Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beyond Beyond

If you've been following this blog for long, you probably know that I frequently struggle with doubts about my faith. I can be ecstatic one day over an answered prayer or a sign I believe God's shown me, and then the next day I'm wondering if it was just a coincidence, and if my faith is even real. I find this frustrating, exhausting.

I've asked God to help me with my unbelief many times, but I guess I didn't have the faith to believe He could! I mean, I knew that He could, but I really didn't think I could let go of my doubts. Now, everything has changed.

For the last several weeks, I've been doing a Bible study by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore called Faithful, Abundant, True; it's a sequel to the study I wrote about last summer called Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed. 

In the first two weeks, Kay helped us see the faithfulness of God, and she challenged us to be steadfast in our faith. She reminded us that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). She told it like it is: "Unbelief is a lack of faith! And that is sin." The root of disobedience, she said, is unbelief.

I felt a strong conviction about indulging my doubts. I had always thought of my doubts as a weakness, but not as disobedience. When I read Kay's admonitions, I prayed and asked God to help me overcome these doubts.

During one of Kay's videos, I was so excited when I saw the key:
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. (Hebrews 4:2)
Do you see it? It's not enough to just read the Word. I have to unite it with faith in order for it to profit me. And where does faith come from? By hearing--by hearing the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)

All these years of studying the Scriptures have resulted in a head knowledge that doesn't always translate into a changed life because I've been lacking a steadfast faith. In the next two videos, Priscilla Shirer admitted that she'd had the same problem. She inspired us to contemplate the abundance of God's power, to try to comprehend that God is ABLE. No matter what we need, she said, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

I felt a thrill of recognition at that verse, part of my current memory passage. As many times as I have studied and quoted that passage, Priscilla still managed to give me a new perspective on it. She pointed out the way Paul stacked up the adverbs: not just exceedingly or abundantly, but exceedingly abundantly. Here's one of the examples she gave to help us understand how God can go not only beyond what we think is possible, but even beyond that....

Imagine you went away for the day, and you asked your teenager to clean his room. When you returned, you were shocked to find that not only was his room clean, but that the whole house was spotless. Now that's beyond what you would even imagine, right? But now suppose that not only had your son cleaned the whole house, but he had also drawn you a bubble bath and had your dinner ready on a tray to eat in the tub. That's BEYOND beyond. 

It's doubtful that any of us will ever experience such a thing with our teenage children, Priscilla said, but this is exactly how God works. He delights in surprising us, in giving gifts that are way beyond what we asked for.

The other thing she encouraged us to believe was that God wants to do exceedingly abundantly, above and beyond, for US. She said we need to get past looking at other people's answered prayers and thinking, I hope God has enough power left for me. God doesn't just have power; GOD IS POWER! He spoke the entire universe into being by the power of His word, and that power lives in us. We just have to unite it with our faith, as Kay said.

Priscilla also reminded us that God is interested in the little details of our daily life, and we should bring all our concerns and needs to him, not just what we think of as "big stuff." (To Him, none of our concerns are really big, anyway.) 

As I listened to Prisicilla's message, my heartbeat quickened. Yes! I thought. Yes, it's time to believe that God is able to work in my life, time for my faith to arise.

Afterward, she asked Beth Moore to pray over everyone in the audience, and we all prayed along. I don't really remember what Beth said, but it moved me to tears, and I felt something click inside. I believe I was set free from my doubts at that moment.

Beyond My Beyond
Over the next few days, I found myself praying differently. I prayed about something that seemed sort of trivial, and I prayed a big, bold prayer. I was planning a garage sale for this past Saturday to raise money for my 3-Day Walk, and I was hoping to make a big dent in what I needed to meet the minimum fund raising requirement.

On one of my training walks, I said, "God, I know you care about everything that's important to me. I'm trusting you to bless this garage sale, to go way beyond what I dare to expect, and even beyond that. I'm praising you for going beyond beyond!"

I didn't only ask for money. I asked for an enjoyable experience, and an opportunity to love others and explain why I'm doing the walk, because of Laura's story. I asked that His anointing would be all over that sale.

Well guess what happened? Yep, BEYOND beyond. I was sort of hoping to raise $200. Five families had donated items for the sale, but we didn't have many "big ticket" items. Most of the items were priced at 25 to 50 cents.

Toward the End of the Sale (There Were Mobs Around that Table)

Would you believe that all those little sales added up to $493?? I have to say it again: FOUR HUNDRED NINETY-THREE DOLLARS! My jaw dropped when Bill announced the grand total. With my company match, that puts me over the minimum! My walk is paid for!

And everything else I prayed for came to pass. It was an enjoyable experience (other than the sweltering heat). My sister Amy came over to help us with the setup, the sale, and the cleanup, and I so enjoyed working with her. I enjoyed watching the shoppers' excitement over each 25-cent shirt or pair of shorts, and the kids' joy over 25-cent toys. I enjoyed showing a picture of Laura and telling how she inspired me. And I even met a lady named Marge who's new to the area and who plans to join me on my training walks!

Ice Cold Lemonade
I especially enjoyed watching Allyson selling lemonade, something she'd been looking forward to for weeks and weeks. Would you believe that she sold about $30 worth of lemonade? And she donated over half of that to my walk.

Special Customers--Gentle's Son Liam and Daughter Grace

I never dreamed a garage sale could be so fun, or so profitable. It was a definite case of beyond the beyond.

What's Next? 
I've made a resolution, drawn a line in the sand. I know I will face doubts again (already have), but I realize now that I can choose how I respond. And I choose to believe. I choose to remember all God has done for me, and to unite my faith with what He promises in His word. That doesn't mean He'll always give me exactly what I want, but I have to believe He is able. And I have to believe that He knows what is best for me, and that sometimes going beyond what I ask or think won't look like what I think I need.

Would you hold me accountable? Please remind me of these truths when you catch me doubting.


Gentle said...

I am sooo proud of you for drawing that line in the sand Sarah!! Isn't it great how God has equiped you with all these bible verses that you have in your head and carry in your heart. Now that you have drawn your line...your verses are that much more powerful!Does that make sense?? Now is the time girl! You truly are a warrior.

My favorite is His "EXCEEDINGLY abundantly." And "DELIGHTS in surprising us." Our Father does nothing half way. He doesn't just meet our needs...In everything He does beyond. Couldn't we serve eachother like that? All of us, serving eachother and loving eachother beyond what we hope or expect.

My prayers lately have been for our government and our people. For every knee to fall and worship. For us all to go beyond. For His warriors to minister above what they think they can. To go further...to go this far...so far. There is nothing to big for our Redeemer, nothing is too much for Him.

Praise God Girl!

k and c's mom said...

God's word is ALIVE. I am so grateful for that! I loved the way you expressed what you learned and will live out. Blessings on you...I don't consider you a "basket case". I think you are grounded in Him.

Sarah said...

Gentle - Yes, I believe my memory scriptures will be even more powerful when united with my faith. I never thought about US going beyond beyond in serving each other. I definitely want to do that.

K&C's Mom - Thank you! Yes, I believe my basket case days are coming to an end. Thank the Lord!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Best wishes in your "Faith" Walk.

God bless.

Gen said...

Girl....I never thought you to be a basket case...just perfectly made the way God designed you to be:)

And though I have always considered you to be grounded in God...it is exciting to see you flap your wings girl!

Seeing you at WM today...talking to strangers and being animated-that was a thrill...way to go!!

Sarah said...

Victor - Thank you!

Gentle - Yes, God has brought me a long way. Last night I phoned that lady I met at the garage sale (Marge), and she came over and walked with me and Lori. We had a very nice visit, and I hope we'll be friends. I never knew what I was missing out on by being so shy.

Jenny said...

Loved hearing this story in person @ Cheesecake Factory!


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