After speaking to a group, a young lady came up to speak to me. She asked, “How do I know what God’s burden is in my life?” It’s a great question that many of us want to know. I asked her if there was an injustice in the world or problem that she saw that breaks her heart or causes her to lose sleep. If there’s a burning desire to remedy it, that’s usually God laying His burden on our heart. It could be an un reached people group that needs the Gospel or the hungry needing food. When we start losing sleep over it and being consumed with it, that’s God wanting to use you in that area to make a difference.
Nehemiah was a man who was minding his own business and doing his job when God gave him a burden. In Nehemiah 1:3-4 he wrote, “They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (NLT). He didn’t ignore that desire. He went to Jerusalem and rebuilt its walls so that those who lived there would have protection. It wasn’t easy, and he faced opposition, but he kept at it until it was done.
In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light” (AMP ). God’s burdens are different from the ones we put on ourselves. The ones we place on ourselves look inward, but God’s look outward to help others. For some, they come suddenly like Nehemiah. For others, you may have been carrying it for years. God’s desire is to partner with each of us to do His work in this world, to make a difference in the lives of someone. What has God been showing you that needs to be repaired or corrected. It may be large or small, but either way, it needs you. I don’t know that you’ll feel qualified or ready to do it, but don’t let that stop you. Accept His burden and get started making a difference.
One of the things I’ve learned about when it comes to accomplishing things is that all of us get some kind of resistance in the brain. No matter how much we want to do it or how much we need to, some type of fear tries to come in and short circuit the brain to prevent us from following through fully. We face the fear of the unknown, the fear of how being successful in it might change us, the fear of what others will think and so on. These fears try to affect our physical actions, but they don’t have to. Each of us have the ability to push through when we recognize the fear and how it is trying to stop us. We have the capacity to follow through with what God has called us to do, but we must choose to push through no matter what.
You know the story in Genesis 22 where Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice Isaac. I’m sure Abraham”s mind was attacked by fear on the way up the mountain, yet he kept walking. Isaac was in the same boat. Every representation of this story you have seen has shown Isaac as a little boy. However, most Bible scholars believe he was an adult at the time of this encounter. Think about that. He understood what was going on as he carried the wood up the mountain and asked about it. He still took each step and presented himself as the sacrifice when he could have overpowered his father or run away. He didn’t let fear stop him from being obedient.
Romans 12:1 says, “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer” (GNT). What has God asked you to step out in faith and do? What are the fears you’re facing? Whose voice are you listening to? We must be like Abraham and Isaac walking in faith the where God is leading us. We must take steps daily surrendering to His plan and will instead of ours. Yes, it is a sacrifice, and you’re going to have to give up some things along the way while carrying a heavy load. However, God will meet us in the place of provision when we push past the fears, submit ourselves as a sacrifice and dedicate ourselves to His purposes. Pick up His burden today and start taking steps in the direction He is leading you towards.
Ten years ago today, I wrote and posted to this site for the first time. In those years I have written around 2,600 devotions and over 1,000,000 words. I didn’t start out thinking I’d be writing 10 years later. In fact, I had (incorrectly) assumed that my site would be overwhelmed with clicks and that a publishing agent would be contacting me to write a book simply because I felt God tell me to start writing. In my mind, obedience to God equaled success by the world’s definition. I thought it meant that I would be known for writing and changing lives. Instead, the success in my life has been a closer walk with God and greater understanding of His Word as I’ve spent more time in prayer and contemplation through this process.
Years ago I heard Andy Stanley speak to a room full of ministers at a Catalyst conference. He told us, “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” We all want to help lots of people, but when they don’t come flocking to us, we get discouraged and give up. That’s where I found myself in the early days of writing. I was obsessing over the number of clicks, subscribers and comments. I wasn’t getting very many. My wife would ask, “But did one person say it spoke to them? If it did, then today’s post was a success.” I had to quit looking at the statistics for my site and focus on that in order to change my mentality. It wasn’t easy because we are a numbers driven society with numbers being the primary indicator of success.
In Matthew 18:12, Jesus asked, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” (NLT) Jesus placed the value and success on the one. Most of the time being obedient to God isn’t going to bring success by the world’s standards. It’s about saving the one. Finding the one. Redirecting the one. Don’t fret if your obedience to God isn’t noticed by the masses. It’s noticed by the One who matters. We need to redefine our idea of success to match God’s. If we don’t do that, we may get discouraged and give up losing the opportunity to rescue the one we were sent after.
I was chatting with a friend at church recently. We were talking about the need for satellite churches around the city. As we were discussing locations that would be good, he brought up a certain area of town. He broke down and began to cry. He said, “We’ve got to get in there and take the Gospel to the people who live there.” I could tell his heart was breaking for that demographic. I believe God has given this man that burden and that’s why it bothered Him so much that there were so few churches in that area trying to reach them. His passion touched me, and it got me to thinking about the importance of anguish in a Christian’s life.
Several years ago, David Wilkerson preached a sermon called, “A Call to Anguish”. It’s one of those sermons I’ve listened to many times because it fires me up. In it, he says, “Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. The agony of God’s heart.“ That’s what was going on in my friend, and to be honest, I was a little jealous because I wanted to feel God’s anguish like that.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah wanted a son. Every day she was reminded of her barrenness. God put it in her heart to have a child so she went to the Tabernacle to pray. Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). I believe her anguish was born in her heart by God. I believe it’s something every one of us need. If you’re not feeling God’s anguish today for a brokenness in the world, ask God to share part of His heart with you. It’s time we wept in anguish for the things that break God’s heart so we can do something about it.
Take five minutes today to listen to these excerpts from David Wilkerson’s sermon “A Call to Anguish” and ask God to share part of His heart with you.
To me, one of the most interesting decisions anyone made in the Bible came from Peter and the disciples in John 21:3. Peter told the disciples, “‘I’m going fishing.’ And they all replied, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and fished through the night, but caught nothing” (TPT). Three years earlier, Jesus had called Peter away from the fishing boats to fish for men instead. For three years, they watched Jesus perform miracle after miracle. Then they saw Jesus crucified and resurrected. He wanted them to meet Him in Galilee, yet when they arrived, they went back to their old jobs.
I don’t know how long it was after they returned to Galilee before they went fishing, but it’s very indicative of what we all do. God tells us to wait, we wait, He doesn’t show up during our time table and we do something else. We reason, “Maybe we missed God.” Instead of moving forward, we go backwards to what’s familiar to us. We pick up our old nets and step away from our calling. Just like this night of fishing for the disciples, it’s unproductive and unsatisfying. Once you’ve had a taste of your calling, it’s hard to be fulfilled by anything else. Yet Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He chases after us like the lost sheep and redirects us.
I love in this story how when Jesus tells them to cast on the other side and the nets fill with fish, Peter doesn’t wait to bring them in. He jumps out of the boat and swims to shore. I believe that’s what God is asking each us to do. It’s time we jump out of the boat of the familiar and moved toward Jesus. It may be uncharted waters for you, but the fulfillment you seek is to be using the gifts He’s given you in the calling He’s placed on your life. If you’re in the sea of the familiar right now, jump out of the boat and swim to where God is calling you.
Have you ever tried to get something done, but kept getting distracted? The distractions weren’t there until you decided to start. The moment you engage the project, it seems that the whole world falls apart. Someone calls and needs something right away. You realize you forgot to do something else that you were supposed to do. What you’re using to complete the project breaks or quits working. It gets pretty frustrating doesn’t it?
I gotta say, it happens to all of us and I’m not sure why. Then there’s the whole procrastination thing. When you’ve got a big project you need to be working on, sometimes starting it is the hardest thing to do. Where do I begin? What if I get into this and the distractions start? How long is this going to take? Do I have time to complete it? Why do today what I can put off till tomorrow? We question ourselves and talk ourselves out if starting. It’s easy to do, and I’m pretty sure I’m the king of it.
As Solomon was becoming king himself, his father David handed him the blueprints for the Temple. It was a daunting project that would require years to complete with thousands of moving parts. Combine that with trying to run a country and you’ve got both distractions and procrastination creeping at your door. In I Chronicles 28:20, David encouraged him by saying, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (NLT).
Let that be an encouragement to you today. Do the work that you’re called to do. Push past the procrastination and stay focused through the distractions. Don’t be afraid of the outcome or discouraged by what others may say. You are uniquely qualified to do what God has called you to do. If He didn’t think you could do it, He wouldn’t have called you to it. Be strong, courageous and confident. Take your next step today and trust that God is with you and will be faithful to help you complete it.