If Faith Can Change Me, Why Isn’t It Working?
Trusting Christ But Experiencing No Change
There are times we think we are trusting Christ, but we don’t experience any change — our hearts stay fearful, we continue gossiping, or we are still angry.
So why is there no change?
It’s probably because we are not really trusting Christ.
Not Trusting Christ — to Satisfy Us
We might think we are trusting Him. And maybe we are trusting Him for forgiveness, or trusting that He exists.
But if we are not experiencing any change, it’s probably because we are not trusting Christ to satisfy us. And if we are honest, and search our hearts, we will discover that we are trusting something besides Christ to satisfy us.
Take gossip, for example. When I gossip it’s because I’m trusting the pleasures of gossip to satisfy me more than I’m trusting Christ to satisfy me.
So I can try not to gossip, and pray that I would not gossip, and quote verses about gossip. But nothing will change until I turn from trusting gossip to satisfy me, and trust Christ to satisfy me.
Because as I do that, the Spirit will enable me to feel that Jesus is my all-satisfying Treasure — and I will stop trusting gossip to satisfy me.
That’s when I will stop gossiping.
Or take worry about investments. When I’m worried about investments, it’s because I’m trusting profitable investments to secure and satisfy me more than Christ.
So I can try not to worry, and pray for God to give me peace, and read Scriptures about peace. But nothing will change until I turn from trusting investments to satisfy me, and trust Jesus to satisfy me.
Because as I do that, the Spirit will help me feel that Jesus is my all-satisfying Treasure and that He will provide everything I need.
That should not make me foolish in investing. But it will free me from worry.
It’s just like when I used to pull weeds as a kid.
The only way to get rid of a weed, is to pull it up by the roots. And the only way to get rid of gossip, or any other sin, is to pull it up by the roots.
The root is my trust in something besides Christ to satisfy me. I need to turn from whatever else I am trusting to satisfy me, and trust Christ alone to satisfy me.
But It’s Hard
But the moment we try to do that, we find that it’s hard. Very hard.
The problem is that sin has blinded us to the all-satisfying glory of Jesus, so all we see is the glory of gossip, or investments, or whatever.
But God promises that if we will cry out to Him, set our minds on the truth of Jesus, and trust Him to help us see Jesus’ glory — He will. Every time (2Cor 3:16).
He Is Worth It
This is a battle. It can take excruciating effort. But He is worth it all.
Because the joy of beholding Jesus is infinitely greater than any other joy.
And the Spirit will give you a taste of this, as you turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you, and fight to trust Jesus Christ alone to satisfy you.
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kathMember Since 03 Dec 2009
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06 February 2018 - 11:43 PM
If Faith Can Change Me, Why Isn’t It Working?
06 February 2018 - 11:33 PM
A Painful Phone Call
I just finished a phone call with a close friend.
He faces problems. Big problems. He’s fearful. Worried. Hurting. He can’t see any good options — any good outcomes — and He doesn’t know what to do.
And when I finished the phone call I felt burdened.
What Are Burdens?
We know what burdens feel like. They make our hearts feel heavy — like something is weighing them down.
So what causes this? I think it’s usually because we see something painful in our future. And that fear of future pain is a weight — a burden — on our hearts.
Think about your own heart. Are you feeling burdened? If so, identify what pain you are fearing.
Maybe it’s the pain of a broken marriage. Or a lost job. Or wayward children. Or poor health.
The reason you are burdened is because you are fearing that pain.
But what can we do when we feel burdened?
Look at what David tells us to do with our burdens in Psa 55:22 —
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Whenever we are burdened, God promises to sustain us and not let us be moved (which means to be shaken or totter).
But there is something we must do to receive this promise. We must cast our burden on the Lord.
What Does That Mean?
We often talk about casting our burdens on the Lord. But what does that really mean?
After my phone call, when I felt burdened, I quoted this verse. I told the Lord I wanted to cast my burden on him. I asked him to take it. I said I didn’t want it. I asked him to lift it from me.
But there was no change. My heart was still burdened. I did not feel the Lord sustaining me.
So what does it mean to cast a burden on the Lord?
I went out to the creek trail and prayed about it. And I ended up taking four steps that powerfully helped me —
First, turn to God through Jesus
Don’t just say “it will be fine,” or “it will all work out,” or “God will take care of it.”
None of those involve you actually meeting with the Living God.
So turn your heart to God Himself. Come to God, cleansed by Christ’s blood and clothed with His righteousness.
Turn to God and know that through Christ — he loves you, welcomes you, and promises to help you (Heb 4:16).
Second, ask God to keep this painful event from happening
Ask God to save your marriage, keep you employed, save your children, give you good health.
To strengthen your faith, think about times when God delivered His people — Israel from Egypt, Joseph from his dungeon, Bartimaeus from his blindness.
Strengthen your faith, and then pray that God would deliver you from this painful event (Psa 50:15).
God may choose to deliver you, which would be a great mercy. But the Bible also teaches that He may not, which is why at this point you probably still feel burdened. So this next step is so crucial —
Third, trust that if He allows this painful event to happen, it’s to bring you more joy in Him.
Your greatest joy is knowing God, beholding God, loving God (Psa 16:11). And God promises to orchestrate everything — including every pain, sorrow, and trial — to bring you even more joy in Him (Rom 8:18; 2Cor 4:17).
So take time to set your heart on God. Use His Word to help you see His love, majesty, glory, and grace. Use passages like Gen 1:1; Isa 6:1-7; Mark 15:39; Rom 5:1-10.
Pray over God’s Word until the Holy Spirit helps you see and feel the all-surpassing worth of God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Now — look at your future. You see that this painful event might happen. But now you also see that if it does, it will mean not just pain, but gain — the gain of more joy in God now and forever.
This is when the burden will start to lift — when we see and feel the worth of God, and that all future pain will bring us even more of God.
But there’s one more step to completely remove the burden —
Fourth, trust that if He allows this painful event to happen, He will take care of every need it creates.
He will. He promises. He will provide —
◦all the wisdom you need to make tough decisions (James 1:5)
◦all the finances you need to fulfill His call on your life (Mat 6:33)
◦all the comfort you need for your heartaches (2Cor 1:3-4)
◦all the grace you need to keep faithful to Him (2Cor 9:8)
◦all the strength you need to persevere (Phil 4:13)
◦all the joy in Him you need to make this all worth it (Rom 8:18)
Pray over these promises until the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith. Pray until you trust that God will take care of your every need.
Cast your burden on the Lord
When you trust — really trust —
◦that He might deliver you from this painful event,
◦or that if He does not, He will bring you even more joy in Him through it,
◦and that He will take care of every need it creates
— your burden will be gone. Because you’ve cast your burden on the Lord.
That does not mean it will never come back. But when it does, it’s because you’ve stopped trusting His promises.
So go back through the steps, and fight the fight of faith until you are once again trusting His promises.
Why keep your burdens?
Understand that whenever you are burdened, God wants to take the burden from you.
So don’t keep your burdens.
Cast your burdens on the Lord.
06 February 2018 - 10:30 AM
How to Guard Your Heart
Guard Your Heart
This morning I met with some men who are committed to strengthening each other’s faith in Christ.
We talked about how important it is to guard our hearts, based on Proverbs 4:23 –
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV)
Here is how the ESV translates it —
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Here is what we saw from this verse —
See the Importance of Your Heart
The heart is crucial because it is the wellspring of life, which means that everything you are and do flows from the heart.
So if your heart is worried about money, or jealous towards someone, you should not ignore it.
You should not grit your teeth, pretend that everything is fine, and get on with your day – because your worry or jealousy will flow out of your heart in sinful words, attitudes, and actions.
That’s why we must keep watch over our hearts with all vigilance.
Be Aware of Your Heart Condition
To keep watch over your heart you must be aware of what is happening in your heart. You must notice what you are feeling.
Specifically, you must notice when you are not feeling peace or joy in the Lord, because either of those show a problem with your faith.
They show that there is some promise in God’s word that you are not trusting.
For example, yesterday morning I got an email which caused my heart to fill with fear and worry.
At times like that it’s tempting to say “Don’t be concerned. Everyone worries from time to time. After all, fear is a natural emotion.”
But God’s word says that fear or worry shows that sinful unbelief is growing in my heart (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40). And sinful unbelief is serious.
Imagine that you go to the doctor because of pain in your heart. The doctor takes x-rays, notices a shadow next to your heart, but misinterprets that shadow.
Instead of understanding that this shadow is a dangerous tumor, and removing it surgically, he concludes that this shadow is just a normal part of the heart, and sends you home.
That could cost you your life.
So we must learn to notice what we are feeling in our hearts, and we must understand those feelings biblically.
But that’s not all. It is also crucial to –
Take Steps to Change Your Heart
That’s what the psalmist does in Psalm 42:5 –
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.
The psalmist is keeping watch over his heart with all vigilance, so he notices that his heart is feeling cast down and in turmoil.
But not only does he notice what he is feeling, he understands these feelings biblically.
The reason I say that is because he calls himself to “hope in God.” In other words, he understands that his discouragement and turmoil show that he is not hoping fully in all of God’s promises.
So he notices what he is feeling, he understands these feelings biblically, and he urges himself to put his hope in God’s promises.
We can’t move from discouragement to hope just by urging ourselves to do so. And the psalmist knows this.
That’s why, in Psalms 42 and 43 (they are connected) —
◦he pours out his soul before God, admitting how he is really feeling (Psalm 42:4)
◦he prays for God’s light and truth to change his heart (Psalm 43:3-4)
◦he reminds himself of God’s past faithfulness (Psalm 42:4, 6-7)
◦he assures himself that in spite of his unbelief, God will be merciful (Psalm 42:8, which God can do because Jesus was punished for our sins)
◦he meditates on God’s promises (Psalm 42:5, 8, 11; Psalm 43:4,5)
So that’s what I did yesterday morning —
◦I poured out my soul before God, admitting how fearful and worried I was
◦I asked God for more of his heart-changing power
◦I reminded myself of ways God has been faithful in the past
◦I assured myself that because of Jesus’ death, God fully forgives and welcomes me (1 John 1:7)
◦I meditated on promises that touched on my fear and worry (like Romans 8:28; Psalm 50:15; Jeremiah 29:11)
As I set my heart on who God promised to be, I could feel the Spirit change my heart.
My fear and worry subsided. Peace and joy in Christ grew. My unbelief was overcome.
That’s why it is so important to guard your heart.
06 February 2018 - 10:20 AM
Promises For Those Struggling with Unemployment
Promises are crucial
If you are unemployed, there’s nothing more important than faith.
In the Bible, faith means trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.
So if you are going to have faith, one of the most crucial steps is to understand the promises of God.
So what promises does God have for those who are unemployed? I thought of seven that I hope will strengthen and encourage you.
Because of Jesus God will provide everything you need.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Unemployment is not sin. But all of us, employed and unemployed, have sinned. But the good news is that because Jesus died to pay for our sin, if we will turn to Jesus Christ and trust Him, He will give us everything we need.
And I mean everything — complete forgiveness, stronger faith, wisdom, endurance, money, a job — everything we need.
God will deliver you from problems you caused yourself
You can do everything right and still get laid off. But what if you caused your unemployment? What if you didn’t work hard, were caught lying, or made mistakes? Look at God’s promise in
Psalm 50:15 — all upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
If you genuinely confess any wrongdoing, humble yourself before Jesus Christ, and call upon Him, He will deliver you. There may be consequences from what you’ve done. But God won’t turn from us because of sin or mistakes.
Remember how Abraham’s lie caused his wife Sarah to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem? God had mercy on them and delivered Sarah. He will also deliver you.
God will bless you through wrongs others have done.
What if you lost your job because of an unjust boss, someone’s slander, or foolish politicians? It would be easy to see yourself as a victim. But you are not. Even the wrongs done to you by others are part of God’s plan to bring you great good.
For example, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, resulting in years in a dungeon. But look at how he describes this when he’s talking to his brothers —
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20
No one can do anything to you that will cause you ultimate loss. God has planned every loss as a way to bring you great and glorious good.
God is in complete control.
God is not worried about GDP growth, unemployment figures, or manufacturing indexes. He controls everything, including the heart of every business owner in your city —
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1
When I worked in real estate, and had slow times, I remember thinking that God controlled all the real estate transactions in Santa Clara County — and that He could give me 100 sales today if he wanted to.
In the same way — God is in complete control of your employment. Not that you can skip networking, interviewing, sending out resumes, and praying for a job. God will work through your efforts. But He is in complete control of the outcome.
God will provide the job and income you need.
That’s what Jesus promises in Matthew 6:33 —
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
There is a condition — we must seek first His kingdom and righteousness. That doesn’t mean seeking Him perfectly — this side of heaven none of us seeks God perfectly. But it means seeking Him genuinely, earnestly, and confessing when we fail.
If that’s your heart, then the God who has always been, who created the heavens and the earth, and who has never broken a promise swears that He will provide the job and income you need.
Not necessarily the job and income you want. But the job and the income you need in order to fulfill His call and find the greatest joy in Him.
God has a perfect plan for each day you are unemployed.
… in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:16
Since God is in complete control, each day you are unemployed is a day He has chosen to have you be unemployed. And God has meaningful activity for you during each of those days.
So what does He want you to do? He will give you wisdom to answer this question (James 1:5). Obviously you will be networking, sending out resumes, and job-searching.
But also spend extra time in the Word and prayer. Take time each day to set your heart more strongly on the Super-Piling. Encourage and pray with others who are unemployed. One of my friends got a job at Target to make some money and stay productive during his unemployment.
Don’t just spend your days waiting for a job. God has a perfect plan for each day you are unemployed.
God will give you full joy in Himself without a job.
That’s in Habakkuk 3:17-18 —
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
This will not be easy. You will be tempted to think your joy depends on a job. But it doesn’t.
So ask God to pour His Spirit upon you. Plead with Him to free you from trusting a job for your joy. Set your heart upon Scriptures describing Him. And pray over those Scriptures until you see — and feel — that Jesus is all you need.
Not one word failed
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45
God has a perfect track record. He fulfilled every promise He made to the house of Israel. And because of Jesus’ death on the Cross, and your trust in Him, He will fulfill every promise He’s made to you.
So — trust Him.
06 February 2018 - 10:05 AM
Is Joy in God Different from Happiness?
Throughout the Bible God commands us to have joy in him.
You can see this in passages like Matthew 5:12, Romans 12:12, Philippians 3:1, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16.
But what does it mean to have joy in God? I have heard people explain this by saying that joy in God is different from happiness.
But this is puzzling, because dictionaries say that joy IS happiness.
For example –
Joy is “the emotion of great delight or happiness.” (Dictionary.com)
Joy is “great happiness or pleasure.” (Cambridge Dictionary)
Joy is “a feeling of great happiness.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
So why do many Christians say joy and happiness are different?
I think one reason is because they are nervous about putting so much emphasis on feelings.
They know we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). But they also know how often they don’t feel this joy, and that they can’t make themselves feel this joy by an act of the will.
So to avoid this problem, they say that the joy God commands is different from happiness. They say that happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. But that joy in God is not really a feeling, but is more like a settled conviction that lasts.
But is that true? In the Bible, is joy in God not a feeling?
More Joy Than They Have
Look at what David says in Psalm 4:6-7 —
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
So is this joy that God puts in our hearts a feeling? Notice that David uses the same word “joy” for what’s in people’s hearts when they have grain and wine.
So the question is, when people have abounding grain and wine is their joy a feeling? Yes.
Therefore, since David uses the same word to describe what God puts in our hearts, that joy must also be a feeling. And it is MORE joy, because the pleasures of knowing God are more — infinitely more — than the pleasures of grain and wine.
Joy over a Treasure
Notice also how Jesus uses the word joy in Matthew 13:44 –
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Here Jesus describes the joy a saved person has in the kingdom of heaven. But is this joy a feeling?
It is, because Jesus compares our joy in God’s kingdom with the joy a man has when he finds a treasure.
Imagine finding a treasure chest full of millions of dollars’ worth of gold coins. Would your joy be a feeling? Absolutely.
So the joy we will have in God’s kingdom is also a feeling.
What This Feeling Is
This feeling is not joy in our circumstances. It is not a happy disposition, or a positive outlook. It is not an overall sense of well-being.
But it is a feeling of joy in God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It means experiencing pleasure and delight in his majesty, power, love, mercy, death, resurrection, and glory (Philippians 3:8).
That’s the joy God commands us to have.
What This Does Not Mean
The fact that joy in God is a feeling does not mean we will never experience sorrow or grief. Paul said his heart was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
So we will feel sorrow in this life – over our sin, our trials, the wayward, and the lost. But Christ is such a treasure that at the same time we can also feel joy in him.
Nor does this mean our lives will be free from trials. God promises that we will have trials (John 16:33).
So the reason we feel joy in Christ is not because we have no trials. It’s because he is worth all the trials (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
This also does not mean we always have this joy. We don’t. But we should, because no matter what else is going on, Jesus Christ is always an all-satisfying Treasure.
When we don’t feel this joy, it’s because we are trusting something else to satisfy us more than him. Which is why we need the command to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).
How to Experience This
The joy we are commanded to have in Christ is definitely a feeling — of pleasure, satisfaction, and delight in Christ. But we know we can’t make ourselves feel this by an act of the will. So what can we do?
Confess. When we lack joy in Christ it’s because of our sin of unbelief. So we must confess our sin, and what ever else we’ve been trusting to satisfy us more than Christ. And by faith alone, in Christ alone, we can be fully assured of forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Pray. This feeling of joy only comes as the Holy Spirit helps us see and taste the glory of Christ. And here’s good news – when we ask for more of the Spirit’s work, the Father will always give it to us (Luke 11:13).
Read. This heart-changing work of the Spirit comes through the Word (John 6:63; Galatians 3:5). As we pray over Scriptures describing all that God promises to be to us in Christ, the Spirit will enlighten the eyes of our hearts so we once again see and feel Christ as our all-satisfying Treasure.
At the right time, and in the exact amount that we need, God will enable us to rejoice in Christ.
And we will feel it.