When I was in my teens, I was in a scouting program through my church. I had a plan to get my Gold Medal of Achievement (Eagle Scout equivalent) before I turned 18. I had a lot of badges to get. One of them was the Bachelor merit. I had to plan three meals a day for the family, create a shopping list for it, go to the store to get it, prepare those meals, make my bed every day, clean the house, etc. Each merit had a list of activities that had to be done and signed off on before I could earn it.
It taught me to be goal oriented and to work well with lists. The downside of it is I got the mentality of a box checker. I thought all I needed to do to be successful was to check off certain boxes and it would happen. If I wanted to be more spiritual, I just needed to figure out which boxes to check and I’d be good. Do you ever feel that way? Do you think, “What do I need to do to be _________?” It’s the box checker mentality.
A box checker came to Jesus in Matthew 19, and he asked what he needed to do to get to Heaven. Jesus gave him a list of commandments to be checked off. Then in verse 20, he said he had checked off those boxes, and wanted to know what other boxes there were. Jesus told him to sell all he had and follow Him. He and the disciples were perplexed and wondered who could get into Heaven. That’s when Jesus told them that getting into Heaven isn’t about checking boxes.
In verse 26 Jesus said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (AMP). There is so much in life that isn’t about what we do, but what God does. We want to earn it, but it’s impossible. What do you need to do to get God to love you more? What do you need to do get His favor? We have this mind that says, “If I check off these boxes, then God will …” Jesus was saying go the rich young ruler, and to us, “Quit trying to check boxes.” When we do that, we think we can earn His favor or His grace, but they are gifts freely given. It’s hard to do, but we need to let God do what only He can do because it doesn’t depend on us.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Recently in our life group we were discussing prayer, when one of our pastors spoke up. He said, “Agreement is the seat of power when it comes to prayer. There is power when we agree with each other in prayer, and even more so when we agree with God.” I’ve found that if you have a body of believers around you, it’s fairly easy to find someone to agree with you in prayer regarding something. I’m called fairly often with a request to pray for something. It’s my honor to agree with someone in prayer. So much so, that I stop what I’m doing and we pray right then.
The harder agreement to be in is the one with God’s will. I don’t always know that, so I end up praying my will and hope it aligns with His. I’ve learned to pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane where I let God know my request, but then say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” That’s a hard prayer to pray if we’re honest, especially when we are praying over a loved one who is fighting for life. Praying for God’s will isn’t about trying to change the will of God, but rather praying for me to accept what God wants to do and to be in agreement with it.
Something I’ve done in my prayer life to help me pray the will of God, is to give him a blank page. I pray, “God, whatever it is that you want to write into my life according to your will, I give you permission. Do what you want, when you want. You know the things I’m praying for. Help me to know the things you want to do in my life and through me. I make myself available to your will.” Be careful praying this prayer. If you mean it, this will unlock the power of agreement with God in your life and things will happen.
In Matthew 18:19, Jesus said, “Again I say to you, that if two believers on earth agree [that is, are of one mind, in harmony] about anything that they ask [within the will of God], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (AMP). Because agreement is the seat of power in prayer, make sure you’re bringing someone else along to pray with you on the things that matter most to you. Beyond that, leave room in your prayers for God’s will to take place in your life. When our will conforms to His, it’s a powerful thing.
If something is lost in the house, my wife will tell you I’m not the greatest choice to search for it. I can look everywhere and not find it. Then a minute later, she’ll find it in an area where I looked. What’s the difference? I’m looking at things, and she’s searching for things. Unless there are lights from Heaven shining down on it, and angels singing, I’m not going to find it by scanning the area. When she searches, she’s lifting things up and going through everything.
So many of us search or seek God using my method. As believers, we are to continually seek God’s face and search for Him with our lives. We need to be God chasers who pursue His presence like the pearl of great price. I believe God rewards us and takes us to deeper levels of maturity when we seek out and search Him to know Him better. We can’t be satisfied with a surface level knowledge of who He is. There are greater depths to be searched and only those committed to searching Him out will know them.
Here are some Bible verses on searching for God.
1. But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
Psalms 40:16 NLT
2. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 HCSB
3. For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, “Seek Me [search diligently for Me and regard Me as more essential than food] so that you may live.”
AMOS 5:4 AMP
4. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.
Acts of the Apostles 17:27 NLT
5. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
1 CHRONICLES 16:11 AMP
Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Since I live in a major US city, I get to experience traffic on my daily commute. Because of that, my eyes have been trained to look at the car right in front of me when I drive. If you’ve ever taken Driver’s Ed or Defensive Driving, you know that’s not a healthy driving habit. You should be looking about 10 to 30 seconds ahead while driving. People who drive with their eyes looking at their immediate situation tend to have more wrecks and tickets. Plus, I find it scares your wife a lot!
What’s true in driving, is true in life. There are people who get so caught up in their current situation that they lose sight of the future. Their present situation is all they can see, and they’re constantly living in fear of having an emotional wreck. Because they haven’t trained their eyes to look forward, it’s hard to imagine a positive future. Life becomes an emotional roller coaster with a pessimistic view of the world. That’s exhausting and not how God wants us to live our lives.
God wants us to train our eyes to look beyond our present circumstances and troubles. He wants us to look further down the road so we can see that our current situation is only temporary. In the bigger picture, we can see His hand directing our life with purposeful movement. II Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).
When your current situation becomes overwhelming, look ahead to joy that’s coming because what you’re going through now is only temporary. This too shall pass. God uses these times to build character, perseverance, endurance and hope in us. Each circumstance you go through has a purpose that God is using for your good and for the good of others. The next time you get caught up looking at the present, remind yourself to look ahead. You are more than your present situation. There’s a bigger picture God is working on.
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
I’ll never forget a minister who came to work at our church when I was younger. They felt that God had called them to our town and our church. Not long after they had uprooted their family from their hometown and moved to ours, things started to go wrong. Their car broke down, the AC in the house went out, etc. It seemed that for a year nothing went right and everything was against them. They concluded that they missed God and weren’t supposed to be there. They resigned and moved back to where they lived before.
I remember talking to them about it, and decided to label it Jonah Syndrome. They believed if bad things were happening, they must have missed God or disobeyed Him. My response was that bad things happen, and that it could be an attack to try to make them ineffective at what God had called them to do. To this day, I believe they didn’t think that bad things happen to people who are in the will of God. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who believe that. The truth is that we need to get rid of the Jonah Syndrome.
All of the early disciples, and most of the Early Church, suffered hardships. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead and had disagreements with the leadership of the Church. Bad things happened to him constantly in the New Testament. He even had one nagging problem that he said was a “thorn in his flesh”. He asked God to resolve and remove the problem, but God didn’t. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 12, He replied to Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (AMP).
I like how Psalm 34:19 says, “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all” (GNT). You and I are going to go through suffering and have our own thorns in the flesh. It doesn’t mean we are not in God’s will, it means that we need to learn to trust His grace. Jonah was running from his calling. That’s why he suffered. If you’re trying to do what God called you to and you’re running into troubles, ask God for His grace to help you endure. It could be that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough and the enemy is trying to stop you. Above all, seek God’s wisdom in the matter and trust His answer.