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 don’t know if there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t gone through a difficult time and wondered why people who are outright evil don’t appear to be suffering. You try to do everything God asks and follow all the rules, yet there is someone in your life living in outright rebellion to God and nothing ever happens to them. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. Why should the godly suffer when we are the ones who try to do right? Shouldn’t God bless us because we are his followers and curse them?
I’ve been caught in that trap before. I’ve questioned God’s decision to allow me to suffer while others enjoy life’s greatest blessings. At times, I’ve felt like my life was worse than Job’s. In the midst of my suffering, I’ve wondered if anyone ever had it as bad as me. I allowed myself to wallow in self pity. It didn’t get Job anywhere, and it certainly didn’t get me anywhere. God didn’t even seem to notice my pity party. I thought, “Maybe I should just live how I want since living right hasn’t gotten me anything except this pain.”
When we act on those thoughts, we fail the test God has given us. I’ve found that God only tests those worthy of taking it. Everything Job went through was a test to prove that he wasn’t righteous only because of his blessings. God was showing that his faith didn’t rely on his health or possessions. It relied on his trust in God even when God was silent during the test. It relied on who He had found God to be in the good times. It didn’t get distracted in the storm.
True faith gets tested. True faith trusts God even when we can’t see Him or feel Him. It’s understandable that we want to compare ourselves to others who aren’t living right, but we are to trust in God no matter what. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (NIV). We are blessed when we can keep our eyes on God in the midst of chaos. We pass the test when our trust in God outweighs our circumstances. We need to realize God is testing us because we are worthy of being tested.
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I go through phases on the music I listen to. Recently, I was on an old school, Christian music kick and was listening to Keith Green. On the live version of “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”, he told the story of how he wrote it. He wrote God a letter asking God for a soft, spiritual heart. He wanted baby skin on his heart because his heart was getting old and calloused. He said, “It’s not because of anything I’m doing. It’s because of a lot of things I’m not doing.” Those words resonated within me. I began to pray for a new heart too.
Keith is right. The longer we are Christians, the more our heart gets calloused within us. It’s such a slow process that we often don’t realize it. We quit praying for certain things because we “know He won’t answer that.” We see the excitement in a new believer and think, “That’ll wear off soon.” Over time, we lose our childlike faith, but I believe God wants us to keep that. Praying for a new or soft heart is a great way to rekindle the fire that once burned bright.
When Samuel met Saul, he told Saul he was going to be king of Israel. He then gave him three signs of things he would encounter on his way home to prove it. I Samuel 10:9 says, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day” (NLT). We know that over time Saul’s heart hardened again, but there at the beginning, God gave him a new heart. I believe God wants all of us to have a new heart with childlike faith. If it’s been a while since God gave you a new heart, pray today that He will. I know He’ll answer that prayer.
Click here for a YouTube video of the Keith Green song.
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash
Every one of us will go through valleys. They’re those dark periods in our lives that are created by the loss of a loved one, the consequence of sin, being hurt by someone we love, an illness or something else. In the valley, it’s natural to want to push everyone away and face it alone, but that’s not God’s plan. That’s when you need those who love you the most to carry you, walk with you and encourage you. Having been there and tried that, I know the reasoning and the lies that get you to believe it. I’ve found that Psalm 84:5-7 give us a blueprint to endure the valley.
Verse 5 says, “Blessed and greatly favored is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion” (AMP). The first thing we have to realize is we shouldn’t try to walk through this time in our own strength. When our strength is weak, His is made perfect in us. We need to rely on God, and the people He’s placed in our lives, to get through this period of darkness. We also need to focus on Him rather than the issue. If we’re not careful, we can go further down into a darker place than we are.
Verse 6 says, “Passing through the Valley of Weeping ( Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings.” I love this because it’s up to us what we make of the valley experience. Will it be a dry, desolate place or will it be a place of refreshing springs? Are we just trying to push through it or are we learning as we go? God has blessings in the valleys of life if we’re looking for them and we’re turning those times into learning and growing experiences.
Finally, verse 7 says, “They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; Each of them appears before God in Zion.” There is light at the end of the valley because victory is ours when we do these things. You are not alone in this. God sees you, He gives you strength daily and you are on His mind. Don’t push Him or others away on this journey. They provide the strength you need to gain the victory over this period and place in life. The valley isn’t permanent. Weeping in the valley may last for a while, but joy is on the way when we do these things.
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Have you ever met a person that you respected or admired, then got to have a real conversation with them? Then, at the end of the conversation, they gave you their number and said, “If you ever need anything, reach out to me.” I’ve had that happen a few times. I still have their cards, but I can tell you I’ve never called them. I’m too afraid that I’ll be seen as someone who abused the privilege of having access to them. I don’t want them to think I’m bothering them with a stupid request. So I hang onto my key to access them without ever accessing them.
The crazy thing is that many of us have that same attitude when it comes to accessing God. We think He’s got bigger problems to solve than ours. We reason that He doesn’t want to be bothered with our needs. We then try to justify, “He probably wouldn’t answer anyway.” So we hang onto our access to God, but we rarely access Him. I’m here to tell you that Jesus didn’t rip the veil between man and God for us to sit back. He invited us to come boldly into the Throne Room.
1 Corinthians 4:8 says, “You already have more access to God than you can handle” (MSG). Think about that. You and I have more access to God than we can handle. Access that He expects us to use. Whatever failures you point to, God can forgive. Whatever wisdom you need, God can give. Whatever problems you’re facing, God can resolve, but you have to access Him. You can’t just sit back and do nothing. Use your “All Access” badge, get into the Throne Room of Heaven and let God know your request.
God is able to handle the toughest problems of this world and your greatest need at the same time. You don’t need to feel ashamed or timid in approaching Him. His ways are not our ways and His wisdom is not our wisdom so He may answer in an unexpected way. Present your needs to Him without telling Him how to solve them. God is deeply concerned about the things you’re concerned about, and He has the power to resolve them. Don’t believe the lie that you need to leave Him alone. You have the access, now use it.
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From the time Jesus left Pilate’s court until He arrived at Golgotha, there was a crowd of people. Some people in that crowd were people who loved Him and were for Him. Some were people who were passing by and got caught up in it. Then there were those who were railing against Him while the top religious leaders were trying to create a mob to make sure Jesus wouldn’t be rescued. There were so many people that Pilate assigned an entire battalion of 600 guards to the crucifixion.
After being severely beaten, and paraded through the streets, Jesus made His way outside of the city walls to the place of the skull. There, after they nailed Him to those roughly cut boards,, they raised Him up for all to see. The crowd began to taunt Him even more. Matthew 27:40 records them as saying, “‘Look at you now!’ they yelled at him. ‘You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!’” (NLT)
I often wonder where I would have been in the crowd that day. It’s easy to think I would have been with the disciples, quietly watching in shock. Jesus’ accusers knew His sermons. They were quoting the things He had said. These were people who saw the miracles and shouted, “Hosanna” just a week before, yet here they were mocking Him. Would you and I have been caught up in the rush of the moment to attack a person who was being humiliated publicly? We do it every day on social media. Why would this have been different?
I’m sure every bit of Jesus’ human nature was screaming at Him to come off the cross to prove to them that He was the Son of God and to silence them. Thankfully He obeyed the Spirit’s voice that had Him die on the cross that day. Because He stayed on the cross, He was able to open the doors of Heaven to all those in the crowd that day who were insulting Him. His blood that was spilled that day was enough to pay the debt of any sin that was ever committed or ever would be. He didn’t save Himself that day so that He could save you and me.
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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.
Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash