Archives for category: Comfort

Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

20 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”  2When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3“Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.  4But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, this message came to him from the Lord: 5“Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord. 6I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’” 7Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered!  8Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?”  9Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?”  10“The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” 11So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!

2Kings 20:1-11

 

The message of today is, “Lord, Remember me!”

 

“Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me,” (Psalm 106:4, NLT).

 

Remember me has become the cry of a generation of Christ Followers.  In Psalm 73:2-3, the psalmist said, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

 

It is easy to look around at our world and think that God has forgotten about the promises that He has made to His people.  It seems that the wicked flourish and prevail, while the righteous cower and suffer.  Today, I challenge believers to remember who God is, and in our remembrance of Him, we ask that He remembers us!

 

While on the brink of death, Hezekiah asked God to remember him.  In humility, Hezekiah pleaded with God for his deliverance from the clutches of death.  How many of God’s people feel as if they are on the brink of death—spiritual, financial, emotional and/or physical?  How many people feel as though God has forgot about them?

 

Romans 3 says that not one single man is righteous—not one.

 

23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood,” (Romans 3:23-25, NLT).

 

As believer, we are made righteous, not through our own doing, but through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Today, as we cry out to our Father, we should ask Him to not only remember us, but to remember His son, Jesus, and His faithfulness.  We should ask our Father in Heaven to remember the promises that He made to us through Jesus.

 

Lord, many of your people are on the brink of all sorts of deaths, and we ask that You remember them because of your Son.  God, in humility, we ask that you remember us individually as we pray to you as Hezekiah did on his death bed.

 

16When he [Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:16-21

 

In John 14:12, Jesus told his disciples that, “anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works,” (NLT).  Therefore, we like Jesus, are called to the declarations of Isaiah 61:

 

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  2He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory,” (NLT).

 

Lord, I ask you to remember us because we have a job to do, which is to bring glory to your name!

Porridge

 

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic, childhood fairytale.  In summary, Goldilocks stumbles into the house of the three bears.  She sits in their chairs, eats from their bowls of porridge and eventually falls asleep in one of their beds.  When Goldilocks ate from the first bowl of porridge, it was too hot.  The second was too cold, but the final bowl was just right.

 

When we think about the Christmas story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is probably the last thing that comes to our minds.  Yet, for me, the irony of the correlations between the two stories made me chuckle.  In Luke 1 of the Bible, we read about the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Both were up in age.  Both were descendants of the Aaron the priest.  The Bible said that both were righteous in God’s eyes.   However, in the eyes of man, the were barren and disgraceful, for they were an old, married couple with no children.

 

A few months later, in another town, a young girl named Mary would have a dilemma of her own.  Mary was young, unwedded and pregnant.  According to theologians, at the time of Mary’s pregnancy, she would have been between 12 to 15 years old.  By modern day accounts she was too young.

 

One woman was disqualified because she was too old.  The other was disqualified because she was too young.  The only thing in both of these stories that seemed to be just right was God’s timing.

 

The angel, Gabriel, had informed Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to a son.  Six months later, Gabriel gave the same news to Mary.  Two women.  One angel.  Same story.

 

According to ancient prophesy, a Messiah would be born, and he would be preceded by a messenger.   When Gabriel visited Zechariah, Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to the messenger, and they should name him John.  Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah, and she should name him Jesus.  Two great women—connected by God’s divine prophesy.

 

When Elizabeth became pregnant she was past child-bearing age.  Some texts hypothesize that Elizabeth was beyond her forties.  Therefore, at the very least, she would have been at least 30 years Mary’s senior.  That becomes a very important fact in God’s divine plan.  God had already preordained Zechariah and Elizabeth to be John the Baptist’s parents.  He has also pre-ordained John the Baptist to be Jesus’ predecessor.  So, here is God’s holy paradox! Had Elizabeth become pregnant in her late teens or early twenties, which would have been customary for women at that time, Mary would not even have been born.  On the contrary, Mary’s youth prevented Elizabeth from being stretched beyond the limits of her faith.  Perhaps, had Mary conceived a few years later, Elizabeth might have lost all hope.  Additionally, Mary would have been married by then, and there would have been no virgin birth.  Two women, one too young and one too old, proved to be just right in God’s plans.

 

1 Corinthians 2:26-29 says, “26Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God,” (NLT).

 

The world may have disqualified you because of your age, race, gender or financial status.  However, God has a plan for you.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Remember, God always has a bigger purpose in mind.

 

Photo credit:

Isaac Andres

Have you every prayed really hard for something only to get it and think, “God, get me out of this thing as soon as possible.  This is not what I signed up for?”  I’m sure we have all been there.  The lessons we learn in these cases are:  Things aren’t always what they seem and usually require more effort than we realize.

 

During these past few years, one of the Bible verses that most heavily rests on my heart is “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it,” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)?  How many of us when praying for a miracle simple pray for said miracle without any accompanying manifestations?  Seldom.  We dream about our miracles.  We fantasize about them.  Our prayers are often layered petitions.  We dream of owning a home so that we could share it with our loved ones.  We dream of getting an education so that we could impact a generation.  Many of our prayers are gateway requests.  Imagine what could happen if we cut God off at the path when we ask Him to revoke our granted prayers.  We could potentially block other blessings associated with our initial prayer. Could it be that the reason that God does not readily rescind on what we might perceive as misguided prayer requests is, not because of punishment, but, out of a desire to bless us?

 

In Genesis 32:22-28, Jacob is all alone in the camp when and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.  “When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’  But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  ‘What is your name?’ the man asked.  He replied, ‘Jacob.’  ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”

 

Maybe that very thing that you are trying to escape from is the living God himself.  Let’s break down Genesis 32:22-28.

 

  1. Jacob was all alone when a man came and wrestled with him until dawn began to break.
    1. Jacob was all alone.
      1. God’s greatest works in our lives are usually found in moments of great solitude. Those moments can often be a time of great loneliness.
    2. A man came and wrestled with him.
      1. It would appear that this man sought out Jacob. Jacob did not go looking for this man.  John 15:16 says, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name,” (NLT).
    3. Jacob wrestled with the man until dawn began to break.
      1. Dawn is the period of day right before the light rises. Even though Jacob was shadowboxing in the dark, daybreak, light, was on the horizons.

 

 

  1. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.
    1. The previous verse said a man came and wrestled with Jacob. It did not say who started the fight.  What if the “man” came in peace and only responded to Jacob’s engagement?
    2. Could it be that maybe “the man” tried to plea his case to Jacob, but could win against Jacob’s harden heart?
    3. Jacob was so enraged and defensive that the only way “the man” could get his attention was to throw him off guard by “wrenching” his hip out of its socket.
      1. Are there any areas in our life where we are wrestling with God?
      2. Is there any potential area in our life where God has touched it and wrenched it out of its socket?

 

  1. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’
    1. Sometimes we are not always on the same page as God. The Bible says, His ways are not our ways nor his thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jacob could have been interpreting the comment literally.  Maybe he thought God was telling him to release him physically. Maybe when God told Jacob to let Him go he was telling him to stop fighting with Him.  Maybe God was telling Jacob to release the anger that he had towards Him.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (NIV).  Maybe God was telling Jacob to let go of his anger, to forgive, before dawn broke.

 

  1. But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
    1. Again, it seems as if Jacob might have been referring to a physical restrain. Nonetheless, he had the wherewithal to know that he was in the presence of divinity, and he wasn’t willing to let go of that opportunity to be blessed.  He had fought too hard throughout the night to walk away empty-handed.
      1. If we have been struggling for some time, it would be foolish of us to walk away without our blessings.
      2. Let go of the anger, but do not let go of God.
  • As we let go, we should ask God to bless us before we leave from the place we find ourselves in.
  1. Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”
    1. Jacob did not give up, and God rewarded Him.
    2. Jacob might not have gotten it right, but he did the best he knew, and God rewarded his faithfulness.
    3. At the end of the battle God gave Jacob a new identity.
      1. We can never go through the trenches with God and come out the same. Matthew 23:12 says, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NLT).

 

Summary of Genesis 32:22-28

  1. God will isolate us so that he can begin a transformation in our life.
  2. Let go of our anger and press into God’s grace.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask God to bless us. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” (NIV).

DECLARATION:

I WON’T LEAVE HERE UNTIL YOU BLESS ME!

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

1 Corinthians 1:27

 

I pray that this quote encourages you as much as it has encouraged me today.  God is about to do something in the lives of the unassuming—the brokenhearted, the forgotten and the unrecognized.  He is about to elevate leaders that the world has criticized, mocked, beaten, captured and imprisoned.  He is about to do a new thing.

 

I know that I am speaking directly to someone’s heart today.  The Lord is about to use you in ways that defy imagination.  He is about to make your enemies your footstool.  Every tear that you have shed has been captured.  Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”  God has heard your cries.  There might seem as if there is no way out.  It might appear as if everyone has abandoned you and told you ‘no,” but please know that it is during your darkest hours when God does His finest work.  It was during the darkness that God called light into existence.  It was after Pharaoh’s heart was hardened that God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians.  It was after Job had lost everything that God restored him two-fold.  Please be reminded that God is a God of grandeur, and while his preparation might be done in seclusion, His restorations are never done in private.  God’s promotions are for His glorious victory.  Therefore, they are always on display. Matthew 23:12 says, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NIV).

 

Be grateful for all who denied you.  God is elevating you in a manner that you will be indebted to none other than He.  The blessings of the Lord make a man rich, and it adds no sorrow with it, Proverbs 10:22.  Know that God has already blessed you, and He is about to make a public proclamation.  In Jesus, name, Amen!  The Bible also says that even before God restored Job, Job repented and humbled himself.  He praised God even while he was covered in ashes and riddled with sore.  Wherever you are, praise God.  Praise His glorious name.  Know that the end of your story was written even before the beginning, and it’s not over until God says that it’s over.  Glory to God.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

During this season, I have experienced some of life’s greatest disappointments and setbacks.  Most recently, I entered a business venture. As part of my due diligence, I implemented all the necessary safeguards to reduce, if not, eliminate my risks.  I read.  I researched.  I hired an attorney. I had a contract drafted.  However, life sometimes teaches us that there are no failsafe plans.  There are no world systems that could entirely mitigate moral corruption.  Although most, if not all, legal agreements are drafted based on the worse case scenarios, most people enter contacts with the assumption that the opposing party has some semblance of integrity, or at the very least, he or she has a fear of or a reverence for the law.  A year and a half after signing my contract agreement, the opposing party involved still managed to express flagrant disregard of the agreement by violating several terms of the contract. This morning, as I evaluated my situation, I thought about the above verse.

 

Oftentimes, it feels as though the lives of the wicked are bountiful.  Many of them cheat, lie and steal, yet they still manage to thrive beyond the imagination of the meek.  It’s easy to look at the proud and the arrogant and be envious.  They leap and abound.  Their lives are grand.  They enjoy fine things, and they seldom seem concerned with the toils of those who are pure at heart.  “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong…they are not plagued by human ills,” (verse 4 and 5, NIV).  They play by their own rules.  They scoff at honor and valor.  The lives of the wicked seems grand, indeed.  However, there will come a time when the Earth’s grandeur will cease.  Each man will be equal, and God will judge each man according to his deeds.  “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad,” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  It’s so easy to want the wicked to pay—to take vengeance into our own hands because it might seem as though God is moving too slow.  However, Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD,” (NLT).

 

The truth is, waiting on God can seem slow, and, at times, feel torturous.  However, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  In His justice, God has given even the sinners time to change their wicked ways.  Psalms 73 goes on to say that God has placed the wicked on slippery ground.  The wicked will perish if they continue to do wickedness.

 

To those who are longsuffering, I ask that you give your suffering to God.  Leave your vindication in His mighty hands.  God is just, and He judges fairly.  Even King David, whom the Bible refers to as a man after God’s own heart, experienced God’s immense favor despite being reprimanded for his egregious sins. Although David had many shortcomings, God did not forget the promises He made to David.  During earlier times, God decreed that David would not only rule as king over all Israel, God also promised David that he (David) would always have a line to the throne (Jesus).  One of David’s biggest fall from grace was when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah.  As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant.  In an effort to cover his tracks David tried to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could pass off the baby as Uriah’s.  Uriah, who was a committed soldier in David’s army, refused to lay with his wife because he did not want to break his allegiance to his fellow fighters by indulging in merriment during battle time.  After David realized that his attempt to cover his tracks had failed, he gave orders to have Uriah killed.  Fortunately, God did not allow David’s position as both king and the “apple of His eyes” to usurp Uriah’s life.  God was not only faithful to David, He was also faithful to Uriah, because the Bible says that God is not a respecter of man (Acts 10:34).  God avenged Uriah’s death by destroying the seed that was created from David’s and Bathsheba’s deception. Thankfully, God did not stay angry with David forever.  He pursued David and blessed him.  Moreover, David repented for sinning against God.

 

In all of our lives, there will be times when we feel forgotten about—by family, by friends, and even by God. Many of us feel like Uriah, a lone soldier in a vast army—a number in the crowd.  The temptation is to give up on God because we feel neglected or betrayed by Him.  However, just like God fought on behalf of Uriah, He will avenge us too.  The Bible says that God will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that has wondered away (Matthew 18:12-14).  It is during our weakest moments that God will seek us out and pursue us.

Empty Well

It is so important for us to read the bible in context.  So often, we memorize key verses and phrases, and neglect to see the bigger picture.  This morning, as I thought about this blog on empty wells, Galatians 6:2 came to mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (NIV).  But as I meditated on the verse, I realized that it was the second verse of the chapter.  What did the previous verse say?  In fact, the previous verse served as a cautionary statement.  It said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (NIV).  The New Life Version reads, “You who are stronger Christians should lead that one back into the right way. Do not be proud as you do it. Watch yourself, because you may be tempted also.”  Firstly, the verse calls for the “stronger Christians” to lead his brother/sister back into the right way.  Secondly, it cautions the “leading” individuals to refrain from becoming proud and to be careful of falling into the same trap.  The truth is, we all have areas where we are strong and areas where we falter.  Moreover, these areas may vary by season and/or circumstances.  It is important for us to understand that while God has called us to bear one another’s burdens, there is only one Savior.  We were not designed to save everyone.  In fact, if we do not continue to replenish our wells, then we run the risk of running emotionally and spiritually dry.

If you are consistently playing the role of the go-to person in your relationships, there will come a point where your well will run dry.  If you incessantly pour out and do not replenish your reserve, you will bottom out.  This could have multiple physical, mental and spiritual ramifications.  Below are a few things that I have found helpful during some of my darkest moments.

  1. Be kind to yourself
    1. Know that some days you will fly, and some days you will fall. Some people will think you are the greatest, and some will think that you are the worse.  However, neither one of these things define who you are.  Only God defines you.  He made you, and He knows who He has called you to be.  No one else has that authority, including you!
  1. Keep inventory of your “well” reserve
    1. Most credit counselors advise against credit card use. Why?  With credit card usage, there is a tendency to spend more than we have.  Debit card are just as bad.  I would venture to say that most people are not balancing their account ledger after each swipe of their card.  It’s no wonder the banking industry makes so much money on overdraft fees.  The same is true of our emotional bank account.  If we are not keeping an accurate account of our balance, there will be a tendency to over extend and/or over commit.  If we don’t keep accurate accounting, we will spend more than we have to give.  This brings me to Item #3.
  1. Learn to say “No!”
    1. Saying “no” is way more than simply refusing a request. Sometimes saying “no” could mean declining to answer an email, a text or a missed called.  For some, this is the biggest step towards establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.
  1. Keep inventory of those who are making deposits and withdrawal into and away from your wells
    1. Relationships are seldom equal. However, our relationships must be mutually beneficial.  In other words, we will have relationships where one person brings more to the table than the other.  The important thing for us to remember is that we should maintain a healthy balance of the different types of relationships in our lives.  Again, if we are always giving more than we are receiving, then our relationships are out of sync, which will eventually lead to a dry well.
  1. Take note during your hour of darkness.
    1. Who are the ones calling solely to check on you—not to gossip, not to vent, but simply to check on your well being?  Oftentimes, when you tend to be the strong one in your relationships, people erroneously think that you don’t have problems or that your problems are secondary to theirs.  Please understand that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation.  The people in your life must be able to acknowledge that you too are human, and as such, you too have your cross to bear.
  1. Know that you cannot be everything to anyone person.
    1. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said to me that in relationships, we meet our needs by drawing from the many wells in our lives. Whenever, we start to draw predominantly from one well, we put that other person in an unfair position, which is too much pressure to place on any one person.

Now, after having said all that, I will say this:  When we are weak, God will make us strong.  There are times when God will push us beyond what we thought we could do or where we thought we could go.  However, the problem in many of our lives is that we fail to ask Him for His counsel, and we busy ourselves with things, people and tasks that He never commissioned us to take on.  Sometimes, God is doing a work in our lives and He is doing work in others’ lives as well.  My final parting note is that we should seek God in all that we do, and He will give us the guidance that we so desire.

It’s that time of year. It’s time for a mid-year check in.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get amped up about the future on New Year’s Eve? At the beginning of the year, we feel as if anything is possible. We fill our journals with plans, resolutions and declarations. Unfortunately, somewhere around March, we start to lose fizzle. Our dreams and aspirations start to wane. That is why I think that it’s important to do a mid-year assessment—a mid-year check in. Look back at those New Year’s resolutions. Where are you now in comparison to where you said that you wanted to be? Revisiting your New Year’s goals will help to realign your focus and keeps your dreams and visions omnipresent.

Yesterday, I scanned the pages of my journal and was reminded of the declarations that I made at the beginning of the year. Few were complete.   Some were in process, and an even greater number was not even started. Truthfully, I had even forgotten about some of them. I had a few “oh yeah” moment when I read through some of my goals. What about you? What were your New Year’s resolutions? What things did you want to accomplish? Please know that it’s not too late to pick up where you left off in pursuit of your goals. Dust yourself off and start over. If you have been trudging along, keep plowing.   James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him,”(NIV). There is also encouragement found in Galatians 6:9, which says that “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (NIV).   The key here is: Do not give up. Revive those dreams. Dust off those goal, and keep it moving!

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Day 21—We made it. Wow! What a journey this past three weeks has been. In the beginning of the challenge, I told you that one of the primary reasons why I started this challenge was in response to story about a pastor who after a yearlong journey of “living without God” decided that He was now an atheist. I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to see what life looked when we actively pursued God. So what did we learn?

The first thing that we probably discovered was that life is not easy. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus told His disciples, “’Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul,’” (NIV).

The Message translation puts it this way:

“’Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”

The moment that we decided to embark on this challenge, the devil got busy. There were obstacles and roadblocks that attempted to make our journey difficult. However, here is what I learned. Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world, (1 John 4:4). In John 16:33, Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world,” (NLT).

The name of Jesus is greater than any other name in this world, (Philippians 2:9). The name of Jesus is greater than death, Satan, sickness, sadness, fear, debt, worry, loneness, anger, and the list goes on and on.

As I officially close this 21-day challenge, I issue this lifetime challenge. Embrace the verses in Psalm 5:1-3:

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Know that God is not deaf to our prayers. Psalm 6:9 says “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer,” (NLT). The verse does not says that God might answer our prayers. It said that He WILL answer our prayers. Today, know that as we wait patiently on God’s answers to manifest, the answer is already waiting in the wings.

Lord, more than 2000 years ago, you sent your one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die for all our transgressions. Lord, we thank you. We thank you for your mercy and your deliverance. On Jesus’ final moments on the cross He spoke the final words that confirmed our destiny on Earth and in Heaven. Jesus’ final words were: It is finished! Lord, thank you that everything that has ever been promised to us has already been delivered since before the beginning of time. Lord, we thank you that IT IS FINISHED!

This is what the Lord says:  ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future.  They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. ‘But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit, Jeremiah 17:5-8, NLT.

A few days ago, I came across the above scripture while reading my devotional.  It really got me thinking.  Where is my trust?  In whom do I place my confidence?  Is it truly in God, or is it in man?

The Bible says that God will open doors in our lives that no one can shut (Revelation 3:8).  This does not mean that God does not use people as His vessels.  It simply means that the opportunities we seek are not man’s to bestow.  No man can give us our “big breaks.”  Again, this doesn’t mean that God does not give us favor with people in high positions.  It simply means that our destiny is not contingent upon another man’s approval, or disapproval.  This should be a relief for many of us.  Here is why.  David said it best in 1 Chronicles 17:27: “For when you grant a blessing, O Lord, it is an eternal blessing,” (NLT)!  When God says yes, the answer is YES!  He does not lie, and He does not change His mind, (Number 23:19).

You and I have to start to refocus our thinking.  The opportunities that we are awaiting are not going to come from our bosses, company executives, publishing companies, television directors or anyone for that matter.  It will come from God only.  He might use those people as His vessels.  He might not.  For example, God could promote you at work, and never include your boss in the process.  God could have you write a book or score a film and never go through conventional channels.  Yes, there will be people involved in each step of the way because we do not live in an isolated world.  However, the opportunity will come from God and God alone.

I believe that once we recognize that only God controls or destiny, we will stop tiptoeing around people and their opinions.  The Bible says, “The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me,” (Psalm 118:6, NLT)? The answer is nothing.

Today, as we round the bend of our 21-day challenge, I say that we focus more on pleasing God than pleasing others. Once we aim to please God, we would have done right by man. This does not mean that man will always be pleased with us, it just means that we have done the best that we could. That’s all we can do!

Today’s prayer:

Lord, we thank you that whenever you grant a blessing, it is an eternal blessing. We thank you for who you are. We honor your name. Thank you for each person reading this prayer today. Lord, please bless every heart’s desire. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Have you ever wondered whether it (whatever it may be) was all worth it? Well, you are in good company. During the middle of John the Baptist’s deepest pain, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether or not He (Jesus) was the chosen one. Essentially, John the Baptist wanted to know whether the sacrifices and the choices he made were all worth it (Luke 7:18-35, NLT).

James 1:5-8 says:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

These verses tell us that we should:

  1. Ask God for what we want.
  2. Don’t waiver.
  3. KNOW that we have received what we have asked for.

I know today that there are people right now who are struggling with their faith in God. You feel like you have made sacrifices. You have trusted God. You have stepped out on faith, but you still have not seen what it is that you have believed for. I ask that you just hold on. Apply the formula found in James 1:5-8.

  1. Ask God for what you want.
  2. Don’t waiver.
  3. KNOW that you have received what you have asked for.

Early in the Book of Genesis, a great flood washed over the earth. Noah and all the animals were weathering the storm aboard the ark. It must have felt like the storm was not going to relent. I wonder if Noah ever questioned whether he would survive the flood. I wonder if Noah questioned whether God had forgotten about him.

During the greatest storms in our lives, it is easy for us to think that God has forgotten about us. Thankfully, He does not forget. Genesis 1:8 says, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede,” (NLT).

Just know that God has not forgotten us and left us to fend for ourselves in the storm. At just the right time, He will cause the tides to recede and to relent.

Today, I pray that your floodwaters will recede and that God will answer your prayers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.