitate to point out when he was wrong.  Maybe he was afraid of failure, perhaps he questioned whether he was really up to the role or whether it was just too soon.  Perhaps he was afraid of the unknown.  Of moving out of his comfort zone and leaving the familiar behind.

We may feel assaulted by all kinds of fears as we face our new season.  Fears of the unknown, fears of failing, of having to move out of our comfort zone, of it all being too much for us, etc. But we need to remember that what God told Joshua is true for us too - God's presence is with us, wherever we are, whatever we go through, whatever happens in our life.  God is with us and he loves us.  He will give us the strength we need as we go through a new season in our life. God's presence with us means that he gives us his peace and his comfort.  He is also a place of refuge and our protector. 

Not only was Joshua afraid, he was also discouraged: grieving the loss of his mentor and friend; perhaps he felt alone; or thought his relationship with God wasn't as close as the one Moses had with God;or perhaps he had heard negativity, doubts, murmurings and nit-picking amongst the people.  Any number of things could have led to feelings of discouragement.

Thoughts of fear and discouragement could have become a stronghold in his mind.  If they had, then he would not have been able to move forward into his new season and he would not have been able to lead God's people forward either. 

Perhaps you too are feeling discouraged right now.  Maybe you're questioning God as to why this is happening.  Maybe you can't see a way through it.  Or you feel like you're very much on your own and there's no-one you can share with.  

When we dwell on our fears and discouragement, when we allow our minds to go in that direction and allow these thoughts to go round and round in our head, they can quickly become strongholds. They can paralyse us, making us unable to move forward.

Instead of being consumed with fear and discouraging thinking, Joshua chose to listen to God. He heard and believed the promises God gave him.

God promised Joshua that he would overcome: "No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you." Joshua 1:5 (NLT).  Yes, he would face battles, but with God's help he would overcome. God promised that he was trustworthy and dependable.  That Joshua could count on him, he could rely on him.

God promised to fulfill his plans for Joshua:  "Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them." Joshua 1:6 (NLT)  God would make a way through for Joshua. God has a plan and a purpose for your life and for mine, just as he had for Joshua. If we trust and obey God we will see him working out those plans. 

In verses 6-9, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous no less than three times.  God was reminding Joshua that he was capable for the task, not because of who Joshua was, but because of who God is.  God would enable, equip and empower Joshua through this difficult season.  Joshua really needed to hear this from God.

I am so glad that God does repeat himself. I don't know about you, but sometimes I need God to do just that and remind me of the things he has said to me because I can so easily fall back into thinking fearful or discouraging thoughts.

As we go through a new season we need the right mindset, we can have this if we do what God tells Joshua in 1:8 "Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it." (NLT)

We are to:

  • Study God's Word - this means reading the Bible, taking the time to take it in, reading it carefully, asking God to help us understand what we are reading.  Listening to what God has to say rather than listening to our own fearful and discouraging thoughts.
  • Meditate on God's Word - rather than allowing our fears and other negative thoughts to fill our minds, choose to think on God's truth from the Bible, such as his promises and his truth.  Focus on God rather than our circumstances.
  • Speak out God's Word - another version of the Bible tells us not to let these words depart from our mouth. We're not just to think about God's Word, we're also to speak it out.  "Joshua then commanded the officers of Israel, 'Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you.'"  1:10-11 (NLT)  Joshua spoke out what he heard from God.
  • Obey God's Word - Joshua acted on what God told him to do.  Despite our fears and concerns, we need to act on and obey what God is telling us.
To Think About:
Read Joshua 1:1-11.  There is far more in those verses than I've had time to share today. What do you think God wants to say to you?

What season are you in?  How are you feeling?  What thoughts keep running through your mind? What has been helpful from today's blog post? 

Memorise Joshua 1:9 as one way of keeping a right mindset.