One of the things I’ve learned is that when God gives you a dream or a promise, it’s usually followed by a period of waiting. In my experience, the bigger the dream or promise, the longer you’ll have to wait. It’s natural in the waiting to wonder if God is still at work, if He has still chosen you or if it will ever come to pass. In the waiting, our circumstances can cause doubt, but it’s in the waiting that God positions us and grows us to be able to receive the fulfillment of the dream or promise. He’s at work when things appear to be hopeless. He’s working all things out for your good despite what your present situation is. Don’t give up on the promise. Even though you may have made mistakes, you haven’t disqualified yourself or caused God to abandon His Word to you.
There are plenty of people who went through this in the Bible. We often count them as heroes of the faith, but they were human like us. They had long periods of waiting. They felt hopeless at times. They made mistakes that you would think would disqualify them, but God kept faithful to His promise to them. Abraham waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise, and Abraham tried to bring about the fulfillment himself. Joseph spent around 14 years waiting as a slave and in prison. David had to wait about 15 Years. In that time he was chased away from his family and friends. He had to live in a cave with a bunch of societal rejects. His home was burned down and his wife was captured just before he became king. The list goes on and on of people who had to wait.
Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me” (NLT). This verse was written by David while he was running from King Saul. He continued to cry out to God while He waited. He continued to trust that God was going to fulfill His plan. Just as God was faithful to David, He will be faithful to you. Remind yourself of the goodness of God. Remind yourself that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). If you’re still waiting, God is still working. Pray that He prepares you and positions you while you wait.pray that He will encourage you and give you strength. None of the people I listed above were ready when God gave them the dream or the promise. It was in the waiting that they were matured and grew their faith to be able to faithfully walk in God’s promise. God will fulfill His promise to you when you’re ready.
Years ago I had a corporate job where I stood in front of groups to train soft skills and also processes. Every once in a while, someone would come up and tell me that they wanted to be in a position like mine. They would ask if they could shadow me for a day. I would usually agree to it, and then they would ask what training they could shadow. I’d laugh and say, “I’m not going to have you shadow me on a teaching day. I want you to come up here during my preparation time.” They would look puzzled and ask why. I always responded, “Because what you see in the classroom is the result of my work. I’ve spent hours preparing to stand here and deliver this content. If you want to do this job, you need to see the amount of preparation it takes to stand here for 8 hours.” Not many people wanted the job after that.
When we read the Gospels, we’re looking at 3 years of Jesus’ ministry. It was the result of 30 years of preparation. We don’t really get a glimpse of the years He prepared. We know as a twelve year old, He was in the Temple preparing. He knew He needed to be about His father’s business even then. We know that His earthly father was a carpenter. He would have learned His father’s trade of looking at the details, measuring twice, cutting once and using tools to create masterpieces from wood that had been cut. All of His life was preparation for ministry. We even read how He took time away from the disciples and people to get alone with God as preparation for the ministry He would do the next day.
2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [which are dishonorable—disobedient, sinful], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (AMP). God wants to use each of us somewhere in His Kingdom, but we each must take the time to prepare for it. We must be willing to be alone with God in prayer. We have to be willing to be taught skills that God can use. We must be open to learning more about who He is. We also have to make choices to be set apart, live pure lives and to be ready when God wants to use us. Most of us will touch one or two lives at a time rather than the masses. That will still require you to spend time in prayer and preparation. Every person who wants to be used by God must take the time to be prepared for every good work God wants to do through them. Ask God today what He wants you to do to prepare for what He’s calling you to do.
How do you respond to an impossible task or one that is pretty huge? There’s a few ways you can respond I think. The first is to be discouraged at the enormity of it. Most people in this category give up before they start or not long after starting. It looks too big to even try. Another response is to complain about it. If you complain to enough people, you’ll get sympathy rather than help. Having someone feel sorry for your situation feels better than attempting it. Finally, you can buckle up and eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. There’s still the potential to get discouraged or complain, but your mind is set to complete the task.
In the first chapter of Joshua, he is charged with going into an occupied land with fortified cities and taking it over. It was a large enough task to try to lead millions of people. Now he had to muster the troops for battle as well. It’s no wonder that God told him three different times in a row to, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do” (Joshua 1:7 NLT). He needed to keep his eye on the mission, know that God was with him and to follow God’s Word. He could have been discouraged at what was being asked, but God told him over and over to be strong and courageous.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Paul had just reminded us to share each others burdens and to pay attention to the work God called us to. Harvests are great, but they’re only possible through planting seeds. It’s a tedious job, but a necessary part of God’s process. The task He has given you may seem too big for you. It’s easy to give up or complain, but be courageous. When the task is greater than your abilities, it is designed to get you to rely on His strength rather than yours. Put God’s Word in your heart, stand on His promises and begin the work one seed at a time. Be strong and courageous. God is with you. There’s a harvest coming if you don’t give up.
In an attempt to make the automobile affordable for as many people as possible, Henry Ford developed the assembly line. Instead of a small team hand building the automobile from the ground up, a team of people would work together in separate parts to create it. Each person on the line had one assignment that they focused on. The overall goal for all people on the line was to make an affordable vehicle that ran well. Each person doing their assignment well is what made that happen. Each job was important because without it, the vehicle would be incomplete. It would be easy for any worker to think their work was insignificant, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The book of Nehemiah chronicles the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. After living in captivity for a long time, many Jews had been permitted to return to their homeland. Some had returned to Babylon and Nehemiah asked them about Jerusalem. They explained that the people were defenseless because of the lack of walls. It was then that Nehemiah received his holy assignment from God to rebuild the walls. He went back and rallied the people to work together to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah 3 lists all the people who were working on the wall and their assignments. Side by side each person did their part while understanding their work was a benefit to the whole. No one spot on the wall was more important than another. Even though they were opposed by people, they kept at their work because the people had a heart for the work (Nehemiah 4:6).
1 Corinthians 12:22 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (ESV). You and I have our own part and place in the Body of Christ. You may think your role is less significant than someone else’s, but it’s not. You are called by the same Lord to play a role in the whole of the Kingdom. Every part of the body has purpose and a place because the whole needs it. Wherever you are and whatever you’re called to do, do it with the best of your ability. The rest of the body is counting on you. God is counting on you. The work of the Kingdom is incomplete without you doing your part. Don’t let opposition or your feelings keep you from your assignment.
One of my favorite quotes says, “I don’t measure my day by the harvest I bring in. I measure it by the Seeds I plant. For in planting seeds, I’m assuring a future harvest.” There are so many applications for this quote, but the common question it begs is, “What am I doing today to make sure I have enough tomorrow?” We all love it when we reap the rewards for things we’ve done in the past, but we can’t measure our successes by that. We must always be doing something that is going to make sure we have another harvest, but too many of us hesitate because we’re waiting for everything to be just right before we act.
The problem with planting is that there are no immediate results for your work. We live in a world where we are conditioned to instant gratification, but many times the things you plant are hidden beneath the surface germinating where you can’t see. However, the longer you wait to start planting, the further away the harvest will be. Conditions will never be just right to plant for the future, but don’t let that stop you from doing what God has called you to do today. Fear will lead to hesitation, and hesitation will lead to procrastination. After you procrastinate, you begin to make excuses as to why you can’t do it.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything” (GNT). Today’s the day to quit your excuses, to stop your hesitation and to put fear behind you. The longer you procrastinate, the less impact you’re going to have. When you step out in faith and do what God has called you to do, you’re trusting Him to bless it. When you wait for perfect conditions, you take faith out of the equation. Whatever it is that’s on your heart to do, find one thing you can do today to begin planting the seeds. Those seeds, no matter how few, will always produce a greater harvest than the ones that never get planted. Stop procrastinating and start planting.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I am one of those people who was born on Saturday and in church on Sunday. My parents served in our church and so did my aunts and uncles. My siblings and all my cousins serve in their churches as well. Several years ago I was struggling with trying to be a lay minister while having a full time job. I went to my pastor and told him I was having a hard time being a part time minister. He chuckled a bit and said, “I’ll tell you the same thing your grandfather told me. There’s no such thing as a part time minister.” Ministry is 24/7 because people need help 24/7. Most of us aren’t ministering all day every day, but we must be ready in season and out of season.
You may be thinking, lThis devotion doesn’t apply to me since I’m not a minister.” If you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, then you are a minister. Ephesians 4:11 gives us what is referred to as the five fold ministry. There are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, if we go to the next verse, it tells them what their calling is. It says, “And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ” (TPT). You, and every other believer, are called to do your own works of ministry where you live and work. Your pastors simply can’t do all the ministry necessary to reach the world. That’s everyone’s job.
The New Testament is littered with lay people doing works of ministry. Paul mentions several by name in each of his letters. They have different occupations, but also responsibilities in their local churches and cities to minister. Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “He (Jesus) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). We are part of the Body of Christ and we all have a role to play. There are no useless parts. If you’re not sure what part you’re supposed to be, seek God, talk to your pastor and take a spiritual gifting assessment. Your church and community need your ministry.
One of the things we’re pretty good at is arguing and making excuses. From the time we were young, we have learned to defend our shortcomings with excuses or to try and argue our way out of it. Another motivator for excuses is fear. When we’re afraid of not knowing the outcome, fear will often remind us of why we can’t do something and then excuses come out. We tend to do this as adults when God calls us to do something that’s outside of our comfort zone. Fear and feelings of inadequacy can cause us to give Him excuses why we can’t or shouldn’t do it. If you’ve done that, you’re not alone, but I want to encourage you to find a way to push through to saying “yes” to God.
In Exodus 3 and 4, were introduced to Moses. He was the son of a Hebrew slave in Egypt, but grew up in Pharaoh’s house. After he killed an Egyptian he fled for forty years. While he was tending some sheep, God appeared to him in a burning bush that wasn’t being consumed by the flame. He was told to go back to Egypt to set the Hebrews free. All of a sudden fear and inadequacy flooded his mind and he started giving God excuses. “They will kill me. I’m not a public speaker. No one will listen.” On and on the excuses poured out until,God had enough. Reluctantly he went after God got upset with him and shot down every excuse.
In Psalm 32:8 we find encouragement when we want to make excuses. “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” God will be with you and advise you just as He did Moses. If God has called you to it, He will guide you through it. Like Moses, you might get hit with set backs and resistance, but keep doing what God asks. He has chosen you and anointed you for the work He has called you to. Your inadequacies and fear will be met with His all sufficient grace. Remember the disciples gave Jesus five loaves and two fish and He fed 5,000. Imagine what He could do through you with what you give Him. He’s the one who does incredible things when we say yes to Him and offer ourselves instead of excuses.
The other day I looked over at my son and it hit me that we’ve passed the halfway mark of how long a kid traditionally stays at home. I started thinking of how much more we wanted to pour into him with the time left. Then I started thinking of my own life and how I’m passed the halfway point of an average lifespan. I thought of the things I still. Want to do and accomplish. Then I began to think about purpose and calling. There’s a lot more left unaccomplished than accomplished when it comes to fulfilling God’s plan for my life. I wondered if God would still do what He promised, if there was still enough time to make an impact and if I’m able to do it.
I started thinking about David who was a teenager when his father was visited by the prophet to anoint the next king. It wasn’t long after that when he killed Goliath and everyone knew him. He had been invited into the king’s palace to play music. He must have thought things were happening quickly for him to become king. Then year after year passed by and he found himself hiding in caves and eventually having to live in a foreign country in order to stay alive. He must have wondered if the prophet got it right. Was he going to be king? Would God fulfill His promise? Was it too late? He was human so he probably had times when he doubted or wondered if he interpreted it right.
In Psalm 138:8, David prayed, “You will do everything you have promised; Lord, your love is eternal. Complete the work that you have begun” (GNT). When David doubted or felt down, he would reassure himself to trust in God. He would go back through the Scriptures and recite the times God fulfilled His promises. He built his faith up when his circumstances caused doubt. His prayer here reminds us that God isn’t finished with our story, no matter how late in life you feel you are. His promises still hold true. He will do everything He’s promised to do with your life and complete what He started. His timing is not our timing, and His ways are not our ways. Be faithful in the waiting, build up your faith and stay ready. God’s not done with your story yet.
I was talking with someone recently who wanted my opinion. I could tell they were a little worried when they told me that they feared God’s calling was no longer on their life because they hadn’t accomplished it yet. As they shared their calling with me and the things they were going through, it was clear to me that they were in a time of preparation. They pushed back a little saying they were getting too old to accomplish it. I reminded them of Caleb who entered the Promised Land as an older person full of wisdom and strength. He fulfilled his calling despite the years of waiting in the wilderness.
I then pointed to David. He was a young shepherd who received his calling to be king. He didn’t get taken to the throne right after he was anointed. Instead, he continued watching sheep, fought a giant and even lived life on the run before he became king. He waited over 15 years before he became king. God didn’t take away his calling even when he sinned. God uses our past to connect with others or to position us for His purpose the way He did with Joseph. His brothers sold him as a slave. He was falsely accused of a crime and placed in jail where he thought he was forgotten and God’s calling was over. Instead, he was being prepared and positioned to lead an entire country and save millions.
Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). There is nothing you can do to revoke God’s calling. You’re not that powerful. There’s no circumstance that can take you away from it, and periods of inactivity are not a way to measure it. God works everything out for your good because you are called to His purposes. Don’t listen to the lie that He’s moved on and chosen someone else. Submit to the preparation, open your heart to understand and your eyes to see. God is still moving on your behalf. Some preparation takes longer than others. God knows what He’s doing. Trust Him and in the calling He gave you. Don’t get caught up looking at the present when He’s promised something in the future. His promises are yes and amen. That means they’re guaranteed through Jesus.
Years ago I hired the most unlikely candidate for the position I had open. Everyone else walked through my office door with a suit on, a resume in hand and a plan of action. He walked in empty handed wearing some slacks and a button down. Everyone else sat up straight, looked me in the eye and gave confident answers. This gentleman sat with his knees wide open, with his head resting on his hand and elbow on his knee. I don’t think he looked me in the eye once. When it came time to hire, i couldn’t get him off my mind. He had the wrong appearance, but he had the right attitude and answers. The things he lacked were easily coachable. I hired him and years later he went on to be very successful in the company.
Jesus didn’t pick the obvious choices either to be His disciples. Instead of going into the Temple to find disciples, He went into the villages. Instead of looking for the most educated, He chose the least educated. Instead of choosing the religious people, He chose some blue collar guys and a couple of societal outcasts. His choices made people questions His Messiahship. Jesus, like His Heavenly Father, was looking at the intangibles. He was looking at the heart of people. It turns out that the disciples He chose turned the world upside down with His message and even gave their lives for Him. I’m not sure that would have happened if He went with the obvious choices.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 says, “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (NLT). God has chosen and called you, yes YOU! You may feel unqualified and unable to do anything for Him, but He sees beyond our inabilities and insecurities. He looks into our heart and gives us the ability to step into our calling. The time for excuses is over. The time for stalling is done. He is the one who makes you worthy of your calling even if you feel like the least likely choice for it. He has a history of changing lives, and the world, with the least obvious people. You are empowered and commissioned. Step into it by faith and He will give you the strength to do all He prompts you to do.