Do You Really Trust God?


Jeremiah 29:11-13-"For I know plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart."

Like many of you, I have had multiple opportunities to play the trust game. This is where a partner stands behind you while you fall into their arms. This game requires trust that your partner will catch you when you fall. This is similar to what God is asking of us. 

The scriptures tell us that He is always with us. It is up to us to trust that He is there and live accordingly. He will not leave us.

We can have confidence knowing that He is always there and has plans for each of our lives.

When you are considering a major life change, the most important action you can take is one that is most often skipped: invite Him to lead you. As you continue to seek Him, He will speak into your heart, and your path will become clearer. If you trust Him, He will come along beside you and guide you throughout your journey.

I know it sounds like a nice Sunday school lesson. A little too easy, right? But when you do this and experience His power working in your life, you will never forget it. I have witnessed many people whose lives have changed dramatically in unexpected ways by turning to Him (including my own). It is transformative.

I had someone ask me once, "What if I don't want to go where He's leading me?" There are many who feel the Lord has given them clarity but who are reluctant to walk the path our of fear. They feel there are too many obstacles and they have too many personal limitations to reach the goal. However, the Lord would not give us clarity and fear.

When we feel that He has spoken into our hearts, any accompanying fear does not come from Him.


How Perseverance is Rewarded

James 5:11- As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

I will always remember Mark and Debbie (not their real names). They are former clients of mine who came to see me for couples counseling. They had been divorced for 2 years after an 8 year marriage. Their marital problems started out as communication issues. That then led to anger and resentment which culminated in each engaging in their own affair. At no point during their marriage did they try to stem the tide of dysfunction. It wasn't until after divorce that they started talking about the issues in earnest and seeking outside help. By the time they cam to see me, there was a lot to work through. But they were determined.

What is memorable to me about Mark and Debbie is not their volume of issues, but their display of perseverance.

James 5:11 describes those who persevere as blessed. It references God's compassion and mercy and how it is available for all of us regardless what we have been through. The Lord seems to have a special place in his heart for unwavering faith.

Perhaps there are aspects to Mark and Debbie's story that you can identify with. Maybe the nature of your struggles are completely different. Either way, God call you to persevere in your faith regardless of your struggle. There is nothing you experience in your life that is bigger than Him. As you continue to seek Him, God will show you compassion and mercy. Just life with Job, you will see what He finally brings about in your own life.

As for Mark and Debbie, they remained in counseling with me for over a year. They rededicated not only their lives to Christ, but also their relationship. They were remarried and now experience a life together they never thought possible. Like all of us, their perseverance was blessed.


1. Think of a time when your faith was tested. How did you show perseverance? How was that perseverance rewarded?

2. How have you seen others' choice to persevere (or give up) effect their life course?  



Vengeance is Mine

Romans 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," says the Lord.

Not long ago, I had someone in my life who was trying to cause me trouble.  This was a person with whom I used to have a professional association, but I ultimately felt that association was not beneficial and decided to end it.  I had terminated that relationship respectfully, and we both moved on with our lives.

Or so I thought.

It turned out that they were resentful about my decision to move on.  Instead of dealing with that anger constructively, they chose to create and spread false information about me.  Their intent was to make it harder for me to succeed in my new professional endeavor. When I discovered what was happening, I very much wanted to get back at them.  As crazy as it sounds, I thought about all the ways I could make their life more difficult.  Although I have never considered myself an angry person, it was amazing all of the thoughts I had.

As the situation continued, something about my approach didn't feel right to me. I had allowed my own anger to change my thoughts, and those thoughts became consuming. Before I knew it, I had begun to engage in a similar process as the other person, at least internally. The fact that I was becoming more like this person was the warning sign I needed to take a different approach. My new approach was to give the situation over to God.

Romans 12:19 tells us that God is the great equalizer. He will make things right the way that He sees fit.

Even though I could see malice in the heart of this other person, I had forgotten that God could see it too.  It was not up to me to make it right.  Ultimately, I realized that God was going to use the situation as a point of growth for each of us if we allowed ourselves to see it that way. Getting mired down in our own anger and seeking revenge only served our own desires and prevented us from experiencing the spiritual maturity that God intended.

It is impossible to go through this life without feeling that someone has wronged you.  Because you are human, your natural instinct is to get back at that person and to "make it right". But God wants more from you. He desires for you to have a heart filled with grace and to trust Him to enact justice. 


1. Think about a time when someone has tried to harm you or your reputation. How did you respond to that situation? How did you want to respond?

2. As you look back, what do you think God was trying to accomplish? What lessons were there to learn?  How did your response to the situation effect your ability to experience those lessons? 


Feeling Generous?

2 Corinthians 9:6- Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

I used to pass him everyday on my way to work.  He stood at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the city.  He always held a sign about a desire to work for food.  On my best days, I would give him a few dollars.  Every other day, I would just drive on by pretending not to notice him.  I always felt a twinge of guilt.

Steve was a successful chef in that same city.  He was known for his innovative cuisine and in-demand restaurant. Steve passed through that same intersection each day.  Occasionally, he would bring the man food.  But over time, Steve had other ideas.  He wanted to make a real difference in not only this man's life, but also in the lives of those like this man. So Steve took the dramatic step of leaving his restaurant to open a non-profit cafe that catered to the homeless.  He also used this cafe to introduce Jesus to those who did not know Him.  While I was busy feeling guilty over someone's suffering, Steve wanted to utilize his own gifts to help change someone's life.  Steve understood that investing in people is the best kind of investment.  It can change the lives of those we help, but also our own in the process.

Steve decided to change his own life significantly in order to best help those who needed it.  He understood the concept in 2 Corinthians 9:6 about sowing and reaping.  Steve sowed heavily in the lives of others and he reaped many rewards.

Steve's cafe attracted the homeless in the city but also those in more fortunate situations.  On any given weekday, you could find professionals dining in the presence of those who struggled with the basics of life.  They were all drawn to Steve's food but even more so to his heart.

His generosity was returned in spades. 



1.  What is your typical approach to those who are in need?  How do you show generosity?

2. What are the effects of your generosity?  How do you experience the benefit in your own life? 



Jealous Much?

James 4:2- You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.

I don't think of myself as a jealous person.  I'm guessing you probably don't think of yourself that way either.

Jealous.  It just sounds so bad.  

But if you and I are honest with ourselves, we can probably pick any day at random and find that we experience jealousy at least a couple of times throughout that day.  So, maybe we are jealous people.  On the other hand, maybe we're just human.

Why do we experience jealousy?  Jealousy occurs whenever we measure ourselves against someone else's qualities, abilities, or achievements.  It is inherently based on our own wants and desires as opposed to God's provision.  Stated another way, it is our focus on what we do not have instead of on His rich blessings.

James 4:2 tells us that jealousy results in two bad outcomes: 1.  Killing   2.  Quarreling and fighting.

It also tells us that we often do not have because we do not ask God.  This doesn't mean that God is like a genie who grants our every wish.  Rather, God is a loving God who blesses us greatly according to His plan and purpose for each of us.  If you need something in order for you to fulfill His purpose, He will supply it.  

For Christians, there is no place for jealousy.  God will always give you exactly what you need.


1.  How are you currently experiencing jealousy in your life?  Try to identify even the subtle ways that jealousy is effecting your relationships, your work, and your spiritual life.

2. How do you experience God's provision in your life?  Do you rely on His provision?  Question it?  How might your reliance (or lack thereof) on His provision impact how you experience jealousy?

Is God Answering Your Prayers?


John 14:14- You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Psalm 13:1- How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Lamentations 3:25- The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;


Do you ever feel like God has forgotten you?  That maybe He is preoccupied with more important concerns than your own?  I fight feeling this way sometimes.

I am a praying person.  Sometimes I pray specific requests while other times my prayers are broader and more general.  Whenever I pray, I have a verse like John 14:14 in the back of my mind.  Knowing that I am praying for things in the name of Christ, the chances of them being answered is pretty good, right?  Because I am human, I can easily become frustrated after a few weeks when my prayers appear to go unanswered.

I know I'm not alone in this way of thinking.  In Psalm 13, David has grown weary of God apparently ignoring him.  We don't know exactly what David was looking for but he obviously hadn't received it yet.

I'm guessing that you can identify with David's feelings.  Even though many of your prayers are answered in an obvious way, there are some that seem to go unanswered.  Why is this?  Why are some prayers answered and others seemingly go ignored?

I believe there are two answers to this question:

1. His plan     2. His timing

God has a plan for each of us that is beyond what we are able to see.  Answering our prayers is one way for God to work that plan. However, for those prayers to be answered, they must be consistent with His plan.

God's plan occurs on His time which the Bible describes as "perfect".  Things in this life occur when He needs them to, not when we want them to.  Even though God views each of our lives as significant, the time that our lives occupy is not.  We perceive time far differently than God.  So even when prayers appear to be unanswered, they just may not be answered... yet.

God knows what's best for you, and He knows exactly what you need.  I believe He answers or doesn't answer your prayers accordingly.  You can take comfort in this fact as referenced in Lamentations 3:25:

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Answered prayer or not.



1. What are your expectations when you pray?  What happens when those expectations are not met?

2. How does God's faithfulness to you impact your view of Him and your view of prayer in general?


The Busyness Epidemic

Ecclesiastes 3:1- There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13- I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.

Increasingly, I have noticed that when I ask people how they are doing, they respond with "busy." Our society has become busier than ever and we are all feeling the effects.  I have counseled many people who are having difficulty achieving a healthy work/life balance. They feel a pressure, often internal, to get more accomplished at work, make more money, have their children involved in many activities, and maintain a fulfilling relationship with their spouse. For many of us, busy quickly becomes overwhelmed.

Is this the way God desires for us to live?

Ecclesiastes 3 references how there is a time for everything.  It goes on to show that there is nothing better for people that to be happy and find satisfaction in their work.

God's design for us includes a healthy work/life balance.  He wants us to be able to experience His great gifts. When we have balance in our lives, we are best positioned to receive those gifts.

When you find yourself experiencing anxiety or feeling overwhelmed by the demands on your time, ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish?" "Is my busyness part of a greater goal and does that goal honor God?" "Does my current schedule allow me to fully experience His presence or does it create an obstacle to my spiritual growth?"

We are all busy. Let your's have a purpose that makes God and family the priority. 


1. In what area of your life do you experience the greatest challenge to maintaining balance? What has been the effect on your family? On your spiritual life?

2. What steps do you need to take to regain that balance?  What will be the effect on your life if you take these steps?  What will be the effect if you do nothing?  

You Are Gifted

Romans 12:6- We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Do you ever have those days when it feels like everything you try falls short?   When it's easy to lose sight of those things you're good at?

Each of us are good at different things and it is important to recognize those gifts.  For example, I have always been skilled at developing ideas and creating new ventures.  Several years ago, I started my own consulting company which served medical facilities.  That company began with three contracts and within two years grew to 20 contracts.  It became one of the busiest companies of it's kind in that region.  Within six years, the market had shifted and the company was disbanded.  A few years later, I started a company of a different kind which grew but never reached the vision I had for it.  Although there were great highs in watching those companies grow, the ways those endeavors ended had an effect on me.  Those experiences hurt my self-confidence and caused me to question my own abilities.  More than anything, I had lost sight of God's gifts in my life.

Romans 12:6 tells us that God has given us different gifts through His grace.

Those gifts represent the tools necessary for each of us to fulfill our unique purpose.  You always have the gifts you need to live out God's plan for you.  There are times when life pushes you around and your gifts become less obvious.  That was the case for me when those companies folded.   Losing sight of God's gifts can happen to anyone.  This is particularly true in times of transition and endings, such as divorce, health scares, parenting difficulties, relocation, and job change.  It is during events like these that you are most vulnerable to feeling that you have lost your gifts or questioning if you really had them in the first place.  Thankfully, your gifts never wane, just your ability to see them.


1. What are your gifts?  How do you know these are your gifts?  What is the impact of your gifts on others?  What might be God's purpose in supplying you with those gifts?

2. Think of a time when you questioned your gifts. What was the cause of that questioning? What did you learn about your gifts during that time?

Are You Providing For Your Family?


1 Timothy 6:17- Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

In my years serving as a counselor, I have seen many people suffering from anxiety.  Quite often, their worry is related to fears about their future needs being met.  They are used to relying on an obvious path to get what they need, but life has changed in some way and that path is no longer as clear.  They feel overwhelmed and afraid.

Even without ever having met you, I know you can relate to this.  How do I know?  Because we all tend to experience fear whenever we feel out of control and see no easy way to regain that control.  This is especially true when it comes to meeting the needs of our family.  

1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that God "provides us with everything."  Sometimes we will experience His provision in abundance while others times it feels more limited.  But in all times, it will be enough to meet our needs.

Understanding the source of your own provision can give you a real sense of peace.  How freeing it is that God, who loves you more than you can comprehend, knows what you need and provides it accordingly?  Sometimes that provision comes in expected ways and other times it comes in ways you could never predict.  Even more freeing is the realization that God's provision is not based upon merit, but on His own unending love.  In other words, you don't have anything because you deserve it, but because He loves you.

Cast aside your fears about the future.  God's got you!


1.  Think about a time when you were worried about your family not having what they needed.  What was that pressure like?  How did you respond to that pressure?

2.  Have your family's needs ever been met in an unexpected way?  To what do you attribute this?  What was your role in getting that need met?      

3.  How can relying on God to meet your needs impact the pressure you feel as a provider?     

Striving For Selflessness

Philippians 2:4-6- Not looking to you own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did no consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.

It seems to be a running theme in the Bible to put others before yourself.  Isn't it so easy to just set aside whatever crisis you're dealing with in order to help someone with their own crisis?  It comes so naturally, right?  Not really.  If you're anything like me, you're successful doing this only on a limited basis and with no consistency whatsoever.  That's part of being human.

But God wants us to overcome our natural tendencies in exchange for a better approach to life:

His approach.

Philippians 2:4-6 highlights one of these approaches.  Imagine living in a world where you didn't have to think much about your needs because other were already working to meet them.  And in turn, you would be working to ensure that the needs of others were being met.  God knows that this way of living is best for us individually and collectively.  Unfortunately, our actual world is quite different.

Even though we live in a world that is far from ideal, we can still lighten each other's burdens by using our individual gifts to enrich the lives of those around us.  Living the principle found in Philippians becomes easier when you utilize your strengths, talents, and abilities for the betterment of others. 

1. What obstacles do you experience on a daily basis to putting others first?  How do you overcome these?

2. What gifts do you possess that enable you to effectively meet the needs of others?

What It Means to Be Content

Hebrews 13:5- "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."

For much of my teen and adult years, I wanted to be different.  I wanted to look better, make more money, and just have a better life.  I did not really have specific ideas for myself.  It was always just a feeling that a better life was out there to be had.  Looking back, my appearance and financial situation were not the problem.

I was lacking in contentment.

Hebrews 13:5 tells us to be content with what we have.  God has blessed each of us uniquely and has equipped us according to His plan.  Although we worship the same God, we are on different journeys requiring different tools and gifts.  Whenever you see others with certain qualities, achievements, or possessions, know that God has readied them for their own journey. In the same way, God has supplied you with everything you need for the work He has intended for you.

This verse goes on tell us that we will always have what we need.  It is easy to fall into the trap of endlessly wanting something more or different.   However, our creator has already gone ahead of us and laid out the path he intends for us to walk.  He knows exactly what you need and He ensures that you will have it.  As you walk that path, be filled with contentment knowing that He is always with you and that you have exactly what you need.

2 questions:

  1.  In what area of your life are you most prone to discontentment?
  2.  How does having faith in God's plan for your life impact your ability to experience  contentment?