the future revealed?


 

 

Have you ever asked God to reveal His will to you?  How about your future?  “God, please tell me where I’m supposed to go!  I want to do Your will, but I need to know what that is!”  I have.  I’ve asked God what He wants me to do, with the purest intentions.  I want to know so that I can serve Him best.

But I’ve come to realize that there’s a fine line between knowing the future and knowing God’s will for me.  A lot of the time, we lump them together as one and the same.  My future may be God’s will, yes, but maybe God will tell me one and not the other.  He may reveal to me what my future is supposed to be, or His will, but maybe not both.

When it comes to the future, God does not tell us in advance what His plans are.  He asks that we trust Him regardless.

In his famous devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers said:

Have you been asking God what He is going to do?  He will never tell you.  God does not tell you what He is going to do—He reveals to you who He is.  Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you “go out” in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

That is what I mean by “future” and “God’s will.”  By knowing God, we can often get a clearer picture of what His will is.  For example, it might be God’s will for you to grow in your faith a certain way within the next year, but God won’t tell you exactly how He is going to do that (the future).

I began reading the book of Colossians the other night and I was scanning quickly through Paul’s introduction to the Colossians (they seem to be the same in every book).  But I slowed myself down, reminding myself it was the Word of God.  When I reached verses nine and ten, I was a bit confused.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing good fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

(Colossians 1:9 – 10)

It was the second part of verse nine that really caught my attention.  I had just read the devotional that the above excerpt comes from (January 2) and this verse seemed to completely contradict it!  “…filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”  I realized I must be missing something and asked a few questions and prayed.  Does this mean knowing what God is going to do?  Paul mentioned “the knowledge of his will,” but I also know that God doesn’t just tell us the future.  “…in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” I also noticed that Paul said “the knowledge,” not, “a knowledge.”  I’m not trying to nit-pick here, but aren’t there many futures?  I finally journaled this conclusion:

I think Paul is saying that it’s more knowing God and being wise and understanding Him.  Not necessarily the future, but His will.  Not what will happen to us, but what God wants in us.  Then we will do His will if we know Him.

Verse ten says:

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

We can see from this verse that God’s will for us is for us to walk with and in Him, and to bear “good fruit” through good deeds (needed for faith and vice versa). We need to increase in the knowledge of God and, by doing so, we will know His will—maybe not the future, but His will—more and more.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

(Philippians 1:6)

 If you want to know God’s will better, get to know God better.

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but to simply wait


I’m sure you’ve heard that God doesn’t work by our time schedule, but by His.  We’ve been told this for years, ever since we can remember by parents, leaders, pastors, friends.  It’s true.  God works by His perfect, infallible timing.  He knows better than we do and He comes through every time.  There are countless testimonies and Bible verses affirming this.

But what about when you’re waiting?  Not when you’re panicking about if something will happen in time, but when God seems to be on hold; when it seems like He’s taking a break.  When the God-to-you line appears disconnected no matter how much praying you do.  What then?  You were so certain you’d see good results, but you don’t.  Actually, any results would be good, but there simply aren’t any.

It’s during these seasons of waiting that God teaches us.  God teaches us and strengthens our faith through trials, yes, but also through those times when nothing seems to be happening.  Will I still put my trust in Him when He seems to be gone?

When we get impatient waiting for God to act, it’s a good reminder to “be still and know that [he is] God.”  Too often we try to fix things ourselves or get impatient and try to speed up the results.  But everything will work perfectly in His timing for our betterment—even if it doesn’t seem like it.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

(Psalm 27:14)

In those times of waiting, we are commanded to simply wait for God.  Our job is to trust Him and He will be faithful.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?  Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:27 – 31)

God is there, whether we can see Him or not.  He will never leave us or forget about us.  If we trust Him, He will always be with us and will work all things together for us because we love Him.

Will you trust Him now, even as you’re waiting?

enough


All of You is more than enough

For all of me, for every thirst and every need

You satisfy me with Your love and all I have in You

Is more than enough.

(Enough, Chris Tomlin)

 

Have you ever tried to survive by just drinking water?  You can have as much water as you want, but you can only have water.  Nothing else—no food or other drinks.  Just water.  Or have you tried to survive by living off of only one specific food?  Like only bread, or only rice?  Probably not, unless you’re doing a 30-hour famine.  We know that it’s nearly impossible to eat or drink only one thing and be healthy.  The human body needs a variety of nutrients in order to be healthy.

The same is true for our souls.  Have you been trying to live off of only one aspect of God?  Maybe you’ve only accepted the part of God that forgives.  Maybe you only accept God if you forget about the side of Him that says to honor Him in everything you do—not just Sundays and youth group.  Or maybe you are okay with God in everything except loving your enemies.

But the truth is that we need all of God to be spiritually healthy.  True, some things about God don’t look appealing at first glance; such as we need to actively serve Him otherwise we aren’t truly following Him.  Or that we need to have faith when everything is falling apart and God seems to be nowhere close because He is faithful even when we can’t see Him.  Or those who are “good people” but haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour won’t receive the eternal reward.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(2 Corinthians 12:9a)

God says that His grace is sufficient for us.  It’s enough for us to live our spiritual lives off of.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

(Romans 3:23 – 24)

We are all justified by the grace of God.  We are made whole through Him.  If we accept all of God, He will accept all of us, just as we are.  It’s not enough to just accept a part of God.  It’s all or nothing:

 I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

(Revelation 3:15 – 16)

God requires the whole of us and He requires that we put our faith in all of Him, not just the areas that suit our needs.  He is enough for us.  Is that true in your life?

like a roaring lion


All the time, we hear about specific afflictions the Church is suffering in second- and third-world countries: persecution. We hear about many countries where Christianity is illegal, and for those who dare to practice it anyway, the consequence is imprisonment, torture, or death. We as the Church in North America do not know these struggles through experience, but we pray for the persecuted church, that they will be strengthened; that they will not turn away from Christ or be tempted; that Satan will not win in his efforts to impose countless hardships, destroying the Church.

This is all well and good. We should pray for our suffering Christian brothers and sisters:

Remember those in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

– Hebrews 13:3 (ESV)

But have you ever considered yourself not safe from persecution? Probably not. Why would you? It is almost impossible for us to be tortured because we declare Jesus Christ to be our Lord, since we live in democratic countries which have laws enforcing freedom of religion.

But that does not make us safe from our common enemy, Satan.

In not-so-far-off countries, Satan has found the perfect thing to make war against the Church with: persecution. In North America, he cannot implement this tool easily; but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to destroy us at all. So what does he do?

Just look around you. Everywhere you see things advertised: the latest iPhone, tablet, or Xbox game. The newest clothes, vehicles, makeup. Addictions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography — it’s all available to anyone who wants it. The industry of North America literally feeds off of our human selfishness and addictions. Not that buying things (in moderation) is bad, but it is a tool Satan uses against us.

Jesus himself said,

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

– Mark 10:25 (ESV)

Now, I’m not saying (and neither was Jesus, if you look up this verse and read the next few with it) that rich people have no chance of getting to heaven. I’m simply saying that selfishness is a big issue for Christians (and anyone). Satan is aware of this and uses it against us at any chance he gets.

Satan finds each of our weakest points then appeals to our sinful human nature to trap us in sin. Although we may have all of our physical needs met exceedingly, we may face some of the greatest temptations because we have so much.

Physical blessings can really be a curse because it opens up the door to greed and selfishness.

Selfishness is a major sin that a lot of people overlook because it isn’t really visible in the sense of, “Oh, he swore. He sinned” or “Oh, he stole. He sinned.” It’s more of a sin that causes other sins (example: selfishness caused him to steal, since he wanted that thing so badly). Selfishness can drive us to commit other sins.

But this problem isn’t only in the world; it’s also in Christians. And it’s mainly Christians that Satan targets.

2 Timothy 3:2 – 5 (ESV) says this:

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

What does Paul mean by “denying its power”? The power of God is evident in our changed lives as Christians. We are set apart by and for God, and when walking with Him, we will be different than the world. The power of God is the power to change us and make us holy through Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed and took our sins away. The appearance of godliness is in going to church, for example; but if you don’t live like a Christian in every aspect of your life (not just Sunday morning), you’re denying the power of God because your life does not give testimony to it.

Essentially, Satan uses ourselves against us. He appeals to our naturally-selfish nature, easily convincing us to live for ourselves. And I’ve quickly learned that it’s always a struggle to deny one’s self. It is not easy. It requires constant prayer and it is impossible without the power of God. We cannot change ourselves and trying to do so only results in failure — something Satan wants us to feel. This is also becoming more and more clear to me. If Satan can convince us that we will never be able to live the perfect Christian life, then he’s won because we will give up and turn away from God.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

– 1 Peter 5:8 – 9 (ESV)

We know that Satan is always looking for our weaknesses and trying to turn us away from God, but what do we do about it? We are told on several different occasions to stand firm in our faith. When Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil, He fought with Scripture.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (…) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

– James 4:7 – 8, 10 (ESV)

God promises that if we flee to Him, Satan will leave us. Without God, we’d be toast.

There will always be times when we fail. I do every day. But God forgives and welcomes us back with open arms — if we seek Him.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

– Psalm 144:1 – 2 (ESV)

God is our shield; in Him is the strength that the devil will never overcome.

real missions


What is the point of missions? To help others as Christ commanded, yes. To bring others to Christ by showing his love to others, yes. But while we as teenagers go to school and part-time jobs knowing that we don’t have the power to end world poverty all at once, we forget something very important: our mission field.

Helping the impoverished living overseas is very important, and as teenagers we have many opportunities to do so — Operation Christmas Child, as an example. Countless foundations to contribute to, such as Compassion and Gospel for Asia. Youth missions trips all over the world. It’s important to be Christ’s light to the world and to go to “all nations” sharing God’s love for us.

But too often, we define “missions” solely as assisting the impoverished in second- and third-world countries, or even those on the streets of Toronto. And that is missions. But while offering financial assistance is important, it’s not as important as sharing the gospel of Christ. Unfortunately, not everyone will have the opportunity to travel overseas contributing to building or financial projects. But too often we stop there. We know we aren’t able to go abroad, so we give as much as we can from home, helping these foundations to further their causes.

And that’s great. We should all give to others selflessly. Christ, in fact, commands us to do so. But I’m talking about our mission field. The mission field that seems especially reserved for us as teenagers and that we encounter every day: school. Part-time jobs. Sports and other extra-curricular activities. There are so many different opportunities for us to witness to others.

I’m sure you’ve been told that before: “Witness to others!” But that’s an intimidating word to hear. Most of us mildly freak out when our youth pastor tells us to “witness” to all of our friends (or non-friends). Some of us just brush it off as a non-option. Or we do both:

Witness?! I’m not going to whip out a bible at lunch tomorrow and start telling my friends they’re going to hell unless they repent of sins they don’t even know that they have! No…I would definitely be bullied…and God wouldn’t want that, so…they’ll just see how nice I am, wonder why I’m so nice, and ask to come to youth group! That’s one problem solved.

It seems a little weird, but a lot of the time, that’s how we think whether we realized it or not. Witnessing is a scary thing, especially in a world that is so secularism-oriented. And with a lot of people not even remotely interested in a saving grace, it is incredibly difficult to witness to others.

As someone once said, “Preach the gospel always — and if necessary, use words.” This is a good reminder that “witnessing” doesn’t mean preaching to your friends at every turn. Actions really do speak louder than words. You may be the only Bible your friends ever see.

So how, exactly, do we go about this “silent witnessing”? I mean, be good, yes — but specifically, what should we do? Romans 12:9 – 21 gives a detailed list of “Marks of the True Christian”:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is a wonderful passage to turn to whenever we don’t know how to react to a situation. I have turned to it many times because it’s kind of like a Christian basic behavior 101.

My point is that most people see how you act or react to something first. And a lot of the time, people say one thing then do another. It seems that a person’s word isn’t of much worth any more; most people will be impressed by your actions way before they’ll be impressed by your words.

I want to challenge you to focus on being Christ to everyone you meet — not talking about Christ. If the opportunity arises for you to share your faith, by all means do so! But let your focus be on being a Christian, not persuading others to become a Christian. Trust me; people do notice.

fear not


Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” … I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 

(Isaiah 41:10 – 14)