Do you ever feel like your faults, failures and past sins disqualify you from being used by God? Sometimes those voices that tell me those things get so overpowering that I start to believe it. My past comes back to remind me to stay grounded while God has called me to fly. They weigh me down like I’m attached to an anchor. They tell me, “Because you did this, God can never do that in your life.” It’s hard to hear anything else sometimes.
When those voices get too loud in my mind, there’s two verses I go back to. The first one is Psalm 65:3. It says, “Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them” (GNT). I use this verse to remind me that my past has been forgiven, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. The voices that tell me what God can’t do are not from God. When He forgives, He forgets. He uses those faults and failures as my qualifications to do what He called me to do.
The other verse I go to is Romans 11:29. It says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God still has a plan for your life. He still has a calling that only you can fulfill. He knew your future when He called you. He understood that you wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life so He built it into the plan for you. He doesn’t withdrawal His calling because of our past.
It’s easy to look at someone else and think, “They’re better qualified to do what I’m called to do,” but that’s not how God works. He created you with a purpose and a calling that only you can fulfill. It’s time to quit listening to the voices that tell us we can’t, and start listening to the only voice that matters. It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far. God’s calling is still valid and you have work to do. Push out the voices that tell you why you can’t, and tell God, “Here am I. Use me.” God hasn’t withdrawn His calling or purpose for your life.
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One of the things I love about King David is that He kept trusting God no matter what was going on. When there was a giant threatening his nation, He believed God would deliver them. When he was sent back to tending sheep after he was anointed king, he kept praising God. When he sinned, he cried out for forgiveness. When nothing was going right, he went to the Rock that was higher. He was human just like us, but he learned to fully trust God no matter what was happening in his life.
Before he became king, Saul thought if he could kill him, his own son would be king instead. David spent a lot of time running from Saul and living in caves. He knew that God had anointed him to be king, yet here he was living in a cave instead of a palace. He didn’t cry out asking God why he wasn’t king. Instead, in Psalm 57:2 he said, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me” (NLT). Even though the promise seemed out of reach, he trusted in God’s plan.
If your life isn’t where you thought it should be or if it feels like you’re on the defensive, trust God’s plan. Ive found that God grows us and shapes us in the caves of life. He uses them to prepare us for His plan. Instead of being upset and angry that things aren’t working out according to your plan, thank God that He has a plan and He’s working it out in your life. The cave is worth the price you pay for the life God is leading you to. He will fulfill His purpose for you.
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I’ll never forget a minister who came to work at our church when I was younger. They felt that God had called them to our town and our church. Not long after they had uprooted their family from their hometown and moved to ours, things started to go wrong. Their car broke down, the AC in the house went out, etc. It seemed that for a year nothing went right and everything was against them. They concluded that they missed God and weren’t supposed to be there. They resigned and moved back to where they lived before.
I remember talking to them about it, and decided to label it Jonah Syndrome. They believed if bad things were happening, they must have missed God or disobeyed Him. My response was that bad things happen, and that it could be an attack to try to make them ineffective at what God had called them to do. To this day, I believe they didn’t think that bad things happen to people who are in the will of God. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who believe that. The truth is that we need to get rid of the Jonah Syndrome.
All of the early disciples, and most of the Early Church, suffered hardships. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead and had disagreements with the leadership of the Church. Bad things happened to him constantly in the New Testament. He even had one nagging problem that he said was a “thorn in his flesh”. He asked God to resolve and remove the problem, but God didn’t. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 12, He replied to Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (AMP).
I like how Psalm 34:19 says, “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all” (GNT). You and I are going to go through suffering and have our own thorns in the flesh. It doesn’t mean we are not in God’s will, it means that we need to learn to trust His grace. Jonah was running from his calling. That’s why he suffered. If you’re trying to do what God called you to and you’re running into troubles, ask God for His grace to help you endure. It could be that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough and the enemy is trying to stop you. Above all, seek God’s wisdom in the matter and trust His answer.
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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.