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January 13th, 2013

God Never Wants Us To Slog

God Never Wants Us To Slog

Is it really true? We always think that God wants us to work hard. But I do disagree. It is not. God’s ways are always cool. He never wants us to slog.

We never see a bird slogging from morning till evening, getting anxious searching for its food. We never see a plant struggling hard to bear a fruit. We never see rain straining hard to downpour. We never see any animals getting worried about its future and planning so deeply to secure its life. We never see the celestial bodies striving hard to shed light. If we look at the nature we can see that except the human beings, all creation of God exist peacefully and silently to glorify the Lord of creations. They are never restless and in a hurry to achieve something. They do what they are created for. “The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3).

The other day I was talking to my teenage niece. She was quite anxious and worried about her forthcoming exams and about her future in cracking entrance exams and all. I told her “you just don’t worry about the results; just finish what you have to study today…forget the rest”. But she was not happy with my suggestion. She started saying “aunty you can tell like that. You don’t know what all are the trials I face in school and in my classes. Even if I don’t aspire for clearing engineering entrance exam, my friends are not going to spare me. If I don’t get good marks they will treat me like dirt as if I don’t know anything. More than getting an admission it’s a question of acceptance in the class.”

I have plans for your welfare

I would like to share one incidence of a person whom I know. She is the elder child of a family of very devout and pious parents. Ever since childhood she wanted to become a doctor though her parents were not very keen about it because of two reasons. The first reason is that she was not a brilliant child and the second reason is that it was one of the toughest to get admission even for the very brilliant students. However they did not discourage her.

But her mother continuously prayed for her attending all night vigils. She never prayed that her child should get admission for a medical entrance, but prayed to safeguard her from all illness so that she can perform well in her exams. Though she had joined for a coaching class for medical entrance, they left the course half way due to some internal matters. So she was not even attending any coaching classes which are a sure sign for not getting admission for a medical college as per the prevailing notion. However she was doing her self study quietly without compromising her Sunday Mass.

Anyway quite contrary to her mother’s prayers she developed fever just a month before her board exams which led to some complications. With great difficulty she could finish her board exam. Her fever was troubling her intermittently. Then came the turn of entrance exams. In the middle of her exam all the family members contracted chicken pox. Her parents were anxious and wondered why God is testing so much. However they kept on praying Psalm 23 putting their complete trust in the One who keeps promises.

To every body’s amazement the girl scored 92 % board result which is the second highest in her class which she never got in any of her classes since LKG to 12th. Moreover she cleared the entrance exam of a prestigious medical college.

Beaming with the trust and confidence in the Word of God, her mother says, ‘God wanted my daughter to become a doctor. Though He tested my faith at the time of her exams making her sick, He literally walked with us through the valley tears. The verse of Jeremiah that “I have plans not for your destruction but for your welfare” literally fulfilled in our lives.’ He can produce water from rock, He can divide oceans to make way for you, He can multiply 5 loves to feed thousands, He can feed you from skies, if He wants. He will do it for us when we surrender completely, when we put our complete trust in Him.

It is not by slogging 24×7, even forgetting to eat, drink and worship the Lord of the Universe, that we will be able to crack the toughest entrance exams. But by abiding the commandments of God, He goes ahead of us to set path and give us victory. Let the goal of our life be to fulfill the Will of God. It is always far better than what we can ever imagine. “For I know the 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” (Jer 29:11).

He never told us to slog. If it was needed, He would not have told us the verse.”Work must be done for six days, but the seventh must be a holy day for you, a day of complete rest, in honour of Yahweh.” (Exodus 35:2). His ways are always cool. He wants us to rest and be with Him. He tells “Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Mat 6:33). Jesus tells if you are connected to the wine you will produce many fruits. If not, even if you work unceasingly, you may not be able to crack any exam.

I told my niece “so my child get up and just do what you have to do today and surrender all your dreams and goals of life in the powerful hands of the Lord at whose command the whole Universe dances. Relax all Sundays; spend time with the Lord of the Universe. It revitalizes your spiritual, emotional and mental faculties. Work all other days cheerfully and enthusiastically. The success will be yours.” Yes, God’s ways are always cool for those who trust Him.

– – – written by Mary Joseph, Faridabad

January 7th, 2013

When God Says No To Our Prayers

Why God Says No To Our Prayers

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” – Psalm 34:17

Unanswered Prayers

We’ve all experienced those occasions when our prayers seem to have gone “unanswered”. Given the many comments in the Bible regarding the Lord hearing our prayers, could there really be such a thing as “unanswered prayer”? While the obvious answer is “no”, why is it that we sometimes ask but don’t receive?

In order to answer this question, let’s first be honest about what we mean by “unanswered prayer”. Basically, when we use this term, we’re not saying God didn’t answer, but rather that His answer was “no”. This leads to another important question (and one that IS answerable), “Why does God sometimes say ‘no’? Let’s open up the Bible and look at some reasons why the Lord may deny our requests:

Lack of humility

Sometimes we feel that we know what’s best and proceed to tell God what we need. Even worse, we get angry when He doesn’t answer fast enough or in the way that we want. One of my favorite examples of humble prayer is the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon (Mark 7:24-30).

She is approaching Jesus humbly, as a beggar. When the Lord responded to her plea with ”It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”, she was not fazed and replied, ”Yes Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”. She didn’t complain, she wasn’t offended and, more importantly, she didn’t give up. Instead, she continued to ask, humbly trusting in the Lord’s ability to help. The result? Her daughter was healed.

Lack of faith

When the disciples came to Jesus and asked why they were unsuccessful in casting a demon out of a boy, the Lord’s response was blunt and to the point – ”Because of your little faith” (Matthew 17:20)! When we approach Jesus with a request, do we really believe in His power? Maybe, but that can change in a hurry, especially when a sick relative for whom we’re praying starts to take a turn for the worse.

How important is faith when we pray? According to Jesus, ”whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22). Does that mean that every time God doesn’t grant our request it’s because our faith is lacking? No, but it could be a contributing factor and should be addressed.

Before you panic about your weak faith, however, remember that faith is a gift and you can’t increase it on your own. What you can do is ask the Lord to increase your faith, just like the father of the boy with a mute spirit, ”I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Asking for the wrong things

Let’s be honest, sometimes we pray for the wrong things. Even though it may be unintentional, we often ask for things that will increase our comfort and could harm our relationship with the Lord. That new job might pay more money and help us to better provide for our family, but it may require us to work extra hours which could cut into our family time. The increased earnings and security could also cause us to rely less on God, thinking that we are in total control of our lives.

Once again, Scripture offers a clear answer to why we sometimes ask, but do not receive – You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:3).

It may be harmful to us

Sometimes we ask for things that would be harmful to us spiritually. These seemingly “good” things could possibly cause us to lose our salvation. Even though Jesus promised that if we ask, we’ll receive, He never said that we’ll get EXACTLY what we requested. In fact, He assured us that we would not be given anything that is not good for us:

“Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

Instead of upsetting us, Jesus’ words should cause us to rejoice and give us confidence to ask for whatever we think we need. Ultimately, we know that the Father will never provide us with something harmful.

He has something better in mind

As hard as it is to admit, sometimes we just can’t see the big picture. God always knows what’s best for us and for those around us. He also has a plan for our lives and that often involves doing things that we’d rather not do.

Very few people would pray for increased suffering or more crosses in their life. As human beings who have a tendency to avoid pain and suffering, that is perfectly normal. Sometimes, however, doing God’s will involves suffering and even death. I have personally prayed for the physical healing of cancer-stricken relatives who have died. Does that mean that God didn’t answer my prayers? Not at all. He simply said “no” to the physical healing because it wasn’t what was best.

One of my favorite and most comforting Bible verses is Romans 8:28 – We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him. Not just the good things, but EVERYTHING! Sometimes, my friends, we just have to trust that God knows more than we do.

Be open to HIS answer

While we should never stop asking, we should be open to His answer. One of the best illustrations of this can be found by looking at Jesus’ prayer on the night before He died. Providing us with a powerful example of how we should pray for our needs, but remain open to God’s response, He used the following words: “Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

It’s perfectly acceptable for you to pray that your husband is healed from cancer or that you get that new job, but always be open to God’s Will. He sees the big picture and really does know what’s best. Imitate the example given to us by Jesus and always trust in His providence.

Although it’s difficult to accept, we need to trust that God always has a reason for saying “no” to our requests. He does this out of love and because He “desires all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).

– – – written by Capt. Mervin John Lobo

December 19th, 2012

God Opens Doors That No One Can Shut

God Opens Doors

During a Bible study session in college, we were going through the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda in John chapter five.

The paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda

Jesus heals a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. This man waits near the pool among so many other crippled, blind, paralyzed people with the hope of getting healed when the pool gets stirred. Jesus approaches him and asks, “Do you want to get well?” The answer he gives is, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Focusing on just one door

This answer struck me so much. He does not answer the question with a yes or no answer; rather he pours out his hopelessness and frustration without realizing that the one standing in front of him can and will help him in a new way. Often times, I feel like this paralytic man, focused on one way, that one door, which I think will answer all my uncertainties and anxieties. And life becomes so frantic, so disappointing if that one door does not open.

Many of us pray to God with an agenda. “God I want this and I want it this way and at this time.” It is good to pray persistently but when things do not get fulfilled the way we want, we get anxious, frustrated and hopeless. If Jesus stood in front of us at that time and asked the same question He asked the paralytic man, with a twinge of bitterness we would answer exactly the way he answered.

When God revealed His plans for Me

Let me share with you one occasion where He reminded me of this promise in a very personal and intimate way. I was going through a period where I was confused about my purpose, my direction and my future. Struggling through the uncertainty made me realize that I needed extra prayer and support.

One night after the Eucharistic adoration and praise and worship at the Catholic Church on my college campus, I requested prayers for me from the priest and some members of the worship team. The next thing I know, I am sitting inside a circle with five people around me. They all started praying with their hands over me. It was an intense, overwhelmingly emotional feeling.

One of the group members who prayed over me was a seminarian who is also a visionary. I had heard that he has the charisma of vision and prophesy but did not really believe it. During the prayer the seminarian said, “I am seeing a vision of you sitting in a dark room and there is a door that is slowly opening. Light is coming out of that open door and that light is covering you. But I do not know what this vision means.” Everyone still had their hands over me and they kept praying.

A minute later the seminarian asked one of the girls to read Revelations 3:7. The scripture said “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied My name.”

Then the seminarian explained, “As soon as I got the vision, I was asking God what it meant. The one word that kept coming into my head was ‘Philadelphia’. I did not know what that meant but then suddenly I realized that there is only one reference in the Bible to the word Philadelphia and that is why I asked that portion to be read. And God has revealed what the door means and what he wants to tell you.”

The priest then added, “Listen to what God says after ‘I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.’ God knows about your faith struggles and weaknesses but He also knows that you have not loved Him any less.

At this point I was crying like a little child because God was revealing a lot about what I meant to Him and about His plans for me. I still have no words to explain what it felt like to be there that day. What are the chances that someone sees a vision about a door and keeps hearing the word ‘Philadelphia’ in his head and turns out that there is only one chapter in the Bible that has that word. And that passage talks about a door that God opens which no one can shut!

Every time I think of that day it gives me a lot of reassurance about who God is. He knows our struggles, yet He sees our faith and our efforts to keep His name. He has a plan for us; He actually opens doors and opportunities for us that no one can shut.

Every time I worry and I panic, I think of that day when God told me that He will open doors for me that no one can shut. And it brings in a sense of calmness, because I know that looking back at my life, He has opened a lot of doors that I never even thought would open up for me. I have also seen Him open doors for many others in numerous instances.

Our God can open up new doors

And in the Bible we see many people, including the paralytic, who had lost hope. God uses that same hopelessness and uncertainty to bring out His plan and to foster trust and steadfast faith. When things do not go the way we expect, when the ‘only door’ to answer all our problems gets locked, remember that our God can open up new doors, new pathways that is ultimately for our good and for His glory.

Also read When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Today, as I face my uncertainties, as I wait for His doors to open, I am prepared to be surprised, I am prepared to be overwhelmed and I am definitely prepared to keep my faith and proclaim His name through all of this.

– – – written by Treesa Antony

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