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.
When I was a kid, another kid dared me to go up to a wasp nest and swat it down. After knocking it down, I ran as fast as I could. It turns out, I wasn’t faster than some angry wasps! I got stung all over. I wish I could say I learned my lesson that time, but I’m a try, try again kind of guy. It took a few times before I was convinced I wasn’t fast enough to outrun angry wasps. As you can guess, I got stung a lot as a kid by just about every kind of wasp, hornet, and bee.
Now that I’m older, if a friend dared me to do that same thing, I would decline that dare. I can still hear my parent’s voices, “Just because you’re dared, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it.” Over time, I’ve learned to listen to those voices of wisdom in my head, and to let them drown out the other voices that would like me to do some foolish things. It’s taken me some time to learn which voices to listen to. Pain and experience have taught me well!
No matter how old we get, we’re all given opportunities to do things that go against God’s Word. We all struggle with the voices that are trying to get us to try it and run, or with the voice that tries to keep us from doing it. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge” (NLT). Many times each of us fail to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in those situations because we haven’t attuned our ear to listen carefully to Him in those situations. The result is that we sin.
Now, none of us are perfect, and none of us can go the rest of our lives without sinning. However, we can commit to putting God’s Word (instruction) into our hearts so that we won’t sin. The more of God’s Word we read, listen to, and meditate on, the more likely we will listen to the words of wisdom God tries to speak to us in those moments. I’d rather take the route of listening to wisdom than to continue learning from the sting of sin. The Holy Spirit is a much better teacher if only we’ll learn to listen.
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
I work in the retail industry, which means I work with the public. There are times that the customer has done something with their purchase which voids the warranty. When they come in, they want to make an exchange under the warranty. Many times, I’ve caught reps saying, “Sorry. That’s just our policy.” I’ve found that using that phrase usually infuriates people. The rep usually then tries to educate the customer on our policy so they understand why we can’t do it.
I’ve spent some time working with them to help change their approach. I tell them, “Customers don’t care about policy or what you can’t do. They need compassion and empathy along with what you can do.” I explain that knowledge is not enough when it comes to something near and dear to someone. Knowledge does nothing to correct their problem. Even if we can’t do anything for them, showing some empathy will to a lot farther.
In the days of the Early Church, there were many questions about what Christians could and could not do. Many arguments broke out that created divisions. People argued their side and tried to make each other more knowledgeable so they would change their ways. Paul responded in Corinthians 8:1, “Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church” (NLT). It seemed everyone had an idea or an opinion, but few had love for each other.
Even today, many of us have disagreements and try to prove each other wrong. All that does is puff us up as an individual. God’s desire is that you and I begin to act in love and empathy in order to strengthen the Church. We can’t forget that we are one body. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but we can always choose to act in love. We are co-laborers in Christ, not competitors. It’s time we stopped trying to make the foot a hand or a hand an eye. Let’s act in love towards one another, strengthen each other and learn to work together.
My son is very inquisitive. He is always asking why or how. In most cases, the answer is above his ability to understand. I try to tell him to let it go, but sometimes he just keeps at it. So I tell him. His nose scrunched up, his eyes squint and he looks confused in those moments. Then he starts asking more questions trying to understand. I’ll just keep going down the rabbit hole with him until he gives up or I can think of an easy explanation that he can understand so we can move on.
I’m not so sure that we are so different when it comes to God. When things happen in our lives, we ask God why or how. What I’ve found is so many times the answer is beyond our ability to understand. It’s tough for us to let it go too. I’m a person that needs to know the why behind things before I do them. If I don’t know the why, I don’t understand the importance or urgency that needs to be behind what I’ve been asked to do.
When God asks me to go somewhere or do something, that’s usually my first question. For me, it doesn’t come from a lack of faith or disobedience. I just like to know why before I do something. With that in mind, Proverbs 20:24 speaks to me in regards to when God asks me to do something or go somewhere. It says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (NLT)
If we believe God truly directs our steps, then we need to trust His reasons that are beyond our ability to understand. How much time and energy do we waste while we question God? I know He’s patient, it I bet sometimes He just wishes we’d simply obey and trust that He sees the bigger picture and is working out things for our good even though we can’t see it or understand it at the moment. We need to let go of trying to understand everything and just obey.
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.