“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves . . .,” 2 Corinthians 13:5
“What? School just started back!” No, that’s not what I’m talking about. When was the last time we really pushed the envelope with ourselves to see what we have in us? When watching television, I sometimes come across shows where people are doing what seems to be the impossible; people who love the adrenaline of seeing just how far they can go with a particular feat. Some of the things I see just make me want to shake my head, and yet, others are actual, honest assessments of endurance; to see if they have what it takes to make it all the way, or to break some sort of record. It’s a testing of one’s strength and stamina.
Tests, for most people, are not pleasant at all. It doesn’t matter if its elementary age level test all the way through college, or a learner’s permit; tests make individuals uncomfortable because they are designed to see what one has in them. If speaking in terms of education, it is probing one’s intellect to see if enough knowledge has been retained and also able to be applied. If speaking in terms of physical endurance, it is working out in the body to see if one is deficient in a particular area, to point out any weaknesses that need to be strengthened for one to gain a particular goal.
This is why tests are not pleasant. Because, it goes beyond the façade on the outside to see what one really has in them. No truer is this more prevalent then in our spiritual lives. The stuff on the inside is quickly hidden as we enter the church doors on a Sunday morning. No one else can see the battles or struggles going on inside. That is, no one else, but God. “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7). And, it is the test of the heart that really matters; the places where others can’t see.
I live around the corner from a prominent cemetery in our area. It serves the needs of all people, but they specialize in handling the burials of fire fighters and police officers. It is not unusual to see a processional of cars go by on any given day to lay a loved one to rest. Sometimes the line is long and sometimes it is short. If it is one of those specialized burials, then the whole affair is catered to honor the life of the one who has served. There are what seems like hundreds of police cars from all over, horses, raised flags, gun salutes, honor guards and the like. It becomes a beautiful send off in the midst of sorrow.
No matter who it is I often wonder about the individual being laid to rest. It becomes a stark reminder for me to follow the prudent advice of Paul and examine myself. We all have areas that need improvement; things that we can do better. Sometimes a close, personal examination is the only thing that will draw it out of us, to see “whether ye be in the faith.” Are we where we need to be when our time comes to be at the head of that processional? I pray that we all are.
There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28). Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).
How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible? I mean – really?! People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26). Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.
What would that have been like? Awesome, indeed! I love to swim, so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me down right giddy. Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try. To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.
Extraordinary living! Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about? It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him. The rest stayed in the boat. They were content with the status quo. But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.
As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough. A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith. What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was. The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us. If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright. If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.
Jesus never promised calm seas all the time. But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20). It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised. It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him. No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us. Always!
“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?
Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast. Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you. God wants us to step out into extraordinary living. By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible. We can walk on water, too! He is with you, always!
“Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said,” Joshua 14:12
At the age of 85, Caleb was more than ready to take what the Lord had promised to him. You see, when Joshua and Caleb were sent as spies into the land of Canaan there was a promise left for their belief in God. “Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God,” Joshua 14:9. As of yet, Caleb had not gotten his promise. But, now he was ready to take what the Lord had promised.
Only there was this one thing, the Anakim were there. The Anakim were giants, nonetheless their stature brought no fear in the heart of Caleb. He was ready to “drive them out,” (Joshua 14:12). In fact, when the rest of Israel was ready to run scared when God first brought them to the Promised Land, he and Joshua was ready then to take care of business. Years later, this aged gentleman, as some would consider him, was still just as ready to take what God had promised to him.
A lot of times God gives us promises but in our eyes it may look insurmountable. Obstacles are in the midst of the promise that makes it appear as though one can never possess it. I like that Caleb was 85 years old. I like that it was over 40 years before he had the opportunity to go for his promise. I like that there were giants in the land that made it look impossible. I like these three points because they are some of the most popular reasons people give up on waiting for the promises of God.
1. Caleb was 85 years old, this implies limitations. Instead of looking to God for their source too many people focus on their own limitations, their own inabilities to get the job done. Not Caleb! He didn’t care about his age, God promised it and he was ready for it. It is as the British Evangelist John Flavel stated, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” The Bible says that God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20. Take the limits off of yourself, and more importantly, take the limits off of God.
2. Over 40 years implies waiting. This is something that is very hard for most people. Many times over in the Bible people waited quite a bit of time before they laid hold of what God said He would do in their lives. If God said it then He will do it, but our job is to wait. Here are some encouraging reminders about waiting on God:
- “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” (Isaiah 40:31).
- “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him,” (Lamentations 3:25).
- “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me,” (Micah 7:7).
3. There being giants in the land implies obstacles. Many people look at their dreams, their hopes and the promises of God and can believe them for everyone else except themselves. To them, it looks as if they can never possess it. This is a hopelessness that God does not desire to see in His people. The Bible says, “The just shall live by faith.” This is a key verse in Scripture and God made sure it was put in there four times (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11 and Heb. 10:38). We are to have more faith in the God we serve as Caleb did when he said, “It may be that the Lord will be with me,” (Joshua 14:12), then in the obstacles before us.
Don’t be afraid to take your mountain today! Don’t be afraid to go after what God has already promised you. Don’t look at your limitations, the waiting or the obstacles. God can and will overcome it all to fulfill what He promised to you! God bless.
Search me, O God
From the inside out
And see what my life
Is all about.
Am I living true to Your holy name,
Or is my worship just a game?
Search me, O God
And know my heart
And see from Your way
Have I thus part.
In my spirit, I am most sincere,
Please search, and to Your side
Draw me near.
Search me, O God
And tell if You see
Anything that will keep me
From all eternity.
If it be there help me dig out the root
That I might produce Your spiritual fruit.
Search me, O God
My blessed Savior,
Save me from my sometimes
Apologetically I come,
With a heart in deep sorrow,
Pleading for You to lead me
To Your heavenly tomorrow.
Search me, O God
And lead me home
To the place where I stand
Before Your righteous throne.
Living in the peace You gave to me,
For Your search dug out who I used to be.