I want you to take 10 minutes, go outside and take a walk. Don’t take your cell phone or IPod or anything else that could distract you while you’re out there. I want you to shut all cares of life and thoughts of what you need to do today out of your mind and focus on the sights, sounds and smells of creation. Keenly observe what’s happening on the ground or in the trees. Listen intently to the sounds of the birds and squirrels…even the sound of the wind through the leaves. Inhale deeply the scents of autumn. Pick up and feel the texture of a leaf or the fine hairs on a wooly caterpillar. Go do this right now, I will still be here when you get back…
It only takes a few minutes looking outside to realize the awesome beauty, splendor and minute detail of God’s creation. I think this is especially true in the fall, where the very changing of the leaves provides a vibrant ‘canvas’ that displays Gods masterpiece of purpose, order and beauty. If you went and sat on the ground and observed the insects and animals during this time of the year, they too are changing and preparing as their fur grows thicker to accommodate the impending winter and they work to store up food so they will not starve during the coldest days of January. Are these changes and actions just some random evolutionary event? Have they been thrown together haphazardly by some cosmic randomizer? Not a chance! These things do not occur out of chaos, if they did, why would winter follow fall each year, why does the Earth spin on its axis at the same rate instead of randomly changing speed and rotation? No, rather they are well ordered and specifically timed…planned by design. The bible says (Matt 6: 26-32) that if the Lord concerns Himself with the delicate beauty of the flower or the feeding of the birds, how much MORE does He care and want to take care of us?! Ok, now I’m going to stretch your thought process a little here…If you can see God’s masterful beauty and plan in the lilies of the field and the beat of the hummingbird’s wings, can you see the stroke of the Master’s hand and the drafting of His perfect plan through the trials, testings and even tragedies this life brings us? There are MANY things that happen to us during the course of our lives that we may not understand; the death of a loved one, a divorce or even loss of income or property. These times are VERY painful and there may even come times when you drop to your knees and cry out ‘WHY GOD???!!! WHY???!!! Where are you in my time of need?’ But even in these trying and troubled situations, Gods hand is at work! 1 Thessalonians 3:3 says this ‘…None of you should turn back because of these persecutions. You yourselves know that such persecutions are part of God’s will for us.’ And in 1 Peter 4:12-13, ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ And also in 1 Peter 1:6-7 ‘This means tremendous joy to you, even though at present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident--it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire.’ I believe that God also uses these times to prepare us for His use. God’s plan for each of us is perfect and perfectly planned down to the finest detail. Take the story of Chuck Colson for example. A former Nixon White House aide during the 1970’s Watergate scandal, he plead guilty to obstruction of justice and was sent to prison for a period of time. Shortly before he was sentenced, A man by the name of Tom Phillips pointed him to Christ and Chuck humbly cried out, "God, take me as I am.” During his incarceration, Chuck observed first hand the hopelessness and desperation his fellow convicts displayed. God started a work in Chuck the very day he stepped into prison and after his release, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries as a way to provide hope and real change into these men and their families. Who better to empathize with a prisoner then a fellow ex-convict? Who better to empathize with a grieving child than someone who has also lost a parent? These people, acutely aware of the pain and struggles one has to endure, can more readily identify with the individual and the love of Christ can pour out and through them into hearts of the people God brings into their lives.
Romans 5: 3-5 says: ‘but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’
Wow! Twice in 1 Peter and now in Romans, we are told not only to expect difficult trials, but we’re admonished to rejoice when they occur! How does that work? I mean, it’s one thing to read this and acknowledge what it says…it’s quite another to put it into practice. Believe me; I know…Does that mean you don’t have moments of weakness where you cry out to God? Or where you wonder why this is happening or why God doesn’t change the situation? NOT AT ALL! But it DOES matter where you turn to during these times. Do you turn to God and seek His peace, comfort and solace? Or do you turn to the world and let yourself become embittered and set yourself on a pathway to further pain and destruction? Ok, but practically, how do we do this? How can we rejoice in the face disaster, pain and loss? In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are told, ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ …look at it this way, every thought that enters our mind is processed. We take information, think about it, sort it and use it to formulate decisions and actions. As this information enters our minds, we need to take control of it immediately and hold it up to the truths and teachings of Christ and sometimes even make a seemingly innocent thought submit to God’s will (i.e. you might have the opportunity to make $10,000 more a year in a new job, the job itself isn’t bad or wrong, but if it isn’t God’s will then you have to submit to God’s will). To help us in this mental battle (yes, it IS a battle), Philippians 4:8 tells us, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with missing Lisa and the fact that we live 2 hours apart and only get to see each other on weekends. I’ve been focusing on the downside of things and by doing that, have been letting Satan steal the joy from the moments we do have together. I don’t want to do that anymore! I want to enjoy and hold dear every moment Lisa and I spend together and rejoice in the Lord that we are able to see each other as often as we do! Will I still wrestle with the loneliness and the need to see Lisa more? I’m sure of it! But, now instead of accepting a mopey attitude, I can hold those thoughts captive and focus on the lovely things, the admirable, pure and true things that God has done in my life. And so I’ve found that it’s very difficult to maintain any justification for my mopiness when I fill my thoughts with praises for my heavenly Father or when I contemplate the vast number of blessings He has lavished on my unworthy and at times, unthankful soul.
…Can you see Him in the details of your life?