Monday, September 9, 2013

Storms in Life

I went to another Women's Encounter in July.  At this one I was a server - I was there to serve and pray for the attendees.  
After Encounters, there is an optional 7 weeks of follow up meetings.  The other server from our group and I have been taking turns leading them for our small group of ladies, and a couple weeks ago, the study was on Conquering Adversity.
I have been listening to Christian talk/teaching radio a lot lately, and there have been several messages on storms and trials in life.  I also have been trying to read a daily devotional, and a couple of them have been about the same subject.  God knew I would be leading the study on the subject, and I know put these teachings in my way to pass along.
The first thing was from the century-old writings of Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.  This is the July 28 devotion (in an updated style):
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.

What struck me from this one is that so often, we think that after we get through a certain part or trial in life, then we will have learned a lesson, received a blessing, etc.  But what Chambers is saying is that the lesson is now, the blessing is now, God's purpose is now - during the storm!

The second teaching on storms that stuck out to me was on the radio, Dr. Michael Youssef.  The message was part 3 of the series "Surely Not Me.....And Definitely Not Them!" - a set of messages based on the book of Jonah.  This particular message was about the storm on the sea when Jonah decided to disobey and run away from God.  He had several good points.
There are three types of "storms" people go through in life:
1.  The type brought on by my actions.
2. The type caused by actions of others.
3.  The type allowed by God as a test of our faith.
When we face a storm, we must determine the
1. Cause
2. Cure.
3. Consequences.
Similar to an illness, we must figure out the cause of the problem before we can cure it.
And, like the reading from My Utmost, Youssef stressed that "God wants to use you NOW."  During the storm.  The sailors were watching Jonah.  They knew he was the cause of the problem.  How was he going to react?  The cure for him was complete surrender to God.  Other fixes didn't work - rowing harding, throwing cargo overboard.  It was only when Jonah submitted to a situation where only God could save him (being thrown overboard in the middle of the sea!) that things became calm.  It was the cure - and also the consequence.  Three days in the digestive juices of a fish?  Lesson learned!

I would like to think that most of the trials that we face as Christians aren't the result of our own stupid actions, but I know a lot are.  Nevertheless, there are things to be learned whatever the trial or cause of it.  Our memory verse for the week was James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Anyhow.  These are just my jumbled thoughts on the subject, but I'm hoping it gives you something to ponder, as it did for me.  And if you are going through a storm of some sort, maybe it will be the encouragement you need.

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