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.
Courage is displayed in many facets of life in and through activities that are visible to the eye, but unseen courage of the heart, however, is another matter altogether. This is the stuff on a personal level (unseen courage) that makes life worth living, powered by an eternal hope that never dies.
“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24)
Setbacks are real, and they have the tendency to knock us off track of pursuing life goals. Courage is real, and it has the power to get us back on track toward pursuing life goals, the hopes and dreams that we desire. As a Jesus follower, or Christian, we are encouraged to finish the course that God has set before us, to the point of being able to say to God in the end;
“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4)
It takes courage to stay on the course of life that leads to accomplishing what you set out to do. It takes a heart completely devoted to the One who not only assigns your course but provides the courage and inspiration you will need to complete it. After Jesus fed the five thousand He instructed His disciples to get into the boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He knew that they would encounter a storm while at the same time knowing that the storm would give opportunity to make them aware of their need for courage that could only come through a relationship with Him in order to fulfill His assignment on their lives.
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14: 27)
Purpose, hope and courage weave together in such a way that sets us apart from the average mindset of “what will be, will be” approach to life; these three attributes enable us to face difficulty, danger and pain with a bravery that we’re given through our relationship with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Take courage my friend!
Scripture Quoted in ESV, NIV
“There is no patience equal to the patience of God.”
Patience is not an attribute that is embraced whole heartily for most individuals or seen as the virtue it once held in society. It is often criticized in our fast-paced world by those who embrace the “just do it” mentality.
Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, penned this powerful insight (quoted above) based on his journey of learning how to embrace a life of patience as he sought to fulfill God’s purpose on this earth.
When we become impatient with waiting for the promises of God on our lives to be fulfilled, or begin to question the way that He is going about bringing it to pass, we must remind ourselves of His perspective on time and waiting.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2Peter 3:8)
“…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
In the waiting, God is doing a transforming work in your heart and life that makes no allowance for shortcuts or lack of integrity in your heart, mind or soul. The process of preparation, however long it takes, leads us to a life of total dependence and surrender to the God which sets us apart for His glory and not our own.
If you are a follower of Christ, you have been given patience as a gift, it is a fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is … patience…” (Galatians 5:22)
Let patience have it way in your life and you will be thoroughly prepared, called up by the Lord, who is faithful to fulfill every promise He has placed on your life.
“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.” (1Peter 5: 6-7)
Scripture Quoted in ESV
The ability to hear causes us to take notice, to observe or pay attention to what we are being informed of. Hearing is listening.
Are you a good listener? Whether you believe you are a good listener or not, God has plenty to say about the art of being a good listener. The word is used so often in the Bible God must have known we would be challenged in this area.
“Listen diligently to Me…incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:2,3)
The livelihood of our souls depends on how great a listener we are to not only what God speaks into our lives but how well we apply it. God tells us that it was because the Israelites refused to hear His words they turned back to the sin of their forefathers.
“They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear My words.” (Jeremiah 11:10)
Listening and believing go hand in hand with God. He promises to bless those who believe what He speaks.
“And blessed is she who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Listening and obedience go hand in hand with God who entrusted an entire nation under the leadership of Moses to bring them into the promised land.
“…He is faithful in all My house.” (Numbers 12:7)
Hearing God can’t be done well in a noisy and hectic lifestyle. We must learn to guard our hearts for the quiet times that are needed to hear and grow in our knowledge of God and the daily fellowship and blessings that knowing Him offer.
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)
His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.
Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)
In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)
When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)
Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.
Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.
“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 that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)
How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.
Love is such a multi-dimensional emotion so often expressed simply in acts of kindness and tenderness yet on so many levels it invites a complex nature. On any given day love has the potential of being displayed tenderly or roughly, with deep loving affection and at other times in painful distress or cutting anguish. By the time we reach young adulthood most of us have been exposed to a full range of love actions from good to bad.
Love was originated by God. I call His love blessed. It is straightforward and uncomplicated, simple in its application to mankind. He presented it to us through the most generous act of all time by sending His Son Jesus to rescue us from a life void of His love. This blessed love is as pure as refined gold because it came through the fire of deep adversity that brought sin to its knees, crushing the power of it forever. Without accepting this blessed love we can’t come close to loving others as we should.
This God love is as pure as love can be. It is as giving as it can be, never running out and is always there when you need it. This blessed love is committed to your future, it believes for the best and greatest potential imparted into you. This blessed love is pure joy and equips you to live above your circumstances while trusting God to work out His best for your life. God is true love.
Loving others well hinges on how well we allow God to love us through Jesus His Son. May you choose His blessed love.
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1John 4:16)
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