Are You Troubled by your Circumstances?
by Bert R. Hartmann
PART I - Our Circumstances (This list of questions keeps growing as friends share their troubling circumstances.)
Are you suffering terribly relationally—feeling out of relationship or actually out of relationship with a very important person in your life—a spouse, family member, employer/employee, or friend?
Are you worried about your current financial situation, and consumed with thoughts of what to do to remedy this unforseen or unfair situation? Are you in the "Why Me? Poor Me!" mode?
Are you feeling hopeless about the direction your country is going, or are you placing your hope for change in an individual or group of men and women? Are you lashing out in activism without the proper motivation, or remaining apathetic while realizing something is wrong? Are you unwilling to sort out truth from deception?
Are you experiencing the powerful influences of traditional cultural mores that result in a rebellious stubbornness or consuming selfishness reflected in your expressed dissatisfaction? Are you finding your traditional cultural mores leading you away from healthy giving relationships; or steering you away from the ability to be receptive to more advanced healing methods for an injury?
Are you angry at God? Are you unhappy with who you feel you are because of your past or present circumstances, or unhappy with how you are being treated?
Are you feeling successful and deserving in your fortunate situation which you credit to the sum total of the individual decisions you made thus far, but neglect acknowledging that selfish-pride comes before the fall? Is your sense of thankfulness fleeting at best?
Are you seeking answers to spiritual questions such as: Who is God? Is Jesus, God? Are you questioning your faith in God because of your circumstances?
Are you frustrated with your time management skills, too much clutter never sold or discarded, or lack of organizational adeptness? Are you feeling left out of technology—that advancements in technology are outpacing your ability to understand or use them?
Do you feel overly stressed for time in the business of life—a lack of time for family, friends, school, work, church, chores, projects, recreation, etc.?
Do you realize that you are a three-part human being composed of body, soul, and spirit, but have no clue or a foggy understanding of how our tri-unity was designed to function in this life?
Do you feel you know God, but you can’t define what His purpose is? Can you define what your real purpose is or why you are really here? Do you love to think you know that you are to love everyone, but are puzzled about your opposing feelings you have about certain others?
Do you wonder if there really is a God? Or, is God just a higher power, or some "name" in the smorgasbord of religious choices? Does it seem you have an emptiness of goodness in your spiritual being—seemingly alone with your negative thoughts?
Do you feel guilty that you are not doing enough for God or for others, or nurture feelings of apathy for situations or others?
Do you see terrible human physical suffering and mental illness/chemical imbalances and wonder why? Are you experiencing your own frightful trials in your own body or soul (mind, emotions, will)?
Do you have habits that you know are bad, but can’t seem able to break loose from them?
• Do you find yourself honestly, yet reluctantly saying yeah to some questions above?
• Is your present condition of your life or the way you live your life honestly working for you?
• Or perhaps is the present clouded or adversely motivated by regret or anger from the past, or worry about the future?
• Do you feel a spiritual void or emptiness when everything else seems pretty good?
• Do you find it hard or impossible to escape from the negative thought realm of troubling circumstances into a positive realm of peace?
• Are you joyful consistently? (Joy and happiness are related but very different; and naturally our happiness depends on our changing circumstances, but real joy is independent of circumstances and can be found not in ourselves, but in an other...)
What if you could find out that "our circumstances" really don't matter in life except for one purpose! They are a place where we can learn to talk with God and simply trust in God, however difficult that may be. Our circumstances become a means to ever-deepening trust and rest.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge [know, not just know about] Him,
And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
PART II - What are we to do?
What are we to do? The good news is that we are to simply rest (in a place of inner rest where our work/activity/attitude/thoughts/speech are motivated and empowered by the Lord) after we make the most important decision in life! A realization and choice that requires nothing but faith (belief) and is guaranteed to bring you a joy and peace despite "our circumstances;" a joy and peace that surpasses our ability to understand how it can be so. It will change your life! It will change your life! It will change your life? If you already are not believing this, you have discovered your first problem! You haven’t accepted the gift of faith so you can place your trust in Someone other than yourself or any other human being. On the other hand, you may have realized God’s desire for the salvation of all men and women and made that decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but since meeting Jesus at the foot of the cross, you left Him hanging there to go about your own life-of-self hoping to see Him in heaven one day. (I pray that what follows is NOT proof-texting, but rather trying to make clear what is seen throughout Scripture!)
After all, you did surrender your life to Him—didn’t you!?
Well, God really does not take prisoners—He kills us (pending our willing choice to die) in order to exchange our spiritual inheritance—our doomed sinful life inherited from Adam's disobedience for His Righteous Life—"the inheritance of the saints"—having "every Spiritual blessing in Christ."
Rom 8:10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Col 1:10-12 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Jesus died (He was killed—sacrificed as the unblemished Lamb of God) that we might have eternal life in Spiritual union with the Lord; in return, we must die to "self" (sacrifice self) so we can have His resurrected Life! You see, God spared Abraham from killing his own son Isaac (Gen 22), but He would not spare His own Son from being sacrificed because sin (disobedience) had to be atoned for—the just penalty had to be paid, and three days later, in the glorious Resurrection, the evil of death itself was defeated enabling eternal Life with the Lord—exactly according to God's plan of redemption and foiling the murderous wiles of the Devil. (God did set the stage in the garden alluding to the serpent striking Christ's heel and that Eve's seed, Christ, would crush the serpent's head. Gen 3:15 NASB)
Rom. 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death [separation from the Spirit of God], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2Cor. 5:21 God made him [Jesus]who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Luke 24:7 The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.
Remember, Jesus in His sacrificial death gave up His spirit willingly ("And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit" Matt. 27:50.); the death we are talking about is spiritual death—separation from God—apart from His intimate presence—separated from God's Spirit! Do you see that God the Father in His master plan sent His Son as the incarnate Son of Man to reveal Himself to us and to set the example for us—that we must willingly die to be spiritually reborn again by being indwelt and forever joined in intimate union with His eternal Holy Spirit?
Sidenote: Only God—our Spiritual Father is "eternal" (having no beginning and no end), but God's creation of each of His spiritual children had a beginning, and therefore technically speaking we are "immortal" spiritual beings destined to spend the rest of eternity separated from God or with God. From this we can understand that having eternal life is not about living forever, but rather about having the eternal Life of Jesus Christ.
He removes us from the self-induced bondage we have felt in "our circumstances" to a new growing freedom and rest in Christ.
Rom. 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Rom. 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Heb. 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their [the sons of disobedience—those in darkness—unbelievers] example of disobedience [sin].
This is often explained as moving from the Old Covenant style of living under the impossible demands of "the Law”. Let's pause for a moment and quickly look at King David—"a man after God's own heart" and his failure to obey the Law.
Acts 13:20-22 All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
2Sam. 12:9-13 Why did you [David] despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you [consequences of disobedience]. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD [David repented].” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die [Wow!].
And moving to the New Covenant way of living where the requirements of the law are fulfilled in those in whom Christ now dwells. A way of living where Christ dwells in the believer exchanging our futile self-effort for His Holy Life and consummate Love. Millions of people have discovered the radiance and glory of this New Covenant Truth—have you? (Hey, it's not that easy to explain or understand—is it? :-)
The essence of the gospel or the good news is that: By faith we are [baptized into] placed in Christ, so that what is true of Him is now true of us. What a joy it is to explore the implications of this New Covenant truth as we seek to know our living Lord better each day through His written Word in order to let Him live His Life through us as us! Finding out who we are in Christ! Learning how to rest as we allow Him to work through us. This whole concept (simple, yet profound) of resting our identity in an Other is so counter-intuitive that it is difficult to put it into words that can be comprehended by our minds which are so tuned to self-interest and self-empowerment. We can comprehend though, that knowing about someone is different than knowing someone!
The small sample of verses below from twelve different New Testament books of the Bible can help us reason and grasp the good news of Jesus Christ that we can find in Him despite "our circumstances:"
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for [to] me.” Galatians 2:19-20 (NIV)
“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious... ” 1Timothy 1:8-9 (NIV)
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ” John 14:6 (NKJV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me [Jesus] you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
“Likewise He [Jesus] also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” Luke 22:20 (NKJV)
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
“But we have this treasure [Jesus Christ as Lord] in jars of clay [our bodies] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also a faith without [Christ's] works is dead.” James 2:26 (NASB)
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Remember that at any funeral eulogy, a person could say, that if the departed had one thing to say to us, the deceased person would advise us to simply "know Jesus" as our Savior and Lord God. This is true for the dead who are separated from God forever (what is called hell) and the dead who are continuing to enjoy His intimate presence forever (what is called heaven). "Know Jesus" as in the intimate relationship one can have in marriage where each spouse gives himself or herself to the other—the beloved Apostle John refers to God's people, the true Church, as the bride of Christ, and as children of God the Father:
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we [believers] should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the [unbelieving] world does not know us is that it did not know him [Jesus]. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he [Jesus] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2 (NIV)
Let your heart be troubled because it will be, but then, see to it that your heart is not troubled because of He who gives you life! Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1). How do we make this practical in our lives when we fear God is not going to handle the circumstances in life the way we want them to be taken care of?! The practical solution is to take our focus off ourselves and/or blaming others—including blaming past circumstances, and rather, to focus on the Son of God and His attributes—who He is. Do you find it difficult to leave the horizonal plane of self and blame, and go vertical placing your focus on our Lord and trusting in Him? Ask for His help—and for His help for you to examine your thoughts, your desires, and your real motives.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
We can live in one of two opposing ways—by faith in the Son of God or by our own self-made faith in something else. In sum, the better you know our Lord, the more you will trust and rest in Him in every circumstance, consequence, or fear realizing His direction and His amazing and infinite grace and mercy, His loyal and compassionate love, His mighty strength, His steadfast faithfulness and goodness, and His unapproachable Holiness that He desires to share with His children! Last question—How does your proud independence compare with your humble dependence on God?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [sustenance, provision for His Life and freedom from worry] will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)
“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)
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rev Nov 2009/Apr 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org