Tag Archive | Trust

Attention to Detail 

I’m doing the chronological reading plan of the Bible this year and am at the end of Exodus. I guess I never previously paid much attention to the plans and construction of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant (Noah’s ark also will suffice for my point), the lampstand, the alters, etc etc. What I’m getting from all of this is the immense level of detail that God described for the construction and more importantly, the exact level of detail that was constructed. 

To me, this shows that God isn’t some laid-back God, who is satisfied at whatever we think is good enough to give Him. He has standards above anything our biggest OCD minds could possibly comprehend. He communicates what He desires in a detailed way. It’s not “hey, I want this; do it however you think it will be the easiest”. It’s “hey, I want this; this is exactly how you do it, and I will give you the talents and abilities to do it to my level of detail.”

How often do we know God is tugging at us to do something and we do the least amount we can to get by? Maybe it’s because we are lazy. But, then again, maybe it’s because we are taught that attention to detail is a bad thing and it’s wrong to be so “anal” or “particular” or even “accurate/precise”. 

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way, but I often feel like I’m “too much” when it comes to the way I approach tasks, at work and at home. It doesn’t stress me out whatsoever to be the way I am, but I feel like it bothers or stresses out other people. And that can stress me out, but using my God-given talents is never the stressful part. I can even take my concern for what others think as an excuse to be lazy or complacent because that’s more expected (you maybe can imagine how this could happen at work), when I know I’m not that kind of person. 

I feel like society encourages us to lower our standards for everything, but I don’t see God as being like that. Of course God wants us to rely on Him for every task, but I believe that in everything we are called by Him to do, we should do to the absolute best with the ability He has given us. He give us the strength and ability; He gets the glory. We shouldn’t compromise who God has made us to be just to be more “comfortable” to society. 

Colossians 3:23-24 tells us that whatever we do, work heartily, as if for God and not for men …. because we are serving the Lord. 

Maybe I’m reading too much into this in light of the detail of Exodus, but I’m starting to realize that God made me the way I am, and if I’m listening to and trusting God, then I am glorifying Him. If that’s too much for other people or they resent this part of me, that’s not my problem.

It is well with my soul….

The Sovereignty of God

“We like to think that we’re in control.  But, we’re not.  God is.  And God must be sovereign in order to be God.  If anything holds any sway over Him, if one atom is rebellious to His will, if one bit of knowledge is unknown to His mind, if one force is unbending to His desire, if anything prohibits Him from accomplishing His plan – He is no longer sovereign.  And if He’s no longer sovereign, that which is able to oppose Him is greater than Him – and He is no longer God.”  -Mary Kassian, from Knowing God by Name

Week one, day five of this semester’s women’s Bible study… The name of God we were learning about was “Adonai Yahweh”, Sovereign Lord.  We could have spent an entire semester on this one name, and that still would not have been enough for me to fully embrace this attribute of God.  But, we glossed over it in the last ten minutes of our time together, and it’s been on my heart ever since.

When you consider God’s sovereignty from a superficial standpoint, it is perfectly easy to accept.  God must be sovereign if He is really God.  Everything in the Universe must be subject to His control.  If God is not sovereign, He cannot be God.  However, when I read the above paragraph from our study, the intricate details of His sovereignty became clear, perhaps for the first time.

If God is sovereign, which He must be in order to be God, every aspect of life must be completely under His control.  Everything!  Not one minute detail can be left up to chance.

Can this be possible, especially from a loving God?  What about the bad things that happen in life? What about the choices I make, especially the ones that God would not approve of?  What does this mean regarding my free will?  And, if God’s sovereignty is this complete and personal, how I do I feel about it?  How should it make me feel?

I’ll start with free will.  I definitely believe that God gives us the power to make decisions that may be in line with or opposed to what He desires for us.  Free will goes hand-in-hand with having faith in God.  It is completely intertwined with temptation and sin, and is required to have a maturing relationship with God.

Free will began in the Garden of Eden, when God allowed Adam and Eve to choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Their decision to give in to temptation changed humanity forever.  Another example is salvation; if there was no free will, we would not have to personally accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior in order to be assured salvation.  I must independently use my own free will to trust that Jesus took care of my sin problem on the cross.

I am also given freedom to live my life as I see fit, even when God cringes at my poor decisions.  However, because God is all-knowing, He knows what our decisions will be before we make them and those decisions are part of God’s overall plan for our lives. Even when our decisions are opposed to God’s desire for our lives, He allows us to make them.  God loves us so much that He does not want to force us into submission; rather He gives us the freedom to choose our way or His way.  And, while He knows how we will respond, He loves us enough to give us ample opportunity to choose Him.

But, if God is so loving, why would He allow bad things to happen that were not directly a result of my poor decisions?  This is one of the hardest questions to understand, and the answer is not always easy to swallow.  The truth is, because of Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths (Genesis 3:7).”  Their lives were made much more complicated; they were expelled from the garden, and we have been living in a fallen world ever since.

God never promises us an easy life on Earth.  In fact, He promises just the opposite.  Jesus says to us, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”  Life is hard; life does not always make sense; it’s not fair, but because of Jesus, we have reason to hope.  He has overcome the world, and by believing in Him, we can spend eternity enjoying endless joy, peace and love, together with our perfect God!

The bad things that happen in life, whether caused by influences outside our control, or our own poor decisions, provide us opportunities for our personal spiritual development.  If life was easy, and everything was perfect, I would not need God; I could be completely self-sufficient!  But, because our world, including my little corner of it, is completely messed up and incomprehensible, I realize that I need God to direct my steps.

By trusting God with my life, I give Him the opportunity to bring beauty from my pain, and help me see past my selfishness.  A great example of this comes from the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, and later forgiving them and providing for them.  Joseph said, “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.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:20-21).

It is amazing that God will take the bad things that happen in my life and use them for His ultimate plan!  If one person can see the impact God has made on me and because of that, chooses to trust in Jesus for their own eternal life, then the pain I have felt will have been worth it. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

The sovereignty of God can bring us complete freedom, if we allow it to.  Since God knows everything that is going to happen, and it’s already part of His eternal plan, there’s nothing we can do to mess everything up!  That should allow me to not get caught up in the poor decisions I have made, or the bad things that have happened in the past (or may happen in the future).  If it were not for the things that have happened in my life, I would not be the woman I am today.  I will continue to be shaped by my experiences, and I pray those involve a deeper level of trust in God.

God’s sovereignty should completely free me from guilt, shame, anger, worry, and fear, if I let it and should bring complete peace in the fact that nothing will happen that is apart from God’s will for me.  If I have learned anything thus far in life, it’s that God is worthy of my trust, and truly has my best interests at heart, so giving complete control over to Him should be an easy decision!

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Isaiah 46:8-11).”

Helping God…

I love how God uses familiar passages in scripture to present truths that are personalized to exactly what *we* individually need to see! In my women’s Bible study, we are studying the end of James, Chapter 2, “Faith without works is dead.” This brought up how Abraham showed his faith when asked by God to bring his son Isaac up the mountain for a sacrifice (James 2:21, Genesis 22). The point was that Abraham’s action demonstrated his faith. Fair enough… But, was this always the case? Thinking back to the story of Abraham, did he always put his ultimate trust and confidence in God’s plan? The more important question is Do I? Let’s just say, I can definitely relate to Abraham’s earlier impatience regarding God’s promise to him.

God made a covenant with Abram (before his name was changed to Abraham) that he and his descendents would rule a great nation. The only problem was that Abram was already ‘advanced in age’ and had no children (Genesis 12). Clearly not understanding the mechanics behind this, Abram brought his concerns before God. God assured Abram, in a vision, that his son would be his own flesh and blood. Abram believed God, and this was “counted it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15).” This is reassuring, as it is proof that it is okay to ask God for clarification when we don’t fully understand how His plan is going to work out in our lives. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that He will give us all of the details.

Abram’s trust in God proved to be short-lived, as he took matters into his own hands in Genesis 16. Abram’s wife, Sarai (later changed to Sarah) was obviously concerned about her inability to conceive and thought she might be the ‘problem’ in God’s promise being fulfilled for Abram. Technically, she blamed God, “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:2).”

Uh oh…. We’ve seen this formula before. The particulars are very reminiscent to the ‘Fall of Man’: Woman has been deceived; woman persuades man to be deceived; God gets blamed for everything; bad things result! But, this is more than a man versus woman conflict. The major problem is a lack of human trust in God’s plan!

This scenario is repeated many times in the Bible and in our modern lives and the result is never good. By failing to wait on God’s plan, and taking matters into our own hands, we are essentially telling God that our decisions are better than His, and that we can take care of everything without His help. Every time this happens, especially in my life, problems ensue!

Let’s get back to the story from Genesis… Sarai’s servant Hagar bore Abram a son, at the age of 86, and the boy was named Ishmael (Genesis 16:16). As we will see, problems definitely resulted from Abram’s impatience to become a father. In fact, those problems are still evident today!

Thirteen years later, God appeared to Abraham (age 99) and promised that Sarah (age 90) would bear him a son, who would be named Isaac. Abraham “fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17)” at the impossibility of this occurring! Again, God reassured Abraham of his plan; and, as a result, Abraham’s son Isaac was born.

So, now we have two half-brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, who would carry Abraham’s seed to all the nations. Abraham loved his sons, and God blessed both brothers and divided the land…. And fighting has been going on regarding the ownership of that land that ever since. Talk about a sibling rivalry!

Paul delves into this issue a little deeper in Galatians 4:22-23, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.” God assured Abraham that he would bear a son. Isaac was born from God’s miracle, according to God’s timing. Ishmael’s birth, however, was arranged by mortal efforts, as a result of unbelief and impatience. Thus, he was born according to the flesh.

This ended up being significantly more difficult to explain than I intended, and I had not previously noticed the strong parallels to the fall of man or the end times! I might need to revisit this story one day and focus more on those aspects!

I hope my original point is clear. We (‘I’) should always trust in God’s plan for our lives, and be patient with His timing. Problems will likely result when we fail to do this! It doesn’t matter how smart we (‘I’) think we are, the only perfect plans come from God! God does not need our help to accomplish His will…. Why can’t we (‘I’) just take the easier route and trust Him with our lives! “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Let me tie this back to the James Bible study, where my original thought came from. After writing this blog, I saw a question that asked what James meant in 2:22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

I believe that Abraham continually showed his current level of faith by the decisions he made, sometimes completely trusting God, other times having doubts in God’s plan. Abraham’s faith, and thus actions were imperfect, but they constantly improved as God tested him. Interestingly, when Abraham is described in the ‘Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11:8-12),’ the author only mentions his successes. This is encouraging!

We, too, will grow spiritually by making good and bad decisions in our life. The important part is that we trust that God will strengthen our faith from our choices. This process will help us develop a deeper relationship with God and prepare us for eternity!