Several years ago, my father in law was about to undergo surgery. To make sure he could handle it, the doctors gave him a stress test for his heart. He failed. They immediately called for an ambulance and sent him to the hospital. When they took a look at his heart, they found several blocked arteries and performed a bypass surgery. The doctor informed us of how serious it was, but assured us that he was better now.
Over and over I’m asked why we as Christians are allowed to endure hardships. I believe that part of it is that we are still under the consequences of Adam’s sin. If only sinners went through hard times, got sick, or died young then people would not choose God based on love. They would follow Him out of fear, and that’s not what God desires. So it rains on the just and the unjust alike.
Another part of the answer is so we can see what’s inside of us. God already knows, but just like that stress test revealed my father in law’s heart condition, difficult times often reveal what’s inside of us. It proves what we really believe, and also shows any weaknesses we need to correct. Going through difficult times gives us a chance to truly walk out our faith so we can know how much we really trust God.
The great news is that we aren’t left in the stressful situation. Psalm 71:20 says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth” (NLT). Like my father in law’s surgeon, God is in the restoration business. He corrects and removes the things that hold us back so we can serve Him better. He brings us back up, out of the depths, so we can share with others the faith we discovered in the hardship.
I try to grow a small garden each spring. Some years the garden does well, and others not so much. This year it didn’t produce anything. My radishes came up empty. My carrots were tiny. The squash took forever to even bloom. Then the corn stalks dried up and died. It was a sad site to behold for sure. It started out with such promise, but it never delivered even though we watered it and did our best to keep the weeds out.
There are years though where every time I walk over to it, there is food. We then take that food, cook it, and eat it. Afterwards, we are able to take the seeds and replant them so that a new crop is produced. That’s the way a garden should be, but it’s also the way that God’s Word is. It produces fruit in our lives which feeds us. It also produces seeds that regenerate a new crop of faith in our lives.
Isaiah 55:11 says, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (NLT). God’s Word doesn’t have off years like my garden. It always produces and always prospers no matter what ground it’s planted in. That’s the key though. If we want God’s Word to produce and prosper in our lives, we first have to plant it in our hearts.
Some of the fruit of having God’s Word planted in us is that we won’t sin (Psalm 119:11), it brings healing (Psalm 107:20), and it gives life (John 1:4). God’s Word is a powerful seed that each of us as believers need to plant daily into our lives. Before I read it, I like to pray, “God, open my eyes to see things in your Word that I’ve never seen before. Help me to make connections that I’ve never made. Prepare my heart to receive from you as I read, and I pray that you would plant it deep in my heart so that it will produce all you want it to.” Pray that prayer today, and watch God produce a bumper crop in your life.
As a kid, I loved to play King of the Hill. There’s was something fun about standing on top of some dirt and trying to keep from being knocked off. As the others would run up the hill, you’d try to push them down as they tried to push you off the top. There were days when I couldn’t seem to hold my ground, and other days when no one could knock me down. I had no idea that I was learning important lessons during that game.
I had no idea the importance of high ground and the strategic advantage it gave whoever was the King of the Hill. It turns out that when you are on the high ground, you choose the terms of mobility and can deny your opponents from taking ground. You have the ability to use your weight and gravity together to resist while they are fighting you and gravity. Being higher up also reduces the angle of attack from below.
I say all of that because you and I are in a daily struggle with the devil. In Ephesians 6:13, Paul tells us, “So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground” (GNT). As I’ve read this my whole life, I’ve imagined myself on even ground in this fight, but now I understand we have the high ground! You and I have the advantage and can hold our ground when the enemy attacks.
When we accept Christ, we immediately gain higher ground. Our lives begin to move upward, that’s why the enemy attacks. He wants to knock us down, but we have the advantage in higher ground. We can increase our odds of holding our ground significantly if we will also put on the while armor of God. We will not only be able to resist attacks, but we will still be holding our ground as King of the Hill that God has set us on. Don’t let the enemy fool you into thinking he has the advantage.
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 was visiting someone who was working on a LEGO project with his kids. They had hundreds of LEGO pieces neatly arranged on their table and a step by step guide. I watched as they looked at each step, found the pieces, decided where they went, put them on there and moved on to the next step. Each step took a while because you had to find the right pieces in the right color and then look at a cartoon drawing of where they went to help them place them.
After watching them build for about twenty minutes, I began to get curious. What were they building? I couldn’t tell from where they were in the project. They showed me the picture on the box so I could see the final outcome. I looked at it and where they were, and quickly realized this was going to take days to build. It was not your average LEGO building project. It was going to take multiple steps to get through it along with time and dedication. It reminded me of the spiritual discipline it takes to walk by faith.
For many of us, God has put a dream in our heart, or has given us a promise of where He wants to take us. In essence, He’s shown us the picture on the box. We then have a series of steps to go through in order to achieve that picture. Each step takes time. First we have to get the courage to take the next step. Then we have to find the pieces of that step and find where they go. Once we get them in place, it can be a while before God shows us the next step. When He does, the process starts over.
After a while of following the steps God has laid out for us, we can begin to see what He is doing and how those parts fit into the overall picture. In the beginning though, it’s tough to see how any of it relates to what God is doing, but these are the foundational pieces. If we don’t get these in the right place, the rest will not work. It takes spiritual discipline to follow the steps God gives us. That discipline produces the patience and endurance needed to get us where we’re going because it’s easy to want to quit along the way.
If you’re looking at your life and wondering what God is doing, ask to see the box. Let God remind you of the final outcome. To make something incredible, it requires a lot of small steps and intricate details. Don’t get so lost in the steps He has given you that you lose sight of what He wants to do in and with your life. Also don’t worry about the next step until you’ve completed this step. God will reveal each step in His time, not yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their life.” God knows the details of each step of your life. Trust Him and follow where He leads.
There’s a viral video that’s been floating around Facebook for a while now. It’s of an artist on Ukraine’s Got Talent. She has a large canvas and begins to draw what appears to be one of the judges. As she continues to work on it, the judges become impatient. One by one, they give her the dreaded X. After all judges give her the X, she takes the canvas, turns it upside down, then throws a chalky substance on the canvas. When the dust clears, it’s a portrait of someone else.
I think we are all a bit like those judges at times when God is trying to do a work in our lives. We think we know what He’s up to, and we don’t agree with it. We think we know best and we X out of His plan. We are always trying to put together the pieces of what He’s doing, and we are judging it. The problem is that we truly have no clue what He’s doing because we have the wrong perspective, and He’s not finished yet. We’ve got to learn to have patience while God works in our lives.
We’ve become a part of the culture that tries to figure everything out before it’s done. We like things now rather than later. We don’t let things develop and mature like they’re supposed to. God wants us to be patient, especially when He’s working in our lives. Isaiah 30:18 says, “But GOD’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones” (MSG).
God’s message to us today is to be patient while He works. He’s taking a His time, doing the things that are necessary. You may not understand it, or be able to see the full picture of what He’s doing right now. If you will wait for Him to complete what He’s started, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t be like those judges and miss out on the art that God is trying to create in your life. God’s not finished yet. The final product is worth the wait.
To watch the video I described, click here.
Several years ago, I used to have my classes take each other on trust walks. I would bring half the group to the front of the class, blindfold them, and then bring up the other half. The half that could see had to come stand in front of someone and then take them on a five minute walk through the building and the guide them back. The catch was that they couldn’t touch the other person. They had to do it all through voice directions while being around the rest of the group.
Trusting God often feels like that exercise. We often feel like we can’t see anything, we don’t know where we are going, and there are a lot of competing voices around. God asks us to trust Him, and to walk by faith instead of by sight. It can be very difficult at time to take those steps and to walk into the unknown when we can’t see. If we will trust Him, He will lead us into the life we were created for, and we will find peace. We just have to be willing to put the blindfold on.
Here are some Bible verses on trusting God.
1. You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 GNT
2. Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG
3. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalms 37:5 NLT
4. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:7 ESV
5. Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 GNT