Faith Mountain

I am standing in the muck right now, spiritual muck. Life got real hard spiritually during the past week. From the outside, everything looks great or at least no different, but from the inside I’m standing in front of a faith mountain pounding my fists against its craggy surface, screaming, “MOVE!!!” But it doesn’t budge.

I’m feeling discouraged, defeated, depressed, wounded, alone. I spent several days last week near tears every second of the day. My heart felt like an albatross around my neck. I had moments of laughter, but the sadness just kind of hung around. The situation grew into a mountain. It was a mountain that I have known was there, but all of a sudden it was very real and very present, and very in my way. A few times my faith mountain even grew into a volcano erupting all over my life. I’ve been praying for this particular mountain for a while, but it hasn’t moved at all. If anything, it has gotten larger recently.

Matthew 17:20 ESV  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Are you familiar with this verse from Matthew? At first, reading this it felt like an accusation. Do I not have enough faith? Certainly cause to spend some time in my bible and in prayer. Of course, we can always use more faith. The closer we draw to God, the closer He draws to us. The more faith we have, the more faith we get because we see Him move in our lives.

James 4:8a ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I felt really lost. I didn’t know what to do. I really couldn’t DO anything. Isn’t that just the worst feeling in the world? Feeling upset, angry, depressed, anxious and not being able to DO anything about the situation feels like emotional quicksand. The more I thrash against it, the faster I sink into it. One sad thought leads to another and another. Before I know it, my heart is leaden with anxiety and sorrow. Then my daughter’s memory verse came to mind. (I love how her memory verses have become mine as well. We sing them and learn them together.)

2 Cor 10:5b “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Letting my thoughts run away with me wasn’t going to solve anything. It was only letting worry and anxiety rob me of the truth. So, instead of reacting with my emotions, I prayed for God to be present for me and opened my Bible app.

Psalm 55:22 ESV “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Like soothing waters, God placed that verse right on my opening screen as the verse of the day. I needed to read that verse. But my mountain didn’t move. My feelings of being overwhelmed with grief didn’t instantly go away either. But it was a start. A chance to learn that my job is to be righteous and let God hold me up against the attacks in this world.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Then I read all of Psalm 55. David was feeling alone, betrayed by a close confidante, fearful, depressed, but he believed God listened to his cries, that God redeemed his soul in the midst of his battle.

Psalm 55:18 ESV  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.

God knows we’re fighting a battle. God knows that those closest to us can betray and destroy, but our protection is in Him. God promises us that He is listening to us, planning our victory. Again in Mark, he promises us our mountains are nothing for Him.

Mark 11:23 ESV  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Awesome stuff. But read the next verse.

Mark 11:24 ESV Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

I’ve asked in prayer. I’ve believed it will be mine. But then I considered that the verse doesn’t say when the mountain will be moved, just that it will be.

This is how raising my daughter is sanctifying me, again. We were headed out to the pool. It was full of leaves and bugs from the storms of the week. It was kind of nasty. Now, that I’m the mom, I get to do the nasty things around here. FUN. So I climbed in with our skimmer and started swimming in the muck. My daughter stood outside our pool waiting to climb the ladder. I could hear her impatient yelling as I dove in over and over to scoop the leaves from the bottom. She wanted to swim NOW. She couldn’t see over the side of the pool and understand why she couldn’t get in yet. There was nothing wrong with her desire to swim, but the water wasn’t the best it could be. She had to trust that before she could come in that I had some work to do.

It was in this moment, scooping wasps, floating fire ants, and decaying leaves that I realized my faith mountain is only what I can see from my limited human-centered perspective. Maybe God is standing on the other side doing His good work, preparing the way. His timing isn’t slow to torture me. His timing is so that none will perish. God wants us to have His best. Sometimes His best takes time, but He isn’t ignoring me. God is good all the time. He is working in ways beyond my understanding, just like my ways were beyond my daughter’s comprehension.

2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

When I think about my faith mountain in the perspective of eternity, I realize that my impatience isn’t worth anyone staying lost. In fact, just holding onto that verse strengthened me. I drew close, and He answered.

Isaiah 61:1 ESV “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

I was reminded that my struggles might be so that I can claim victory in His gospel, to be a salve to the brokenhearted. Some of the most horrendous experiences of my life have resulted in me being able to be a blessing, to proclaim God’s power to those still in darkness and pain. God doesn’t necessarily want my pain, but if I am faithful, I can seek Him through it, and receive His comfort for me so that I can offer that comfort to others.

I can honestly say in that moment my darkness lifted, even though my mountain has not, yet. Knowing God’s perspective and promise and perfect love for all of us really gave me a joyful heart in the midst of the battle.

I can’t share exactly what my faith mountain is because it really isn’t my mountain. It is more like someone else’s mountain that just happens to be standing smack dab in the middle of my life. But I don’t believe it matters. In fact, if I told you, you might say,’ well that isn’t something I struggle with’. By just calling it a mountain, you can imagine your greatest obstacle in my way. Kind of like Paul never clearly describes his thorn in the flesh, so we can imagine our greatest weakness and see his testimony as personal.

We all have faith mountains. Some are molehills our fear and anxiety turn into mountains, but I think as Christians, we’ve all stood in front of our own ideas of a mountain and prayed for it to be removed. I know I have and only realized God’s plan was working the whole time, long after the fact.

Do you have a faith mountain in your way today? Do you have something that you’re impatiently waiting to have moved or solved?

Psalm 34:18 ESV The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Claim this verse today. Let Him be your comfort. Seek His word. I always find Him there.

The Race Set Before Us

I was talking with a young wife in our church, discussing the amazing witness of another woman we both admire.

She is a beacon of light, hope, love and faith to all who meet her. She is an on her knees, give it all to God kind of woman. In the midst of the hardest times of her life, she serves everyone else.

“I can’t see myself ever being like her,” said my young friend, dejectedly.

“Of course you can’t see that today. Call me in twenty years,” I answered, “and tell me who you are.”

I am really looking forward to seeing this young woman grow in her faith. My heart rejoices to see her hear God’s word and be changed by it.

I’ve watched her cry under God’s conviction, but be so utterly changed that she calls me rejoicing. It is beautiful.

Yet, in that moment of comparison, she sounded so defeated.

Just like the #Olympics - Winners run their own race to the best of their ability today. Click To Tweet

I prayed about how to encourage her, thinking how my mentor encourages me where I am, while still holding me accountable.

I suspect many new believers get discouraged because they fall short when they compare their new walk with someone who has been walking God’s path for decades, because they cannot see how God can/will change them over time.

We have to run the race set before us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

What a miracle that truth is! We are new in Him!

Sometimes though, we get so caught up in preaching this joyful verse we forget to talk about the tough work of cleaning out the old.

Your house has been sold to a new tenant, but you still have to clean out the attic with its years’ worth of things, garbage, junk. You still have to sort through it all, working in the clean up.

Jesus made your heart His home, but the cleansing process only BEGINS overnight. Click To Tweet

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, I did have a miraculous change in perspective, but my entire life was not instantly changed.

My heart instantly wanted to change, but I still had a lot of sins I’d been hoarding, sinful choices I thought I could make and still have Jesus.

Several years ago, I watched some television that displayed blatantly sinful behavior. I thought I could keep watching these shows because I was an adult and wouldn’t let it affect me. I thought I could serve God and still hold onto these earthly things, that if my heart was His, it didn’t matter what my eyes saw or my ears heard.

I lied to myself about the importance of my daily choices while I was trapped in sin. Click To Tweet

Then one day, after my total surrender to Christ, I saw five minutes of a new show that changed my perspective. The darkness of that show was palpable, tangible to me.

I left the room. God whispered I didn’t need to put that in front of my eyes where it would seep into my brain and affect my heart.

All of a sudden, watching those shows didn’t feel like a freedom, but like a weight drowning me in the muck of this world.

Christ paid my debts. I have no claim on my eyes, ears, tongue. He bought the whole package. I needed to give myself over to Him completely.

Ever get advice at the starting line of a marathon? They say, run your race. We have to run the race set before US. Not compare our journey with another's finish line.

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV  ” . . . let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .

Christ is showing me the race set before me. He is gloriously perfecting my faith. My journey isn’t supposed to look like any other until the end, when we are all made perfect in Heaven.

My journey isn't supposed to look like any other. My race is sanctifying me for His purpose. Click To Tweet

I have cleaned up my television viewing, language, tone of voice, attitude, gradually peeling away the layers of sinfulness from my life and my heart.

Several years ago, I couldn’t have imagined being the woman I am today. I was drowning in shame over who I had been and who I was at the time.

But I started running my race. I can’t see whom I will become. But God can. I just have to have faith in Him and His plan for me.

2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

The process God uses to clean up our lives is called sanctification, the process of being made holy, being set aside for sacred use. It is a life-long process.

For someone who loves deadlines, finish lines, achieving a goal, I struggle with an open-ended process. I want to be able to see the finish line and work to get there.

But in my past, I believed I had to clean myself up to get to God. I didn’t understand I just needed to come and let Him cleanse me.

I thought it was something I had to achieve, like when I used to run.

I started running to lose weight. Then I kept running because I wanted to do things I never thought I could. I took pride in every hard-won mile. I cried when I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon race. Going from not being able to jog for three minutes to being able to run 13.1 miles was hard work, but I had a goal. I could see the prize.

Being sanctified isn’t like that. You can’t know the journey God has planned for you, the wonderful ways He will change and use you.

Before I understood, I was so ashamed of my sin. I thought I was too dirty for God to use or claim. Then I read the following verse in Timothy.

2 Timothy 2:21 ESV “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

Have you ever read a verse that touched a wounded part of you so deeply that tears sprang to your eyes? My heart ached to accept this beautiful picture of God washing me, inside and out. I could be made useful and holy

. . . even me.

Everyone started in the same place. Before we knew Christ, we were sinners in need of saving. No matter where on the journey we are, we all had the same need to be chosen and cleansed.

If you’re standing near the starting line, don’t be discouraged by comparison to those who’ve been in training for years. In your fervor to know God, you can learn a lot from them. If you desire to be changed, He will answer you.

The more I seek Him, the more things of this world fall away.

I used to think God was asking me to give up worldly things, and I couldn’t see how I’d ever have the strength to do so. It felt restrictive and hard.

Now I see, He was inviting me to let them go, to quit being burdened by them.

Sanctification isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and we must run the race set before us. Click To Tweet

I have freedom in salvation. Some in choices I make (contemporary Christian vs. traditional hymns), but more and more I see that the freedom is in how God is freeing and releasing me from the sinful choices I have made.

But, I have days I cannot see how I will have the strength to run this race.

Isaiah 40:31 ESV “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Those days of weariness, I know I have to understand what I can for today. God doesn’t expect me to be the ‘me’ of tomorrow, just to be willing to obey as I understand right now.

Galatians 5:1 ESV  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Jesus Christ has released you from the slavery of sin to run the race set before you. Don’t waste time in comparison, but you can celebrate the fellowship in the body of Christ to lean on and learn from those further down the journey while rejoicing in His perfect freedom.