Posts tagged: Faith

Why Do We Think It Should Be Easy?

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:34 pm

I want life to be easy. I want following God to be easy. At my core, I think that if I’m obeying God and working for his kingdom, then obstacles should fall away in front of me.

However, that’s not what the Bible and what history teaches. This morning, I was reminded of that fact when I read these words from Jeremiah 1:17-19:

“‘Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah was called as a prophet to speak the words of God to a rebellious nation. And God promised him right up front that it wasn’t going to be easy. That everyone – the king, the princes, the priests, and the people – would fight against him.

I then thought of the apostles: all martyred except for John, who was tortured and exiled to the island of Patmos.

And then the memory came to me of standing in one of the porticoes of Chartres cathedral, where bas-relief carvings on the pillars depict in gruesome detail the sufferings of the saints who had gone before.

Will many obstacles fall away in front of us when we follow God’s will? Absolutely. God will clear the path for his Word to go forth in power. But it is also true that all the armies of hell will rise against us when we seek to humbly obey the voice of our Lord.

He never promised it would be easy. He promised we would be victorious.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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Commanded to Suffer

Afflicted But Not Crushed

A Sacrifice for God

I’m Remembering …

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:31 pm

Some of you reading this may be struggling with your ministry, your purpose, your calling. You are plagued by doubt, exhausted by fatigue, depressed by an incredible lack of results. Take courage today!


  • I’m remembering people like Noah, who faithfully built the ark over the course of 70 to 100 years … in the midst of mockery and among a people of wickedness. Surely, he preached repentance during that time, but when the rains came, only his family was saved.


  • I’m remembering people like Joseph, who knew that God had great things for him, but who first endured betrayal, slavery, slander, and prison. Instead of growing bitter or rejecting God, he remained faithful to his calling to save not only his own family and people, but the entire Egyptian nation.


  • I’m remembering people like David, who knew he was called to be king, and yet endured 10 years of hiding in the wilderness, being hunted down like a wild animal.


  • I’m remembering people like Jeremiah, who was so overwhelmed by the scorn of his people, who endured such reproach and derision, that he finally cried out, “I will not remember God or speak his name anymore!” But then he admitted that “In my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary of holding it in and I cannot endure it” (Jer. 20:9). And so he continued to preach and proclaim the word of God, even though no one would listen.


  • I’m remembering people like Paul, who stated that he had been subject to “labors … [and] imprisonments, beaten times without number often in danger of death. Five times I received form the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:23-28).


  • And yes, I’m remembering Jesus, whose own family thought him crazy, whose people rejected him, whose disciples deserted him at his greatest hour of need, who was slandered, insulted, mocked, and killed.


What’s the thread that binds all these people together? They didn’t fear failure, because they knew their purpose. They didn’t shy away from pain, because they had their eyes on the prize. They didn’t hesitate at sacrifice, because they were pressing on to their eternal reward.


Stand firm – God is with you!



© 2009 Paula Marolewski,


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Placing Responsibility Where It Belongs

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:25 pm

I am deeply grieved today as I write. And the reason is this: at this very moment, people are turning away from God and sinking into despair, their faith in shambles, bitterness and grief clutching at their chest, because they don’t understand – or perhaps want to accept – two simple words:

Free will.

Two short words. Easily defined. Even the theology behind them can be stated in words of single syllables:

Free will means I can choose what I want to do.

So where does the doubt come in? The despair? The broken faith? The bitterness? The grief?

It comes here:

Suppose you have a friend or family member who is making choices that are wrecking his or her life. Maybe it’s drugs. Or alcohol. Promiscuity. Pornography. Wanton spending. Staying in an abusive relationship. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: their life is in chaos, they are screaming out in agony, they may actually be on the short road to death and even hell, and you love them with all your heart.

What do you do? You advise, you plead, you intervene, you act. And you pray.

And then … nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain in the other person’s life just goes on and on and on.

And you pray.

Still nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain is worse than ever.

And you pray.

And … nothing … changes.

Then comes the day when you stop praying. When the despair sets in. When the doubt that was creeping at the edges of your consciousness springs into full bloom.

You find yourself doubting God’s love. His power. Even his existence.

You bitterly resign yourself to “whatever he wants.”

Your entire spirit collapses within.

And maybe, you even hate God.


Because God didn’t do what you wanted him to do. Because God didn’t save your loved one. Because God didn’t work a miracle in the other person’s life.

And surely, that would have been for God’s glory and the other person’s good, wouldn’t it? Your prayer wasn’t selfish. It wasn’t focused on you. All you ever wanted was for the other person to be saved, to be happy, and to give God the glory for a beautifully changed life – delivered from all the pain and garbage they had been experiencing.

What was wrong with that?

Here’s the answer:

There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. That is, indeed, what God wants, too. He doesn’t want your friend or your family member to be caught in the web of pain. He longs to deliver them.

But here’s the catch:

We’re talking here about a loved one whose pain is the direct result of the choices they are making. This isn’t about someone in pain because (for instance) they have cancer and God has not brought healing. A person with cancer didn’t choose his or her illness in any way. Today, we’re talking about people who are making poor, unwise, or sinful choices that are directly impacting their lives in a negative way.

And because we are talking about choices, we are talking about free will. And free will is always, forever, and exactly that:


That means … are you ready? … God can’t change their life unless they choose to let him do so.

God … can’t?

Correct. God can’t. Because that is the nature of the gift of free will. When God gave us free will, he gave it to us with no strings attached: nothing and no one, not God himself, can impose their will on us. We are truly free to choose. All the time. In every circumstance. Period.

But, you say, God is all-powerful!

Correct again. God is all-powerful. But he also obeys his own rules. Because he gave us free will, he limits his power in that respect. He will not use his power to overcome our free will. Otherwise, free will would no longer be free.

Let’s bring this home:

When a friend or family member is choosing a destructive path in their life, you can pray that God would do everything that is within his sovereign power to influence, guide, and direct them toward repentance and healing. That might mean that:

  • God would pour out his grace on them.
  • God would entreat them constantly through his Spirit.
  • God would remove the veils of deception from their mind.
  • God would give you and others words that would speak to their heart.
  • God would order circumstances to influence them.
  • God would convict them concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.
  • God would place a yearning for himself in their souls.

And so much more! God is all-powerful – and all these things are well within his power! You can therefore pray for all these things and look for them in the person’s life. I am sure you will see God moving in these ways.

But there is one thing that you must remember at all times: God can do and will do all these things when you pray. But he cannot do one thing: he cannot force them to change their life.

God can pour out his grace, his love, his power, and his truth on the person: but they can still choose to refuse his grace, ignore his love, disparage his power, and spit on his truth.

Or, they can choose to respond to his grace, accept his love, delight in his power, and embrace his truth.

It is their choice. It is not God’s choice. It has everything to do with them. It has nothing to do with God.

That is the nature of free will. We are truly free. We can freely choose evil and hurt and pain and folly, just as we can freely choose good and healing and joy and wisdom. 

So if today you feel like turning away from God, if you are doubting your faith, if you are in despair because God hasn’t answered your prayers in saving your loved one from a destructive path, or if you’ve already turned your back on God … remember this. God hasn’t failed you, nor them. He is doing everything he can to speak into their lives.

I know it hurts. I know you are grieving and in pain. I know you are anxious for them. It is right to feel all those things, because you love them. And though you may not realize it, God feels all that, too – much more than you ever can. He loves the person you are praying for with all his infinite love … the love that brought Jesus to Calvary.

But we are free. We are always free to choose our way.

Therefore, the final choice to change is, and must be, their own.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

Cloud and Fire

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By Paula Marolewski, April 8, 2010 10:41 am

We walk by faith, not by sight. But I admit, there are many times when I wish I walked by sight. I wish I could see God – see his face, touch the scars in Jesus’ hands, hear his literal voice in my ear. Surely, I think, that would make my Christian walk easier. I wouldn’t fall so often. Wouldn’t doubt so much. Wouldn’t sin so frequently.

And then I noticed something very interesting: do you remember when Israel was wandering in the desert? Do you remember their constant grumbling, griping, complaining, and rebelling? As much as I hate to admit it, I do recognize myself in those four words.

But then notice something else, mentioned in Numbers 9:16: “So it was continuously; the cloud would cover [the tabernacle] by day, and the appearance of fire by night.”  

Did you catch it? The literal, visible, tangible presence of God was with the Israelites through all their wilderness wanderings. The cloud covered the tabernacle by day in the sight of all, and a pillar of fire lit it at night. They could see him. Their nomadic journey was directed entirely by the movement of the cloud and fire.

Now go back to what characterized their journey: Grumbling. Griping. Complaining. Rebelling.

It gave me pause for thought. Perhaps walking by sight isn’t any easier than walking by faith. Perhaps I would respond just the same way, even if I could see Jesus in the room with me.

Here’s the bottom line: seeing God won’t make us holy if we don’t want to be holy. Change has to come from within … from the desire to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.

So if you find yourself grumbling, griping, complaining, and rebelling, don’t blame God and rail that “If only I could see you, I wouldn’t be like this!” Put the responsibility where it belongs. This is all about you. It’s all about me. And we have to ask ourselves seriously:

“What am I going to do about it?”



© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Grace in Pain

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By Paula Marolewski, March 19, 2010 9:51 am

Today’s entry is an excerpt from the novel Meditations of a Slave. We often cling to the myth that the Christian life will be easy: no bumps, no fusses, no pain. But that – as the narrator below suddenly realizes – is not what Jesus promises: 

The pain grew more and more intense, and then, suddenly, something soothing and cool washed over me; and I froze again, but for a different reason. I, unlike your old master, never ask you to suffer needlessly. My grace always resurrects the suffering to create life. Do you trust me?

The words were a balm, and I paused in some timeless moment away from the pain of my leg to consider them. I only knew the punishment and driving presence of my old master. I wanted to believe that I would live happily now—despite what Paulos had told me.

But what my new Master promised was grace in pain, not painlessness. Grace meant that the suffering would always better me, and usually someone else as well. Grace meant that I’d be able to bear it. Grace meant that he’d be with me through it.


Questions to consider:

  • Do you wrestle with the concepts of pain and grace? Where do you struggle most?
  • What does it mean to you that God can redeem and resurrect your suffering – whatever the source of that suffering – to create life?


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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God is Moving

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By Paula Marolewski, March 10, 2010 8:10 am

We often say “God is really moving!” when things are happening openly, when excitement is running rampant, when results are pouring in.

But we forget that “still waters run deep.” It is vital to remember that God is often powerfully moving when nothing visible is happening …

… as he works on our character

… as he waits until the timing is perfect

… as he sets all the parts in motion

… as he prepares people’s hearts

His work then is silent, deep, slow … but oh, so strong!

Think of God’s power like a river. When we “see things happening,” it is like the river rapids: we see the white water, feel the spray, are overwhelmed by the raw power.

But upstream, the same river runs quiet and still. The same power is present – it is just not so readily apparent.

So is our God: he is always moving.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Intelligent Risk

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By Paula Marolewski, March 3, 2010 10:50 am

Much of the Christian life is about maintaining a healthy balance. One area where this applies is when the question arises as to whether to move forward with a new venture in the church or in our life.

Here are the two extreme ends of the see-saw:

  • “Safety at all costs.” We don’t want to move forward unless and until God has spelled out complete success for us. And so we wait, and wait, and wait … and nothing ever gets done
  • “Foolhardy risk.” We go forward full of faith, but without thinking things through carefully. And so we fall on our face and our adventure ends in ignominy.  

Where is the balance point, then? I believe it is in “intelligent risk.”

Faith does indeed call us to take risks. Just ask David, Gideon, Nehemiah, Paul, and others through the ages.

But faith also calls us to be intelligent. None of these people leaped before they looked – they knew what they were getting into, they had counted the costs, and they had taken appropriate precautions.

Don’t idolize either safety or risk. Live a life of real faith – a faith that embraces “intelligent risk.”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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SWOT Analysis in the Church

By Paula Marolewski, February 10, 2010 6:00 pm

SWOT: it stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats. It’s a great way to engage in strategic planning to ensure that you’ve examined the big picture before deciding whether or how to move forward on a project.

But in the church, I’m afraid I’m afraid we don’t always follow this sound strategy. You see, people who bring out the Ss and Os – the Strengths and Opportunities – are looked at as faith-filled, visionary leaders.

And those of us who bring out the Ws and Ts – those annoying Weaknesses and Threats? Well, all too often, we’re looked at as faith-lacking nay-sayers standing in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God.

Now, do we serve a God who is sovereign over all creation? Does Jesus still work miracles? Is not God also named Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides?

Yes, absolutely to all three. But we also live in a fallen world, we are in a serious battle against the enemy, and God gave us the gift of reason … and he expects us to use it.

Therefore, I think it is not just important but essential to perform SWOT analyses whenever we are exploring new ventures within the church. We need to be aware not only of the potential we have to do good, but the possibilities that may bring our efforts tumbling down around our ears.

Don’t look down on us WTs. We don’t lack faith, and we’re not trying to be negative. God has simply given us a very practical view of life that allows us to pinpoint trouble before it arises. We help the church take a hard look at things like:

  • Where will the money come from for this project?
  • Do we have the personnel to make it happen, or will we be putting one more job on already over-burdened people? Or, worse, get half-hearted involvement?
  • Will we get the prayer support we need on a consistent and long-term basis?
  • Do we have parties in the church that will stand in the way? Do they have valid concerns?
  • Is there any area of sin that we are not addressing that could hinder our progress?

Then comes the decision itself: actually weighing whether or not to move forward, and, if the decision is made to move forward – how to do so effectively.

Because here’s the truth, folk: not every idea should become a reality, even if the end goal is good. Why? Because the goal will never be reached if the idea on how to get there isn’t sound. Some ideas aren’t well thought out. Some ideas don’t have the support they need at the present time. Some ideas need a little or a lot of modification before they can be actualized. A prayer-filled SWOT analysis can help determine which path God is calling you on.

Remember, we’re supposed to act as a body within the church. Typically, SO-type people provide the “go juice” – the momentum. WT-type people put the brakes on so that the “go” is controlled.

Working together, we can really make things work!


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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The Big Uglies

By Paula Marolewski, February 3, 2010 9:47 am

Have you ever prayed – with despair wrenching your gut, doubt tearing at your mind, discouragement dragging you down, desperation clutching at your chest?

I have, too.

Then, after some indeterminate time on your knees, you drag yourself to your feet … with the same despair, the same doubt, the same discouragement, the same desperation?

I have, too.

You may wonder if you have lost your faith. If you ever knew God at all. If you can go on another step. If this whole Christianity thing is worth it.

I have, too.

You’ve read through the promises in Scripture – promises of hope, of purpose, of comfort, of God’s presence, his love, his Spirit. And it all seems empty.

I have, too.

The hard truth is, being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from the big uglies of despair, doubt, discouragement, desperation … or any of the other nasties out there. You can believe in God with all your heart, love him with all your soul, and follow him with all your strength – and still get jumped, and jumped badly, by the big uglies.

Are the promises of God true? Is his presence always with us?

Yes, and yes.

Perhaps part of our quandary is that we forget that we have to “wait on the Lord” before he will indeed renew our strength.

Sometimes, it can be a very, very long wait.

I know.

I’ve been there, too.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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The Power of Obedience

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By Paula Marolewski, December 16, 2009 5:01 pm

We’re very big about control in our culture … namely, we want to be in control of our lives. Master of our fate. Captain of the ship. But true power comes from handing over that control to God and becoming obedient.

It’s interesting to think of obedience as a powerful position. Typically, we think of it in terms of subordination or even as inferiority. Slaves obey. Servants obey. Employees obey. But God says that obedience is the key to victory and power over sin. And that is because we are obeying the one who has a divine strategy for winning – and who has the power to back it up.

Perhaps if we thought of obedience in military terms, it could help. If each soldier did his own thing and what he thought was best, the battlefield would be chaotic. Ammunition would be spent uselessly. Soldiers would be out-flanked. Dangers that would be apparent from a higher vantage point would be walked into blindly. They would lose their lives and the war.

However, if each soldier in the army obeys his commanding officer, the army will win as long as the commander knows what is best to do and has the firepower to rout the enemy. And that is what our Commander has – knowledge and power. In that context, obedience makes perfect sense if we want to win. Obedience puts us in a position of power over the enemy.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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