I like to ask people, “What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?” A lot of people struggle with this question at first because it’s hard to articulate on the spot. But think about it for a second. They’re very similar with one exception. A goal is something you have a plan for in order to accomplish it. Dreams are usually large goals without a plan. The problem is most of us think we have set goals when really all we have done is created a bunch of dreams without a plan to accomplish them.
The people I know who are goal oriented aren’t easily swayed into doing things that don’t align with their goals. They know exactly what they need to do in order to accomplish them and they are pretty disciplined. Dreamers aren’t as disciplined. They live with their heads in the clouds and are easily knocked off course by distractions. Unfortunately that’s the way many of us live our lives and it bleeds into our faith as well. We’re living for Christ without a purpose, and that’s dangerous.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul mentions that in a race, everyone runs, but only one wins. He then tells us to run to win. Verse 26 says, “Therefore I do not run without a definite goal” (AMP). Not only are we to run to win the ultimate prize, we are to run with purpose. We are to run with goals. To keep from being easily distracted by all this world has to offer, and to keep our head out of the clouds, we need to have spiritual goals. There’s no other way for us to have the impact on this world that we’re called to have. God has a purpose and a plan for you that only you can fulfill. Don’t go through life without accomplishing all God has planned for you. Set goals, make a plan and start doing things today that move you towards fulfilling your purpose.
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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.
One of the traps that I fall into is thinking that if I’m doing what God asked me to, I won’t find resistance from others. I mean if I’m doing God’s will, others, especially Christians should be on board, right? Not necessarily. The things that God calls us to do are often for us alone to do. Other people won’t necessarily see or run with the vision God has given you, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God, or that they’re not. The enemy doesn’t want you to be productive for the Kingdom, nor does he want you to complete the work God has given you to do. He will use whoever and whatever he can to slow you down, discourage you and wear you down so that you lose your zeal, doubt your calling and give up.
Even though God had burdened Nehemiah with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and other people had caught on to that vision, it didn’t mean it was going to be easy. The people were joyful and started off strong, but then resistance came. People began to hurl insults at them to keep them from their work. Day in and day out they were verbally attacked. The verbal attacks turned into threats and plots against them to stop the work. They took their eyes off the goal and began to look at the enormity of the project, the size of the mess and lost their joy realizing it wasn’t in their strength to complete it. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “The people of Judah had a song they sang: ‘We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?’” (GNT) They became weary and discouraged like we do.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” If you’re getting discouraged because of the grind or the attacks from others in doing what God has called you to, pick your head up and look to the One who called you to it. Keep your focus on the end goal and not on the size of today’s problems. God will strengthen you and give you wisdom in how to handle today’s issues of you ask Him to. Pray for people who will run along side of you, who will catch the vision and who will share the load. Remember how big your God is. He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Keep pressing forward with the end in mind and you will reap a harvest for the work you’re doing.
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Recently we were going to sand some floors down to refinish them. The cost to pay someone to do them was astronomical. We decided to do them ourselves. The cheapest way to do them was by hand. That would take forever so we went to rent a machine. I saw the machine I wanted and asked about it. He said it would do the job well, but they were out of sandpaper for it. He grabbed a “less aggressive” machine and then the sandpaper for it. As he rang it up, the sandpaper alone was over $100. I couldn’t believe the price. I had to remind myself that having the right tool was worth the money.
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest” (NLT). Having oxen would require feeding them, watering them, housing them and ultimately cleaning up after them. Many people would look at the down side of owning them and choose not to get them. On the other hand, without them it would be difficult to plow the land or to bring in the harvest. There’s give and take in everything. It’s up to us to count the cost and to understand you get what you pay for, even if the cost is ongoing. In an agricultural society, if you wanted an abundant crop, you needed to invest in oxen.
Each one of us has a purpose to fulfill. You can do it with the natural tools you’ve been given (like sanding the floor by hand) or you can invest in yourself to increase the effectiveness of those tools. Going to school, taking a class, buying books and other ways to increase your effectiveness will cost you. It’s up to you to make sure you use the right tools for what you’re called to do and to invest in your future. There are pro’s and con’s to everything. That’s why we’re encouraged to count the cost physically and spiritually. Investing in the right tools for whatever God is calling you to will translate to your effectiveness.
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I was chatting with a friend at church recently. We were talking about the need for satellite churches around the city. As we were discussing locations that would be good, he brought up a certain area of town. He broke down and began to cry. He said, “We’ve got to get in there and take the Gospel to the people who live there.” I could tell his heart was breaking for that demographic. I believe God has given this man that burden and that’s why it bothered Him so much that there were so few churches in that area trying to reach them. His passion touched me, and it got me to thinking about the importance of anguish in a Christian’s life.
Several years ago, David Wilkerson preached a sermon called, “A Call to Anguish”. It’s one of those sermons I’ve listened to many times because it fires me up. In it, he says, “Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. The agony of God’s heart.“ That’s what was going on in my friend, and to be honest, I was a little jealous because I wanted to feel God’s anguish like that.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah wanted a son. Every day she was reminded of her barrenness. God put it in her heart to have a child so she went to the Tabernacle to pray. Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). I believe her anguish was born in her heart by God. I believe it’s something every one of us need. If you’re not feeling God’s anguish today for a brokenness in the world, ask God to share part of His heart with you. It’s time we wept in anguish for the things that break God’s heart so we can do something about it.
Take five minutes today to listen to these excerpts from David Wilkerson’s sermon “A Call to Anguish” and ask God to share part of His heart with you.
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Gideon is one of those stories in the Bible that I go back to over and over again. He was scared of his enemies, so he was hiding when the angel appeared to him. The angel then greets him with, “Mighty Hero! The Lord is with you” (NLT). I’m sure Gideon had a confused look on his face and then looked around for the hero. He then asked a great question any of us would have asked. If the Lord is with me, why are things so bad? He didn’t get an answer though. Instead, the angel calls on him to save Israel from the very enemy he’s hiding from.
In Judges 6:14, the angel of the Lord said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” I love this response because it is a great picture of who God is. He calls us to do things in our own strength and giftings. When we see ourselves in the mirror, we think who we are and what we have is not enough. God sees beyond our fears and insecurities though. He sees who we can become if we would trust that He’s with us and will pick up the slack for the things we lack if we will simply step out with what we have already been given.
I believe every one of us are called to do something. There is a purpose and a plan that God has for each of our lives. It’s up to us to trust Him to be with us, and to walk in that calling. It’s time for us to quit looking at ourselves with these human eyes so we can trust what God sees in us with His eyes. It’s in our weaknesses and inabilities that His strength is made perfect. He only asks that we trust Him enough to do the things He called us to. If God has confidence in you, I think it’s time you had it too. Through Jesus, you are more than a conqueror. You are a mighty, valiant hero ready and equipped to do what He called you to.
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When God called to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3, He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (NKJV). God then asked Moses to return to Egypt where the Lord would perform miraculous signs and wonders. Moses argued with God and gave excuses as to why he couldn’t speak to Pharaoh. Eventually, God convinced Moses. He then spoke to Pharaoh, God performed 10 plagues and the Israelites were set free from their bondage because of the things God did.
Fast forward 40 years and Israel is finally permitted to enter the Promised Land. They cross the Jordan and begin to prepare to attack Jericho. While Joshua is surveying it, the Lord appears to him in Joshua 5:15 and says, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” Did you catch the difference? When Moses met God, he had to remove both sandals. When Joshua met with Him, he only had to remove one. I believe it’s because with Moses, God was doing all the work, and with Joshua they were going to work together to subdue Canaan.
I believe God wants you and I to participate with Him in living an overcoming life. We can’t sit back and wait for Him to do all the work. You and I are going to have to step out and face some giants. We are going to have to attack some walled cities in our life. The great news is that God will fight our battles if we’ll have enough faith to get onto the battlefield. If we’re going to live An overcoming life, we’re going to have to quit making excuses and letting fear make our decisions. If God is for you, who can be against you? It’s time to quit camping by the Jordan and to fight for the land God promised you.
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What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? What dream would you go after? So many times fear of failure or being defeated is what holds us back from chasing after the things God put in our heart. Back in the early 2000’s, I started writing devotionals. There were no blogs really, and social media was yet to come. I figured I would just email them out to friends and whoever wanted them. I asked about five people if they’d be interested. One person replied, “Please don’t put me on any list. I get enough junk mail as it is.” I didn’t write for 10 years after that. I quit chasing after something God put in me because of something someone else said.
After the Israelites left Egypt, God reminded them that He had promised them land. It was a good, beautiful, fertile land, but they would have to fight to take possession of it. They were guaranteed victory if they were willing to fight for it. Instead 10 of the 12 spies came back confirming what God said about the land, but they were afraid of the giants and walked cities in the land. It took forty years before they had an opportunity again. This time, the spies were told how fearful everyone was of them, and it boosted their confidence. In Joshua 2:24, they reported back, “The Lord has given us the whole land for all the people in the land are terrified of us” (NLT).
The only thing that changed was that they quit listening to fear and started listening to God. That’s exactly what you and I need to do. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, there will be some struggles and battles ahead when you chase after what God has put in you, but you are guaranteed victory in the long run. God is ready to act on your behalf, but you have to be the one to step out in faith to chase after what He called you to. As my friend says, it’s time for you to smash fear in the face! The enemy is afraid of you doing what God told you to do so he uses fear to hold you back. The Lord has given you victory. You just have to step out and claim it.
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