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.
Have you ever stubbed your toe or hurt a finger? Several years ago I had a hatchback on my car. I was getting something out of it when someone honked at me. I turned around to see who it was. Just then, it closed on my hand and my thumb got trapped. I had to get the keys out of my pocket with my other hand, unlock it and lift it up to get it out. For the next couple of weeks, I thought about my thumb a lot. I had never paid much attention to how much I used it until I couldn’t anymore. The same holds true for your toe and really any body part. They all have purpose and functions that you use without thinking about it until you can’t use them.
In Romans 12:4-5, Paul wrote, “In the human body there are many parts and organs, each with a unique function. And so it is in the body of Christ. For though we are many, we’ve all been mingled into one body in Christ. This means that we are all vitally joined to one another, with each contributing to the others” (TPT). This verse first became real to me when I worked at a church in Egypt that had over 20 denominations and people from over 50 countries present all operating under one pastor. We functioned the way the Body of Christ was supposed to. We didn’t allow our doctrinal differences to separate us. Instead, we saw the beauty in those differences, recognized how each one is used and worked under the banner of what unites us. We used to say that church was a microcosm of Heaven.
The Body of Christ is more than denominations. It’s made up of people like you and me. When we look at that verse above and think of it on an individual level, it becomes even more real. You have a unique function in the Body of Christ and are vital to its success. There are no insignificant members of His body. The rest of us need you to contribute your part for us to function the way we are supposed to. The part you play may not get you famous or even noticed by your pastor, but don’t let that stop you. The calling you have is between you and God. It’s His voice that you want to hear one day saying, “Well done.” You are vital to the Church and the part you play is important to the overall functionality of the Body.
There will always be people who will tell you that your dream is too big, that you’re not qualified or able to accomplish it, or that you should give up on it. No one thought the Wright brothers would be the ones to get their plane to fly, but they kept at it. They didn’t receive the media attention that others did, nor did they receive a government grant to build their plane. They believed in their dream when almost no one else did. They put in the work, shrugged off the doubters and built the first airplane that flew successfully. They made their dream a reality.
I’ve always heard, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.” The dreams that God calls us to do are usually bigger than our ability. I believe He plants these dreams we’re unqualified for in us so that we’ll learn to depend on Him and know that there is no way we could ever do it on our own. There will be people who stand in your way, discourage you or even laugh at you when you tell them what God has called you to do. Be careful who you share your dream with and surround yourself with people who will lift you up in prayer. Most people won’t see the potential in you that God sees.
Think of David as he told the soldiers he would fight Goliath. His brothers laughed at him and mocked him. When David told King Saul in 1 Samuel 17:33 that he would fight and defeat Goliath, Saul replied, “Don’t be ridiculous! There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win!” (NLT) David still stepped onto the battlefield and defeated Goliath. Like David, we need to trust God to accomplish what he put it our heart despite what others say or do. Don’t let fear or intimidation keep you from stepping onto your battlefield. Obey what God tells you and let Him handle your giants.
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.
I’ve been on a few mission trips where we’ve done construction work. On day one, they like to go around the circle and have each person talk about their skills. One guy says he can build shelving. Another says he’s good at framing. One always says he can do it all. Inevitably it always comes around to me. I like to say, “I’m the best gopher around. If you need nails, I’ll go for them. If you need a certain tool, I’ll go for it.” My skill set makes me feel very inadequate on a construction site.
Even when it comes to ministry and my calling, I often feel inadequate. I was at a conference of ministers earlier this year. They started off with introductions and sharing all they’re doing. As they went around the table, I began to compare what I do to what they were doing. I sent my wife a text and said, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong. They’re sharing all they’re doing in ministry, and I’ve got nothing.” I was feeling very insecure.
If you look at where God has you or think of what God has called you too, you’re going to feel inadequate. It’s easy to say, “God, I’m not qualified to do this,” or “God, there are other people who are better at this.” I’m sure David, being a shepherd, felt inadequate in front of all those soldiers when Goliath came out. I’ve learned that God doesn’t always take our skill set and put us where it should fit. He looks at our heart, and puts us where he needs that most.
When I feel inadequate, I take comfort in knowing the apostle Paul felt that way too. In 1 Timothy 1:12, he wrote, “I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work” (MSG). He understood what we need to learn. It’s God who makes us adequate to do what He’s called us to do. It’s not our skills or anything else. Our inadequacies cause our faith to grow and helps keep pride out. It is not us who do the work. It is Christ through us, and that makes us more than adequate to do anything God asks us to do.
One of the first lessons I learned in writing is that it’s ok to send out a devotion with typos. I apologize to you for them, but it’s partly on purpose. I’m a perfectionist at heart. I like things to be a certain way. I don’t want you distracted by words that have been autocorrected into something I didn’t intend. I also want these devotions to be polished and have the finishing touches put on them so that it’s easy for you to read. However, if I wait until they’re perfect, I’d never put one on the website.
“Perfect” is an illusion that creates procrastination. I can hide behind that word all I want, but really my perfectionism is my fear keeping me from hitting the publish button. I will never have this devotion or any other one perfect because I’m imperfect. I’ll never have all the words just right, the grammatical pieces in place or the setting just right. I can tweak them over and over again, but if I never hit the publish button, what good is it?
I like how Ecclesiastes 11:4 puts this dilemma. It says, “If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything” (GNT). That verse is a huge gut check to my perfectionism. Not hitting the publish button is akin to not planting anything. If I wait until everything is perfect and just right, I’ll never do what God called me to do. It’s a trap that many of us fall into.
As I was wresting with it early on, I was reading a book by Mark Batterson. He wrote that we get “ready, set, go” backwards. We should be more like “go, set, ready”. If God has asked you to do something, start doing it. You’ll never have everything just right or perfect. If you wait until the conditions are right, you’re going to still be standing on the starting line when you die. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to let my perfectionism keep me procrastinating my whole life. I’m sorry if these aren’t perfect, but neither am I.
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.
My son is into Daniel Tiger from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Hearing the same songs again over and over can get frustrating at times, but it can also drive home simple messages. One of the songs says, “Everyone, everyone is big enough to do something.” When I tell my son he can’t do something, he will usually say, “But everyone is big enough to do something.” I agree with him and find a way that he can contribute because I want him to know that no matter what he does in life, he can contribute.
As Christians, we’re pretty hard on ourselves sometimes. We think of ourselves as less than we are and prevent ourselves from doing things. We tend to think of our failures as a person or Christian, and disqualify ourselves before we ever contribute anything. We think we have nothing significant to offer or we’re not a strong enough Christian. We can be pretty self limiting when it comes to doing things for God.
In I Corinthians 12:7, it says, “The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all” (GNT). That means that you have something to contribute to others. God has placed His spirit in you so that you can do what only He’s called you to do. If you excuse yourself from doing what that is, it’s not just you who misses out on the blessing, we all do. Just as each part of our body performs a different function to keep it working, each of us play a role in keeping the Body of Christ going.
You may not like your part. You may not like where you’re located, but don’t let that keep you from letting God show Himself through you. Verse 18 says, “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it” (NLT). That means that God has you right where He wants you so you can benefit others there. Quit looking for a better place or a more glamorous role in the body. Be who God called you to be where He placed you. Let God work through you for the good of others. Don’t hold back. You are important to the rest of the body.
I’m sure you’ve seen Newton’s Cradle on someone’s desk somewhere. If you’ve seen it, you’ve pulled back one of the silver balls and let it go. The ball you pulled back and let go smashes into the first ball, which doesn’t move, but transfers the energy to the next ball and so on until it reaches the farthest ball. That ball then swings out like a pendulum and returns to start the process over again. They’re a lot of fun to play with, but they also represent so many of us in our faith.
When it’s just sitting there on someone’s desk not being used, it’s just for show. It might get used every once in a while, but more often than not, it just collects dust. So many people show up to church and sit there collecting dust. They don’t move, they don’t transfer energy or shine. They go for nothing more than to see and be seen. They feel that they’ll get to Heaven because they went to church or that their kids will learn good morals. A church should not be a place to collect dust. It’s a place to knock off the rust, and send you out into the world with kinetic energy that moves other people.
There are many Christians who are like the picture above. They have been pulled back and are ready to be released to do God’s work, but they’re afraid to let go. That’s nothing more than wasted potential. I understand the need to be in control. I’m a control freak myself, but if you are ever going to do anything great for God, you have got to let go and let God work through you. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”
You’re committed when you let go because you take your potential out of your hand and place it in God’s. He is the one who will accomplish the work. It’s easy to be frightened by looking at what our potential is in God’s Kingdom. We pull back the ball to start the chain reaction, but hold onto it out of fear. We never release ourselves fully into God’s control. So much of what God wants to accomplish is thwarted by our inability to let go and trust Him. We look at our strength and our abilities instead of His.
Phillip Brooks, who was an Episcopal bishop in the 1800’s, said, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” It’s time we quit looking at our potential energy in the Kingdom and released ourselves to do God’s work. It’s time we quit talking about what God has called us to do and started doing it. Until we let go, we will not release others to do what they’ve been called to do. Remember, when you let go, you engage others and release them to move in God’s Kingdom. It’s not just about your potential, but about releasing others to meet theirs.
*The concept and training of motivating people from their potential energy to their kinesthetic energy belongs to Trinfinity. Used with permission.
I was speaking with a friend who is a pastor a while back. We were talking about ministry, living the Christian life and the struggles faced by those who walk away from their faith for a period of time in their life. I shared with them my story and my calling. I talked about how in the past I couldn’t see how God could still use me since my calling came before my falling away. I felt like I needed to be perfect to fulfill the role God had designed just for me and I had wrecked it. For a long time that is what kept me up at night. I knew there was no way God could use me after how I had lived.
They shared with me the story of their child who has walked away after having been raised in church. They told me about the struggles they face, not just as a pastor, but as a parent who has a child not walking in the way they were taught. With tears in our eyes I began to share my journey back and how I’ve come to the point that I believe God can still use me despite my past and how He can actually use that to His advantage. They looked at me and said, “it was no surprise to God that you walked away or came back. He knew what paths you were going to take. He took that into consideration when He designed your robe of righteousness. And you know what? The garment still fits.”
When you look at Ephesians 2:10, you see that we are God’s masterpiece. He has created you and I with a purpose in mind. When a sculptor is creating a piece of art and they come to an imperfection in the stone, they don’t start over. They don’t even try to cut that part out of the stone. They take those blemishes, those imperfection and they incorporate it into the art work. The imperfections that threaten the future of the masterpiece are what make it unique and are what really sets it apart as a work of art. The sculptor starts each project knowing there’s no perfect stone and knows they will have to work with imperfections to make each piece work.
The second part of that verse says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” He knew long ago the life each of us were going to live. He knew long ago each of us would mess up. He knew we would have imperfections, sins, disabilities and doubts. He designed all of that into the plan He made for each one of us. It doesn’t matter if you found out the plan He has for your life before you walked away, after you walked away or are seeking it out. He has built the plan for your life around the things that would happen to you and the paths that you would take. He took all that into consideration and the garment still fits you.