This lesson is geared for Christians who live in the Western world. There would be major changes if it were geared toward those who face persecution even to possible life or death situations. That said . . .
When it comes to all the "stuff" going on in our country plus your own personal challenges, have you ever felt like you were stuck? Trudging through sludge up to your knees? Tired of being tired?
Welcome to the club. As Christians trusting in the promises of God, sometimes it can be hard to actually believe that the "sweet by-and-by" can or could come into what I often call the "nasty now-and-now." Some days, when we hear or read one more bad report, one more tragedy, we cry out like Habakkuk, "How long?" and "Why?" (Habakkuk 1:2,3, 13, 14). Does God really answer such questions?
Of course He does. You already know that. So the real question is, "When?" When are we going to understand? OK, OK, eventually. In the "sweet by-and-by." We know that too. So, how do we handle all the unknowing we're surrounded by?
Once again, as always, we search the scriptures for help. Here are a few that have helped me. Hopefully, they will give you comfort also - as well as a game plan for handling it all.
Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest (calm) from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. But judgment will return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it (Psalm 94:12-15).
LESSON: Be teachable. Instruction from the Lord will produce calmness and rest.
The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Though hail comes down on the forest, and the city is brought low in humiliation. Blessed are you who sow beside ALL waters, who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey (Isaiah 32:17-20).
LESSON: In context, calamity is all around. Yet these verses tell us to keep doing works of righteousness, sowing the seed (of God's love) no matter what the situation. In other words, don't let another person's words or actions keep you from doing what God has given you to do.
Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly. He who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from seeing evil. He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure (Isaiah 33:14b-16).
LESSON: We need to watch what we watch and censor what we hear. As we do so, we must not only keep doing works of righteousness, but we must have nothing to do with any kind of trickery, bribery or lies. This doesn't mean we should stick our heads in the sand. We need to know what's going on. But we need to make sure we listen to truth. We must speak honestly and walk what we talk.
I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32). Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15).
LESSON: Faith is confidence and can be lost; trust is commitment and can't be lost. Make your commitment to the Lord and pray for your faith to not fail even as Jesus prayed for Peter.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. (Proverbs 14:8).
LESSON: When you find yourself doing something or saying something that you know is wrong, ask God to show you why you did or said that. Be willing to let Holy Spirit reveal the wickedness in your heart. What it is and how it got there. Only when we do this can we repent of specific sins, receive forgiveness and be cleansed of our wickedness as 1 John 1:9 tells us to do. General confession doesn't produce the deep cleansing that we need. We must truly understand our way. Pride tells us we're OK or that we're justified or that we don't need to know the specifics. But according to scripture, such thinking is folly, foolish and deceitful. God knows us better than we know ourselves and He says the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?(Jeremiah17:9). Most of us agree, deep down, with a little girl who was in one of my Good News classes. I was explaining what sin is. In the process, I quoted Jeremiah 17:9. From the front row, she rose up and exclaimed, "We're not that bad!" But we are. The honest person agrees with what the Bible says, not what we want to believe.
Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people - the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it. (Jeremiah 6:19) . . . Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45).
LESSON: Pay attention to what you allow yourself to think. All evil begins in the heart and grows from there. The obvious solution is to discipline our thought life. How to clean up our thoughts is the same as given above for how to understand our way. For the past 25-30 years, this has been called "Inner Healing." It is not traditional counseling; it is going deeper into the depths of the soul. If you're not familiar with inner healing, talk to someone who can direct you in the various ways you can find the roots of your evil thoughts. There are many techniques for getting to roots but make sure that all such techniques line up with scripture.
This point is so critical for each of us individually because of what is going on in our nation today. The anger in our country is palpable. We Christians are prone to anger as well. And when the devil stirs up the hate-inspired rhetoric, it is easy to respond in kind. But that's not what we're supposed to do. The way of the cross is not milk toast. The way of the cross is incredible inner strength based on who we are and whose we are. We've gotta know that or we'll just spout off what the media (whether right or left) says with the same kind of arrogant attitude. We can't afford to do this as it's incredibly costly. Besides, we'll never fix our country if we can't - or won't - fix ourselves.
We all need encouragement and help from time to time. After all, the muck we sometimes - or often - wade through is real. It is not in our imagination. Begin with these steps; do the hard work of following these scriptures and you will find yourself being able to JOYFULLY keep on keeping on.