Several years ago I was in charge of a fundraiser for a mission trip at our church. We had someone volunteer to make brisket for us, so we sold tickets ahead of the event. After we got the final number of tickets in, the man cooking the brisket gave me the shopping list including how much brisket. As I was buying the brisket, I believed we would sell more brisket than we had sold tickets for. When I got to the counter to order the briskets, I asked for an additional case. If you’re unfamiliar with that, it’s about 60 lbs of more meat that we would need to sell. Many people who bought tickets failed to show up for their meat though. We had a ton left over so I asked the pastor if we could sell after church. My wife looked at all the meat and said, “I hope God honors your faith because I don’t see how we can sell all of this.”
As Christians, we must daily choose whether we’re going to let fear hold us back or let faith guide us. There are so many decisions we have to make, some with long lasting effects. We can shrink back in fear of the unknown or we can step out in trust of what God will do. Hebrews 10:38 says that God is not happy with those who let fear hold them back. I don’t want to live a life that doesn’t make my Heavenly Father happy so I choose to live and walk by faith even though it isn’t easy. When you live by faith, you never know for certain if or when God will jump in to help. There are a lot of “God, where are you? Now would be a good time to show up” moments. But, as the psalmist said, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).”
I like how Hebrews 10:39 describes the life we’re to live. It says, “But we are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life!” (TPT) You and I cannot be people who are held back by fear. We are people who advance by faith. Either we believe what we say or we don’t. Our actions will always be consistent with what we truly believe. I’ve chosen to move forward despite fear. Living by faith doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you chose not to let it hold you back from your God given purpose. Faith takes a deep breath and makes the decision to go forward in spite of the fear in your belly, and God honors that kind of faith.
By the way, all that brisket sold out in a matter of minutes after church and doubled what we had raised through ticket sales.
Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash
A couple of years ago, I decided I would start working out. After the first workout, I realized there were muscles in my body that hadn’t been used in a while, and there were muscles I didn’t know I had. I was very sore to say the least, but if I was going to get into shape, I needed to exercise and push those muscles. There are a lot of benefits to daily exercise including decreased fat, higher endorphin levels, stronger muscles and better overall health. When we don’t exercise often, you lose stamina, strength and will become weak.
To me, faith is like a muscle. You and I must exercise it often if we want to reap the benefits of it. To say you are a person of faith, but never stepping out in faith would be like owning a Bowflex, but never using it. Just having it doesn’t make you stronger or healthier. It takes daily use to reap the benefits of it. So many people buy a Bowflex with the intention of using it, but when they realize it requires constant effort, it often becomes an expensive clothes hanger. You and I can’t live with the intention of using our faith. It’s something we must exercise constantly.
Ephesians 3:17 says, “By constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life” (TPT). Just like there are benefits to exercising, there are greater benefits in exercising your faith. One of those is that the life of Christ will be released in you becoming your source for everything you need. You will begin trusting Him more than what you see, and the peace that passes all understanding will take over your life. Do something today that exercises your faith. It may hurt a little at first, but push through. You’ll be glad you did.
Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash
Have you ever had to drive in the fog? Some days I have to go through fog so thick it seems my headlights only light a few feet in front of my car. Even though I know where I am, it creates fear. What if there’s a wreck I can’t see? What if the road turns and I miss it? What if there’s something in the road? High beams, that help you to see far when it’s clear, only make the situation worse. You have to slow to a crawl just so you can feel safe in moving forward. You have to take your time in getting to your destination. You have to accept that you aren’t going to get where you are going when you planned on getting there.
Faith is a lot like driving in a fog. It’s dangerous at times. It requires us to slow down and pay attention to everything. We don’t always see what’s right in front of us. It gets revealed to us little by little. God wants us to slow down and to make each move purposefully. He doesn’t want us to get in a hurry. That’s when accidents happen. We have to trust that we will get to where He wants us when His timing is right. That’s one of the hardest parts of being in a fog. We have our own ideas of when we want to get where He has us going and we try to get there as quickly as possible.
I’m learning just how important the journey is. It’s not always about getting to the destination. The fog, the slow times and the detours are all part of God’s purpose for our lives. They build our faith and give us the seasoning that we need so that we are ready when we finally do arrive. I’ve seen how the slow times and the hard times in my life have prepared me for where I am today. I know that as time goes on, I’ll have a better perspective on the foggy times. It’s in those times that I didn’t rely on my headlights to see what was ahead. I used God’s lights to light each step of the path as I took them one by one.
It’s easy to get frustrated when your vision is clouded by the fog of life. It’s hard to slow down and wait. I understand completely. I’m a person who likes to move. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I get to my intended destination. That’s what’s comfortable to me. Taking a detour and a route I’m unfamiliar with isn’t comfortable. Slowing down isn’t easy. Taking in the journey isn’t what’s natural for me, but it’s in those times that I trust God the most. It’s on the detours that I learn more about who God is and who He wants me to be. It’s when I slow down and take life one step at a time that my vision really becomes clear. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow or my destination. I’m called to be in this moment.
Maybe you’re like me and you don’t like it when you can’t see very far ahead of you. We can learn a lot when life gets foggy. Don’t panic because you can’t see into the future. Don’t let fear of the unknown consume you. Our God knows your future better than we do. He sees through the fog and will guide us. Trust Him completely with each step. This uncertainty that comes from the unknown is meant to grow your faith and build your relationship with the Father. Don’t rush though it trying to get past it. Be in the moment and trust Him to use the foggy moments to get you where you’re going right on time.
Have you ever purchased something that had to be assembled? How did you put it together? Did you read the instructions first and then try to do it? Did you have someone else read them to you and then you tried to build it? Or did you look at the picture and try to do it from that? I confess that I’ve been the latter more often than not. I’m getting better at looking at the instructions though. I’ve found that it’s quicker. As I age, it’s becoming more important to me to take a little longer and get it right the first time than to have the pride of building it on my own without instructions and having parts left over.
The same way we approach an assembly project is the same way many approach being a Christian. Some people want to read the directions (Bible) to find out how to do it right while they build their faith. Others prefer to have a pastor read the instructions to them and then they try to figure it out from there. Still there are those who feel they have no need to read the Scriptures. They feel like that they can figure it out as they go. They try and fail over and over again until they get it or until they give up. Either way, they either have missing parts or there are parts left that they don’t know what to do with.
I’ve tried all three approaches to God at different stages of my life. When I was a teen, I tried to get by just by listening to my pastor and teachers. I got a decent understanding of what Christianity was about, but because I didn’t have the instructions in my hands, I didn’t have a clear picture to go by. In college and the years that followed, I tried the “who needs instructions” approach. I failed miserably. Things in my life kept breaking, parts were falling off and I was missing a lot things that I needed in order to be successful. The outside of my life resembled the picture on the box, but the inside infrastructure was missing. When I had weight applied to my life, it fell apart.
I’m a try, try again kind of person. I don’t easily give up. I may not have gotten it right in the first few tries, but I’m on the path to getting it right now. I’m spending more time reading the instructions and less time looking at the picture on the box. If I spend my life trying to create the picture on the box, I’ll never be the picture of who God wants me to be. We all have different gifts and talents which create different pictures, but our infrastructure has to come from God’s Word. We have to build ourselves up in the most holy faith as Jude 1:20 put it. We each are a work in progress guided by the Holy Spirit. If you’ve found your method isn’t working, try the original plan God had for you. Read His Word and follow the instructions He has for living this life of faith. Don’t ignore the instructions that are right in front of you.
When I think of living by faith, I always think of Abraham first. The next person I think of is Elisha. Like Abraham, he was minding his own business doing his own thing when the call came to uproot and move. Elisha was plowing a field when Elijah walked up, threw his cloak over him and walked away. I’m not sure what my reaction would be if someone walked into my place of work and did that, but Elisha’s reaction was to run after Elijah. He didn’t ask what it meant or why he did it. Instead he said, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye – then I’ll follow you.”
I believe that God had already spoken to Elisha even though the Bible doesn’t say it. We know God gave Elijah the instructions to find Elisha and to do what he did, but it doesn’t give us any insight to Elisha before this moment. I believe he was a praying man. I believe that as he plowed fields with those oxen, he spent time praying and asking God to use him in mighty ways. Day after day, he plowed waiting for God to tap him on the shoulder and put him into action. I wonder if he had days where he doubted that God would ever move him from plowing fields to doing ministry.
So many who read this are like Elisha. We’re plowing fields day in and day out. We’re waiting on God to come get us and put us into full time ministry. We’re waiting on God to give us the green light. But as we put our hands to the plow each day, it’s easy to begin to wonder if God has forgotten us or if we ever heard Him in the first place. We look at the calendar and wonder, “How much longer, God?” We start thinking the “what if’s” and “how come’s”. Our faith can weaken in the times that it’s intended to grow stronger.
If we aren’t doing the things it takes to grow our faith while we are plowing, how will we ever do it when we aren’t? God uses the times of preparation to grow our faith, to increase our prayer life and to build our trust in Him. He expects us to be people of prayer while we plow. He expects us to plant seeds in people who are already doing ministry. He expects us to be ministering to people around us before he instructs us to minister to the masses. We have to prove to Him that we can be faithful in the little things while we are plowing before He can trust us with more.
If you are plowing today and are waiting for the cloak to be thrown over you, don’t lose heart. This time of plowing and preparation is essential to your growth and necessary for you to be able to perform later. God has not left you in a field and forgotten you. Be a person of prayer while you are plowing. Build up your faith now that when you have to really walk by faith, you have a sufficient amount. Keep your eyes open and be ready for God’s tap to put you in. Be ready to walk away from the plow and to step into that life of faith at any moment. Until then, keep plowing.