To me, one of the most challenging things God has spoken to anyone in Scripture is in Genesis 12:1. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you’” (NLT). He was 75 years old at the time. He was well established, and yet God asked him to pack everything up and go to a destination that would be shown to him at a later time. His faith in action is inspiring to me. The Bible later says that his faith was counted at righteousness. That’s a faith we should all aspire to have.
Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus spoke something very similar to all of us. In Luke 14:31 Jesus said, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Every one of us who follows Christ is given the same call that went out to Abram. I believe it’s God’s reminder to us that this place is not our home. Everything we have here is temporary and we can’t take it with us. We must be willing to let go of earthly things so we can receive from God the spiritual things that matter for eternity.
My wife and i try to keep an open hand for the things we have. When your hands are open to God, He can place things in them and take things out of them whenever He wants. Faith is trusting God with all you have and with the direction of your life. You may not get to know the destination. You may he asked to walk away from everything that’s familiar to you. God’s greatest blessings are stored up for those who are willing to give God whatever He asks for and for those who follow Him wherever He leads. What are you willing to let go of should God ask for it? Pray that God would help you keep an open hand and heart.
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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.
My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”
What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.
Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.
That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash
I’m often guilty of wishing I had someone else’s giftings. Have you ever felt that way? I can hear someone preach, and wish I could explain things the way they do. I’ve read other authors and thought, “If only I could write that well.” I’ve heard people give some wise advice and wondered why I can’t think of things like that. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into because I’m failing to be appreciative of the gifts God has given me. In those moments, I discount the very things God wants me to use for His glory.
If you look back across the years of your life, you will see a lot of ups and downs, mountains and valleys. In the low moments, God is smoothing off your rough edges and is sharpening the gifts He placed in you. It hurts to go through those times, but it’s in those valleys that God prepares you for your calling and destiny. Coming out of the valley, it’s natural to think you have nothing left, but even the little you have, used for God will be enough to fulfill your purpose.
2 Corinthians 8:12 says, “If you are eager to give, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you don’t have” (GNT). In other words, God isn’t expecting you to give Him someone else’s gifts. He’s expecting you to give Him what you have matter how small you think it might be. It’s time we quit comparing ourselves to each other when it comes to gifts. God didn’t give you their gifts because He didn’t call you to reach the same people they are called to reach. Give what you have and God will use it in ways you can’t imagine.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Many years ago, I went through a divorce. Along with all of the other baggage that comes with it, I struggled with its affect on God’s call on my life. I had been raised in a denomination that did not allow people who were divorced to minister. As the reality of my divorce set in, so did the reality that I would never be able to minister to others. I was devastated all over again. I had felt the call of God on my life since I was young, and now I felt like I couldn’t fulfill it.
As I was lamenting to a friend about it, he gave me one of those verbal, snap out of it slaps across the face. He said, “Do you really think that you can do anything to revoke the call of God on your life? Who has more authority, man or God?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. Man does not have the authority or ability to revoke God’s call, yet our enemy lies to us to make us ineffective.
I believe this was something the apostle Paul struggled with. I’m sure the enemy tormented him with thoughts like, “How can you be a minister when you’ve murdered so many Christians?” I believe the churches also must have struggled with it because he had to bring it up in a lot of his letters. In Galatians 1:15 he reminded them, “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace” (NLT). Even his years of persecuting the Church couldn’t revoke God’s calling.
If Paul’s murders and persecution of the Church couldn’t revoke God’s call on his life, then nothing you or I have done has revoked it on ours. If you’ve been believing the lie that your past sin or circumstances have prevented you from fulfilling your calling, today is your day of freedom. Before you were born, God called you and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to revoke it. If you’re in sin, repent and fulfill your calling. If you’re a Christian, but haven’t been walking in your calling because of your past, today’s your day to start walking in it.
In Luke 1, two different people are told by the angel Gabriel that something amazing will happen to them. They responded almost identically, yet one was punished and one was praised. One spent the next several months unable to speak, while the other used their voice to praise God. How we respond to the plans God has for us matters. When God first puts them in our heart, they scare us because they seem impossible to accomplish on our own. Through the years, I’ve discovered if God put it in you, it’s impossible to do on your own.
Zechariah was a man who was up in age. He was a faithful servant of God and even served as a priest in the Temple. One day, while performing his duties, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary to burn incense before God. After he entered, Gabriel appeared to him to bring him the message that his wife would become pregnant and have a son. In verse 18, Zechariah responded, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years” (NLT). It seems like a logical question, but it upset Gabriel to the point that he made Zechariah mute until the baby was born.
Mary was a young lady who was engaged to be married. She believed in God, but wasn’t involved in ministry. She was going about her normal business when Gabriel paid a visit to her. He gave her the incredible news that she would become pregnant while still a virgin. In verse 34, she responded, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Again, this is a logical response to the angel, but this time he wasn’t angry. Instead he gave an explanation. So what was the difference? Their responses are very similar.
One was born out of doubt and one out of faith. One saw the impossibility and questioned God’s ability, while the other’s faith made them curious. Look at their responses again. One wanted proof it would happen and the other wondered how God would accomplish His will. There’s a significant difference, and I think it’s important how we respond to the things God reveals to us. So many times we want proof from Him instead of trusting that He’ll do what He says. I don’t know what God placed in your heart, but I can imagine it’s pretty big. Instead of asking Him for proof, trust Him to do it, and be available as Mary was.
One of the most difficult parts of walking by faith is not knowing God’s timetable. So many times, it feels like we are to move on or we want to stay where we are longer than God’s plan. When things are going well, we want to camp in that place and stay there forever. When we’ve been stuck in one place and haven’t seen the growth we want, we are ready to move on. But most of the time, God’s timetable for moving on is different than ours.
There are times in my life when things start happening quickly, and I feel like things are moving in the right direction. Then, all of a sudden, I hit a brick wall. I get stopped at one point, and have to stay there for a while. I don’t know why we hit these plateaus or why God camps us out where He does. Some places it seems very logical, but other times it leaves me scratching my head and asking God why.
As I’ve read through the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, I came across some verses that showed they went through something similar. Numbers 9:15-18 says, “On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the LORD’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle” (NLT).
You and I have the responsibility of following God wherever He leads, whenever He moves. Verse 22 says, “Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on.” You and I have to learn to be flexible with God’s timetable. We don’t have permission to move until He says it’s ok. If you want to experience all God has for you, follow His presence when and where it leads you.
Whenever I think about the plans God has for me and where I am, I don’t see how I can get there from here. I can see how the things I’m doing now are preparing me for that calling, but o can’t find the way to get there. I’m constantly looking for the path that takes me from this road to that one. I know I’m not alone in this. I talk to many people who tell me the plans that God has shown them scares them. Those plans are too big for them or me to accomplish on our own. So how do we get there from here?
As I was reading in Psalms recently, I came across a verse that helped me. David was faced with a similar situation and he couldn’t find the way out. He remembered how the Israelites were trapped at the Red Sea and had no way to get to where God was calling them to. They had Pharaoh bearing down on them, they were at a dead end, and had no where else to go. In that moment, God parted the sea and showed them the path.
Psalm 77:19 says, “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!” (NLT) The path God has for you to get to your calling maybe hidden in a sea. You may not know where it is, but God does. You can rest assured that when the time comes, God will part the waters and show you the path. Until that time, stay faithful where He has you. What you’re doing now is preparation for what’s to come.