On one of my very first days of living in Cairo, Egypt, the youth pastor took me and three others,who were interns as well, to lunch. After lunch, she took us outside and got in a taxi. As we started to get in with her, she handed us a piece of paper with her address on it. She said, “Y’all get another taxi and have them take you here.” With that, her taxi took off and we were left standing on the side of the road in a foreign country. At that moment, I realized I knew absolutely nothing in Arabic.
I couldn’t say, “yes” or “no” even. As we looked at license plates, I noticed that I couldn’t even recognize the numbers. How were we going to communicate with the taxi driver? After we got in the taxi, we told him the address. He asked if we spoke Arabic. We shook our heads no. We quickly figured out that he was not from this part of town. He drove around aimlessly and stopped for directions a few times. We began to get scared because we had no idea where we were, where we were going or how to get there if we could communicate. We were completely disoriented.
In the process, we saw most of the town where we would be living for the next year, we bonded with each other and laughed about it later, much later. It reminded me of what God does with us sometimes. He gives us instructions that don’t make sense, puts us in situations that we don’t understand and asks us to do the impossible with very little instructions. It can be disorienting and scary. It can be stressful for us as well because we can’t see where He’s leading. We have families to feed, people who depend on us and safety nets that we’ve built. Why does God move us out of those comfortable situations?
I heard the answer in our Bible study. The author said, “God will sometimes disorient us in order to re-orient us. We can become too dependent on the things we’ve built for our own security and that causes us to trust God less. Jesus constantly said and did things that disoriented His disciples. He took men who were used to being on the water and gave them land legs. He taught in people’s homes instead of always doing it in the synagogue. He referred to God as “Father” instead of Yahweh. He hung out with sinners instead of the righteous. He challenged their entire way of life so He could re-orient them into the life He wanted them to live.
What’s happening in your life right now that doesn’t make sense to you? Where has God moved you that is away from the comfort zone you built? God has not left you and isn’t allowing things to happen to you randomly. He is re-orienting your life to a deeper trust in Him. He is re-orienting your faith to give you a stronger trust in Him. He is redirecting your life to the path He wants you on so you can accomplish all He has for you. Trust that He sees the whole map of your life and knows when you need to be re-oriented. Feeling lost temporarily can bring a greater direction to your life. Trust what God is doing.
I was recently asked the question, “Do you believe what you see or do you see what you believe?” I know you may have to read that again to catch it. It took me a minute. When I see a wall, I believe what I see so I don’t walk into it. It’s usually strong enough that I can’t walk through it. When I see an impossible situation, I have to be careful not to use my physical eyes to look at it because it’s actually spiritual. When the doctors say it’s a 99% chance that something is cancerous, I use my spiritual eyes to see what I believe. They just gave God one percent to work with. I’ve seen Him do more with less.
Each of us have a choice in how we see things. We can choose to look at physical situations like that and believe what we see or we can see what we believe. I have to constantly check myself and ask God, “Am I looking at this situation through the right eyes? How do you see this?” I want to make sure I’m on God’s side and that I see what He does. I want to make sure that if there is a chance for Him to act, I give it to Him. The last thing I want to do is act on what I see because I believe it. Does God believe it?
In Joshua 9, the Israelites were going through the Promised Land and fighting against every city. They were moving in and kicking the others out as God commanded. God spoke to Joshua and gave him battle strategies. Joshua would consult Him for everything. When the other army out numbered him, he chose to see what he believed and it led to victory each time. The people of nearby Gibeon heard what the Israelites were doing and wanted to make peace in order to live. They knew that the Israelites were not making treaties with anyone so they decided to trick them.
They sent a convoy of people with stale bread, old wine and worn out clothes. They asked for peace and the Israelites asked, “How do we know you aren’t from around here?” They pointed to the bread, wine and clothes and said they were all fresh and new when they left. Verse 14 says, “The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn’t ask God about it.” They looked with their physical eyes and believed what they saw. Had they asked God, they would have seen what it really was. They would have seen what they believed and acted accordingly.
What situation are you faced with today? What eyes have you been looking at it with? I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see it as He does. Ask Him to help you see what you believe rather than to believe what you see. There is no situation that is impossible for God. There’s nothing you are going to face today that He can’t make a way out of. There’s no report that can be given to you that He can’t refute or change. It’s all in how you choose to see it. So I now ask you, “Do you believe what you see or do you see what you believe?”
Epaphroditus is one of the lesser known people mentioned in the Bible. He was barely mentioned at the end of Philippians 2. From what Paul tells us, we can tell that he was a former soldier possibly from the Praetorian Guard. We also know that he was a believer in Christ and a big help to Paul. We don’t know how he was saved or how he ended up in Philippi, but we know that he was willing to give his time, energy and life for the sake of Christ because verse 30 said he risked his life for the work of Christ.
He is a great example of giving for each one of us. We don’t have to have a lot in the bank to give something. We can be like the widow who gave her two mites in the offering. Jesus said she gave more than all the others. We can be like the churches in the New Testament who gave to the apostles as they spread the Gospel. Without their contributions, the Early Church wouldn’t have had the ability to spread like it did. We can be like Epaphroditus who gave of his time and talents to help others.
God isn’t so much concerned with how we give as He is with us just being givers. I heard a phrase yesterday that sparked something in me. It said, “We need to be go givers instead of go getters.” The world tells us to be go getters. “Take all you can, save up your money, get rich and live in luxury.” But that’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.” His point was that we shouldn’t be tied to earthly wealth. We shouldn’t store up everything only to make ourselves comfortable. We should be mindful of others and store up our treasures in Heaven.
I’m not saying that saving money is bad or even having a lot of money is bad. I believe God blesses each one of us according to our abilities and willingness to give. If you want more of what you have, give it away. If you want to know what it’s like to have the windows of Heaven opened up and blessings poured out that you can’t contain, then give. Give your time, your talents, your abilities, your money or whatever God asks you to give. He is interested in our ability to trust Him for our needs rather than for us to feel self sufficient in our own abilities to accumulate wealth or to develop talent that will get us where we want to go.
One of my favorite phrases from one of my favorite hymns says, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” God’s love for us outweighs anything we could ever do to repay Him. The least we can do is to give back to Him what He has blessed us with. For Epaphroditus, that was his life in service. For the widow, it was all the money she had. For the Early Church, it was their possessions. Each of us have a choice. We can be like the rich, young ruler and walk away sad because we’d rather be a go getter or we can choose to be a go giver. We can be someone who stores up treasures in Heaven through giving. What will you give to God today?
I love watching the Olympics because I love sports, competition and people performing at their best. I don’t celebrate when people from other nations fall or mess up. I’m sure it’s devastating to them. They’ve spent a lifetime trying to perfect a skill and then, when the whole world is watching, they slip up and fall. We shouldn’t celebrate when anyone messes up simply because we don’t like them, are in competition with them or they’re from another country. We should celebrate with those who win and help those who didn’t.
I read the story of Dario Cologna from Switzerland. He won the gold medal in men’s cross country skiing. After skiing 15 km (9 miles), he, like everyone else collapsed at the finish line. He had given it his all. Instead of going back to get a massage or to celebrate, he waited until the last person came across the line and congratulated him for completing the race. Roberto Carcelen of Peru finished in 87th place and about 30 minutes behind Cologna. Carcelen is Peru’s first winter Olympian and raced even though he fractured a rib in training. The last person he expected to see was the gold medal winner.
Each one of us are in a race as a Christian. Paul told us to run as if to win the prize. At the end of his life, he said, “I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful (II Timothy 4:7).” He wanted us to approach the Christian life as a race. It takes training, discipline and hard work over time. We are to stay focused on the prize as we run it. At the end of our life, we should be able to say we gave it our all and collapse at the finish line. We should be like the gold medalist in the Olympics who knows they gave it their all and has a great feeling of accomplishment.
We should also be like Dario Cologna from Switzerland. We should celebrate with others who complete the race. We should encourage others to keep going when they’d rather give up. We should recognize this life isn’t just about getting across the finish line in first place, but it’s also about helping others make it to the end. Galatians 6:1 says, “If another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” We shouldn’t be so competitive in our faith that we fail to stop and help others who have fallen. We shouldn’t be so self righteous that we celebrate when other believers whom we don’t like fall.
Its never a good day when someone falls, especially those who are well known in the faith. It’s our responsibility to help them up. It’s our responsibility to restore them. It’s not our job to laugh or to make fun of. Each one of us are human and will fail in our race at some point. Each one of us will need restoration from other believers. Keep your eye out today for others who need a hand back up. Look out for those who may not be as swift as you are in the race. Celebrate their victories and share their burdens when they fall. That’s how we can fulfill the law of Christ.
It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back. To celebrate, I’m giving away “The Favor of God: Embrace All God Has Prepared For You” by Jerry Savelle. Keep reading to find out how to enter.
My plan today was to write about getting free of discouragement, but an accident blocked the freeway and ate up all the time I had to write. I began to get discouraged just sitting there thinking that I wouldn’t be able to write today. I didn’t think of the people who were in the accident having a much worse day. I imagine they must be a lot more discouraged than I was. What about the other people who were in traffic who may lost their job because they’re showing up an hour late? None of us got off to the morning we thought we’d have when we woke up. None of us got to do the things we thought we were going to get done this morning.
The difference in a believer’s life is that we don’t have to stay discouraged when circumstances alter our plans. We don’t have to crumble when life throws a curve ball. It’s human and natural to get discouraged in bad situations. It’s the Holy Spirit living in us that reminds us where our hope is. My hope is not in man’s ability. My hope is not in the plans I have made. My hope is in The Lord. The way this morning started off was no surprise to God. He knew my plans would be thrown out of the window before I did. He knew that I would face set backs. He knew that things would happen in my life that were beyond my control.
What He wants me to know is that He’s in control. He’s my source of hope, my source of strength and my provider. He alone is the one who can bring encouragement when I can’t seem to find any hope. I just have to remember to look for Him when things aren’t going right. I have to remember that circumstances can’t affect my praise. I have to quit focusing on the negative outcomes of my situation and focus on the One who can turn it into a positive. I have to remember the one who has carved out my path, drew out the blueprint for my life and orders my steps. He is where I find my hope and encouragement on days like this.
I leave you with what David wrote when his circumstances changed his plans and life. He said, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you. (Psalms 42:5, 6 NLT)” Even the psalmist, the guy after God’s own heart, the man who constantly praised had times of discouragement. He told us what he did in those times. He remembered the God he served. We can do the same.
If you would like to win the “The Favor of God” by Jerry Savelle, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (February 22, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.
I’m on a journey right now. I know my destination. I know what God has called me to do. I’ve known for a while now. After running from it for years, I decided to embrace it. I told God I was ready to step into my calling. All of a sudden things started happening quickly. Faster than I could keep up with. I began to make life changing plans to accommodate where I was going. Confirmations that I was on the right path were coming left and right. I knew I was on my way to my destiny. My calling was sure. My path was clear.
One night, my pastor pulled me aside to talk about it. He saw the changes happening and God spoke to him about it. Prophetically he told me, “Be patient on your journey.” Almost immediately the trail went cold. The path disappeared. The confirmations quit rolling in. I can still see where I’m going, but not the path. I still believe in what God has called me to do, but I can’t see how to get there from here. That was two years ago that he spoke those words to me. I’ve had two years of asking God, “Where did you go? Why did you quit leading me? Why is the path hidden? What’s my next step?”
I’ve traced the cold path back to that night. I’ve blamed the lack of progress on those words. I’ve looked for excuses and other paths that will lead me to where I’m going, but have had no luck. I’ve struggled with God as He’s had me at the point for a while. I’ve listened to His voice and waited for His direction, but I’m still sitting here. I’m still waiting. I’m still hoping. I’m still believing. Each day that I wait, the desire to do what He has called me to grows. Each day I become more restless and fed up with where I am. I’m a doer, not a sitter. I’m a go getter, not a watcher. That’s my personality. Sitting still is hard for me.
God used Mark Batterson’s words to help me in this limbo. One of the things he said is, “The longer you wait, the more you appreciate.” That hit my soul. He also said, “God wants you to get where you are going more than you want to get where you’re going.” Then He must really want it! Then he hit me between the eyes. He said, “God is more concerned with who you become in the journey than with getting you to the destination.” That changed my thoughts. If God is more concerned with who I become on this journey, so should I. This is the training ground before I step into my calling. He is molding me and shaping me into the person He needs me to be so I can completely fulfill His calling.
Then there were the words of reassurance to calm me down. He said, “God knows how to get you to become who He wants you to become in the process of the journey.” All of a sudden my pastor’s prophetic words made sense. Change takes time. It takes pressure. It takes faith to trust God and to keep going when you can’t see the path. It takes patience. I want things now. I want them to happen in my time. I want to be in control of how God moves my life. On the journey I’ve learned to trust His timing. I’ve learned that I shouldn’t take matters into my own hands and try to force the calling to come to a reality. I should be patient and be faithful in the process of becoming who He wants me to be on this journey.