Trials and Suffering
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.
How would others assess your leadership qualities if based on a standard established centuries ago by God? Apparently, leading well requires paying serious attention to what God requires of those who lead although He graciously leaves it up to us to choose His way, that promises success, or our own way to lead, that promises eventual disaster.
“…he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law…and it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life…” (Deut. 17:18-19)
Leading well begins with knowing God’s word for ourselves, not knowing it based on what others have to say about it. In other words, God knows how much a leader, in order to be successful in leading needs to know Him through knowing His word in order to be led properly in his/her leadership role.
“…that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them…” (Deut. 17:19)
Learning to fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). The wisest person who lived on this earth (King Solomon) knew he needed wisdom to lead the people of Israel and it pleased God so much that He not only gave him wisdom but added to it riches, possessions and honor! (2Chronicles 1:12)
“…that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers…” (Deut. 17:20)
God is all-knowing, and He knew that leadership, left up to us would lead to a prideful heart with little to none accountability to anyone.
“…that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left…” (Deut. 17:20)
We are warned ahead of time that without embracing God’s standard of leading well, we will turn aside and adopt our own style of leadership that is anchored by a prideful heart which moves us from being successful in God’s economy to a place of unfruitfulness.
“…so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deut. 17:20)
Successful leadership maintains a lasting effectiveness on those impacted by a leader after God’s own heart, and not just those corporately but the family of those who lead well.
Great leadership starts at home with a loving servants heart and the humility to know your need for godly wisdom for the stewardship that you have been entrusted with.
“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.” (Psalm 25:9)
Decisions are made through a process of settling a dispute or doubt, making a judgement or determining a preference that brings us to a conclusion “by giving victory to one side.”* Decisions are made in the soul of our being, where our will, emotions and mind reside.
Major life decisions affect the projectory of our life outcomes and the people we encounter along the way. The impact can be enormous when you think about it from the perspective of eternity.
In 1904 a spiritual revival swept across Wales, England and a particular Welshman accepted Jesus and the missionary call to travel to India to a remote village known for its violence and savage head-hunters who prided themselves in displaying as many heads he had collected. This was a sign of their marriageability – the more heads a man had, the more eligible he was.
One tribesman heard the gospel and accepted Jesus as his Savior against much opposition from the tribal chief. After being brought before the entire village the chief demanded that this tribesman stop following Jesus or his children would be killed. “No, I have decided to follow Jesus, I am not turning back,” replied the man. His children were killed.
The chief went on to threaten the man to stop following Jesus or it would cost him the life of his wife. “Thou none go with me, I still will follow, no turning back,” replied the tribesman. The chief killed his wife.
Left alone after witnessing the murder of his children and wife, the angry chief demanded a third time for the tribesman to stop following Jesus now at the threat of losing his own life. “The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back,” replied the man at the cost of his own life.
With the entire village witnessing this ordeal and this one tribesman willing to sacrifice all that was dear to him to follow Jesus, one by one the village people began to make the decision to follow Jesus and eventually the tribal chief bowed his knees to follow Jesus.
God is eternal, our time on this earth is not. Jesus came to make a way for our relationship with God to be restored to His original, eternal plan. Jesus took our place on the cross and made restitution for our sins, completely wiped them away by the shedding of His blood, making a way for those who would choose to believe in Him, granting eternal life in the presence of God. Forever.
I was 14 years old when confronted with this soul decision. By Gods grace I knew in my heart that I needed a Savior, that I didn’t know enough (and never would) to do life on my own. I’m so grateful for my life journey that brought me to a place of settling the struggle and doubt in my heart at that time. This song of the ages propelled me to the altar to proclaim my decision to follow Jesus.
“I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back, no turning back…Though none go with me, I still will follow…no turning back, no turning back…The world behind me, the cross before me…no turning back, no turning back.” (Author Unknown)
This one tribesman’s decision is still reaping a harvest today. Who could have known but Jesus the ripple-effect of his decision throughout time, the world and the lives that would be impacted and the souls brought into the eternal loving arms of God.
Like a vapor in the backdrop of eternity, life can seem to vanish before our eyes from our first breath to our last just as the Bible describes it.
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14, NASB)
With the recent passing of my mother, her 85 years of life seemed to pass so quickly now that heaven is her home. She was an influencer of her faith in God to those around her. She lived out the assignment on her life in a most sincere, loving and courageous way. Her gift of encouragement and quiet reserve veiled her fierce faith and steel-like determination to pray things through. She was convinced that God could do the impossible for others just as He had done for her. Her faith was contagious and present, as a result of having survived many seasons of suffering that taught her not take her lifespan for granted. She understood what it meant to live out her trust walk day by day, depending on God’s provision for each moment of life.
“Give us each day our daily bread…” (Luke 11:3, NASB)
She lived with an eternal hope that was anchored in the promises of God and His vision for her family which she spoke over us numerous times. She never stopped believing, persevering right up to the end of her life.
To those she left behind, the many lives she impacted, she passed along her baton of faith. Now its our turn to carry on the mission of passing along the eternal hope that sustained her through the travel of life. Let’s pick up where she left off by not only living out our faith with a steel-like tenacity but with the desire to leave the fragrance of Jesus wherever He sends us.
“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2Corinthians 2:15, NASB)
Her life was a sweet fragrance of eternal hope, a hope that is needed in our world with all its tribulations. The world is waiting to see this hope lived out. The world is waiting for you.
“…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b, NASB)
Do you live with an awareness that your days are numbered on this earth and that it is unwise to believe that you will always have another day to get on with the business of living with purpose?
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
This was a prayer of Moses who was encouraging us to make the most of our lives since our days on earth are so few in the light of eternity which is God’s perspective.
No one but God knows the number of days that have been appointed to each of us therefore, we must view life through the lens of His wisdom, purpose and fulfillment of His call on our lives.
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
Jesus, while on earth embraced this teaching as well. He lived a life focused on fulfilling the call of God on his life to the point of being able to say at the end;
“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4)
What have you been given to do while on this earth and are you focused on accomplishing it? Living and walking in this truth is the mark of wisdom. May this year be a year of new beginnings for better living in all arenas of your life.
Lord, teach us to number our days!
Image: The Heavenly Pastures, EU Scoop
There is power in a name based on what it represents. The name of God is no exception.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1)
God declares that His name is established forever and so powerful that whatever we perceive to be the greatest enemy in our lives is weak before Him and will have to acknowledge the incomparable name of God.
His name is representative of all creation set in place by Him and yet He cares about and for all mankind.
“…what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)
Mankind is a picture of God’s loving-kindness and grace. He has crowned us with glory and honor and given us dominion over the works of His hands, putting all things under our feet. (Psalm 8:5,6)
How then are we to live in such a way that honors this magnificent gift of dominion to rule and manage all that God has entrusted to us? We are to glorify His Name with the understanding that we have only what has been given to us to manage here on earth. To do this properly we must agree with God and His purpose for creating mankind. We must believe by faith in the name of His Son Jesus, the Savior of the world.
“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
Magnifying the name of God happens when we fulfill His purpose for our lives. Are you living in the light and power of Your namesake? If not, choose today to live and walk in a manner worthy of your calling. (Ephesians 4:1)
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”
The word prisoner carries a negative connotation and yet in the context of faith in God it is a positive attribute that points to a lifestyle of built on hope. Whereas a prisoner loses his/her freedom to choose and are held bound to obey a higher authority, God followers are invited into a lifestyle of eternal hope.
Hope anchored in God is described as a stronghold; a well-fortified place, a fortress and a refuge from anyone whose aim is to keep us from fulfilling our destiny according to God’s will. It is also a place of restoration in the aftermath of great lost.
“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zechariah 9:12)
In seasons of hardship its easy to forget that our position of strength is to remain in God’s stronghold of protection and His promise of restoration to all those who have placed their hope in Jesus, His Son. Jesus is the fulfillment of our hope.
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him (Jesus).” (2Corinthians 1:20)
Who is your stronghold and in whom have you placed your hope? In God we have the full assurance of hope until the end, the fulfillment of His promises. (Hebrews 6:11)
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)
He is Hope Eternal
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)