The night I proposed to my wife, I had planned it all out and timed it as well. When she opened the card I gave her, it contained a clue to where we were going to have dinner. Once she figured that out, we headed that way. During dinner, I slipped the next clue to the waitress to give to her. On and on it went as we drove back and forth across town. She didn’t know where I was going with the clues or what would happen next. At each place, she only got a clue to her next destination. Finally, after she followed all the clues, we ended up at the spot where I wanted to propose.
Following God’s plan for our lives can feel a lot like that. It seems all we get are clues that don’t really tell us where we’re going. They only tell us enough to have to step out in faith and rake the next step. Many times we aren’t even sure if that’s the right place God is leading us. It can feel frustrating sometimes not knowing for sure what your next step is or even the end game of where He’s taking you. We know He has a plan for each of us, but walking by faith and trusting Him is often difficult.
Moses felt your frustration too. In Exodus 33:13 he expressed what many of us feel when he said, “If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility” (MSG). Like us, he wanted to know more of God’s plan. I love God’s response in verse 14, and I believe it’s for us too. God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.” You and I don’t need to know the end game, but we can rest in knowing that God’s presence is with us as we go. God will walk with you step by step until He completes what He began in you.
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Positive reinforcement is a great tool to encourage people to continue doing what they’re doing. It rewards them for a job well done. Many companies are like mine where they give bonuses if you meet the goals the company sets for you or if you help the company meet their goals. For me, that last one comes once a year. After several months it’s easy to forget several months that I will be rewarded next year if I help the company achieve its goals long term. Sometimes it feels like a chore having to do the things I have to do because I forget about the reward at the end.
In II Chronicles 15, King Asa must have been feeling the same. He was the first king in a while to remember God. He got rid of most of the idols and shrines. He even removed his grandmother from the role of queen mother because of her love for idols. He also defeated armies with over three times as many men. God was blessing him, but he was starting to lose sight of the positive reinforcement that God was using to bless him for doing what he was supposed to do.
The spirit of God came on Azariah and he went to the king to deliver a message from God. In verse 7, he said, “But you must be strong and not be discouraged. The work that you do will be rewarded” (GNT). I believe God is saying that to you and I today. He wants to encourage us to continue doing the work He called us to. I know that we can feel like God has forgotten us as we focus on completing and doing the work He’s given us, but He hasn’t forgotten us. We will be rewarded.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “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.” God believes in positive reinforcement. He has given us many promises in His Word to keep doing the work even though it gets tiring and mundane. If we will continue to do what He’s called us to, we will reap a harvest and a reward. Don’t quit doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t give up. God sees what you’re doing even if others don’t. He won’t fail in delivering on His promise to you.
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Throwback Thursday is a 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.
One of the things I’ve learned is that unmet or unrealistic expectations hurt and often kill relationships. When we’re in any kind of relationship, we automatically create our expectations from the other party and the relationship. If we never communicate those to them, or clarify what we think are their expectations, we will end up disappointed and confused. It’s a shame that so many relationships go south because of this, and worse that we blame the other party for the problem because they didn’t do what we expected them to do, but never clearly told them. If these misfires happen in inter-human relationships, how much more do they happen between God and us.
There are times where I’ve been so sure I’ve heard from God, but I assumed and expected it would happen a certain way. When it doesn’t happen that way, I get frustrated with God and often do something that is not in His plan. Think of Moses. Even though God told him that Pharaoh wouldn’t let Israel go without being forced to, he thought it would happen differently. When it didn’t happen according to Moses’ plan, and things got bad, he got mad and questioned God in Exodus 5:22-23. He said to God, “My Master, why are you treating this people so badly? And why did you ever send me? From the moment I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, things have only gotten worse for this people. And rescue? Does this look like rescue to you?” (MSG)
If things in your life or ministry aren’t happening the way you thought they should after you clearly heard God, hold on. He is at work in you and in the situation. We know that He works ALL things together for our good. Your frustration is simply your unmet expectation of what you thought God was going to do. Go back to God in prayer, submit to His plan and for Him to do things His way. Ask Him to help you see His plan so you understand what He’s doing, how He’s doing it and why. He may not give you those answers, but as one who speaks from experience, the sooner you submit to His plan and His way of accomplishing it, the better off you’ll be.
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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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A few weeks ago I was talking with a coworker how things have changed over time. One of the things we were talking about was how if you want to get recognized, you have to be a self promoter. Unless you are constantly taking selfies and posting them at work, telling everyone what you’re doing, no one will notice your hard work. Social media has not only impacted how businesses advertise, it’s also changed how they recognize a job well done internally. If you want to get promoted to a better position, you have to be a self promoter. It’s the opposite of how I was raised, You can’t just put your head down and work hard to get recognition anymore.
I’m not saying it’s wrong or it’s right. That’s just the world we live in now. When it comes to our Christianity, we can’t let that culture influence us because it’s opposite of Biblical teaching. God still resists the proud and lifts up the humble. The left hand doesn’t need to know what the right hand is doing according to Jesus. There’s a fine line between letting others know your need and showing them the fruit of your ministry and just showing off what you are doing for the recognition of man. One way to know what side of the line you’re on is how you view those you’re ministering to. How do you view them?
Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves” (TPT). When we care for people because we feel we’re better than they are and they need our help, it’s self promotion. When we put them first and serve them out of compassion, it’s ministry. We want to make sure our hearts are pure and that we don’t fall victim to the self promotion culture when it comes to ministry. If you’re doing it for self promotion, you have your reward, but if you’re doing it for the Lord, your reward is in Heaven.
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I’m the type of person who shuts out the world when I get focused on something. I put my head down and give my attention to what it is I’m concentrating on. Many times I won’t hear anyone talking to me and I won’t talk to anyone else until the job is complete. If I’ve got a todo list, I cross it off when I’m finished and move on to the next thing on the list. The longer the list, the more serious I am. If there are other people around, and they’re not helping, I get frustrated. They can be a distraction from the work I’m trying to do. My attitude can be, “Either help or get out.” Then, when everything is done, I can breathe easy.
I tell you that because that’s how many of us are. We put our head down and work because we have responsibilities, but i want us to look at something today. The most famous parable Jesus told has to be the Prodigal Son. We’ve heard numerous sermons on it focusing on that son, but there are two sons in the story, and i believe Jesus was speaking to that son as much as the other. You see, he was the firstborn and had all the responsibilities on his shoulders. He didn’t go off and party. Instead, he put his head down and worked. Even when his brother returned, he didn’t hear the music or notice workers had left the fields because he was so focused. In fact, he was upset that people were playing when they should have been working.
I love the father’s message to him in Luke 15:32. He said, “It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed” (TPT). Like him, you and I need to be reminded it’s ok to stop and celebrate successes. Part of the responsibility of the first born is to know when to celebrate. It’s a heavy burden to be the first born, but there’s also a time to rejoice. God wants us to understand that we need to celebrate successes when they come. Life is not just about crossing things off our todo list. It’s about celebrating what God is doing along the way. What has God done for you lately that you need to celebrate?
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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.
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