Mark 8:34 (MSG) Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.
Spoken straight from God’s mouth, the above passage pierces.
Isa 55:11 (MSG) So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
Reasons why I grab the steering wheel:
I think I know better than God.
I think I’m in the wrong location.
I think God is getting sleepy.
Backseat driving wasn’t enough.
I thought God must not have heard my directions.
The Great I AM who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present is in the driver’s seat and I who am exactly the opposite think that I can do a better job. Here are the truths that bust the lies:
I think I know better than God. -
Psalm 19:7-9 MSG
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.
Still, he must be reckoned with, a most wise God who knows what he’s doing. He can call down catastrophe. He’s a God who does what he says.
I think I’m in the wrong location.
1Cor 7:17 And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.
I thought God is getting sleepy. -
Psalm 121: 3-4 MSG He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.
Backseat driving wasn’t enough. -
James 4:4-6 MSG You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”
I thought God must not have heard my directions. -
Rev 1:8 MSG
The Master declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m The God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive. I’m the Sovereign-Strong.”
Col 3:23 MSG Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.
I belonged to the self-driving culture and I sometimes go back to my default mindset. -
Rom 12:2 MSG Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
This one is a sharp arrow:
Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.
Sometimes suffering is what sends me into panic which, when not in synch with the Holy Spirit assured of God’s will, makes me wrongly take control of the steering wheel that leads to the fail.
Follow me and I’ll show you how.
Jesus, the faithful, compassionate, all-knowing guide is readily available to help us. As long as we subject ourselves to His driving, we will be okay.
When I look at Gina, I see a Proverbs 31 Woman who has her steadfast security, joy and quiet confidence in Jesus, The Rock of her life. And she has His reward of a godly man for a husband and children who are walking with the Lord. But it wasn’t always so. Twenty years ago, her marriage to Albit Rodriguez was a marriage on the rocks and Gina recalls those years as a “desperate situation”. But as living proof that God is the God of transformation and second chances, He has since made their marriage a Marriage on The Rock of Jesus Christ, their solid foundation.
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Individually, they were each transformed with new Christ-led hearts which has resulted in a new Christ-led marriage and a new Christ-led family. Their new boss at home is Jesus Christ. Today, Albit is the pastor of Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati. Gina is his life help-meet even in ministry. Their four children are also serving with them in this ministry. In this interview, Gina talks about her journey.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What was your life like before you came to know Christ?
GINA (G): Before, we were very carnal and worldly. Our priority was work, money, acquiring things. For a while we were walking with the Lord until success came. I guess that opened us up. We started making friends with people who were also up there who had that kind of lifestyle. My husband started hanging out with men that would also have women on the side. That became the normal. I think friendships make such a big impact. We backslid, both of us. We were living in the same house but were living parallel lives.
BITS: How about after you came to know Christ?
G: After our marriage and financial problem, that’s when we filtered our friends and got serious about our walk with the Lord. The spiritual breakthrough came for Albit and for me and our family after he came clean and after I learned to forgive. We put God in the center of everything. That’s when he grew and that’s when he started to lead a group. Ever since that time, the group became bigger and bigger and that’s the group now that’s practically running CCF [Christ’s Commission Fellowship] Makati. They’re products of our D-group [discipleship group]. We were happy with our D-group. Little did we know that God called him to plant a church. Because of that, God also fixed our children. First, they were not too receptive. Once we decided to walk with the Lord, Albit started to get involved with discipling our own children. He would talk about the Lord, that would become part of our daily mealtime conversation, we would pray together. God made everything fall into place. Of course, it’s a daily struggle. We really have to walk with the Lord individually to be able to keep our family joyful and united. Otherwise, we have problems just like anybody else.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What was it like to be the wife of your husband before his fully coming to Christ?
G: I was very insecure. I felt unloved, unappreciated. I felt that our marriage was very unstable, that it had no solid footing, that at anytime, it would collapse. I was always frustrated. After a while, I became so bitter and angry because I couldn’t control the situation nor my husband. He would come at odd hours. He would not be accountable for what he was doing. He would turn off his phone. So it was very, very frustrating. It was a desperate situation for me.
BITS: How long was that period?
G: From our honeymoon [Albit and Gina look at each other and they both chuckle]…all the way to the 90’s… about fifteen years. In between, we met the Lord and for a while I thought things were stable but I realized that he had a hidden life. He knew the Lord only, by his own admission, in the head, but it wasn’t in the heart. So I realized that it’s really possible for your husband to go to worship and go through the motions but not really be rooted and grounded.
BITS: Is there hope for marriages wherein the prodigal spouse is unwilling to repent?
G: Of course! There is! There is. I’ve seen marriages where the husbands were unbelievers and then the wife followed the biblical principle of submission, respect, and forgiveness and God miraculously turned the husband around. We really can’t control our husbands, that’s God’s department. The default of the wife is always to take control, to try and change him. But for me, the breakthrough happens when you surrender and give your husband to God realizing that you can not even begin to change your husband. Begin by changing yourself: Number one, by 1Peter 3: “be submissive so that if your husband is disobedient, he can be won over without a word”. That “without a word”, for me that’s where the power is. Meaning: without a negative word; instead, speak life and be appreciative. When the wife is really positive, the husband really changes.
BITS: Even if it takes forty-five years?
G: Even if. [Gina slowly nods her head with a compassionate expression]
BITS: Isn’t it counter-nature: to be submissive even though you were betrayed and hurting?
G: That’s the hurtful part: your being submissive when your husband doesn’t deserve it because… you just can’t. On your own, you want to fight back but that’s when surrender comes in. We just have to say, “Lord, I can’t do this but You have to do this for me. I’ll keep silent.” Somehow, God works things out. It’s really tough but I believe in miracles and we’ve seen them in the people we’ve been counseling. We’ve even seen a homosexual husband want to come back to the wife. I think the homosexual husband is an impossible situation.
BITS: What about AIDS, is the homosexual husband coming back something to be joyful about?
G: It’s a faith issue that if you do your part, God will do His part, that if you forgive, God will protect you. I guess that’s the power of going under His cover (submitting under God’s authority trusting that He has you covered), when you submit to Him and leave the consequences to Him.
BITS: What struggles did you face?
G: My biggest struggle was unforgiveness. I was doing an accounting of everything my husband did which I was tempted to do everyday to get back at him, my way of inflicting punishment, controlling him, to verbally abuse him.
BITS: Was that before or after you came to know the Lord?
BITS: You knew the Lord but you were struggling?
G: Yes. Knowing the Lord is one thing but walking in the Spirit is another thing. If we don’t submit to the lordship of Jesus, we’ll really do everything in a carnal way. We will be dominated by the flesh and that’s what happened to me. I stopped reading the bible because in a way I was angry with God, asking Him, “Why did You allow this?” I was angry with my husband so I turned my back on the Lord altogether. But that’s when God disciplined me for my unforgiveness.
BITS: How long was it between your struggle and submitting again to the Lord
G: Almost a year.
BITS: What do you refer to when you say “God disciplined” you?
G: I got depressed. God gave me the verse in Luke, the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave. The master forgave the slave but that slave did not forgive the other slave so the original slave was handed to the torturers. I felt like I was handed to the torturers by being the one depressed. My husband was okay because at that time he was repenting. It was I who became the problem.
BITS: What helped you to remain in God?
G: God taught me that my anger was like my shield and protection so my husband would not repeat his offenses. I had to be angry so that he’ll behave. God made me realize I was wrong. I repented.
BITS: Did your children get affected? How did you help them cope?
G: Yes, but by God’s grace, it wasn’t obvious because we tried to hide it from our kids. But when the dust settled, that’s when my husband confessed; I also shared with my kids what happened. The honesty made the family stronger. His humility made my kids respect him all the more.
BITS: When your husband repented, did you have fear that it wasn’t genuine?
G: Oh YES, so I was trying to control the situation, nag, monitor, but I realized that it’s a trust issue, trusting that God will be the one to control him and the wife’s job is just to be the best wife she can be. The tendency is to fix him first and then you’ll be the best wife. But what God was teaching me was “You be the best wife, and I’ll make him the best husband.” What Deonna [Tanchi, Gina’s discipler] taught me is that you have to trust that God is big and strong enough to protect you marriage and your job is just to protect your heart.
BITS: So when you say “it’s a trust issue”, you mean trust between you and God?
G: Between me and God. It’s never trusting your husband. Marriage is a union of two sinners so that means it will never be perfect. The balancing factor is trusting God that He will fix your husband as you go down on your knees for him. Sometimes we want to fix first and then pray later. The lesson to me was, “Ask Me, pray to Me, nag Me, but don’t nag your husband and I will be the one to change his heart”. When I pray instead of controlling or manipulating, God really answers in big and small ways. He really does. To me that is the biggest blessing: knowing that God is my ally and partner. I can’t survive marriage without His help.
BITS: Did you fear that your husband would go back to his old life?
G: Sometimes we can be bound by vain imagination, by fear of something that has not even happened yet. The fear of the future destroys your joy for today. If you focus on the things that might happen, you will rob yourself of the joy over something that’s still imaginary. I’ve learned to just live each day at a time, enjoy my husband, and leave tomorrow to the Lord. The surprise of all surprises: I never thought Albit would be a church leader. Never. That to me is a miracle.
BITS: How common do you think is the prodigal husband situation today?
G: I think it’s so common. I think that those verses are there about husbands and wives because God already knows that husbands will be tempted to commit adultery and wives will be tempted not to forgive so God, in anticipation of that, already put safeguards in the bible because He knew that would happen.
BITS: What factors do you think feed this situation?
G: I think what compounds the situation is that many people don’t know the Lord that’s why they choose human solutions over God’s solutions. So what is the natural, common solution? It’s to separate, not to forgive, try and punish your spouse, get an annulment but it’s a privilege to know that God has a solution. I guess the reason separation or women not sticking it out is common is because of media’s emphasis on women empowerment that they don’t need the man. Human solutions and media—those things blur us from knowing what God really wants.
Do you have safeguards to protect your marriage?
G: Albit and I believe in putting hedges on our marriage. There was this book given to us called, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It by Jerry Jenkins.
That helped us a lot on how to safeguard our marriage specially after that thing happened to us. It’s like being careful about not being alone with the opposite sex, not traveling alone. When he travels he has me or one of our kids specially if it’s for one or two nights. We try to build hedges to protect both of us. Even when we are in ministry, it can happen. No one is infallible. In fact, Satan will try to attack you specially when you’re in ministry. I call it protective boundaries…
ALBIT (A): protective love
BITS: Do you think forgiveness to the prodigal spouse makes him or her susceptible to repeating the offense?
G: When you forgive there’s really no guarantee that your spouse won’t do it again. God is our only guarantee. Forgiveness is our duty as a believer. But protection is ultimately up to the person and his relationship with God which of course we can not control. [Turning to Albit] Honey, how would you answer that question?
A[to Gina]: It helped me not to do it again because the kind of forgiveness that you gave me was a godly, redemptive type of forgiveness with love. When that’s what you get, it helps you because your relationship with God and your spouse grows. You don’t want to hurt them because you’re already embarrassed because you were shown love.
G: You live with that risk. That risk will not go away because Satan is alive. You were accepted and forgiven unconditionally so I guess forgiveness is a commitment not only to your husband but to God that you’ve given your husband a clean slate, you’ve let go of the past and you embrace the future with your husband trusting the Lord to fix everything, all the consequences. That’s where faith and prayer come in.
BITS: When you say “godly forgiveness”, is there another kind of forgiveness?
A: Yes, human forgiveness which comes with conditions. In the story of the prodigal son, the father forgave his son. The son did not deserve it but the father forgave him.
G: The father did not count anymore. You can always forgive your husband but keep bashing him for life. Unconditional means wiping it clean, not recalling it or reminding him of what he did anymore. For me, the breakthrough came when I committed to God that I would put the issue to death. I burned and got rid of all mental records, even physical records. I had a picture of the girl, I hired a detective, I burned it in front of him. It meant really treat it just as if it did not happen at all. That’s the kind of forgiveness God convicted me to give to him.
BITS: What role did deliverance have?
G: We did not have a formal deliverance but between ourselves, we were encouraged to write down everybody we ever slept with, to confess it to God and to renounce. We did it individually but we were physically together. Because when you sleep with someone, you become one flesh, there’s a soul tie. So Satan can use that as a foothold. That was tough. But it was part of our cleansing.
BITS: Does being a Christian mean forgiving all sins no matter what, no matter how long, no matter how often? Does this include abuse? Is there a limit?
G: Yes. I guess it means letting the person completely off your hook knowing that he’s not off God’s hook, meaning that if there’s anything to deal with, God will be the one to correct him and not me. The tendency for wives is to try to impose the penalty on our own. Very common… by not allowing him to come home or not talking to him. Forgiveness is releasing all your rights to all of that and treating him with respect and honor not because he deserves it but because you honor the position that God put him in. So tough right? Really possible only by the Spirit [of God].
I think in a strained marriage, there’s always verbal abuse and emotional abuse, that’s a given. But physical abuse, we counsel people that once there’s a danger of physical abuse, you leave but never for the intention of divorce. If you can help it, it’s only a temporary separation with the intention of going back after the husband gets counseling. That’s the only way we will encourage (temporary) separation: because of physical abuse.
BITS: Is there a condition as to what type of counseling and how long?
G: It depends, it’s subjective. It really helps to walk with another couple. We could not have done it on our own. When the information comes from a neutral party (who is walking with the Lord), this helps the husband and wife to understand where the other is coming from. By themselves, the husband and wife feel like victims needing to defend themselves from each other.
BITS: Did you ever get persecuted for your choice to remain in the marriage?
G: Yes. People were trying to separate us. There will be people who will say, “Why did you forgive? The best solution is to separate.” What we did was isolate ourselves. We were so blessed that after a retreat, we talked to the right people because in the middle of a crisis, if you talk to the wrong people, it would lead to the wrong decision because separation makes perfect sense from a human standpoint. It’s really God’s higher economy to forgive. We are a product of forgiveness so we advocate forgiveness.
BITS: What do you think is the most important role of a woman in her family?
G: To be a help and not a hindrance to her husband. It’s easy to be a hindrance to his growth at work, spiritually, in ministry. It’s to help, support, build up. To nurture our kids, and to teach them about God, I think that’s very important; to be a life-giver in the family. The woman sets the temperature of the home. If you’re angry or bitter, the whole household captures that mood. It’s a big responsibility for us to be always joyful. It’s hard. It’s our attitude that will either make it a nurturing home or a home that’s not nice to come home to.
BITS: What message would you have for a woman who is suffering in her marriage?
G: Stick it out, trust that God’s design is best. The temptation will always be to escape, go for what’s comfortable, culturally acceptable. But when you do that, you deprive yourself of experiencing what only God can do. When we go ahead of God and create our own solution, we forfeit the best because God will always defend His design. For me, it’s really obedience. Obedience brings blessing. God’s formula for me is the only formula that works.
BITS: How would you pray for a wife suffering in her marriage:
G: I pray that she would put her trust and security in the Lord alone, be the wife that God wants her to be, focus on obeying God and leave the results of her marriage to Him; that she be forgiving, keep short accounts with God (constantly search her heart and confess her sins), always seek her security in God rather than her husband, be the best wife that she can be while trusting God to work on her husband to make him the best husband that he can be.
BITS: Can you define “putting trust and security in the Lord alone”?
G: Sometimes we become emotionally stable and happy when the husband behaves but that’s temporary because when he misbehaves, then if our happiness depends on that, it gets destroyed. So it destroys the mood in the family, it destroys our relationship even with our kids. But if your security is anchored in the Lord, no matter how your husband behaves, you’ll have that unshakeable joy and peace that will show. When you depend on a human being, the human being is imperfect and will always disappoint, even everyday. To be able to entrust your relationship to God is a faith and trust issue knowing that you’re supposed to act the way you’re supposed to act even if your husband misbehaves… because you love God and that’s the way God wants you to be.
God says, “My people die from a lack of knowledge.” Find out what information you may have been missing.
Watch this talk of Nick Vujicic given at the Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Main Center on May 19, 2013.
“Brokenness is brokenness, but don’t let your brokenness define your future. Don’t let your circumstances define your joy…Don’t wait for a different season in your life before you become happy… God has the best plan for you.“- Nick Vujicic
Now on his first official Philippine tour, Nick Vujicic had a press conference on the morning of May 18 at the Edsa Shangrila Palawan Ballroom which I had the blessed opportunity to be a part of, thanks to Mr. Ardy Roberto and Mr. Stan Kuy of Becca Music.
Nick entered the room with a beaming smile on his cover boy face. He graciously said that he loves the Philippines and pointed out to the delighted crowd, “I don’t say that everywhere I go. Trust me!” . He has yet to see an angry Filipino, he says. Mango is his favorite fruit and he considers Philippine mangoes the best in the world. He is looking forward to going to white-sand beach, Boracay, in the future with his beautiful wife, Kanae, and their son, Kiyoshi James born February 13, 2013. He told us about how he proposed to Kanae. It is in his book, UNSTOPPABLE. And cake has something to do with it!
He swims, scuba dives, golfs, skydives, skateboards, surfs and does three 360 degree spins on his board, sings, is an actor in a movie (Butterfly Circus), earned a double major in accounting and financial planning, authored two books, is sought after worldwide as a motivational speaker (receiving two hundred invitations a week, having had to turn down 28,000 invitations), has spoken to presidents of eight nations, congress… in forty-six countries and counting, is the CEO of a non-profit organization (Life Without Limbs) that has given half a million dollars to the needy.
I thought I heard everything there was to hear about and from Nick Vujicic on YouTube but even with the numerous videos and hearing him speak five times in three days, God’s message of love and hope presented in different ways doesn’t get old.
His father (a pastor) and his mother always told him they love him and that he is beautiful the way he is (an important note he gave to parents). They raised him up to know God and His Word and Nick grew up to stand firmly on the foundation of who he is in Christ and in His Word. Therefore, he is not bound by his disability but continues to accomplish great things with his abilities, choosing joy daily not based on what he doesn’t have but on the priceless treasure of what he has: an active relationship with the living God and heaven after this imperfect life. Nick Vujicic may have no arms and legs but he is the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; in the conspicuous seeming lack in his life we see a window to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. When Nick embraced and joyfully submitted to God’s unique will for him even when initially it looked undesirable and insurmountable, he began to live out God’s great purpose for his life.
2Cor 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
He is more than a conqueror of his limitations and circumstances and lives beyond himself to be a channel of blessing sharing God’s message of hope, love, joy, and salvation to countless people around the globe. The encouragement of the Holy Spirit just keeps flowing …for people with arms and legs… from this spiritual giant of a man.
In Pastor Joey Bonifacio’s interview of Nick, the latter said, “Connecting to God on a daily basis is the most important thing any human being can do. It is the foundation of faith. To know and hear the Word of God produces faith and without faith, we can’t do anything. Nick Vujicic still has his ups and downs and without connecting with God on prayer level… I couldn’t get up.” [http://joeybonifacio.com/2013/05/connect-video-no-1-nick-vujicic/]
An excellent human role model on manhood and how to triumph even when you end up with circumstances you don’t like, his proper biblical assessment made him preface his first UNSTOPPABLE talk with “The only example worth following is Jesus”. What he wants to be remembered by is one simple thing: that he is a servant of the Most High God. In no way is serving the living God a simple thing but that is the one most important aspect of Nick’s life that he wants people to remember. He has said in an interview that he knows the weight of his calling and understands that opposition is bound to come “when you are redirecting traffic in front of the gates of hell”. To see Nick’s life is to see God’s victory and strength.
A big Thank You to Ms. Rebecca Sy and BECCA Music for bringing this event to the Philippines!
Don’t forget to LIKE Nick’s Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/NickVujicicFans?ref=ts&fref=ts
Here is a psalm of David to give life words:
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20 But the wicked will perish:
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.[b]
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed[c];
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34 Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.[d]
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future[e] for the wicked.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
“Life is Unfair!”
Have you ever thought or said this in frustration of what has been happening in your life? You may be surprised, but that is exactly what someone could be saying when they look at your life. Yes, despite the trials, grief, or injustice you face.
Rev. Ann Chan of Covenant Evangelical Free Church, Singapore in a short retreat at CCF last year said that if we compare our lives to the unrealistic portrayals in the media about what constitutes happiness, completion, and success, we are bound to feel discontent but if we compared ourselves to the women who were forced into sex slavery or into female genital mutilation, or those affected by the latest natural or terrorist disasters, we would feel differently. A renewing of the mind gives us a fresh perspective on our circumstances.
There is an email circulating of a story of a man who complained about the cross (burden or suffering) he received in life. He was given a chance to trade it in for another cross. So he was asked to enter a room containing different types and sizes of crosses. Finally, he saw the smallest one of all that he could find and that’s what he chose. When he picked it up, it was the one that had his name on it. It turns out that everyone else had heavier crosses to bear and he had the lightest, yet he was so burdened that he wanted something else.
In Luke 14, Jesus said, 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Here, Jesus taught that His disciple or student or follower ought to carry his or her own cross, nothing coming in between: not a relationship, not difficulty.
It would help us to bear the cross we are given when we remember that God equips us with what is needed to overcome the challenges we face. This Facebook post of Anne Graham Lotz seventeen hours ago is an apt word of encouragement: “God will never expect more from me than the Holy Spirit will do in and through me.”
May our minds be renewed with God’s perspective that because He equips us for what we face, we are more than conquerors in our situation.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
God Himself is my personal Carer. As a shepherd takes care of the sheep’s needs, God takes care of me. Because He is my Provider as well, I lack nothing. I may not have all that I want but I have all that I need.
Why shepherd of sheep (not a horse or dog carer)? It is said that sheep are one of the most unintelligent, helpless animals, just following other sheep without thinking even if to jump off a cliff. That’s why it has to be dependent on the shepherd.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters
To lie down in pastures is to already be satisfied as the need to look for a pasture or eat in the pasture is taken care of. He makes me lie down. It is His desire that I lie down satisfied. Green (and not brown) pastures for sheep mean there is provision for fresh food. He leads me not to waterfalls which may toss me about or cause me anxiety but to quiet waters where I can drink to quench my thirst and be refreshed.
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
He will not take me to the wrong paths but to the right paths. When I carry His name, when I put my hope in Him, when I am identified with Him, what happens to me glorifies or maligns His reputation as a Shepherd. He guides me to do the right things and to end up right, not for my own glory but His.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Through the difficulties that I will face (valley of the shadow of death in some translations), He will cause me not to fear because He is with me.
His rod is used as a main weapon of defense.It is a comfort during danger as it can deter would-be attackers from coming closer to the sheep. It can beat bushes to ward off camouflaged snakes.
The rod is also a symbol of strength, power, and authority… in God’s case, limitless. It also serves to discipline and correct the sheep when it wanders so it can be trained to stay with the Shepherd and the flock. It can also be used to examine the sheep beyond the thick wool for any hidden problems. It can be used to count the sheep. An important part of being God’s sheep is being weighed in, so to speak, to be accountable not just for outward matters but most importantly, for what is kept in the heart.
The sheperd’s staff distinguishes him as a shepherd. Carers of other livestock do not carry a sheperd’s staff. While the rod is used for power and strength, the staff is used for compassionate duties of the shepherd. The curved end of the staff (like a hook) draws the sheep nearer to him especially when the sheep is shy or distant. When a newborn lamb is born, the shepherd uses the staff to bring it to its mother so that his own scent will not go to the newborn lamb or the mother may reject it. The staff is also used to lead the neck of the sheep towards other sheep, or to the direction where he wants it to go. It catches straying sheep. It helps to direct sheep on roads that are challenging or rugged to keep them on track and to help them get their bearings. When the sheep get themselves into a bind somewhere, the hook of the staff helps to untangle the bushes and wild brambles that entrap the sheep’s wools so that the sheep can move again.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
God Himself prepares a table presumably with the best food and drink. Or when there is famine elsewhere, God provides for His own sheep. The cup overflowing speaks of abundance, echoing God’s quality in Eph 3:20 that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly or immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Anointing my head with oil with His Spirit gives me His mind and heart and enables me to walk in alignment with Him, representing Him. If He is the one doing the anointing, it is His will and choice to anoint me for this work.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
No matter what yesterday and today looks like, there is certainty that goodness and love will follow me forever. And eternity will be spent dwelling with Him in His house.
Do you sometimes feel helpless? Know that God is your all-knowing, all-powerful, everpresent Helper. In the Philippines, the word “helper” connotes the person under one’s employ who does one’s laundry and chores. This can lead to the wrong thinking of underestimating God.
God as our Helper saves us from any man; He is a refuge, an unlimited untiring source of strength, a faithful, reliable protection at all times. All the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Until our God-appointed days are up, no one and nothing can touch us. God is our Helper.
Psalm 121: 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Using e-Sword.com’s cross reference for the phrase “My Help” from verse 2, these are the same “help”:
Heb 13:6 so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”
Jer 20:11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
But there is also a sobering reminder that we ought to trust the Lord as our Helper as He loves us and wants to lead us to the path of blessing. Going against Him leads us away from life and blessing but onto destruction.
Hosea 13:9 “You are destroyed, Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.”
May we seek, trust, and obey our Almighty Helper and be blessed.
Have you felt weak at the knees from your circumstances? Have you tried to keep following God even when it was painful or difficult while you see others around you painlessly go through life as a spiritual spoiled brat? Do their actions contribute in some way to your circumstances today? Be encouraged.
You are more than a conqueror in Christ (Rom 8:37). But circumstances may make you feel defeated and weak. Psalm 73 (where the title of this post comes from), written by Asaph, gives us a guideline on a way out of feelings (not truth) of defeat and weakness:
1. Express yourself to the Lord authentically. He can take it. He cares for you.
2. Evaluate your situation not from mere human eyes based on the seen physical things but based on the unseen things, the eternal perspective. Go into God’s presence. There, you will gain strength, wisdom, encouragement, and the grace you need to move forward.
2 Cor 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
3. Exchange the lie that makes you doubt God and His word (which causes you to feel weak and defeated) for His truth. His word is where you will find His truth.
These are the stages documented in Psalm 73:
1. Praising God for being good to His people who are pure in heart (v1).
2. Confessing that his feet almost slipped because he envied the arrogant when he saw them prosper (v2-3).
3. Focusing on the seemingly unjust circumstances: He points out that their bodies are healthy, they have no struggles (v4), and this causes them to be proud and “clothe themselves with violence”. They are carefree, callous hearted, scoffing, speaking with malice, committing iniquity (Immoral or grossly unfair behavior), having limitless evil imagination, giving arrogant threats, yet gaining followers, amassing wealth, thinking that God would not know any of their actions (vv4-12);
4. Asaph started to feel that it was useless to keep his heart pure and felt sorry for himself. Keeping his heart pure came at a sacrifice, he was afflicted and felt punished daily. He could not speak out just as he pleased because of his reverence to God. Verse 16 shows that sometimes when circumstances around us don’t make sense and there is much wickedness and lawlessness going on around us and we try to use logic, we just get troubled. We have a God who has commanded that we cast our burdens to Him.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply
5. What changed his whole outlook was when he went into the presence of Holy God. Asaph became enlightened. He understood what the bottomline for the wicked is: destruction, ruin, completely swept away by terrors. Their passing pride, wealth, and oppression of others, as they themselves will be as gone, despised as fantasies.
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
6. Asaph understood his folly in doubting God, in doubting that serving Him was in vain, in allowing his spirit to be embittered.
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
7. Asaph came back on track with his walk with the Lord, recognizing His eternal perspective for the future and the present benefits of making Him Lord in the here and now.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
8. After Asaph’s sojourn in almost slipping, envying the wicked who prospered, feeling sorry for himself as he doubted why he had to keep his heart pure, he sought the Lord and in His presence, that’s where Asaph understood that the future of the wicked is destruction. Asaph saw that even while he almost slipped, God continues to hold, guide him and take him to His glory.
God is the strength of his heart. God is His only desire. Even in his failures and weaknesses, God will continue to be the strength of his heart. Despite the wicked around him continuing in their pride and prosperity, Asaph makes God Himself his refuge. Regardless of their behaviour, Asaph decided to declare as a witness God’s deeds.
No longer envious of the prosperity of the arrogant, Asaph was restored with the right perspective with God as his focus and center, his source of strength, and his everything. He delights in his present and future with God.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Here are some verses that talk about Asaph:
2 Chronicles 29:30
King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.
1 Chronicles 25:5-7 5 (All these were sons of Heman the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.)
6 All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God.
Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. 7 Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord—they numbered 288.
Rom 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord.
This verse is poetic and easy to follow… when one has not experienced vile betrayal and offense, when one has not seen the blatant in-your-face cool and collected lying, when one hasn’t seen viciously wicked actions. But experiences such as those are the times when the rush of adrenalin increases the voltage of vengeful thoughts. Those are the times when this verse matters the most.
“Do not take revenge” is a command, probably because it is among the fight-flight-freeze instincts for animals to fight (back) for survival when attacked. To withhold revenge takes a great power, a supernatural power, the same power available “for us who believe”:
Eph 1:19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms
What is it like to leave room for God’s wrath? It is to give Him the space and time to work both in ourselves and in our attacker: in ourselves to heal us and rid us of the host of destructive feelings and give us the light and peace of the Lord of Hosts; in our attacker in fulfilment of His promise that vengeance is His (Rom 12:19).
Rom 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Through Moses, the law of tooth-for-tooth rule of restitution was given (Lev 24:20). When Jesus came, He taught grace and love.
Matt 5:43 Love for Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We need You. Work in our hearts to nip vengeful thoughts in the bud. Give us a sign of Your goodness, we look to You to be our Defender, Avenger, Healer. You are the God of Justice who gets weary when we doubt this (Mal 2:17)
Breaking Covenant Through Injustice
Mal 2:17 You have wearied the Lord with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
Help us to remain in You when Satan uses others’ choices )to give us evil) make us doubt Your goodness. You remain the good, loving God You are yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We praise You and thank You for how You will show Yourself faithful in Jesus’s name amen.