Monday, December 28, 2015

Cultivating the Fruit of Peace

There are two kinds of peace we may experience here on earth.  One form of peace is an internal peace.  This kind of peace is experiencing calmness, tranquility, and inner harmony that is much linked to the fruit of joy and contentment.  It is this form of internal peace that enabled Horatio Spafford, after tragically losing all four of his daughters in a sinking ship, to compose the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”  Even though he suffered immense grief due to his tragic loss, he had an internal sense of spiritual well being and a connection to God that enabled him to have peace in the midst of severe adversity.

The second form of peace is an outward relational peace where we are at harmony with those around us.  It is the kind of peace that has no relational adversaries and proactively pursues reconciliation and relational harmony whenever conflict arises.  When it comes to cultivating the fruit of peace it is this pursuit of maintaining relational peace that we are talking about.  Other words that describe this form of peace are: harmony, unity, agreement, and friendship.

Consider these verses:

“If it’s possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18

“Love and faithfulness meet to together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”  Psalm 85:10

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

God is a God of peace and relational harmony.  The very nature of who God is depicts peace and brotherly affection.  I would go as far to say that God hates relational strife, dissention, and discord amongst his people.  Proverbs 6:16-19 states, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissention among brothers.”

The fact that God’s very nature calls for relational peace can be clearly seen in the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ specifically came to earth to die and pay the penalty for our sin that we might be able to have a restored relationship and be at peace with God.  In Romans 5:1 we read, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”  Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we who accept Christ have a relational peace with God and may confidently approach his throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  As those who have faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior enjoy the benefits of being at peace with God, so we are called to wholeheartedly pursue peace and relational harmony with those around us.

When it comes to pursuing peace there are at least three kinds of people:

Firstly there are the peace breakers.  These are the people who refuse to seek reconciliation when conflict arises, or they tend to make matters worse by blowing up and attacking those who confront them with wrongful doing.  They will intimidate others through words and actions, thus keeping them at arm’s length to avoid facing the real issues.  It is often self-righteousness, pride, fear, and self-protection that are at the root of the peace breaker.  In Proverbs 29:11 we read, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  Also, Proverbs 29:22 states, “An angry man stirs up dissention, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”

Secondly there are the peace keepers.  These are the people who attempt to appease everyone and keep tensions from rising, but they do not attempt to resolve anything or face the issues at hand.  They are typically conflict avoiders who want everyone to be happy and get along, but would rather sweep the conflict under the rug and hope it simply goes away.  The peace keeper is often ridden with a fear of failure and rejection that motivates them to avoid conflict of any kind.  As Jeremiah 6:14 states, “They dress the wound (sinful offenses) of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say when there is no peace.”

Thirdly are the peace makers.  These are the people who pursue peace and relational harmony at all costs.  They are the Nathan’s in life who will stick their neck out to seek reconciliation and restoration between themselves and others as conflict arises.  Even though they may not enjoy conflict (very few people actually enjoy conflict) they realize the importance of maintaining relational peace and harmony.  They are the ones who will genuinely make every effort to make even their enemies live at peace with them (Proverbs 16:7).

So how do we cultivate this fruit of peace?

Firstly, we would need to cultivate a true heartfelt desire to live at peace with those around us.  If we do not genuinely care about living at peace with others we will not pursue it.  In Colossians 3:15 we read that we are to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”  The prophet Zechariah calls us to, “Love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)  If our hearts are filled with a love for peace and relational harmony we will make efforts to live at peace with others.  This quest for peace requires looking at life through the eyes of God, living for his glory (not self gain), and a genuine desire to preserve the community of believers, as opposed to protecting self.

Secondly, we would need to proactively face and throw off everything that hinders us from pursuing peace with others.  Whether it is fear, pride, indifference, or whatever the issue, we must face the skeletons in our closet that keep us from living at peace with those around us.  When I was in my teens and twenties I would say that I was a classic peace keeper.  I hated conflict and would avoid it like the plague.  If I was frustrated about something or someone I would simply keep it to myself.  If I knew someone else was frustrated with me I would avoid them to avoid dealing with the issue.  I no longer live as I did in my teens and twenties.  Today I would consider myself a peace maker.  The reason is that I dealt with the underlying issues that drove me to be a conflict avoider.  I had fear of man and fear of rejection issues that caused me to live in a world of self-protection and self-preservation.  Until I dealt with my underlying issues I would continue to live as a peace keeper.

Thirdly, we would need to begin to look at life from an eternal as opposed to a temporal perspective.  When people have a temporal perspective on life they tend to simply live for the here and now.  They gaze their focus more on this life than the life to come.  This mindset is what often thrusts people into living for self-protection, self-elevation, and self-pleasure.  Pursuing peace with others may jeopardize their comfort and pleasures here on earth.  Therefore they will not ‘rock the boat’ by pursuing peace.  People who have a more eternal perspective tend to live for the ‘big picture’ of life.  They are not so focused on the here and now, but on the life to come.  As Jesus urges us in Matthew 6:19-21, they are storing up treasures in heaven that have eternal value.  This eternal focus motivates people to live for eternity as opposed to the here and now.  As a result, they are more apt to risk discomfort here on earth for the sake of both temporal and eternal peace and reward.

I would encourage you to take an honest look at your life and determine where you are at.  Are you a peace breaker, peace keeper, or a peace maker?  If you are not a peace maker then why is that the case?  What is going on in your inner world that influences you to thwart pursuing relational peace and harmony?  Is it fear, pride, indifference?  Ask yourself the soul searching question, “What must I honestly face to grow in becoming more of a peace maker?”  I assure you that in the end you will be glad that you did as living in genuine peace is much preferable to dissention, relational strife, and inner turmoil.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cultivating the Fruit of Joy

If you were to look up the word joy in Webster’s Dictionary you would find these definitions.    1 joy 1: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires, 2: a state of happiness or felicity, 3: a source or cause of delight  2 joy to experience great pleasure or delight.  Other words that convey the meaning of joy are: contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment, and bliss.

Typically when people talk about having joy (or not having joy) they will refer to their circumstances.  If their circumstances are favorable then they will claim to have joy.  If their circumstances are not favorable then they will often claim to be struggling with their joy.  I am not here saying that it is wrong to have joy in our circumstances.  It is ok to take pleasure in a job, a relationship, a hobby, buying a brand new car, or living in a nice home.  I find joy in many things such as: helping others find peace and freedom in my practice as a counselor, reading a good book, playing ice-hockey, anything outdoors, and spending time with my family.  I am also not saying that it is wrong to feel down or anxious when we are going through a tough situation.  However, when it comes to cultivating the fruit of joy the question to consider is, “Can we still have joy even when our circumstances are not favorable?”

Probably the best definition to ponder above is 1 joy 3: a source or cause of delight.  An important question for all of us to personally address is, “What is the source or cause of my joy?”  Is my joy dependent on my circumstances, or is my joy ultimately founded on something else.  In the end, whatever you base your joy on will be the determining factor of whether you have joy or not.  A word that is closely related to joy is contentment.  In his letter to the Philippians the apostle Paul writes of himself, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)  Here we see the apostle Paul making a claim that his circumstances have no ultimate bearing on his joy and contentment in life.  Paul informs us that he has learned the ‘secret’ of being joyous (internally at peace) and content whatever circumstances he might find himself in.  This does not mean that Paul never had a bad day or got frustrated, but that nothing could rob him of the inner sense of contentment and joy that he experienced in life.

James, the brother of Jesus, writes that we should, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)  Here James is telling us that we should actually find joy in the trails that we face in life.  Not many (including me) will tell you that they are experiencing tremendous joy when they are in the middle of a challenging situation in life.  We are usually prone to despair and depression when we face trails.  However, what James is referring to here is that trials serve the purpose of sharpening our character and working out spiritual maturity in our lives, which has eternal value.  Whatever we might have here on earth is temporal.  In the end it will not last.  One day when we all come to the end of our lives and stand before God, the only thing we will take with us is our character and what has flowed out of it here on earth. 

So what is the fruit of joy that we are called to cultivate?  Firstly, true joy is not living in a perpetual state of feeling ecstatic and happy.  We live in a fallen world where things are bound to go wrong and affect our moods and, at times, our outlook on life.  Secondly, having true joy does not mean that we never feel downcast or disheartened over our circumstances in life.  The truth is sadness is a god given emotion and at times an appropriate response to our circumstances.  Experiencing true joy is one that learns to be satisfied and content in all circumstances of life.  Cultivating this kind of joy is significantly linked to growing in spiritual maturity and maintaining two foundational principles in life.

1.      Having a personal relationship with the God who is, and trusting in him for all your circumstances and very life itself.  In Proverbs 3:5-6 we read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  Elsewhere in Psalm 9:10 we read, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  This knowledge of God implies more than a simple intellectual assent.  This kind of knowledge is an intimate knowledge that personally experiences God’s nature and character in its fullness.  It is a heartfelt knowledge that truly believes and embraces what God says concerning his people, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The more we learn to trust in God’s sovereignty and providence over our lives the more we can have peace and joy in the midst of any circumstance we face, knowing that an omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (universal) God is in the midst of it.  With God there is no ‘comedy of errors.’  Everything that comes our way has a purpose and God is working out his eternal plan for our life, even if we cannot even begin to understand it.  Some of the most difficult circumstances that I have personally faced have become the most positive and monumental experiences of my life.  This is why the apostle Paul so confidently asserts, “And we know that in all things God works out for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Right off the heels of having a personal and intimate relationship with God is:

2.      Maintaining an eternal perspective and focus on life.  To have an eternal perspective means that we spend more time living for and thinking about the life to come rather than our existence here on earth.  I would venture to say that most of us spend about 2% (or less) of our time thinking about eternity, and 98% (or more) of our time worrying and fretting over the things of this world.  Being overly obsessed with our lives, our current circumstances, and our future will certainly rob us of joy and contentment here on earth.  Keeping our hearts and minds focused on eternity and the bigger picture of life will enable us to find joy and contentment in whatever comes our way.  Everything we face here on earth has eternal value according to God's perfect plan if we are willing to look for it.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, when the apostle Paul writes about experiencing severe persecution and suffering he has this to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (II Corinthians 4:16-18)  This I am convinced was a significant factor in Paul’s ‘secret’ of being content.  Paul was not obsessed with this world, his circumstances in this world, or what this world had to offer.  Paul was more obsessed with living out his life for the glory of God, the benefit of others, and one day spending eternity with God.

Concerning our relatively short time here on earth Jesus encourages us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-22)  What Jesus is not saying here is that it is wrong to have nice things here on earth, or that material things are evil and should be avoided.  What Jesus is saying is that our time here on earth is relatively short and that we would do better to be living for eternity rather than simply for what this world has to offer.  It seems that the more we have the more we worry about maintaining what we have and the less we are satisfied with what we have.

I will close with the question I suggested we all ponder earlier, “What is the source or cause of my joy?”  The only way to cultivate the fruit of joy is to learn contentment in all of our circumstances in life, and learn to put our hope and trust in God who is greater than our very life and any circumstance we may face.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Cultivating the Fruit of Love

If you were to do a search on the word ‘love’ in the Bible you would find that it is scattered throughout the pages of Scripture.  In fact, the word love appears in almost every book of the Bible.  Love is a central theme of God’s own nature and character and his revelation to man.  Three of the most significant themes of the Bible are faith, hope and love.  In 1st Corinthians 13:13 the apostle Paul writes, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  Here we see that love is the apex of the Christian life.  In fact, I would venture to say that the rest of the fruit of the spirit (joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) flows out of love itself.

But what is the ‘fruit of love’ and how does the Bible define it?

Firstly, if we were to look at a more worldly perspective on love it might look something like:
          - Love is primarily based on feelings and emotion
          - Love is having my needs met
          - Love is based on conditions and the performance of others
          - Love is self-focused (self is the object)
The above definition is why so many people fall out of love.  They are largely basing love on an emotion and the barometer of having their personal needs met.  While I am definitely not minimizing the importance of feelings or genuinely having our needs met in relationships, this is not the biblical definition of love or the fruit we are called to cultivate.

From a biblical perspective love is something completely different.  Here is a sample of what the Bible conveys concerning love:
          - Love covers all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12)
          - Love is sincere (Romans 12:9)
          - Love builds up (I Corinthians 8:1)
          - Love does not indulge in the sinful nature but serves others (Galatians 5:13)
          - Love is patient and kind (I Corinthians 13)
          - Love is not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered (I Corinthians 13)
          - Love does not keep a record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13)
          - Love does no harm to its neighbor (Romans 13:10)
          - Love seeks to love and pray for enemies (Matthew 5, Romans 12)
          - Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10)
          - Love strives to be one in purpose and spirit (Philippians 2:2)
          - Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8)
          - Love drives out fear (I John 4:18)
          - Love is primarily God and other-centered (Matthew 22:37-40)

In 1st John 3:16 the apostle John enlightens us on the ultimate biblical definition of love by stating, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  Here we are informed that the true essence of the fruit of love is humility, other-centeredness, and self-sacrifice.  The apostle Paul elaborates on the concept of Christ’s example of sacrificial love in Philippians 2:5-8 as he writes that Christ: made himself nothing, took on the nature of a servant, humbled himself, and became obedient to death.  Christ demonstrated the heart and soul of the fruit of love by laying down his life for us that he might personally pay the penalty for ‘our’ sin, restore us to a right relationship with God, and enable us to have life to the full (John 10:10).

One would think that the direct opposite of love is hatred, and in many ways it is.  However, the ultimate antithesis of the fruit of love is self-centeredness or self-preoccupation.  The more we are inwardly motivated by a love of self the less we will grow and mature in the fruit of love.  In Philippians 2:3-4 the apostle Paul elaborates more on this biblical concept of love as he calls us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Here we are called to actually have an inward, humble attitude that others are more significant than we are, and that we are to look to their interests more than (or at least as much as) our own.  This type of love is other worldly and often not an easy thing to do, yet this is the very fruit of love we are called to cultivate.

So how do we cultivate this fruit of love?  The only way to cultivate true love is to gradually and inwardly let go of self.  There is no magical formula, pill, or step-by-step procedure to weed out selfishness and self-centeredness.  It is a slow process of dying to self.  The simple matter is that the more we hold on to self and selfish desires the less we will grow in love.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)  It appears that sacrificial and loving acts are a universal language.  Wherever you go people are impressed with those who sacrifice their time, energy, and very lives for the sake of others.  In fact, everyone I meet with tells me they feel a genuine sense of goodness inside when they have reached out and done something for the sake of someone else.  This is because this kind of love flows out of God’s very nature and character, and is the kind of love he intends for us to display as his people.  Cultivating the fruit of love simply starts by taking the proactive step to do something outside of yourself for the sake of someone else.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit

As I work with people, when you get right down to it, it is evident that what they really want is the fruit of the spirit in their lives.  They want love.  They want joy.  They want peace.  They want to be more patient with themselves and with others.  They want to gain more self-control over their lives.  Because we are created in the image of God, and the fruit of the spirit is God’s ideal for our lives, it should not surprise us that we inwardly crave for what God actually wants for us – what he created us to be.

In Galatians 5:22-23 the apostle Paul informs us that, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  The true road to contentment and inner tranquility runs right through this fruit of the spirit.  The more we reflect Christ in our lives and become what God intends us to be as his creatures, the more we will have personal fulfillment here on earth.  The farther we move away from God’s ideal for our lives the more we will have inner conflict and turmoil.

It seems odd and redundant to say that the more we cultivate love, joy, and peace in our lives the more we will have love, joy, and peace.  However, the problem is that we are often looking for these things in the wrong places.  Or, we are on the wrong road to get where we want to be.  I am writing a series on cultivating the fruit of the spirit.  Certainly not that I have perfected this in my own life, but my goal is to get us thinking about this topic as we are all on our own road to spiritual  sanctification, health, and maturity.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Our Problems and the Fallen World

The third factor in the problems that we face is the reality that we live in a fallen world.  Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, things have not been the way they are supposed to be.  Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)  Here Jesus is informing us to ‘expect’ that at times things will go wrong here on earth.  As Christians we often have an inward attitude that things are supposed to go right for us.  We believe and expect that God is supposed to protect us from any harm coming to us.  When bad things happen we become perplexed and wonder why we are experiencing this trial.  We may even begin to doubt God’s sovereignty and his goodness.  This belief and attitude often flows from improper expectations of life and a minimization of the broken and twisted world that we live in.  I often say that we should really be more surprised when things go right, not when they go wrong.  By saying this I am not trying to paint a negative picture of the world we live in, just a more realistic one.  The reality is that at one point or another we are all prone to experience difficult times here on earth.

I was working with a woman who had a couple of disappointing experiences with dating men.  In both cases the men showed a strong interest, but when things began to get serious they panicked and bailed out of the relationship.  As we were processing her experiences she was asking questions such as, “What is God up to?  What does He want me to learn from this?  Is He sending me the message that I should not seek marriage?”, and “What am I doing wrong?  What am I doing that is chasing these men away?  There must be something wrong with me.”  The more we processed her situation the more I came to the conclusion that her disappointing experiences were significantly due to the choices that these men personally made to abruptly abandon the relationship.  Her experience was not largely about God trying to teach her some large lesson of life (even though God will sovereignly use this situation in her life), or due her own failures and responsibility.  Her trial was more about a human experience of life in a twisted and broken world where we are all broken people.

The truth is that Christians get diseases, are involved in tragic accidents, suffer at the hands of natural disasters, and experience disappointing and difficult trials in life.  To expect everything to go right all the time is to expect that we will have heaven on earth.  God has not promised us heaven on earth.  God promised us heaven in heaven.  In Revelation 21:1-4 we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Here we read that one day there will be no more trials, suffering, pain, or death.  As Christians we will one day live eternally with God in perfect harmony and peace.  However, the current reality is that here on earth we will have trials and suffering.

As we await Christ’s return and the ushering in of the new heaven and earth, instead of constantly swimming against the current of the fall, we would probably do better to turn around and learn to swim with the fall.
Swimming ‘with’ the fall means that we:
1. Maintain proper expectations of life on earth.
2. Continue to grow in our faith and trust in God, realizing that God is truly with us in the midst of every situation we face.
3. Learn to accept the ups and downs that life inevitably brings.
4. Maintain an eternal (heavenly) focus and perspective as we live out our existence here on earth.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:16-18)


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Our Problems and Our Responsibility

The first factor we looked at when considering the three factors that are involved in every problem and situation that we face was, Our Problems and God’s Sovereignty.  The second factor in the trials and problems (and the good stuff) that we experience in life is our own responsibility.

We make choices every day and it is often our own choices (or lack of choices) that play into our problems.  If I impulsively gamble all my money away I cannot blame God or anyone else for my own folly.  I am ultimately responsible for my own choices and their consequences.  Proverbs 19:3 states, A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.  I have worked with people who continue to make poor choices for their life and yet they shake an angry fist at God for their situation.

Another way our human responsibility comes into view is the role we play in bringing about the positive things that happen for our life.  I work with singles that have a strong desire to be married and some will tell me that they do not feel that God is blessing them with a mate.  However when I probe as to what they are actively doing to meet people, I will sometimes find that they are not really doing much of anything.  To those who are very socially inactive and not putting themselves in a position to meet people I might say something like, “Even though I know that God could miraculously bring someone into your life, the chance of this happening while you are repeatedly sitting in front of the television with the remote and a gallon of ice cream is much more unlikely.”

Finally, we need to consider and work on our own personal issues that lie beneath our situations.  Several years ago, I was working with a man who had a lot of deep personal and relational issues.  In addition to much pent up anger and bitterness he had significant challenges in relating to people and getting along with others.  As a result, he had been through several jobs due to simply quitting or being let go because of his poor attitude and actions.  One day as we were talking he stated that he was not seeing God’s blessing in his life.  God was not blessing him with a steady job and a successful career.  In the midst of our discussion on God’s blessing I pointed him to his own responsibility in the balance by stating, “Even if God were to graciously bless you with a job, you still need to be able to keep it.  You still have the responsibility of dealing with any underlying issues and problems that hinder you from getting along with others and maintaining relational peace in the workplace.”

As we look to the underlying factors of the problems that we face we cannot neglect looking at our own responsibility in the mix of life.  To fail to look at ourselves may ultimately lead to a victim mentality and blaming God and everyone else for our situation in life.

Next I will focus on factor #3!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In this series I will touch upon three factors that are involved in every situation and problem that we experience or face.  It is important to understand these three factors as we seek to make sense of the trails and temptations that we face.

Our Problems and God's Sovereignty
The first factor is God’s sovereignty.  God’s sovereignty has to do with His authority, rule, power, and control.  Whatever we are facing (or have faced) in life, God's sovereignty is at the center of it.  Although we may not fully understand, God has a reason and a purpose for everything that happens under the sun.  There is no ‘comedy of errors’ in life.  As Job, one of the greatest human sufferers of all time stated concerning God, I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)  Whatever shoes you have walked in, God is ultimately in the midst of your life and circumstances.  Nothing gets past God's notice, permission, and eternal plan for your life.

I am an avid ice-hockey player and still play at the ripe young age of 53.  Two summers ago I broke my ankle in a freak accident while playing in a game and had to have surgery to repair the damage.  As I thought this would certainly be a career ending injury my first response was, “Lord, why did this have to happen?  I have played hockey all my life and it is something that I really enjoy and look forward to.  Please don’t take this away from me!”  However, I am convinced that God’s sovereignty was right in the middle of my infamous hockey accident.  Firstly, I was giving way too much attention and focus on my ice-hockey.  I had played in a winter league, two spring leagues, and was currently playing in a summer league.  Secondly, I was continuously talking about writing a book on marriage, but was never really getting around to it.  I believe that God was sending me the message that my priorities were off and it was time to get writing that book I was always talking about.  So, while I was laid up with a broken ankle I wrote a book titled, Tails that Wag the Dog in Marriage that I am currently in the process of getting published.

In Isaiah 55:9-11 we read’ As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I am a firm believer that God's sovereignty is the most significant factor in every problem or situation that we face.  Even if we cannot clearly see God's purpose and our situation makes no sense to us, God's sovereignty is at the center of everything that we encounter.

Stay tuned for factor #2!