Fear and Faith: Some thoughts on the General Election

I think we can all agree elections and election campaigning are extremely divisive. Many worry about the outcome of the election. Meanwhile the politicians sling insults at each other, sharing untruthful and misleading memes and videos to try and win more support. They declaim the other side as evil and wrong, ‘we are the only ones that are right.’ Love and godliness in any shape or form is conspicuous by its absence, as is any heart-felt calling out to God.

It’s almost impossible not to be involved in it in some shape or form. So in such a divisive and mean-spirited environment how should Christians act?

The Christian’s Calling

Our main calling in life is to glorify God, and to spread the message of the gospel of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this calling includes involvement in politics, other times it doesn’t. Yes, it is important that Christians play an active role in proceedings, and where possible, act as a force for good in shaping our future as a country. But I believe we must be very careful in all our discussions and debates, not to do anything to stir up hatred, anger or otherwise bring dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ. We must not act like a bull in a china shop, with all guns blazing; instead we should be gentle and considerate, especially when others disagree with our views. We should disagree well and amicably.

Above all else, above journalists, politicians and prime ministers, above our political allegiances we have an allegiance to the Almighty Sovereign God who takes a meaningful and merciful interest in all the goings-on in the world (indeed, God is in complete control). Whilst His people continue to cry out to Him, He will not leave us alone to wrack and ruin, indeed God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5). This should seek to unify us. I know Christians on all sides of the political spectrum (examples of these include the Conservative Christian Fellowship and Christians on the Left), but we don’t let our politics define us or divide us, instead we have unity in Christ.

We should not put our faith in any political leader; however good they might seem, even though may talk a lot of good, promise a lot of things and perhaps have a profession of faith. At the end of the day, they will let us down, they are human, and all human beings fail. Their promises will most likely be proven empty and hollow. Instead we should put all our faith in our great and Almighty God, that He might be glorified even through such a discordant environment. He will never let us down, ever. The Bible, the ultimate authority on life says quite simply:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. [But] blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:3-4).

Pray

We are called to pray for all leaders, and for all those in positions of authority, whatever we might personally think about them, their supporters or their policies. The Bible says:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people –for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

We should pray for guidance and wisdom for the party leaders and other leading figures. We should pray for a government that brings glory to God’s name by being peaceful, loving, merciful, just, free, honourable and humble and preserving freedom of religion, so that we can freely proclaim our Saviour to the world.

Prime ministers, parties and individuals come and go. The Bible says:

“All men are like grass,
and all the glory of man is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.” (1 Peter 2:4).

Where we would despair and fear we should know that God is in control and seek to feel and witness His loving arms surrounding us. We shouldn’t expect much from this election, we shouldn’t worry about how things might turn out, we should never fear man and all his plans, rather more fear and trust God (Proverbs 29:25, Matthew 10:28). We should vote (it’s our democratic right and duty after all), and we should use our conscience and prayerfully consider everything (the Christian Institute offers some helpful resources) before casting our vote. Then, whatever happens, we should just remember Psalm 20:7:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

 

Looking Heavenwards

As Christians we are merely passing through this world, on towards a better place.  When we reach Heaven there won’t be any politics, just glory, and that is something we can look forward to.

No matter who is in power or who wins, they can’t fix everything in the world,  because it’s a fallen world, broken to its core.  No party will make this world better, it won’t really make a big difference (although people can quite easily mess it up even more!). What will make a difference is how we live our lives. We should fix our eyes on Jesus and love our neighbour as ourselves.  If we want to make this world a better place, then we must love and act as Jesus acted, rather than having fanciful notions that our political heroes can perfect the world. We already have a hero, a champion who has changed the world, with the biggest revolution ever; His name is Jesus Christ!

Too many times do we put our hope and faith in man to achieve things that they will fail at. We must put our faith and hope in God, and in God alone.

 

God in Our Hobbies: Writing Worship

I love sitting down with my guitar and coming up with a song. Granted, I am not a great singer or a great musician, in fact, I’m probably one of the worst around. Nonetheless, to spend time with God and giving praise to him, there is nothing I’d rather do. The Bible says to ‘make a joyful noise to the Lord’; being in tune is just a bonus. Over the past few years, I have written quite a few songs, and I have to thank a friend at university for getting me into the habit. We used to come up with some song ideas, and then he would turn them into something amazing. Now that we live in different parts of the country that’s rather hard to do, so I’ve learnt the guitar to a basic standard and have a go myself!

What do we centre our hobby on?

When someone writes a song, it should be about something they are passionate about, for the Christian, what greater passion than Jesus? I find myself with little desire to write about anything else, even when I tried, I found the songs lacking. Jesus is what we are all about; he has brought us alive, he has set us free. When I write these songs I feel it’s giving back a small offering to God. An amazing thing about our Saviour is that there’s no list of do’s and don’ts (Colossians 2:20) no set religious pattern or legalistic ties we have to follow, no sin offering we have to bring before Him. All we do is, trust in Jesus Christ, giving us a desire to live our lives for him, and in my case write songs to glorify his name.

Experiencing the Holy Spirit

There is however no point in forcing a song out. I have tried and it has come out as a mess. Rather I decide to write when I feel close with him, when I feel led by the Holy Spirit to write one. A song written with the power and presence of the Spirit is amazing, like all things done in the presence of the Spirit. It some ways, for me, writing music and feeling the Spirit makes me desire the Spirit more and more, it’s a unique but wonderful feeling, it’s so amazing that you never want the experience to end, and you have the desire in your heart for more. Song writing really helped me look to Jesus and the Spirit and the Father and just allowed me to pour out my heart in worship to God.

When I have been in tough times at university, the Spirit comforted me and gave me a strong desire to write, and at certain times whilst back home I have had times where songs have poured out. Sometimes, that desire has gone, in some cases, when I allowed sin to rule my heart, the songs completely dried up, but also sometimes after a lengthy writing period, the desire tamed, a lesson was learned or an aspect of God was opened up in glory. I think that is the purpose of song writing, for me. It teaches me, it encourages me to read the Word, and it helps me to experience God in power. And when I look back at these songs, I am reminded of lessons, of times, and it helps me focus my eyes on Jesus more and more.

Finding God in our hobbies

I write this, because do we look for God in our hobbies? Do we find him all around us?   Whatever our hobby; big or small, God can be in it. Do we aim to glorify God in the life we lead, in the hobbies we take part in?   Sometimes it can be difficult to find God in what we enjoy, but perhaps we are putting the hobby before God in our heart? There is nothing wrong in our hobbies, just ensure that they don’t overtake God. God uses our hobbies and life experiences to teach us, we don’t just learn from the Bible. God is alive, he’s not confined to a book (although the bible is extremely important in our lives), and don’t you start quoting about the passing of these experiences in 1 Corinthians 13; nothing is perfect yet. God will use our life, our experiences to guide us, teach us, train us and this certainly applies to our hobbies.

I am no great guitar player or song writer, but I have been blessed with what God has given me. The Spirit of our Lord is amazing and I am thirsty for more. We have read from an article by Josh, of how important it is to read the Bible and rightly so, and also how important is it to be thirsty of His presence? To thirst for the gifts, God has given us, whether spiritual or supernatural? Song writing has opened so much to me and it’s all down to God. In our all hobbies, God can teach us, he can guide us. Christian, are you putting anything in the way and stopping the outworking of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19)?

Discerning God’s Will: When decisions need to be made…

Before you read the rest of this, let me just tell you a bit about myself. I am a final year student studying to be teacher. I have approximately 5 weeks left before I have finished uni for good (not that I am counting of course!) I currently do not have a job lined up or a house organised for next year. With the end of uni looking, things are getting pretty serious, particularly on the job front.

Unsurprisingly, I have recently been thinking a lot about what God’s will is for my life and how I can find guidance. Something to do with the fact that within the next couple of months, I need to have got myself a job, figured out where I am going to be living, and basically have figured out what I want to do with my life! Or at least that is how it feels at the moment. Like I need to sort out the rest of my life right now, because if I don’t, I’m not really sure I’ll ever get it sorted. There just seem to be a lot of major life decisions that need to be made at the moment, and I really want to know what God’s will is for me in all of this. Where does he want me to work? Where does he want me to live? Is teaching really what he wants me to be doing for the rest of my life? What should I do over the summer?  As you can see, loads of huge decisions to be made!

The aim of this post, then, is to try and figure out how, as Christians, we should make these important decisions.

Overwhelmed?!

When I look at all of the things that I need to do, it can get quite overwhelming. There is just so much to sort out, but the truth is that I don’t need a comprehensive life plan figured out right now. I don’t actually need to know whether teaching is going to be a permanent thing for me or not. I don’t need to have my life all mapped out, and the chances are that, if I did, it would all get turned upside down anyway! God is the one who has a plan for my life. We are told in Proverbs to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.’ (Proverbs 3 v 5-6) Basically it means that I don’t need to have it all figured out. My life is in God’s hands and he will guide me every step of the way. That is definitely an encouraging note to start on.

It is also a challenge for me, because I am a planner. If I have an exam coming up, you can guarantee that I will have a colour coded revision schedule. If I have a placement coming up, there will be a meal plan, time plan, any other kind of plan you can imagine.  Basically, I like things to all be planned out. So I’m still learning to accept that life doesn’t work like that. Walking with God seems to be more about placing our trust in him each day and seeking his guidance. Trusting that whatever is going on around us, good or bad, is a part of God’s plan.

What I don’t think this all means, however, is that we should never make any plans, or never make any decisions! In Psalm 32 v 8 we read that God will ‘instruct you and teach you in the way you should go’ but I don’t think that means we never have to actually engage our mind and make decisions. One of the ways that God guides and teaches us is through his word, which means engaging with the Bible and trying to make sense of what it says to us. There are going to be times when we have to make decisions. So as much as I know that I don’t need to have it all figured out now, I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for a job to be handed to me on a plate! We do have a part to play.

What is God’s will for me?

So how do I, or any of us, work out what God’s will is for us? The more I read the Bible and see how God’s will was revealed in it, the more I wonder if we spend too much time trying to work this out. We imagine that there is only one specific path that we have to take. I’ve been tempted to think that there is only one right option, whether that is looking for a job, some sort of missionary opportunity or even a holiday! I admit that I’m pretty bad at making decisions anyway. I tend to feel the need to be absolutely certain about something before making a decision. When it comes to spiritual matters or bigger life issues, I worry that I might possibly ‘wreck’ God’s plans for my life. Even whilst writing this, I see how stupid it sounds! If we could ruin God’s plans by making the ‘wrong’ decision, then God wouldn’t be God. We need to be reminded that God will always work out his plans.

So maybe I should worry less about working out what the best decision would be and just get on and make a decision! Obviously we need to be careful but if we spend so much time worrying about what to do, we end up not doing anything. We are not on our own when trying to work these things out either. God has given us his word to guide us. Again, that doesn’t mean that if I open my Bible, I will find out exactly which school I should be working in and the address of my new flat!

The Bible gives us general principles to work with. In Micah 6 v 8, we read that ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’ 2 Corinthians 5 v 9 tells us that ‘we make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to him.’ In Matthew 28 v 19 we are commanded to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’ In those three verses, we get some idea of how we should live. Living for God and obeying him should be our priority in any decision making. So if any decision we make goes against God’s commandments, it is a wrong decision. If the decision seems to be in line with God’s will, as revealed in the Bible, then it can at least be considered a possible option. Then I think we are allowed to be practical. Take the example of looking for a job. Say I have three schools lined up that I am interested in. Teaching in any of these would not be going against the Bible, so I am OK there. Do I then wait for some divine revelation to make it clear which of the three is ‘right’? Not necessarily; God has given us the ability to think and to reason. So if I go into a school, like the ethos and feel supported there, then I can choose to apply there. Throughout the process there should be prayer that we would know which route is best for us, and God will guide us. Though sometimes it may seem to be an unconventional route.

I don’t think working out what God’s will should be some weird sort of mystical experience. We shouldn’t necessarily expect a flash of light, a vision or a spoken word but I do believe that sometimes we will be aware of God’s guiding- that might be something as simple as a sense of peace about a certain decision, or a constant nagging thought. I was definitely aware of God’s guidance during my Gap year. I knew that I wanted to spend some time serving the Lord in mission work of some sort before heading to university. An opportunity came up to go out to Peru. It wasn’t something I really felt I wanted to do at first, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. First one person would mention this team to Peru that they had heard about, then another! Once I had decided to go, I really did feel a sense of peace that this had been the right decision and it was truly a blessed time. Looking back, I don’t know why I took so long to figure this out!

Concluding thoughts

So there we are; just a few rambling thoughts about guidance. It is never going to be an easy issue I don’t think, because God’s will isn’t always clear to us. But we have to act as best as we can in accordance with what God has chosen to reveal to us in his word, rather than getting bogged down trying to discover the full plan that God has not chosen to reveal to us.

“Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25 v 4-5)