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Don’t trust your feelings. Ignite your faith.

I was recently reading 1 Kings 19, which tells the story of Elijah and the enormous personal battle he fought, after winning a great victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

Elijah had called on the name of the Lord and saw fire fall from heaven.  The disbelievers in the crowd fell on their faces and worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The one true God had been glorified and the Godless prophets of Baal had all been killed.   This extraordinary day of miracles shook the country and without a doubt, Elijah was operating out of the anointing of his calling. He was serving God and was at his very best.

But then Elijah received news that Jezebel was after him.   She was enraged by Elijah’s ‘rebellion’ and sent a messenger to say;  “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life, like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2).   Elijah had been full of faith, sure of his identity and yet, those few words plunged him into fear and into an identity crisis.

At this point, a few things happened:

He became deeply emotional and fearful – his mind was affected.

He became physically tired and exhausted – his body was impacted.

He could not hear God’s voice – his spirit was drained.

A few days before, he would have sought God for the answer, but now he was depressed, despondent and Scripture says he’d had enough and wanted God to take his life.  He was being attacked by an unseen enemy which wanted to steal the victory, kill him and ultimately destroy all of God’s work.

As I look around me, I see this so often in our churches.  I believe that one of the biggest attacks of the enemy on the church today, is the attack of depression and despondency.   The Word tells us that the enemy’s weapon is to steal and there is no greater way to make an army ineffective, than to steal their joy, their confidence, their identity and replace it with fear and exhaustion.  This often happens too, just after a big victory.

The story of Elijah shows that the enemy often works through our feelings,  The enemy tries to mentally suck us dry and create a battle ‘between our ears’ of being overwhelmed.  I believe if the enemy can win the battle ground in our mind, he knows he will successfully distract us from God’s plans and get us to focus on the problem and how we feel about it.

If you are in that place, of feeling despondent, depressed, overwhelmed or in fear (just like Elijah), you might be wondering if there is a way out.   I have been there and I know it can be a difficult journey,  but there is a way out and there are many great guidelines to be found in God’s Word.

Deal with the physical

Firstly, on a very practical level, God dealt with Elijah’s physical needs. I love that God is a God of practicalities!    Immediately, God sent Elijah some food and water  (delivered by an angel) and then allowed him to sleep. Once Elijah had been strengthened on a very physical level, God began to speak to Him. He did not give Elijah all the answers, but He asked him questions and allowed him to experience His presence.   If you are feeling overwhelmed by situations in life, it is first good to check all the physical, practical causes, such as lack of rest or proper nutrition.

However, it is also important to deal with the spiritual causes and here is some advice, based on things I have learned in my own life.

Instigate disciplines

Discipline is a part of discipleship.  If you have the discipline of regular devotionals in your life (so that it becomes a daily habit), you will be able to continue reading God’s Word even when you are in a dry patch.  If you create frameworks of discipline in your life, before you experience despondency, you will find that you have a ready-made oasis just when you need it.

Phone a friend

Find a friend you trust and ask them to do the journey with you.  For many years (until he passed away), I had a wonderful friend who knew me so well, that he could detect even a change in my voice and understand if something wasn’t right.  He was great at provoking me to speak out and to share what was going on.  He and I were often able to travel the journey together and support each other in prayer, when the other was going through a difficult time.  Having good strong friendships is very important.

Practice the presence

Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days and was tested in many different ways before His work could begin.  Often, the enemy will try to attack our identity (just as he did with Jesus;  ‘If you are the son of God…’) he said.  Jesus knew His identity and He knew God’s Word and He was able to stand firm against the test.  At the end of the test, he experienced God’s presence and He left the wilderness refreshed, anointed and ready for His assignment.   Often in church, we work first and rest later, but I believe that God wants us to operate from a place of rest.  When we work and live in God’s presence, we can act from a position of faith, rather than what our feelings tell us.

Go back to God’s Word.  

I love Psalm 13. To me, it sums up a feeling of despondency and downheartedness so very well.

How long Oh Lord?  Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day, have sorrow in my heart?  (Psalm 13) .

This Psalm is wonderful because after David has poured out his heart to God, a switch happened, something changed.  By verse 5 and 6, he says, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love. my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for He has been good to me’.  

As he wrote and cried out to the Lord, his heart started to move toward praise.  One minute, here we have a guy who feels forgotten and forsaken and then as he cries out to the Lord, he moves into the realm of praise.

It is ok to feel forgotten, forsaken, despondent, depressed – none of these things are a sin. But it is important to not rely on these feelings, and instead go back to the reality of God at work in your life.   God has never failed you (or me!) in the past and He will not fail you now.   Ask Him today to help you move beyond your feelings and instead, into an atmosphere of praise and faith.

It is in His presence, that we can find true rest and also once again begin to find God’s purpose in our lives.

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional

When you’re in God’s waiting room

It was so good to have our friend Tommy Tenney with us at UCB last week.  Tommy has spent over 40 years in itinerant ministry and is the author of The God Chasers.  He spoke to a group of leaders for the filming of UCB’s Foundation event on Wednesday and shared on the subject of waiting.  It is an experience we are all familiar with!

I sat down and asked Tommy about his experiences of waiting and what God has taught him.

How should we respond when we are waiting for God to fulfill a promise?  

The first thing to say is that God doesn’t mind adding the ingredient of time, to the recipe of our lives.  I have often watched my wife make a cake and sometimes she will take the cake out of the oven and test it with a toothpick. The ingredients of the cake are right, the temperature of the oven is right, but all the cake needs is time.

It’s the same with soup or any other recipe.  You can add all the right vegetables and all the right seasoning, but sometimes it needs to simmer, it needs time before it tastes just right.   So, God really doesn’t mind adding the ingredient of time to our lives.  Maybe he sometimes puts a divine toothpick in our lives and says, ‘All this needs is time’?

Secondly, I think we need to change the picture in our minds of what waiting is all about. We think of ‘waiting’ as the experience of sitting in a Doctor’s waiting room, waiting to be seen.  I believe this is the wrong picture.   We should instead look at waiting, as being like a waiter or waitress serving in a restaurant.  It is a very active process, there is an activity involved, they are serving, helping to make others comfortable.  They may even be waiting for their own dreams to come true, but while they are waiting, they are serving.   You can learn some of life’s biggest lessons when you serve someone else’s dreams.  I have learned that when you serve and make someone else’s dreams come true, God makes your dreams come true.   Waiting doesn’t have to be an experience where you sit there and twiddle your thumbs – it should be an active experience, while you are waiting for God to move in your own life.

It can be very frustrating though?  

Waiting isn’t easy, but we can also learn a great deal in the process. If you look at the story of Abraham and Sarah, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but time was against them.  They thought, ‘if we don’t do this now, it won’t ever happen’.   And so they rushed ahead of God’s timing and brought Hagar in and Ishmael was born.  What Abraham and Sarah had not realised, was that by rushing ahead of God, they were actually creating future conflict for themselves and generations to come.  We still live with the effects of that conflict today.

Have you ever experienced being in ‘God’s waiting room’?

Yes, there have been many occasions.  Next year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of The God Chasers.  Before that, I had been in ministry for 20 years.  If it had been up to me, I would have written the book many years before.  But God said, ‘No, now is not the right time, wait until you’re ready’, so I continued to serve in ministry and being faithful as a preacher.

On another occasion, after I had written a novel about the life of Esther, I received a prophetic word, that the book was to be turned into a movie.  I shared the vision with those who could help me pray and process this word and we very quickly got a cash investment but we needed a great deal more.  But then not one penny came in for the whole of the next year.  We started to debate, should we just refund the original investment to the guys and tell them the movie was not going to happen?  That Christmas, I was by myself one day and received a phone call from one of the people we were talking to. He said, ‘Are you sitting down?’  He said he had just got $12 million dollars funding for the film.   We had one full year with no sign of any funding and then this!

I believe that waiting for God’s promises can be a time of worship.  We don’t like waiting, but it is in God’s waiting room, that we often learn life’s biggest lessons.

An episode of Foundation with Tommy Tenney will be on UCB TV  soon.  You can sign up for updates from UCB, with radio and TV information here.

 

 

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