Desperate for God

Are you desperate for God’s presence? Do you yearn for him, hunger to be where he is and to receive a touch of His grace?

In our busy lives, it’s far too easy to let the preoccupations of the world push out the need for God. Especially if we think we can solve our problems by our own strength, it is tempting just to put God in a box, worshipping with Him for two hours at church on Sunday and then forgetting about Him the rest of the week.

However, if we do not seek God desperately, we miss out on the many blessings that He can shower us with. In Hebrews, the writer says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The Gospels are also full of stories of men and women who yearned to have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus.

In Luke 8, we read about the woman who had a problem with bleeding for twelve years. For over a decade, she had searched for someone who could heal her, without success. She was desperate for a solution. She had heard about Jesus and his great acts of healing and was full of faith that He was the One who would deliver her. Though the crowd was huge – Luke said that the crowd nearly crushed Jesus – she muscled her way through the sea of people and managed to touch Jesus. Immediately she was healed.

Do we have faith like this woman? When faced with problems, are we so convinced that Jesus is our salvation that we push aside any doubts that crowd our minds like the crowd that blocked the woman? If we want God’s healing or salvation, we have to be as desperate for God as the woman was desperate for Jesus.

In Psalm 42:1-2, it is written,

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

When I read this verse, I picture a parched deer, totally dehydrated, dragging its emancipated body across the cruel desert in search of water. There is a desperate focus, an intense concentration, only God can satisfy the deer’s thirst and nothing else. We as Christians need to have that single-minded thirst for God as well, when only His presence can relieve the thirst in our souls.

The wonderful thing about this desperate thirst for God is that God promises us that it will be satisfied.

Jesus promises in John 7:37-38, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” When we have an intense thirst for God, God promises to satisfy us with the delicious waters of eternal life.

So seek Him desperately today!

 

Jesus calms the storm

What do you do when God is sleeping?

Today’s blog entry focuses on Mark 4:35-41, about how Jesus calmed the storm:

 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

*

You wouldn’t blame the disciples for being upset with Jesus.

The disciples certainly weren’t expecting a storm. After all it was Jesus’s idea for them to get on a boat and cross over to the other side of the lake. It was what Jesus commanded and you would understand that the disciples expected a smooth, blessed ride.

They certainly didn’t expect to be hit by a turbulent storm, with winds rocking them violently and water pouring into the boat, threatening to capsize the vessel at any moment.

What made matters worse was the person they expected to save them, didn’t seem to care. Jesus seemed blissfully unaware of the dangerous crisis as he slept through the storm. They felt Jesus’ presence, but it was a sleeping presence.

Have you ever experienced God’s sleeping presence? You are in trouble, but no solution is in sight. Nothing seems to be improving for the better and you can’t see a way out. You’re in a jam and no help is available. You know God is with you but He doesn’t seem to be doing anything. When this happens, it’s called experiencing God’s sleeping presence.

Your dire circumstances get so bad you can’t stop worrying, and things get so bad, you start to panic.

Fear turns to anger and you lash out at God – “What’s wrong with you God? Can’t you see I’m in trouble? I might die! Why don’t you help me? Why aren’t you doing anything?”

After the disciples wake Jesus, he gets up calms the storm. Maybe God has done the same for you, rescuing you from your trouble after you pour out your frightened and angry prayers at him.

Jesus’ reaction is to rebuke his disciples for their lack of faith.

I don’t know about you, but this story always speaks deeply to me. In the past, it used to be that whenever things started going wrong, and when I pray about it and things don’t get better immediately, I start to worry.

Through reading this passage I learn that God is always with us, His presence is always there protecting us even when we don’t see it. This is known as God’s sleeping presence. We can have peace knowing that even when we are hit by storms, by turbulent troubles, by worrisome situations, we don’t have to worry because God’s presence guards us and stops bad things from happening to us. Now, when I’m in trouble, I’m learning not to worry and developing that calm stillness that God will see me through the turmoil if I just don’t panic and trust in him.

Two other Scripture verses also tell us to have faith in God through the storms in life – “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15) and “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37)

When we are sure that God is protecting us even when He seems to be sleeping, we can relax when the storms in life hit us and enjoy the ride. I always remember the following children’s song when I meditate on this truth:

 

With Jesus in the boat,

we can smile at the storm,

smile at the storm,

smile at the storm.

With Jesus in the boat,

we can smile at the storm

as we go sailing home.

Have a big vision for your life

Do you have a big vision for your life? What are your dreams? Do you even have dreams or have you given up on your big goals because you’ve faced disappointments?

Often when we are young, we have big dreams for ourselves but then we face setbacks and obstacles. Maybe someone disappointed you. Or you failed to land your dream job. When you experience failure, it’s natural to get discouraged and give up on your dreams. You may even decide just to settle for a mediocre life, one where you’re just surviving, rather than thriving.

But if you look at the Bible, it’s full of people with big dreams. God gives believers big missions to accomplish. He’s a big God and wants to empower us to live great lives.

Look at Jesus. His mission was the salvation of the whole earth. That was an awesomely huge mission that could only be achieved through supernatural means. Paul was just as ambitious – he wanted to convert the whole Roman empire, to bring the gospel to all the Gentiles. David was a shepherd boy, but he knew his destiny was to be a King. Joseph was a slave and then a prisoner, but he also dreamt of being a ruler.

Maybe you feel you don’t have the resources to fulfill your dreams. All the people mentioned in the last paragraphs also came from humble beginnings. After all, Jesus was just a carpenter when he started his ministry but he ended up being the most influential religious teacher of his time. We serve a big God who can do the impossible.

God wants to do great things in your life, but you need to have faith that this is what he desires for you. If you are settling for a mediocre life, this will set the limit to how far you can go in life. Start dreaming big, ask God for his blessing and watch your life grow in blessings!

Why does God allow suffering?

Sometimes suffering is a test. As Christians, we’re called to maintain an attitude of love, joy and peace in all circumstances. So suffering becomes a test of whether we can be joyful even when things don’t go our way.

Most ordinary people long for a life full of blessings, free from suffering. But what many don’t realize is that what they want is love, joy and peace, and not a blessed life per se. What I mean is that you can have a blessed life and still be unhappy. If you’re neurotic, you can have a blessed life and constantly worry that it’s too good to be true, that your blessings will be destroyed at any time, so your worry makes you miserable even though you have a blessed life. But if the opposite happens, if you’re suffering but you don’t let it upset you, you maintain your joy even in adversity, then even when you are not blessed you are happy, then the fact that you have trials doesn’t bother you.

When you can overcome obstacles with your positive attitude, that is an extremely empowering thing. When you can be happy despite trials, that gives you a great sense of power and freedom. You stop being afraid of bad circumstances, you’re not worried about obstacles because you know they can’t steal your joy. So you face life with great courage and confidence. You’re not afraid of what tomorrow brings, because good or bad, you’ll still be happy.

So sometimes God permits suffering to test us, to give us this courage that comes from unconditional joy.

Also, when you fully grasp this truth, you realize it is better to have a life that has both blessings and obstacles, rather than a life that is pain-free and full of blessings. That’s because the unconditional joy that can only be developed in the face of suffering gives us courage and the freedom to be happy no matter what happens.

Suffering then becomes a blessing, because it shows us how strong our joy is – our joy is so strong it cannot be destroyed by suffering, our joy is unconditional as it is not dependent on blessings. Even when we suffer, we are happy, so everything is ok. Because what we really want is joy, not blessings. We only want blessings because they bring us joy, but if we can be happy even when we don’t have the blessings, then that is a great gift, that is great freedom, we are no longer dependent on good circumstance for our joy. So that gives us freedom and courage and a deeper appreciation of the greatness of God – he empowers us to be joyful even in suffering.

Praise be to God – who works all things out for our good!

Conquering the negative – an apology

Today’s post follows up with an amusing story based on last week’s post. It’s an apology to my sister. You might want to read last week’s post first so you can understand this week’s post. (http://hweehweetan.com/conquering-the-negative/)

I was having dinner with my sister at Sushi Tei and asked her if she had seen my post.

She was delighted that I wrote about our trip to Bali. “I’m always asking you to write something about me, finally you wrote something about me!” she said.

Then she read my post.

I didn’t expect her reaction but she was real mad at me.

“You didn’t tell them the full story! You were just sitting in the boat while I was doing all the work paddling to the shore,” she said. “Of course you could have a positive attitude towards the rain. You did nothing and I did everything.”

Opps. She’s was right! I did paddle back in the storm when we were in Bali but my paddling was pretty weak and my sister was the one who managed to haul the boat back to the shore. I couldn’t have done it without her.

“Your spiritual lesson shouldn’t be about having a positive attitude,” my sister said. “The real lesson is that at times we think we’re doing all the work, but it’s actually someone else who’s helping us succeed. We think we succeed through our own work, while it’s actually God who’s doing all the work.”

Amen sister!

My sister made a very good point. A lot of times we don’t give God the rightful credit for the blessings in our life. We think we’ve achieved all the good things in our life through our own effort, when it’s actually God’s grace, his strength working in us. So today, take time to think about all the good that God has brought into your life and give him the rightful praise.

Thank God! (And my sister)!