Forty, the number, is commonly used in reference to a milestone, achievement or a set of things like years of a lifetime, even degrees of temperature. Today, forty is referring to a number of times.
Twenty-nine years ago when my life was full of challenges as a wife, mother of small children and a demanding career I found myself at a fork-in-the-road that seemed to give me a new perspective on time and purpose of living. A challenging childhood can make you aware of things that others may not even consider and not wanting to miss God’s will for my life through the busyness of life caught my attention.
I began asking Him for insight, specifically what I was placed on this earth to accomplish. Growing up, my mother spoke frequently to me about how God had a plan for my life which naturally created curiosity around how His plan would play out in my life. And so I began to ask Him specifically.
“Study My Word,” was always His response. This instruction seemed like a small thing to apply myself to and not very significant when it comes to impacting the lives of others. After all, I was great at taking my bible to church and following along with the teaching, even taking notes most of the time. But, God’s voice kept reminding my heart that His instruction was to study His Word. Eventually, I surrendered to His command and made a commitment to make studying His Word on a regular basis. I promised God that I would read through the Bible one time, believing that would result in a great achievement and spiritual growth. How little did I know!
One time through the Bible turned into six years of on-again, off-again attempts before finally accomplishing the promise that I had made to God. Obviously, it took me a minute to make studying God’s word a priority. I had to learn how to overcome the distractions of daily life by creating space in my life for the more important things before I found a way to maintain the pursuit of keeping God first in this world we live in everyday.
The first time through God’s word exposed how little I actually knew about God and His heart for me. It also exposed how little I knew about the teachings of Jesus and His will for my life. How in the world could I fulfill God’s call on my life without knowing what He had to say about the valleys and mountaintops that we will encounter on our way towards fulfilling His call on our lives? Most of all, how in this world would we know how deeply we are treasured and esteemed in His heart, to the point of sending His Son, Jesus to rescue us from all the issues of life by learning to lean on Him when life takes a turn toward hopelessness and sorrow. God knew that I needed to be taught how to become a warrior, how to run my life race as a winner.
My first time through the bible can be compared to reading a cliff note version of a book, it was too much to take in with one reading, (which of course God knew this way before I did). He worked through my circumstances and my desire to “grow in His grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 3:18) while serving/volunteering in leadership roles in the local church, eventually teaching and mentoring women.
The number forty is a significant reference in the Bible, often used as a season of preparation or duration of service to God for the benefit of others, even those who don’t acknowledge Him.
“…For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
Today marks the completion of my 40th read through the Bible representing 29 years of my life. It is true that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) I have been transformed in the process. By God’s grace I can honestly say “…that He who began a good work in you (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Knowing God through His Word was a crucial element in fulfilling His call (or assignment) on my life and will continue to be.
What has God been whispering to your heart lately? If you heed His voice by making it a priority in your life (no matter how long it takes to accomplish it), you will fulfill God’s call and your obedience will not only transform you but will also change your world.
Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.
So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.
Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.
Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.
God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.
The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)
Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!
“…give us this day our daily bread…”
Endurance is an esteemed character trait in the eyes of God. He calls His followers to endure the challenges and trials of life at least 99 times in the Bible. The ability to endure, to remain committed to the process of refinement, suffering, distress or discipline comes from God. He promises to be present when we call out to Him, provide what we need and the grace to accept it.
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Successful enduring places its trust in God who will not abandon us, He can be counted on for shelter through the storm.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18: 10)
Jesus, our Savior and Lord endured the cross on our behalf. He willingly bore the sin of the world in order to deliver us from the power of sin and death.
He became our greatest role model in how to endure suffering. He endured to beyond the cross that He bore, coming into the joy that awaited Him and He asks no more of His followers.
“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
The Book of James encourages us to not be surprised when various trials come our way that test our faith. When our faith is tested it produces endurance that will perfect and mature us as followers of Christ.
The joy that is set before us is at stake if we choose not to endure. Regret at not finishing our race in life is not what Jesus had in mind for us when He endured the cross. He promised us that He is the door to abundant life, that He is the Good Shepherd that was willing to lay down His life for us, the sheep.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Don’t give up, stay among the ranks of those who endure to the end and live in the abundance of God’s provision for each day. God promises a great reward!
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrew 10:35-36)
(Image by John Ng)
Extenders of mercy are considered to be good Samaritans, willing to come to the aid of another. They seem ready to extend kindness by doing the unexpected, extending compassion instead of judgement, pity instead of criticism.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Mercy extenders are mercy receivers.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)
God made a promise to those who choose to follow Him as a shepherd leader who would never leave us during our journey through life. He promised goodness and mercy would dwell among us. Thankfully, He also gave us the insight into how this lifestyle could be maintained, He knew that we could not be extenders of mercy without first receiving His mercy.
“…for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
We are described as sheep without a shepherd, lost and exposed to all the dangers of life before coming into the sheltering mercy of God. He is the originator of Mercy, delivered to mankind through His Son, Jesus. (Luke 19:10)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We become recipients of mercy when we believe in Jesus, the Savior of the world. Once this happens we are called to become extenders of mercy. Only then can we begin to understand the vastness of the mercy we have received and the joy of extending it to others. It reflects the security we have in God to meet our needs.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Enjoy the mercies of God in your life by extending mercy to others!
The power of humility appears to have been cast into the shadows of a view that supports achievement rooted in self-sufficiency. How often do you hear achievers taking full credit for their accomplishments without thanking the One who gave them the ability to achieve. Self-sufficient thinking is a prelude to pride.
Pride is a “lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect” of one’s own opinion of him/herself. Pride takes its own credit in ones confidence of his/hers resources, gifts or talents to achieve without the help of others.
Pride precedes a fall from an exalted position; humility precedes an exalted position.
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 12)
Jesus, the Christ, is our example of perfect humility and One who modeled it perfectly. He said that “the greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) In order to be a great servant we must learn to be a great follower. When Jesus could have chosen to usurp the authority of His parents at the age of 12, He chose instead to humble Himself and return home with them after being found in the Temple. (Luke 2:51)
Jesus also modeled the power of humility. He understood that at times choosing humility would be the most painful route to achieving and fulfilling His purpose on the earth. He also knew that submitting to God’s plan would bring salvation and eternal redemption to a dying world.
Humility places all outcomes into the hand of God. Humility anchors its trust in following Jesus with an open heart and a surrendered life. This is what a true follower of Jesus looks like, a lifestyle of humility that places all trust in God’s ability to lead us better than we can lead ourselves.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:16, 17)
If we choose the way of pride and self-sufficiency we will miss fulfilling our purpose and miss-use our God-given gifts and talents during our stay on earth. Every accomplishment obtained in our own self-sufficiency will be tested by fire and burned up in the end. It will have a diminishing effect on our reward in heaven.
“If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1Corinthians 3:14,15)
God gives grace to the humble. He attached His power to the work of our hands in a way that impacts eternity in the lives of others.
“…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…” (1Peter 5:5,6)
The power of humility!
God gave King Solomon the wisdom to share his perspective on life and how we should view our time on this earth. He declares that there is a time set by God for every event that occurs under heaven.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Knowing what ‘season’ of life you are in can help you in shaping your approach in the comfort of knowing that God has set a beginning and an end. You can decide ahead of time to endure toward victory or defeat as you travel through it, allowing God to accomplish His will for your life.
King David not only walked through a long season of warfare but learned to embrace it as preparation for God’s call on his life. He learned to invite God in on every decision for battle, seeking His advice on how to approach every enemy that was brought before him. He understood that God works in seasons of our lives in order to do good for us in the end. David was committed to endure the war in order to come into God’s good and perfect will for his life.
“…a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiasstes 3:8)
Like King David, when our season of war ends and God brings us into a season of rest from all our enemies, it is a time of peace. And we are to remember to give thanks to God.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (1Chronicles 16:34)
If you are in a season of war know that God will supply all that you need to triumph in the end. When He brings you through to peace remember to give thanks for He is good and will sustain you through the war.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!(1Chronicles 16:8)
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Discovering God’s will for your life is the path of blessing and it begins the moment we surrender our lives to Him. A surrendered life is intentional about staying on God’s path, knowing that His path is where the blessing is.
We are given a wonderful picture of what it means to follow God in the story of the Israelites when they roamed the wilderness for 40 years in the Book of Numbers. God’s presence was associated with the tabernacle, His cloud covered it during the day and it took on the appearance of fire during the night. They were instructed to settle and move out according to whenever the cloud lifted up or set in place over the tabernacle.
“And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.” (Numbers 9:17)
Following the blessing provides direction and provision towards being established in God’s will. This is the only path that produces lasting fruit in our lives and the lives we are fortunate to impact along the way. God’s path refines and clarifies, it rids us of sin and unnecessary baggage that hinders our effectiveness in the areas of our purpose. It cultivates obedience and intimacy as we get to know God better with every step.
To follow the blessing means placing your trust in God’s direction and His ways of accomplishing the desired results in your life. To do this well we must believe in His sovereign wisdom and care for us as we journey the path, even when it doesn’t make sense.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When we choose to follow the blessing, God promises to fulfill every word that He has spoken over our lives. The Israelites that chose to follow God’s blessing came into the full inheritance that was promised to them under Joshua’s leadership. God’s path lead them into the ultimate blessing, the promised land.
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14)
Be sure that you are following the blessing by following God. He promises to offer strong support to those whose hearts are turned toward Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) You will find that He is the blessing and that the blessing is found in Him!
Enduring faith requires a long-term view driven by divine purpose that is specifically designed to shape your heart for the work and impact God has placed you on this earth to fulfill. And the secret to enduring is obedience.
Jesus modeled obedience in a very practical way. His example did not require years of maturing and experience nor perfect life circumstances or achievements. He simply chose to submit Himself to God and His plan for His life. He believed that the only way to please the Father was through living in obedience to Him.
“But have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Enduring faith is also rooted in our love for God. If we truly love God we will choose and commit to the process of enduring trials or tests that come into our lives. John the Apostle said that our love for God is proved by our obedience to Him.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Lastly, enduring faith requires waiting. Those who endure are promised supernatural provision to persevere to the end. Jesus goes before us and brings light to our path, we must choose to follow Him. He is the way, the truth and the life according to John 14:6. And when our enduring has accomplished God’s desired end, when we have been transformed by taking on more of the likeness of Jesus, we will know that God’s work in this area is completed.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
God cares for you.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
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