Today is my 2,000th post to Devotions By Chris. In a few weeks, I will have been writing devotions for eight years. It’s taught me a lot about being faithful to what God has asked me to do. It has also taught me to redefine what success looks like when you’re doing what God has asked you to do. Success in God’s eyes isn’t measured by subscribers or by clicks. It’s measured by our faithfulness to the ministry we receive from Him. Success is found in being faithful in the little things and doing what He’s asked with all your strength whether you understand the reason or not. Can you obey and be faithful even when it’s difficult and you don’t understand?
My pastor said something that is along these lines. He said, “If you ask God for an Oak tree, He’ll give you an acorn.” God plants seeds of the things He’s calling us to in our hearts. We have to water them and tend to them even when we can’t see anything. Even when it shouts through the ground, you have to stick with it even though it may be years before it’s what you’ve envisioned. In Luke16:10 Jesus tells us that if we’re faithful with the little things, He can trust us with greater things. Managing the growth of an acorn can be tedious at times and unremarkable. No one may notice your efforts or the small steps of growth, but you’re not doing it for others or for those reasons. You’re doing it because it’s what God planted in your heart.
As Paul was wrapping up his letter to the church at Colossae, he tucked in a little note to a minister who may have been thinking of giving up because he wasn’t seeing the growth or success he thought he should. In Colossians 4:17 he told the believers, “Be sure you give Archippus this message: ‘Be faithful to complete the ministry you received from our Lord Jesus!’” (TPT) That’s today’s message to you. Be faithful to what you have received from the Lord even if it doesn’t look like you pictured it. Keep going even if you’re not being successful in the world’s eyes. Your faithfulness is noticed by God, and He counts your obedience as success. You may not change the world, get noticed by anyone or even feel like you’re making a difference at times, but if you will keep doing your part, God will keep doing His.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Not just the future, my future and the plans God has for me. I wonder when the dreams and plans He has for me will happen. I try to make plans and prepare myself for the things He wants to do through me. Then there are times when I think about my past. I think about the ugly details and can’t help but wonder if my past is the thing keeping me from the future God has for me. It’s easy to look behind me and then mentally disqualify myself. It’s usually in those moments I hear the still small voice say, “You can’t undo my calling on your life. Just keep being faithful in the little things.”
Peter is a disciple we like to pick on, but his faith enabled him to do things that were written about. There were moments when he had great revelation and times when Jesus rebuked him openly. Jesus once told Him that He would use him as the foundation to build His Church on. Yet Peter is also the person who denied even knowing Jesus. I’m sure he wrestled with the same thoughts I do. Had he messed up so badly that God changed His plan him? That’s why I love that Jesus imparted the blessing to him by asking Peter if he loved Him. When Peter said yes, Jesus comforted him and told him that the deal was still on by telling him to feed His sheep. His past didn’t matter. His heart did.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me” (TPT). Man looks on the outward appearance of things looking to disqualify ourselves or someone else from their calling, but God looks at our heart and the plans He has for us. He prepares the way and opens the doors for us. He uses the mistakes of our past, no matter how bad they were, to help us reach broken people with authenticity. He speaks His blessings of approval over us like He did for Peter. Do you love Him? Then go do what He’s called you to do. Quit worrying about all these other things and focus on your love for Him. He’s already prepared your way, so get moving on it toward your destiny.
One of the traps that I fall into is thinking that if I’m doing what God asked me to, I won’t find resistance from others. I mean if I’m doing God’s will, others, especially Christians should be on board, right? Not necessarily. The things that God calls us to do are often for us alone to do. Other people won’t necessarily see or run with the vision God has given you, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God, or that they’re not. The enemy doesn’t want you to be productive for the Kingdom, nor does he want you to complete the work God has given you to do. He will use whoever and whatever he can to slow you down, discourage you and wear you down so that you lose your zeal, doubt your calling and give up.
Even though God had burdened Nehemiah with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and other people had caught on to that vision, it didn’t mean it was going to be easy. The people were joyful and started off strong, but then resistance came. People began to hurl insults at them to keep them from their work. Day in and day out they were verbally attacked. The verbal attacks turned into threats and plots against them to stop the work. They took their eyes off the goal and began to look at the enormity of the project, the size of the mess and lost their joy realizing it wasn’t in their strength to complete it. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “The people of Judah had a song they sang: ‘We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?’” (GNT) They became weary and discouraged like we do.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” If you’re getting discouraged because of the grind or the attacks from others in doing what God has called you to, pick your head up and look to the One who called you to it. Keep your focus on the end goal and not on the size of today’s problems. God will strengthen you and give you wisdom in how to handle today’s issues of you ask Him to. Pray for people who will run along side of you, who will catch the vision and who will share the load. Remember how big your God is. He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Keep pressing forward with the end in mind and you will reap a harvest for the work you’re doing.
At a young age I felt like I was called into ministry. I began preparing and practicing, but honestly I was afraid of it. It was a dream that was in front of me, but the older I got, the further into the future this dream seemed to go. Then in a single day, the dream died. I went through a divorce that couldn’t be avoided. The denomination I was a part of at the time had a rule back then that you couldn’t be a minister if you were divorced. I was devastated by both the divorce and the fact that I could never be in ministry. All my life had been pointing to the dream of ministry and it was gone. Not only was I having to start life over, I was lost without a dream to guide me. That is until a friend told me,”Do you really think that man can negate God’s calling?”
In Ezekiel 37, God showed Ezekiel a valley of very dry bones. I imagine it was quite a sight to see. Dead people’s bones were scattered everywhere and there were none connected together I’m sure. As God showed him all these bones, He asked him a question in verse 3. “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (NLT) You and i both know that humanly it impossible for them to be brought back to life, but that’s not how Ezekiel answered. Instead of stating the obvious, he replied, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that.” At that answer, God told him to speak to those bones and prophesy to them to come alive and live again. Just like that the bones all came together and were covered with flesh. Then he was told to speak and prophesy the breath of life back into them and they became a living army.
You may be where I was once in feeling like your calling or the dream God gave you is dead and in the past. It doesn’t matter whether it’s anything you’ve done, someone has done to you or if it’s from not going after it in time. Man, including yourself, cannot take away God’s promises, nor His plan for your life. You may be looking at a valley of the dead bones of your dreams today, but God can make them live again. Speak to your dream. Speak life into it. If God has placed it in you, it will happen no matter what things look like today. Be like Ezekiel when you’re looking at what seems dead. Don’t pronounce that it can’t live again. Let God answer that question and watch Him begin to bring the pieces back together again.
All of my life I felt called into ministry, but I kept putting it off until later. I figured I’d do my own thing first and then follow my calling. That was working until I got a divorce. I was devastated because I grew up in a denomination that at the time would not allow divorced people to be in ministry. I was discussing my plight with a friend one day about how I had waited too long to fulfill my calling. He almost chuckled and then said, “Do you really think that man can revoke God’s calling on your life?” It was the slap I needed to bring me back into reality.
God has numbered each of our days before we were born. He knows our future and the choices we will make. So when He makes a promise to us, He does so with full knowledge of the mistakes we’re going to make. He created each of us with a purpose to fulfill that only we can fulfill. He knows the bumps in the road we’re going to face, the sins we’re going to commit and the set backs we’re going to have when he gives purpose to our lives. Those things don’t revoke your purpose. They actually validate it and give your life the depth needed to reach people you otherwise couldn’t.
Psalm 138:8 says, “You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!” (TPT) God has not revoked your calling, nor will He walk away from the promises He made to you based on what you’ve done or been through. He will be faithful to complete it. He has not stopped loving you, and He still has a plan. Any mistake you’ve made has not nullified your calling or revoked any promises. Seek forgiveness if you haven’t already, and ask God to finish what He started in you.
Recently we were going to sand some floors down to refinish them. The cost to pay someone to do them was astronomical. We decided to do them ourselves. The cheapest way to do them was by hand. That would take forever so we went to rent a machine. I saw the machine I wanted and asked about it. He said it would do the job well, but they were out of sandpaper for it. He grabbed a “less aggressive” machine and then the sandpaper for it. As he rang it up, the sandpaper alone was over $100. I couldn’t believe the price. I had to remind myself that having the right tool was worth the money.
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest” (NLT). Having oxen would require feeding them, watering them, housing them and ultimately cleaning up after them. Many people would look at the down side of owning them and choose not to get them. On the other hand, without them it would be difficult to plow the land or to bring in the harvest. There’s give and take in everything. It’s up to us to count the cost and to understand you get what you pay for, even if the cost is ongoing. In an agricultural society, if you wanted an abundant crop, you needed to invest in oxen.
Each one of us has a purpose to fulfill. You can do it with the natural tools you’ve been given (like sanding the floor by hand) or you can invest in yourself to increase the effectiveness of those tools. Going to school, taking a class, buying books and other ways to increase your effectiveness will cost you. It’s up to you to make sure you use the right tools for what you’re called to do and to invest in your future. There are pro’s and con’s to everything. That’s why we’re encouraged to count the cost physically and spiritually. Investing in the right tools for whatever God is calling you to will translate to your effectiveness.
Did you know that there are four seasons to farming? In the Spring, it’s the time of planting. The soil is tilled and seeds are placed at the right depth and spacing. In the Summer, it’s critical to make sure the crops are getting the right amount of water, fertilizer and sunlight. With the Fall comes the harvest. It’s about gathering in the produce at the peak of ripeness and then ripping out the old stalks so the ground can be infused with organic matter. Then, when the winter comes, the land has an opportunity to rest. You also spend this time repairing your tools and getting ready for the next Spring.
As I read that, I can’t help but think of the seasons of our life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a time and a season for everything. That includes our lives. Some of us are in a season of planting and preparing for what’s coming. Some of us are in a season of working on growing what we’ve planted. Some of us are in a season of harvest where we are reaping the benefits of what we’ve done. Others are in a season of rest where things in your life have been ripped up and it’s time to make repairs so you can plant again. Have you ever considered what season you’re in and the responsibilities God has given you for that season?
Proverbs 10:4 says, “Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!” (TPT) God has you in this season for a purpose. In every season you find yourself in, there are things you should be doing for that season as well as things to prepare for the next season. Ask God to give you wisdom to know the things you should be doing in your season. Every season comes and goes. You will not be in this season forever, so make the most of it. Don’t let the opportunity of what God is trying to do in your life during this season pass by.
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.
When God called to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3, He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (NKJV). God then asked Moses to return to Egypt where the Lord would perform miraculous signs and wonders. Moses argued with God and gave excuses as to why he couldn’t speak to Pharaoh. Eventually, God convinced Moses. He then spoke to Pharaoh, God performed 10 plagues and the Israelites were set free from their bondage because of the things God did.
Fast forward 40 years and Israel is finally permitted to enter the Promised Land. They cross the Jordan and begin to prepare to attack Jericho. While Joshua is surveying it, the Lord appears to him in Joshua 5:15 and says, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” Did you catch the difference? When Moses met God, he had to remove both sandals. When Joshua met with Him, he only had to remove one. I believe it’s because with Moses, God was doing all the work, and with Joshua they were going to work together to subdue Canaan.
I believe God wants you and I to participate with Him in living an overcoming life. We can’t sit back and wait for Him to do all the work. You and I are going to have to step out and face some giants. We are going to have to attack some walled cities in our life. The great news is that God will fight our battles if we’ll have enough faith to get onto the battlefield. If we’re going to live An overcoming life, we’re going to have to quit making excuses and letting fear make our decisions. If God is for you, who can be against you? It’s time to quit camping by the Jordan and to fight for the land God promised you.
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? What dream would you go after? So many times fear of failure or being defeated is what holds us back from chasing after the things God put in our heart. Back in the early 2000’s, I started writing devotionals. There were no blogs really, and social media was yet to come. I figured I would just email them out to friends and whoever wanted them. I asked about five people if they’d be interested. One person replied, “Please don’t put me on any list. I get enough junk mail as it is.” I didn’t write for 10 years after that. I quit chasing after something God put in me because of something someone else said.
After the Israelites left Egypt, God reminded them that He had promised them land. It was a good, beautiful, fertile land, but they would have to fight to take possession of it. They were guaranteed victory if they were willing to fight for it. Instead 10 of the 12 spies came back confirming what God said about the land, but they were afraid of the giants and walked cities in the land. It took forty years before they had an opportunity again. This time, the spies were told how fearful everyone was of them, and it boosted their confidence. In Joshua 2:24, they reported back, “The Lord has given us the whole land for all the people in the land are terrified of us” (NLT).
The only thing that changed was that they quit listening to fear and started listening to God. That’s exactly what you and I need to do. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, there will be some struggles and battles ahead when you chase after what God has put in you, but you are guaranteed victory in the long run. God is ready to act on your behalf, but you have to be the one to step out in faith to chase after what He called you to. As my friend says, it’s time for you to smash fear in the face! The enemy is afraid of you doing what God told you to do so he uses fear to hold you back. The Lord has given you victory. You just have to step out and claim it.