Faith Forward – Part Two

Why are steps of faith so hard, especially at first? Why is it that so many of us don’t go, even when we think we’re suppose to? Even though we’re Christians, and we’re seeking God and asking His Spirit to guide us, and we feel something deep inside us that’s leading us to go and we earnestly believe it’s Him – what is it that keeps us from going? I can’t speak for you. But for me, when that happens, it’s because I’m afraid. I don’t always know what I’m afraid of but I’m afraid. I’m insecure. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out. I rationalize my way out of it, telling myself I can always do it later. After all, I am busy.

But those are just excuses. The bottom line is I don’t have faith. Here’s why that is such a big problem: “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” (Hebrews 11:6). You want to please God. You believe He exists. You’ve been seeking Him. You’ve asked for His direction. Now you need to apply faith! Take that step, make a change, move outside your comfort zone, risk failing and starting over and exercise faith in the God who loves you so much He gave His Son for you. 

Maybe you’re thinking, I just don’t think I have that kind of faith. I for sure don’t have the faith to finish something like what He’s calling me to. Then I have great news for you: you don’t have to have the faith to finish; you only have to have enough faith to start. You need only enough faith for one step: the very first one.

Take the first step of faith. Let God do the rest. He wants to anyway. This isn’t about you. It’s about Him. He’s the One telling the story of your life. He’s the Author. He’s the Perfecter of your faith.

Who knows where He’ll take your story if only you’ll let Him. Here’s how you can find out: take the first step, then just keep going. One day years from now, you’ll look back on your life and see the whole story. What’s it going to be?

“I felt like God was calling me, but I was afraid, so I did nothing”

Or will your story be, “I sensed God was calling me to do something, and even though it would have been easier to stay, by faith I went”?

You get to choose. Which will you pick? I pray that by faith you’ll have the courage to start a discipline that changes the direction of your story. I pray that by faith you will stop something that hinders your story from being what God wants it to be. I pray that by faith you will have the courage to stay the course and be faithful where you’ve been planted,. Even when it would be easier to throw in the towel and just walk away. And when the time is right and God calls you, I pray that you will find the faith to go, even when it would be easier to stay.

Just take the first step. 

Faith Forward

If God is calling you to go, you’re going to have to leave where you are. And you sure don’t want to miss out on what He’s doing, Years from now, you could be looking back on this time in your life and realize, “That was the day my life and my story changed. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I decided it was what God wanted, and now I’m part if this great community of believers. I had no idea how different our lives would be.”

The key is that you will need to step out in faith – leaving what you know, what you are comfortable with, what you are good at – to reach forward and grab hold of what God is asking you to do. And, here is what I know: If you don’t try, you will never know what might have happened. You will live with regret always wondering “what if…”

What if God’s calling you to get involved in some ministry or even to start a new one? As soon as a few months from now, you could find yourself sharing your story:

      • “It blows me away how much it has already changed my life to serve inner-city kids.”
      • “I never would have guessed I had so much to offer the youth at my church.”
      • “I always felt like I should help repair cars for people in need. I don’t even know how it happened, but I started fixing cars for people on weekends, and all of a sudden, a whole bunch of other people pitched in. Now we have a blast together, and we’re impacting the lives of the families we’re serving.”

None of this can happen if you never take the first step. You need to move forward in faith. Faith Forward!

Take the first step. Quit making excuses. Whatever it is that you’re suppose to go and do, write it down and remind yourself what your heart already knows. There is this ‘direction’ in your heart calling you to move forward in faith. Everyone has one…

I know what it feels like to start asking yourself questions. “God, I’m afraid. I need details! What’s going to happen? What you’re asking me to do sounds hard.”

And God may answer, “First of all, I don’t give my children a spirit of fear, so that’s not coming from me. You don’t need details. You need faith. And yes, it will be hard. But I didn’t call you to an easy life. I called you to a faith-filled life. Put your trust in Me. Let Me handle the details. I’m pretty good at them.”

So, take that step of faith. Go, even when it would be easier to do nothing. Venture where God is calling you despite what others say. Trust Him with the details. Faith Forward.

As I have been writing this blog entry I have been thinking about the book writing I have been nibbling at. I think about it more than work at it. I love to write and work with words. I love to research and collect information. I love to organize and put thoughts and materials together and come up with something that will help others, teach others, encourage others. But, I am hesitant to disrupt the established routine and make a definite, foundational commitment to writing the books that I know He wants written and written by me. 

So, in my research for this blog I came across the following comment: “Is there a book burning inside you? Set the book free. Take the first step. Quit making excuses. Start writing some notes and getting your ideas organized during your lunch breaks. Then on evenings and weekends, or early in the morning before you go to work, fire up your laptop and write.”

Ouch!

Then I remembered that one of my favourite authors wrote his first book (first of very many) while working full time in another professional job. He simply got up 30 minutes earlier and wrote one page a day. The book sold millions of copies and even became a popular movie produced by Hollywood. One page a day… 

So, I am taking my own advice – faith forward!

One Decision Away From…

The truth is each one of us is just one decision away from changing our lives forever. And, a second thought, your best decision is the one you’re about to make. For your life to be all that God wants it to be – that you want it to be – you need to understand that it’s the small choices no one sees that result in the big impact everyone wants. 

If there is a goal you want to achieve, you have to make decisions that will move you in the direction you want to go. These are not big decisions. They are actually every day, small, often mundane decisions. However, they add up and determine where you end up in life. Andy Stanley in his book “The Principle of the Path” puts it this way: “Direction, not intention, determines destination.”  And you set your direction in life one small decision at a time. 

If you want to take aim at the life you want to live, you have to make small, life-changing choices and then act on them daily. The best decision you can make is always the next one. Each decision should move you closer to becoming all that God made you to be, to turn your life in the direction of your goals and dreams  – and God’s plan for you. Most people look at others who are successful and figure they probably made just a handful of big, really important decisions. But the opposite is true. It’s the small choices no one sees that result in the big impact everyone wants. 

When you choose to forgive your spouse instead of holding on to resentment, no one sees that happen. But the evidence is clear in your marriage. People may tell you how great they think your kids are without ever realizing that their maturity happened over time, growing slowly out of small decisions, daily boundaries, and tiny course corrections you planted throughout their lives. Coworkers who see you get a promotion probably have no idea how many times you had to ignore workplace politics and just keep bringing your best every day. Even your friends who attend your college graduation might not appreciate just how many late nights you spent studying while it seemed like everyone else was procrastinating or partying.

If you could take a step back and look at your life, you’s see that every decision matters, even the little ones. Many of our daily choices happen invisibly, almost by default, like taking the same route to work every day or hopping onto social media every time we have a spare moment. Every day, we decide what to wear, where to park, when to schedule the next meeting, how to explain some report, what to eat for dinner. 

But it is critical to understand: these seemingly no-big-deal decisions add up over time. They become habits. And those habits have a cumulative effect, ultimately changing the story we tell with our lives and about our life. 

Let me give you a few examples of things people end up doing that, if they thought about it, they never would choose to do:

      • Most people who smoke never planned to become addicted to something that can kill them. They just decided to try it once to see if they liked it.
      • People who end up embezzling probably didn’t set it as a long-range goal to steal from their employer. Most likely they began by “borrowing” a little from petty cash to pay for lunch here and there.
      • People who have an affair didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “My spouse won’t mind if I get intimate with that hottie at the office.” It started back when they lingered a little after a meeting because they were enjoying the attention of a co-worker.
      • Most failed entrepreneurs probably didn’t include bankruptcy in their startup plans. They just went over budget to take a risk they didn’t properly evaluate.
      • People who find themselves hooded on prescription painkillers didn’t aspire to get arrested for driving under the influence and possessing illegal drugs. They were only looking for a little relief from chronic pain. 

It’s easy to observe problems like these and think, I would never do such a thing! Nobody wants to be that guy, the one who lost his marriage because of his secret porn addiction. No woman wants her story to include gossip, shoplifting, and alcoholism. It’s tempting to think there’s no way you could become addicted to cigarettes, embezzle from your employer, cheat on your spouse, overspend your corporate budget, or keep taking pain meds after the pain stops.

Most of us struggle to connect the small daily choices we are constantly making with the big differences we want to see in our lives. But the truth is you are one decision away from changing your life forever. And, your best decision ever is the one you’re about to make – intentionally or unintentionally (just by deciding to do nothing). 

So something to think about:

    • What is something you should “start” to do today?
    • What should you “stop” doing that will improve your daily life?
    • What is it you are wanting to run from but should really simply embrace and “stay”?
    • Where is God directing you to “go” in your walk with Him?
    • Is there someone you can “serve” in the Name of Jesus?
    • Who is it that God wants you to “connect” with?
    • What is preventing you from “trusting” God with your whole life?

Seven areas where decisions can result in a big impact.

Passion For God

I am amazed as I read Scripture of the passion that people had for the Lord. 

Paul states: “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Romans 9:3-4) He was offering to exchange his own salvation for the salvation of others.

Moses shared Paul’s self-sacrificing passion for others. He asked God to blot him out of His book if the Lord did not forgive the idolatrous Israelites in the Sinai desert (Exodus 32:32).

Then there are the many biographies that I read … Rosa Park who refused to give up her seat for a white person on a bus in the southern United States that began the Civil Rights Movement. A passion to make things right. Jim Elliot – a passionate follower of Jesus who went to share the Gospel with the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. And died for his faith and his love for others that motivated him to approach this remote tribe to share Jesus with them.

Today I read the story of a young man called Joseph – who lived in Africa… Let me quote the story as it appears in a book I am reading.

One day Joseph, who was walking along one of these hot, dirty African roads, met someone who shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him. Then and there he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Saviour. The power of the Spirit began transforming his life. He was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share that same Good News with the members of his local tribe.

Joseph began going from door to door, telling everyone he met about the Cross of Jesus and the salvation it offered, expecting to see their faces light up the way he had. To his amazement the villagers not only didn’t care, they became violent. The men of the village seized him and held him to the ground while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire. He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush.

Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a water hole, and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, found the strength to get up. He wondered about the hostile reception he had received from the people he had known all his life. He decided that he must have left something out or told the story of Jesus incorrectly. After rehearsing the message he had first heard, he decided to go back and share his faith once more.

Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began tp proclaim Jesus. “He died for you, so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God,” he pleaded. Again he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him, reopening wounds that had just begun to heal. Once more they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die.

To have survived the first beating was truly remarkable. To live through the second was a miracle. Again, days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness, bruised and scarred – and determined to go back.

He returned to the small village and this time, they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth. As they flogged him the third and possibly the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was that the women who were beating him began to weep.

This time he awoke in his own bed. The ones who had so severely beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health. The entire village had come to Christ.

Passion is not cheap. But it is real; it is priceless. It may cost your life, but it will save your soul. Generations of believers, now passed from the earth, handed down the gospel so that you could hear it. Now it’s your turn. 

You Are God’s Gift – Part Two

We know for certain that we are not made right with God by our good works. We are saved only by grace through faith. And while we’re not saved by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10). 

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Jesus instructs us to let our light shine so that others may see our good deeds and glorify God our Father.

Matthew 5:16 NLT “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Not only is God calling us to serve in His Church, He’s also calling us to serve as His Church. Don’t miss this important distinction. Yes, we have the honour of serving other believers inside the church, strengthening them to do the work and will of God. But our most important ministry doesn’t happen inside God’s Church. It happens as we are the Church, shining His light into a dark world desperate for His goodness. Our flame never diminishes when we light the fire of God’s love in someone else’s life; it only shines brighter. And when we decide that we want to be who God made us to be and to give our gifts away, He gives us even more opportunities to shine – and to be blessed by serving – in return.

No one intends to be a greedy, selfish person; we all justify our sinful decisions at some point. But the choices we make about serving others help us to take the focus off ourselves and to see the needs of those around us. You get to decide right now what your story will be, both the one you tell and the ones told about you. You can eat the fast food of selfish choices that tastes good in the moment, or you can eat the eternal soul food of serving others and grow closer to God.

For most people, the meaningful stories we have to tell involve doing things that matter. How often do you sit around with friends and brag about that time when you cheated to get ahead? Or that moment when you cut corners to get something you wanted? Those aren’t exactly things you’re likely to put in your highlight reel or your life story, are they? Chances are good that when you’re accepting some aware for job performance, you won’t be thanking all the coworkers you stepped on to get promoted.

No, the stories you love reminiscing about are the ones when you helped others, made a difference, lifted someone up. The times when you were a blessing to someone, when you were focused on others, when you served. The decision to serve may not feel natural at times, but when serving becomes our default ambition, we grow closer to God and experience more of who He made us to be.

The moments when you choose to serve others, to put their needs first, determine the kind of stories you tell tomorrow. And allows you to be God’s gift in someone else’s life. This is what we were created for. This is what brings great joy to the Father’s heart. This is how we and others give Him the glory that only He deserves. 

You Are God’s Gift – Part One

We are the Church. We don’t go to Church, we are the church. And since we are the church, God wants to use us to serve Him. And, we serve Him by serving others. We are His gift to the world which does not yet know Him. As we serve they see His love, His mercy, His forgiveness and will be drawn to Him.

And, He has given to us gifts that He wants us to use as we touch lives through serving. He wants us to use our gifts to strengthen the Body of Christ, the Church. And, of course, to reach out to others and fulfill the mandate of the Church to “make disciples of all nations.” 

God’s Word offers several different lists of spiritual gifts that God gives to people. One of my favourites is in Romans 12 – the motivational gifts that the Father gives to every human being. These are the gifts that determine who you are and what motivates you.

Paul tells the Roman Christians, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well (Romans 12:6 NLT). When you think about it, surely there are certain things that just naturally come easy to you. You’re wired to do things that other people can’t do, and they often admire that you can do those things.

Paul listed seven different gifts: “So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8 NLT my emphasis)

You likely have at least one if not two of these gifts. One of the ways to discover and remember which gifts are yours … Imagine you’re at a table in a restaurant with your close friends, about to share a delicious dessert. You see one of your friends is about to stick their fork into their piece of cherry pie. As the fork descends towards the dessert, you notice that the plate is dangerously close to the edge of the table. Before you have time to warn them, they push their fork into the pie and it plops into their lap. What you do next might be a clue to your gift or gifts.….

      • Do you jump up and offer to help? Do you grab a napkin and rush to do whatever you can to clean up the mess? If so, you probably have the spiritual gift of serving.
      • Do you look at the poor victim and offer wise advice? “You know, there’s really a better way to eat pie. First, you should always keep it half an arm’s length from the edge of the table.” If you’re inclined to lead a Bible study on the subject, you might say, “You know, this incident reminds me of when Jesus gathered His disciples at a table. In fact, I discovered that the Greek word for table is…” If you find yourself offering instructions, you likely have the gift of teaching.
      • If you slap your leg, laugh out loud, and exclaim that you’ve done far dumber things, because you want to make your friend feel better about what happened, you probably have the gift of encouragement.
      • If you offer to buy your friend another piece of pie and then offer dessert to everyone else at the table, you can be pretty sure you have the gift of giving. (Or a sweet tooth and a giver’s heart).
      • If you start organizing a crew, getting everyone else to follow your detailed instructions to clean things up, you have the gift of leadership.
      • And if you look on and say, “Wow, I can’t believe you didn’t notice how close your plate was to the edge of the table. You should have seen that coming,” chances are that you have the gift of prophecy.

No matter what your gift, God has given it to you not just to make your life better but to serve Him and others in the Church and in your neighbourhood. If you are just going to church and not serving, I can promise you that God wants to do more in you and through you. 

God wants you to serve in His Church. His Church is a body. And every member, every part is important. So if you are a part of a local church but you’re not serving, then something God wants accomplished isn’t getting done. Because God wants to use everyone – and that includes you – to serve in His Church. Because we don’t go to church; we are the church.

God uses His Church to feed and nourish His people. God wants you to contribute, not just consume. Your spiritual food is to do the will of God and to finish the work of the One who sent you.

What are some ways you’re serving others in your community? In your church? Where – or whom – do you sense God calling you to serve next? 

On a notepad or in a journal, describe a couple of places or ways you believe God wants you to serve others and His Church?

Time To Leave?

We seem to be in a season of change. A time when we are having to leave what we know. What is safe, comfortable, and secure. Or, at least, what we believe is safe, comfortable, and secure. I am sensing deep in my soul that it is “Time to Leave” what is known and stretch; reaching out to what is yet unknown. Unknown but challenging and certainly exciting.

What about you? Do you sense something new happening in your life? Can you smell the change in the wind? Even if you don’t feel like anything is different right at the moment, it’s always a good idea to keep your heart prepared for change. Because it happens to us all: a new step of faith, a new venture, a new opportunity.

You’ll face something new or different, maybe something you didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid change. Sometimes we’re called to stand our ground when change blows in, but many times we need to take a risk and step into the change. God may have planted a restless desire (what I call ‘Divine Discontent’) in you to serve Him in some surprising way. Maybe He’s given you a burden for a specific group of people or inhabitants of a special place. Maybe He’s calling you to go. Follow that hunch and see where it takes you. Take that leap of faith. Embrace the adventure. The best way to make a big jump is to get a good running start. 

There’s a great story in the Old Testament about Abram and Sarai (who later are renamed Abraham and Sarah) that I think illustrates this perfectly. In Genesis 12, God speaks to Abram. At the time, Abram was living in a town called Haran, but he was from a city called Ur of the Chaldees. Back in Abram’s hometown of Ur, the people worshipped a false moon god named Nannar.

What’s significant here is that the one true God chose to reveal Himself to Abram, a guy whose only exposure to religion was seeing people worship the moon. God gave Abram a very simple, direct command: walk away from everything you’ve ever known. “Leave your country and your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV emphasis mine).

Leave and go.

It may seem obvious, but to go somewhere else you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable, and what’s easy. To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security. 

Just imagine the kinds of things that must have been going through Abram’s mind. But I’ve lived here for years, God! I moved here with my dad. This is my home. I like it here. All my friends are here. My house is almost paid for. The schools are great. (I know Sarai and I were never able to have kids, but still.) My best friend lives right down the street from me. Over there is where I get my hair cut. I get my camels groomed just around the corner, and I really trust that guy. I don’t want to leave!

Abram had all these things he was used to. A life that was comfortable. And here comes God, calling him to go some place he doesn’t know anything about. But God makes Abram a promise. He says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).

I can imagine Abram talking back to God. “Say what? A great nation is going to come from us? Maybe you missed this, God, but uh, we have exactly zero kids. None. We’re childless. Sure, we tried for years – and trying was fun! But that never got us any results. Now here I am, seventy-five years old. It’s really kind of too late for us. Surely we can’t start having kids now. And you’re telling me you’re going to make us into a whole nation.

I wonder if you’ve ever made a promise to God like I have.

      • “God, if you’ll just help me pass this one test, I promise I’ll study next time”
      • “God, if you’ll just let me not get caught, I’ll never do this again, I promise”
      • Lord, if you’ll help me finish this big project for work, I promise I’ll start sooner next time”

I don’t know about you,, but most of the promises I’ve made to God didn’t stick. That’s because we’re not changed by the promises we make to God; we’re changed by believing the promises God makes to us.

Let’s look in verse 4 at what happens to Abram after God makes His promise:”So Abram left, as the LORD had told him to.” Simple as that. Just what God told him to do., Abram did. But what if he hadn’t? What if instead Abram had tried to rationalize everything? What might have happened?

Today, because of Old Testament tradition, we sometimes refer to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If Abram hadn’t gone, God wouldn’t have changed his name to Abraham later when He made a covenant with him (Genesis 17). There wouldn’t have been an Isaac. There wouldn’t have been a Jacob. We wouldn’t know God today as “the God of Abraham” because Abram would have continued serving his old moon god Nannar.

If Abram hadn’t had the faith to obey God and step out, who knows what consequences we might be living with today? Would you refer to as “the God of Carl, Alex, and Jeff?” We can’t know. Thankfully, because Abram had faith in the one true God, we don’t have to.

Where is God calling you to venture into new territory? We are entering into a season of change. Embrace it. 

God’s Ultimate Over Your Immediate

Here is something we all need to keep in mind: “You will very likely overestimate what God wants to do through you in the short run. But you will very likely underestimate what God wants to do through you in the long run.

Remember that ministry and impacting others with the Gospel of the Kingdom and the love of God is a marathon and not a short sprint. 

Our walk with God and our daily lives is really a series of small decisions that we make and choices that come along that don’t seem to be life-changing or earth-shattering. Just small every day choices and decisions that will determine the future that we will have. The impact we will have. 

There were two brothers – Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest and he was a hunter. He was, of course, his father’s favourite. And because he was the oldest son he was given very special treatment as he would be the heir to his father when Isaac died. He came in one day from hunting and was seriously hungry. He made one small decision that impacted the rest of his life and the history of the world as we know it. He traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. After all, he was hungry and was not thinking long-term or even short-term repercussions of this one decision.

The same is true of us. We generally have short-term vision and think only of the immediate need or want. We make decisions based on our feelings and current situation without much thought – if any thought – about what will change in the future because of this one small decision or choice that we are making in the immediate – the now! So, really we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us in every minor and major decision of every day.

Paul told us to “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT). As God’s Spirit guides us, we won’t be seeking the bowl of stew, another Oreo cookie, or a scoop of ice cream. The Holy Spirit replaces our lower, self-serving, demanding desires with God’s higher, Kingdom-serving, selfless ones.

Think about this for a moment. For centuries God’s name has often been tagged by the patriarchs who loved and served Him faithfully. You’ve probably heard God referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If you pause and reflect on the story we mentioned above, you’ll see something that will stop you in your tracks.

Esau was the older brother with the birthright. When Jacob tricked him into giving away his birthright, Esau traded the ultimate for the immediate. If he hadn’t made that devastatingly destructive shortsighted decision, throughout history you would have heard God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. Esau lost his standing.

You’ll be wiser. I know you will. When faced with temptations, you’ll look beyond the moment. You’ll remember that patience is better than power. Self-control is more important than conquering a city (See Proverbs 16:32). You’ll choose God’s ultimate over the immediate. You’ll never trade your birthright for a simply bowl of stew. You’ll no longer sacrifice your destiny for distorted or daily desires.

As you realize how much God has planned for you to do in this world, I pray you will live with a long-term perspective – a Kingdom perspective – making decisions that will honour God and propel you forward over time. You sacrifice your own ego-driven agenda in order to experience the perfect timing of God’s plan and purpose for your life. Instead of demanding that you want now, you’re often infinitely better off waiting. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (NLT).

Living with patience is better than muscling forward to demand what you want before the time is right. Self-control often unlocks the door to blessings that are longer lasting and more meaningful. Patience comes from knowing you already have enough of what you need the most because you are God’s child and He knows what you have need off even before you ask. And He has given to you all that you need certainly to life and to godliness. 

 

One Of Those Days!

Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

If you are having one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong and you are struggling just to stay sane and get through it without killing someone or simply giving up altogether …. Remember that you need to rise up, face the current ‘hard thing’ that is happening and let the ‘wind’ push you up and over. 

Years ago, during a particularly hard time, the Lord taught me that “dead fish float downstream.” And that “live fish swim upstream to span and birth new life.” Since then I have welcomed the hard days and simply see them as an indication that I am alive and facing a new challenge – another time to swim upstream and not give up and simply go with the flow and float downstream.

The truth is that life has a way of hitting us hard. You’re either coming out of a tough season, in the middle of a tough season, or heading into a tough season. How true!

I work hard to remember, in the midst of the hard time and current challenge, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks that question that then proceeds to answer it

Romans 8:32 “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”

Paul’s point is so urgent and all-consuming that the drives it home by asking…

Romans 8:35 “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

His answer is a definite NO! Paul tells us this in Romans 8:37….

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Another version – a bit more expressive and accurate to the original states- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

It’s important that we acknowledge that this promise is fulfilled not through our own power but through the power of the risen Christ, who loves us. If you follow Christ, you are more than a conqueror, more than an overcomer.

The little Greek word that appears in various translations as “conqueror,” “winner,” “victor,” or “overcomer” is the word niko, which means “to win, to be victorious, or to gain a surpassing victory.” But that’s not the word used in this passage. The word Paul uses here is hupernikao, which means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to gain a decisive victory, to conquer exceedingly.” With Christ, you are hupernikao! You are not going to just eke out some tiny, insignificant victory. No, you’re going to demolish the opposition. 

Your victory is the God kind of victory, where God vanquishes the opposition beyond recognition. Imagine Pharaoh’s army chasing the Israelites to the edge of the desert, and God parting the Red Sea in front of them. The Israelites cross on dry land, and the entire Egyptian army follows them in. Then God withdraws His hand, and whooooosh! all of them are washed away. It’s total victory!

Consider Gideon, God’s reluctant warrior, in my butchered paraphrase from Judges 6 – 8, God tells Gideon, “I want you to take on the Midianites.”

But Gideon responds, “I just can’t do it! I’m too scared!”

“No! You’re a mighty man of valour,” God tells him. “You might not believe it yet, but you are!”

“But I have only thirty-two thousand men!” Gideon whines.

God shoots back, “You’re right. That’s no good. That’s way too many for Me to get the glory!”

So God pares those down to just three hundred and tells Gideon, “Now, you guys take your weapons and your pitchers. Light some torches, cover them up, blow your horns, and break your pitchers.”

Gideon says, “Uh … I’m sure you don’t know what you’re talking about, but we’ll do it. You are God and everything … I guess.”

Then when Gideon’s men work God’s plan, the whole Midianite army turns on itself in confusion and wipes itself out. And that is hupernikao. That is who you are in Christ! You’re more than victorious., You are hupernikao

Now, what I’m not saying is that you’ll never have a hard time in life. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. Jesus makes it clear that “in this world you will have trouble.” But think about this for a minute: to be an overcomer, you have to have something to overcome. And Jesus continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Overnight Success?

Behind every great story there’s always another story. Rarely does success come without time, discipline, and hard work. Successful people often joke that they spent years becoming an overnight success. What many people don’t realize is that it’s the things no one sees that result in the things everyone wants. It’s the faithfulness to do mundane things well, to develop productive habits, and to remain faithful that eventually leads to success.

Old Testament prophet Daniel is a great example of this. Whether you know a lot or a little about Daniel, when you hear his name, you probably think, Oh, yeah . . . Daniel in the lion’s den. Any kid who grew up attending Sunday school or visiting vacation bible school, has heard the amazing story of Daniel surviving the night in a cave filled with hungry felines.

Let me refresh your memory, and then we’ll go back to the part many overlook. King Darius was the reigning king of Persia. As his kingdom grew, he appointed 120 satraps (similar to our present-day governors) to handle regional matters and help govern the people. The king then chose three administrators to oversee those 120 satraps. Daniel was one of the chosen leaders. Over time, by consistently serving the king with an excellent spirit, Daniel stood out among all the other satraps and administrators. Eventually the king decided to place Daniel in charge of the entire kingdom.

So Daniel was an overnight success, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t forget, there’s a story behind every story. Why was Daniel successful? Why was he favoured among others? Why did the king respect him so much? Promote him so quickly? Believe in his leadership? Why did God look favourably on Daniel? Why did God close the mouths of the meat-eating lions?

We find the answer in a part of Daniel’s story that many people skim over. His divine favour was the result of one small decision he made at some point in his life. We don’t know when Daniel made this decision or why. We don’t know whether someone helped him or he decided it on his own. All we know is that Daniel made one decision, starting one habit that changed his story.

As you might expect, the other leaders were fuming with jealousy of Daniel. The story continues, “Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, ‘Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.’” (Daniel 6:4-5)

Let’s consider for a moment some of the great qualities of our hero Daniel. Even though the other guys did everything they could do to find something wrong with him, they couldn’t find anything. Daniel was honest, trustworthy, and dependable in all that he did. He was exactly the type of person the king was looking to promote. So his opponents decided there was only one way they could trap Daniel into doing something worthy of punishment. They needed to devise a plan that involved his faith in God. They knew he wouldn’t do anything wrong. They were going to have to back him into a spiritual corner.

“So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:6-7)

The king apparently liked the sound of their plan because he agreed to their proposal. No one could pray to anyone but him for the next month. And so the plan to trap Daniel was set in motion. 

When Daniel heard about the new thirty-day restriction on prayer, he did the same thing he’d done three times a day for months, maybe years, possibly decades. Daniel went to his house and prayed to God.

As a result, Dan the Man was arrested and had to stare down the big cats and prove that God was his one and only. But think for a minute. It wasn’t just that Daniel wasn’t afraid of lions or had some super courage that mere mortals can never hope to attain. No, Daniel had started a regular practice much earlier in his life that helped him face this impossible situation. To others, prayer might have seemed insignificant. But to Daniel, it was a discipline that shaped his story.

We don’t know how many years Daniel had been practicing this habit, but three times a day, every day, Daniel stopped and looked toward heaven. He worshipped God. He aligned his heart with God’s heart. He sought God’s will to be done through his life. Because of Daniel’s consistent and prayerful focus, he grew as a God follower, as a person, and as a leader.

Daniel wasn’t an overnight success. He was able to stand tall because he’s faithfully knelt before the one true king. The small, daily discipline of prayer equipped him to face the big, scary test of those hungry lions, both the peers who were attempting to destroy him as well as the big cats in the arena. Starting something small and then faithfully continuing it made his story so rich that it’s been told for thousands of years now, and still counting.

The moral of the story: It’s the things not one sees that result in the things everyone wants.