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.
What are the pressing issues in your life right now and how are they impacting your long-term goals? For most, these challenges have the capability of knocking us off path towards our ultimate life fulfilling goals and discouraging us from pressing on.
Paul, the apostle obviously struggled with his past failures to the point that he referred to himself as a ‘foremost sinner’, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God had bestowed on his life.
“…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1Timothy 1:15)
Paul goes on to say that this mercy that he received was a display of Jesus’ perfect patience that would serve as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us to not make futile the gift of grace that has been poured into our lives by accepting our imperfections and inconsistent attempts towards fulfilling our goals and purpose. Instead, by faith, believe “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Our daily, pressing life issues have been sovereignly and compassionately placed in our lives by a loving Heavenly Father who knows its value and necessity in shaping our destiny while impacting those around us in their faith walk.
The point is that when we respond correctly to trials and sufferings, as Jesus did, we come through having gained more of Him than when we entered into the trial. (Philippians 3:8-9)
So let’s keep our life goals at the forefront of our life issues and follow the example of Apostle Paul who lived with the conviction of not wanting the grace that had been poured into his life to have been in vain. This, we are told, is how the mature respond to the call of God on their lives with all its imperfections:
“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Keep pressing on!
Image: The Light of Morning, brl.press