Mark Kelly

Stories of faith and life

Motorbike

In 2009, myself and my family made a ferry crossing over the channel and from there drove to the south of France. It was the first time that I had driven on the opposite side of the road to what I’m used to in the UK and only the second time that I had driven in a foreign country. The first being Ireland on our honeymoon, when we hired a car from Cork airport and drove southwest to County Kerry, a stunningly beautiful place by the way. Still, I wasn’t nervous about driving as they drive on the same side as the UK, the left, and all the road signs were in English! Driving on the European mainland was a different experience altogether.

I recall driving off the ferry at the port of Le Harve, feeling quite anxious. I was so nervous about all sorts of things, one of them was the roundabouts! I’d gone so far as to buy a small transparent sticker for the inside of my windshield which had bendy arrows pointing which way you should go round a roundabout. I thought I might make a big mistake and default to turning left, that would have been a disaster… but I digress.

I drove off the ferry, and we eventually found the main highway which had two lanes on either side, and I managed to drive on the correct one. I didn’t, however, drive in the correct lane. What my mind thought was the ‘slow’ lane (the left), was, of course, the ‘fast’ lane used for overtaking. After a few miles of folks beeping at me and making the odd rude gesture, I finally figured out what I’d done and made a move to the right. The rest of the drive went quite smoothly from there on in.

I say all that just to put something into context that I’d never seen before on UK roads. As I got used to overtaking and spending some time in the ‘fast’ lane, occasionally I would see in my rearview mirror a motorbike approaching, clearly going faster than I was. So I would indicate to go right so that they might pass without ‘undertaking’ me.

But then an odd thing would happen, they would pass by then gently stick their right leg out before zooming off. After this happened a few times it finally clicked what they were doing – they were saying “thank you”. Of course, they didn’t want to let go of the handlebars and raise a hand to say thanks like car drivers do in the UK, so they used their leg! They didn’t have to do this and say thanks. I was probably driving a bit slower than most folks were used to, and so it was quite right that I should move aside.

How many times do we say ‘thank you’ when we probably don’t need to? We would get away with it without any bother. But when we do say thanks, it makes everybody feel just that little bit better about the world.

When you’re crossing at a zebra crossing do you say “thank you” to the driver that has stopped to let you go, or do you think that as it’s your right to cross and you’re both following the rules of the road, you don’t have to?

When someone lets you in line in slow-moving traffic are you one of those people who puts the blinkers on as a way of saying “thank you” to the person behind? When this happens to you, does it make you feel happy, glad to have done your bit for your fellow human, and fleetingly everything is okay with the world?

I think that when we develop a habit of saying “thank you”, and adopt a lifestyle of thankfulness, it helps us truly appreciate what we have and what we have been given. When we put this into the context of our spiritual lives, it is good to cultivate thankfulness by giving thanks regularly to God.

As Christians, we believe that God created everything, and, at least in the beginning, God said it was all good. And although creation doesn’t look like God intended, I think that a thankful heart expressing that thankfulness regularly does something to the circumstances and the atmosphere around us. It gives us a glimpse of what life should be like; one that is worshipful and grateful for every breath and every new day.

There is a verse in the first letter to Timothy in the New Testament that says everything God created is good, and we should not reject any of it, but receive it with thanks.

When you’re next crossing that road, being let into line on the road, receiving change from a shop cashier, getting off that bus, or when a waiter brings you food and so on and so on, say “thank you” and cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness. Just see what happens to you and those around you when you do.

Pavement

I like getting lost!

Let me clarify that a bit: I love walking and I love visiting new places to walk around in, and I usually don’t want a town or village map letting me know where I am in relation to everywhere else. This can, at times, make my wife Kathi a little nervous, as, despite her many, many other skills and talents, I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning that she has a pretty poor sense of direction! So, when we’re just walking along, she’s gotten used to trusting me that we’ll find our way back to the car before, often as a last resort, needing to whip out the smartphone to open up a maps app.

I seem to have an innate sense of knowing where I am in geographically. My internal compass, more often than not, knows which way is where and I have a rough idea of where to go, even if I’ve not been someplace before. It’s a little like having an internal sat-nav which I’ve learned to trust will get me where I need to go, even if sometimes we might take an odd short detour, as I said, I like to get lost a little bit, would I see as much, or have as much fun, if we just went straight from A to B?

There’s a thrilling sense of the unknown and a voyage, or a walk, in this case, of discovery, when you set out not quite knowing if you’ll make it back without help! However, there are times when we need to know how to get from A to B in a much more direct way. In the journey of life, for example, knowing what the best decision to make next it is what we all desire, we want to stay on course, as it were, with as little disruption as possible.

Here’s the thing, we don’t need a sat-nav, real or imagined, to help us feel secure and safe when we trust our lives to Jesus. In one of the Biblical Psalms, there is a line that says God will watch over us, advise us, and find the best pathway for our lives.

If we learn to trust God, rather than listening to doubt and fear about which way to go, we’ll find taking the next step on our life journey easier than without. Even if you’ve got a great sense of direction built-in, you will, on occasion, stumble down a blind alley and need to perform a 180.

Sometimes His quiet whisper will make us take a pause, and almost mid-step He’ll help us reconsider the course we have set, and we might find we need to change direction as we focus on Him – as His desired will for our lives becomes our will for our lives.

Can you think of times, where you probably know you shouldn’t be heading one particular direction? A decision just didn’t feel right, but you took the plunge and pressed on ahead anyway, and things didn’t turn out the way you had imagined?

Why not take time to listen? Set aside time to listen to that still small voice inside, the one that doesn’t sound like a sat-nav, but the one that sounds like a loving Father wanting the very best for His child.

I hear the Lord saying,
“I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you
along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way
and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
(Psalm 32:8-9)

Good Vibes Only

Until it completely healed itself a few short weeks ago, I had been suffering terribly for months with what turned out to be sciatic pain. This pain started as an odd sensation near my hip, feeling numb and a little uncomfortable and gradually turned into excruciating pain shooting down from the top of my buttocks to my ankle. I couldn’t walk properly and certainly couldn’t run. Sleeping was broken up. Night after night, I would be tossing and turning, trying to find a different position to relieve the pain but to no avail. To say I got a little grumpy would be an understatement!

The good news is eventually, with a combination of drugs, exercise and targeted prayer, the pain eased, and any sensation of numbness has pretty much gone. (If you’re interested you can find more info about sciatic pain HERE.)

There was a period as I was going through the worst of it, where I found myself sitting on my sofa, not wanting even to get up and get a drink of water. The thought occurred to me that I could either become very cross that the pain in my leg was stopping me from doing anything at all or take the opportunity to see if there was anything positive I could bring to the situation.

What positivity could there possibly be? It was when I realised that not being able to do much had given me time to slooooow down. Typically I’m going from one thing to the next, thinking about what needs to happen next at both Church and home. Not being active had forced me not to try and do everything. It’s not that I can’t delegate responsibilities, but if something needs doing, I often think it’s just quicker for me to get it done. Being incapacitated, however, makes you rely on other people. It helps you develop trust that they can do it just as good, if not better than you. They only need the moment to shine.

It’s not nice to be in pain, but pain can be a useful thing, physical pain tells us that something is wrong with our bodies and that it needs attention. Mental trauma is a different kind of pain, and sometimes even our reality will change as our brains try and protect us from a traumatic experience. This reality change is recognised as a psychotic episode. Most often, mental pain, however, is the pain of grief and loss, and the feeling of powerlessness.

I don’t believe that God brings us pain to test us, but I think He can use the pain to show us something, grow character and change us. For example, most of us will willingly enter into new relationships; the human condition makes this a priority. As Christians, the ideal is to copy Jesus in our relationships and try and fulfil His commandment of making disciples. We begin every relationship knowing that one day we might lose them – whether that be bodily, geographically or simply because people change. God still wants us to enter into relationships with others, it’s a Heavenly mandate, even though it has the potential to bring us pain, but, to repeat, I don’t believe He is the source of that pain.

Sometimes, as with grief, we have to walk through the deep pain of loss. We never deny the loss, but one day we realise we have moved on, never forgetting, but we find ourselves on a new independent path. Journeying through grief and pain is a normal process, but choosing to wallow in pain and misery is not a good thing. To wallow is to stay in one place, not willing to walk a path of healing, often feeling sorry for ourselves and hoping that others will join us in our pity party. 

To wallow is to stay in the water, or the mud. Wallowing might keep the flies off – like giant African beasts – and keep us safe from those people or that thing wanting to do us further harm, but if we never venture out, never attempt to step out despite our pain, then we’ll never have the chance to grow. We’ll never have the opportunity to change the world. We live in a fallen creation, but rather than abiding by it’s fallen rules we need to make creation abide by the rules of Heaven. We need to genuinely occupy our role as stewards and caretakers, declaring the goodness of God in all situations, 

As Christians, we believe that Jesus suffered considerable physical pain, and significant mental anguish was brought about by what He faced and what He ultimately conquered. God stepped into our anguish and fallen state and took on the greatest suffering, so we didn’t have to. The Father knows what it’s like to lose a Son, and the Son knows what it is to suffer as we do. However, despite what it may seem, this is a story of absolute assurance in the goodness of God, and regardless of the circumstances, indeed because of the circumstances, we can overcome every obstacle.

33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] JOHN 16:33 (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)

The disciples of Jesus didn’t know victory would come in the shape of their Master dying on the Cross, and near the end, they felt utterly defeated, they didn’t understand what had just occurred. The lesson from this is that we should not stop declaring how good God is despite what we see and despite how we feel. First and foremost in all situations, we should maintain we have a good God and speak out what we see through Heavenly eyes – which is seeing best for us, the best in us, and the best around us – declare what we desire as it lines up with God’s will for us. Even Jesus said as it’s written in Luke 22:42-44:

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what, your will must be mine.” 43 Jesus called for an angel of glory to strengthen him, and the angel appeared. 44 He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground.

Jesus, in this passage of Scripture, asked for the mental anguish, the psychological pain to be taken from Him. However, He immediately responds to His own request that His will be lined up with His Father’s will and through that He prayed even more. Jesus pressed into His Father even more, even though what is to come is not taken from Him. Jesus is still suffering, so much so that His mental state translated into a physical response as He sweated actual blood. But again He prayed, still leaned into His purpose and mission.

We see from this story that despite our declarations for healing and deliverance from pain, we may never see it in this earthly life. However, we will see it come to pass in eternity. 

Despite what I’ve just written, most of us who are believers will be able to testify that healing can come while we live on earth. We may even have experienced it personally. It might have come instantly, or it took several years to come. Here is a quote from a blog post by Jarrod Cooper, a Pastor, I might even say an apostle to the Church, who leads Revive Church in Hull, he wrote:

“Healing is a battle that must be won, not simply a “special moment” in a church service. Equipping people to fight and keep their healing, is as important as the powerful encounter that brings the healing in the first place.”

www.jarrodcooper.net


Part of that equipping is finding the positive in the circumstance and declaring the Goodness of God through it all. Let me remind you of a verse in James 1:17:

17 Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.

I said to one of our children recently, who is struggling to say anything good about school, and as such, this is affecting their mood and their mental attitude: “You put positivity in, you get positivity out.” That sentence might sound a bit pithy and even a little trite to some, but at the heart of this simple phrase is a powerful key in helping us escape the wallowing in our pain or the room of self-pity into which we lock ourselves.

There is a reason why self-help gurus are the superstars in the first few decades of this new millennium, why positivity books are the new Bible for many – because it works. I think it’s incredible that as we smile, as we say good things or think positive thoughts, our bodies and our minds, for most people, are physiologically and chemically changed for the better. I’ve read many, many articles that all say it makes a massive difference to how we live our lives.

A simple example is that if we sit and walk with our backs straight, this will give us greater confidence and inner strength. Not only that, it helps physically with our posture, which reduces back problems! And if we tell ourselves out loud that we can swim that extra length or run that extra mile, we find the inner conviction to do it. As we do, we become healthier, we push ourselves, and we see the rewards of our positive mental attitude.

Now, imagine if in all that, through all that and around all that, is the Word of God! Imagine how much more powerful our positive declarations are when we invoke the power of Heaven. When we declare by His Holy Spirit, words of encouragement and speak His truths into all situations? Proverbs 18:21 tells us that our “words are so powerful that they will kill or give life.” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Nothing is more appealing than speaking beautiful, life-giving words. For they release sweetness to our souls and inner healing to our spirits.”

At the very beginning of time, God spoke creation into existence! Not only that, He said that what He had spoken into existence was good, and made well. Our words matter too. As humans, we are created in God’s image, the One who speaks life into being. We will experience pain, we will go through pain, but remember that the one who spoke creation into existence has also felt our pain and He has overcome. We are overcomers too, using our own words to inspire us and our positive thoughts to guide us, we can be who God desires us to be, in all situations and at all times. Our pain may stay with us, and in grief especially, but we can learn how to turn that process to good as we look to see how it can change us and grow us. We can do this because, despite our pain and our tribulations, we have a God who speaks, a God who acts, a Father who loves us and is with us through His Spirit. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from God’s love. I love The Passion Translation of the Bible, which reads: 

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love triumphs over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that weakens His love. There is no power above us or beneath us – no power can ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

God speaks life over us with His love! What an immeasurable gift! God gives our words power. God speaks life-giving Words over us through His people and His Scriptures. As Christians, we have a calling to speak life-giving words over others and ourselves, despite our circumstances. We can speak life through encouragement, adoration, love, and prayer.

“To be a believer in Jesus Christ means realising that what Jesus said to Thomas is true: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is not the road we leave behind as we travel, but the Way itself. By believing, we enter into that rest of peace, holiness, and eternal life because we are abiding in Him.” – Oswald Chambers

As leaders, called by God, sometimes we might feel that the burden of leading a people has become too great.

I listened to a podcast recently, and a guy on it said that if we’re not facing any opposition or feel any burden then maybe we’re not leading well as we should be.

Challenging stuff!

Sometimes, it can seem to leaders that all the people we’re leading are complaining and whining and whinging about everything, instead of just getting on with the tasks God has laid out, and trying to be the kind of people God desires us to be.

Check out this passage of Scripture from Numbers:

Numbers 11:10-17

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

and from verse 24…

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied…

Just like Moses, those of us who lead in the church, instead of going to God with a heart that wants the best for His people, we can sometimes find ourselves responding to the whinging by having a whinge about them return!

Read again what Moses says:

“Why have you brought trouble on your servant?”
“They keep wailing to me.”
“Please, go ahead and kill me!”

I find myself asking the question: What had the leaders appointed at the suggestion of Jethro in Exodus 18 been doing? Why is Moses still feeling the strain of leadership with seemingly little or no practical support? Or is it a case that it was a good idea that came from Jethro, but where exactly had God been in that discussion? Because God will provide help – if we ask for it.

Not only will God provide us with good people to share the load, but He’ll also anoint them with His power, just as He did the seventy elders of Israel.

Still, we might ask ourselves: “Is it my job to equip people to serve and lead? Am I not merely to be a pastor and teach the people on Sunday?”

This question – which some of us may have thought or heard in so many ways – demonstrates how our culture has blinded us to the Biblical call for leaders to equip other leaders.

We get stuck in a role and get entrenched in that role, and the more you work the trench, the deeper you get, until one day you discover you can’t see over the top. You can see what’s behind you, and where you’ve been, and you can see in front of you, you’ve got purpose and reason for doing stuff you’ve come up with all by yourself – the big problem is there is no-one else is in the trench with you … forget casting vision, burn-out is ahead.

There’s a saying, which you’ve probably heard before, but it’s such a wise saying that it’s worth repeating time and again: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

These verses in Numbers 11 should demonstrate to us that equipping others around us to help lead and serve is God’s good idea. As good leaders we are to identify (find the gold in people), prepare (give of ourselves), and release other leaders to work under the guidance and authority of the Holy Spirit – this releasing though is often the hardest part, because we’ve seen and we’ve invested, but we have to let that leader go.

Let’s look at some of the verses in this section of Scripture a bit more closely and ask of it what do leaders who are in our teams, or those who we see as potential leaders, need? I think God left no doubt about how Moses was to train the seventy leaders he had selected.

God says:

1. They need authority (v. 16, “that they may stand there with you”).

  • They need to know they have solid support behind them and that you aren’t going anywhere.
  • They need to know that you will actually, really, truly trust them to make decisions without your input.
  • Which also means, no micro-managing, no passive-aggressive hints about what they should do instead.
  • Your congregation and / or your wider team need to know who they are and the authority they have been given.

2. They need anointing (v. 17, “I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is upon you and put it on them”).

  • Anointing someone in the power of the Holy Spirit into the role God desires them to have doesn’t mean that every box has to be ticked and that every edge has to smooth before they start!
  • As people are anointed by God, the power and authority they have will increase; this is a supernatural unlocking.
  • And as they are in your leadership team, or you are releasing them into leadership roles elsewhere, some of who you are, some of what God has put in you will be in them – the same Spirit that was in you does not diminish when shared with others. Just like a candle can light other candles, the original candle still stands lit and bright – it doesn’t diminish as every other light sparks to life – it’s just now, together, we can see more of what is in front of us.

3. They need ownership of the vision (v. 17, “the Spirit that is upon you and put it on them”).

  • This same line means then that as we see more together, we see the same thing.
  • It is the same Spirit that puts the vision of what God wants in us, and so the same vision is given to others as the same Spirit in these anointed leaders.

4. They need responsibility (v. 17, “they will share the burden of the people with you”).

  • If we have indeed given our leaders authority, then let them run with that responsibility. Let them truly feel the burden.
  • Responsibility is only really accepted when others around us see us hold that responsibility, so make it public – again how can they share the burden of the people, if the people don’t know about them?
  • God has anointed these leaders, so give them real responsibility and let them sometimes to make mistakes which they will, but great leaders allow them
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.”

5. They need specific ministry roles (v. 24, “and had them stand around the tent”).

  • Everyone has a role to play. If we believe that a person is a potential leader, then we need to position them correctly and not try and push them into a role that isn’t shaped for them – this is destined to fail.

6. They need to express their gifts (v. 25, “when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied”).

  • The leaders in our teams may share the same vision, the same heart and most importantly, the same Spirit, but that doesn’t mean they will do things in the same way.
  • We need to let the leaders in our teams express themselves, find their own way of doing things and not be overly shaped by us but by the Holy Spirit.
  • Very pragmatically, what are their spiritual gifts? Encourage and draw out confidence to operate in these spheres.

Let me finish this blog post by quoting from a Matthew Henry commentary on these verses which sums things up succinctly:

“Let the testimony of Moses be believed by those who desire to be in power; that government is a burden. It is a burden of care and trouble to those who make conscience of the duty of it; and to those who do not, it will prove a heavier burden on the day of account. Let the example of Moses be followed by those in power; let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, but desire it, and be thankful for it. If all the present number of the Lord’s people were rendered prophets, or ministers, by the Spirit of Christ, though not all agreed in outward matters, there is work enough for all, in calling sinners to repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus.”

A podcast conversation with Mark Pease

A number of months ago I recorded a conversation about life and leadership with Mark Pease for his new podcast, ‘Honest to God’. Here is a link to that podcast and I hope it encourages you, especially if you are involved in local church leadership.

anchor.fm/mark-pease/episodes/Episode-3—The-one-where-we-cant-stop-apologising-Mark-Kelly-e4j39t/a-aijsfk


“The single greatest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.” (George Bernard Shaw)

I’ve come across the suggestion that we should communicate what we want to share until we’re bored of it, only then will others have just started hearing it and understanding it. This is a huge challenge to me personally, but I’m sure to many communicators. We’ve said it once, twice, many times, and still we find our message hasn’t been grasped by some even at the most basic level. But here’s the thing, it’s not generally these people at fault. We can assume and pressume too much. Presume prior knowledge in our listeners, assume the context is understood, assume our definitions are the same.

As communicators we need to make sure our message is engaging to as many as possible and as uncomplicated as possible. Boiling it down to the nub, as Andy Stanley says, if you’ve got one point, you’ve got a message, if you’ve got many, you’ve got a series!

I don’t want to be an illusionist leaving people with no real idea of what they’ve seen and heard. I want to be an effective communicator with a message that is memorable and repeatable.

“Winsome words spoken at just the right time are as appealing as apples gilded in gold and surrounded with silver. – Proverbs 25:11 (TPT)

Trust

I probably have a trust issue.

It takes a long time for me to trust someone truly, but when I have invested that trust in someone, I will stick with them through thick and thin. However, on the flipside of that, if that trust is violated, then I struggle with the desire to maintain a relationship with such a person.

For me, it’s all about a person keeping their word. This ranges from what some might see as insignificant, like being consistently late when you’ve agreed to meet, to not following through on a promise given.

But what do we mean when we talk about trust?

Would we trust our wife or husband to perform minor surgery on us if they’re not qualified? Would we trust our 9-year child to replace the brakes on the car despite how much he might be enthusiastic about trying? Or would we trust our longtime best friend to gear us up for a mountain climb when they have a fear of heights, and you know they’ve got issues even climbing the stairs?

Is trust something that we work with on a case by case basis?

For example, we trust our GP to diagnose a medical problem and advise the correct course of treatment. We trust that the pharmacist will label the right drug and give us the recommended dose. We trust our local garage to sort those brakes out instead of our 9-year old, and we might, if you’re mad enough, trust the people that strap bungee cords to our legs before we take a nose dive straight down!

I wrote at the start of this post that I might have an issue with trust, but as I write more about it, I find that I actually trust a lot of people and the services they provide quite a bit. So do we all as long as it’s the proper person or service for the job. We hand out a lot of trust quite easily really.

Maybe sometimes, however, our trust is misplaced with too many of us trusting what the news is telling us about the world, without investigating deeper for ourselves. The number of people that comment on just the headlines that they read via social media from random ‘news’ sources without actually even bothering to read the article is staggering. I find that many people fall for ‘click-bait’ headlines and get so angry and upset over something that would take two minutes to check against other sources.

We can also be fickle our trust. Take politicians as an example. Trust with these people is like throwing out confetti and trying to catch it again. We want substance from them to help gain our trust, but then we fall out with them if they don’t say what we want to hear.

We give it out trust easily in part, but we’re always ready to reel it back in again.

So is there anything at all that we can fully trust, now and always? Let’s take a look at a section of Proverbs 3:

5 Trust in the Lord completely,
and do not rely on your own opinions.
With all your heart rely on him to guide you,
and he will lead you in every decision you make.
6 Become intimate with him in whatever you do,
and he will lead you wherever you go.
Don’t think for a moment that you know it all,
7 for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion
and avoid everything that’s wrong.
8 Then you will find the healing refreshment
your body and spirit long for.
9 Glorify God with all your wealth,
honouring him with your very best,
with every increase that comes to you.
10 Then every dimension of your life will overflow with blessings
from an uncontainable source of inner joy!

I guess we’re stuck a little if we don’t even trust the Bible. But let’s go with it anyway and if you’re someone with little or no faith in God or His word, then take this as it is meant to be, as words of wisdom and encouragement.

I think that there is something potent in taking the focus off ourselves for a moment and placing it on something that is, in many ways, beyond our comprehension. The bottom line is that it’s hard trying to maintain a world where everything should revolve around me because everybody else wants it to revolve around them!

In this post, I’d like to let you know, or remind you, that I believe the person we can trust in the most is our Daddy-God, our Father in Heaven and Lord of all of creation.

5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make.

It feels good to be able to put our trust in God. To be told that He can handle it, He’ll take care of us, and we don’t need to worry about a thing. Except sometimes it doesn’t seem to work like that, even amongst those of us who believe in Him. Right here in this book of wisdom, God knows that we’ll doubt, so He adds more to this first sentence, and He inspired someone to write it down: do not rely on your own opinions, or as in older Bible translations, do not rely on your own understanding.

It seems to me there is an encouragement here to fully invest our trust, all of it, in Him. Not to hold anything back just in case He doesn’t quite come through for us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that word completely is there by accident and the last time I checked completely means totally, utterly, entirely, wholly, thoroughly, fully, absolutely, unreservedly, and quite often, unconditionally!

If we truly and fully trust God and we don’t pretend we do, when we give the whole of our hearts to Him, that’s our emotions and our thinking (when this passage of Scripture was written the heart was seen as the absolute centre of who we are which includes our cognitive functions) then we can trust that He will lead us right. And actually, as we trust, our we find that our decisions line up with His decisions. Our Daddy-God doesn’t want mindless automatons following His every whim and commandment, He wants people to trust Him of their own volition and to live our lives through that freedom.

I love what this proverb goes on to say: Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, 7 for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.

We don’t know it all, and that is such a relief! Yet, our trust in Him brings us wisdom it says. We can handle anything and have a response for whatever comes our way. And for all that wisdom poured into us, all we have to do is give our Creator our devotion. He deserves it, unreservedly. He created us, gave us this world to enjoy and people to love, He is the cause of it all, and that is worthy of our devotion and thankfulness.

What begins with simple, but complete trust, moves into the realm of our physical bodies and our mental well-being: 8 Then you will find the healing refreshment your body and spirit long for.

When we stop being fickle with our trust and when we stop being short of giving it all to Him, we find that our worries and our issues are diminished. It’s not that worries and issues won’t happen, they will, but what’s important is our response to them. We are not the answer to our problem, God is. When we learn to turn to God in the first instance and not as a last resort, the long-term outlook is one of refreshment in both body and soul.

We don’t need any self-help books or the need to fill the pockets of positivity gurus, we merely need to trust that God will take care of it and will guide our actions and words through it, leading to real rest and good mental health.

So good so far, but then here comes the biggy, the issue we don’t like to talk about much, the thing we want to hold close and dear and quite often place a lot of our trust in: money!

9 Glorify God with all your wealth, honouring him with your very best, with every increase that comes to you.

I can hear the comebacks now: That’s Old Testament stuff and no longer applies to me. I give to many charities and have nothing left to give to the Church. I serve in so many other ways I can’t afford to give financially.

Even if I may be reading a little disingenuous with that last paragraph, I do think there is some validity in some of those arguments. But I attach to that that a caution that a little truth taken out of context can be shaped in whatever way you would like.

With regards money I can really only write from personal experience. I can testify that when I give to God from something I know I need to survive in this culture, something that feeds my family and puts a roof over our heads. I know that I have been blessed many times over.

That’s my experience, and I desire that we all experience this blessing too. Sometimes the blessing might come in ways other what than we expected. The bottom line is again, trust. Do we trust God with the money that I have worked so hard to gain?

The apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament in the Bible wrote this in 2 Corinthians 9: 6 Here’s my point. A stingy sower will reap a meagre harvest, but the one who sows from a generous spirit will reap an abundant harvest. 7 Let giving flow from your heart, not from a sense of religious duty. Let it spring up freely from the joy of giving—all because God loves hilarious generosity!

I love this passage because it tells us that our giving should never be forced, but only encouraged, because it is only through giving that is done freely do we only ever feel the pure joy of such trust in God.

Maybe because God knew that this section of Proverbs can be tricky the writer reminds of this in the verse directly after verse 9: 10 Then every dimension of your life will overflow with blessings from an uncontainable source of inner joy!

Trusting in God brings joy. What adventures might we go, in mind, body and soul, when we trust Him completely?

If all this is true, what it tells us here in Proverbs 3, then isn’t it the case that those of us who believe should look different to the rest of the world? How much easier will our mission to tell the world about Jesus be if all we have to do is tell the stories of our lives and for others to hear how free we actually are and not how we are locked up in some cell of religious legalism?

And for those of us who are finding it hard to take that step of trust, for those of us who might read this message and are still yet to give their lives over to something greater than themselves, I say to you give it a go. Acknowledge that you are not the centre of your world and you were never meant to be. That there is a greater individual, who goes by the name of Jesus who desires to be your Lord, Saviour and friend. And if I could give you a sample of the freedom found in Him, then I say look at the life of a true believer and see how they differently they deal with what is thrown at them.

You have access to it all too, just put your trust in Him today.