Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: discouraged

Still searching for comfort

Last week I wrote about finding comfort in God.  It sounds “spiritual”.  It sounds “Christian-y”.  But is it possible?  In this up-side-down, hyper-political, messed up world we live in – life can feel overwhelming, even too big for God to step in and fix.  Every day, we get more than our fill of discouraging news from around the world.

It’s not only us modern-day believers who look at the state of the world and struggle with God’s apparent…(dare we say it out loud?) ...absence?  …lack of involvement?  …delay of justice?

We saw last week that Paul counseled the Corinthian believers regarding God’s involvement in their afflictions.  But we can go further back and still see similar questions being asked of God.  When the psalmist who wrote Psalm 94 looked around at the state of the world and how his fellow Israelites were treated, he had this to say:

Psalm 94:3-7
Lord, how long will the wicked – how long will the wicked celebrate?
They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
Lord, they crush your people; they oppress your heritage.
They kill the widow and the resident alien and murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord doesn’t see it.  The God of Jacob doesn’t pay attention.”

What he sees seems a lot like what we see – wickedness and arrogance ruled the day.  People selfishly acting as if God doesn’t notice or doesn’t exist.  Although he doesn’t see an immediate end to the state of affairs, the psalmist knows where to find some measure of relief…and he still believes, that at some future point, God will come through for Israel:

Psalm 94:12-15
Lord, how happy is anyone you discipline and teach from your law
to give him relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked.
The Lord will not leave his people or abandon his heritage,
for the administration of justice will again be righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

And while looking forward to a God-fixed future can provide some measure of hope, he didn’t end the psalm there.  The next part of the psalm is what caught my attention:

Psalm 94:16
Who stands up for me against the wicked?
Who takes a stand for me against evildoers?

The emphasis is personal now – Who stands up for me…Who takes a stand for me?  The psalmist knows that rescue and justice and right-ness are all coming at some point, but what about me: right-here, right-now, in all the mess I’m living with?

He continues:

Psalm 94:17-19
If the Lord had not been my helper, I would soon rest in the silence of death.
If I say, “My foot is slipping,” your faithful love will support me, Lord.
When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.

Earlier, the psalmist acknowledged that God’s discipline and teaching from the law gave him relief from troubled times.  Now, the psalmist affirms that if not for the Lord’s help, he would be overcome by the wicked and evil present around him.

Lastly, we can all identify with the feeling of being filled with cares.  We even have phrases to describe this – When it rains, it pours | Bad things come in threes | That was the straw the broke the camel’s back.  But the psalmist has shown us that it is the culmination of God’s discipline, teaching from the Scripture, and trustworthy help that brings us supernatural comfort and joy.

God will fix it all in the future, but He hasn’t abandoned us.  He hasn’t left us to go at it on our own until the time He finally brings justice to the world.  His comfort is here for us now.

Keep Pressing,

Trusting enough

Turn on a news broadcast or read through the headlines on any webpage, and it’s easy to get discouraged about the direction the world is heading in.  Despite humanity’s best efforts and good intentions, we continue to slide down the slope toward self-destruction. 

I am reminded of Jesus’ last words in the Bible, where He says

Revelation 22:20
“Yes, I am coming quickly.”

And I think how quickly is quickly?  How bad does it have to get?  How many more atrocities will God allow us to inflict on one another before He steps in and says “ENOUGH”?  How much more opposition will we have to deal with until God finally rescues us?

Despite warning Timothy about the difficulties, and instructing him on how to deal with them, Paul didn’t want Timothy to totally focus on how hard his task was or how long it would last.

1 Timothy 6:13-14
In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time. 

Timothy’s “mission completed” point isn’t when he thinks Christ should be coming back, instead it is when God the Father decides…which [He] will bring about in His own time

And why could Timothy trust God’s timing?  Ephesus wasn’t an easy place, it was a melting pot of sinful cultures.  There were popular views about God that were completely false.  There were people in charge that didn’t even acknowledge God.  And there was plenty of opposition to Timothy defending the true gospel message.  I’m sure there were times when he would have thought “Ok, God…You can send Jesus back anytime time now…”

In the next sentence, Paul reminds Timothy of who God is.  Do you think this resume supports God sending Jesus back in His own time?

1 Timothy 6:15-16
He is
the blessed and only Sovereign,
the King of kings,
and the Lord of lords,
the only One who has immortality,
dwelling in unapproachable light,
whom none of mankind has seen or can see,
to whom be honor and eternal might.

In addition to remembering our good confession, the way Timothy would keep going with his mission was to remember who gave him his marching orders. 

Since God gives life to all, do I trust Him with what He says I should do with my life?  When I read through the God’s resume in verses 15-16, do those attributes convince me that God also knows what He’s doing when it comes to the timing of Christ’s return?

Instead of wondering “How much longer?”, our question should be “How can I trust Him today?”.

Keep Pressing,

Practical application: parenting

In Colossians 3:18-19, Paul pointed out the oh-so-practical place to practice living like Christ – in our relationship with our spouse.  His next connection stays within the immediate family and is just as practical.

Colossians 3:20-21
Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.

As parents, we love this first sentence.  We secretly relish when the preacher or our kid’s group leader brings up teaching like this.  They need to hear this, we congratulate ourselves.  Maybe if they keep hearing from other adults, they’ll do it more at home.  Wouldn’t that be nice…

Paul gives the Colossian Christian children this command – obey your parents in everything – because it’s something they need to learn.  Let’s camp out on that thought for a moment…obedience is something that children need to learn.  They’re not going to get it right away.  Their entire focus is on their own needs, and not the needs of others.  Obedience is like any other skill we develop as we grow and mature…it’s going to take time, it’s going to take practice, and there are going to be failures along the way.

How we handle our children’s failures will heavily influence them…in their childhood for sure, but our actions will also echo throughout the rest of their lives.  We know this because we still feel the echoes from our own upbringing, but for some reason we tend to forget that reality the moment we’re dealing the shortcomings of our own kids.

More than any person in a child’s life, we fathers have the greatest influence in this area.  Apologies to all the moms out there, but we just do.  And the impact we fathers have on our child’s perspective is even greater than we realize.  Paul warns against discouraging our children, and the word he chose relates to feeling disheartened, dispirited, or broken in spirit.  A father’s reaction to his son or daughter’s failure is truly a make-or-break moment.

Paul says we push our children toward discouragement if we exasperate them.  When we push them to their whit’s end because of our insistence on “getting it right”, or when we bring them to angry tears just to make sure they understand and “get it” – whenever we take our authority too far, we run the risk of exasperating them. 

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of doing just that to my children many times over the years.  It typically happens when I’m rigidly demanding more than my son can give…and he cannot meet the standard I’ve set for him.  If my expectation was too high for his skill level, then he is doomed to failure even before he begun.  Instead of recognizing I set the bar to high, at times I’ve even doubled back and berated them for missing the mark.  I know when I’ve gone too far, too – I can see it in their eyes as they stare at the floor, their shoulders sink in despair, and their posture communicates that they’ve completely given up.

A child of any age can become exasperated and discouraged, but it is especially easy when they are young.  This doesn’t mean we don’t confront error or that we should only give easy challenges to our children; rather we need to actively match our expectations with our children’s abilities, and then be willing to be both gentle and firm as we lovingly deal with their failures.  Men, our ability to guard against this damaging practice is for us to apply the Christ-driven characteristics that Paul listed in the preceding context of 3:12-17

…put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…
…forgive one another…just as the Lord has forgiven you…
…above all, put on love…
…be thankful…
…let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you…
…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

Our children’s hearts and maturity depend on it.

Keep Pressing,

Unfulfilled promises (part 2)

After being asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus informed His disciples that life would go on for some time before days of the Son of Man would arrive.  He used several examples of what life would be like in the meantime, with an emphasis on the suddenness of the Son of Man’s arrival:

Luke 17:26-30 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man: people went on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah boarded the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

It will be the same as it was in the days of Lot: people went on eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building.  But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be like that on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

The Jews were anticipating the Kingdom of God within their lifetime.  Jesus knew that this new information would be disappointing for his disciples to hear.

Luke 18:1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged.

After telling the disciples the parable, Jesus concluded with a couple of questions:

Luke 18:7-8 “Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He delay to help them?  I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. 

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

When Jesus returns, will He find those that are expectantly praying and living in preparation for His arrival?  Since Jesus pointed out that His return will come suddenly, are we preparing ourselves for the possibility that our generation will be the one He returns to?

Our instructions for preparation are the same that Jesus gave to His disciples – that no matter how normal, mundane, or disheartening the circumstances around us become, we need to pray always and not become discouraged.  God will follow through on His promises…but do our choices show that we believe Him when He says that Christ will return?

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?

Keep Pressing,

Unfulfilled promises (part 1)

Since Jesus was constantly teaching about the kingdom of God, people in his audience were naturally curious as to when the kingdom was going to be established.

Luke 17:20-21 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God will come, He answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’  For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Jesus then turned to his disciples to give them additional details, but he did not specifically give a start date for the kingdom.  Instead, Jesus told them that life would go on for a while, and when everything seemed to be ‘normal’ for quite some time, then the kingdom would arrive.

This answer would have both disappointed and discouraged His disciples.  The Jews were looking forward to a Messiah that would liberate them from Roman rule and immediately setup the long-awaiting kingdom of God.  Continued waiting or an apparent delay to the kingdom was not what they were looking for.  Recognizing this, Jesus continued:

Luke 18:1-8 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged:

“There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect man.  And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming’”

Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He delay to help them?  I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. 

Typical modern-day teaching from this parable tends to focus on the persistence of the widow and then uses her badgering as evidence that we should likewise wear God out with our requests.  However, that aspect of the story is not Jesus’ focal point.

The main idea of the parable is given in verse 1:

Luke 18:1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged

So, what discouragement does Jesus want them to avoid?

Within the parable, we see that the widow is seeking justice from her adversary – just like the nation of Israel was seeking justice and relief from their Roman oppressors.  The Old Testament was full of prophecies where God tells Israel that they will one day shake off their oppressors and the kingdom of God would be established; however, those predictions had not yet come true.

This type of parable uses a lesser-to-greater argument.  Jesus’ point is this – if the lesser, unjust judge gives justice to those who ask, how much more reliable will the greater, just God in heaven be to give the justice that He promised?

With this parable, Jesus is encouraging His disciples to continue to seek God in prayer and to continue to expect that He will fulfill His promise of justice for the nation.  Even when their circumstances seem to indicate that God has forgotten them – Jesus is reminding them that all God’s prophecies are reliable, and that they should not give up talking to God about any of His promises.

That’s something we can rely on as well.

Keep Pressing,