One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. I’m reminded of his story so often because I find myself in need of all the lessons it teaches. In Judges 6, the Bible explains that times were bad in Israel. The Midianites were destroying crops, killing animals and harassing the Israelites. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them. The Israelites lived in fear because of all the bad things that were happening. If they had grain, they had to thresh it in hiding. If they had goats, they had to keep them hidden. Anything in the open would be taken.
Gideon was threshing his grain in the bottom of a wine press so no one would see him. An angel appeared and called out to him, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you.” Gideon, who was hiding because he was afraid of the Midianites, didn’t think twice about the angel calling him a hero. What caught his attention was that the angel said, “The Lord is with you.” He took a double take at the angel and must have thought this guy didn’t know much. How could he say that when so many bad things were happening?
He confronted the angel and asked, “If The Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? When everything in life is going wrong and you feel abandoned by God. It’s an uncomfortable place. A dark place. Fear of the future grips your mind. You find yourself constantly worrying about things that you have no control over. You feel like God has forgotten you or worse, abandoned you in need. Your mind tells you that God doesn’t care. That He doesn’t see you in your pain.
In this verse, the angel reminds us that God’s presence in our lives isn’t proven by our circumstances. Our lives can be falling apart and God can still be with us. We’ve somehow come to believe that God is with us when things are good and has abandoned us when times are bad. His presence is with you no matter what. He is with you even when you can see His hand or feel His presence. He is with you when your life is so dark that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He is not only with you, He’s preparing you for greatness in those times. Greatness doesn’t come from an easy life. It’s forged in the darkness and in the fire.
Whatever you are facing today, I say to you, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you!” You may not feel like a hero, but you’re still standing through everything. You may not feel like The Lord is with you, but He has never left your side. He has been standing next to you through everything you have faced and everything you will face because He will not abandon you. He will not forsake you. He will not forget you. He will deliver you when the timing is right. He will lead you to better times when you have learned all He wants to show you in the dark. Stand strong today because The Lord is with you.
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Throwback Thursday is a 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 decided I was ready for the next step in my career. I wanted to be the General Manager of a retail store. I put on my suit, rehearsed answers of my achievements, thought of people I had helped get promoted and confidently walked into the interview. The District Manager followed the script for a little while then said, “I hate these questions. They don’t really tell me anything. Tell me about a time when you failed.” I sat there with a blank face. My heart was pounding. I thought, “A failure? Why does he want to know about my failures? Is he trying to keep me from the job?” As I searched for a good failure, I asked him to repeat the question. I gave him a failure when everything turned out good, but he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted one where I crashed and burned because he wanted to see how I responded to it.
Our past failures are something that so many of us try to hide. In fact, we are so afraid of failure that we typically won’t ever put ourselves in a position to fail at doing something. We try to stick with what we know so we’re always succeeding. What I’ve learned, and the point my District Manager was trying to find out if I knew is that failure is the greatest teacher. It is also the path to grace. If we never fail, we have no need for grace. If we never try to do something beyond our abilities, we also keep our faith small by never trusting God to do something through us. God rarely calls us to do things that we can do in our own strength and abilities because He knows pride is always knocking on our door waiting to take credit for our successes. But, when we do things beyond our abilities, it forces us to seek and rely on Him.
James 1:5 says, “And if anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! He won’t see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures but he will overwhelm your failures with his generous grace” (TPT). God doesn’t ridicule our failures. He’s not waiting to strike us down when we fail either. He sees them as opportunities to grow us and to lavish His grace on us. When we’re called to something greater than our abilities, seek His wisdom first, then step out in faith and do it. If you fail, it doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God or that He didn’t come through for you. It quite often means you and God have two different definitions of failure and success. Don’t let what you think is a failure keep you down. Get back up, trust His grace and keep walking in faith because to keep playing things safe is truly a failure.
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Have you ever been driving and had someone in the vehicle comment constantly on your driving telling you what to do and how to do it? Did you like it? I’ve never met anyone who likes a backseat driver. According to Miriam-Webster online, a backseat driver is a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle. We’ve all experienced it from someone in our lives. They make comments about your driving, especially when they feel like you’re taking a risk that they wouldn’t take. What they don’t realize is that backseat driving increases the risk of having a crash because of the added stress and distraction.
When you and I accept Jesus as our savior, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives. We, in effect, step out of that role and become a passenger. The church phrase is, “surrendering your life to Christ”. Yet how many of us have truly surrendered our lives to Him? We don’t mind surrendering the parts of our life we struggle with, but being a Christian is about surrendering everything. Remember the old hymn “I Surrender All”? Somewhere we have lost what it means to surrender our entire life to Him. When we are both trying to control the outcome of our life, we become a backseat driver to Jesus and increase the risk of messing things up. We start telling Him what we think He should do when we don’t have all the information He has as the one in control.
Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). You and I have to surrender the driving seat to Him. One way I do this is each morning before my feet hit the floor is to pray, “Lord, I open myself up to you. Fill me with your Spirit until I’m overflowing. Speak through me, love through me and live through me today. Let my words and actions be reflections of who you are. Use me in anyway you see fit. I surrender to your will.” Surrendering the driver’s seat isn’t natural. It has to be a daily and sometimes hourly. God is good and has a plan for your life that is greater than your own plan. Getting out of the driver’s seat and allowing Him to take over is the best thing you can do for your life.
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My eight year old son tries to be fiercely independent. He wants to do things himself without my help. I can see him sometimes working on something he can’t quite figure out. I watch his frustration begin to rise, and I say, “Bring it here. Let me try.” Of course he keeps trying getting more upset. I make my offer again. Nope, he wants to keep trying. That’s usually when frustration starts turning into anger. He then has the choice to make – he can walk away from it or he can bring it to me. Once he puts it in my hands, I’m able to do with it what he cannot. Many times I’ll set it up so that he can participate in finishing it. When that happens, both of us smile and are happy.
In Matthew 14, King Herod has John the Baptist beheaded at the request of his step daughter. Jesus was sad over the loss of his cousin and went into a remote area to mourn. While he was there, someone spotted him and started telling people where He was. Soon thousands of people made their way to Him for healing. As it was getting dark, the disciples asked Him to send the crowds away so they could get dinner in nearby villages. In verse 16, Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them” (NLT). I’m sure the disciples panicked and got frustrated trying to figure out how they could do it. They found five loaves and two fish and told Jesus that was all they had and they couldn’t do it. That’s when Jesus said, “Bring them here.”
The difference in both of these stories is whose hands things were in. How long do we try to do things while Jesus is telling us, “Bring them here”? You can keep trying to do the impossible on your own or you can trust Jesus with it. You can get frustrated trying over and over or you can put it in His hands. The feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle because the disciples were able to say, “We can’t do it,” and then handed over what they had to Jesus. One of the most difficult things about faith is letting go. We are fiercely independent people who want to do things ourselves. At the end of the day we have to choose whether we allow that frustration to turn to anger or put action to our faith and trust God with it. He is able to do above and beyond what we are able to. If we will trust Him, He will often allow us to participate in the miracle.
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If you’ve ever had young children, you know that the younger they are, the more innocent they are. They never compare themselves to other children. They don’t worry about food and clothing. They get along well with other kids from the moment they meet. They’re moldable and are always learning. They don’t question their parent’s motives. They trust their parents enough to jump from just about anywhere. As they get older and around other kids, they begin to lose a lot of these qualities. Different things happen, fear creeps in and they begin to lose the trust in people. It’s a sad transformation in a way. My wife and I have tried hard to protect our son’s innocence as long as we can because we know how important these qualities are for even adults to have.
Think of how many times Jesus told us to have childlike faith. These are the qualities He wants us to have. We need to trust our Heavenly Father without doubt or worry. We need to be open to being shaped by Him so that we can become the people He intended for us to become. It’s hard to have faith when you’re fearful and jaded. All these qualities that we gain through the years are often the things that hold us back from having the relationship with Him that He seeks to have with us. Even though life has happened to us and we aren’t the same as we were when we were children, we can still have childlike faith and trust in Him. It requires us to let go of past pain, disappointment and failures of authority figures in our life. We can’t compare or project other people’s qualities onto God. Childlike faith trusts Him no matter what.
Here are some Bible verses on childlike faith.
1. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
MATTHEW 18:4 AMP
2. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God [with faith and humility] like a child will not enter it at all.
LUKE 18:17 AMP
3. This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
Romans 8:15-16 MSG
4. So I’ve learned from my experience that God protects the childlike and humble ones. For I was broken and brought low, but he answered me and came to my rescue!
Psalms 116:6 TPT
5. At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.
Matthew 11:25 NLT
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Every one of us are tempted to sin. Because we are unique, we are tempted with different things, but often it’s in the same way. Temptation starts by causing us to doubt what God said and tries to make us think that there is something better than what God has already blessed us with. If we don’t stop those thoughts immediately, we start moving towards sinning. We try to justify why we deserve whatever it is. We then convince ourselves that what we have is not enough. We continue down this road until we give into the temptation and sin. Deep down we know it’s wrong, and so many times the actual sin is anticlimactic because we’ve built it up in our mind so much. The problem then is that we have to deal with the consequences of that sin. Temptation is not a sin. What we do with it could be.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had all they could ever hope for. They were surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and provision, yet they were convinced that what God had given them was not enough. They wanted more. Genesis 3:6 says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise and insightful, she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate” (AMP). They entertained the thoughts of temptation that led them to sin. They bought into the lies that God was withholding something good from them and that they deserved to have more than what God gave them.
Fast forward a couple thousand years to Matthew 4, and as Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness. He was in a barren place deprived of God’s provision, food and beauty. The same enemy came to Him to create doubt about who He was and what God had promised Him. The difference was that Jesus didn’t entertain those thoughts. He immediately went to what God said as truth, and He trusted the character of a God to not withhold any good thing from Him. He saw temptation for what it is, an attempt to break our relationship with God. He fought back with God’s Word and didn’t try to justify the sin based on where He was in life, what He was going through or what He felt like He deserved.
You and I have a promise we can hold onto during times of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” You don’t have to give into temptation. You have the ability to resist. You are able to endure it and can overcome it. Trust that what God has given to you is enough. If you don’t feel like it is, then be like the two people in the Parable of the Talents who took what the Master gave them and multiplied it. Your future is based on your choices and thought life. Don’t give in to the lies the enemy brings. Trust God and speak His promises, resist the devil and he will flee.
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