That’s What It’s All About

08/31/2006

Remember that fun dance/song we did as kids, and even later as adults? It was the Hokey Pokey, where you “Put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around…That’s what it’s all about. Clap. Clap.”

I remember seeing a T-shirt years ago, it said, “What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?” It made me laugh!

In getting ready to write this morning, after a seemingly long break from my times of writing, I have been filled with thoughts on the word “Confidence.” It seems God has been having me turn this word upside down and inside out for the last few weeks, maybe longer, as God has been helping me see the importance of having a Confident Faith. Then as I was once again thinking and praying about that word this morning, it came to me, “That’s What It’s All About,” and I knew it was to be the title for this message.

Confidence – That’s What It’s All about!

Do we have a confidence in our faith, or in our God, I should say?
Do we have a confidence in our salvation?
--In our eternal life in Heaven?
Can we really have a confident assurance about anything in this life?
It seems we are on shaky ground so much of the time…never knowing what might come next…

I just found out that one of my good friends is dealing with cancer again in her life. It seems that that ugly disease is always like a waiting time-bomb. Once diagnosed, once treated, even if there is a remission or many years of the so-called disappearance of any signs of cancer, each check-up trip to the doctor after that causes fear and trepidation. I know, we were there with our own son. The tension builds, the testing date is coming and is then completed, the results are given, and there is either relief that the bomb has not exploded yet, or sadness that it has and decisions need to be made about the work that must begin to clear up the mess from the bomb of cancer that has been set off once again, trying to destroy the body.

Not fun, not fun at all--and very upsetting. Not just for the person with the disease, but for everyone that surrounds them in their life. How do I, as a friend, face this news with my friend? I only know of one way now, and that is with confidence in our eternal life, a life that begins here on earth…a confidence that can only be found in the Truth of God’s Word.

This is not foreign territory to me--these are fears that I have faced, seen played out, and lived through. Not the easy way…not the way of a cure and longevity in our case, but in the way of sickness and heartache and good-byes being said. In the way of grief and sorrow and a dark valley that had to be trudged through one step at a time until relief and healing and joy were returned by our Mighty God. I’ve seen the worst pain that cancer can inflict on a life, the taking of that life…and I have lived to tell about it with a confident assurance that God is in control, even when we may disagree with His decisions concerning the outcome--as in the life of our son.

Did this journey shake my confidence? At times, it sure did!
Did I question why and how and what for? You bet I did!
Did I go through every emotion imaginable? For sure!
And what did I come away with through it all?
A stronger Confidence in Who God is than ever before!!

I have learned that we can all have a confidence in our Lord, no matter what! No matter how bleak it looks, God is bigger than the greatest hurt, the deepest pain, the ugliest disease, the worst relationship; the hardest set of circumstances…because “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

We can have confidence in that Truth from God’s Word!!

But how do we get there, to that level of confidence? I only know my own journey, so that is what I will share with you here. Your journey is unique to you, in time, in experience, in faith building. Mostly, I want to share what I am finding is possible through the toughest of times, because with God, all things are possible!!

I sat next to a man on a plane recently. I was one of the last to board, which always makes it interesting because when seats are not assigned, I wonder who God will place me next to…and what will we learn from one another?

On this particular flight, I was very tired, and having taken my usual dose of Dramamine for airsickness, I was quickly asleep—even though I ended up in the middle seat, with no armrest to call my own. So, arms folded, legs stretched out and crossed, I slept for almost two solid hours--practically the entire duration of the flight from Portland to Phoenix.

Upon awakening, the gentleman next to me noticed immediately that I was stirring, and commented on my ability to sleep. It seemed he was anxious to talk, and so as soon as my eyes opened, our conversation began. Within the first minute of about a fifteen-minute time span we had before landing, we began to discuss the book he had been reading. It was Jimmy Carter’s latest book on the moral decline in our world. I have not read this book, but just knowing that Jimmy Carter is a Christian and seeing the front cover, I asked this man if he was a Christian? He did not seem to know what to answer. First he said, “No,” that he wasn’t, then he seemed to change his mind and say, “Yes, I guess I could say I’m a Christian,” or something to that effect. We were in the “thick of it” before long and he went on to tell me how he does not like organized religion and how the Bible was written by men. I went on to tell him how I don’t worship men, I worship God, etc…but for the most part, he wanted to talk, and I listened, although I believe God allowed me to plant a few “nuggets” of who Jesus is to me before the plane landed.

What this conversation really left me with though, was a question…How can anyone have a confidence in the God they say they believe in, because this gentleman clearly believed there was a God, but not know the answer to the seemingly simple question as to whether or not they are a Christian? What kind of confidence comes from that indecision? I would venture to say, not much!

In contrast to that, I talked with my brother, Rick, just a few days later and he was sharing a story with me that he recently experienced. He and his wife were out to dinner and they started talking with a gentleman there in the restaurant. Probably, in an evangelical move on this stranger’s part, he asked my brother if he knew anything about Christianity? Knowing my brother as I do, I can just see him giving a chuckle as he answered, “Well, yes, I do know a few things about Christianity!” And so their conversation began and ended almost three hours later in this man’s home--there at the timeshare resort where they were staying.

I’m sure there was a confidence in my brother’s answer to this man, and because of that, they were able to encourage one another in their faith. There was not a hem-haw, not a doubt, not a change of direction or any indecision, but a clear-cut, “Yes! I know the Lord Jesus Christ! He is my Savior!” type of exchange between the two of them! They knew what they believed, why they believed it, and they had an awesome time of fellowship with one another!

Confidence!
What a difference it makes in this life!!
How do we face the simplest question or the toughest circumstances without it?
Not well…

But where do we get our confidence in what we believe?
Through trial and error, through one life experience after another, through stepping out in faith when it seems there is nothing there to support us, and finding that God is always there to help us through whatever it is we must face. The result of that is a thankful heart, and a well-worn path behind us that helps us move into the future confidently, where there may be no path at all. That is the thrill of victory, the thrill of living this life fully.

“I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right
beside me.” Psalm 16:8 (NLT)

I think this takes time to learn, to grow accustomed to… I know with me, it did. There were times when I wondered where God was in the midst of really difficult circumstances. It was not that I lost my faith, but I could not see through the tasks at hand to what God’s Hand was doing in them. I could not see on the night that Phil died, all that God was doing, until some time had passed. How could I “see” God’s presence as my son’s life slipped away from us as we surrounded his bed? If God were truly there, would He not have saved our son from having to leave us? Wouldn’t a loving God do that for us after all the prayers we had prayed? And yet, in being able to look back now, I can see that God was there, that He had a plan, that He was protecting us and guiding us and helping us through the most difficult of times—the difference was that God was seeing things through His eternal perspective and I was only seeing things through my earthly perspective. The two are vastly different.

In listening to Dr. Michael Youseef this morning, while online, he said, “Confident faith is different than wishful thinking.” He went on to say that there are, “…rich dividends of loyalty in a confident faith.” He talked of how in the Bible, Ruth worked for less than minimum wage but her employer turned out to be her kinsman redeemer.” Boaz, her employer, was her provider. The story ends with her marrying Boaz, and how her confident walk of faith and loyalty did not go unrewarded. She set the example, and although there were many difficult years and many sorrows, she remained steadfast and true to what God would have her do, and our Lord did not forget her. We must do the same!

In talking with a friend recently, about her upcoming mission trip to a foreign country, she is taking a similar step of confident faith that Ruth did. It is interesting what this young woman said about this because it’s all so new to her—she said just taking this step of faith is the big thing! It’s not so much what she will do when she gets there, at this point, as it is the process of just getting there. There is a lot of stretching and growing in that process, and in that she is already feeling a newfound freedom that comes when walking in faith. The enemy is being pushed aside in her life, and she will experience things she never dreamed of because she listened to the Greater Voice within her.

In August of 2005, I wrote this in a message entitled, “Can You See Him Now?”

I lost sight of God a few nights ago. I woke up in the middle of the night consumed with worry. It really came as a surprise…at first I didn’t even know why I was awake. I usually am a very sound sleeper. I sleep through most noises and even difficult situations in life, but not on this night…I was wide-awake and worrying.

When I realized what had woke me up, I started to pray. I knew that God would not want me to be worried. I thought of the verse in Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT) So I did exactly that. I started to tell God what we needed and to thank Him for all He has done. The thank you list was much longer than the needs we now have, and as I went through the “thank you’s,” the second part of that scripture (Verse 7), started to come about. It says, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

It wasn’t immediate. It took some work. It took focus, because the enemy would rather have us focused on the needs list instead of the thank you list. After all, it was the needs that woke me up, not the “thank you’s.”

I would much rather wake up in the middle of the night full of gratitude for all that God has done as compared to waking up with a list of all the things that “I think” He needs to do in our lives. But when I woke up with worry, I knew I was not “seeing” God as our Provider, as our Hope, as our Loving Father…I was seeing this world and all that it contains and all that the enemy was filling my mind with to try and defeat us. I had lost sight of God, and I needed to recognize that very quickly before I was buried so deep in the worry that it would make the way out that much more difficult.

When I can go back and can read these thoughts that once consumed me, I can see what God has been doing in my own life. I can see the step-by-step process of learning Who God is, what He can do, where He wants our hearts and our minds, and what the outcome of that will be if we will only start to learn to trust Him in all things, to have a confidence in our Lord’s promises when it seems all of life is falling apart around us.

My life fell apart around me…cancer moved into our household and consumed our youngest child. I think the name given to cancer about 100 years ago was more accurate. It was called Consumption, and I think that’s a perfect name for it. It starts out small, and inconspicuous in the human body, but if not treated, and sometimes even if treated, it can consume the human body to the point where life on this earth ceases and our heavenly life begins, to all who will believe.

The Good News is that our confidence in God can also consume us, completely and absolutely! And when it does, our earthly life, as we have known it, ceases to exist and our heavenly life can begin…even before we leave this earth! The moment we become believers in the redemption of Jesus Christ, our eternity has begun! When we say, “Yes,” to Jesus, the Holy Spirit of our Lord takes up residence in our heart, and we begin anew a life that can be filled with confidence in all that God has for us on this earth and also waiting for us when our physical life on this earth has ended.

The question really becomes, will we let God’s Truth consume us?
Will we let that confidence fill our heart?
Will we take a stand on that Solid Rock, or will we continue to doubt?
It is a choice, and one that God will leave with us.

Recently I was reading a book about a woman questioning the reality of God, due to her friend’s illness. She went to her pastor and asked him what kind of all-merciful God would let a teenage boy die of bone cancer? The pastor just sort of shook his head. She said to him, “Don’t you priests have anything to say for yourselves?” and he said that a God who adores us and is truly and totally merciful and present for us, who will one day bring us home to be with him, is something we hope is true, something our faith tells us is true. The woman argued that that is not very much, is it? The pastor shook his head. She went on to ask him, “Do you think this teenage boy is with God now, in his arms, and if my friend dies, will she be with him, too? The pastor looked at her apologetically, for a really long time, and he said, “I don’t know.” She said, “but what do you think?” and he said in a very gentle voice, “I hope so.” (Taken from pages 250-251 of Anne Lamott’s “Operating Instructions”)

This is a true story, and this saddens me if even some of our pastors do not stand firmly on the Rock of Jesus Christ and His promises of eternal life. If Jesus is our Hope, which He is, we must believe Him and proclaim it confidently! "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? (Matthew 17:17 NIV)

Oswald Chambers said on August 17th, in “My Utmost For His Highest.”

Jesus did not seem in the least solicitous that this man would do what He told him…Our Lord never pleaded, He never cajoled, He never entrapped; He simply spoke the sternest words mortal ears ever listened to, and then left it alone.

Do you see all of us in that statement? Don’t we do that? Don’t we try to plead with those who do not know our Lord for them to get to know Him? Don’t we try to cajole and even entrap them into our way of thinking sometimes? I know there are times when I get defensive, and talk too much, rather than let the Lord do the work which can only be done by Him!

Our job, I believe, is to be fully confident in Who God is, not in who we are! Not being confident in our faith, but in His promises. Being so fully confident in our Lord that we can simply rest in Who God is, What He can do, Why He is taking His time in doing it, When He will be getting the job done, Where He would have us be at that moment, and How it will all transpire.

If what Oswald Chambers said is true, that Jesus, “…simply spoke the sternest words mortal ears ever listened to, and then left it alone.” Should we do any less…or any more? And that applies not only to witnessing to others, but in our own lives as well, because we all struggle! Oh, we love to tell others that, “This is who God is, and this is what He can do for you…” and yet do we allow Him to do that in our own lives? Do we live in that confidence every single day? When we start to doubt, do we pray, “Father, help me in my unbelief”? Do we make a point of getting on with believing and refocusing and thanking God for all that He has already done and all that He will continue to do? Sometimes we probably do, sometimes we probably don’t…the challenge in our lives is to allow the confidence we have in God to be an all-the-time deal!

That’s what it’s all about!

In a Bible Study Lesson by Woodrow Kroll, he writes, “When you pray today, practice the discipline that most clearly shows our confidence in the salvation we have in Christ—Thanksgiving. When we forget how to be thankful, we begin to lose a sense of security in Christ. We are then likely to start worrying about our ‘status’ with Christ. But regularly thanking God for His gift of salvation helps affirm that we have received it!”

So much of the Christian walk is about discipline, like it or not, God disciplines the children He loves. To raise a child up in the way they should go, requires discipline, and that is not usually easy or pleasant! There are things we must do, as God’s children, to daily remain focused, to stay steadfast, to be confident in our Lord. Otherwise, in this world, our confidence will slip away quickly and we will forget to thank God for all that He has already done, and start to worry about all the things we think we need Him to do!

Each day we must refocus on Who the Lord is, spending time with Him getting to know Him and falling deeper in love with Him. We must open our eyes and watch what He is doing throughout each day, from the most seemingly insignificant things, to the greatest. He is always with us!

I just spent five amazing weeks of traveling from here in the Bay Area, to the Denver area, back to the Bay Area, up to Oregon to our granddaughter’s first birthday, then back to Denver, then finally home to the Bay Area. It could make you dizzy just reading that, so moving past that quickly, let me just tell you God was there every moment. Not that we didn’t have blown trailer tires, or other moments of frustration--not that we didn’t have times of being apart with Jim in Denver and me traveling on to other places where I needed to be, but through it all, we were able to give thanks for so many things--it once again built our confidence in God’s Hand upon all things, the blessings and even the discipline that we must be dealt from time to time.

It makes me think about God being our Father, not our Grandfather. You see, being a grandparent is entirely different than being a parent…this, I am finding out. Being a grandma is one of the sweetest times of life. One of the best parts of it is the lack of discipline required. The dad and the mom have to say, “No.” It is their job. They must set limits on their child’s behavior, even from before the age of one, which I recently witnessed with our granddaughter in Oregon. Oh, when “No” is used, the little lip comes out, and the giant tears can begin to fall when she is told not to touch certain things. It breaks a grandma’s heart! I just want to hug her and kiss her and tell her she’ll be fine…but I have to stay out of it.

My mother-in-law, Kylie’s great-grandma, just laughed at me when it came my turn to “redirect” Kylie from something she was getting into. I went over to her, swept her up off her feet, hugging her and laughing with her and telling her, “We don’t do that!” No tears, no little lip that would melt my heart… I was only with her a short while, so disciplining her was not part of my “agenda.” Loving her was! For a one-year-old, this works…they’re light, they’re removable, and they forget quickly what had their attention…I have a feeling this might grow more difficult, even for a grandma, as the years go by.

With God, He is our Father, and sometimes He picks us up and removes us from certain things, sometimes He simply tells us, “No” and we may shed some tears in the process. Sometimes He says, “Yes” and we are free to move about and enjoy all that He provides. But, what He mostly wants for us is for us to know that He loves us, that He’s working everything out for the best for all concerned, even if we cannot see the full picture right now. In knowing that He loves us completely, we can grow in our confidence and our love for Him. His love for us is immediate and perfect--our love and confidence in Him takes time and consequences, lessons learned and discipline accepted, blessings received, watchful hearts and eyes being opened to all that He is doing. Most importantly, it takes time in God’s Word and in prayer.

When we firmly trust in His person and commit our souls to Him by an unwavering act of confidence in Him for all that He is affirmed to be to us in the Bible, this is faith.
Charles G. Finney

And what is faith? It goes right back to, “it is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Faith and confidence seem to be a continuous circle—one that is not easily broken. The result of a confident faith will shine bright in a dark world. And we can be sure if we are ever asked, “Are you a Christian?” the answer will be easy. It will be a solid, “Yes.” And we might add, “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

“I have nothing but You, my Lord, no confidence but You.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Desiring to put my whole heart in,
Diane