“The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty.
Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice.
He wraps Himself in light, and darkness tries to hide
and trembles at His voice, and trembles at His voice.
How great is our God! Sing with me, how great is our God
And all will see how great is our God!”
Today we sang this in church and I could not sing it without tears streaming down my face.
My life rolled before as if on a movie reel. I grew up in a loving and supporting family who loved God and has always taught me to love Him before all else. Yet, I have always struggled to love Him. For most of my life I have had to struggle with depression. Despite the loving family I have, I have always felt alone. I have never felt like anyone truly understood me and I have been used and abandoned so many times by people that I have learned not to trust anyone. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was 11 years old. Most people would probably be jealous of my life because on the outside it looks perfect, but my thoughts were dark.
It was not until I was 18 that my life began to turn around. I started to find joy in life and joy in God. My love for Him began to grow and I was learning to serve Him in all I do. I went to a great christian college and met some really awesome friends and the man I thought I would eventually marry. Yet, it all crumbled. I lost my friends and I lost that wonderful man. I was abandoned once again. I struggled to understand why. Why was God punishing me? What had I done wrong? Yet, I didn’t want to fall back to who I was before so I kept serving God and I kept loving Him.
Then two years ago I met an amazing young man who I believe to be my soul mate. He challenged me in ways that no one ever did before. He began to study me and learn about me. He knew me more intimately than anyone has ever before in my life (not even my family). He knew my inner thoughts and desires, my struggles, my passions. We grew to love each other deeply because through each other our love for God grew more deeply. However, tragedy struck again and God told us we could not be together. He forced us to break up and go separate ways. We couldn’t understand why God was doing this, but we knew we had to obey God because He had to be first in our lives and so we departed – both devastated and brokenhearted. Shortly after that my church went through a devastating split that has taken us over a year to work through. Why do I write all of this down for anyone to see?
Why do I reveal my struggles with God for all to bear witness to? I do it because today in church the love of God was felt. I struggle on a daily basis with loving God and understanding Him. Yet, I know that He is always here with me and that He loves me more than I could ever possibly know. I listened to people giving thanks to God – people who have way more reason to be angry with God than me and I felt God wrap His arms around me and whisper in my ear that it’s ok. He understands and He still loves me. He won’t ever abandon me and He hurts with me. When the pain was so powerful that I couldn’t get out of bed, He was always there holding me tight to Him.
My God is indeed a great God. He is my love and my life. So today I sing, “how great is our God!”
Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Unfortunately, many Christians go through life feeling guilty for not praying as much as they think they should. Do you long for a more robust and meaningful prayer life? Do you yearn for the closer fellowship with God that prayer provides? Here are four suggestions that will help you to improve your prayer life.
Prayer isn’t all about you. When you focus your prayer exclusively upon God, you are better able to take the focus off of yourself. Too often, our spiritual life becomes a self-involved personal effort, making it hard to appreciate our amazing God in all his grace, glory, grandeur, majesty, holiness, and love.
Set aside ten minutes to simply focus upon God, and praise him for who he is and for what he’s done. Pray through a passage of Scripture like Psalm 135 or the prayer of Daniel (9:3-19). When the subject, the object, and the passion of your prayer is all God, you are better able to sustain your prayer life.
2. Use mealtime as your prayer time.
One of the reasons we get discouraged about praying is because we fail to live up to our expectations of having a special, sacred time and place to pray. Praying at a special time and in a special place is, of course, a wonderful thing. But rather than being discouraged about not having such a time, use daily occasions that you already have to pray. Mealtime is an excellent opportunity. Even parents with small children eat meals. Take a minute or two to pray, whether silently or aloud. You may wish to keep a small prayer notebook at the table, or a daily prayer guide such as Operation World.
3. Focus less on the time, and more on the act of prayer.
Many Christians have heard of the testimonies of men like John Hyde or George Muller, who would spend hours each day in prayer. Martin Luther famously said,
“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
If that’s true, than what about the rest of us? Should we feel ashamed for not spending hours each day in prayer? What about 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — the command to “pray without ceasing?” If judged by that measure, even the famous prayer warriors fall short.
Our problem comes when we gauge the success of our prayer life by the time that we spend doing it. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 does not tell us that a really good prayer life consists of no less than 45 minutes each day, or that we somehow have to be praying every single moment of time. Instead, the verse tells us to do two things: 1) Pray frequently (compare with Romans 1:9), and 2) never give up upon praying (Luke 18:1-8).
When we make time our effort in prayer, we put up a barrier to our actually praying at all. What about breathing a prayer to God as you step outside and see the sun? What about thanking God for his grace, as you encounter a moment of temptation? What about a prayer for patience as you change a dirty diaper, or cope with a crying child? What about a prayer for kindness as you work under a frustrating superior? What about an unspoken prayer for wisdom as you enter a counseling situation?
Let us pray often, but not wallow in guilt for not praying hours each day. Even George Muller said, “[I pray for] hours every day, but I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk, and when I lie down, and when I arise. And the answers are always coming.”
4. Pray on the spot.
In keeping with number three, try praying when the Spirit prompts you to do so. Have you ever had a sudden inspiration to pray? Then just pray, right there, wherever you are. Have you ever told a friend, “I’ll pray for you,” then totally forget to do so? Next time, just pray. If someone shares a prayer request with you, simply stop and pray for them at that moment.
Too often, we relegate prayer to something that is to be done at a certain time. The sad thing is, some of us aren’t successful in making time in our schedule. Rather than depend upon a separate time, just pray on the spot — whenever the Spirit leads.
The point of this article was not to make you feel guilty about not praying as much as you should. Instead, it is intended to encourage you in your prayer life. Rather than slog through your Christian journey in discouragement about your lack of prayer, look up in joy and celebrate the communication that you can have with your heavenly father.
Posted by Hein van Wyk from Sharefaith.com
Christians and other religious people are often called “people of faith,” but do you ever wonder if your own faith needs a little kickstart? We read in the gospels when Christ tells his disciples that if they have faith like a grain of mustard seed, they could move mountains. If that’s the case, our own faith feels like it’s in the size category of a subatomic particle. Is there a way to strengthen our faith?
What Is Faith?
The concept of faith is on virtually every page of our Bible, especially the New Testament. What is faith, though? Do we really understand it? Although faith has several definitions, we can define it as the heart’s conviction of truth, and mental affirmation of that truth. Faith plays a key role in our salvation as well as our daily life as believers. It is so important, that the Bible uses the single word “faith” to describe the entire Christian religion. We use the same term today to describe an entire systems of belief, such as the “Christian faith.” Faith, however, is something that starts on a personal level.
Understanding what faith is, requires acknowledging that it can grow. This was Jesus’ assumption when he commented on issues of faith (Matthew 6:40; 9:29; 21:21; Luke 17:5). If faith can grow, then, how does it happen?
Jesus tells us the secret of increasing our faith in His Word!
Thankfully, Jesus’ disciples had the same question. One day, they asked — demanded is more like it — “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) We would expect some lesson on belief or trust, but Jesus’ reply seems a bit evasive at first. He told them, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”
Well that doesn’t seem very helpful. Why is Jesus talking about mustard seeds and mulberry trees? True to form, Jesus places truth in the accessible imagery of horticulture, things that were familiar to his agrarian audience. Most of us aren’t farmers, but the concepts are still completely understandable if we take a moment to settle in and understand.
Jesus told them that if they had faith like a mustard seed — that is, just a small amount of faith — they could do seemingly impossible things. The point here is not the size of the faith, however. Obviously, it is ludicrous to think that we could quantify faith by some physical size comparison. Faith is not a physical entity. Faith is, of course, spiritual reality, but not something we can actually see.
What’s going with Jesus’ words? He is saying simply that the amount of faith is not the issue. The presence of faith in one’s heart is the most important thing. In other words, the pursuit of “more faith” or “stronger faith” is to miss the point of faith itself. Your faith is strong already simply because it is faith. What, after all, is the object of faith? It is God. Faith does not exist in a personal metaphysical vacuum. Faith centers upon a being — God. And God’s power is limitless. His strength is incalculable. That’s the strength of faith — God himself.
Your faith is already strong.
You can have the assurance that your faith is already strong because of its object (God). Of course, now you must exercise it. Take your example from the disciples themselves. One of the themes of the gospels is the faltering faith of the disciples. Whether Jesus is preparing to create a buffet for 5,000+ hungry people, or walking on the water across a stormy sea, the disciples struggled with faith. Over time, their faith was strengthened as they saw Jesus work, listened to Jesus speak, and practiced their own faith.
The same things are true for us today. None of us has watched Jesus heal a leper, or raise a man from the dead, but we can watch God work in our homes, our churches, and our communities. We aren’t sitting on a breezy Galilean hillside listening to the actual voice of Jesus speaking to us, but we have the living and powerful word of God which we can read and study. We, like the disciples, can talk to Jesus, even if the setting is a little bit different than it was for them. Finally, we can live out the reality of our faith (James 2:14) in our daily lives.
Strengthened faith comes by acknowledging the limitless strength of God, the object of our faith. That faith is then exercised as we read the Bible, speak with God, watch him work, and live our lives confidently in his presence.
My brother spoke on the “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year” and I have decided to share it with you.
Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5), he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.
Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearing. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
- What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
- What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
- In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
- What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
- What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
- For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
- What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
- What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
- What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting or answer one question each day for a month.
- What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
- What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
- What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
- What habit would you most like to establish this year?
- What do you most want to encourage this year?
- What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
- What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
- What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
- What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
- What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
- What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
- What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
- What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
- To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
- What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
- If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
- What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.
If you’ve found these questions helpful you might want to put them someplace – in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc. – where you can review them more frequently than once a year.
So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, “Apart from ME you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Copyright© 2003 Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.