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.
I rarely watch the news, but this week, the hotel I was staying at had it on during breakfast. As I watched each day, I remembered why I don’t watch the news. It seemed like all they were doing was making people afraid. Every story created new fear. Fear over election fallout. Fear over a fiscal cliff. Fear over a divided government and country. In the age of 24 hour news channels, it’s easy to get addicted to the news. It’s also easy to let it control your emotions.
Fear is the author of inactivity. It paralyzes. It causes your imagination to run wild and can create hysteria. I think maybe that’s why throughout the Bible, God’s message to us is “fear not”. God spoke to him in Genesis 15:1 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you.” Fear had caused Abraham to start doubting. That doubt lead to questioning God. When we question God’s promise, we fail to act on them and rob ourselves of the blessings He has for us.
For many of us, we know what God has called us to, but the vision is so large that we are afraid of it. That fear will keep you from acting on what God has called you to do. He has a plan for each one of us. To some He reveals far in advance where they are going. To others He gives them one step at a time. For both, the course of action is the same: take that first step of faith. Do not let fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of insecurity, fear of what your calling might be or fear of unworthiness keep you from your calling.
What God has called you to is for you alone. Everything in your life is preparation for your future. Your past victories, failures, storms, hurts, loss and gains are all there as preparation to equip you to take that next step. If you need the courage to take that next step of faith, turn around and look back. See how far you have come by faith. You are further along than you ever thought. You didn’t arrive to where you are without His help. If He has brought you this far, trust Him to carry you the rest of the way.
Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash
“One time Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more.”
Genesis 37:5 GNT
Joseph is one of those people in the Bible that no matter how many times I read his story, I always learn more. He was disliked by his own brothers, sold as a slave, lied about, put in prison, I pressed the pharaoh, got promoted to second in command and saved his family. One of the catalysts for this series of events in his life was a dream that God gave him. I’m sure he was excited about what God showed him and he just wanted to share it.
Has that ever happened to you? It has to me. God gave me a vision of the ministry He was calling me to. At first I was terrified and ran from it. When I finally embraced it and gave in, things began happening quickly in my life. People of influence in my life asked what was going on. When I shared with them what was happening, they said, “Well, don’t get too carried away. I don’t know that God will keep doing it like that. Slow down and be patient.” Just like that, the air was let out of my ballon. I lost my momentum and faith in what God called me to.
Another friend recently asked about my calling. After a few minutes of beating around the bush, i finally told him. His response was, “A calling like that requires preparation and that’s what God is doing right now in your life.” It breathed new life into me. Just like Joseph had to go through these years of slavery and imprisonment to prepare him to fulfill the dream God gave him, you and I have to go through preparations too.
If you feel like God has forgotten the dream He gave you or you shared that dream and were made fun of, keep holding on. God isn’t finished working out His plan in your life. It’s not too late. You’re not too far gone. Just like blowing on some embers can rekindle a fire, God can easily move in your life and complete that which He called you to. Look at this time as your period of preparation. It may feel like you’ve been forgotten in a prison in Egypt, but God is placing you where He needs you and giving you the tools to be successful.
Photo by Chase Lewis on Unsplash
Yeas ago, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. About once a month or so, I would take a train to the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut. That part of Egypt is pretty radicalized and is unsafe for Americans to travel to. I would always have to buy my tickets in advance so they would know I was coming and could be prepared. On my first trip, I didn’t understand what was really happening, but I noticed two guys in my section of the train that stood out.
Their clothes weren’t thin, worn out or dirty. They also had a bulge at their right hip. Everyone in that section felt their presence. I was a little uncomfortable so I switched cars. They followed me. I made sure they were aware that I knew they were there, but it didn’t phase them. It turns out that they were secret police who were there to protect me. When we arrived, they ushered me off the train and guarded me until the local police arrived and escorted me to my destination.
It’s not every day that you and I get to experience having body guards, but you’ve probably seen someone who had them. Those guards make their presence known, and intimidate anyone thinking of messing with that person. I believe God does that for us. When we live in His presence, He walks beside us guarding us against spiritual attacks. Does that mean we won’t be attacked? No. It means He’s there to fight for us so we won’t be moved.
In Psalm 16:8, the writer puts it this way, “I am always aware of the Lord ‘s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me” (GNT). Knowing we have God near us should give us the courage to do the things He’s called us too. Many times we feel insecure or unsure about doing those things. It’s time we become aware of God’s presence in our lives and become bold as lions. You may come under attack, but when God is with you, you will remain unshaken.
Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash
When people see that my middle initial is “P”, they immediately want to know what it stands for. I usually grin and say, “Procrastinator!” I tell them my motto is, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” I say it tongue in cheek, and sometimes it takes people a minute to catch how I changed the famous saying. Even though I’m joking, procrastination is something I struggle with and have to fight against.
It was one thing when it was school work, but then it bled into my job. After a while, I realized I had been procrastinating on my calling. God’s still, small voice was always there reminding me to get started, but I always found a way to put it off. I always figured I had time. Then one day I realized I had been putting God off for over ten years. I prayed, “OK, Lord. When you’re ready, I’m ready.” Things began to fall into place, but it was slow. Even now, I struggle sometimes with how slowly God is moving to make things happen.
I began to get upset at God because I want Him to move quickly now that I’ve decided not to procrastinate. I didn’t like how little was being accomplished. Then I was reminded of Zerubbabel’s message from God in Zechariah. He was told to rebuild the temple, a massive undertaking. I’m sure he struggled with the lack of progress it was showing. That’s when God spoke in Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (NLT).
Getting things started is always the hardest. It’s like the snowball effect. Things start small, but over time they grow exponentially. If you’re in the beginning stages of doing what God asked you to, stop comparing yourself to others who are farther along. Don’t despise the small beginnings. It’s important to get the foundation right and to take your time. God is pleased you’re on the journey. Take it one step at a time, and trust Him to complete it. If you haven’t started yet, quit procrastinating and do something to start today.
A habit that I’ve noticed in some of the most effective Christians is the habit of service. Most people who have this habit are not noticeable until they are gone. They give of their time and energy, but prefer to stay behind the scenes. They are rarely recognized because they don’t require public praise. They do what they do because it’s what God has called them to. They recognize that for big things to happen, there’s a lot of little things that need to be done behind the scenes.
Jesus told us that the ones who do these little things with an humble spirit are the greatest in His kingdom. In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus said, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty” (MSG). Jesus modeled what it was like to be a servant to others. He spent His life giving instead of taking. He did things to recognize God, not to be recognized. When you live a life of service in a selfish world, you stand out.
Look at the life of Mother Theresa. She spent it serving people who had no ability to pay her back or offer her any recognition. She once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I believe that’s the key to the habit of service. Understanding it’s not about doing big things. It’s about the little things that few see. It’s about doing something for someone without posting it on social media. It’s done out of a heart of love for someone in need.
I believe if all Christians would take the time to develop this one habit, we could change the world. If we did things for His recognition instead of our own, we’d have a lot more converts. A life of service yields great results in the kingdom. It’s marked by looking out for the needs of others more than our own. Take time today to look for someone you can serve in some small capacity. Make a difference in their life today and you’ll understand why it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
I’ve been on a few mission trips where we’ve done construction work. On day one, they like to go around the circle and have each person talk about their skills. One guy says he can build shelving. Another says he’s good at framing. One always says he can do it all. Inevitably it always comes around to me. I like to say, “I’m the best gopher around. If you need nails, I’ll go for them. If you need a certain tool, I’ll go for it.” My skill set makes me feel very inadequate on a construction site.
Even when it comes to ministry and my calling, I often feel inadequate. I was at a conference of ministers earlier this year. They started off with introductions and sharing all they’re doing. As they went around the table, I began to compare what I do to what they were doing. I sent my wife a text and said, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong. They’re sharing all they’re doing in ministry, and I’ve got nothing.” I was feeling very insecure.
If you look at where God has you or think of what God has called you too, you’re going to feel inadequate. It’s easy to say, “God, I’m not qualified to do this,” or “God, there are other people who are better at this.” I’m sure David, being a shepherd, felt inadequate in front of all those soldiers when Goliath came out. I’ve learned that God doesn’t always take our skill set and put us where it should fit. He looks at our heart, and puts us where he needs that most.
When I feel inadequate, I take comfort in knowing the apostle Paul felt that way too. In 1 Timothy 1:12, he wrote, “I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work” (MSG). He understood what we need to learn. It’s God who makes us adequate to do what He’s called us to do. It’s not our skills or anything else. Our inadequacies cause our faith to grow and helps keep pride out. It is not us who do the work. It is Christ through us, and that makes us more than adequate to do anything God asks us to do.
Several years ago, we experienced a crash in the housing market. It was the perfect storm or rising interest rates, a sluggish economy, and low cost construction. I remember my friend’s neighborhood most vividly. As you drove through it, there were many incomplete houses in varying stages of construction scattered throughout. For years they sat there incomplete. They were a constant reminder of the recession we were in.
As I drive through, I couldn’t help but think how each of those houses represented someone’s broken dream and unfulfilled plan. People had gone through the process of buying a lot, designing a house, choosing elevations, selecting tile, picking out paint colors, and imagining what it was going to be like. Now it sat there incomplete with no hope of fulfilling its purpose. Where others saw incomplete houses, I saw unfulfilled dreams.
I’ve always imagined that you and I were a lot like houses under construction. God has a great blueprint for each one of us that He’s designed specifically based on who He created us to be. Unfortunately, many of us feel incomplete and that God has stopped working on us or in us. The truth is that God is always at work in our lives trying to help us fulfill our calling. No matter what mistakes we make, God doesn’t walk away from the construction site or leave a house unfinished.
Philippians 2:-13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). God has not given up on what He started in your life. He hadn’t walked away from you, leaving you like an abandoned construction site. He is still working in you, helping you and putting the desire in you to want to fulfill your purpose. You are still under construction and God still has an amazing blueprint for your life. He will complete what He started in you.