Weary In Waiting, Not Well-Doing

Jesus said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4)

The apostle Paul exhorted Christian believers, “Let us not be weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9 KJV). This was a reminder to his brothers and sisters in the faith to keep on keeping on with their good works for God’s glory, regardless of the response they were receiving.

To be sure, there are any number of discouragements that can cause us to grow weary in well-doing. Yet today I want to encourage you not to grow weary in waiting. In my own experience, I grow far more weary in waiting than I do in well-doing.

If we are not careful, the deafening silence from God in seasons of waiting can be a source of great discouragement. We pray . . . we receive no response from God . . . we sense only silence from heaven. And so we do everything in our power to create our own noise to stir up both the silence and the stillness that rub against the grain of our soul. But God has ordained both seasons of well-doing and of waiting in the lives of His children.

Here’s the thing: when we keep going and sowing, we have a tendency to shift from working in the power of the Spirit to the self. We lose all sight of God’s timing and forget how much we need His help. Jesus knew His disciples would fail in their own strength 2000 years ago, and He knows His disciples will fail in their own strength today. When we realize that we are struggling in a season of waiting, we are to remember these words from the apostle Peter, who also struggled mightily with waiting while he walked with our Lord during His earthly ministry:

Do not forget this one thing dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)

The Lord may be silent, and that silence may stretch on far longer than we would like, but He is never disinterested in our prayers and our well-doing. May that truth set us free from growing weary in waiting. God will be glorified, others will be blessed, and so will you!

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Negative By Nature

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, all human beings are born broken, sinful, and negative. By nature, we see the dark side of things. When things don’t go our way, we invest all of our energy either excusing or accusing. We come up with a myriad of excuses to explain away our own behavior and we come up with a myriad of accusations to point the finger at others.

But this is not for you! Today’s passage reminds us that, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves it, we are to give God thanks. That’s right! We are to thank God for everything, because we know that God is at work in everything (Psalm 119:91), working all of it together for our good and His glory.

Know this: We are as thankful as we choose to be. Giving thanks is a choice, and it is a choice we are to make moment by moment, regardless of the circumstances we are facing. The key is to keep our focus on Christ, not on what is going on in our lives at that moment. Circumstances come and go; circumstances change. But not Jesus! He is the one Constant we have in our lives, who is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

When we fix our thoughts on Jesus, we will rise above excusing and accusing. We will begin to develop an attitude of gratitude in every situation. In the world of research on the human condition, an attitude of gratitude is the foundation upon which a healthy and happy life is built.

So regardless of where this message finds you today, give thanks in all circumstances! See everything as a gift from God and a blessing from His hand. God uses every circumstance to conform you more and more into the image of Jesus.

Remember, God’s will for your life is to be thankful. His command to us is to be thankful. Is this the confession of your life? Or have you let negativity have dominion over you? Choose thanksgiving in all circumstances, and you will rise above the waves of challenge and soar with the eagles.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A Word For Your Wilderness Experience

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

In Psalm 63, David wrote about his wilderness experience. Some scholars believe this psalm was inspired by the time when David was on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Other scholars believe David was writing about the days when he was fleeing from his son Absalom, who was also trying to kill him. Whatever the time frame, David’s life was in jeopardy, and he was enduring a wilderness experience. Yet his focus remained on his God, who David knew was with him every step of the way.

David’s wilderness experience was beyond his control, but it was not beyond God’s control; by keeping this truth in view, David was able to rise above the waves of challenge that were washing over him. In a dry and desolate land, David knew just where to look for “water,” and he longed to worship his God in the sanctuary in Jerusalem. His desperate circumstances did not affect or alter his confidence in God one bit. Why? First, because David knew that God is a covenant-keeping God, who has promised blessing to His people, and second, because David kept his focus on his God, not his circumstances.

In verse three of the same psalm, David declared, “Your love is better than life.” Is this the confession of our lives?

When the apostle Paul said, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), he was giving us another word for the wilderness experiences we will inevitably face in this life. For Paul, Jesus was everything. Paul lived in a continual wilderness experience from the moment of his conversion until the moment he was martyred for his faith. Yet he kept his focus on Christ, not his circumstances, and that is the key for you and me today.

Whatever wilderness experience you may be facing today or will face in the near future, keep in view both what David said — Your love is better than life — and the words of Paul: To live is Christ, and to die is gain. When you do that, you too will rise above every wave of challenge that washes over you, because greater is the power that is at work within you than any power will ever come against you.  

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Mundane Matters To Our Master

As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!” (2 Kings 6:5)

Every child of God knows that God cares deeply for them. They know that simply by looking at the cross, where Jesus was crucified so that all those who trust in Him as Savior and Lord will have eternal life. There can be no question that God cares about the salvation of our soul and our eternal destiny. But far too many of us doubt God’s care over the myriad of mundane moments in our lives. Today’s passage makes it crystal clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

While some men were cutting down trees to build a place to live, one of them saw the iron axhead fall off the ax handle and sink into the water. To make matters worse, it was a borrowed ax. This man cried out to the prophet Elisha for help, and help he did! He made the iron axhead float back to the surface for the man to retrieve it. What could be more mundane in the mind of God than a lost axhead? What could be more insignificant to the God of the universe? Yet God worked through Elisha to recover the lost implement and made it abundantly clear that He cares about the mundane matters of our lives.

We have a tendency to believe that the work of our God is limited only to the major areas of life. But here we see that the mundane moments matter too. God cares more for us than we can possibly imagine! To be sure, there are some things that matter more than others, but there isn’t anything that doesn’t matter to God. Everyday tasks and ordinary trials matter to God. Remember, even in those mundane moments that seem to be as unspiritual as they are uninspiring, God is at work caring for you and conforming you into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We must realize that every moment matters to God. We should see opportunities for eternal significance in every mundane moment, because God is in all of it, working all things together for our good and His glory.

So . . . what axhead have you lost in the waters of your life? Cry out to Jesus, and watch Him make that steel swim!

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Current Of Complacency

The waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. (Proverbs 1:32)

Complacency is a great comfort to the slumbering soul. And it is this comfort that causes complacency to course through our veins, leading us to seek a trouble-free life of ease and acquiring earthly treasure. The current of complacency does not keep people from doing much . . . it just keeps them from doing much of what matters most to our Master. And what matters most to our Master demands the most from His disciples!

I sometimes joke with friends about taking a vacation (something I don’t do very often) and “drifting on the lazy river.” But drifting on the current of complacency is not a joking matter! If we grow comfortable there, we will find ourselves spiritually stagnant, spending less and less time in the presence of Jesus. We read the Bible less. We pray less. We serve less. We give less of our time, talent, and treasure. And make no mistake, the current of complacency will cause us to notice less and less of the practical needs of the people God sends into our lives.

Let us never forget what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16-17)

The congregation at Laodicea was characterized by complacency. Complacency causes us to drift along the sea of self-satisfaction by any means necessary. Life becomes self-centered and self-focused, leaving little or no room for our Savior. We become indifferent to others as our senses are dulled and our spiritual lives are disconnected. But that’s not all! When we succumb to the current of complacency, the less we smell the stench of our own self-absorption. The fire we once had burning deep within us has been snuffed out by Satan, who knows he cannot shipwreck out faith, but he will strive to steer us into the doldrums and render us ineffective.  

So how do we conquer the current of complacency? First, we confess our sin of complacency to Jesus. Now, I am not talking about the occasional complacency that affects all of us, but complacency that has become a way of life. Second, we draw near to Him through daily prayer and time in His Word. We must look to Jesus, learn from Jesus, and lean on Jesus more and more each day. Third, we resolve to rise above our over-committed schedules and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will direct us to those whom we have been called to serve and bless.

Keeping Jesus on the throne of your life and exchanging self-satisfaction for Savior-satisfaction will keep you from ever hearing these words, “Woe to you who are complacent!” (Amos 6:1). This is not for you! So “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Paradox of Powerlessness

The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

It has been wisely observed that we have no power from God unless we live in the persuasion that we have none of our own. The Bible provides us with several examples of people who lived out this truth. The apostle Paul, for example, said this about his preaching ministry: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

If anyone could have felt supremely confident about his own strength, ability, and intellect, it was Paul. He had advanced to the top of his field as a religious leader in Judaism, having been trained by Gamaliel, the most respected teacher of the Mosaic Law at that time. Paul’s education and his understanding of the Old Testament scriptures was second to none.

But Paul did not rely on his own ability; rather, he relied solely on the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. Remember, it was Paul who was inspired to pen this doxology: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Paul understood and lived the truth that the Lord Almighty had declared centuries earlier: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

How is it with you? Are you living your life in the power of God? Or are you attempting to live in your own power? Are you relying on the wisdom of God? Or are you looking to the wisdom of the world? When you reach the point of acknowledging your powerlessness, you have arrived at the place where God will give you His Omnipotent power.

God is not in the business of blessing those who are living in their own strength; He blesses those who are totally dependent upon Him and surrender to His will in their lives. Here is the paradox of powerlessness: It is the only place where you will find all the power you need to do all the things God is calling you to do for His glory. “For when I am weak,” Paul explained, “then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

May this truth set us all free to acknowledge our powerlessness and live in the power of God.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Parallel Between Private And Public Life

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)

It is said of the French Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales, that he lived parallel lives in private and public. When another bishop planned to write a biography about Francis, that bishop was determined to find out if Francis’ private life truly matched up with his public life. The bishop went to visit Francis and actually drilled a hole in the wall so that he could spy on Francis to see if he could discover the secret of his holy life. What he learned was virtually nothing . . . yet it was almost everything!

The bishop discovered that Francis was the same in private as he was in public. His talk matched his walk in both spheres of life. He rose from bed early in the morning, careful not to make any disturbance that would awaken his servant. He prayed, answered correspondence, and took care of his ordinary tasks in the same gracious manner that he displayed when he was in public.

Francis de Sales is known for his writings on the topics of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God. His walk and his writings witnessed to his sold-out life — both in private and in public — a life lived for the advancement of the Kingdom and the glory of Christ.

If this is to be the confession of our own lives, we must be committed to living parallel lives, publicly and privately. The word for this is integrity. If we are to understand integrity biblically, we cannot see life like a pie, cut up into different pieces and disconnected from the whole. We must not divide our lives into a slice for the professional setting, another slice for our personal life, a third slice for our church life, and then a slice set aside for our compulsions. This is a life that lacks integrity. We are one thing in one area of our lives and something different in another area of life.

To avoid this pitfall, we must be committed to living a whole life Coram Deo — before the face of God — and committed to doing it consistently, whether other people are watching or not. Remember, “The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20). May our public and private lives run on a parallel track — a track that runs straight and true for the glory of God and the good of others.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Red Seas On The Road Ahead

The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:29)

One of the most spectacular events in the Old Testament history of God’s chosen people is the crossing of the Red Sea. After the deliverer Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they found themselves standing at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army closing in on them. The people of God cried out in despair, believing that they had been delivered from bondage in Egypt only to be destroyed in the wilderness. But God showed up in a big way.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22)

What God did for His people more than 3,000 years ago, He is doing for His people today . . . and that includes you. What “Red Sea” are you facing today — professionally, personally, or relationally? God is calling you out of your past and into your promised future. He is calling you out of the known and comfortable into the unknown and uncomfortable.

Ask yourself this question: What Egypt do you need to be freed from? Damaging thought patterns? Destructive behaviors? 

There will always be Red Seas on the road ahead as you make your way into glory, but the divine power that is at work within you is infinitely and eternally greater than any power that can come against you. Let these words from Moses encourage you to keep on keeping on, trusting that God is working everything together for your good and His glory:

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. (Exodus 14:13)

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Have You Read God’s #1 Best-Seller?

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Most people have a Bible somewhere in their home. Sadly, in far too many of those homes, the God-breathed Greatest Story Ever Told is not read; it lies gathering dust on a tabletop or a bookshelf. The Bible is the Number One, best-selling book in the history of the world, and it has made a profound impact on Western civilization from its very beginning. Here’s the question: Has the Word of God made a profound impact on you?

God gave us His Word so that we would read it. He could have left it up to the Holy Spirit to encourage, motivate, and instruct us to do His will in this world, but that’s not what He did ; He gave us His living and active Word so that we would read it, respond to it, and therefore be changed by it.

When Jesus was being tempted by the devil during His wilderness experience, He did not bargain or compromise or apologize. He looked Satan in the eye and declared, “It is written!” Jesus knew the Word of God, and He was able to use that Word to resist and ultimately defeat the attacks of the enemy. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” our Lord said, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Think about going a few days without eating. You will not only grow hungry, you will grow weaker and weaker. Now, multiply that by a week or even a month. Just as our bodies need nourishment to sustain physical life, our souls need nourishment to sustain spiritual life. We must come into God’s presence each day, marinating in and meditating on His Word. When we do that, we will be able to fight against everything that comes against us in this life, achieve victory, and give God all the glory, just as Jesus did..

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We live in a spiritually dark world, and we need the light of our Lord’s love that is found on the pages of sacred Scripture to guide our steps into God’s will for our lives. As we progress toward glory, the Word of God will give us both direction and correction to live a life for the glory of God and the good of others – all others – including ourselves.     

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Saved To Serve

“Let my people go, so that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1)

God directed Moses to speak these words to Pharaoh when God was preparing to free His people from bondage in Egypt. God was setting Israel free from slavery in order that they would worship and serve Him. What was true thousands of years ago is still true for you and me: We have been saved to serve.

Many in the church today have lost sight of this biblical truth. Instead of understanding that we have been saved for service, far too many who claim the name of Christ wrongly believe they are saved by service. This is a false gospel, rooted in man’s merit, not God’s mercy. Salvation is all of God; there is nothing we can do to get saved. But after God saves us, we are now called to serve the One who set us free from our bondage to sin, Satan, and death. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God through service.

The most practical understanding of this truth is to recognize that we are to live lives of sacrificial service to others – all others – regardless of cost or circumstance. We have been blessed to be a blessing. We have been healed to help. We have been saved to serve. This is the call for every child of God, not just those who are in vocational ministry, such as pastors and missionaries. Every Christian is in full-time Christian service, regardless of what profession he or she has chosen. The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker all are called to serve their Savior. A “non-serving Christian” is an oxymoron — a contradiction in terms — of gargantuan proportions.

As you continue growing and maturing in your faith, keep in mind that your maturity is always for ministry. Jesus said that He “did not come to be served, but to serve,” and the same must be said about those who are His disciples.

How is it with you? Does your life reflect the truth that you have been saved to serve?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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