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Dealing with Change

When we are experiencing multifaceted changes, our minds can easily go into overdrive – trying to cope and find ways to regain some form of regularity.

When things become unpredictable, it is natural and easy to feel helpless.  But we find the courage we need by being anchored in Jesus Christ, who does not change.  How are we anchored in Jesus Christ?  By daily spending time praying to God and prayerfully reading the Bible, asking God to reveal Himself to us.

In Psalm 46:10 we are told, to “Be still, and know that I am God…” (KJV). This Bible verse encourages us to look to God who is the source of our strength and who has the answers for all our problems.

Though there are many things outside of our control, as we depend on God, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the practical things we can do. 

So as you reflect on your current situation, for each change that has occurred identify: the challenge(s) created; the solution(s) required; and what you can do now to face the challenge(s).  Then prayerfully start to put the actions into practice however small.

In the midst of uncertainty, when our focus is redirected to God, we experience assurance and comfort.

Expectations

In the last blog post, we saw how the people were seeking to find a different leader.  Though the people had been looking forward to entering the promised land, some apparently bad news dashed their expectations.  They no longer expected to succeed or to win.  They did not give themselves a chance to explore success.  It seemed like their expectations to succeed was not based on God’s intervention, but their expectation to succeed was based on favorable looking circumstances.

And because the steps to the anticipated success was not in line with how they expected things to unfold, they declared defeat even before they tried.  Their expectations were also affected by their attitude, as was explained under ‘Pessimism and Weeping’. 

In their assessment, since all the odds were against them, their next response was, why bother?

One of the lessons that we can learn here is – don’t decide and declare defeat before even trying.  In Romans 8:31 we are told, ‘..If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (KJV).  So we can also learn that when God has given us a promise, we need to guard against letting challenges along the way cause us to lower our expectations of what the outcome will be.

Let us remember that with God we should expect to overcome and to win.  God is happy when we trust Him to work things out for us.  When hope is waning, a person may not feel motivated to fight for anything.  So maintaining confidence in God is important. 

And though things don’t work out along the way as we expect, that is not an indication that God has forgotten us. Looking back on the mistakes of the people, if we were to put ourselves in their shoes, it is evident that to be able to stand like Joshua and Caleb we need to fully depend on God’s strength. So as we go forward, we can:

  • confront our fears in God’s power,
  • have a correct view of the external,
  • have a correct view of ourselves,
  • embrace an optimistic and a joyful attitude,
  • take responsibility for our actions,
  • let God be the leader of our lives, and 
  • expect God to do in our lives what He has said that He would do.

Next blog post will be focused on Anger.

Dependency – Looking for Another Leader

Continuing on from the previous Dealing with Blame, sadly, the people’s thought process led them to exclude God, and in their desperation, they shifted the focus again and they sought a solution outside of God.

In their desperation they wanted to look for a leader, to take them back from whence they came.  But they ignored the fact that they needed to be delivered from their crippling fears, which resulted in them making bad decisions.

In their moment of irrational thinking, they were willing to leave God, the Creator, who had brought them that far.  Then the spirit of self-sufficiency took over and the people, feeling confident that they knew what was best for them, decided to choose a captain.

Their experiences are also a caution to us not to make decisions in the ‘heat of the moment’, where the decisions are based on our feelings – which at these points of desperation cannot be trusted.

They acknowledged that they needed a leader (Numbers 14:4), but they were going to do the selection themselves, having blamed and ignored Moses, the leader that God had already chosen for them.  They were also going to tell the new leader what their objectives for the leadership would be (Numbers 14:4).

After shifting the responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions and looking for a way out, do we look for something or someone to solve our problems and solve them the way that we think best based on our own vision?

The reality is God does provide help for us through human agencies, so we should never disregard how God uses people in our lives.  But in this case in the moment, the people disregarded God’s leading and just decided to do things that suited them.

They lost sight of the fact that their ‘help cometh from the LORD’ (Psalm 121:2 KJV) the Creator; and even though God engages people in His work of helping others, ultimately God is the source of our help, solutions and hope.

Our only safeguard is to be resolute to never allow God to take second place in our lives.  Persons deciding to take matters into their own hands would no longer feeling accountable to God; and  it could also result in impulsive decisions and behaviors.  Seeking a solution without God is a dangerous road to take.  We need to forever guard against this.

The account is not for us to say, how could they have done that? But rather, what can we learn from the experiences in order to avoid this subtle downward spiral?  Remembering God’s leading in the past,  hearing of other’s experiences who submitted to God’s will,  memorizing God’s Word and praying momently for God’s intervention in our lives are the actions for us to take.

So we can confront our fears in God’s power, have a correct view of the external as well as a correct view of ourselves, embrace an optimistic and joyful attitude, take responsibility for our actions and let God be the leader of our lives.

We stand on the assurance that God the Creator of the Universe can solve every problem and issue that we face on this earth.

In our next blog post, we will explore ‘Expectations’.

Dealing with Blame

If you have not read the previous blogs in this series, you can find them at this link.

Now crippled into inactivity by their thoughts, the people’s next action was to blame someone for their reality and the situation and predicament.  In our own lives, in the areas that we are feeling down, can we identify the stimuli or chain of events that got us there? Many times we may not even be conscious of how we got to the point of despair.  And when our world feels as if it is falling apart, the last thing we may want to do is assess what is happening. 

We may just want to ease our pain as quickly as possible, and this is where we may feel tempted to shift our focus as the people did.  Instead of taking responsibility for their actions and lack of faith, they ‘murmured against Moses and against Aaron’ (Numbers 14:2 KJV).

At this point all rational thinking had completely broken down and it was manifested in their words and actions.  And then someone else became the recipient of their frustrations.

And they lamented that they should have died before coming to that point.

They also accused God of bringing them that far to see them perish (Numbers 14:3 KJV), they said that ‘the LORD brought … [them] … unto this land, to fall by the sword, …’.

As we look at this chain of events, we can explore learning a different and positive sequence when challenges arise – allowing God’s wisdom to fill our minds and not our own wisdom.  We can ask God to help us understand His purpose, plan and leading in our lives; we can ask God to help us make the necessary adjustment to our approach.

When going through changes we have choices; choices to embrace the things that we need to be accountable for.  We with God’s help can choose to decide what we listen to, what we speak and what we decide to do and to seek a positive solution in the midst of uncertainty. 

The people succumbed to the natural trait of trying to place blame away from themselves.  As far as the people were concerned, they were small, they couldn’t win, they felt depressed, and the opponent was bigger than them.  Then their chain of clouded logic and their resulting perspective brought them to the conclusion that it was God’s fault.

So as we learn new sequences of logic and thinking, instead of blaming, let us remember always in times of uncertainty to trust God, who is the great problem solver, and be confident that we can always seek God’s help – God who is the only solution.

So when we are dealing with challenges, we can confront our fears in God’s power, have a correct view of the external as well as a correct view of ourselves, embrace an optimistic and joyful attitude and take responsibility for our actions.

The focus of the next blog post will be ‘Dependency’.

Pessimism and Weeping

In the introduction, I explained that in our hearts ‘we long to find courage to stand for the right in the face of fierce opposition’.  Based on what was explored in the previous blog posts, to stand, we would need to confront our fears in God’s power, and we would need to have a correct view of the external as well as a correct view of ourselves.

In addition the account reinforces the power of words, and also cautions us to be very careful about whom we allow to speak into our lives and who provides us with information for our decision making.

Having reached such a low with their hopes being crushed, ‘the people wept that night’ (Numbers 14:1).  The people were sad and depressed.  It seemed like in their minds they had lost everything that they had dreamed of achieving.  They were at a dead end.  They did not know what to do.

I believe that the events unfolded very quickly, and they were not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that they found themselves on.

Fortunately, we have their experiences to learn from.  During stressful times, having the reassurance from God’s Word is key to stopping us from going down this slippery slope of despair.  Anywhere along the slope that we may find ourselves, we need to be lifted up and out.  So praying for God’s perspective is definitely required.

When a lot of a person’s energy and time has been consumed fighting negativity and they end up not knowing what to do, the person may then find themselves in a stagnated and limbo state; and for some persons the next step may be to do nothing positive. 

But rising above what we feel and intentionally using our time in simple productive activities may be the stimuli we need to shift our focus and our feelings.

Though at times we may try and yet see no immediate results, that does not mean that the seed will not grow.  During the apparent barren times, it is the vision of what God has shown us in the past that we need to keep at the forefront of our minds. 

Like the farmer and the builder, let us keep the vision of the harvest and the finished building ever in our minds, while we are confronting feelings of doubt.

As we intentionally turn to God and His providence, the things that bother us will lose their sharp focus, and God’s Word like the light will overtake ever negative thought and we will be at peace.

The focus of the next blog post will be ‘Blame’.

Deflated View of Self

Following on from the previous blog post, Inflated Account of the External, having confirmed in their minds that the opponent was bigger than they, their thoughts shifted to ‘how much smaller they were.’  Their answer was that they were ‘in our own sight as grasshoppers’ (Numbers 13:33 KJV) and they even went one step further to say, ‘as we were in their sight’ (Number 13:33 KJV).  At that point, every ounce of hope was gone from their minds. 

In our own lives, can we think of a time when through a series of our logic, we ended up feeling so hopeless that we decided how we look to our circumstances,  and how our circumstances would just consume us?

When we reach a point of despair, fortunately that does not have to be the end.  In prayer we can run to God and ask Him to help us to see things through His eyes.  Interestingly in Isaiah 40:21,22 the inhabitants of the earth are described as grasshoppers when compared to God.

The story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17 is one of encouragement. When they were surrounded by the opposing army, Elisha was calm through the entire ordeal because he saw what the servant could not see initially – God’s intervention.  When the servant’s eyes were finally opened, he saw ‘horses and chariots of fire’ (2 Kings 6:17 KJV) protecting them and the servant’s hope returned.

The enemy is happy when we see ourselves as helpless and stop there.  But the enemy is not happy when we see ourselves as helpless and we run to God to lead us through.

As explained earlier, we should never deny or ignore the magnitude of the issues we face, or the strength of the enemy, but we must always keep in mind and live with God’s assurance.  He will not leave us.  In the context of our individual potential, we also have to be careful not to doubt our own capabilities, when others believe that our abilities are limited, or when we think that others believe that our abilities are limited.

Let us today determine to see ourselves through God’s eyes, then as we move forward, we will correctly see ourselves as ‘more than conquerors through’ Jesus Christ who loves us (Romans 8:37 KJV).

The focus of the next blog post will be Pessimism and Weeping.

Inflated Account of the External

In my previous blog post, I wrote about Confronting our Fears.

In Number 13: 31, 32, the informants saw their opponents as stronger than themselves.  This is the key reason why they felt hopeless and helpless.  At that point, in their assessment they did not factor into the equation God’s presence and God’s assistance.  They had forgotten that God was the one who had led them that far.

Because of the crippling fear that the environment was so big and intimidating, the previous account of the good produce in the land (Number 13:26,27) was distorted and then the 10 spies presented an ‘evil report of the land’ (Number 13:32 KJV). The opponent most likely was strong, but the Bible has reassured us that ‘greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’ (1 John 4:4 KJV).

Similarly as we go through our situations, in the areas of our lives where we previously believed that God had called us to move forward, are there things that we now identify that are causing us to second guess God’s calling and His leading in our lives?

In life we are always in need of ensuring that we do not let our fears distort the reality. The good news is that once we are aware of this, we can ask God to give us the right perspective and the objective assessment of each situation. This is also key for us to address real issues in the environment, with the view of going forward as God ordained.

Then instead of seeing the magnitude of the opposing environment, we would see the providence and provision of a faithful God; instead of seeing ourselves intimidated by a big world (which many times can be very non-supportive to what God is calling His people to do), we would see the world subjected to our God who made the universe.

The focus of the next blog post will be Devalued view of Self.

Confronting Our Fears

In the previous post, I wrote about The Account of the 12 Spies. I believe that the people were excited at the thought of moving forward.  But before they did, they had to address some critical things.  One of these things was their fear.

All transitions are not easy.  When we come to a crossroad, having made our plans, and having done our preparation, we look forward to all the positive things related to the planned change.  Similarly, seeing the fruit of the land (Numbers 13:26, 27), and with the positive account, the congregation must have felt excited and motivated.  But what transpired after confused the whole congregation.

In Number 13:28 there was a change, a shift in the thinking, and a reduction in the confidence level.  The obstacles (‘the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great:’ Numbers 13:28 KJV) were identified and placed before the congregation.

During changes, though we have a positive vision of what could be, we are also faced with the real possibilities that what we hope for may not becoming a reality.  During these times, with the threat of failure looming, the thought could arise, what if the critics are right?  What if I don’t make it?  This can be a turning point depending on how we deal with such questions and doubts.

As we embark on change, there are generally something(s) that we did not plan for and did not consider; and how we address these uncertainties is a critical point that can determine if we retreat in fear or move forward in faith.

I have looked at the saying ‘ride and whistle’ to explore some practical ways of how to address this phase – this turning point.  Whistling can represent the process of getting all the facts – good and bad – favorable and unfavorable.  So the noises (including the negative facts) in the environment could cause us to retreat in fear.  But thankfully it does not have to be that way. 

Instead of thinking ‘what if they are right?’ and we will not make it, we can think, what if they are wrong?  Of course this does not mean that we go ahead carelessly without consideration for the dangers.  But instead at these junctures, we can ask the Holy Spirit to infuse us with the voice of reason and we can ask the Holy Spirit to still our fearful minds and help us to use our energy and time constructively – really asking God to help us to do all that can be done to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Knowing the potential issues before hand reveals the challenges that we need to be aware of, so that the mitigating plans can be put in place; but they should not be a reason just to pack up and not even try at all.  Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, so to overcome fear, we need to soak and immerse our minds in the Word of God. So with God our fears can be changed to faith that looks to God to help us through.  So we can feed on God’s Word and be reminded that God has told us that He will never leave us, not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). 

Then our response would not be based on presumptuous actions, but instead on seeking to move forward for God in whatever sphere of life we may be.  This brings us to another obstacle that we will need to overcome to ensure that our faith in God grows; and that obstacle is how we see the world around us – the focus of the next blog post (Inflated Account of the External).

Be Blessed

The Account of the 12 Spies

If you have not as yet, I invite you to read the first blog post in this series United Within – Introduction.

In Numbers 13:17-20, we read that Moses gave the 12 spies the same command. And they obeyed, and they returned after 40 days (Numbers 13:25). The 12 spies returned together and stood before the entire congregation, who were waiting in anticipation to hear and know what the 12 spies saw.   The initial account, that the land ‘floweth with milk and honey;…’ (Numbers 13:27 KJV) was positive. Then the spies went on to describe the strength of the enemy and the fortified walls of the city. Then Caleb one of the spies, as the voice of reason, sought to reassure the people and to reaffirm that they would be able to take the land.

But the 10 spies countered Caleb’s affirmation and said no they would not be able to successfully possess the land (Numbers 13:31).  The report from the spies continued to deteriorate to the spies saying that land ‘eateth up the inhabitants ….; and [that] all the people … [they] … saw in it … [were] … men of a great stature’ (Number 13:32 KJV).

Then in their own eyes, the 10 spies saw themselves as grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33).  True there was real danger, but it was important for the parties involved to see things in the correct context.  Sadly, ‘all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night’ (Numbers 14:1 KJV).  So after the meeting the whole camp would have returned to their tents with very heavy hearts.

And one thing led to another, murmuring was the next thing that happened (Numbers 14:2).

Then the things that God had done before became the subject of distrust and the people even spoke about dying ‘in this wilderness’ (Numbers 14:2 KJV).  They started to doubt God’s intention for their lives and even went as far as to discuss the idea of appointing a new leader to take them back from whence they came (Numbers 14:4).

At this point Moses and Aaron were in distress, and Caleb and Joshua tried to bring some balance to the conversation and implored the people not to rebel against God (Numbers 14:5-9).  Then the congregation turned on Joshua and Caleb with the intention to stone them and at this point God intervened (Numbers 14:10).  

Based on this account, imagine if such conflicting sentiments are held by one person? then the ensuing mental trauma is evident.

When we face challenges, do we oscillate between different feelings?  And when pieces of information are shared with us, do we go from feeling confident, to feeling doubtful to distress and even feeling to give up at times? 

As I explore this story, I am prayerfully seeking to address and highlight the events that occur and the revelation of how information when absorbed and processed can create or trigger varying reactions or responses. 

As in the account, we are introduced to barriers that need to be overcome to achieve unity within. The next blog post in this series will be ‘Confronting Our Fears’.

United Within – Introduction

The account of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers 14:6-9 has been a source of inspiration for many.  We long to find courage to stand for the right in the face of fierce opposition.  We long to rise to the occasion and show that we mean business for God. 

The support and opposition from the outside is at times so much easier to identify, but on closer observation of the story, what if the varied traits displayed by the 12 spies (Numbers 13:17-33) are possessed at times by one individual?

This I believe occurs, because Paul spoke about the battle he experienced within himself (Romans 7:23-24).  When Paul wrestled with his inner man, at that point he was not united within himself.  With this understanding I will use the account of the spies as a representation of the internal battle that we may face.

With the understanding that light travels faster than sound, with thunder and lightning, we would see the lightning flash before we hear the sound of the thunder.  Similarly, we need to let the light from God’s Word be at the forefront of our minds and inform our thinking, before we take action.  So that when we hear the sentiments of the 10 doubting spies trying to echo in our minds, God’s Word, which ‘is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’ (Psalm 119:105 KJV), would be established in our hearts and our minds, to nullify the effects of the negative sentiments.    

Joshua and Caleb represent the desire to trust and obey God, and to live a life of faith.  The 10 spies on the other hand represent the noises or voices that we hear that tries to erode our faith; threatening to tempt us to even start to question who we are and where we are going.

Sadly, the contrast between the opposing attitudes is not always obvious at the beginning. When the 12 spies were sent out, they went out together, so there was no visible difference.  They were leaders (Numbers 13:3).  They were all exposed to the same things, but when the time of reckoning came, or using the saying ‘when the rubber hit the road’, the true sentiments were shared.  In many ways as time unfolded it was clear that the 10 spies were ‘on one side of the fence’ and the 2 spies were ‘on the other side’. 

Never should we underestimate the magnitude of the battle/war. Instead, understanding what we are facing will cause us to run even harder to God for His help, as we realize that the only way for us to make it is to depend on God to remove anything in us that opposes His will. So in complete surrender we let God do His work in us.

Join me in the coming blog posts, as we look at the characteristics that can cause inner conflict and as we explore how we can transition, with God’s help, to let God’s light inform and enlighten us; so that we will stand as internally united individuals to successfully face the situations that confront us however challenging they may be.

The next blog post in this series will be ‘The Account of the 12 Spies.’

Praising while Rebuilding

‘And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD…’ (Ezra 3:10 KJV).

With the completion of the foundation, persons were ‘praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good …’ (Ezra 3:11 KJV).  The people were thankful to God for the progress that had been made.

But wait a minute, that was not all that was going on.  In the midst of the praises there was also weeping.

How could it be? The older men who had seen the previous temple ‘wept with a loud voice’ (Ezra 3:12 KJV). There was sadness that the new foundation did not show prospects of the magnificence of the first building.  I can imagine that as they wept that they thought of the glory days of times past and some even may have wanted to return to those days.  Yet in the midst of the weeping there were others who were just so thankful that they had reach that far; thankful that they had been able to rebuild a foundation on which they could move forward.

A few things came to mind as I read:

  • there would have been valuable things of the past that the older men would have cherished;
  • there were valuable things of the present that the persons praising were thankful for.

From the older men’s responses, there was pain and maybe even regret about the things and circumstances that would have caused them to have to reach the point of rebuilding a new foundation.  Thankfully, there were persons among the group who were able to hold onto the vison of the possibilities in God of what could happen with the new foundation; they were ready to continue the rebuilding process.

In this story there are lessons for us all. To:

  • be thankful for what we had in the past;
  • not forget the past, but learn from the past;
  • with God’s help be careful with the resources that we have been given, to avoid losing the important things;
  • not allow the pain from regret to prevent us from enjoying the blessings that God has for us today and tomorrow;
  • embrace the present foundation that God has provided and be thankful for all the rebuilding that God has been doing and continues to do in our lives.

So now, as you move forward, I encourage you to:

  • learn from the past and with God’s help seek never to repeat past mistakes;
  • lean on God’s wisdom and not your own;
  • in God’s strength cherish and embrace every opportunity that He has provided for you to build on, recognizing that ‘the foundation of God standeth sure’ (2 Timothy 2:19, KJV), the only foundation that cannot fail and will never need rebuilding.

In Psalm 34:1 (KJV) we are told, ‘I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’  So let us remember at every stage of our lives to praise God continually, and not wait until the tasks are done or the goals are accomplished.

Be Blessed.