Paul's Passing Thoughts

John Doe Can Do All Things Through the God That Strengthens

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on May 9, 2012

There is no grater joy for me than seizing the opportunity to encourage others. A brother I will refer to as “John Doe” sent me the following message which I will reply to in this post, and with permission. First, the email:

Hey Paul.

I know you don’t know me, but I’ve posted several times on your blog. I’ve got a problem–actually, probably a few intertwined problems. My chief problem, the one that’s bothering me the most, is loneliness. I’m [thirty something] years old and single. I have a lot of friends, but the trouble is most of them aren’t Christians. A lot of these guys/girls I’ve been friends with for years, since I was a kid, and I’ve always enjoyed their company. I know them well, I know their families, and I love them dearly.  But it has been becoming more and more apparent to me throughout the past year or so how very different our values are and how differently we look at life. The whole bar scene has grown cold on me. That’s where we’ve always gone to hang out. It never used to bother me, but now it’s starting to sicken me. I’m realizing that I really have very little in common with these people save for in a superficial way: I can talk to them about the ball game, or a song that we both like, or crack some jokes with them, but that’s about it. I’m getting so fed up with it all…. But the trouble is, I really don’t know what else to do. The life I’ve built for myself (stupidly, I now realize) does not involve many Christians. When I do try to talk to my friends about Jesus they don’t want to hear it, and it commonly ends in an argument.

I’m also finding an increasing desire to get married, but I don’t know any available Christian women. I’m actually afraid to look for one cause I’m not sure I have what it takes to be a good Christian husband. I feel like I have so much work to do, and I hardly know where to begin. Deep down I know that I should leave my old friends and get involved with other Christians, but I feel so bad about doing that… Not only would I feel extremely lonely, but I know I would hurt them also. I hardly know where to begin there, either. It’d be almost like building my life again from scratch. Is that what I should do? I don’t like where I am, but I’m scared to change. I HATE admitting that, but that’s where I’m at right now…

I know that you have biblical answers that you can give me, that’s why I’m writing you. I want to change the way I live, but it seems so hard and I need biblically-grounded counseling/encouragement… Any help you could give along those lines would be very appreciated!

Thanks Paul,

John Doe

John,

I have good news for you: you can do something about your problems, and God will help you. He won’t do it for you, but He will tell you what to do and strengthen you accordingly. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

I say “problems,” but in your case, I am not sure I want to look at them that way. The fact that you see them as such is actually very positive. Your changed heart is running contrary to some spiritual wisdom issues. This is all very good news, and the bigger the problem, the more opportunity to show how big our God is.

You will need to be patient and start with one bite at a time; by and by, the whole elephant will be devoured.  And you must not underestimate the influence of sin that resides in our flesh while remembering that we have the same power that raised Christ from the grave (Eph. 1:15-20). The first half of Ephesians is our resources in Christ; the second half of Ephesians is our part. But the pivotal truth is Ephesians 4:17-24: we are to put off the old man (and remember that the flesh’s ability to enslave us to sin is broken), and put on the new man in Christ. We have been gifted the resources, but it is up to us to put off and put on. All of the truth concerning this is many faceted and will be experienced in many different ways—there is much to learn about being a disciple of Christ from the Scriptures. Ephesians with this outline in mind is a good place to start.

God doesn’t dwell on our past sins. Ask for forgiveness and move on to what God really cares most about: CHANGE.  When your goal is change for God’s glory (salt and light), He is totally on board and completely on your side. Don’t dwell on your failures because that is not dwelling on truth—look at yourself according to the whole picture. Failure is rarely the sum of any person.

God uses emotions to help us. Fear, sorry, joy, sense of accomplishment, etc. are all from God and can be used for positive ends. These can also get out of hand and become negative forces in our life. I insert this thought because many leaders in our day seek to abolish our self-confidence. Self-confidence is extremely important. We like it when our surgeons possess it, no? Like all emotions, self-confidence is very important and must be put to work biblically while keeping it in its proper perspective.

As Jay Adams rightly asserts (http://wp.me/pmd7S-mA), marriage is a covenant to solve the problem of loneliness. I recommend Christian Mingle.com , it is a great system, and that is how I scored big in finding Susan. My Christian friends had access to my account and gave me advice accordingly (and had a blast doing it!).

I know, brutally practical. Get married. I’m giving you 6 months to get it done.

No doubt, marriage is a big responsibility, but remember, “I can do ALL things through Him….” Not only that, Jay Adams also makes the biblical case that if singleness is a gift, then marriage must be a gift as well. I can’t remember if I get into that in the cited post, but he makes an excellent biblical case for it. So, God will help you, plus it is your gift—what are you waiting for?

You see loneliness as your biggest problem, but in our day, I see quality Christian fellowship/leadership as your greatest nemesis. It is fine to have unbelieving friends barring any compromise and a diminished focus on the primary purpose, but fellowship with those who are sold out for truth in our day is really tuff territory as the apostles predicted it would be. The right wife is a good start; primarily, look for a mentality that is persuaded by the truth of God’s word. If you detect any indifference to the authority of God’s word—bail. Your marriage will stand or fall on having the same mind in Christ. But be encouraged, most of the people who contact this blog that are impressive from a discernment perspective are women. They also tend to be more indignant toward a fear of man posture.

Where to start? Ratchet back from hanging out with lost friends and invest in looking for a wife. The dating process will supply Christian fellowship and open up opportunities to meet other Christians. The great thing about Christian Mingle.com is that the first date can be meeting her at her church for services. Who knows, you could score a wife and a decent church both. On the rest, remember our Ephesians discussion, and that different areas of our life are not isolated. When we strengthen one area, it helps others.

That’s enough for now, go with God’s promises,

paul

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4 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on May 10, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Thanks Paul! I’m really glad you threw in that bit about self-confidence. Maybe I shouldn’t blame the “New Calvinism” (actually, the “Old” Calvinism too) for my having lost a lot of it, since I’m the one who got taken in by it, but I’ve got to say that when a person truly BELIEVES those doctrines, espeacially the “total depravity of the saints”, it does something very bad to the psyche. I was always told, “Not self confidence, but CHRIST confidence”–the idea being that Jesus does it all for you and through you. I was never able to wrap my mind around how that works, and inspite of attempts to explain “what that looks like,” I was always left confused. I began to feel nervous and anxious when telling myself I was capable of obeying and pleasing God, for this (so I was told) was destined for failure since I’d be doing it in my own strength. Or again, “God does not help those who help themselves; God helps those who are helpless and know it.” As long as I was still trying, I was not to expect God’s blessing….and, wow, it was bad. Intuitively, deep down, something about it just didn’t seem right. But when you think something is biblical, and you also think of yourself as (basically) totally depraved, you don’t trust your instincts. Very glad I’m starting to see some daylight now. Thanks, my friend.

  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 10, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Anon,
    Though we are dead in the water without the Holy Spirit, our OWN efforts are not excluded and necessary. The apostle Paul said we should not think of ourselves more highly “than we ought to.” That doesn’t exclude a truthful assessment and fulfilling of the responsibility to put the talents given us to work. And remember, we will be judged accordingly by how well we build on the foundation of our faith. God working in us doesn’t mean he does it all–it means we have no excuse to not apply ourselves.
    paul

  3. Anonymous said, on May 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I agree. “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME” but it is still I who am doing it.

  4. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Anon,
    I usually don’t like RC Sproul all that much, But I like what he says here:

    “Sanctification is cooperative. There are two partners involved in the work. I must work and God will work. If ever the extra-biblical maxim, “God helps those who help themselves,” had any truth, it is at this point. We are not called to sit back and let God do all the work. We are called to work, and to work hard. To work something out with fear and trembling is to work with devout and conscientious rigor. It is to work with care, with a profound concern with the end result” (Pleasing God p. 227).

    And to further your point, “I can do….”


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