Continuing in the Father's Strength

Excerpted from the book More Jesus, Less Religion by Steve Arterburn

After many years of service to Christ, Cliff’s wife developed a quickly spreading cancer. Many people joined Cliff in fervent prayer for his wife, but she failed rapidly and soon died. Through it all, however, Cliff did not break his determined gaze on Christ. Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his deep experience of pain and suffering—and even depression and confusion—to push him even deeper into the arms of the living God.

This grieving servant of God knew only two things to hold on to, and he held on to both with all his might. The first was his unshakable conviction that God was a good God. And while he didn’t understand this particular circumstance or why his wife had to suffer and die, he did know that God was good and that there had to be a reason he would come to understand one day. Second, he knew beyond all doubt that God loved him. In spite of everything. No matter what. Through it all.

Cliff clung to those twin truths, refusing to take his eyes off the Lord even when he was wracked with grief. When you’re in severe pain or distress, life becomes pretty simple. You’re in survival mode, and you have neither the heart nor the strength to spread around your emotional energy. Instrument certified pilots know what this is all about. When visibility drops to nil and storms rage around them, it is second nature for them to focus on the ‘artificial horizon’ gauge on their instrument panel. No matter what their senses might tell them or what weird phenomena they see through the windscreen, they know that gauge will give them their true position and keep them flying level. They may feel as though they are in a steep dive–’or even flying upside down. Yet their eyes must lock onto that gauge, and they must respond accordingly. When it comes to survival, it doesn’t really matter what they feel like; what matters is what their instruments say.

Many travel through this world basing every decision on how they feel and what they experience. They do not study God’s Word or spend time with Jesus; they have no real knowledge of this Guide who begs us follow him, no matter how we feel and regardless of our circumstances. If we stay focused on him, if it becomes second nature to look to him and not to ourselves, we will not get lost in the dark. Jesus will be that instrument that keeps us headed toward the horizon. Our faith in him can keep us from alternating our direction based on momentary discomfort–and it can prevent needless tragedy.

So it was with Cliff. Although his emotions sometimes raged and other times fell dead flat, although his thoughts were at times confused and he felt his equilibrium slipping, he focused on the ‘Jesus gauge.’ He knew that no matter how his circumstances changed, his Lord would neither change nor fail. As the Lord told Israel, ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendents of Jacob, are not destroyed’ (Malachi 3:6).

As a consequence of such focus, Cliff enjoyed a daily supply–an artesian well–of God’s love through those days of sorrow and distress. He was not only comforted himself, but he became a surprising source of comfort to others.

Our faith, when focused on the true God, will not be shaken by adversity or unexpected turbulence. As long as we, like Cliff, hold tight to our faith in God’s goodness and love, we can come through pain and struggle with a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus, rather than a faith strained beyond its limits because we failed to focus on the true God.

For more help please see More Jesus, Less Religion.

Also, please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Malachi's Message

Steve Arterburn

The prophet Malachi brought a message of hope to a nation that knew repeated failure.  After being restored to their homeland, the Jews had forgotten the one who had delivered them.  We often make the same kind of mistake.  As soon as we overcome our pressing problems, we forget the one who delivered us from them’God.  Without a continued relationship with God, our hope of sustaining spiritual growth is slim at best.  You and I need to keep our eyes on God, the source and means for our continued spiritual growth.

God’s love to the people of Jerusalem and to us cannot be explained.  God knows the depth of your sin; he knows how weak you are; yet he still loves you.  There is nothing that you can do to lose this love that you never deserved in the first place.  God’s love has the power to heal all the broken places in your life.  Your failures, setbacks, and defenses cannot stop God from wanting to heal you.  This fact should give you hope, no matter how terrible your failures in the past.  He already knows about the anger, betrayal, addiction, lies’you’re not going to surprise him.  But it’s time you confess and seek his will for your life.

Are you willing to turn to him for healing and forgiveness?  He was patient with the people of Israel for hundreds of years, in spite of their sin.  In his grace, God patiently waits for you as well.  

God On Divorce

Steve Arterburn

There are two ways to give a command. You can take a positive approach, such as, ‘Follow God!’ Or you can spell out things to avoid, like, ‘Flee the devil.’

 

In Malachi chapter two, God uses both approaches to emphasize the sacredness of marriage. First, in verse 15, it’s stated positively: ‘Guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.’ Then, in the very next verse, the same message is put quite another way: ”For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord, the God of Israel.’

 

Why is God so zealous about marriage? One reason among many is that God knows real contentment comes from the deep union of two souls, the kind found only within the security of an exclusive, lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. That’s the way He designed us.

 

Unfortunately, most of us’including me’have seen, or even been in, marriages with little evidence of such oneness. Today, divorce is increasingly common among both Christians and non-Christians alike. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s okay. I speak from experience when I say divorce breaks God’s heart.

 

Yes, God can forgive divorce. If He could repeatedly absolve the nation of Israel for its many sins over the centuries, He too can forgive a husband and wife who’ve wrecked their marriage.

 

But guys, make no mistake: God would much rather see your commitments kept, commitments made before God and witnesses at your marriage ceremony. He’d like to see your loyalty honored, and the spiritual oneness between you and your wife kept sacred. Strive for it! 

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries