I’m one of those people who loves it when a business puts a survey at the bottom of a receipt. If you’ve ever wondered who takes those, it’s me! Whether it’s for food, a flight, customer service experience, an oil change or whatever, I like to take them. Part of it is that I can get something for free usually, but the other part is that I get a say in how they conduct business. Many times I think if they would just take my suggestion, they’d be so much better off.
I have a friend who owns a business, and one time I started to give him a suggestion, “If I were you, I’d…” He stopped me and said, “You’re not going to think of something we haven’t. We’ve been doing this every day for years.” Part of me was hurt that they didn’t want an outside set of eyes. The other part of me understood. They know their business inside and out. Who am I to try to tell them how to run it?
The bigger problem comes in when we try to tell God how things should be. Have you ever tried that? “God, if you would have just done this, that wouldn’t have happened.” We love to tell God how things should have happened, especially when we aren’t happy with the outcome. We love to tell God how to do things as if we know better. Yes, if He had done it our way, we would have missed out on a lot of pain. But do we really know better?
Job 21:22 says, “But who are we to tell God how to run His affairs?” (MSG) Do we really know better than He does? He sees the whole picture, and we see a small part. Like a good parent, He does what’s best for us even if we don’t like it. He sees the outcome before anything happens. Like a child, we may not understand why things happen or what He’s doing, but we have to trust Him even when it upsets us. He’s always working for our good.
There’s an exercise I do with people to show how our minds jump to conclusions and we assume. We observe a conversation where a lot of things are left open, and then I ask them questions about it. The group doesn’t know that I’m exposing how their brain works. As I ask the questions, they typically make assumptions. I keep asking questions to get as much detail from them as I can to see how much they’ve made up.
I keep asking questions until someone inevitably says, “I don’t know.” I then go back to what was said and ask, “So what do we really know?” I sometimes have to go through it several times before they get it. Most of the answers they give are based on their assumptions and not on what they know. I then like to ask, “How much of your life is based on what you’re assuming versus what you know?” It’s a heavy question that I usually leave several seconds of silence after while they think.
Job was a righteous man in the Bible. He honored God in all he did and even fell down to worship God when he lost his kids and his wealth. As time went on and he was struck with boils, his friends began to question his integrity. In their conversations back and forth, it’s clear that they make many assumptions about his predicament and how God is doing it to Him. They don’t know that Satan is behind the whole thing and is the one tormenting Job.
In Job 19:25, Job makes a great statement. He says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives” (NLT). We may not know why we go through certain things or why things happen, but we can know that our redeemer lives. We can live with assurance that He is in control and our lives are in His hands. We need to stop our assumptions that God is behind everything bad that happens in our lives. We know that it’s the enemy who steals, kills and destroys. It’s God who brings life. So they next time things happen, don’t make decisions based on assumptions. Go with what you know.
There was a period in my life where I fell like I had it worse than Job. I was losing everything in my life, and I was helpless to stop it. I felt like a knife had been put in my chest, pulled down to my waist and all my guts had fallen out. I was knocked down and didn’t want to get back up. I couldn’t see the future or any path forward. It was easier to just stay there and deal with the pain than it was to get back up and to keep moving.
As Christians, quitting shouldn’t be in our vocabulary. Giving up shouldn’t be considered. If we get knocked down six times, we get up seven. I had to remind myself of these things in those dark moments. I had to tell myself that others had it worse than I did and that I needed to start moving forward even if it wasn’t much. Between putting God’s Word in my mind and spending time in prayer, I was able to get back up and move forward. Doing the same, I believe you can find the strength you need to move forward as well.
Here are some Bible verses about not giving up.
1. The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.
Job 17:9 NLT
2. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7 NIV
3. 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.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
4. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.
Proverbs 24:16 MSG
5. The Lord guides us in the way we should go and protects those who please him. If they fall, they will not stay down, because the Lord will help them up.
Psalm 37:23-24 GNT
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.
One of the things I love about our car is when you get low on gas, not only does it notify you, the navigation screen automatically shows you where all the gas stations are. If I keep going, the alarm will continue to let me know every few miles that it’s time to fill up. So far I haven’t run out of gas in it. That’s a good thing because I know what it’s like to run out of gas and to have to do the walk of shame to the gas station.
What about you? Have you ever run out of gas? Have you ever run out of gas spiritually? Again, I’m guilt of that too. I’ve let myself run out gas spiritually and I’ve stalled. There were warnings that I over looked and things that I did that caused me to run out. One of the first things I quit doing was reading the Bible daily. It was more of a box to check off for me at the time and I saw it as a chore. When I quit reading my Bible, my faith took a hit.
Romans tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I increase my faith by putting God’s Word in me. I wasn’t doing that, and I quickly found out that I was susceptible to attacks. It turns out that faith is also our shield that helps protect us against the fiery darts of the devil. I then began to slip in areas I had never had trouble in. I started to go places and to do things that I never dreamed I would have.
After that, I noticed that my church attendance began to slip. “I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” I would say. I wasn’t getting anything out of it because I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t listening because I didn’t want to be convicted of the things I was doing. I didn’t want to be questioned by people at church when I did go, so I started leaving as soon as the pastor ended his sermons. I cut myself off from the community of believers.
Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the assembling of fellow believers. I looked up “forsake” and dictionary.com said, “to quit or leave entirely.” Because I did it, I know why the writer said we shouldn’t. I left a group of people who loved me, prayed for me and lifted me up when I needed it. Church is more than just a group of believers going to hear a message. It’s a place where we connect and find a sense of belonging.
After I left, it didn’t take long before I ran out of gas. When I couldn’t move forward in my life anymore, I decided to take that walk to the altar. The good news is that this walk isn’t a walk of shame. It’s a walk of rejoicing because God comes in, fills us with His love and restores us to a right relationship with Him. If you’re on empty today, you might have made the same mistakes I did. The good news is that He’s waiting to fill you up again and to restore your life. He did it for me and my church accepted me back with open arms. There’s no shame in walking home.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand busy work. I hate being given a task just for the sake of having something to do. I see it as a waste of time rather than a time filler. Nothing truly productive comes from it. I’d rather save my energy, brain power and time doing nothing rather than doing meaningless tasks. Whether it’s at work, home or wherever, we’ve all been given busy work since we were kids.
Sometimes doing things for God feels like busy work. I can’t see the purpose behind doing what He’s asked, so it feels like busy work. Whether it’s busy work or not, I obey because it’s God who is asking. Many times it’s simply to go somewhere, pick someone up, say something to someone, serve at an event or something like it. When I don’t get to see the impact or reason, it can feel like busy work to me.
I was discussing this with one of my pastor friends recently. Then I recalled a couple of events that really I could barely remember doing, but the people I helped acted as if I had saved their life. The “busy work” on my part had a significant meaning to the person God was directing it toward. It was a great reminder that often what we do for God may feel like busy work at times to us, but to others, it’s life changing stuff.
Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 15:58, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless” (GNT). If you’re feeling like God has given you a lot of busy work lately, take heart. Nothing you do for Him is useless. It’s not a waste of your time, talents or resources. Often you’re changing lives without even knowing it. God doesn’t give out busy work to keep us occupied. He gives us work that we’re to stay busy at because eternity is at stake.
If you were on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and you were down to the final question with the Phone a Friend Lifeline left, who would you call? Is there anyone in your life you trust that much when that much pressure is on and so much is at stake? Believe it or not, I imagined that scenario over and over again when the show was popular. Only a couple of people came to mind who had the knowledge and poise to deliver in that moment.
When you think about it, that’s a lot of trust you’re putting in that individual. When everything is on the line, you’re saying, “I trust this person with my future.” You may or may not be able to think of someone off the top of your head. When Satan appeared in Heaven one day, God asked him what he had been doing. He replied, “I have been walking here and there, roaming around the earth” (NLT). Then in Job 1:8. God said, “Did you notice my servant Job?”
Satan then accused Job of only trusting God because he had been blessed and was protected by God. He asked, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?” God then allowed Satan to take away everything Job had. God trusted Job in that million dollar moment. When so much was at stake, God looked at him and said, “That’s my guy. I trust him.” And if you’ve read the book of Job, you know that when Satan took everything from him, he fell down and blessed God.
I wonder if God would trust me in that moment. Would He trust you? Is our faith based on who God is or is it based on the blessings in our lives? It’s easy to serve God when the blessings are flowing and things are easy. Would we have the same response as Job if we lost everything? Would we be able to drop to our knees and praise Him no matter what? It’s a tough question, but one that must be asked. What would be your response in that million dollar moment?
I know it’s politically incorrect to say this, but as a kid, I used to watch “The Dukes of Hazzard”. Roscoe P. Coltrane was one of my favorites in the show. He always made me laugh. I loved it when the Dukes would speed past him and he would turn on his police lights to chase them. Inevitably he would get on the CB and radio back to Boss Hogg. He would tell him he’s after the Duke boys and utter his famous catch phrase, “I’m in hot pursuit!” That show is where I learned what it meant to be in pursuit of something.
Believe it or not, all of us are in pursuit of things in our lives. Some of us are in pursuit of riches. They’re always looking for a way to make money. Some are in pursuit of love. They need that affirmation of another individual on this planet and we desperately seek it. Others are in pursuit of fame. They leave everything behind in order to make a name for themselves. There are even some who pursue perfection. Whether it’s in sports, work or other areas of life, they want to be perfect at it.
The question is what are you in hot pursuit of? Will it matter for eternity? King Solomon had a thing or two to say about pursuing things. In Proverbs 21:21 he said, “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor” (NLT). There’s always an end result to our pursuits. Sometimes, they result in good things, and other times we get things that we weren’t expecting. Here, he tells us that we’ll get good things if we will pursue righteousness and unfailing love.
In Matthew 6, Jesus told us to pursue His Kingdom first and His righteousness, and all these other things we desire will be given to us. Is what you’re pursuing for His glory or yours? If we’re seeking things that lift Him up, we are guaranteed good things. Before we get into hot pursuit of things in this life, we need to first think about all the other things we’ll get by pursuing that. For me, I like the idea of finding life, righteousness and honor. I want to be in pursuit of His righteousness and unfailing love.