When You Are Backed into a Corner

When my children were little I told them about a trap I built when I was a kid to catch rabbits. So to illustrate how it worked, I built a trap to show the kids how to catch a rabbit. First thing the next morning we checked the trap hoping to find a rabbit. But to our surprise, we didn’t snag a rabbit but a possum. The closer we got to the trap the more the cornered possum would hiss and show his sharp teeth. He was cornered and ready to attack.

How do your respond when you are backed into a corner?

I have often said, “When a person is backed into the corner they will either come out swinging or they will display the grace of God.” I think too often we display behavior and attitudes that are more like a carnal believer than like the Savior we follow. There is a thin line between properly defending yourself and displaying a quiet and calm spirit.

Speaking of responding with Grace, the late Roy Hession said it better than anyone I know. He said;
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us, is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.” (Calvary’s Road)

How we respond when pressed reveals our level of brokenness and maturity. All of us have occasional weak moments, but regularly challenging those who disrespect us is an indication that we may be walking in the flesh.

Living in a contemporary world that is constantly more hostile and intolerant of believers, our flesh is constantly challenged. The moment we say to the Lord, “I want to live for you, obey you and become all that you want me to be,” the Lord begins the work of breaking us. He allows circumstances to come our way that will reveal who and what we are trusting in, other than Him.

Peter is an example of the typical “on fire and committed’ believer. He very boldly declared that he was willing to go to the mat defending His Lord. But the Lord knew what was inside of him and knew that only failure and challenge would reveal Peter’s self-centeredness. He knew if Peter was going to be a successful apostle his dependence upon the flesh would have to be exposed.

The Death Process
It is called a death process. When Jesus declared that we must take up our cross and follow Him, He wasn’t speaking of us dying on the cross. He was referring to a spiritual death process that only the cross could produce. “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4:11)

It is only through various trials, failures, and sometimes suffering, that we experience the death process. These events and incidences are designed to show us our self-sufficiency and expose our hypocrisy. It’s a stripping from us all that we are holding onto for security and worth. Then we are given the privilege to surrender and abandon our own life and exchange it for Christ’s life and sufficiency.

Bottom Line
During every test and trial responding with Grace is our goal. When we respond with Grace we are acknowledging whatever is going on, it’s OK. God in control, and we choose with an act of our will to trust Him. But when we acknowledge that “every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us, is God’s way of breaking us”, then we will realize that God is at work in our life to “create a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ.”

The Shepherd Knows Our Voice

“But He who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:2-3)

When the Lord approaches us for fellowship or to specifically speak to our heart, we must be tuned to His voice and ready to respond to His invitation of fellowship. The above verse in John lists three key elements of how the Lord approaches His children.

He comes in through the door of our heart

He does not sneak in the window nor slide down the chimney like a thief, He comes through the door. The doorkeeper of our heart is the Holy Spirit. As we focus on knowing God and hearing His voice we can be sure that His call will be clear, concise and unmistakable. If we can’t be sure of the voice at the door, it probably isn’t Him calling. If you are fearful, then this probably isn’t God speaking. Our relationship with God is one of trust and willful obedience. The sheep willingly follow because they are dependent upon the Shepherd and they know His voice.

He comes to lead, not to demand

If you know much about leadership, you know that a good leader does not drive his workers to do their job through intimidation. A good leader leads by example, and has an interest in their personal development and success. Jesus knows all about us and takes a personal interest in each one of us. “He calls His sheep by name and leads them out”. He never leads by intimidation and fear, but gently goes before us and prepares our way. He wants us to be victorious.

His Leadership has a personal touch

Notice how intimately the Father knows the son, Jesus says, “I know My sheep, as the Father knows me. And My sheep know Me, as I know the Father.” That’s how intimately He knows you. Jesus’ approach to you is always personal, based on His unlimited knowledge about every aspect of your life. He knows your needs, your doubts, your fears, as well as your dreams and plans.

Bottom Line

Three lessons we can learn from this.

First, He intimately knows us, and even knows our deepest longings and desires. Bring those desires to Him and learn to wait until He speaks before making a decision. What we view as an uncomfortable situation, God may see as a test of our level of trust. Will we be like King Saul and take things into our own hands, or will be wait till we hear from Him?

Secondly, Jesus is personally involved in our life and He knows what is best. Like the Shepherd who watches over the sheep to protect them from predators, our Shepherd is watching over us. His reluctance to act in our time frame is His way of reminding us to trust Him with the timing. Since He knows our most intimate needs, we can trust Him with our life,

Thirdly, Jesus is at our hearts door waiting on us to open up and let Him fellowship with us. In other words, it’s our move to continually pursue His presence by keeping the door open.

You have probably seen the old painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. The door is symbolic of our hearts door. If you look closely at the painting you will notice that there isn’t a door knob on the outside of the door. The door can only be opened from the inside. This is because when Jesus is knocking, only we can open the door and invite Him in for fellowship.

Jesus is knocking at our hearts door. His invitation to us is to trust Him so much that we lay all of our dreams, plans and aspirations at His feet. He wants us to not only trust Him with our life, but to trust Him with all that we are and ever hope to be.

Be Still and I Will Part the Waters for You

“He your teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you. “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right of the left.” (Isaiah 30)

God still speaks to his children by the voice of the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through a “still small voice” and most often through the Scriptures. Sometimes a biblical passage will be the key to our deliverance. Whether it’s through the Scriptures or that still small voice, before we can hear His voice of direction, God requires something of us: We are to stand still and wait for Him to act.

Stand still and wait for Him to act. This is one of those principles that make easy preaching but difficult to implement. Somehow we think that our experience qualifies us to go ahead of God. Besides, God needs our help doesn’t He? I don’t think so. If we take the sum total of all our good days, it would not equal one of God’s moments of genius. God’s timing and method is always the best for our life.

Joshua was one of the few Israelites who were able to enter the promise land. As Joshua was leading the Israelites across the Jordan River God was saying to them, ‘When you get to the water, plant your feet in the water and just stand there. Be still, rest. Just wait for me to act and I will part the waters for you.’

The Hebrew word for “stand still” means to,“stop all activity, cease all striving”. I am sure some of the men must have said, “Let’s build a quick bridge. With the amount of workers we have we can have a functional bridge in a few days”. Some of the women must have said, “I can’t let my children stand in the water, they might catch cold. “

But in spite of all of the suggestions, and the grumbling, Joshua led the people to obedience and they waited on God, did just as God told them, and the waters departed and they crossed over on dry land.

The problem isn’t that God is not speaking, but the problem is that we are not being still long enough to hear His voice. In other words, we lack the patience to wait, and lack the faith that God will answer.

What is God saying to us through this passage? Stop all activity, cease all striving. Be still, rest…just wait for me to act and I will part the waters for you!

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Waiting on God

I think one of the most difficult areas for Christians to grasp is learning to wait on God. In our world of “instant everything”, waiting on God doesn’t fit into our culture and lifestyle. When we are waiting on God to answer our prayer our attitude is often, “Oh God, give me patience, hurry up, right now.”

In some ways, I feel a great sense of inadequacy writing about waiting on God. Much of my Christian walk has exhibited a life of impatience. There have been times when waiting just wasn’t an option because I needed an answer or solution now. I now realize that most of the situations were not that urgent, it was my impatience that was being exposed.

But as I have grown older, and I hope a bit wiser, I am realizing the advantages of learning to wait on God. I think you will agree that instant gratification is not always the best thing for us. Listed below are 3 things I have learned about the importance of learning to wait on God.

1. Learning to wait on God causes us to reevaluate our prayer. How many times during the process of praying through a matter, have you changed how you’ve prayed? Often, my prayer at the beginning of the process was much different than the prayer when God answered. During my journey of praying and waiting the Holy Spirit refined my request and was able to give me the heart of God in the matter. By waiting on the Lord he had refined my prayer to line up with what he wanted to do. Prayer is not about thinking up something to pray, but prayer is getting to the point where we agree with God about what he wants to do in the matter.

2. Learning to wait allows us to realize God’s timing. One of the basic tenets of our faith is that God’s timing is always the best time. God has the ability to do multiple things just from one answered prayer. By waiting on his timing others could be eternally affected by an answered prayer at the right moment.

A great example of this principle is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Lazarus’s sisters wanted Jesus to come immediately and pray for Lazarus so he wouldn’t die. It was an urgent need that meant death if he wasn’t healed.

But Jesus had a far reaching and even greater miracle in mind. By waiting Jesus did something even more sensational. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for several days. The whole town knew Lazarus had died and many had observed and witnessed his burial. Now the town was buzzing about Lazarus being raised from the dead. Jesus had received greater glory because at just the right time his sister‘s prayer were answered. (John 11)

3. Learning to wait strengthens our faith. When doubting Thomas saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and the wound in his side, he quickly declared, “I believe.” But then Jesus responded with an important principle. Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me you have believed? Blessed are those did not see, yet believed.”(John 20:29)

Great faith is measured by believing God even though we see no physical evidence of answered prayer. It’s to believe that God will answer in his time and in his way. When we wait on God and he answers prayer our faith is strengthened and we can now believe him for greater things.

Waiting on God to answer a prayer or “come through for you” is sometimes very difficult. If we don’t have the right attitude toward “waiting” we create an atmosphere of doubt, fear and despair.

I am reminded of the story of Peter denying the Lord. After he had denied Jesus three times and the rooster crowed, Jesus looked over at Peter and looked into his eyes and into his heart. The scripture tells us that “Peter then wept bitterly.” That means that Peter was pierced to the heart with shame and conviction with one look into Jesus’ eyes. I don’t think it was a look of judgment, but it was a look of unconditional love. It was the love in Jesus’ eyes that brought brokenness and conviction to Peter.

I guess because of Peter’s story, I have this image in my mind that the moment I step into the portals of heaven the first thing I will see is the face of Jesus. I will look into his eyes and I will be overwhelmed with his love for me. A peace like I have never experienced will come over me and I will have the confidence that I am now finally home.

To me, learning to wait is taking the opportunity to spiritually look into his eyes, sense his overwhelming love, and then to have the assurance that he is working out all things for our good and his glory as we are learning to wait on Him.

“And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to [his] purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)

Christ is Enough

Learning about your “Identity in Christ” is probably the single greatest discovery of a true follower of Christ. That’s because many believers wander through the Christian life like the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness.

They instinctively know that God has a plan for their life but they just can’t seem to put that puzzle together. Questions like, “What does the normal Christian life look like?” Or, “What am I supposed to do for God?” dominate their thinking.

I think most Christians believe that if they could just discover what God wants them to do, then they would have the key to the Christian life. After all, isn’t that what the Christian life is all about, doing things for God?

The Christian life is not about what we can do for God, but allowing Christ to live His life through us. He is the giver of divine life and we are the receiver of that life. Our journey is not one long test trying to measure up, but it’s all about rest – resting in Christ as enough.

God never meant for us to try to measure up to some imaginary standard of performance. His intention is to place a divine nature within us that becomes our very life. That divine life is Christ’s life. We become one with Him (John 17)

The moment we are saved we take on a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). We become someone we have never been before. We are a new creation. Our righteousness is not something we obtain by good works, but it is imputed or given to us by God. So we could never do enough good works to earn God’s favor.

Therefore, God does not want us to “figure out what He wants us to do”, but rather He wants us to focus on the person of Christ, and in doing so allow Christ’s life to flow out through us.

God has provided everything we need to serve Him and bear spiritual fruit. (Col. 2) As we rest in Christ, and abide in Him, the will of God will automatically be done in our life. You can do more for God by resting in Him as enough, than you could ever do in a lifetime of striving to measure up to some religious standard.

The normal Christian life is acknowledging that “apart from Him I can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is totally and completely depending on Him to show you what, when and where. You don’t have to “help God out”.

Place your trust in the living Christ within you. Turn every area of your life over to Him and allow Him to lead you every step of the way. Be patient and wait on God. He has not forgotten you, forsaken you, nor is He neglecting you. He is always on time. When God speaks, you will know it, and so will those around you.

This reminds me of a song I that I use to sing as a child. I bet you know the song also.

Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows.
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

Created for a Purpose

Within God’s economy, man is destined for God’s best. God’s intention is to call man to Himself, to place him into the family of God, and then to use man for His own purposes. In other words, we are saved for a divine purpose.

Notice this calling in 2 Timothy 1:9;
“…according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

In other words, God is not concerned with what you can do for Him. It’s not about our talents and abilities. He doesn’t need us to accomplish His work. All God asks of us is “to surrender our bodies a living sacrifice.” (Romans 12:1) God’s desire is for us to rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and then surrender our life to Him to use as He sees fit.

In the secular world, the call is to dream big dreams and go after the gold. But in God’s economy of things, God says die to self and allow God to use you as a conduit of His power and grace. We can do more in one moment of allowing Him to work through us, than many years of working and striving in our own strength.

The Scripture says, “Be still and know I am God.” This is an admonition from the Lord that is encouraging us to lay aside our agenda, stop and wait to hear His voice, and then do what He tells us to do. If God is not speaking, then were probably not listening intentionally.

God’s plan and purpose for you is realized by applying the following.

1. Admitting that you have no plans but His plans. (Jeremiah 29:11)
2. Acknowledging your inadequacy and inability to do it on your own. (John 14:26)
3. Proclaiming apart from Him you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
4. Apply intentional listening – be still and wait on God to speak (Isaiah 40:31)
5. Depending on God to “do it all for you.” (John 16:13-14)

God created and designed you for a purpose. His purpose for you is designed around your unique personality, people skills and personality. When we surrender our life, abandon our dreams and plans to Him, He fills us with His life, and just by walking in Christ, the will of God is automatically done and His purpose for us is realized.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)

Waiting on God

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He cut off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly soon emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man expected that the wings would enlarge and expand to support the body, which would contract in time, but neither happened. Instead the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never flew. In his kindness and haste the man didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon was God’s way of forcing fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings, so that it could fly once free from the cocoon.

Sometimes our struggles are exactly what we need. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong and we could never fly! With our flesh we fight life’s struggles. We are impatient during the learning curves. We fail to understand that our obstacles are the very thing that allows us to soar. Jesus said, “If you reign with me you will suffer with me”. The context of this verse has to do with becoming a true disciple. That means suffering, by way of life’s struggles, is necessary to be called a legitimate disciple of Jesus Christ.

I like to refer to our daily struggles as God’s way of bringing a little brokenness. Sometimes that means a sense of “momentarily being out of control.” Being out of control gives us a feeling of having no place to turn but God. That’s exactly where God wants us to be – acting on our faith and trust in Him. Besides, even if the struggle and discomfort is a direct attack from the enemy, God always means it for good.

Joseph had the proper perspective when he explained to his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” So next time you get in a jam – don’t try to exit from the cocoon too soon, more struggle may be necessary. Wait on God’s natural timing so you can fly.

“Consider it all joy, my brother, when you encounter various trials, know that the testing’s of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)