I’m always intrigued by the story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-45. No matter how many times I read it, I come away with a new respect for him. God gave him a dream as a young man that one day his family would bow down to him, including his own parents. His brothers were so outraged that they wanted to kill him. His own father was so disrespected that he rebuked him. Even through that, he still believed in the dream that God had given him. That wouldn’t be the end of it though. For the next several years, he would face one trial after the other without wavering in his belief of that dream. Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. (NLT)”
When God gives you a dream, hard times are sure to come. There will be people who will openly resist you in your efforts to bring about your calling. It will not be an easy road. In fact, fulfilling your calling will be one of the hardest things you do. God does not choose the weak to carry out his plans. He calls the faithful ones who will endure anything to see it come to pass. He gives His assignments to those who will survive the pits of despair that they will be thrown in. He gives them to those who are willing to leave family and friends to travel to distant lands that are engulfed in spiritual famines so that others may find the spiritual food that God gives.
Joseph wasn’t the only one this happened to. Think of Peter and the early Church. Jesus told Peter that He would build His Church through him. When Peter was emboldened by the Holy Spirit, he was beaten repeatedly and thrown in jail. He was opposed by people he knew. He didn’t quit because there were hard times. He let that fuel the fire that God had placed in him. He used those hard times to grow his faith and endurance. Because he didn’t quit, the early Church grew and Christianity spread like wildfire in that region. He trusted the calling he was given over his external circumstances.
Paul was another person who faced opposition. He went from being someone who killed Christians to one who was martyred for his faith. He was stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake and carried off to Rome because he would not keep quiet about the dream God gave him. Because he was willing to endure the hard times, God used him to write most of the New Testament. The Gospel didn’t just stay in one region, it began to cover the known world. His character was tested over and over and he proved to be the person God saw in him.
God tests those He trust His message to because He knows it develops character. Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (NLT)” When God calls you, He tests you in order to develop in you the characteristics necessary to fulfill that calling. He allows you to be moved around in order to create the relationships you need in your life and to put you into position. Don’t quit because hard times come. Let them do the work God intends them to do and continue to walk in your calling.
For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, click here.
On my last trip to Haiti, our group sang a song by Jesus Culture called “I’m a lover of your presence”. The part in the song that stands out to me says, “I’m a lover of your presence and it’s all I wanna be.” I can still hear our voices calling out into the night sky to God how much we love His presence. It became my prayer then and I still pray it today. I don’t want to live a day without walking in God’s presence. I know it’s possible and that God wants that relationship with us too.
Adam walked in God’s presence each night in the garden. Abraham lived in God’s presence according to genesis 24:40. Enoch also walked daily with God. Moses spent so much time in God’s presence that his face became bright. He had to wear a veil because it was too bright for the people to look at him. David loved God’s presence so much they he wanted to build a house for Him to dwell in. Peter spoke of the times of refreshment that come from the presence of The Lord. The Bible is full of examples of people who spent time in God’s presence.
If they can do it, you and I can do it. You may be thinking, “Yeah, but those were saints and holy men in the Bible. I’m just me.” Each of the people I listed above and the many more that you will find in the Bible who spent time in God’s presence were ordinary, flawed people just like you and me. The difference was that they took time to be in God’s presence each day. They knew they were unworthy of it, but they trusted God’s grace enough to enter His presence.
They knew that when they stood before God, in His presence, even their hidden sins would be exposed. Yet they entered it anyway. Why? Because they knew that the only way to get sin out of their life is to expose it to God. They knew that it was a good thing to get it out. But somehow, our minds think that we shouldn’t enter His presence because of our sins. We use that as an excuse to stay away from His presence. We cannot buy into that lie!
That’s just like people I know who won’t go to the doctor. I ask them why they won’t and they answer, “Because every time I go, they find something wrong.” They see it as a negative thing when a doctor finds something wrong. I see it as a good thing. If there’s something wrong in me, I want to find it quickly and have it dealt with. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Dealing with it does. Being in God’s presence forces us to deal with what’s wrong in our lives. We should want to have Him find what’s wrong so we can get forgiveness and move into a closer relationship with Him. Find time today to spend in His presence.
If you’d like to listen to the song on YouTube, you can click here.
One of my regular prayers is that God would shift the prism through which I see Him and others. I see almost everything in black and white. I was raised in an unbroken home and at the same church my whole life. There hasn’t been a whole lot of shifting where I change my perspective of who He is and how I see Him. Over time and with life experience, I have shifted and changed. I see God differently because of what I’ve seen Him do in my life and in the lives of others. I just don’t want to get complacent with where I am or how I see Him. I don’t want to box Him in to what I think He should be.
The early church went through a lot of shifting. In Acts 10, Peter was praying on the balcony while he was waiting for lunch. God gave him a vision of a blanket being lowered down with religiously unclean animals in it. God told Peter to kill and eat, but he refused because he had never touched food that wasn’t Kosher. God came back and said, “Don’t call unclean what I have called clean.” It was then that he was awakened by his vision from visitors knocking. A man named Cornelius was told by an angel to get Peter so he could hear what he had to say.
Peter traveled the next day to Cornelius’ house with the group that came for him. When he spoke to the people who had gathered, they were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Peter was shocked. How could non-Jews have received God’s gift? He turned to the Jews who had traveled with them and said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” That event created a fundamental shift in how they saw God. They now saw that God’s plan of salvation was for Jews and non-Jews alike. It changed their ministry.
My prayer is that God would radically change me so that I see deeper into His Word than I do now. I pray that He shifts my focus so that I can connect things that I’ve never seen or understood in it. When I understand what He says, then I can know Him more. When I know Him more, my life is forever altered. I cannot accept that I know God as much as I will ever know Him. I cannot believe that I know everything that I will ever know about Scripture. I have to put myself in position to be shifted. I have to spend time in prayer so He can show me. I have to be willing to go with strangers to see what God is doing.
What about you? Are you willing to allow God to reveal more of Himself to you? Are you open to Him showing things that will fundamentally alter how you see Him? What can you do to put yourself in position to be shifted so you see Him in a different light? My prayer is that God would radically change us in the Church who have become complacent with our view of Him. I pray that He would reveal Himself to us like we’ve never seen. We don’t need to fix the Church. It’s not our responsibility. We need to fix our relationship with Him and that will change the Church. We need to change the prism through which we view God and that will change the world.
Transitions in life are hard. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is so unknown to is that we put our attention and focus on the transition rather than on where we’re being transitioned to. We question God’s providence in our situation during these times.
I remember one of the first lessons I learned working in a child care center was with transitions. Kids hated transitions as much as adults. I learned that if I told them we were going to be making a change in activities in a few minutes, it would give them time to finish what they were doing and to prepare mentally for what was coming next. Now, when I talk to sales reps, I talk to them about transitions in the sale. It’s important for the buyer to know where they are in the sale and what’s coming next. I even encourage them to share with the buyer the why behind the transition.
As I’ve thought about all of that, I started wishing God would give us the warnings about transitions approaching in our lives and the why’s behind them. As I prayed about it, God reminded me how many times Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and why. They never heard a word of it and were shocked in the Garden of Gethsemane. They entered a time of transition between having Jesus walk with them daily and having the Holy Spirit coming as their guide. Like us, they were confused, frightened and wondered where God was in the transition.
God speaks to each of us daily. He says things we ignore or don’t want to hear so we block Him. We use our selective hearing when He speaks of things that scare us. The disciples heard Jesus tell them about the transition, but they weren’t listening. Even when we know a transition is coming, it’s still natural to be scared. We’re afraid of change. The last few years have taught me that change is necessary for growth. When we fight it, we fight growing, we fight the future God had for us and we fight God’s will. Our times of transition help prepare us for the change. They grow our faith and trust in God’s plan for our life. It’s something we can only see when we take the time to look back.
Imagine if Peter and the others had stayed locked up in their house and never went to the upper room. Out of 500 people whom Jesus told to go and wait, only 120 made it through the transition. They were tough enough to stick it out and trusted that God had something more on the other side of the transition. As He did for them, so He does for you. God has something greater for you on the other side of this time of transition. It may take longer than you expected, but hang on. The reward will be worth it. The growth you will experience will be like no other time in your life. Don’t give up in the time of transition. Hold strong to your faith and trust God to see you through.
When American Idol first came on TV, it was one of the most popular shows ever. People couldn’t get enough of it. Since that time several shows with the same premise have begun. The draw to reality shows like this is that it gives a nobody the chance to be somebody. It tells us that there’s a chance for each of us to be great, famous or known. It gives us a cut in the line to stardom, to bypass years of plugging away following the normal route. In essence, shows like that give each of us hope that we too will be discovered one day.
As I was reading Paul’s account of Abraham in Romans 4:17-18, it occurred to me that God only uses nobodies. When you look through the scripture and think of the great people of faith, they were nobodies. David was a shepherd minding his own business tending his father’s sheep when God chose him to be king. Abraham was a devoted husband who just wanted to give his wife a child. He was taking care of his possessions when God asked him to move. Mary and Joseph were just two young lovers trying to plan a wedding when God chose them to be the parents of Jesus.
Look at the disciples too. Most were ordinary fishermen, tax collectors and every day blue collar workers when Jesus gave the call to follow Him. Joseph was a teenager who ratted on his brothers one too many times when he was sold into slavery and dragged to a foreign land. He lived his life in obscurity until God chose to make him second in command of one of the greatest civilizations of all time. Moses was an abandoned child, who ran away from his adopted parents and was tending sheep in the desert when he had the burning bush experience.
The somebodies in the Bible all started out as nobodies. They didn’t follow the normal routes to greatness. They were just doing their normal every day routines when God stepped in. The difference between them and others was that they were willing to be obedient to the voice of God. David was willing to tend sheep as the king, Abraham was willing to leave his homeland with no questions asked, Mary and Joseph were willing to be ridiculed for having a child out of wedlock, the disciples were willing to leave everything behind to follow, Moses was willing to go home and face his past. Each person was willing to be obedient when it didn’t make sense.
That’s the difference in being a nobody and a somebody. Blind faith. God is still looking among the nobodies of this world to find somebody who will blindly obey. He’s looking for somebody to be great. He has not changed His methods. Blind obedience is still what He desires from you and me. Being willing to do whatever He asks even when it doesn’t make sense or defies logic is the trait He most admires. You and I have a choice when He comes our way. We have the choice to remain a nobody because we aren’t willing to do what He asks, or we have the choice to obey and be somebody great. What will your obedience look like today?