August 24, 2014
Praising God for His Goodness Today
My morning started off great. I had a good night's rest, and I woke up refreshed (Hallelujah!) I enjoyed a quiet morning at home alone. My parents were at early church, and my son was performing as part of the worship team at our old church, Scottsdale Bible. The house was quiet, and I was able to enjoy the solitude before getting ready to head over to our 10:00 service.
Second service at Paradise Church was awesome. Our worship team was back in full swing (after some members returned from vacation). The message today was shared by Pastor Sharon Sherbondy, our Children's Ministry Director. Sharon is an amazing woman of God. She has been at our church for about a year, and during that time, she has made a huge impression not only in our Children's department but throughout every area she has ministered. Today was special because Pastor Sharon is leaving us at the end of the month. She is our last remaining full-time ministry leader, and she is leaving to go to Nashville to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She believes that the Lord is calling her forward to serve in an unknown capacity at this time. Her message today was a mingling of her testimony along with a heavy dose of her faith in God as He leads her forth in uncertain times. I was blessed, so very blessed by what she shared. In fact, I came home thinking that her testimony so closely aligned with my experience that I took this morning's message as direct confirmation for me to continue doing what I am doing -- following hard after the Lord. Let me explain...
I have known Pastor Sharon for a short while only. Since I don't have young children anymore, I do not hang out with the families who make up Children's Ministry. Therefore, unless our paths cross, I generally do not mingle with the leadership from other ministry areas. It is not that I don't want to mingle, it is just that our circles do not intersect that often, not to where we would form deep friendships. However, over the last month or so, I have come to know Pastor Sharon more closely as she has stepped in to help fill the communications leadership role at the church. As I am the webmaster and social media guru for the church, I take my direction from Sharon and our Office Manager and our Chairman of the Board. During these informal meetings, I have witnessed God's blessing and movement in Sharon's life, and I have been blessed to experience her joy and her love for the Lord.
Today's message was special for me. Not only was it spiritually moving, but it was also confirmatory in that my experience over the past 8-9 years closely aligned with the events shared by Sharon. In fact, I would say that her experience -- finding her self suddenly single after 25 years of marriage, being a SAHM/Homeschooling Mom, learning how to live on her own (from paying bills, to buying a home, to raising her children), to receiving God's call, to realizing finally that she was utterly and hopelessly dependent upon God for His provision -- was a duplication of my own. While the events that led up to her deepening relationship with the Lord were different from mine, the outcome, the expression, and the complete revelation of God's centrality were the same. Yes, Sharon represents yet another changed-life that confirms my own experience, my own journey, my own deepening relationship with the Lord. I have been blessed to have met several individuals whose life stories were so similar, so completely akin to mine that I found myself crying out, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you!"
You see -- while I am convinced of the nature of God, of His willingness to break through the fourth wall (to interrupt time and space to reach us), of His grace and His mercy to touch us and change us -- there are times when life bears down so heavily that I forget what He has done for me, through me, and in me. It is in these times when I need to hear witness from others, when I need to listen to faith stories that call to my remembrance the goodness, the completeness, the greatness and faithfulness of our GREAT God.
The Intentionality of our God
As I sat and listened to Pastor Sharon talk about her experience, her transformation, one thing became clear to me -- the events of my life, specifically the recent changes that have taken place -- are not unplanned, not happenstance. In no uncertain terms have the recent events "just happened" to me. I am exactly where I belong. I am doing the work He has called me to do. I am meeting with the people, I am in relationship with the people, and I am living in fellowship with the people of His choosing. God has orchestrated the details of my life, and He has brought certain individuals to me for a purpose. I count my students to be among those that the Lord has brought to me for mentoring, for teaching, and for building up. I also count my friends at church as well as my friends from Regent and the Internet as people specifically assigned to me for blessing and encouragement (mutual).
In fact, the Lord has recently brought certain people into my life in such a way that I am experiencing great joy in friendship, in companionship, and in solidarity (the spiritual union and harmony that the Lord desires). Yes, my life is richly blessed by people, lots of people, who not only need me to love and to encourage them, but in whom I depend on for their love and their encouragement. I am being blessed in ways beyond measure and beyond count. My life is rich and it is full to the brim and overflowing. I am good, so very good.
As I reflect on all of these things, I confess that Pastor Sharon's message shook me to the core and made me think about my life. I began to think about how much I have doubted the Lord this past week, how much I have complained to Him about the workload, the teaching assignments, the doctoral coursework. I have also struggled with relationship building, with understanding how to be a friend, how to share myself openly with another person. I have also had to process the end of my marriage, the finality of the divorce decree arriving, and what that means for me as a single woman. I have questioned the Lord on His plans for my life, where I am to go to teach, to live, to do His work. Am I to remain single or am I to marry?
In the past, I answered this question with such ease -- if the Lord brought someone to me with whom He wanted me to marry, then yes, I would marry. If not, I boastfully said, then I would remain single. It is not that I have changed my mind, but the reality of being single has caused me to think more deeply about that statement. I am single now, officially and legally, single. I have spent the past four years rebuilding my life, learning how to be whole, and leaning 100% on the Lord for His provision and His security. There is something about being dependent on the Lord that makes you realize just how well-covered you are, and the thought of giving that up or letting another human take that role, well, it just causes you to wonder whether you are willing to do it. It is not that I believe a human man can take on any role that belongs to the Lord -- no, may it never be. It is more that I am considering if I want to share my life that closely, that intimately, with another person. I just came out of that life -- be it I have been living singly for four years -- so the idea of jumping back into closeness, proximity, well, it scares me. Of course, there is part of me that greatly desires that kind of relationship. I do desire to be married again. I do desire to spend my life with a person and to be able to be in that kind of love relationship. I guess it is panic on my part to think that now that I am single, I may very well have that option again, someday.
So all of this change, all this heaviness and burden, wears down on me and I feel overwhelmed and unprepared. Yet, Pastor Sharon's message was so hopeful, so uplifting, and so encouraging, that I found myself confessing my doubts and my fears to the Lord. I know my Lord well. I believe in Him, and I rest in His great NAME. He has given me His NAME and there is great power in that NAME. I am like Moses who asked God for His Name:
Exodus 3:13-14 - But Moses protested, "If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they will ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?" God replied to Moses, "I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you."
God has revealed Himself to me in a similar way. I am not sure why the Lord has chosen for me to know Him as I AM (self-existent, without beginning, without end) or why He has chosen to remind me daily that it is He who sends me, who works in me, through me, and for me -- to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Yet, the Lord does this for me. I hear Him speak His Name to me, to tell me that it is I AM (the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last) who is asking me to go forward, to trust Him, to rest in His work (Rev. 22:13). Still, I falter, I fall down, and I forget. I do not rest, I do not trust, and I do not do the things He asks of me. I struggle so with understanding, with comprehending, with trusting Him and with believing that what He is telling me is true. Why? Why do I do this?
The short of it is that I am flawed human flesh, and that no matter how many times the Lord reveals Himself to me, I will doubt the authenticity of the encounter. I will not believe until I see the burning bush, the water separated and the dry land appear. The Lord is gracious to me, and He loves me so completely that He brings people to me, people experiencing similar transformation so that I can draw inference, parallels to their testimony and experience. In doing so, I am able to step back and reflect. I can say "A HA!" I see it, I get it, I am not alone in this work. You are working in them exactly as you are working in me. God is great, God is good. All the time, He is so very good.
The Lord Makes Himself Known to Us
Sharon mentioned that in her experience, the Lord gave her a word to describe His work in her life. This word summed up the way He interacted with her over the course of her broken experience. For her, the word she heard the Lord say was "attentive." The Lord was attentive to her needs (watching over her carefully, paying close attention to her needs). The Lord did the same thing for me -- He provided abundantly for my financial needs, for my security, for my goals, my dreams, and my aspirations. He has been very attentive to me.
As I thought about my experience with the Lord, about my transformation journey with Him, the word that has always come to me has been "good or goodness." According to A. W. Pink, "The original Saxon meaning of our English word "God" is "The Good." God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best" (para. 3). Moreover, Pink writes, The goodness of God is the life of the believer’s trust. It is this excellency in God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endureth forever, we ought never to be discouraged: "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth them that trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).
My number one issue has been trusting God. I can recall way back when I began this life-altering journey a conversation I had with the Lord regarding my ability to trust Him for my everything, my welfare, my life. While I believed I trusted the Lord (and I did), I didn't understand that the level of trust I had as a child, a young person, a middle-aged woman -- would not suffice -- given the parameters of the work He had in mind for me. Neither did I grasp that when my life took its most devastating turn and I found myself single, that the trust relationship I had with the Lord would not last, would not support me, would not be strong enough to see me through to the end. No, the Lord knew that the only way I would be able to fulfill His plans for my life was for me to come to more than a saving trust, a saving knowledge of His love for me. He knew I needed the saving kind of trust that gets you out of the boat (thinking about Peter) and the kind of saving trust that brings you to the cross of your own crucifixion. My level of trust was going to be increased -- it needed to be enlarged -- if I was going to do the work the Lord was calling me to do.
So today, I am a recipient of that growth, that transformation, that deepening of trust that has moved me from where I was over there to where I am today. The Lord is not finished with me yet, and the direction I am moving in will require ever greater amounts of trust. I give praise and testimony to His Goodness. In doing so, I am replacing discouragement with faith and with the knowledge that the Lord, the One who is I AM, is the ONE who calls me forth and who leads me on.
God is good, so very good.