Several years ago, we experienced a crash in the housing market. It was the perfect storm or rising interest rates, a sluggish economy, and low cost construction. I remember my friend’s neighborhood most vividly. As you drove through it, there were many incomplete houses in varying stages of construction scattered throughout. For years they sat there incomplete. They were a constant reminder of the recession we were in.
As I drive through, I couldn’t help but think how each of those houses represented someone’s broken dream and unfulfilled plan. People had gone through the process of buying a lot, designing a house, choosing elevations, selecting tile, picking out paint colors, and imagining what it was going to be like. Now it sat there incomplete with no hope of fulfilling its purpose. Where others saw incomplete houses, I saw unfulfilled dreams.
I’ve always imagined that you and I were a lot like houses under construction. God has a great blueprint for each one of us that He’s designed specifically based on who He created us to be. Unfortunately, many of us feel incomplete and that God has stopped working on us or in us. The truth is that God is always at work in our lives trying to help us fulfill our calling. No matter what mistakes we make, God doesn’t walk away from the construction site or leave a house unfinished.
Philippians 2:-13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). God has not given up on what He started in your life. He hadn’t walked away from you, leaving you like an abandoned construction site. He is still working in you, helping you and putting the desire in you to want to fulfill your purpose. You are still under construction and God still has an amazing blueprint for your life. He will complete what He started in you.
Several years ago, my father in law was about to undergo surgery. To make sure he could handle it, the doctors gave him a stress test for his heart. He failed. They immediately called for an ambulance and sent him to the hospital. When they took a look at his heart, they found several blocked arteries and performed a bypass surgery. The doctor informed us of how serious it was, but assured us that he was better now.
Over and over I’m asked why we as Christians are allowed to endure hardships. I believe that part of it is that we are still under the consequences of Adam’s sin. If only sinners went through hard times, got sick, or died young then people would not choose God based on love. They would follow Him out of fear, and that’s not what God desires. So it rains on the just and the unjust alike.
Another part of the answer is so we can see what’s inside of us. God already knows, but just like that stress test revealed my father in law’s heart condition, difficult times often reveal what’s inside of us. It proves what we really believe, and also shows any weaknesses we need to correct. Going through difficult times gives us a chance to truly walk out our faith so we can know how much we really trust God.
The great news is that we aren’t left in the stressful situation. Psalm 71:20 says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth” (NLT). Like my father in law’s surgeon, God is in the restoration business. He corrects and removes the things that hold us back so we can serve Him better. He brings us back up, out of the depths, so we can share with others the faith we discovered in the hardship.
One of the lessons my son is having the hardest time with is learning to wait when he has a question. My wife and I will be in a conversation, and he will walk up, interrupt us, and ask a question. We will tell him we will answer when we are done talking, but that’s often difficult for him when he has a question. I’m teaching him to walk up and just put his hand on mine when he has a question. I told him that when he does that, I’ll acknowledge him and then answer him when I can.
I wish I could say that works all the time, but it doesn’t. It’s as hard for him to wait for an answer as it is for us as adults to wait for one. When we have a pressing need or question, we’ll bombard God with questions and demand an answer immediately. We call it faith when we pray that way, but I wonder what God calls it. One of the hardest lessons any one of us has to learn is how to approach God and to ask for what it is that we want or need, especially when we feel we need it urgently.
They say that patience is a virtue, but we often lack it in waiting for God to answer our prayers. In Psalm 69:13, David prayed a tough, but wise prayer. He said, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose” (GNT). He was telling God that he wasn’t expecting Him to operate on his timetable. He was willing to wait for God to answer on His. That’s a hard thing to pray and to do.
This verse challenges me because I’m not there yet. In my prayers, I’m like my son trying to get an answer. I don’t want to wait for God to finish what He’s doing. I want my answers right now. If David was a man after God’s own heart, and he had the ability to pray this way, i believe it’s something we all can learn to do. Instead of trying to force God in our timeline, we can start asking God to give us the answers to our prayers in His. I’ll just need a little help learning to wait.
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.
I was visiting someone who was working on a LEGO project with his kids. They had hundreds of LEGO pieces neatly arranged on their table and a step by step guide. I watched as they looked at each step, found the pieces, decided where they went, put them on there and moved on to the next step. Each step took a while because you had to find the right pieces in the right color and then look at a cartoon drawing of where they went to help them place them.
After watching them build for about twenty minutes, I began to get curious. What were they building? I couldn’t tell from where they were in the project. They showed me the picture on the box so I could see the final outcome. I looked at it and where they were, and quickly realized this was going to take days to build. It was not your average LEGO building project. It was going to take multiple steps to get through it along with time and dedication. It reminded me of the spiritual discipline it takes to walk by faith.
For many of us, God has put a dream in our heart, or has given us a promise of where He wants to take us. In essence, He’s shown us the picture on the box. We then have a series of steps to go through in order to achieve that picture. Each step takes time. First we have to get the courage to take the next step. Then we have to find the pieces of that step and find where they go. Once we get them in place, it can be a while before God shows us the next step. When He does, the process starts over.
After a while of following the steps God has laid out for us, we can begin to see what He is doing and how those parts fit into the overall picture. In the beginning though, it’s tough to see how any of it relates to what God is doing, but these are the foundational pieces. If we don’t get these in the right place, the rest will not work. It takes spiritual discipline to follow the steps God gives us. That discipline produces the patience and endurance needed to get us where we’re going because it’s easy to want to quit along the way.
If you’re looking at your life and wondering what God is doing, ask to see the box. Let God remind you of the final outcome. To make something incredible, it requires a lot of small steps and intricate details. Don’t get so lost in the steps He has given you that you lose sight of what He wants to do in and with your life. Also don’t worry about the next step until you’ve completed this step. God will reveal each step in His time, not yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their life.” God knows the details of each step of your life. Trust Him and follow where He leads.
Growing up, I spent countless hours playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the Nintendo. The goal was always to go through the progression of fights so you could fight Mike Tyson. At times in the game, I would swing away at the characters hoping to connect a knock out punch. All of a sudden, my guy would drop his hands and start panting. All of a sudden, he became vulnerable in those fights, and I had to dodge punches to keep from getting knocked out. After a few seconds, his strength would return and I could start fighting again.
To be honest, I never beat Mike Tyson. I got to the point where I could get to him every time, and could even go several rounds with him. At some point, my character would get tired and Mike would knock me out. I would get so frustrated because the guy would get winded at the worst times, and there was nothing I could do about it. I actually can relate to that guy a lot more now that I’m getting older. Battles seem to get more difficult, and I seem to get winded more quickly.
There’s a famous portion of Scripture in Isaiah 40 that speaks to this. Israel had begun to think that God had abandoned them in their battles, and they were tired. God spoke and asked how they could think that. Then in verses 29-31, He said, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT).
If you’ve been getting winded in your battles, and you’re starting to wonder where God is, these verses are for you today. Don’t get anxious and swing away, which only wears you out. Wait on and trust in the Lord. He will give you the strength you need to endure, and He will help you knock out your biggest opponent. Whatever your Mike Tyson is in life, God is there with you to help you fight it without growing weary. He is the everlasting God. He never grows weary or weak.
There’s a viral video that’s been floating around Facebook for a while now. It’s of an artist on Ukraine’s Got Talent. She has a large canvas and begins to draw what appears to be one of the judges. As she continues to work on it, the judges become impatient. One by one, they give her the dreaded X. After all judges give her the X, she takes the canvas, turns it upside down, then throws a chalky substance on the canvas. When the dust clears, it’s a portrait of someone else.
I think we are all a bit like those judges at times when God is trying to do a work in our lives. We think we know what He’s up to, and we don’t agree with it. We think we know best and we X out of His plan. We are always trying to put together the pieces of what He’s doing, and we are judging it. The problem is that we truly have no clue what He’s doing because we have the wrong perspective, and He’s not finished yet. We’ve got to learn to have patience while God works in our lives.
We’ve become a part of the culture that tries to figure everything out before it’s done. We like things now rather than later. We don’t let things develop and mature like they’re supposed to. God wants us to be patient, especially when He’s working in our lives. Isaiah 30:18 says, “But GOD’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones” (MSG).
God’s message to us today is to be patient while He works. He’s taking a His time, doing the things that are necessary. You may not understand it, or be able to see the full picture of what He’s doing right now. If you will wait for Him to complete what He’s started, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t be like those judges and miss out on the art that God is trying to create in your life. God’s not finished yet. The final product is worth the wait.
To watch the video I described, click here.