What to do when you feel out of control

The world is going crazy! Watching the news or scrolling through the latest social media feed confirms that. But none of this surprises God. In fact, Jesus himself warned his disciples that the world would become increasingly more evil before he returns. (Matthew 24)

Wars and rumors of wars. Nation rising against nation. 

His followers would be hated by all because of his name. 

Many will turn away from the faith and betray and hate each other. 

The increase of wickedness would cause the love of many to grow cold. 

The fact that Jesus predicted these very things is a good reminder to us that God is still in control. When we’re wondering where this is all going to end up we need not look any further than the Word of God. Jesus promised that he is going to prepare a place for us and that one day he would come back to bring us there. In a day when hope is hard to find, I am so grateful for the hope I have in Jesus!

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. – ‭‭John‬ ‭14:1-3‬ ‭

Think about when you were learning to drive. You were probably taught what to do when you lose control of your vehicle. There are some important steps to keep in mind that I thought made for a good analogy.

First you are told to remain calm no matter what. Panicking won’t help. God is in control. Nothing that happens catches him by surprise. We just need to relax and let God be God. (Psalm 46:10

Once you’ve calmed down, you are instructed to look in the direction of where you want to go, not where you are going! If you’ve lost control of your vehicle and are headed for a tree, don’t look at the tree! Look the road you want to be on. In the same way, during uncertain and scary times when we feel like everything is spinning out of control, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Next you are told to point the wheels toward the direction you want to go in and not to slam on the brakes. God has a plan and he’s left us with instructions. It is our job to keep the wheel pointed in the right direction and to keep moving forward in his will even when it feels like the world is trying to pull us off the road. God is working in us to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

And finally, to avoid skids, brake before a curve, not during it. When you see trouble coming, stop before you get any further. Don’t wait until you’re already in the curve to slam on the brakes. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you’ve been given the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you and to keep you on the straight path. So live by the Spirit and don’t gratify the desires of your sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16)

As we watch the world around us fall deeper and deeper into evil and hate, we must remember that God is in control. He has always known these things would happen and he has always had a plan that remains unchanged. We must continue to look up and not around because we have a Savior that has promised to return. And I’m not sure if you’ve read all the way to the end of the book, but spoiler alert – we win!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. – Philippians‬ ‭2:12-13

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Haggai. Relevant today?

I began my quiet time with the Lord this morning praying for the Church in America. The Body of Christ. That we would get back on God’s program to spread the gospel and help the helpless. That we would quit all of the fighting. That we would humble ourselves and seek the Lord’s face and turn from our wicked ways. (2 Chronicles 7:14) As I finished praying and was ready to move on to reading my Bible, I felt lead to read the book of Haggai. So that is where I turned. 

It is true that the prophets of the Old Testament came to the Israelites with specific messages for specific times and that these messages are not always 100% transferable to us today. But we are clearly told in the New Testament that the things that happened back then happened as an example to us. (1 Corinthians 10) And the parallels I so often see to life today when I read the Old Testament are too close to ignore. So after praying for the Church and opening the book of Haggai the similarities between God’s people then and God’s people now were noticeably clear. The Israelites had allowed the temple of God to remain a ruin while they went about the business of taking care of their own homes. 

“Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” – Haggai‬ ‭1:3-6‬ ‭‬‬

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” – Haggai‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭

God wanted them to turn their focus back to his house. He wanted them to rebuild a temple that he could “take pleasure in and be honored.” (Haggai 1:8) And what did the Israelites do when they heard this message from the Lord? “…the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” (Haggai 1:12)

I don’t doubt for a moment that God does not want the same thing today. For his people, the followers of Christ that make up the Church, to get with the program. His program. To turn our focus back to being the Church that Christ intended when he left us here. Spreading the gospel of salvation through Christ alone. Making disciples. Caring for the hurting and the helpless. Being the salt and the light in a lost world. 

The secret to contentment

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

If you’re a Christian, you’ve likely heard this verse and probably even have it memorized. Chances are pretty good that even if you’re not a Christian you’ve heard this verse somewhere. People quote it often in a variety of contexts. Admittedly, I do the same thing.  It is usually used as a motivational phrase to encourage someone in their quest to reach a goal. And even though it is a good reminder that we’re not on our own once we’ve chosen to follow Christ, Paul wasn’t thinking about a reaching a personal goal when he penned these words to the church at Philippi. The two verses right before show us what Paul was thinking about when he reflected on where his strength comes from. 

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:11&12

Paul had learned “the secret” for being able to persevere no matter what the current circumstances of his life were. He knew that it was Jesus that gave him the strength he needed at all times. When he was living in plenty and feeling like he just wanted to sit back and enjoy the blessings in his life, it was Jesus who gave him the strength to journey out of his comfort zone to fulfill the purpose God had for him. When he was tired and hungry, not sure where he would lay his head or even where his next meal would come from, it was Jesus who gave him the strength to keep going, trusting in God to provide for his needs.

Philippians 4:13 is as much about faith as it is about perseverance. It would serve us well to lean on this truth as far more than a motivational phrase that provides a little encouragement.  No matter what our current situation may be, we can trust God to give us strength.  He will give us strength to persevere in our struggles and he will make us strong enough to venture out when things are just fine where we are. And when we are able to depend on the strength of Christ which is far greater than any strength we may muster on our own, then we will be content!