I’ve been asked a few times by people, “How do you have peace/joy/hope in trials? How do you pray with faith with there’s no evidence to put your hope in? How do you keep smiling when things are difficult?”
The answer is simple but not easy.
God, in His sovereign purpose, has given me plenty of opportunities to practice learning these truths. Or perhaps it’s just that I was crushed by my choices and my circumstances when I came to Christ that I couldn’t NOT practice these things.
It was do or die, literally. I had to cling to these promises of God as if my life depended on it – because it did.
After being asked about this again last week, this Scripture was read in church yesterday:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
I do not often hear these 2 verses quoted together. I don’t usually quote them together, but I should, because so often when I reference them, I’m sharing on our thought life. What I hear Paul saying is this: This isn’t easy and it won’t come naturally. It takes practice and hard work to fight against our old patterns of thinking and living.
Paul goes on to talk about how he has learned the secret to being content. God promises to teach us these things as we choose to walk in the truth of His Word, who He says He is, and what He has said He will do.
Why is this so hard for us? If we want to become skilled at something, we know it requires practice, whether it be cooking, knitting or running. If I want to run a race at a faster time than I previously have, I practice running at a certain pace, I do track work, and I cross-train. Why does it surprise us that this is also true for the Christian walk?
God has given me even more opportunities to practice these things with our recent move back to Massachusetts from Virginia. Moving all our stuff, my dad’s stuff, my children’s stuff, and our bodies (including my 6+ month pregnant self) is a major chore, and wow. So many things have gone wrong. It could make me question whether or not we made the right choice – but I’ve chosen not to do that. Given that I’m reading through the Old Testament right now, I can see parallels in the Israelites’ journey into the Promised Land. It wasn’t easy to begin with, and they made it much more difficult by complaining their way through. So I am trying to choose to pray and praise rather than complain and grumble. This is something I’ve practiced, and that practice is now coming in quite handy!
In today’s My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers discusses the Christian life being “gloriously difficult.”
God saves people by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But we have to “work out” that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12). If we will only start on the basis of His redemption to do what He commands, then we will find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not yet put into practice what God has placed within us. But a crisis will reveal whether or not we have been putting it into practice. If we will obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has placed within us by His Spirit, then when a crisis does come we will find that our own nature, as well as the grace of God, will stand by us.
This is quite similar to how I describe the freedom that is available in Christ. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but we need to learn to walk in that.
We need to put it into practice.
What discipline do you need to practice today? Is it joy? Contentment? Praying and praising no matter what?