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Based on the belief that God is in control, this personal improvement book, by the authors of the bestselling "Boundaries, " introduces ...
Based on the belief that God is in control, this personal improvement book, by the authors of the bestselling "Boundaries, " introduces ten "life principles" and then demonstrates how real-world dilemmas are solved by their application.
I (Henry) was sitting on an airplane, feeling especially grateful that I had a few hours to sit back and do nothing that required effort, thought, or any kind of emotional investment on my part. I was wiped out, so I was hoping for a seating companion who was equally as tired and did not want to talk. But on this particular day, it did not happen.
"Are you coming or going?" the man next to me asked. My first thought was that I would like to be going-to a different row.
"I'm on my way home from a working trip," I answered, hoping it would end there. But it didn't.
He went to the next level. "What do you do?"
I decided to give him the answer that's a big conversation-stopper for a lot of people. "I write books about God." There was a good chance he'd decide I was some sort of religious weirdo and make the move to another row himself.
"Oh really!" he said, seeming excited. "That's great."
"Are you into God too?" I asked.
"Oh, no. Not me," he replied quickly. "But I do place great value in it. In belief, I mean. I think belief is a really good thing."
Now I felt a bit intrigued. "What do you mean by 'belief '? Belief in what?"
"Well, God, or anything else," he answered. "I've noticed that when people believe in something it seems to help them. Sort of settles them down, I think. Gives them a sense of purpose or something like that."
And then he said the thing that really grabbed me and got us started on a conversation that lasted the rest of the flight. "I don't think it really matters what they believe in. Just the fact that they believe in something is what helps."
"You don't think it matters at all what it is people believe in?" I pressed.
"No, I really don't. All that matters is that they believe."
Actually, in one sense what he said was true. Research-and just commonsense observation-affirms that a person with a set of beliefs and a strong sense of "faith" is more grounded than a person who is perpetually confused and does not know what he or she believes in.
But what I would assert to my traveling companion, and to you as well, is much better news than that. It is not that "belief will make a way." It is that "God will make a way." Belief, or faith, is the step of trust that we take from our side, connecting us to the real God who makes the way.
You may recall the story of Abraham from the Bible. We're told that he had no idea where he was headed, but he believed that God knew. He didn't just believe in belief and head out across a desert, leaving all that was familiar to go to some distant land of "promise" in some attempt to "keep the faith." No, it was much more personal than that, and with a much more specific design. Abraham believed, or trusted, in a God who knew exactly where he was taking him and who was more than able to lead. Faith was the "way" from Abraham's side to connect to the God who knew the way and had the power and ability to get him there.
Abraham knew who he was following. Centuries later, the writer of Hebrews recorded: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.... He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:8, 10).
So when we talk about faith, trust, and belief to carry you through, we mean it in a very specific way. Faith, trust, and belief are not just exercises of positive thinking. They involve a relationship with a very real person who knows the way for us to live and who promises to lead us in it.
* By Design
Very often I hear people telling others what the man in the plane was advocating. They say, "Just have faith," or "Keep on believing." They sincerely want to give a friend hope and courage to get through a rough time or to reach a goal. But the problem in life is that we all, in some situations, come to the end of our own abilities, strength, knowledge, and experience. And at that moment, just having faith in faith, or belief in belief, or even faith in ourselves is not enough. We need more.
We need someone on the other end of that expression of faith. We need help to know what the next step is, what the next piece is. We need someone to give us the key to unlock the door that will lead us through whatever mystery lies before us. We need someone greater than ourselves to tell us what to do when we don't know what to do.
The fact that you and I need someone greater than ourselves is not a weakness. Some say that our need for God is a "crutch" and that only weak people need God. But that's not true any more than our need for air or food is because we're weak. We are created and designed to reach outside of ourselves to find the things that we need each and every day. One of the biggest oxymorons is the term "self-made" man or woman. No man or woman ever "made" him- or herself. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, "It is [God] who has made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3, NKJV). I also love what he goes on to say at the end of the verse: "We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."
Life is designed in a way that tells us we are not supposed to be able to make our own way. We did not make ourselves to begin with, nor did we design life and how it's supposed to work. So what I would say to my friend on the airplane is that it does matter what you believe. More specifically, it matters whom you believe in. Don't believe in faith-instead, use your faith to believe in God.
When we put our faith and trust in God, we've done the one thing that a human can do to accomplish superhuman things. We have reached past human strength and knowledge. We've touched infinite strength and infinite knowledge.
The message of the psalmist, along with the testimonies of many who go before us, is this: We begin to find our way when we realize that we are not God. We are not limitless. We do not have all the answers, because we did not make ourselves or life itself. So the fact that we do not know it all and are not able to figure it all out is okay. Second, since God made us, he wants to show each one of us how to live the life that he's given us.
Do you believe this to be true? He is your Shepherd. Life is his pasture, and he will guide you through it. He will show you the way. Indeed, he will actually make a way, wherever you find yourself.
Begin your journey with the first step of realizing that since you are not God, you are naturally going to run into the limits of your finite abilities to solve your problems or to create the life you desire. And since he is God, and he wants to be your Shepherd, you have the opportunity to live life in a relationship with the One who designed you and your life, and therefore he knows best how you can live it. That is the first step to finding out how God can make a way for you.
* What We Need ... and What He Provides
Here's an important question you need to answer: What do you do when you don't know what to do?
The sad truth is that many people do one of two things. First, we do the same thing again. We just try harder to make a relationship work, or to succeed in our careers, or to break a harmful or useless habit. Chronic dieters think, This time it will be different, because "this time" they're making a more sincere and heartfelt commitment to getting healthy and losing weight. People in a difficult relationship-even after one more blowout fight, or even one more separation-think, This time it will change. Somehow we can make it be better.
This approach reflects a popular definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If you have tried your best, tried all you know to do, and tried it again and again, you know how insane it is. Going at a problem you haven't been able to resolve with your own limited knowledge and strength is pretty crazy, isn't it? If it didn't get you the results you wanted the first three or four ... or ten or twenty times, why do you think it will give you your answer this time? Yet most of us keep trying, hoping things will turn out differently.
The second thing most of us do, at some point, when we've tried and tried with the same results, is we stop trying altogether. Understandably, we get tired and give up. We say, "This relationship will never work," or "I can never lose weight," or "I'll never reach my goals and dreams," or "I'll never be able to get over depression."
So the result of trying to do life within our own limitations of strength, knowledge, and resources, is futility and hopelessness.
Fortunately, in God's economy, getting to the end of ourselves is the beginning of hope. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit" (Matthew 5:3)-meaning that when we realize we have no more resources, we're ready to ask God for help.
The very great news is that when we ask God for help, we have instantly transcended our own limitations. We have stepped over to the side of a God who has infinite ways to grace us with all the resources we really need. Maybe you're wondering what God's resources are. Here are just a few:
* Strength and power
* Knowledge and wisdom
* Opportunities and resources
* Guidance and direction
* Healing and comfort
* Forgiveness and acceptance
* Skill and ability
* Love and community
* Hope and courage
* Values and principles
If you're hesitant, doubtful, or just plain resistant about making the step away from your own resources to God and his limitless resources, consider this. Throughout history, people have found the same thing to be true in science, philosophy, and their own experience-that is, our outside lives are manifestations of our internal lives. We understand that our soul and our spirit, the inside parts of ourselves, are what drive our ability to love and to create the lives we desire. The paradox is that the things inside of us are also the very things that we cannot create for ourselves: They must be given to us from outside ourselves. We must get them from God. Gifted people are indeed that: gifted. Through God, you can be gifted too.
Here is the very heart of what we're saying in many different ways throughout this book: No matter what limitation or circumstance you find yourself up against in life, there is a God who can empower you and gift you to go past what you thought was possible. It may be to help you through a hard time, deal with a difficult relationship, or even to make a dream come true. Whatever it is, our experience, and the experience of people throughout history, is that God can be trusted to provide more of what you need than you ever thought possible. Sometimes, through some very unexpected means, he will make a way for you.
When you're at the end of yourself, that's the time he can do his best work. That is why Jesus tells us, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." If you have a need, there is good news! You can have God on your side.
* How He Provides
What do you have to do to get past your own abilities and tap into the power, strength, and resources of God? It seems so good, maybe your assumption is that this is only for the really special, or really good, or really unique people. You may feel that this kind of life either does not exist or exists only for a few.
The Bible attests to a different truth. God's power and resources are not for special people at all. In fact, they cannot be earned by any human effort, ability, or goodness. They can only be received as a free gift. They can only be accessed through humility-that is, by realizing we are just humans in need of our Creator. Throughout the Bible God said one thing over and over: "Come to me and I will give to you."
How does God give to us today? The same way he always has: by coming to us and asking us to come to him. As Jesus said, he stands at the door of our life and knocks, and if we let him into our hearts and into our daily needs he will lead us to life in all of its fullness (Revelation 3:20; John 10:10). He seeks us each and every day. All we have to do is say "yes."
So the first step of how God will make a way in your life is to say "yes" to his invitation to give you all the things that you cannot provide for yourself. Instead of seeking those things, he tells us to seek him instead. As we do that, he will provide the "way" that we need. As Jesus said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
Throughout the course of this book we'll expand on all the different things that God will give you to make a way out of wherever you are. As you read you'll be able to find the specific steps in the path you need to take. But without the first step-saying "yes" to God-the principles we offer you here will just be another set of rules or concepts that you try to live out in your own strength, subject to your own limitations. To make them work, you first have to be connected to Someone larger than yourself. You have to be connected to more than mere "belief." You have to be connected to God.
To begin your path, no matter where you are right now in your life, take the first step. Say "yes" to God's offer to make a way for you through his power and not your own. Ask him, even if you have taken this step before, to make a way for you.
As you're about to see, sometimes the way God makes for us is truly miraculous. Many other times, though, it's a way that involves a lot of work, growth, and change on our parts. Sometimes, it's not even the way we thought we needed to go, but it's a different and even better one. No matter how simple or how challenging our spiritual journey from here proves to be, when God makes a way, it's real and powerful, it gives meaning, and its results last.
When we connect to God and follow his ways, a whole new world can open up.
Excerpted from God will Make a Way by Henry Cloud John Townsend Copyright © 2007 by Dr. Henry Cloud Dr. John Townsend. Excerpted by permission.
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