When Change Happens

A meditation for the closing PSCH Chapel (September 6, 2016)

Change is never easy. I encourage change, but I don’t always enjoy change. What I mean is this: I know change can be good for me and it helps me grow, so I encourage it.  On the other hand, the process and transition of change, is never really a fun experience. The reality, however, is that change happens.  We can’t avoid it.

psch-closing-meditation

Four years ago, my wife and I moved to Bay Roberts.  I’m a “townie” (from St. John’s) and so the jump from living in an urban area to living in a rural area was a bit of a leap for me.

One of my first experiences was the post office.  I dropped by to register for a new box number and before I had my name out, she knew I was the new Pentecostal pastor.  She proceeded to ask if I wanted the previous pastor’s box, or a new one.  Off the top of her head, she knew his box number and the churches’ number.

All I could think was, “Do I have ‘PASTOR’ written on my forehead? What’s going on? People didn’t know who I was back home.”

My “normal” had changed.

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When We Doubt God’s Plan

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I remember growing up hearing, “pray in faith…your faith will heal [or provide for] you…”  Conversely, if someone was not healed or provided for, the response was, “you did not have enough faith.”  As I grew as a Christian, so did my questions.  If God has a special plan for me (Psalm 139:16) and works all things together for the good (Romans 8:28), why would my faith, or lack of faith, solely dictate whether God would heal or provide for me?  Is my doubt a lack of faith, or can my faith even exist without doubt?  If you believe in the omnipotence of God, the question is never if God can do something; rather, why God has or hasn’t done something.  When we doubt God’s plan, we must refocus our attention towards the gospel, and trust God’s all-sufficient grace will help us while God uses our weaknesses to show His glory.

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I offer two examples of leaders in scripture who either had doubt, or had questions about God’s plan, and why they had to go through it.

1. John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ plan when he was in prison.

Jesus said there was no one greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), and yet after Jesus started his ministry, John was arrested and Jesus did nothing about it.  John prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus continued his ministry while John was in Herod’s prison.  John did what most of us would do ? he questioned if Jesus was in fact the Messiah.  He sent messengers to ask Jesus and Jesus responded with:

 4“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)

When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel Click To TweetWhat a response! God’s Kingdom was being established (insert all the amazing things that were happening), and yet “blessed is the one who is not offended by me?”  Everyone else is getting help, but the one who prepared the way, is left in prison.  The word offended is translated from the Greek word skandaliz? which means “cause to sin, or make someone stumble.”1  Jesus was more about serving those who were lost, than he was about saving those who already knew.  It was more about serving and less about conquering.  John may have been looking and hoping for a conqueror to free him from prison, and doubted who Jesus was when that did not happen.  In reality, Jesus was explaining that the Kingdom was being established and blessed are those who believe and follow, even when circumstances seem to be uncertain (ie. doubt).

If you keep reading, you’ll find out John was never released from prison and was eventually beheaded.   In order for the Kingdom of servanthood to continue to be established, Jesus did or didn’t do things that could cause someone to doubt and stumble.  When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel – bringing life to those who are lost.  If we do, we will be blessed.

2. Paul doubted why God wouldn’t remove his “thorn in the flesh.”

Paul was one of the first Christian leaders who wrote nearly a third of our present day New Testament.  You would think that God would provide him with a peaceful and pleasant life.  When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, however, he shared that he was tormented by a “thorn…in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn” was.  It could have been anything from a physical ailment to persecution from his opposition to a severe temptation.2 In any case, the issue was significant enough to cause him consistent grief.  What’s even more significant, is the fact that the “thorn” was given, or at least permitted, by God.3  If that doesn’t lead to unanswered questions (doubt), I don’t know what will.

So, what did Paul do? He pleaded with God.  In fact, he did so three times – asking that it would be removed from his life.  What did God do?  He responded to Paul.  In fact, he did so in such a way that He brought purpose and strength to the pain.  This is so encouraging to me:

  1. I can plea with the Lord, for pain to be removed, without compromising my spirituality. I can process my doubt by engaging in dialogue with God.
  2. God will respond. I may not hear what I want to hear, but God is willing and ready to respond with what I need to hear.
  3. God’s grace is sufficient. I may not think God understands, but his grace is all I need as I process my doubt.

God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory! Click To TweetI’m sure we’ve all had moments and situations when we wondered why God would allow us to go through painful experiences.  For Paul, it meant showcasing how great God is by showing how God used Paul and his weaknesses.  So much so that Paul took joy in boasting in his struggle because he knew that his success, paired with his pain, would point to Christ.

9…Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

If there’s one thing that Paul’s testimony should tell the church today, it’s this: God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory!

To Conclude

We will never fully understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things.  Levels of doubt will continue to surround many of life’s circumstances.  In fact, it almost feels impossible to actually live for God when the plan seems so uncertain.

The pain of losing a job, battling cancer, an unfaithful spouse, persecution, chronic illness, losing a loved one, family tensions, addictions, or…I’m sure you can fill-in the blank, are all so overwhelming that it’s difficult to see any form of good.  I think the key is to step back, revisit how God has blessed us with grace, and realize that this life is temporary.  God is establishing His Kingdom and when we find ourselves doubting God’s plan we have to refocus on the goal – to save the lost, and trust in God’s all-sufficient grace to carry us through when God’s plan doesn’t make sense to us.

Whether we find ourselves doubting God’s truth, voice, or even plan, we have to give ourselves enough space in order for us to process our doubts.  While we do so, we can live knowing that God is waiting for us and willing to provide us with an all-sufficient grace that will help us take faith-filled steps as we grow towards maturity.

Check out Part 3 of this series – “When We Doubt God’s Voice”

Your turn…

Have you ever doubted God’s plan?  Did you let doubt pull you closer to God or push God away?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

Imagine the Potential, our Passion & God’s Plan…

Imagine with me for a moment.  Imagine a conference that is more than a conference.  Imagine children and youth leaders desiring to be more effective.  Imagine worship that humbly points to God.  Imagine challenging and powerful leadership insights inspired by God’s Word.  On April 26-28 of 2013, 300 next generation leaders didn’t have to imagine, we experienced Newfoundland’s very own Next Generation Leadership Conference.  This year, we were encouraged to IMAGINE the potential, our passion and God’s plan.

Photo: Stephen Andrews

The weekend was held together by this verse: “[God], who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”[i]

Imagine the potential…

Sam Luce, children’s pastor of Redeemer Church in Utica, NY[ii], started the conference out by outlining a few things every leader needs to get right.  In summary: a good leader delegates, is humble and eager to serve, connects where necessary, and is priority and value driven, while always understanding that God is enough!  Imagine the potential if we all possessed those attributes.

Dan Bursey, a family entertainer and Compassion advocate[iii], also challenged attendees by sharing how everyone has the potential of changing the world of poverty.  By sponsoring one child at a time, hopeless situations can change into hopeful ones.  Imagine the potential if we all became advocates of fixing world hunger.

Imagine our passion…

On Saturday morning, Paul Robertson of Youth Unlimited[iv], talked about the culture of today’s youth.  He looked at Paul’s passion in Acts 17:16-23.  Paul had a sense of concern, responsibility and gratitude, but remained respectful.  Robertson suggested that we can do the same by listening before speaking, because there’s a generation waiting to be heard.  Imagine if we were all passionate about listening.

That night, Dr. Marv Penner[v], talked about who leaders are.  There are times when we think we have enough strength to lead on our own; however, if we don’t make sure God is at the centre of our passion, then we will eventually fill the void with pride.  Imagine if we were a generation of leaders who were passionate about God being at the core of our leadership, not ourselves.

But it wasn’t all talking.  Melina Dulluku, worship leader at Highway Gospel Church in Scarborough, ON[vi], led us into worship during the conference.  There were a number of amazing moments of worship, including a time when everyone spontaneously started singing “10 Thousand Reasons” before she started singing herself.  Imagine the passion of pure and humble worship.

Imagine God’s plan…

“Imagine a generation where God is priority #1,” is what Natalie Rogge[vii] opened with Sunday morning.  She wanted leaders to know that there is a journey ahead.  It’s called God’s plan, and leaders need to remember: when we feel surrounded, we need to seek God, take a stand, see how God will pull us through, and sing joyfully.  Imagine if we all sought to understand God’s plan, rather than their own.

The IMAGINE theme continued throughout the entire weekend.  From the humorous interludes to every workshop, “imagining what God can do” continued to be the focus.  There is unimaginable POTENTIAL with God when we turn over the PASSION He has equipped us with so that He can be the center of the PLAN.

Just imagine.

 


[i] Eph. 3:20-21, NIV.

[ii] samluce.com

[iii] danbursey.com; compassion.ca

[iv] paulrobertson.ca

[v] http://www.cpyu.org/Page.aspx?id=324630

[vi] melina-d.ca

[vii] newlifemilton.com

** Photo taken by Stephen Andrews http://500px.com/stephentcandrews