Devotional – “Jesus Questions Trust”

“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8b

What would it be like to sit across from Jesus, face to face, and have Him question your trust? Would we be able to look Him in the eye as we pondered our answer? Would our heads be bowed, feeling unworthy to lift it and look into the eyes of love pleading with us to believe? What would be like? I imagine it would be self-revealing because in those questions we find where our hearts and our true belief lies. It reveals where we stand in our faith.

I have never read or heard of anyone, anywhere who tries so hard to get people to believe in Him, for their good, outside of Christ. He, who had pleaded with mankind through these pages of history to trust Him with their life and everything it entails. He, who has welcomed the problems and prayers of others into His person to carry so that we don’t have to.

Face to face. Pleading eyes. Questioning trust.

In Luke 18, that is what I see playing out. Jesus is telling a parable of a widow woman who just will not give up seeking justice. Day after day she sought the judge and became a downright pest about it. In her perseverance, she basically wore the man down until she was avenged.

Jesus used this parable to get the point of persistent prayer across. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not faint,” (Luke 18:1, KJV). Jesus knew that men and women everywhere would have to believe that if they continually seek the Father, He hears them. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” (John 16:24, KJV).

“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Jesus questions trust. He questions whether or not anyone will believe in the promise and power of prayer. He questions if there is real, alive faith working in mankind somewhere. He questions.

One’s faith lies at the center of this questioning, for if we believed wholeheartedly, there would be no hindrance in bringing every request and problem before God in prayer. This is what Jesus is getting at. True faith unencumbered. True faith takes the shackles off of God’s promises and allows one to run freely forth, believing He hears, He knows and He will answer.

Bringing out the faith of people was a key in Jesus’ ministry. How often had He declared that it was by faith one was healed? In the story of the Ten Lepers, to the one who came back to “give glory to God,” (Luke 17:18, KJV), He said, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole,” (Luke 17:19, KJV).

How much are we missing out on through our lack of faith? Jesus is questioning us, will we have the faith to respond? Do we trust Him enough to bring all our cares, problems, and issues before Him, laying them at His feet?

The Bible says, “Thou shalt call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am . . .,” (Is. 58:9, KJV). “Here I am.” God is not far off. When we venture to trust Him enough to cry out in the midst of our mess, He responds, “Here I am.” The word “here” indicates a present closeness. “I Am” is the name God gave Moses to assure those in Egypt, Ex. 3:14. Whatever they needed God to be, “I AM” has got it all under control because He is God all by Himself. He does not exist because of another. He does not depend upon another. His power is not contingent upon another. He is “I AM!” And, the Great “I AM” says, “Here I am!” Can’t we trust Him?

Faith and prayer go hand in hand. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Heb. 11:6, KJV). Without established trust in Him and His promises, we are unable to effectively move God with our prayers. We are unable to please Him. Why? Because without that leading trust, the basic requirements of faith cannot be filled. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” They must believe in His existence (previous paragraph) and they must believe that He is concerned enough to hear the call of them that cry out to Him and answer them. Trust.

“Shall he find faith on earth?” Our faith and trust in Him is the key that unlocks the door to victory. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (1 John 5:4, KJV).

The persistence of the widow woman encourages us to keep coming and not give up. Hold on to your faith and trust in God and keep praying – keep laying it before our great God who hears and will take action. “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7, KJV). Jesus said, “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Will there be some that really believe? The reason for this parable was to teach men not to give up – to keep praying and believing that God hears and that He is able to take care of it all. Do we trust Him enough to let it go and give it to God today? You may have to come every day and lay it on the altar of prayer – so be it. That’s how the widow got her case heard.

In this questioning of trust, Jesus is also demonstrating an open invitation for us to lay every hindrance down before God in prayer. Prayer works! Persistent prayer works! Persistent prayer plus faith works!

The pleading Savior is asking us to trust.

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The Reward of Remaining Righteous

If we were to look at this world with nothing but our natural eyes, what we see may make us wonder where is the fairness of it all? To some, it may seem the good boys don’t always win. To some, it may seem evil advances while those who work to do right get pushed down, ridiculed, made fun of, and overlooked.

But, the Bible reassures us time and again that what we see is not always the truth of the matter. Although what we see may upset and discourage us, we must maintain our course to live lives that are pleasing to our Lord. We must continue to remain faithful and righteous regardless.

Though we may not know the whole story. And although we may not see things favorably and begin to question “why?”, our comfort is in this one unchanging truth: God sees everything. God knows everything, and He knows how to carry things forward in the best possible way.

Isaiah encourages us, that regardless of what it may look like to us, God will faithfully reward:

     “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

     Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” Isaiah 3:10-11

God knows how to perfectly balance what we see and feel against what is true. The psalmist wrote:

    “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

     For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.

     They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

     Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

     Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

     They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.

     They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

     Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.

     And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

     Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

     Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

     For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

     If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.

     When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

     Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Psalm 73:3-17

What people saw and how they lived were far from the true ending of their story. God will faithfully reward both sides of the scale, good or bad: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” (Galatians 6:7).

Continue in obedience. Continue to remain faithful, and let God handle the outcome. Trust me, He can judge every heart and every circumstance far better than we ever could.

Put those in prayer who seem to be straying.  Lift those before the Lord who seem to be struggling.  After all, as Christians we want to see everyone possible make it to heaven even if we don’t agree with them right now (remember Job had to pray for the very friends that ridiculed him, Job 42:10).

Don’t get prideful in your own stance, for our righteousness is nothing we obtained on our own (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9). We, too, need the Lord’s mercy and grace every day of our lives just like everyone else.

Just remain righteous. Keep His will before your eyes and your feet will walk the path He chooses.

Of course, our ultimate reward will be we get to dwell in heaven for all eternity with our Savior.  For this, there is no greater cause for remaining righteous.

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“Handle the Body of Jesus with Care!”

Image by Bronisław Dróżka from Pixabay

 

“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.  When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock…” Matthew 27:57-60a, NKJV

If at no other time of the year, it is during this season when we are drawn closer to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  As well we should be.  In just one day we will be celebrating Easter (Resurrection Sunday) when we are starkly reminded of the cost of our sins and the victory that Jesus gained over it all.

The cost was heavy but the price had to be paid.  It was unavoidable.  But, that’s not the end of the story.  To get to the end let’s back it up some first.

Sitting at what we now call the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper, the Bible tells us, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’  Then He took the cup, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,’” (Matthew 26:26-28, NKJV).

Through all of the hints and teachings, if the disciples never really understood Jesus’ mission, He clearly lays it out here.  Through the bread, He showed the brokenness His body would endure.  Isaiah’s prophecy would soon be fulfilled.  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5, KJV).

With that fulfillment, a new covenant would begin.  God’s plan for salvation would once and for all be sealed by His shed blood.

Knowing that, after we arrive back to the point after His death, how must it have felt for Joseph of Arimathea to handle the lifeless body of the Savior, whom he has come to identify with, for he himself became a disciple also (Matthew 27:57)?

After His body was given to Joseph, the Bible says, “he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb.”  This is such a beautiful picture of the care and love for a Savior who gave it all up for him.

How are we handling the body of Jesus?

Joseph made sure it was wrapped in “clean linen.”  Through the brokenness of His body, we have been healed.  Through His shed blood, we have been washed.  We carry the Savior and His new covenant on the inside of us.  Have we wrapped Him in “clean” vessels?

David said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10, KJV).  The spiritual house on the inside of each of us has to be clean.  Dust particles of any works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) have to be removed.  “Such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:21, NKJV).  “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NKJV).

When God blessed us with the Holy Spirit, it’s as if we are taking on a part of Christ.  We can’t wrap Him in just anything.  We have to meticulously make sure what we wrap Him in is clean, using the same care that Joseph of Arimathea did.

Then, “he laid him in his new tomb.”  His refers to Joseph’s.  It was Joseph’s new tomb that Jesus was being laid in.  The vessel that Jesus was laid in was new.

When we have Christ on the inside of us we are not the same as we used to be.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).

In handling the body of Jesus on the inside of us, we have to act like He is in something new.  Renewed!  Not to continue in all that old, used stuff before we knew and received Christ.  But, brand new!

We’re not talking about refurbished or recycled to appear new.  The vessel that Joseph had to offer Jesus was new!  Remember, as Christians, we are that which has been made new.  Are we keeping it that way?  Are we handling the body of Jesus with great care?  Is He wrapped in cleanness and laid in the new?

How did Joseph feel?  Maybe a little in awe but mostly I feel (and it’s just my opinion) that he felt honored to be able to lovingly care for the body of the Lord.  To be able to hold that brokenness with the knowledge that He went to the cross and died for him and all humanity – priceless!

“This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me,” (Luke 22:19, KJV).  Don’t wrap Him in just anything.

Let’s take special care today for how we handle the body of Jesus in our clean and new vessels.  It was given for us, therefore, let us take care of it.

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“Rabbi, is it I?”

“Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, ‘Rabbi, is it I?'” Matthew 26:25, NKJV

Love betrayed. The betrayed and the betrayer locked in questioning gaze. A tension of certainty and doubt filling the air of what was to be a beautiful last dinner spent with His disciples.

On the one hand, is Christ. He has done nothing but show love, concern, and compassion toward all who met Him. From the miracles to the teachings, He has treasured each life that came across His path enough to compel Him to know that the cross was the only way to save them all. Love was His motto.

Then, there is Judas Iscariot. The betrayer. The sell-out. The one who was close to Christ but now has become an enemy of Christ. Selfishness is what compelled him to give it all up for thirty pieces of silver. Gain and greed were his mottoes. Love didn’t matter anymore.

The two together at dinner with the question in the air:

“Rabbi, is it I?”

Have you ever felt the sting of betrayal by someone to whom you have poured out love? It doesn’t feel good. Our Lord amazes me! He knew all things and yet subjected Himself to all things. He carried it all to the cross with the burgeoning of love in His very being. He suffered affliction, ridicule, and torment. Yet, those He loved and walked with these three and half years of His earthly ministry are nowhere to be found. One sold Him out and the others fled or denied Him altogether.

“Rabbi, is it I?”

Love causes us to do some crazy things. Love makes us suffer long with people who have worked our last nerve. Love keeps us from giving up and giving in. Love centers us back to the real mission at hand: which is to love some more.

Love caused Christ to look into the face of His betrayer and say, “You have said it.” Love put the plan in motion that will pay the price for it all. Love gave the okay for the process to start, redeeming man from themselves and the sin that had them bound.

Have you ever wished you could save someone you love from the mistakes they are making? Has the love you shown over the years not reaped the rewards you were hoping for? Has the one you loved turned their back on you?

Feelings that come from these questions don’t feel good. No more for us than they did for Christ. But, when we view His life and all that He dealt with in light of our questions, it breathes a new life of appreciation in all that He has done for us.

“Rabbi, is it I?”

We have not always been our best. We have not always crossed every T or dotted every I, yet, He continues to love. We have not always followed every command or taken every stand that we ought to, yet, He continues to love.

The next time when the love we shed for another seems to be all for naught, remember Christ. Remember how His love was betrayed. Remember how His love was afflicted. Remember how His love compelled Him to continue.

Remember all He did for every one of us despite us not being at our best. Let the knowledge of His love cover us today. Yup, it hurts sometimes but let that knowing what He did for us compel us to act as He did – with Love!

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

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“Focus Shift!”

 

“It’s all in how you look at it.”  At least, that’s what I hear some say.  Perspective, if you will, changes one’s outlook on a lot of things in life.

How do you view the position you are in now?  Is everything going okay for you or are you finding yourself fighting through, just trying to make it to the other side of adversity?

Perspective.

It’s rather hard to see the glass as half full when you feel half empty.  To imagine a silver lining when in all honesty all I see is dark clouds.  And, somebody must have put a rock at the end of my tunnel blocking out all light because I just don’t see it.

Perspective.

How we feel matters, but then again, it doesn’t matter.

When we feel positive and optimistic it is easy for us to shower others with attention and be pressed into service for their needs.  But, when we are in the midst of trials and travail, the negative and pessimistic seem to take up residence in our being, hindering us from bothering with anyone else other than ourselves and our own needs.

As I was pondering this I thought about Jesus on the cross.  It dawned on me, in the midst of the worse thing He would ever have to endure, how much He had a focus shift.  How much He paid attention to the needs of others despite what He was going through.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” (Luke 23:34, NKJV).

Focus shift.  Instead of ranting and raving, Jesus, in His agony and pain sought the betterment of the very ones who were killing Him.  He knew He would die.  He knew the pain would not cease until He did.  This plan was going to go forth.  Yet, He focused on the needs of others rather than Himself.

How awesome is that?  Often, we hear these words during a Seven Last Words service on Good Friday, but can we even begin to imagine the strength and willpower it took for Jesus not to focus on Himself during that time?  For Him to look beyond what He was currently going through to care for and about others?  I don’t think we have a clue.  He immediately pleaded with the Father for their forgiveness.

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’   And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home,” (John 19:26-27, NKJV).

This is a blessed Son indeed.  Women in biblical times had no authority or protection if it were not for certain members of the family establishing care for them.  This is what we see Jesus doing here.  What did His mother have to endure?  Any mother out there knows and can sympathize with the sheer agony of heartbreak that Mary must have been going through.

He had to go.  He had to die.  But that didn’t make it any easier for her to comprehend.  It didn’t soothe the heartbreak at all!  A mother’s love doesn’t work like that.  It’s a special connection of heart that starts at the time of conception and never leaves her.  Jesus knew she needed special care.  This woman who had raised Him and loved Him through it all needed to be looked after in a special way.

In His time of desperation, it is a blessing that He shifted the focus and thought about Momma!

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43, NKJV).

Sinner.  Thief.  Criminal.  Yet, on the cross, he got the attention of Jesus.  How?  He had a repentant heart.  No matter what Jesus was going through He could never turn a blind eye to the one who wants to get right with God.  To the one who bears true, sincere, godly sorrow for all that he has done.

At that point in time, Jesus had been on the cross for a while.  How hard would it have even been for Him to push the air out of His lungs to form the words, “You . . . will . . . be . . . with . . . Me . . . in . . . Paradise?”  His body was fighting against Him in the battle between death and life, yet it was as if He couldn’t be bothered with the demands of His personal pain.  Somebody was seeking salvation, even in this late hour, Jesus stepped up the plate to care for the other man’s needs.  Focus shift.

Jesus knew what He was going through.  He wasn’t blind to the fact that He was in pain.  It’s what He CHOSE to do in spite of it all.  He CHOSE to focus on others!

You know what you are going through.  And, I’m sure you are not blind to the trouble you may face today.  But, what about others?  I observe people very closely.  Sometimes I wonder why does that man have sad eyes?  What thoughts are going through the one sitting on the steps over there?  That lady wrestling with a stroller, shopping bags, and kids on the bus stop, what does she have to face when she gets home?  I try to think about the “behind the scenes” of a person’s life.

Am I always successful?  No, but I do try very hard to be compassionate toward the people I come across.  We never know what someone is going through.  We never know when someone needs us to pay a little attention to them.  Jesus showed us that we can do that even in the hardest of times.

A tall order to fill?  Yes!  But one that will make a great impact in the lives we come across today.  You can even start right in your own home.  How can we pay more attention to the needs of those around us?

“It’s all in how you look at it.”

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What Would It Have Been Like? – “In the Garden with God”

 

One of my favorite times of the day is waking up.  Not the actual waking up part (sometimes that’s a little hard 😉 ), but when I finally get up, I get to draw back the curtains and see the new day.  It’s untouched.  It’s filled with hope and promise.  Whatever happened yesterday is not here for this is today.  It’s that freshness that draws me in and gets my soul stirred for the possibilities ahead.

When we go on vacation one of the places we stay at is a condo in the mountains.  It’s so peaceful.  With coffee in hand in the morning, I head out onto the balcony and sit to admire the new day.  The only thing I hear is the birds singing their song.  The deer break twigs and rustle leaves when they walk.  Sometimes you see the groundhogs and other animals eating their meals for the day.  You get this sense about you that this is the way it was meant to be.

And it makes me wonder about a time when all days were meant to be like this.  When there was a time when all days started in innocence and nothing was yet corrupted.  When there was a time that man walked freely in the Garden with God.

I love gardens and I declare one day I will have a nice one.  I’m working on it.  We were meant to live the garden lifestyle.  We were designed to reign in innocence and peace.  The world we live in today contradicts the fellowship we were created to have with God.  We were to have an up-close relationship with Him.  After the fall the Bible tells us,  “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Gen. 3:8).

Let your mind go back, not to the sin, but to the experience of being with God in the garden.  Adam and Eve experienced God on a level that no other being will have the privilege to.  Surely this was not the first time God had paid them a visit in this fashion for they knew what it sounded like when they heard Him in the garden.  They had a realistic divine view of the Almighty here on earth.

What would it have been like to have the Sovereign of the universe, day by day to come and see about me?  What would it have been like to verbally hear the mouth that spoke things into existence speaking to me?  What would it have been like to hear Him moving among the garden with my own ears and to know it was the Lord?  What would it have been like?

There, thinking back before the Fall, fellowship with God was uninterrupted by evil.  There the beauty of all God is could be seen by those He created.  There, peace was the predominant feeling because the shaker of peace had not entered the scene.  There, God spoke directly to man unhindered by fleshly desires.  There, it’s hard to imagine, but life was nothing but good because the man knew nothing but God.

Imagine the best backyard barbeque.  We sit around laughing and enjoying the company of others.  Not that we are bringing the Sacred down to our level but in our finite understanding can we imagine in the garden, Adam and God chit-chatting about the day, about the animals, or about life in general?  Can we imagine the way Adam’s heart must have felt assured every time He heard the voice of God speak to him?  Can we imagine that when Eve was presented to her husband there was no fear, only love, because that’s all they ever received was love on the earth?  Can we really imagine?

It may be hard for our minds to fathom such an age of innocence and honesty.  It’s hard for us to see what this must have been like because now our view has been corrupted by sin.  But I imagine it was glorious.  It was nothing like we’ll ever know here on earth.  In that garden, during that time, beauty is all that was seen with our eyes and with our hearts.  God was all that was known.  Oh, imagine.

It’s hard to put into words when everyone was right before God.  It’s hard to describe from one’s soul a place of longing but never viewing.  It’s hard to capture the essence of what being with God was like there, and yet my heart still yearns to know what would it have been like?

What do you think it would have been like to see the world at its best?  What do think it would have been like to fellowship with God at your best?  Where we live in the mid-Atlantic region we are expected to have rain most of the day.  Even in this dreariest of settings, I’m looking at the trees swaying outside my window and imagining the beauty of that time.  I guess that’s what it would have been like, beautiful because everything was in harmony with God.  Beautiful represents their relationship with God and it represents the surroundings that God created for them.

One day we will experience that garden lifestyle again, that age of beautiful unbroken relationship with Him when we meet Him in our heavenly home.  And I can’t wait.

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“You are not forgotten!”

“Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;” Job 29:2

Have you ever experienced these same thoughts that Job expressed?  Have difficult times ever made you look back to the times before when you felt everything in your world was right?  When adversity strikes and when we deal with things we do not understand, I’m sure many of us, like Job, take our mind’s eye to those past days when trouble wasn’t knocking on our door.

The difficulty of the days he was presently in caused Job to look at those previous times as times of favor, saying, that’s when “God preserved me”.  But now, his expressions tell a different story of what his feelings are feeling.  His troubles caused him to think that just because he was going through adversity, God was not as presently with him as before.

Little did Job know, and many times we need to be reminded, that just as God was with us in the good times, so too is He with us in the troubling times.  It may look different than we are used to seeing it, and it may feel different, but just because we don’t understand and may question, it doesn’t negate the fact that God is presently near, and watching, and keeping His people.

Jesus taught, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). 

A bird sold is not forgotten before God, and neither was Job, and neither are you.  Our value before God is so precious and so much more than we could ever imagine.  The clouds that come during those dark days may try to hide that fact, but the truth of God’s Word is a fact, that no matter how we feel or how hard it may seem, God is still there for you.  Even if you are dealing with hurtful situations and even if you feel like you have been wronged, God’s loving eyes see and His precious hands are working behind the scenes, holding you, loving on you, and valuing you when others may not.

Difficult times are difficult because they are not easy.  During these times, see Him with eyes of faith.  See that He is still with you and that you have not been left in this alone (Hebrews 13:5).  Take your cares, your disappointments, your hurts, and your discouragements to God in prayer.  He is there listening.  And trust me, He does cares.

Just because it hurts it does not mean He’s not feeling what you are feeling (Hebrews 4:15).  And just because we can’t figure out all this stuff, God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we must trust Him with it, and with all the times in between.

God is here for you today, God is here.  Regardless of what you feel or are going through, you are not forgotten.

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isaiah 49:15

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“Stop A Thief!”

Life lessons have the funniest way of coming to mind. And when children are involved, it can be downright hilarious. One day I had a lot of trash and recycling to take out because it was cleaning day (ha, as if every day isn’t cleaning day). I couldn’t carry it all so I had to make two trips. First, I took out the trash and placed it in its receptacle. As I came back in the house, standing at the door in some sort of karate position, like she wanted to attack me, was my nine-year-old (at that time). I believe I just smiled and proceeded to get the recycling. After delivering it to where it belonged, once again, coming back into the house, there was my daughter again, in her homemade-karate-ready-to-attack-mode. I said, “What are you doing?” She responded, “I thought you might be an intruder.” Why she thought that I will never know, but her actions and words, though done and said in fun, really stuck with me and brought to mind this verse: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). 

We have a lot of things, people, and circumstances that try to intrude on what Christ has already secured for us. But, how diligent are we to stand against them to protect that abundant life? Do we stand at the door, in position, to fight against any who seek to rob us of this joy?

Complacency seems to be the motto for most. Many discuss and debate for change, yet, it is often a road that goes unpaved. Oh, we complain about it. We become filled with rhetoric of the “If it were me…” statements. But, do we actually do anything about it? No. We accept things as it is.

The case gets even sadder when we realize our abundant life is at stake. Through Christ we have an overflowing promise doled out to us, but it is often picked away by thieves a little at a time until we have nothing left. That same complacent spirit that has invaded the world tries to take over our view of our promise and lulls us into an accepting attitude.

I will tell you this that kind of attitude will get you robbed over and over again. The only way to stop a thief is to proactively protect what is rightfully yours. 1 Peter 5:8 admonishes us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word vigilant screams at us to be on guard!

Both of these verses point out the main thief, the main initiator, the ring-leader of the robbery ring is the devil. Those things, people, and circumstances I referred to in the opening are often the tools he uses to steal from us. Sometimes we think of how much better life would be if it weren’t for any of these hinderances that others or circumstances may introduce. A lot of the time that part is not going to change, but how we respond makes all the difference in the world.

1 Peter 5:9-10 discusses this, saying, “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you!” The word “resist” reinforces the idea of constantly being on guard against the thief and not giving him access to your possessions. While being “steadfast in the faith,” gives us that karate chop of defense. It fortifies us in Him and gives us the endurance to keep on fighting. “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren,” opens our eyes to the reality that we are not in this alone. We are not the only ones struggling. Sometimes, that realization alone gives us the motivation to keep on pushing forth.

Here’s the really beautiful part: “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” Effectively putting you in the position to “stop a thief.” The abundant life is ours, but there are also some who want to steal it. Our job is to “resist” and to remain “steadfast in the faith.” When we do that, it is God who perfects us, establishes us, strengthens us, and settles us! Now, that’s the karate chop that will keep intruders at bay!

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Purpose in the Struggle

Why, we may wonder, why God does not just remove every obstacle and resistance to our faith?  Why in this journey must we fight?  Why must we strive against adversity in reaching where we are aiming to be?

Can a faith that is not exercised truly be called faith?  For if the road traveled is always smooth and the pathways are always leveled plains, how then will we ever learn to climb?  How will we learn to exert our muscles and pull our weight to mount upon the top? 

More strength only comes by using more strength.  More faith only comes by being forced to use more faith.  We can only learn to climb by experience.  We can only learn to push ahead by continuing to push ahead.  We can only learn to fight by being made to fight.

There are things that God knows His people will only learn by going through them.  That’s why Judges 3:2 says, “Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;”. 

When we are choosing multiple services in life we tend to want to choose those with experience.  Take getting a simple hair cut for example.  We want those who have had plenty of practice perfecting their skill before attempting to put scissors near our head that could alter the way we look for good or for bad.

God has many plans and purposes for His people but what we fail to see or have the patience for is the seasoning of the saint, the molding and perfecting that goes on behind the scenes.

I guarantee no one whom you have read about or see, who is doing great exploits for the Lord, just fell into that role ready to go.  There was some teaching.  There was some humbling.  There was some learning along the way.  It may have been behind closed doors and away from the eyes of the public, but God takes the time to make sure His vessels are properly prepared to go forth and hold all the potential and purposes He has for them.

The children of Israel might have been concerned as to why certain enemies were left in the neighboring surroundings.  By them, God was testing His people.  By them, God was teaching those to war who had never known war before.  God was causing faith muscles to be exercised.  He was training hearts to not focus on what they see in the enemy but on what they know about their God.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12).  There is no struggle or contention that does not come without a purpose.  Though it may not be pleasant it is plentifully seasoning your walk with the Lord.  Like the children of Israel, it is teaching your hands to war.

One can never be a good soldier without ever facing contentions.  One can never learn to fight unless they have been made to fight.  One can never learn to pray in earnest if they never had that petition that would draw them to the knee with fervency.  And one could never learn to seek and lean on Him if their heart were never stirred to do so through the challenges faced.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:6-7).  It may not always feel like it, and it may not always feel good, but there is purpose in the hardships we face, especially when it comes to our faith which is found more praiseworthy in the eyes of Christ than gold that will perish.

Sometimes we may not understand everything and we may ask, “Why?”  But as we journey, may our eyes never leave Him who promised and is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  Take heart, dear friend.  Through it all, at the end of our Christian race, we may look back and see the fruit those hard times produced, and we may see the purpose in the struggles.

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

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“Not a word of God’s promises will fail!”

 

“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass,” Joshua 21:45

The waiting – sometimes excruciating. The battles – hard-fought and horrendous. The enemies – many. The hopes and dreams of a people once enslaved – building. The promise – within sight. Victory – obtained. Possession – now.

The journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land had not been a road easily traveled. Through it all, they struggled with discouragement and wrestled with obedience. Battles ensued, some won and some lost. Crossing the Red Sea; crossing the Jordan. Walls were brought down at Jericho and lives fled at Ai. The sun stood still during the fight and kings were conquered. Now, they are at the promise but the road there was not easy.

The children of Israel and their excursion to the Promised Land, their struggles with the flesh and their attitudes, and holding onto hope while waiting for obtaining the promise reminds me of our Christian journey. The promise is before us but the road is not paved with ease and comfort as some would have you believe. The path we walk takes effort, sometimes great effort. The trials we face are often difficult. But the faith we hold onto is assured.

If life never threw you any curve balls then I wonder if you were in the game at all. What does that mean? There are a lot of messages that we hear that tickle the ears making the hearer believe that they will never suffer hardship on this Christian journey. It leaves the hearer bewildered when they do face difficulties. They are taken aback when struggles come to their home. They believed they would coast on through without any road closures or stumbling blocks. Discouraged, many throw their hands up in defeat before they obtain the promise.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, KJV). You see, we have an assurance of a great promise at the end of our journey, but Jesus was very real and upfront to let us know that road won’t always be easy. Jesus led no one into a false sense of security that they would never have to experience any adverse circumstances. He said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.”

Before reaching the Promised Land and even to the point of laying hold of the promise, the children of Israel had to fight their way through. But the Bible tells us, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” They eventually were able to fully experience everything their souls had been longing for on that journey. The sights, the smell, and the taste of victory were theirs for their enjoyment. They had the good thing that God had promised.

I write words of encouragement in case you are in a curveball state; in case you have been sidetracked by unexpected discouragement. Still press forth in the journey. Don’t give in at the sight of struggles. Be determined in the forward march. Not a word of God’s promises will fail for you either. In fact, Psalm 84:11 says, “For the LORD is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” (KJV).

Keep your head above water and float on the promises of God who said, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deut. 31:6). I can’t promise you million dollars or that you will never spend nights crying over life, but I can promise that Jesus will be with you even to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20, KJV.

We have the blessed assurance of every promise that God has bestowed upon us. When adversity comes, know that you are not the only one going through it. Sometimes the journey will be harder than we like it to be, yet the assurance remains the same. In the end, if we hold on to our faith despite what our eyes are seeing right now, the promise is ours. “All came to pass,” for the children of Israel and it will for us too. “Be of good cheer,” Jesus said. “I have overcome the world!”

Copyright © Word For Life Says.com (Sharing any posts or lessons can only be done through the share buttons provided on this site from the original posts, lessons, and articles only. You can reblog from the original posts only using the reblog button provided, or share using the share buttons provided from these social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, etc., and they must be shared from the original posts only. All other repostings are prohibited. Posts and other items of interest found on this site MAY NOT BE COPIED AND PASTED, downloaded, uploaded, etc to another website or entity not listed (physical or electronic).  See COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.