Thursday, July 21, 2011

Faithfulness Through Testing

"Faithfulness Through Testing"
By Zach Wood
Genesis 22:1-18

Are you a person who always gets(or got) the highest or one of the highest scores on tests in school?  Well, I was not one of them.  Except for vocabulary words in my high school English class, I did not make exceptional grades, either with homework or on tests.  While is felt great to sometimes receive a B+ or A, I was content many times with a B- or C.  I didn't look on D's or D-'s very well, but if I did get them, at least I passed.  I must admit many times throughout my school years, I was happy to receive a passing grade so that I would not "flunk" out.  Not all classes were hard, but many were and they really challenged my learning abilities. 

What if each of the tests you received in school were either an A or F?  Nothing in between.  You either get everything right or you fail.  That would probably raise the pressure and the amount of stress.  Talk about sweating!  Think about the pressures and the challenges you face in life.  God brings tests into our lives to test our faithfulness to Him. 

Picture Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  What an amazing story of testing and faithfulness!  Abraham didn't hold the knife back and wait for God to stop him.  He obeyed God and was bringing the knife down to sacrifice his son when God stopped him.  It was not until Abraham was in the act of the sacrifice that God stopped him.  God was testing Abraham's faithfulness.  God wanted to know if He was the single most important thing to Abraham.

If we are true followers of Jesus Christ and not just "lip service" people, we will follow God no matter what the circumstances.  When He gives us a test, it's either A or F.  We either obey Him all the way, or we fail completely.  I don't even like the sound of "failing completely", do you?  We have all been there.  There are times when God has called us to something great, but we fail to pass tests that He puts in our lives to see if we're ready for the next level of the journey of life.  If we don't pass, we take the test again. 

God’s testing will challenge our faithfulness.  What grade are you getting?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Always Praising

"Always Praising"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 34:1-3
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

Most of us probably find it easier to praise God when times are going good.  When things are going good, we feel so joyful and jubilant.  Our hearts are happy and we feel so full of energy to rejoice and praise!  However, when times get tough and bad things happen, it is often hard to praise God.  It's not that we do not believe in Him or think He is not good anymore, but our hearts become crushed and we feel the pain of life set in and we lose much of that joy and feel overwhelmed by sorrow.  It is often very hard to find the strength to praise God when situations arise and cause us to become angry and doubtful. 

When you find out unexpectedly today is your last day of is hard to praise.

When you find out that your spouse has been is hard to praise.

When you find out that your house will go into is hard to praise.

When you find out that your newborn baby will not live through the is hard to praise.

When you find out that job you interviewed for and desperately wanted fell is hard to praise.

When you are diagnosed with life-threatening is hard to praise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are times in life when things just really hit us hard.  They hit us so hard that the pain is so real and so intense that we feel we cannot praise Him.  Have you found yourself in one of these situations above or possibly another one that hurts so much you feel you cannot praise Him?  Sometimes, it is just downright hard to find a reason to praise God.  Life stinks and you try to find some way. 

May I remind you that Jesus Christ is there.  He has never left you and will never forsake you.  It is in these times when Christ helps us up and urges us to carry on with life.  I have found that when hard times come, this is when I grow the most.  My character becomes stronger if I focus on Him.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, it require a lot of strength.  But it is only strength that I can draw from a close walk with Him.

We are called to praise God in all situations of life.  We are not expected to thank God for taking a loved one away from us.  We are not called to thank Him for bringing a hurtful situation or horrible tragedy into our lives.  But....we are called to proclaim that He is Lord no matter what happens to us.  We cannot explain life many times.  God knows what is going on and knows far more than we'll ever know.  He calls us to praise Him always because of Who He is.  He is and will always be the provider.  He is and will always be the One who sustains when we feel weak.

I urge you, to persevere when life seems to stink.  Always give praise to God for Who He is.  Thank Him for watching over you and providing for you even in the midst of your heartache and sorrow.  These are truly the times when the lost of the world will see our strength in the Lord and wonder what keeps us going.  Keep the faith and stay strong.