Be honest about your needs

‘When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.’ Psalm 94.18-19

There is something about these words that speaks of honesty and truth.  The writer is absolutely honest about his situation – at times he felt he was slipping and sensed anxiety growing within him.

Quite often we hide what we are really going through.  It’s easy to put on a mask to others, and sometimes even to ourselves, to conceal what we are feeling.  However, if we are covering it up we are not bringing it into God’s light.

This leads on to the other great truth expressed in this psalm; namely that we have a saviour God who rescues us.  Even in the midst of his own precarious position, the psalmist recognised the unfailing love, support and joy that God brings.

A good question for us as we go through challenging times is this, ‘What do I need God to do for me?’  It is not about what we can do for ourselves because then we would not need God, but what is it that only he can bring to you or your situation?

As you come before God now, be honest about what you are going through, because he is the one who has the power and love to bring you what you need.

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It’s not all down to us

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4.6

All of us have moments of anxiety when we are faced with a difficult situation and it is hard to see a way through.  At times like this you may have been offered advice from well-meaning friends – ‘Just pray about it!’  However, if you’re honest, this can seem like a bit of a cliché and it doesn’t really seem to help – at least certainly not in the short term.  This helpful verse from Zechariah doesn’t simply offer us a cliché, but instead brings us back to how God answers prayer.

When situations loom large in our lives, the problem is that we simply cannot see how things can be resolved.  We think of all the practical steps we can take and they are still not enough.  These powerful words spoken by God bring us back to the reality that prayer is vitally important because our own natural resources are totally insufficient.  The help that God brings is not based on our own resources, but on his Spirit.  Often the Spirit may choose to work through human resources, but it is still the work of the Spirit who brings it all about.

If you are facing an anxious situation of course it is right to pray, but first of all call to mind where God’s help comes from and the mighty resources he has at his disposal.  You may well find that this completely changes the way you pray!

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Returning to God

“Return to me,” declares the LORD Almighty, “and I will return to you” Zechariah 1.3

The certainty in this verse is so reassuring.  The promise is that God will return to us, not that he might if our repentance is sincere enough or if we return to him for a decent period of time before wandering off again.  It is a straightforward and clear promise that he will be there for us.

The reason, of course, why God promises to be with us is that he never actually leaves.  If you ever sense that there is a gap between you and God, it is likely to be you who has done the moving! You are returning to the one who has been there the whole time.

As you sit quietly, ask yourself this question: ‘Where is Jesus for me right now?’  Take a minute to ponder your reply.  It’s worth remembering that there is no right or wrong answer.  Jesus may reveal himself within you or beside you; you may sense his peace or be reminded of a Bible story.  Wherever he is, enjoy the immediate sense of his presence and take it seriously.  What is Jesus showing you by being where he is?

As you return to God, he is delighting in your presence with him just as much as you delight in his presence with you.

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Praying with honesty

‘Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.’ Psalm 86.6

Honesty in prayer is wonderful; how incredible to be able to pour out our hearts to God, either in desperation or adoration.  It is only when we are honest that it is really us who are praying, and not just our facades or masks.

There are two sides to being honest.  Psalm 86 is the prayer of a man in trouble, and with honesty he lifts up his requests to God.  However, he also acknowledges the other side of honesty – facing up to the nature of God revealed in the Bible.  Alongside his own needs, the psalmist lifts up the wonder of God, extolling the truth about him and reminding himself of God’s true nature – forgiving, good, abounding in love, faithful, loving, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful and strong.  ‘For you are great and do marvellous deeds’, he exclaims in verse 10.

As you pray, perhaps especially in times of need, begin by extolling the nature of God; worshipping him for his wonder, goodness, love and forgiveness.  The reason for this is not to butter God up so that he will listen to your prayers more favourably, but so that you worship with honesty and integrity; acknowledging the truth about who God is, as well as the truth about your own circumstances.

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Bringing God pleasure

“I was… delighting in the human race.” Proverbs 8.31

The author of the book of Proverbs speaks about wisdom, and often this is portrayed as a person.  Many of the phrases used to describe wisdom seem to function rather like a mirror, and they reflect the person of Jesus to us.  One of the striking verses is this one, where wisdom – a reflection of Jesus – speaks about delighting in the human race.

What do you imagine that God thinks of you?  So often we think of him regarding us with disapproval or noting our failures.  Instead let’s focus on his delight in us.   It was God’s delight, and not his disapproval,  that caused Jesus to come to earth and lay down his life for us and it is God’s pleasure to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us.  He delights to live within us and it is pure delight that sparkles in the Father’s eyes when any of his children choose to be with him.

Take a few moments to bring pleasure to God now – sit in the presence of Jesus and catch his delight in you.

 

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Our God is greater

‘…whom shall I fear?’ Psalm 27.1

Psalm 27 is a beautiful psalm that addresses the whole issue of fear.  It recommends overcoming fear by replacing it with something else – a focus on the greatness of God and his presence with us.

The psalm begins by exalting the greatness and wonder of God; there may be an enemy opposing us, maybe even an army, but the reality is that God is stronger.  The light and salvation of God are greater than the darkness of any fear that we might experience.

Then the psalmist moves on to consider how wonderfully safe and secure it would be to continually dwell in God’s presence, with him keeping us safe in times of trouble.

You may be thinking that this is easier said than done!  It is very hard to focus on God’s strength and close proximity to us when fear has gripped us and is claiming all our attention.  However, this is where practice comes in!  In times of calm, practice worshipping God for his greatness, power and majesty, and acknowledge that he is close.  Jesus said that he would never leave or forsake us, so get used to living in his presence.  By doing this you will become accustomed to turning your thoughts to the wonder and presence of God so when troubles come you will do this quite naturally.  When fear begins to surface it will not seem as bad, simply because your eyes will naturally be turned in a new direction.

Practice begins today!  Take time to ponder the wonder and the greatness of God.  This can be done any way you find helpful, perhaps by singing or listening to a song or reading a great psalm of praise.  Do this until your vision is fixed on God and nothing else.

Then take a moment to find God’s presence.  Ask yourself where he is for you – in front of you, beside you, within you.  It really doesn’t matter where you sense him, but consciously take time to enjoy his presence with you.

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Hold on!

‘Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”’ Mark 5.36

These beautiful words can be found in the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead.  Jesus was going with Jairus to bring healing to his daughter, but they were interrupted on the way by the woman who was healed of bleeding.  As a result of the time this took, his daughter died and the news reached Jairus.  It is just after this that Jesus spoke these words to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  What Jesus was saying to Jairus was this – hold on.

Did Jesus need to say anything?  After all, in just a few moments’ Jairus was going to see an astounding miracle before his very eyes.  However, it may be that in some way Jesus needed Jairus to hold on.  He didn’t tell Jairus what was going to happen or expect him to believe what might seem unbelievable, but he simply needed him to hold on to the fact that it was not over yet.

Faith is meant to be a gift to us, but all too often we make it like an impossible mountain we have to climb, and if we stumble or fall then we go right back to the bottom until we learn to get it right.  The gift is this – whatever your situation, Jesus is with you.  Hold on to this and trust him to still be at work even when you haven’t got a clue what is going on.

 

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Holding on to Jesus, no matter what

“Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Mark 5.23

When we are thinking about healing, the question of expectation is very real.  What should we expect to happen?  Should we change our expectations when circumstances begin to change?

Jairus had an expectation of what Jesus would do.  He expected Jesus to heal his sick daughter, and Jesus certainly did nothing to discourage him.  In fact, Jesus seemed to respond to it and there appeared to be every expectation that he would bring about the very thing that Jairus was requesting.  Then the circumstances changed and Jairus’ worst nightmare happened.  Not only did the situation get worse, but his daughter died.

We are not told of Jairus’ initial reaction, nor are we told what happened to his expectations, but we are told that the change in the situation didn’t affect the attitude of Jesus.  He still went to Jairus’ house and something wonderful happened.

It is very tempting to think that so much is down to us.  When things go badly, we look at the state of our faith and wonder if it is strong enough, or if God is punishing us because we are wavering.  This would be very cruel and is certainly not what seems to happen in this story.  When Jairus’ daughter died, it certainly was not because Jairus did anything wrong, nor was it a sign that Jesus had gone away.  He was still there and he responded to the change in circumstances.

When things in your life seem to get worse, it doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong or that God has abandoned you.  He is still there so hold onto him.

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God knows best

‘He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”’ Mark 5.23

As Jairus stood before Jesus, I wonder if he had any idea how things were going to turn out over the next hour or so.  He probably had a dream of it happening just as he expressed it in his request to Jesus; that Jesus would go straight to his house, place his hands upon her and her health would be restored.  How different it could have been!

On the way to Jairus’ house, Jesus stopped and talked to another person.  In the meantime Jairus’ daughter died and Jesus raised her from the dead.  As Jairus looked back at the end of the day, I am certain he was praising God for the way things had turned out, but it certainly hadn’t happened in the way he thought it might.

There are many times in our lives when God seems to work differently from how we envisage.  It might be concerning healing, when God chooses to intervene in a medical way when we had thought, and perhaps hoped, that he would heal in another way.  Perhaps you are surprised by the people God uses to bring about his purposes in your life.

When you bring your requests to God, it involves a level of trust – trust that God has heard your prayers, trust that he will act and trust that he will act in a way that is pleasing to him, even if it makes little sense to you.

Psalm 5.3 says this: ‘I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.’  Let’s do this with the expectation that God will act, and then look out for this to happen in whatever way he chooses.

 

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Remember to ask

‘Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.’ Mark 5.22

The story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead is a wonderful story.  However, it raises so many questions that we are going to spend the next few days looking at it in more detail.  Perhaps one of the first questions is – why her?

We are told that Jesus arrived on the shore of the lake by boat, and that as he stepped onto the land he was met by a crowd of people.  Presumably there were many folk in need in this crowd, so how did Jesus decide which of them should receive his healing touch?  Did he try to work out which person was the most deserving, or who had been standing there for the longest time?  Actually Jesus didn’t make any decision at all.  It was Jairus who broke out of the crowd, went to Jesus and requested him to go and heal his daughter.

Suppose Jairus had not done this?  What if someone else had broken out of the crowd and got to Jesus before Jairus?  Perhaps if they had, we would have quite a different story in our Bibles.  Asking is so importance.

Many people have been brought up with the idea that it is wrong to ask for their own needs; that they should put the needs of others before their own requests. However, this is not the impression we get from reading the healing stories of Jesus.  Whenever an individual approached him, he saw the desperation in them and responded.

Is there something that prevents you from bringing your requests to Jesus?  Perhaps you feel that it is selfish, or you may have asked him so many times before that you are certain he will turn them down?  Why not bring your needs afresh to Jesus now, in the faith that he sees the desperation behind them and he loves you.

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