Charles Stanley – Hope for the Hopeless: Learning to Trust God in the Low Points of Our Lives

Do you feel as though God is distant? Sometimes, when we can’t sense His presence, we wonder if He has forgotten us. Some people even believe God is merely a third-party observer and is no longer involved in the world. To them, He set the earth in motion long ago but is now uninterested in our daily lives. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep (John 10). He promised to protect and provide for us, and we misunderstand Him if we think He doesn’t care.

Our spiritual lives are full of highs and lows, valleys and mountaintops. But some people panic, or grow bitter and angry, when they face a disappointing situation. They ask, Where is God? Why hasn’t He answered my prayer? Why is He silent while I’m hurting? Many believers become disillusioned and hopeless. And instead of seeing a valley, they see an endless tunnel with no light at the end.

This is a dangerous mindset, because it causes a person to lose confidence in the Lord. With such an attitude, trusting that the pain will end becomes increasingly difficult.

But there is a reason to trust in God.

If you are at a low point and feeling hopeless, be encouraged. The Good Shepherd, who is the Sovereign of this universe, is with you. You may not always sense His presence or see how He’s working, but He’s there. The Lord loves you unconditionally and is ready and willing to help. All you need to do is turn to Him.

God does not send anyone into a valley, but He may allow us to enter one to teach dependence upon Him. One day, perhaps you’ll look back and think, Thank you, God, for never leaving me, and for carrying me through the low place. You’ll never be able to thank Him enough.

So why do we get discouraged in dark times? I believe there are four reasons.

  1. We don’t have a solid belief system.

What do you believe about God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole spiritual world? Many people accept a little of this or that, but not the whole witness of God’s Word. You could say that their theology is “all over the place.” If we don’t have a clear understanding of the truth, we won’t be able to live an authentic Christian life and will have a difficult time making wise choices.

Some people may say, “This is over my head.” But we don’t need to be intimidated by theology. It simply helps us know Who God is and how to understand the Scriptures.

Knowing God’s character is a must. Failing to do so can cause us to panic in difficult times, and could lead us to make destructive choices.

  1. We don’t understand the ways of God.

Evidence of confusion about God is everywhere. For instance, some people think God shouldn’t allow His followers to suffer. They believe that if a person experiences pain or illness, it is because of sin or a lack of faith. They think that if you trust and obey God, you won’t get sick and will never be in want of anything.

But the Word of God doesn’t teach this. Not all suffering is punishment for sinful actions. Take a look at the life of the apostle Paul. God saved him on the road to Damascus and called him to preach the gospel. And yet he experienced much suffering in his life as a believer. Paul wasn’t living in sin when he was stoned in the streets or imprisoned. Because he persevered through each hardship, we are blessed with the epistles he wrote during those times.

  1. Our faith is based on emotion.

Sometimes we think, I can trust Him as long as everything’s going my way. But this leaves us feeling hopeless when things go wrong. We cannot base our faith on emotion, personal judgment, or perception—it must be grounded in the Word of God. When we feel discouraged, we need to ask, What is the clear teaching of Scripture? You won’t come across any kind of valley experience for which God doesn’t provide an answer in His Word.

  1. We don’t know God’s promises.

How can we feel hopeless when the Father promises to love, protect, and guide us throughout our lives? If we commit the Scriptures to memory, He will bring them to mind whenever we need encouragement.

Closing Thoughts

There are many things that happen in a valley, and God allows us to experience them for a number of reasons. The truth is, we tend to learn far more from the low points in our lives than we do from the high. When do you learn the most about trusting God? Too often we take the good things for granted. It’s in times of trial that we learn how to lean on the Lord.

If you haven’t discovered who God is and how He operates, then start now. Spend time reading the Bible each day, learning his promises and committing them to memory. Remember to trust Him with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understandings—or emotions (Prov. 3:5). Follow Him, and He will walk you—and you will never be alone again.

Our Daily Bread — Is Jesus Still Here?

 

Romans 8:31-39

[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39

Ted Robertson’s home in Colorado was one of more than 500 destroyed by the Black Forest Fire in June 2013. When he was allowed to return and sift through the ash and rubble, he was hoping to find a precious family heirloom made by his wife—a tiny ceramic figurine of baby Jesus about the size of a postage stamp. As he searched the charred remains of their home, he kept wondering, “Is the baby Jesus still here?”

When our lives are rocked by disappointment and loss, we may wonder if Jesus is still here with us. The Bible’s answer is a resounding Yes! “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

In a corner of what used to be his garage, Ted Robertson discovered the burned remnants of a nativity scene and there he found the baby Jesus figurine undamaged by the flames. He told KRDO NewsChannel 13, “[We’ve] gone from apprehension to hope . . . that we’re going to recover some parts of our life that we thought were lost.”

Is Jesus still here? He is indeed, and that is the everlasting wonder of Christmas. —David McCasland

When all around me is darkness

And earthly joys have flown,

My Savior whispers His promise

Never to leave me alone. —Anon.

If you know Jesus, you’ll never walk alone.

Bible in a year: Zechariah 5-8; Revelation 19

Insight

In today’s reading, Paul affirms the security the believer has in Christ (vv.31-35). God protects us (v.31), saves us (v.32), and no longer condemns us (vv.33-34). He also assures us that we are safe, secure, and victorious in Christ’s great love (vv.35,37,39). No wonder Paul triumphantly declares, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v.37).

Alistair Begg – Follow Boldly

 

I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  Matthew 10:34

The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if doing what is right and believing what is true should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will regard it as a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be even more friendly and will reveal Himself to him more graciously than ever. You who have taken up His cross, don’t you know what your Master said? “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother . . . And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, He brings war. Where the light comes, the darkness must vanish. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or if it remains, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trampled underfoot. If you follow Christ, you will have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels. If you live in such a manner as to stand the test of the last judgment, you can depend upon it that the world will not speak well of you.

He who has the friendship of the world is an enemy to God; but if you are true and faithful to the Most High, men will resent your uncompromising commitment, since it is a testimony against their iniquities. You must do the right thing and not fear the consequences. You will need the courage of a lion to pursue a course that turns your best friend into your fiercest foe; but for the love of Jesus you must take your stand. To risk reputation and affection for the truth’s sake is so demanding that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle that only the Spirit of God can work in you. Do not turn your back like a coward, but play the man. Follow boldly in your Master’s steps, for He has made this rough journey before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest than false peace and everlasting torment.

The family reading plan for December 28, 2014 * Malachi 1 * John 18

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Heavenly worship

 

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” Revelation 14:1-3

Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 5:6-10

Why is the song said to be a new song? It will be a new song, because the saints were never in such a position before as they will be when they sing this new song. They are in heaven now; but the scene of our text is something more than heaven. It refers to the time when all the chosen race shall meet around the throne, when the last battle shall have been fought, and the last warrior shall have gained his crown. It is not now that they are singing, but it is in the glorious time to come, when all the hundred and forty and four thousand—or rather, the number typified by that number—will be all safely housed and all secure. I can conceive the period. Time was—eternity now reigns. The voice of God exclaims, “Are my beloved all safe?” The angel flies through paradise and returns with this message, “Yes, they are.” “Is Fearful safe? Is Feeble-mind safe? Is Ready-to-Halt safe? Is Despondency safe?” “Yes, O King, they are,” says he. “Shut the gates,” says the Almighty, “they have been open night and day; shut them now.” Then, when all of them shall be there, then will be the time when the shout shall be louder than many waters, and the song shall begin which will never end.

For meditation: The old year is about to be replaced by a new year, but that will soon grow old and fade away. Revelation speaks of the former things passing away (21: 4), and the old serpent being cast out and bound (12: 9 and 20: 2). All that remains is new and remains new throughout eternity—a new song, a new heaven, a new earth, new Jerusalem—all things new (21: 1-5).

Sermon no. 110

28 December (1856)

John MacArthur – The Author of Our Salvation

 

“It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10).

Through His death, Christ became the perfect leader for His people.

As we look at what Christ has done, we must never forget that He was fulfilling the sovereign plan of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us it was fitting in God’s sight for Christ to bring many sons to glory. That means everything God did through Christ was consistent with His character.

The cross was a masterpiece of God’s wisdom. It displayed His holiness in His hatred of sin. It was consistent with His power: Christ endured in a few hours what it would take an eternity to expend on sinners. The cross displayed His love for mankind. And Christ’s death on the cross agreed with God’s grace because it was substitutionary.

To bring “many sons to glory,” God had “to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” The Greek word translated “author” (archēgos) means “pioneer” or “leader.” It was commonly used of a pioneer who blazed a trail for others to follow. The archēgos never stood at the rear giving orders; he was always out front blazing the trail. As the supreme Archēgos, Christ has gone before us—He is our trailblazer.

Life seems most anxious and dreadful when death is near. That’s a trail we cannot travel by ourselves. But the Author of our salvation says, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Only the perfect Pioneer could lead us out of the domain of death into the presence of the Father. All you have to do is put your hand in His nail- scarred hand and He will lead you from one side of death to the other. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

Suggestion for Prayer; Praise God for all His attributes, specifically for each one displayed in Christ’s death for you.

For Further Study; Read Hebrews 5:8-9 and 1 Peter 2:19-25. How do those verses expand on Hebrews 2:10?

Joyce Meyer – The Bible Says to “Shake It Off”

 

And whoever will not receive and accept and welcome you nor listen to your message, as you leave that house or town, shake the dust [of it] from your feet. —Matthew 10:14

I often share a teaching that I call “Shake It Off,” which is based on the time Paul was on the island of Malta (see Acts 28). He was helping some people build a fire, when a poisonous serpent crawled out and attached itself to his hand. At first, when the people saw it they thought he must be wicked to have such an evil thing happen to him. They watched, waiting for him to fall over dead.

But the Bible says Paul simply “shook it off.” We can learn so much from that. When somebody offends or rejects us, we need to see it as a bite from Satan, and just shake it off.

In another instance in the Bible, Jesus told the disciples that if they entered towns that didn’t receive them, they should just go to the next town. He told them to shake the dust off of their feet and move on. He didn’t want the disciples to dwell on the rejection they had experienced; He wanted them to stay focused on sharing their testimony of His works in their lives. Likewise, as we follow the Spirit, we can shake off offenses and hold on to our peace. When others see that we are able to remain calm even when “the serpent” bites us, they will want to know where that peace is coming from in our lives.

When we are in a state of being upset, we cannot hear from God clearly. The Bible promises us that God will lead us and walk us out of our troubles, but we cannot be led by the Spirit if we are offended and in turmoil. We can’t get away from the storms of life, or the temptation to be irritated by someone; but we can respond to offenses by saying, “God, You are merciful, and You are good. And I am going to put my confidence in You until this storm passes over.”

Trust in Him Has someone offended or rejected you and you need to “shake it off “? Trust God to give you the grace to act godly even in an ungodly situation, and to help you shake it off in order to be a witness to others.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Praying for Results

 

“Ask and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will be open” (Matthew 7:7,8).

We were conducting a Bible study on the subject of prayer when Amy, a professing Christian most of her life, said, “God never answers my prayers. In fact, I cannot recall a single prayer of mine that God has answered specifically.”

Several others in the group chimed in and said, “Neither can I.” So we turned to this passage and discussed it together. Would God lie to us? Is His Word trustworthy? Or is prayer an exercise in futility? Are we simply talking to ourselves and each other, or is there a God who hears and answers? If so, why have these not had their prayers answered?

First of all, we had to review the qualifications for prayer. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My Word abides in you, ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.” The Scripture also says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” So if we expect to have our prayers answered, Jesus Christ must be the Lord of our lives. There must be no unconfessed sin in our lives and we must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Further, 1 John 5:14,15 reminds us: “If we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears us and answers,” so we must be sure that we are praying according to the Word of God. As we pray, the Spirit of God impresses upon us certain things for which to pray specifically, such as the salvation of a friend, the healing of a body or a financial need. If the prayer is offered with a pure motive and according to God’s will, we can expect an answer to it.

And we cannot pray casually. We must enter into an expectant spirit of prayer, knowing that, when we meet His conditions, God will hear and answer us.

Within a matter of weeks everyone in that Bible study, especially Amy, was inspired by the exciting challenge of prayer. God had truly heard, and again and again, they were able to point to specific answers.

Bible Reading: Luke 11:5-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I shall review my spiritual walk to be sure I am meeting God’s conditions: (1) Christ is Lord of my life. (2) I am filled with the Holy Spirit. (3) There is no unconfessed sin in my life. (4) I am praying according to God’s Word. And (5) I am praying specifically. As a result, I expect my prayers to be answered because God promises they will be.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Staying Focused

 

The movie Chariots of Fire is the story of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, two British runners who compete in the 1924 Summer Olympics. Early in the film, Abrahams loses a race to Liddell. His coach tells him he lost the race because he lost focus. He turned to look at the competition and it distracted him from his purpose.

This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.

Galatians 5:8

In the verses leading up to today’s scripture, Paul tells the Galatians the same thing. “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7) False teachers were distracting the Galatians. They were placing emphasis on the law instead of grace. Paul reminded them this tangent was not from God, who called them to His purposes, but from the enemy.

God has a plan for you as well, but Satan will use distractions to keep you from His calling. Pray today for the Holy Spirit to help you remain focused on His truth and on your purposes in Him. Pray also for the nation’s leaders to seek God’s will for the country, and to desire to please Him rather than man.

Recommended Reading: Galatians 1:6-10