For a few days, I will hand over the daily devotions to our eldest daughter, Ashley. She’s a godly young woman, one her momma and I adore and are proud of. She’s got quite a bit of ministry and missions experience from interning at World Concern and studying at Capernwray Bible College in Costa Rica for a semester. She is currently pursuing concurrent bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish as well as a master’s in linguistics at Barrett, the Honors College, on academic scholarship. She has a big heart to help others learn the Bible, especially college students and Spanish speakers.
As we mature in our faith in Jesus and begin to have deep, challenging questions as a result of reading the Bible and being in Christian community or simply facing worldly persecution, we may face a point where we don’t know where to go for answers. It may seem as though no book or verse is applicable to our situation. We may begin to become frustrated with God, ourselves, or our Christian friends, because none of them seem to be helping.
I’m in a period of growth that has challenged me to ask lots of questions lately due to some hardships I’ve been facing with friends and school. I wonder why some relationships turn out the way they do or why it’s so hard to balance all the great opportunities God has given me while keeping Him first. Sometimes I don’t know how to reach out for help or how to determine the next step that God has for me. In the midst of trying to determine God’s will for my life, it’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated when I don’t receive immediate answers, but I know that’s not how He wants me to live.
Despite the discouragement and lies surrounding spiritual challenges, we are not alone. God really does want to meet us in our skepticism and questions – in our conceited mistrust of the God who knows, sees, and controls all. In our doubt, He is there. Perhaps the most commonly quoted verse in the entire Bible is taken from a conversation that Jesus has with a skeptic, Nicodemus. John 3:16 says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Nicodemus was a scholarly leader in the Jewish community. His theological credentials were impeccable, but Jesus was not concerned about his head knowledge. He wanted to know the condition of his heart. When Nicodemus went to talk to Jesus alone one night, he asked about the power that Jesus used to carry out His ministry. Nicodemus couldn’t wrap his head around how God’s power could be resting so evidently on Jesus. Jesus directly pointed to the power of the Holy Spirit in John 3:5:
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to experience the transformation he desires, he must be born of both water and Spirit. This phrase is perplexing at first, but after further studying, I discovered that it connects to Ezekiel 36:25–27:
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Here, God is telling the sinful Israelites that He will clean them only with His own purity. There is nothing they can do but surrender to Him so He can redeem the mess they have gotten themselves into. Salvation from sin requires transformation of both mind and spirit, so He will give them a new heart. No longer will they rely on their flesh; they will be given the power of the living, eternal God of the universe.
Are there any doubts, frustrations, or questions that are causing you to harden your heart toward God? When you feel like He’s not answering you and everything is going wrong, how do you respond?