When life gets tough, do you let it push you closer to God or farther away from Him? I’ve had it do both. There have been times in my life where I desperately wanted God to show up and answer prayers, and to me it felt like He remained silent. I became upset with Him and decided I wasn’t going to ask Him for anything again. Another time, I was far away from Him, and when things got bad, I turned to Him to survive. My faith became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life. In both incidents, events in my life were more than I could handle.
Each of us go through difficulties. Each of go through times where our faith is all we have left. How do you respond in those moments? Do you tell God you’ll never ask Him for anything again because He didn’t answer? Do you have faith God will see you through when there’s no visible path forward? Faith is all about trusting God in life’s most difficult moments. It’s easy to have faith when you don’t have to use it. But what about those moments when it’s all you have left?
James 1:12 gives us a promise from God that says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!” (TPT) When we hold onto our faith in those periods where it’s all we have left, we experience a depth of God’s grace we’ve never known existed. We also get to know a God more intimately because our relationship deepens in those times. When God is all you have left, your faith has the ability to grow. These times are not designed to crush you or push you away from God. Rather let them do the work of deepening your faith and relationship with God.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
To be honest, I’ve always wanted God to operate on my time instead of His. Wouldn’t life be much easier if He did? There would be no waiting for the answer, no stress of things coming down to the last minute and no panicking that it might not happen this time. If only God would answer my prayers when I want Him to, that would be amazing, but it wouldn’t involve faith. Without the pressure of getting to the point that if God doesn’t answer things will go badly, there’s no growth in who we are as people. We are refined in the waiting process and our strength is increased. God doesn’t make us wait for the sake of waiting, He’s growing our faith.
David, who was a man after God’s own heart, was good at waiting. He understood that God knows better than we do and His timing is perfect. He didn’t try to make things happen when God slowed them down. He simply went through the process, trusted God and he was rewarded for it. Admittedly it’s no fun to be in the place of waiting. David had to live in caves and be on the run before he could live in the palace. God used that time to grow him into the best king he could be. Imagine what God is doing in you as you wait.
Here are some Bible verses David wrote about waiting on God.
1. My strength is found when I wait upon you. Watch over me, God, for you are my mountain fortress; you set me on high!
Psalms 59:9 TPT
2. Listen to my cry for help, my God and king! I pray to you, O Lord; you hear my voice in the morning; at sunrise I offer my prayer and wait for your answer.
Psalm 5:2-3 GNT
3. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
Psalms 40:1 NLT
4. Wait passionately for GOD, don’t leave the path. He’ll give you your place in the sun while you watch the wicked lose it.
Psalm 37:34 MSG
5. Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.
PSALM 27:14 AMP
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
I think we can all agree that there is a difference between saying something and proving something. When we were kids, we all had that friend that told tall tales. He was related to famous people. He was going to be on TV. He had a hundred dollars. You name it, he either did it or had it. After a while, we found the phrase, “Prove it!” It turns out, he could tell you just about anything, but he couldn’t prove any of it. Without proof, we had no reason to believe the things he said.
When I was younger, I heard someone ask, “If you were to be convicted of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?” That’s a tough question we should all think about. A court can’t convict anyone unless there is some form of evidence against them. In some cases, that evidence comes from first hand witnesses. Other times it comes from physical evidence left behind. What evidence are you leaving behind for others to know you are a Christian? Can eye witnesses tell by how you live that you’re a Christian?
In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist was out at the river baptizing people when the religious leaders came to take a look. One of the things he said to them was, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT). He knew they were manufacturing false evidence to try to prove they were righteous, but their lives contradicted that evidence. Jesus later said they were whitewashed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were full of death on the inside.
Today’s devotion is not to say that you earn salvation by your works – that’s what the religious leaders were trying to do. It’s saying when you truly experience the power of God in your life, it changes you. Your life changes inside and out. You find that going to church isn’t evidence that you’re a Christian – living for God is. When you experience the power of salvation, you begin to leave evidence everywhere that you have repented and followed Christ. My challenge to you today is to take an honest look at the evidence in your life. What does it point to? Is it manufactured or is it natural from a changed heart and life?
Photo by Peter Dlhy on Unsplash
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.
Several years ago I reconnected with a person that went to my high school. I watched silently as they posted pictures of the ministry they were doing. Inside, i would think, “What’s their game? Who are they trying to fool?” I had seen this person play the part of a Christian, but could tell they were faking it. Fast forward twenty years later and I felt like they were still faking it. I watched them for almost a year as they kept updating about their ministry. Each time it would burn me up. One day as I was stewing over it, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Why are you holding their past against them? Do I do that to you?”
I can tell you that was an humbling experience. God reminded me that as a person, I only look at the outside of a person, but He looks on the inside to see the true intent. I finally reached out to this person and found out that God changed their life in college. After they shared their testimony, I confessed how I had felt and what God spoke to me. From that point, I began to look for ways to partner with them in the ministry they were doing. Once I forgave them for their past, I was free for God to use me as well.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love” (TPT). Many of us are guilty of holding something against someone because of something they’ve done in the past. As believers, we must forgive them or we withhold our own forgiveness. If the depths of Christ’s love can cover any sin, we too must learn to forgive in the same manner. Who knows what our unforgiveness is keeping us from? Even if the relationship isn’t reconciled, forgiveness is our path forward in Christ.
Photo by Marta Esteban Fernando on Unsplash
A while back, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. My mode of transportation was a bike and I lived about a mile from where I worked. I took the same route every day at about the same time. There were constant messages from the embassy to those of us living there that we should vary our routines and routes. I never really understood why, so I didn’t do it. Then one day, I was in the police station getting my permit to extend my visa, and the officer set a folder down on his desk. When he walked away, I opened it and saw photos of me on my bike on my way to work and on other routes I took. That woke me up and I started changing routes.
I tell you that story because most of us have a rhythm to our lives. We get up at the same time, go through the same processes each morning, take the same route to work, do the same thing every day at work, take the same path home, watch the same shows and go to bed at the same time. To me, that’s a recipe for burnout. You can lose your way, your purpose and your passion. When that happens, we can easily start to question God’s purpose for us and wonder if there’s something more. We can even grow tired in living how God commanded us to live.
Philippians 2:13 says, “God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him” (TPT). God knows that we need revitalization every now and then. We need a wake up call to remind us of our purpose and the reignite our passion. If you’re in that routine today and starting to get burned out, pray that God would revitalize you and restore your passion. Ask Him to plant in your heart the excitement you once had. I believe He’ll break you out of your routine so that you’re no longer just going through the motions. He’ll set you back on the path to accomplishing what you were made to do here on this earth.
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
When I was in the Fifth grade, lunch time consisted of a group of us who spent that time doing a put down contest. Every day we sat there with one person on one side of the table against a person from the other side. The two would trade put downs until one person ran out of them or someone cried. As kids, we had no idea how dangerous this exercise was. Words are more powerful than we realized. My fear is that some from that group have spent a life time putting others down constantly or worse, putting themselves down. So many people are constantly putting themselves down with their own words.
Jude 1:20 says, “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith” (NLT). That’s a command to do the exact opposite of what we’ve been taught to do. We have to train ourselves to quit looking in the mirror and telling ourselves what’s wrong with us. We have to learn to quit saying what our limitations are and why we can’t do things. Building up involves talking about what you can do and what your qualities are. When you consistently tell yourself the qualities God has given you, you shift the talk track in your mind from negative to positive. You begin to build up rather than tear down.
We need to learn to do this for other people as well. Imagine if you had someone constantly telling you what’s right with you. That would affect your day and how you see yourself. So why not start it off today? Find someone and build them up today by telling them a God-given quality they have and why it’s important. Building each other up is part of God’s design for community. We all need to be reminded daily of the positive qualities we have and how they affect the world around us. Let’s quit putting ourselves and others down and begin to act the way God intended by building others up.
Photo by Natalie Acheatel on Unsplash