Archives for posts with tag: Not Giving Up

25

Wow! How quickly did we burn through the days of 2013? For many of us, January 1, 2013 is but a distant memory. So many of us started 2013 with a laundry list of goals and aspiration. For some, our enthusiasm and exuberance dwindled as the days faded. Now, with only 31 days left to the conclusion of the 2013, it’s so easy to give up on those 2013 dreams if they have not yet materialized. However, keep this in mind. The year is not over yet. In one instance, Jesus caused a fig tree to wither; He calmed a raging sea and He mended the skin of a leper. If he did that in one instance, imagine what He could do in 31 days! As we draw near to Christmas, instead of acknowledging all the couldas, wouldas, shouldas; let’s spend the next 25 days giving thanks for all the things that are going right. Over the next 25 days, I would us to embark on a 25-day thanksgiving journey. Each day, I will challenge you to list the one thing that you most grateful for in 2013. Here goes:

25-Day Thanksgiving Christmas Countdown
Day 25: Today I am most thankful for DISAPPOINTMENTS!

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Jesus Christ is said to be the finisher of our faith. In Hebrews 12:2, the NIV Bible refers to him as the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Philippians 1:6 says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (NLT). What does this all mean? It means that God will never start something and not carry it through to the end. Remember, He is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19). So, if He said it, it must be so!
If you have a dream in your heart, and you are wondering how God will ever bring it to pass, then this message should give you hope. God will never place dreams in our hearts and then taunt us by making them unachievable.
The Bible says that in order to live our best lives, we must have faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (NIV). Here is a critical point that is often lost on most of us, including myself. Faith, or lack thereof, isn’t our biggest problem. Many of have faith, or we think we do. The problem is, not our faith per se. The problem is, we don’t know who God is. Re-read Hebrews 11:6 more carefully. It says that anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists AND that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. I would argue that most believer would agree that God exists. I think most people, believers and non-believers alike, struggle with the fact that God genuinely wants to reward them. I believe that before we can truly have faith in God, we have to learn a little more about who He is. It’s impossible to have faith in someone we know little or nothing about.
I could use a million examples to illustrate who God is, but today I want to focus on just one. Hopefully, we could meditate on this example throughout the day and allow the words to truly marinate. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob that “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” A few chapters later, Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32:22-32.  In the passage, Jacob was alone when:

a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 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.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “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.” 29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

How many of us are currently wrestling with God regarding our current situations?  Our relationships are broken.  Our marriages are not what we would like them to be.  We haven’t met the partner we thought we would have.  Our business ventures have failed.  We have no idea how to initiate the dream that God has laid on our hearts.  Our children are not where we would like them to be. There are so many ways that we all wrestle with God, yet He remains faithful. I believe that the moment that we truly realize that God is faithful, even when we are not (2Timothy 2:13), is the moment that we can truly begin to have faith. Today, remember that God promised Jacob that He would never leave him until He had given him everything that he has promised. Know that the promises made to Jacob are also applicable to us. It is also important to remember that God has also placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Therefore, if God has promised us eternity, and He won’t leave us until He has given us everything He has promised, then God will NEVER leave us. This should comfort us to know that God will never leave us!

 

 

Today, as I was reflecting on God’s word in and for my life, I learned a very important lesson on gratitude.  It was also a lesson on humility.

One of my biggest pet peeve is when people answer the question “how are you” with the statement, “it could be worse.”  Oh my!  That phrase just makes my blood boil.  Yes, we all know it could be worse.  We could all be dying of hunger, suffering from scabies and burying our favorite dead dog—all in the same day.  Yes, it could be worse.  I guess the point that people are trying to convey when they say “it could be worse” is that we should be grateful.  However, I believe when we start to see our problems through the lens of “it could be worse,” we allow ourselves to adopt an attitude of pessimism.  The idea that “it could be worse” inadvertently traps us into mediocrity.  Somehow, it suggests that we have plateaued in our current situations.  If all we have is the notion that “it could be worse,” the worst case scenario, why would we aim higher?

Here is a novel idea:  IT COULD BE BETTER.   Regardless of wherever you and I find ourselves, there is always room for improvement.  When we take the stance of “it could be better,” we set the stage for optimism.  We are creating an environment where we could see our glasses as half full rather than half empty.

Now that we have established that life “could be better,” I must add a caveat to the argument.  Although there is always room for improvement in our lives, we must be grateful in our current situations.  In fact, some of the things that we take for granted might be the very thing that someone else is praying for.  Just think about it.

The first thing that most of us do when we arrive home late at night is turn the lights on.  We have taken our ability to distinguish between light and dark for granted.  For the individual praying for sight, he is always in darkness.  Some of us who have had the privilege of attending a concert might complain that the music was too loud, but for the person praying for hearing, everything is silent.  For the parent who complains about her child’s messy bedroom, there is a barren women praying for a baby.  I think you get the point.  We do have a lot to be grateful for.  However, our propensity for praise should not be based on what we do not have, but what we do.  For example, we should not praise God for our hearing by thanking Him for not being deaf.  We should praise him that we could hear.  The moral of the story is that we have to develop a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

This morning I read Luke 16:10-12.  It says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own,” (NIV)?  The passage humbled me.  For the first time, I was able to read it in a completely different light.  Here is what God laid on my heart based on this passage:

If God cannot trust us to be grateful and praise Him for the little miracles in our lives, how could He trust us to praise Him for our heart’s desires?  Maybe, just maybe, if we started to praise Him for the “little things,” we might start to see some manifestations of our bigger dreams.  In other words, if we praise Him for the “little things,” He just might trust us with true riches.

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

I’m usually not the best at reciting jokes, but this one I had to share.  A man went to God and said, “God, your power is so infinite and your resources are so limitless.  For you, a million years is like one second and a million dollars is like one penny.  Surely, you would have no problems giving me a million dollars.”  God looked at the man and said, “I sure don’t.  Just give me one second.”

The truth is God’s timing is not the same as ours.  When everything ceases to exist, He will still remain standing.  God has seen empires rise and fall.  He has seen generations created and destroyed.  He is the beginning and the end of time.  So, sometimes it does beg the question:  Could God truly sympathize with the fact that we are but a mist in the spectrum of time?  Even though He created us, does He really understand that our Earthly bones decay daily?  Does He truly understand that for us a million years is not the same as one second?  As I explored the answer, perhaps answers, to this question, I came across an interesting passage in Scripture.  It’s a little long, but just bear with me:

A Valley of Dry Bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken,’” (Ezekiel 33:1-14, NLT)!

This story should give each and every one of us great comfort.  You see, when the bones first came together, they had no life.  They were just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until God breathed His Spirit into them that they came alive.  This passage illustrates three really important principles.  First, it is quite possible that you and I can make plans absent of God.  Our plans might even create the illusion of success.  I am sure that had there been distant onlookers, the regenerating bone might have given the appearance of life.  But just like the bones, our plans do not experience true life until God breaths His Spirit onto them.  The second point is, regardless of how dead something is, God can bring it back to life.  The fact that those bones were dry throughout suggests that they had been there for some time.  The bones probably surpassed any memories of the individuals’ existence, but God was still able to bring them back to life.  To us, our dreams might appear dead and forgotten, but God can bring them back to life by breathing His spirit into it.  The truth is, our very existence is proof of that.  We were dead before we were born, and God breathe life into us and caused us to exist.  The third point is easily overlooked.  God could have resurrected the bones on His own, but he used Ezekiel to perform the works.   God commanded him to speak to the bones and the wind.  What is He commanding us to speak to in our lives?

I love the way this passage end.  Even though God had given this illustration as promise to the nation of Israel, we should know that our God is not a partial God, and that the promises He makes to one is applicable to all.  With that said, God promised the Israelites that He would open their graves of exile and cause them to rise again.  Wow!  How many of us are living, but we still have one (or both) foot (feet) in the grave?  The truth is, it does matter.  God has promised us that He can rescue us from the tomb and bring us back to life.

Today, we should be encouraged that regardless of where we find ourselves, we should know that God has the ability to rescue us.  He sees us.  There is nothing that can separate us from His love.  He has not forgotten about us or given up on us.  Many may say that it is too late.  The doctor might have predicted when someone will draw his final breath, but only God breathes life.  Critics might say that our dreams have an expiration date and that we are too old to achieve God’s plan, but God gets the final word!  In fact, He has also shared that final word with us.  We need to speak life into our situation today!

Repeat after Ezekiel (via God):

“‘Dry bones [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES], listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord….Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken, (NLT).’”

In today’s society, success is usually thought to be determined by degree or pedigree.  I am here to tell you that neither of those things are absolute qualifiers for success.  When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that few of them were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called them.  He further went on to say that God often chooses the “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,” (1Corinthians 1:26-26, NLT).  Now, this is not to say that there isn’t a value to education, for we know that God honors those who seek knowledge, counsel and wisdom.  It is simply to say that our circumstances do not disqualify us from being great.  Look at Gideon.

Too often God places a dream on our heart, and we erroneously think that we need an ensemble team to bring the vision to fruition.  We are inclined to decline opportunities because we think that we lack the skills needed to accomplish the task.  In the Old Testament, Moses tried to hand over the opportunity to lead the Israelites out of bondage to Aaron because he thought that being a successful leader was directly correlated to an ability to speak well.  Fortunately, God is more interested in using those who can walk the walk rather than those who talk the talk.  So how does that tie into the story of Gideon?

God had called Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Like many of us, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to do something so extraordinary.  Thankfully, what Gideon soon came to realize was that his weakness was inversely proportional to God’s strength.  In other words, he realized that when he was weak, God was strong, and it was that epiphany that allowed him to grow in strength.

Prior to battling the Midianites, Gideon had 32,000 men.  God told him to send home those who were fearful.  Twenty-two thousand men left.  Gideon was left with an army of 10,000.  Still God was unsatisfied.  He ordered Gideon to bring the men to the stream and “[d]ivide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream,” (NLT).  There were three hundred men that drank from their hand.  Finally, God was satisfied.  With a total of 300 men, God delivered the Midianites into the hands of the Israelites (Judges 7).

The story of Gideon serves as an amazing demonstration of God’s ability to elevate us above our circumstances.  In the natural, there was no way that Gideon could have defeated an entire army with only 300 men.  However, God reduced the size of Gideon’s army so that He would receive the glory.  The first lesson that you and I should learn from Gideon is that when we are called to do the impossible with only a skeletal crew, it’s not because God is punishing us.  It’s simply because He wants us, and others, to know that success is not based on a formula, but is predetermined by God.  The second lesson to be learned from Gideon is that not everyone in our camp is destined or willing to fight.  Know that the dream that God gave us was given to us.  Not everyone in our camp is meant to go with us to battle.  In order to achieve victory, sometimes, we have to get rid of those who are stumbling blocks.  In the case of Gideon, had God not gotten rid of those who were “timid or afraid,” it might have cost them the battle.  Under pressure, those eliminated individuals might have surrendered or betrayed their camp.  The third lesson to be learned from Gideon is that when God gives us a dream, it’s better to have a faithful few than a lazy bunch.  Those who drank from their hands proved to be hard workers and go-getters.  They didn’t just kneel at the stream and waited for the water to flow into their mouths.  They took the initiative.  We want people in our camps that take initiative.  The last lesson that we learned from Gideon is a little off topic, but equally important. 

The Bible says that God will make our enemies our footstool (Luke 20:43).  We should know that oftentimes, God will use our very enemies to announce our victory.  In the case of Gideon, God used the Midianites to announce the Israelites’ victory:

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes,” (Judges 7:8-15, NLT)!

Know today that God has called each and every one of us for something great.  If God can use flawed individuals such as Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, and Esther, imagine what He could do with us.

Have you ever felt like God has left you hanging?  C’mon, tell the truth! Never?  Let me ask it a different way.  Have you ever experienced a time when you know within your heart that God has instructed you to do something specific, yet when you did what you thought He told you to do, the results were not what you expected?  In fact, not only were the results not what you expected, they seemed to cause you more shame and heartbreak than happiness and reward.  Still can’t relate?  What about one of the following examples:

  1. Have you ever followed God’s instruction to quit your job with the intention of starting a new business only find yourself unemployed with no business?
  2. Have you ever pursued a relationship on God’s instruction only to be rejected and humiliated?
  3. Have you ever moved to a new state (or country) on God’s command only to experience the worse loneliness you have ever experienced?
  4. Have you ever made yourself vulnerable only to be scoffed at?

If you have ever experienced any of the following, know that you are not alone.  You are probably thinking, “Great! So, now what?”  The pious thing to say would be, “Trust God and everything will work itself out.”  While this is true, it’s not always easy. 

Sometimes, pursuing what we believe to be the voice of God could lead to humiliation, exhaustion, disappointment and doubt.  Remember Joseph?  He told his family that God had revealed to him in a dream that he was going to be a great leader. Imagine how embarrassed he must have felt when he sat in jail, falsely accused of rape.  How many times did he question himself?  How many times did he question God?  How many times did he ask whether he had heard God correctly?  What about you?  You have testified to others about God’s greatness, but you have yet to see the fruit of your labor (or belief/obedience).  The business that you know that God told you to build is under water.  You poured everything you had into it.  The relationship that you thought would prosper is nonexistent or failing.  Your enemies are secretly (or publicly) triumphing over your failures.  You are exhausted.  What do you do?  You are beginning to wonder whether you heard God correctly.  You are beginning to wonder whether you would ever get it right.   How could you be so wrong?  The pain is overwhelming.  So what do you do?

The first thing I want you to do is put on your seatbelt.  What I am going to tell you will probably give you spiritual whiplash.

What might seem to us like a spiritual goose chase could actually be a divine appointment.  Know that it is not a bad thing to return to God empty-handed after you have pursued His directives.  Here’s why.  When God sent you out, He sent you out armed with a promise.  However, a promise is just the beginning of the story.  In order for the entire story to be assembled, you will need additional directive from God.  So you go off with the promise.  You have to plant the promise at your destination because you will need to return to God for further directions, and you cannot return with the promise.  Why?  The Bible says that His Word cannot return to him void.  Are you excited yet?  This is the point where most of us miss the mark.  We go back to God and quarrel with Him about being empty-handed.  However, we should be celebrating.  Instead of accusing God of disappointing us, we should be asking him how to water the seed we just planted in the place He just sent us. 

This revelation should excite us.  It might not stop the pain and the sadness, but it will give us some insight into who God is.  In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread,” (NIV).  According to David, the apple of God’s eyes, God will never forsake us.  If we delight in God, he will give us our heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).  We should know that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Sometimes, we might have to water His planted promises for a while.  However, once they are planted THEY cannot return to Him void.  Take heart tonight and know that God will never take us somewhere that His grace would not sustain us.

When most of us think of our top 10 desired, vacation destinations, we think of cities such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Nineveh.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “Did she really say Nineveh?”

Yes, I did.

Most of you probably couldn’t even spot Nineveh on the map.  Prior to writing this blog, neither could I.

I am not much of a historian, but here is what I do know about Nineveh.  Nineveh was the capital of Ancient Assyria.  It was one of the most powerful cities of its time.  Today, the ruins of Nineveh are located in Mosul, Iran.  What’s left of Nineveh are the shadows of a once prevailing city.

Knowing that, would I still want to go to Nineveh?  Would you?  What if I were to tell you that many of us have probably visited (or will visit) Nineveh at least once in our lifetime?  Hmmm!

Today, my pastor mentioned Nineveh in passing.  He described Biblical Nineveh as a treacherous city plagued by debauchery.  The prophet Nahum described Nineveh as a place of great wickedness.  It was no wonder why when God directed Jonah to travel to Nineveh to prophesize the people’s impending destruction, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  Imagine how Jonah must have felt when God instructed Him to deliver the gloomy news.  I am sure he asked God, “Why me?”  He must have thought, “Surely, there is someone else more qualified to deliver the report.”  Jonah probably didn’t even care about Nineveh or the people there.  Thankfully, God did.  When it came to the people of Nineveh, God was not interested in sparing Jonah’s feelings.  He was more interested in saving their souls.  You see, when Johan delivered the news to the people of Nineveh, they repented and God relented.  By delivering those individuals, God not only saved them, He saved generations not yet born.  Speaking life into one man’s life also speaks life into his entire bloodline.  You can imagine that those individuals who were spared went on to have children, and their children went on to have their own children, and so on and so forth.

How many of us currently find ourselves in a Jonah situation?  We are doing everything in our power to run away from our assigned Nineveh.  Our “Ninevehs” could very well be our families, our marriages, our relationships or our jobs.  Just like Jonah, God might have assigned us to our current situation to save His people for imminent destruction.  Remember, in the story of Jonah, Jonah’s message of destruction was so horrific that it caused the people to repent.  It could be very possible that God is using us as Jonahs in our personal Nineveh.  Salvation for one could often mean salvation for many.  Remember Abraham?

When Abraham questioned God in the Old Testament about whether He would refrain from destroying Sodom for the sake of the righteous, God said he would (Genesis 18:22-33) not destroy the city if He could find righteous people there.  Maybe our presence in our Ninevehs (or Sodom) could spare the destruction of those around.  As Christians we are called to shine our light wherever we are.  Regardless of wherever we are called to be, God can allow His light to shine through us and reflect His goodness and mercy!  So, the next time we try to escape from our situations, we should determine whether we are trying to escape our Nineveh.  If we are, we might find ourselves in the belly of a whale.

When it comes to theories that govern the human experience, there are only two choices:  Faith and chance.  We either believe that there is a higher power that controls the world’s affairs, or we believe that everything is randomized and left to chance/luck.  Everyone believes in something.   While those who believe in a higher power might not agree on who or what that higher power is, they all agree that there are forces greater than themselves at play.  By default, even those who have asserted a belief in nothing (i.e. atheist or agnostics) have confirmed their belief in something—in chance.  Here is why:  Life is still occurring, and in order for life to continue, some force must be in place.  So if there is no higher being, no God, then chance must come in play to perpetuate life.  Here is the problem, change is random, which means that it’s disorganized.  In order for life to be sustained, there must be organization.  Organization is a characteristic of faith.  More specifically, organization is a characteristic of Christ.

The more I mature in my walk with Jesus Christ, the more I begin to view my life experiences as more than mere coincidences but instead divine appointments.

In life, there are seasons when we wrestle with being content knowing that our current situations do not align with our heart desires.  In those seasons, it becomes difficult to reconcile with the fact that even when we chase after God and the dreams that He has placed on our hearts, God could appear distant and silent.  Like Joseph, God has given us all dreams where the journey from the pit to the palace tends to be an arduous voyage.  Most pastors and spiritual leaders would urge us to praise God though those difficult times.  The truth is, it is difficult to worship in the midst of disappointment and heartbreak.  Though that’s what we should do, it’s not what most of us do.  We quarrel with God for our disappointments.  We get angry with Him for our heartaches.  Sometimes, even when we do praise Him, we “secretly” grieve.

During this season, I have grown to love King David.  God labeled David as the apple of His eyes.  David was transparent.  He was not afraid to be vulnerable with God.  Yesterday, on my commute to work, I found myself having one of those Davidic moments.  I vented my frustrations to God.  I told God that I had grown weary waiting for revelation and I wanted to experience the manifestation of my faith not just the anticipation of my expectation.

I must be honest.  It felt good to let it all out.  After my vent, I listened to a few worship songs, and then I went to work.

At lunchtime, I ate in my car.  My mood had changed from that of the morning.  A sense of peace overwhelmed me as I continued to listen to my new Hillsong CD.  I had spent about 30 minutes eating, relaxing and meditating.  I thought of the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestled with God:

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared,” (NIV).

I believe that God touched Jacob’s hip to let him know who He was.  But even after Jacob had the revelation that the man was indeed God, Jacob did not let Him go.  He replied that he would not let God go until God blessed him.  Wow!!! What a revelation!  I believe what this passage is saying is that even when we wrestle with God, we should not let Him go until He blesses us.  That is the true definition of faith–believing in God despite our circumstances and holding on to Him until we see the manifestation of His promises.

Today’s take home message:

Even when we wrestle with God in seasons of disappointment, do not let Him go.

Even though we may wrestle with our anger towards God, do not let Him go.

Even though we wrestle with man, do not let God Go.

Even though we wrestle with sin, do not let God Go.

In the end, Jacob refused to let God go, and as a result, God blessed him.  God said that even though he wrestled with God and with man, he did not let go.

IN ORDER TO ALLOW GOD TO BLESS YOU, DO NOT LET GO!!

We never have to worry about missing the memo from God.  If we failed to receive it the first time, He always provides an opportunity for our lessons to be repeated.

Last night, I attended a midweek, young-adult service at one of my local churches.  Actually, the Tuesday night worship experience at this particular church is not your typical, midweek service.  The atmosphere is charged with and electrified by the Spirit.

The message of the night was from James 1:2-4:

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (NLT).

The take home messages of the night were:

  1. God uses our trials as an opportunity for growth.
  2. We should find joy in the pain of growth.
  3. When it looks like all is lost, God has one more move.

Wow! How many of us can perpetually see the glass half full?

Last night was my God reminder.  I heard God say, “Just in case you missed the memo the first time, ‘I am reminding you of who I am.’”  During the service, I remembered that God had laid this very message on my heart a few month ago.  I was excited to go home to find my journal entry and be reminded of what God had said then.

Once we embrace the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) we can rest in the knowledge that what He promised yesterday is still valid today.

Below is my 2/13/13 journal entry on James 1:3-4.  I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.

For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.  (James 1:3, NLT).

Endurance is preparation for the next time.  Think about jogging.  The first time you commit to jogging, you might only be able to run one block.  But in running that one block, the body is being conditioned.  The cells are being oxidized, and the muscles are being strengthened.  The next time you run, you might either

  1. Be able to run the same distance with less fatigue

Or

  1. Run further

Each time, however, there is an increase in strength that occurs.  The same is true of faith.  Each time you exercise your faith, your spiritual muscles increase, yielding increase endurance.  The things that you endured today might have seemed impossible last year.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing, (James 1:4, NLT).

Think about the jogging analogy.  Let’s say you were training for a 5K.  There would come a time in the training process where you could run the 5K without stopping, or without fatigue.  So as far as the 5K level, you would need nothing.  You would be perfect and complete.  However, if you decided to train for a half-marathon, additional training would be required and the cycle would repeat.

The same applies to our faith.  There are different levels of completion.  When you reach, what I will call, “level-one faith,” you are perfect and complete for THAT level.  It doesn’t mean that you are perfect and complete for life.  It simply means that you are ready to be graduated to the next level of faith.  There is always a growth curve—at least until death.

Dear God,

During this season, you have challenged so many of us to have faith in your word and your character.  I pray that we will continue to trust you as you develop us.  I pray that we will trust you with our lives, our relationships, our finances, our destinies, our purposes and our hearts.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!