This week I’m reflecting on ten years of writing devotions. The one question I get asked constantly is, “How do you do it every day?” I give a simple answer, but it’s more complex than that. My answer is, “It’s an act of obedience.” More than anything else, I write because God told me to write. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it or how I’m feeling that day. I obey. Obedience isn’t based on feelings. I believe it transcends feelings. I don’t allow my son to obey only when he feels like it. Why would God expect anything less from me?
The follow up question is usually, “Yeah, but what about when you’re on vacation or holidays?” I write. My faithfulness to do what God asks isn’t based on where I am or what’s going on around me. It doesn’t matter how tired I am either. My act of obedience has to take priority in my life. Being a servant of God isn’t something you do. It’s who you are. You can’t just do it some of the time. It doesn’t work that way. To be a servant who doesn’t do what He asks would be like the servant who took the talent and buried it in the sand. He didn’t get the reward, but the two who did something with the talents did.
The response Jesus gave to these people in Matthew 25:21 was, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (NLT) You can’t receive God’s praise or be given more responsibilities in the Kingdom until you’ve been faithful with what little He’s asked you to be obedient with. For me, that means staying up late studying and getting up,early writing. For you, it’s going to look different. Whatever it is, treat it like an act of obedience and give it priority in your life. God will reward your obedience in this life or the next.
I believe it was Coach Wooden who said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” The window for an opportunity that shows up in our life is usually very brief. You won’t have time to do all the prep work necessary and seize the opportunity in most cases. We should always be ready by doing the prep work ahead of time. The problem is that human nature doesn’t want to put in the work when there’s not even an opportunity on the horizon. Those who have done the work ahead of time are the ones who make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.
I believe that God presents every one of us with opportunities that we should be prepared for. How can we give to a need if we haven’t saved any money? How can we answer spiritual questions if we haven’t studied the Bible? How can we tear down strongholds if we haven’t fasted? How can we be prepared for His return if we don’t have enough oil in our lamps? There are so many things that I believe God can do through us if only we would spend the time laying the groundwork of preparation.
Proverbs 24:27 says, “First plant your fields; then build your barn” (MSG). We need to make sure we are doing things in the proper order in our life. Too many times we want the barn without taking time to til the soil and plant. That’s not how things work. If you want God to use you in a certain way, there are things you need to be doing today to prepare for it. Be faithful in the preparation and God will trust you with the opportunities that He has for you. Don’t delay. Start today.
Thanks to @JestNinja for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a 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.
Today is my 2,000th post to Devotions By Chris. In a few weeks, I will have been writing devotions for eight years. It’s taught me a lot about being faithful to what God has asked me to do. It has also taught me to redefine what success looks like when you’re doing what God has asked you to do. Success in God’s eyes isn’t measured by subscribers or by clicks. It’s measured by our faithfulness to the ministry we receive from Him. Success is found in being faithful in the little things and doing what He’s asked with all your strength whether you understand the reason or not. Can you obey and be faithful even when it’s difficult and you don’t understand?
My pastor said something that is along these lines. He said, “If you ask God for an Oak tree, He’ll give you an acorn.” God plants seeds of the things He’s calling us to in our hearts. We have to water them and tend to them even when we can’t see anything. Even when it shouts through the ground, you have to stick with it even though it may be years before it’s what you’ve envisioned. In Luke16:10 Jesus tells us that if we’re faithful with the little things, He can trust us with greater things. Managing the growth of an acorn can be tedious at times and unremarkable. No one may notice your efforts or the small steps of growth, but you’re not doing it for others or for those reasons. You’re doing it because it’s what God planted in your heart.
As Paul was wrapping up his letter to the church at Colossae, he tucked in a little note to a minister who may have been thinking of giving up because he wasn’t seeing the growth or success he thought he should. In Colossians 4:17 he told the believers, “Be sure you give Archippus this message: ‘Be faithful to complete the ministry you received from our Lord Jesus!’” (TPT) That’s today’s message to you. Be faithful to what you have received from the Lord even if it doesn’t look like you pictured it. Keep going even if you’re not being successful in the world’s eyes. Your faithfulness is noticed by God, and He counts your obedience as success. You may not change the world, get noticed by anyone or even feel like you’re making a difference at times, but if you will keep doing your part, God will keep doing His.
When someone is staring something new, whether it’s a business or ministry, I usually give them the same advice. I tell them, “Start with Timex, not Rolex.” You want to build something that will take a licking and keep on ticking. You also don’t want to over spend. So many times when we’re starting something new, we make it about the sizzle instead of the steak. If you want to build something that will last, take your time, do things right and lay the foundation work first. No, it’s not sexy and it may not get a lot of attention, but if you do the small things right from the beginning, the larger things will take care of themself later. God puts it this way, “If you will be faithful in the small things, I’ll make you faithful over many things.”
In Zechariah 4, the Lord showed him Zerubbabel in a vision. He was the man who would lead the first group of Jews out of Babylonian captivity around 500 BC. This first set of Jews went back under his leadership, and with money collected by all Jews, with a mission to rebuild the Temple. The work was tedious and hard. People tried to disrupt them and stop them, but Zerubbabel kept working and kept the people focused. The Lord reminded him that it wouldn’t be completed by his might or strength, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Then in verse 10, the Lord sends him a reminder, and one to us too. He said, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (NLT). It was a reminder to not undervalue the beginning work of laying the foundation.
If we don’t get our foundation right, the rest of the structure is unsound. God is not concerned with whether or not we’re making things attractive enough. He wants us to do them right and to do them well. Whatever you’re starting won’t be a success because of your might or power, but by God’s Spirit. Yes, you should work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God, but don’t despise the small beginnings. Don’t compare yourself in the beginning stage to where someone else is that has been doing it for a while. Put your head down, do what God called you to and leave the results up to Him. He doesn’t measure success the way we do anyway, so quit trying to build something that’s successful in man’s eyes. It’s not their approval you’re after.
Several years ago the Lord spoke a simple word to me while I was praying. He said, “Prepare.” I replied, “Prepare for what?” Again, all I heard was, “Prepare.” I said, “Lord, if I’m going to prepare, I need to know what to prepare for.” For the third time, He said, “Prepare.” I had breakfast coming up with a pastor friend. I couldn’t wait to discuss what I heard. After our pleasantries, he said, “You know what I heard God say to me the other night? Prepare.” I told him I had heard the same thing. We began to discuss what it meant, but agreed we needed to each spend more time in prayer, in reading the Bible and in holding each other accountable to it.
Preparing is a necessary process in almost everything in life that’s worth anything. The greater the task, the greater the preparation. Think about taking a test. The more significant the test, the greater amount of time you spent preparing for it. Most of the time you had an idea of what could be on the test, but you weren’t sure what the questions were going to be. You needed to prepare for them to ask you anything. Life with God is a lot like that. We need to be prepared to be used in whatever situation He chooses to use us in. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. The on,y way to constantly be ready is to prepare ahead of time what you will say.
Proverbs 24:27 says, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (NLT). Too often we try to get the cart before the horse. We want the payoff without going through the process, but God’s plan is that you and I prepare for the greater things He has for us by being faithful in the small things. If you’re looking ahead to where God has promised to take you, take time each day to do the little things that will prepare you for that place. This proverb us to plan and prepare how we will be sustained once we get there rather than to focus on how we will stay there. God’s process always involves sowing first and then reaping later. If He’s being slow in keeping His promises, ask Him to tell you what He wants you to do today to prepare for your future.
Have you ever felt ill equipped to do something? Maybe you did your part to get ready for it, but you didn’t have the right tools to be successful. I’ve had that happen before. I had to lead a meeting, but when I arrived to the location, there wasn’t a projector. If they couldn’t see my PowerPoint slides, they wouldn’t be able to understand what I was discussing. It was one of those moments where you have to get really creative or pray that someone had a spare projector somewhere. Thankfully that was the case and I was able to give them the info they needed.
When it comes to fulfilling your purpose, the same thing can happen. There’s only so much you can do before you need God to do what only He can do. The problems come when we stop being patient and start trying to get creative in doing God’s part. We try to equip ourselves for what He wants to accomplish through us, but like Saul’s armor on David, it doesn’t fit. I’ve found that moving forward before God has done His part often complicates things and can have long lasting consequences.
In Hebrews 13:21, the writer prays and reminds us, “May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will” (GNT). You have a part and God has a part. Learn to do your part and then have patience while God does His. He will give you what you need when you need it. I know it feels like you need it sooner or that you need to step in and help Him, but wait on Him. The Bible is full of people who didn’t wait and tried to do God’s part. Today, purpose in your heart that you will trust God to provide the thing you’re missing to accomplish His will and that you will wait until He gives it to you.
I used to think that God’s plan for my life would simply happen. I believed that when He was ready, He would intervene in my life, things would line up and then I would walk in my calling. Then God started dealing with my heart. If He had a mission for my life, why wasn’t I doing anything to prepare? I was challenged to begin being faithful to do the little things so that later He could do big things. As I began to do them, my mission and purpose became more clear. I started to understand more of what His plan for my life is.
I know that God has a plan for each one of us (Jeremiah 29:11), but plans don’t become realities until there’s some action to them. Each one of us have to start small and become faithful at doing the little things before God can entrust greater things to us. We need to start somewhere and that’s usually on our knees. Becoming a person who faithfully prays and spends time with God is a great way to prepare for your mission. As God’s plan for you becomes more clear, add in things that move you in the direction of making it a reality.
The apostle Paul was a person who had a mission from God and worked daily to accomplish it. He didn’t let being threatened, tired or beaten keep him from doing things daily that helped him fulfill that mission. Towards the end of his life, in Acts 20:24, he said, “I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do, which is to declare the Good News about the grace of God.” His desire was to complete what God gave him to do no matter what came his way.
What mission has God given you? What are you doing daily to accomplish it? Your life has a purpose and God’s desire is that you fulfill what He created you to do. You are uniquely qualified through your past to accomplish the mission God has given you. The time to start doing something is now. If you will be faithful in the little things right now, He will give you the greater things later. His plan for your life won’t simply happen. It requires some effort from you. Don’t despise the small beginnings for in doing them, your mission and purpose will become more clear.