One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking. One of the things I’ve learned is that foods taste better if you take the time to develop the flavors. That means that instead of adding onion and garlic later, I may start with them and let them sauté a bit in order to bring out more flavor. When I create a sauce to cook in, I may let it simmer a little longer so that it reduces. Doing that will intensify the flavor. To turn a recipe into a beloved dish, you have to take the time to develop and bring out the hidden flavors with heat and time. It’s more than simply adding ingredients.
I believe our lives are the same way. God wants to create amazing flavors in our lives that point others to Him. To do that, it requires Him to do things differently than our recipe. It also requires us to be put in the fire, sometimes longer than we care to be there. It’s really our choice how we respond. Do we give Him the freedom to bring out the flavors that are locked inside of us? Or do we allow those times to produce a bitter flavor that turns people away from us and Him? God’s desire is that each one of us would have complex, well developed flavors so that we’re not just another Christian.
James 1 tells us to consider it joy, even a gift, when trials and challenges come at us from all sides. In that pressure cooker, it releases hidden flavors into the world. In verse 4 he writes, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (MSG). When things aren’t going right and life is coming at you hard, don’t run away. God is at work in you and pulling out flavors that were locked away and hidden before. He’s not going to allow these problems to overwhelm you. He knows what you can take and how long you can stay there. Trust His judgement and let Him do His Work in your life.
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Have you ever felt ill equipped to do something? Maybe you did your part to get ready for it, but you didn’t have the right tools to be successful. I’ve had that happen before. I had to lead a meeting, but when I arrived to the location, there wasn’t a projector. If they couldn’t see my PowerPoint slides, they wouldn’t be able to understand what I was discussing. It was one of those moments where you have to get really creative or pray that someone had a spare projector somewhere. Thankfully that was the case and I was able to give them the info they needed.
When it comes to fulfilling your purpose, the same thing can happen. There’s only so much you can do before you need God to do what only He can do. The problems come when we stop being patient and start trying to get creative in doing God’s part. We try to equip ourselves for what He wants to accomplish through us, but like Saul’s armor on David, it doesn’t fit. I’ve found that moving forward before God has done His part often complicates things and can have long lasting consequences.
In Hebrews 13:21, the writer prays and reminds us, “May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will” (GNT). You have a part and God has a part. Learn to do your part and then have patience while God does His. He will give you what you need when you need it. I know it feels like you need it sooner or that you need to step in and help Him, but wait on Him. The Bible is full of people who didn’t wait and tried to do God’s part. Today, purpose in your heart that you will trust God to provide the thing you’re missing to accomplish His will and that you will wait until He gives it to you.
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In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies joined together to attack Judah (lower Israel in the divided kingdom). King Jehoshaphat was terrified and not sure what to do when he heard the news. He immediately sent out word to all the towns to send people to Jerusalem to fast and pray. While they were assembled, he prayed aloud for everyone to hear. In verse 12, he prayed something that is key for all of us to pray in such situations. He said, “We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help” (GNT).
Then, the Spirit of the Lord came on a Levite named Jahaziel. He spoke several things to them, but the part I want to focus on comes from verse 15. He said, “The Lord says you must not be discouraged or be afraid… The battle depends on God, not on you.” That should offer relief to you and I. The battles we are facing don’t depend on our ability, but God’s. We don’t have to be afraid of what we are facing because our God is bigger and more powerful.
The Israelites had to show up to the battle in order to win it according to the prophesy. The same is true for us. To calm his men down, King Jehoshaphat told them, “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand your ground. Believe what His prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” Faith is more than just showing up for the battle. It’s trusting what God says despite what you see. If we want success, we have to trust His report more than what our eyes and others tell us.
What happened next is incredible and also a great lesson for us. The king ordered that they praise the Lord for the victory before the battle! When they began to praise, it threw the enemy into a panic and they defeated themselves. They renamed the valley “Baracah” which means the valley of praise. Praise is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to use it before our battles because God dwells in the praises of His people. God can turn your valley of fear and desperation to a valley of praise if you will look to Him, depend on His ability, show up for the battle, and praise Him.
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Have you ever had to borrow someone’s car that was nicer than yours? How did you drive it? For me, I had my hands at 10 and 2 the whole time. I took extra caution because I didn’t want to wreck it. If it had been my car I was driving, I would have just used one hand on the wheel and been less cautious when driving. Why is that? I think it’s more to do with the ownership of it than the familiarity. If I wreck it, then it was mine to wreck. It’s a whole different story if I wreck something that belongs to someone else.
Now think about the decisions you make regarding your life. For many of us, we treat them like we do driving our own car. It’s our life and our decisions, so if I mess it up, at least it was my life that I messed up. With that kind of thinking, we tend to make quick decisions with less thought than we would if we were giving that advice to someone regarding their life. Can I challenge that link of thinking for a minute? Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price, so it is no longer your life you live, but Christ’s. Sound familiar? Check out 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 if not.
Thinking about that, let’s look at Proverbs 28:25. It says, “To make rash, hasty decisions shows that you are not trusting the Lord. But when you rely totally on God, you will still act carefully and prudently” (TPT). Are you trusting the Lord with your life? Do you believe that it belongs to Him? Then we need to take our time with the decisions we make regarding it and seek His wisdom. It’s time we started treating our lives like they belong to someone else. God created you with a purpose and has a plan for you and your life. Today, instead of making decisions like it’s your life, ask God what His plan is for you.
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While watching the recent lunar eclipse online, I learned some new things from the astrophysics who were giving a play by play. One of the things was that from the time you see the sun touch the horizon, until it goes down, you are not really seeing the sun. You are actually seeing a reflection of the sun that has already dipped below the horizon. Because of air density and the curvature of the earth, it creates a mirage that reflects an image of the sun back above the horizon. So when you’re watching a sunset with the sun going below the horizon, you’re actually looking beyond the horizon.
I think that’s pretty cool because until that point, i thought we could only see as far as the horizon. When you read Hebrews 11, you read about the great heroes of our faith. They were the men and women who trusted God without seeing what He was talking about. That’s really what faith is. If you could see what you believe in, it’s not really faith. Trusting God is following where He leads before there is anything there to see. It’s truly looking beyond your visual limitations and seeing into the future.
Hebrews 11:13 says, “These heroes all died still clinging to their faith, not even receiving all that had been promised them. But they saw beyond the horizon the fulfillment of their promises and gladly embraced it from afar” (TPT). What has God been asking you to do that’s beyond your current vision? It may be over the horizon, but if He’s asking you to move towards it. Trust the vision of what you truly can’t see at this moment, and start acting in faith. The life God has called us to is always beyond the horizon. It’s up to us to trust in what He can see more than what we can see.
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When I was younger, we sang a song at church from Isaiah 43:1-2. In it, the Lord says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you” (GNT). Most of our songs were verses in the Bible back then. This one always made a string impression on me though.
One of the things I picked up on this verse was that it says, “When you go through,” not, “If you go through.” Every one of us will have times in our lives when we will go through waters so deep that we can’t touch the bottom anymore. We are all going to face difficulties that sweep us away like a rushing river. There are times when we will have hard times where things will get heated. But the promise of God first to us in this verse is that God will save us because He knows us by name.
Saving us doesn’t mean we won’t suffer loss, go through hardship or face difficulties. As I mentioned, this verse guarantees we will will. The difference is that you and I will not be overcome by the things that life brings against us. These things that happen should build our trust and faith in God because it’s in those times that our faith is proven and strengthened. In those times we find out what our faith is made of and how strong God truly is because we rely on Him so much. Don’t be afraid of these times. You belong to Him, and He knows you by name.
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I’ve been through times and situations where I’ve wondered where God was. When I’m neck deep in problems and my prayers don’t seem to be reaching Heaven, I start to think God doesn’t hear me, or worse, that He doesn’t care. Have you been there? It’s a rough place to be. There have been moments where I’ve been desperate that if God didn’t show up, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to go on. When I look back, I can see God’s hand and how He was growing my faith, but in those moments, I felt alone and that God had forgotten me. That’s a tough place to be emotionally and spiritually.
I have a friend who says, “God is the God of the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute.” It’s not that He doesn’t hear us, see us or know where we are. It’s that He has His own time table. I also believe that many times He uses people to answer our needs, but we aren’t always very responsive to His promptings. We usually wait to do what He asks us to do because we’re unsure we’re hearing Him correctly. If you can’t see Him moving, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care or that He’s sitting back doing nothing while you’re going down.
I love Isaiah 40 because it reminds us of the greatness of God, especially when we’re doubting Him. Toward the end, He speaks to Israel, but the message is to us as well. Verses 27-28 say, “Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “ GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts” (MSG). If you’re in one of those moments, take your eyes off your problems and look at the consistency of who God is. Remember that He’s there, He Sees you and He’s growing your faith.
Photo courtesy of Images by Chauvin on Instagram.