I wonder if you’ve ever left a church service, women’s conference, or Bible study determined to do better. Maybe your internal dialogue included intentions to pray regularly, show more kindness to others, or be a better person in general. This determination usually springs from a longing to grow spiritually and know God better. Yet where has all our white knuckle grasping at behavior modification gotten us? How’s that “striving” been working out for you?
I can tell you how it has worked for me. My attempts at heart transformation have left me with guilt and frustration, and they have caused me to go backwards rather than forwards in intimacy with God. When I’ve succeeded in the short term, I’ve often become prideful. Then in moments of failure, I’ve experienced shame. God doesn’t want either of these postures for us.
I want to invite you to join me this summer for an online study in the book of Isaiah. My new Bible study with Lifeway women releases on June 1st! I’ll be leading a group through this study June 27th- August 5th using a private Facebook group, weekly emails and optional zoom discussion groups through this 7 session study. To sign up and get more details for this free online study, visit https://melissaspoelstra.com/isaiahonlinestudy/
Desiring spiritual change in our lives isn’t a bad thing, we just have to guard against relying on our own effort to bring it about. In the pages of the Isaiah’s biblical book, we will discover a simple but life-changing truth: Following God isn’t about striving; it’s about trusting God more. The prophet Isaiah served as God’s mouthpiece the people of God and the surrounding nations. His message reverberates through our lives today as we read his call to rely on the Lord.
Using the genres of poetry, narrative, and prophecy, Isaiah teaches that followers of God can trust His:
- Coming Again
That all sounds so good! However, I know by now that there are times when I say with my mouth, “I trust God,” but my stress, worry, and lack of peace don’t evidence that kind of faith. Trust can be complicated, especially when people in our lives have broken it. Perhaps someone you counted on for protection and provision let you down. Maybe you invested your time and energy into a church and left feeling betrayed or neglected. It can be easy to transfer our trust issues from people onto our relationship with God.
Then there are other times when we thought we put our trust in God, but the expectations we set for Him didn’t materialize. He may have been working behind the scenes, but we couldn’t see how at the time. When He doesn’t do what we want Him to do, we can inch our way toward self-sufficiency without even realizing it.
Isaiah was human just like us, and yet he radically trusted God and called anyone who would listen to do the same. His message highlights freedom from captivity and light breaking through darkness for those who would heed his words. Anyone in need of a little freedom and light in their thoughts, attitudes, or actions? Taking in Isaiah’s message can be like filling a trust prescription with amazing side effects of hope and peace in your life and mine! Unpacking Isaiah’s words will reveal that we can trust God more than our own human effort or the counterfeits the world suggests.
Isaiah wrote messages of both judgment and hope. Pastor H.B. Charles wrote, “Real faith is ambidextrous. It can take blessings in one hand and trouble in the other, lifting both in the worship of the God who is worthy of our stubborn trust, complete obedience, and unceasing praise.”
Throughout a study of Isaiah, we will learn to be ambidextrous. Hopefully by the time we turn the last page, we will be able to lift both hands in worship. We won’t be striving harder, but instead trusting more deeply the Faithful One who is so worthy of our utter dependence. These are broad strokes of what awaits us in Isaiah, but I am already excited to know that in one book of the Bible we will glimpse so many important biblical themes.
I know that small groups and women’s Bible studies often take a break in the summer. I totally get it. Leaders need to rest and vacations bring a welcome change in our schedules! What we don’t want to happen is a break in our time in God’s Word. It’s like saying we will be taking a break from food all summer. We know we wouldn’t survive physically if we did that. In the same way, we need spiritual food for our souls. So I pray you will join me in the pages of Isaiah as we respond to God’s gracious invitation to strive less and trust Him more!