The Lord Will Provide

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.”  Genesis 22:13-14 NIV

A few years ago, my son John wrecked his car in a five-car accident coming home from work.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that he wasn’t injured, and neither was anyone else involved in the accident.  After thanking God for keeping everyone safe, my husband Joe and I began discussing how we would deal with the unexpected vehicle shortage in our household.  We prayed and asked the Lord what He would have us do.  Then Joe remembered that he spoke to my sister earlier that day, and she mentioned that she had bought a new car and was donating her used van to charity.  We prayed again, asking the Lord if He would have us approach my sister about buying the van from her.  When we felt we had the Lord’s approval, we called my sister and asked if she would agree to sell us her van.  She sympathized with our sudden need for a vehicle, and she told us the van was ours if we wanted it.  Two days later, we drove our “new” van home, and my husband told everyone, “If that isn’t God, I don’t know what is!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

One of the things I love most about God is the way He goes ahead of us and provides for our needs before they even arise.  John’s accident didn’t catch the Lord by surprise.  He knew it was coming, and He went ahead of us and provided the van before we even knew we needed it.  The morning of my son’s accident, my sister called Joe at work to ask him a tax-related question (my husband being a part-time tax preparer).  She was donating her old van and wanted to know how to handle the applicable tax deduction.  We found out later that my sister had already mailed the ownership title for her van to the organization she was donating it to.  But because she neglected to provide all the necessary documentation, the paperwork was sent back to her.  She was just preparing to put it in the mail a second time when my husband called with his offer to buy the van.

We’ve all heard it said that God’s timing is perfect and He’s never late, and that’s true.  But it’s also true that He’s usually not early, either!  God often uses circumstances like these to stretch our faith, to encourage us to depend on Him for our needs, and to remind us of His faithfulness.  I’ve learned from experience that when we make God our Source, He will move heaven and earth to provide what we need at just the right time.  And why would we want to make anything or anyone else our Source?  Can our employers go ahead of us and supply our needs before they arise?  Can our spouses, parents, or anyone else?  The Bible says, “God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 AMP)  Only God can make a promise like this, and He’s not about to share His glory with anyone else. (Isaiah 42:8)  If we’re ever tempted to depend on our own wisdom or talents, or our money, the Lord has some stern warnings for us: “Your ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ have caused you to turn away from Me and claim, ‘I am self-sufficient and not accountable to anyone!’  So disaster will overtake you suddenly, and you won’t be able to charm it away.  Calamity will fall upon you and you won’t be able to buy your way out.  A catastrophe will arise so fast that you won’t know what hit you.” (Isaiah 47:10-11 NLT)

Just as the Lord went ahead of Abraham and provided the ram in the thicket to substitute for Isaac as a sacrifice, He will go ahead of us and provide exactly what we need at just the right time.  I once heard a godly man say, “Don’t stick the knife into Isaac until you look for the ram in the thicket.”  What that means to me is that if a need arises and we don’t seek the Lord first for HIS wisdom and solution for it, we may make wrong decisions that can have devastating and far-reaching consequences.  Experiences like this one that my family had reassure us that God truly is in control, and He is more than willing and able to fulfill our every need, if we’ll let Him.  Make Him your Source today, and give Him the chance to prove His faithfulness time and time again.

Lord, today I make You the Source of all my needs, committing them all to You.  Help me to do my part by always seeking You and Your Kingdom first. (Matthew 6:33)  When I’m tempted to trust in other people or things to supply my needs, remind me how that will only lead to disappointment and defeat.  Thank You for proving Yourself faithful again and again!

The Importance of Wisdom

“Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do!”  Proverbs 4:7 NLT

Sometime ago, my son, John, and I were in our kitchen chatting, when he began describing some stomach problems he had begun experiencing recently.  I listened intently as he spoke about his symptoms, hoping to provide him with some answers.  But the truth was that I was mystified.  I told him that we should pray for God’s wisdom, and ask Him what might be causing the problem.  Immediately, I whispered a silent plea–“Lord, show us why John is having these stomach problems, and what we should do about it.”  A few moments later, my son reached into the refrigerator to get himself a drink of cold water, and then asked if we had any lemons.  When I asked why, he said that he had recently begun drinking water with lemon, and he really enjoyed it.  All of a sudden, I remembered how growing up, my son had to avoid citrus juices, because they irritated his stomach and made him ill.  I suggested that he drink his water plain for a while, to see if it made a difference.  Sure enough, John’s unpleasant symptoms disappeared as soon as he stopped adding lemon to his water.

Years ago, I heard a powerful man of God teaching on the subject of healing.  He said, “Before you pray for healing, pray for wisdom.”  He went on to quote Proverbs 4:7 (NIV), which says:  “Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”  His words made such an impression on me that, from then on, whenever I had a healing need, the first thing I would do is ask for God’s wisdom in the matter.  Sometimes, the Lord’s answer would be something as simple as, “You’re drinking too much coffee,” or, “You need to change your position when you’re sitting at your computer.”  Other times, God would lead me to see a doctor, or to change doctors.  Eventually, I began applying this principal to other areas of my life, and other needs that arose.  When I had financial problems, I didn’t just ask God to increase my finances, but I asked Him to give me divine wisdom to apply to my situation.  And many times, it made all the difference.  If I was experiencing a relationship problem, I’d ask the Lord for godly wisdom to know how to respond.  Very often, He’d show me an effective strategy to employ that never would have occurred to me, had I not sought His help.

Jeremiah 33:3 (MSG) says:  “Call to Me and I will answer you.  I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”  When a need arises, the very first thing we should do is call on God.  Unfortunately, when most of us have a problem, we’re more likely to run to the phone than the throne.  It’s not wrong for us to share our troubles with trusted loved ones, but it IS wrong to leave God out of the equation, or to turn to Him as a last resort.

Some believers fail to seek the Lord first in a situation because they don’t feel confident about hearing His voice.  They feel like all they get is spiritual “static,” instead of a clear signal from God.  Usually, these people need to tune into the Lord’s channel–“W-O-R-D.”  As we read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word, we become more sensitive and obedient to His Spirit’s leading, and we find ourselves being more and more blessed.

James 1:5 (NIV) says:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see the Lord inviting us to call upon Him for divine wisdom.  Whatever your need may be today, I encourage you to take God up on His gracious offer, and turn to Him for the wisdom you need to receive all the good things He has in store for you!

Lord, I thank You for all of Your precious promises for wisdom.  I ask that You do a new and mighty work in my heart today, so that my automatic response to a need will be to turn to You for guidance and help.  Teach me to regularly soak in Your Word, so that I may become more attuned to Your voice.  Thank You that as I make seeking Your wisdom a priority in my life, I won’t have to miss out on Your best for me!

Cranky or Christlike?

“God wants His loved ones to get their proper rest.”  Psalm 127:2 TLB

Recently, the Lord taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of getting the proper sleep.  My son had come by for a visit one evening, and we stayed up until the wee hours, watching old movies, and chatting.  I knew at the time that I was feeling more exhausted by the minute, but I pushed myself, because I wanted to make the most of our visit together.  Needless to say, the next morning, I had trouble getting out of bed.  Not only that, but throughout that entire day, I felt irritable, negative, and extremely depressed.  When I turned to the Lord in prayer and asked Him what was wrong, He dealt with me about my staying up too late the night before.  At first, I had a hard time believing that the awful symptoms I was experiencing were caused by a lack of sleep.  But after continuing to think and pray about it, I became fully persuaded that this was, indeed, the case.

Several days later, the Lord led me to an article written by a Christian physician who was talking about this very subject.  He said that studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to high levels of irritability, stress, and negativity.  He also mentioned that being robbed of sleep can hinder us from displaying the fruit of the Spirit.  That day that I was dragging, the last thing I felt like doing was being Christlike.  I was cranky and crabby, and I wanted everyone to leave me alone.  I’m ashamed to admit that when a loved one called me on the phone that day, needing a word of encouragement, I was very abrupt and short-tempered with her.  Now, on top of feeling convicted because I didn’t get the proper rest, I felt guilty because I was mistreating those around me.

One of the things I’ve noticed when I’m exhausted, is that my faith doesn’t work very well.  With this in mind, it shouldn’t be hard for us to understand why the Bible instructs us again and again to be “alert” at all times.  Scripture says:  “Keep a cool head.  Stay alert.  The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.  Keep your guard up.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 MSG)  Exhaustion and weariness can make us more vulnerable to Satanic attack.  So it would be wise for us to think of robbing ourselves of the proper rest, as opening the door of our lives to the devil and his evil cohorts.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to pray when you’re really tired?  I have.  And the Bible has something to say on this subject, too.  The apostle Paul wrote: “Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 AMP)  Try being “alert” and “intent” in prayer when you haven’t had enough sleep.  It’s almost impossible, and it’s something that we, as soldiers of Christ, can’t afford.

The world’s system will try to tell you that you have to work, work, work to succeed, and to provide for your loved ones in this life.  But that is not God’s way.  Scripture says:  “It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil–for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.” (Psalm 127:2 AMP)  The NIV footnote on this verse says, “While they sleep He provides for those He loves.”  Here is God’s promise to His people to shower them with blessings and provisions even while they slumber.  And I believe that the key to appropriating the benefits of this promise is placing our trust in the Lord as our Provider, and looking to Him for all our needs.

The Bible contains other wonderful sleep-related promises.  I like to put them in prayer form, and to pray them for myself and my loved ones on a daily basis.  “Lord, I pray that when I lie down, I will not be afraid; when I lie down my sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24 NIV)  Sometimes I thank God in advance that He will help me to get a good night’s sleep.  “Thank You that I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8 NIV)  Scripture tells us that, “God wants His loved ones to get their proper rest.” (Psalm 127:2 TLB)  This is not only for our own sake, but for His sake, and the sake of others.  We will never be able to fulfill the call of God on our lives, or to impact the lives of others to our maximum potential, if we are constantly weary, stressed out, and unfocused.  It’s my prayer today that the Lord would plant these life-changing truths in your heart, so that you might take hold of the bright and blessed future that He has in store for you!

Lord, forgive me for taking my need for the proper rest and sleep so lightly.  Whenever I’m tempted to disobey You in this area, remind me of my responsibility to set a Christlike example at all times, and to be prepared to minister to those around me at a moment’s notice.  Thank You that as I obey You in this area, my faith with be firm, my praying will be powerful, and my future will be secure in You!

Ask for a Sign

“Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”  Isaiah 7:11 NIV

My husband has a long-time friend who has struggled with his faith for years.  Recently, this man’s faith got a major boost when his grandson was hospitalized because of a sudden and serious affliction.  As he left his house to head for the emergency room, he spotted a neighbor walking along the road at a distance.  This neighbor had taken walks around the neighborhood every day for many years, and in all that time, she never so much as glanced at my husband’s friend whenever he drove by.  Desperate to hear from God that his grandchild would recover, this man prayed, “Lord, give me a sign that my grandson is going to be all right.”  Seconds later, the lady stopped in her tracks, looked at my husband’s friend, and gave him a huge wave.  Tears sprang to this man’s eyes as he recognized the sign from heaven that he had so desperately needed.  And he is telling everyone who will listen about the kindness and goodness of God.

Many Christians are afraid to ask God for signs because of Jesus’ words in the Gospels, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” (Matthew 12:39 NKJV)  But we have to keep in mind that when the Master spoke these words, He was mainly addressing the religious people of His day who were not sincere God-seekers, and who would never believe in the Savior, no matter what He did.  Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see that not only did many of God’s people ask for signs, but in many cases, the Lord actually offered them signs, when He knew that it would strengthen their faith in Him.  Scripture tells us that God called King David “a man after My own heart.” (Acts 13:22)  Yet in the Book of Psalms, we discover that David prayed:  “Give me a sign of Your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:17 NIV)  David was in effect asking God to give him a sign of His approval, some reassurance that the Lord was standing with him against his adversaries.  The prophet Isaiah records an occasion when God offered to give King Ahaz of Judah a sign.  “Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised.  Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want.” (Isaiah 7:11 NLT)  Here, the Lord was willing to strengthen the king’s faith with a sign of impending victory.  Instead, Ahaz foolishly turned down God’s offer.  “No,” he said, “I wouldn’t test the Lord like that.” (Isaiah 7:12 NLT)  The verses that follow reveal that God was actually angered by the king’s refusal to ask for a sign.

There are times when I feel impressed in my spirit to ask the Lord for a sign that would encourage my heart in a situation.  I receive confirmation that these impressions are from Him, when I receive the answer to my request in defining ways.  God does not want us depending on signs as a way of living the Christian life.  We are to “live by faith,” not by signs. (Romans 1:17)  But it would be wise for us to be sensitive to the times when our God would have us turn to Him and say, “Lord, give me a sign…”

Lord, teach me how to pray for signs when it’s Your will and pleasure for me to do so.  Help me to become more sensitive to Your Spirit’s leading by devoting myself to Your Word and prayer.  Thank You, Lord, that the signs I seek will increase my faith and glorify You!

Praying in Advance

“Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”  Revelation 5:8 NIV

In recent years, the Lord has been teaching me the importance of praying in advance.  One of the best examples of this was when my youngest son, John, became engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Amy.  God had given me a “knowing” that I should not wait until my son got married before I began praying against the effects of “empty nest syndrome,” but that I should begin right away.  My oldest son, Joseph, had already married, so when John moved out, my husband and I would be without children around our house for the first time in 26 years.  So years ahead of time, I began praying that the Lord would guard me from the sorrow and despair that so many parents experience in this situation.  When John finally did marry and move out, I was sad to see him go, but I never suffered the way I knew I would have if I hadn’t begun praying for God’s strength and comfort in advance.

Just the other day, I told a dear friend of mine about how one of my loved ones had just undergone a medical test, and how we would be waiting for the results for quite a while.  She sympathized with me, but told me to take heart in the fact that we would have that much more time to pray for positive results.  All of a sudden, I began thinking about the host of prayers we could have piled up in heaven by the time those test results came back.  I’ve heard it said that prayer is cumulative.  That means that our prayers are never cast aside or wasted, but they add up and accumulate before God’s throne in heaven itself.  I always take great comfort in the fact that the Book of Revelation says that “the prayers of the saints” are kept in “golden bowls” in heaven. (Revelation 5:8)

Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow, too.  Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:34 TLB)  We are only given the grace to live in the present, so the Lord doesn’t want us trying to live in the past, or in the future.  But we can send our prayers ahead of us.  We can ask God to prepare our way, so that when we face challenges in the days ahead, His grace, strength, and comfort will be waiting there to meet us.  And through our prayers, we can prompt the Lord to begin working behind the scenes on our behalf NOW–to bring about victory and success in the days ahead.

Not only can we pray in advance, but we can PRAISE in advance, too.  The pages of the Bible are filled with examples of God’s people praising God for His miracle-working power on their behalf–even before their prayers are actually answered.  Romans 4:20 (TLB) says:  “But Abraham never doubted.  He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for this blessing even before it happened.”  Anyone can praise and thank God for prayers that have already been answered.  But those who praise God before the answer comes demonstrate a greater faith, and may, in fact, receive blessings that others don’t.

If you are a parent, even a parent of very young children, I urge you to begin praying for their mates and marriages today.  Ask the Lord to show you what matters He would like you to begin praying about in advance.  Let your prayers of faith go before you, your spouse, your children and others–so that blessing, victory, and success will be waiting for all of you up ahead!

Lord, teach me the value of praying in advance.  Remind me often that my prayers are never wasted or cast aside, and that You tenderly treasure them in heaven.  Give me the faith I need to praise You in advance for the things You put on my heart in prayer.  Thank You that as I partnership with You in prayer, Your blessings will be there to meet me in the days to come!

Quietly Trusting the Lord

“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.  I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.  But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.  Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.  …Put your hope in the Lord–now and always.”  Psalm 131:1-3 NLT

If you’ve ever been closely involved with making plans for a wedding in one respect or another, like I have, you know how stressful it can be.  My son, John’s, wedding was no exception.  At one point, when we were faced with making seating arrangements for the wedding reception, I began feeling completely overwhelmed.  As I turned to the Lord in prayer, asking Him for an extra measure of His wisdom and strength, He led me to Psalm 131.

Here, David says:  “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.  I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.” (v.1)  Reading these words enabled me to breathe a sigh of relief.  Suddenly, I realized that not only did God not expect me to handle matters by myself, but He didn’t even want me trying to handle them on my own.  In fact, in God’s eyes, if I tried to deal with my concerns without relying on Him for help, I would be seen as “proud” and “haughty”–two characteristics that the Bible says are detestable in His sight.

David goes on to say:  “But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.  Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.” (v.2)  I realized then that the Lord wanted me to calm and quiet myself before Him, just like a child resting in the arms of a loving parent would.  Instead, I had been fretting about my concerns, and talking about them constantly, rather than praying about them, and laying them at the Lord’s feet, like He wanted me to.  Jesus said:  “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3 NIV)  Receiving God’s precious gift of salvation requires us to humble ourselves before God, in childlike faith.  The same is true when it comes to receiving all of the other blessings the Lord desires to bestow on us, both spiritual and earthly.  Psalm 46:10 (NIV) says: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  The NASB translation puts it this way–“Cease striving and know that I am God.”  There are times when all of us need to hear this reminder–that if we will settle down and let God be God of our lives and circumstances, He will take control of everything that seems out of control, and He will turn our messes into miracles.

David beautifully concludes Psalm 131 with the statement, “You too should quietly trust in the Lord–now and always.” (v.3 TLB)  When we’re in the midst of troubling circumstances…when the enemy’s voice is whispering in our ears, “What are you going to do??”…we can turn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and say–“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You”!  (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)

Lord, when I’m facing situations that have me feeling overwhelmed, confused, or frightened, remind me that I don’t have to concern myself with matters that are “too great or awesome for me.”  Teach me how to “still and quiet myself” before You in childlike faith, and to entrust to You all that concerns me.  Thank You that as I “quietly trust” in You, I will come out on top in every situation and circumstance!

Anger vs. Assistance

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  James 1:19-20 NIV

Several years ago, God taught me a valuable lesson about anger, when I lent my cellular phone to my son when he was going out.  This wasn’t exactly unusual, but what was unusual was the fact that after he returned home and I asked him to replace it in the recharger, he confessed that he didn’t know where it was.  We immediately began searching for it in every place we could imagine.  As our search failed to uncover my phone, I felt that old familiar feeling of blood rushing to my head.  My anger and frustration were building.  I was tempted to say something to my son that I knew I’d have to repent for later.  At the moment, I figured it might be worth it.  Just then, God gave me a “knowing” that if I wanted His help, I needed to restrain my anger, pray, and leave the matter in His hands.  As much as I wanted to vent my anger on my son, I wanted my phone back even more.  So I told my son we would resume our search the following day, and I went to bed, entrusting the matter to the Lord.  The next day, I told my husband about the missing phone.  It only took him a minute or two to discover its location, and I knew it was God’s way of teaching me about the importance of remaining calm and kind in the midst of turmoil.

The Bible says, “Keep your head in all situations.” (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV)  While it’s the world’s way to fly off the handle every time they feel like it, believers are gifted with Holy Spirit self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), and God expects us to make use of it in tense situations.  At first glance, it seems like worldly people have an unfair advantage because it’s often easier to vent our anger, and it seems to make us feel better initially.  But the truth is that the consequences these people suffer as a result of their unrestrained anger are ones that the Lord would rather spare us from.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 NIV says, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  And Proverbs 14:17 NIV says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things.”  Losing our cool will cause us to make mistakes in word and deed that we’ll regret later on.  It’s just not worth it.

Proverbs 15:18 NLT says, “A hothead starts fights; a cool-tempered person tries to stop them.”  Jesus has called us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and He has given us His Spirit so we have the ability and the desire to prevent and halt dissension, instead of contributing to it.  One way we can do that is by saying the right thing at the right time.  Proverbs 15:1 NIV says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Often, we can deflect someone’s anger by speaking words of gentleness and understanding.  In cases like these, I’ve often whispered a silent prayer for help, claiming God’s promise in Proverbs 16:1 AMP which says, “From the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue.”

I used to think that I had to have the last word in situations like these if I wanted to come out on top.  Now I know that it’s often just the opposite.  God has taught me that even if I appear to others to come out the loser, I will have won in His eyes, and He will reward me somehow.  I think believers would be more motivated to resist anger if they knew how destructive it really is.  Ephesians 4:26 NLT says, “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil.”  When we lose our temper, we may be opening the door for Satan to come in and “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)  That’s why being patient is actually spiritual warfare.

The next time you’re in a tense situation, ask yourself which you want more–the “luxury” of venting your anger, or the rewards of God’s help.  I pray you’ll choose the latter and discover for yourself that “a wonderful future lies before those who love peace.”  (Psalm 37:37 NLT)

Lord, show me how to cooperate with Your plan to develop more patience in me.  Remind me that when I choose to lose my temper in a situation, I could be forfeiting Your help.  When I do get angry, help me to “get over it quickly,” as Your Word commands. (Ephesians 4:26 TLB)  Thank You that by Your grace, I’ll be a peacemaker, instead of a troublemaker!

Pursue Perseverance

“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11 NASB

When my oldest son, Joseph, was in high school, he attended his first “See You at the Pole” event.  That’s when students and faculty are invited to gather around the school flagpole and pray for their school, their nation, and others.  The event was scheduled for 7:00 a.m. that morning, but when Joseph awakened that day, he was so overcome with fear and anxiety that he became sick to his stomach.  Knowing it was an attack from the enemy, he “set his face like flint” to do the will of God. (Isaiah 50:7)  Joseph attended “See You at the Pole” that day, and he made many new Christian friends at that gathering who would enrich his life for years to come.  A few months later, God used my son to launch the first successful Bible Club his school ever had. Through his experiences as club leader, Joseph learned some valuable lessons about perseverance.  There were many times when he would work hard preparing for a meeting, only to have a handful of kids show up.  We talked and prayed about it, and Joseph resolved that he would continue to hold weekly meetings, even if just one person showed up.  God rewarded my son by blessing his efforts and using his club to touch and change the lives of hundreds of kids over the next several years.  Joseph’s testimony is proof that God’s promise in Galatians 6:9 is true: “Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.”

The dictionary defines perseverance as “persistence, steadfastness, determination, purposefulness, or resolve.”  I like to think of it as a “holy determination,” born of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible talks a lot about perseverance because without it, we could never fulfill our God-given purpose.  In Luke 8:15, in the parable of the seed sower, Jesus says, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”  Perseverance will enable us to be fruitful for God.  It will aid us in holding on to God’s promises and obeying His Word when times get tough and we’re tempted to lose heart.  The author of Hebrews says it this way: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Scripture says that if we want to be effective witnesses for Christ, we need to “watch our lives and doctrine closely” and “persevere in them.” (1 Timothy 4:16)  Let’s face it–lukewarm Christianity isn’t going to do much to change the world.  Unbelievers don’t want to just hear about Jesus, they want to SEE Jesus in us, and that calls for a holy determination.  And what about prayer?  Luke 18:1 says that “One day, Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer, and to show them that they must never give up.”  When we are persistent in prayer, we can literally wear the devil out and stop him in his tracks.  The Bible teaches that perseverance is developed in us through “suffering” (Romans 5:3) and “the testing of our faith” (James 1:3).  Each time we resist temptation and walk in obedience instead of giving up or giving in, we strengthen our resolve to do God’s will and to walk in the victory that Jesus bought for us on Calvary.

In Revelation 2:3, Jesus commends His people’s steadfastness: “You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.”  Jesus never said it would be easy–He just said it would be worth it!  When weariness threatens to overwhelm us in trying times, we can call on our God “who gives perseverance and encouragement” to give us the grace to endure, and eventually triumph. (Romans 15:5)  James 5:11 talks about the blessings Job reaped as a result of his perseverance.  Here’s how the Message Bible puts it: “What a gift life is to those who stay the course!  You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.  That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail!”

Lord, give me the perseverance I need to do Your will, so that I can receive the fulfillment of Your promises.  Enable me to “run with perseverance the race marked out for me.” (Hebrews 12:1)  When weariness threatens to overwhelm me, strengthen and refresh me, according to Your Word. (Psalm 68:9, Isaiah 40:29)  Thank You that as I refuse to give up, I’ll reap a harvest of blessings!

The Power of Forgiveness

“Dear friends, never avenge yourselves.  Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it.  [Don’t take the law into your own hands.]  Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry.  If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be ‘heaping coals of fire on his head.’  In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you.  Don’t let evil get the upper hand but conquer evil by doing good.”  Romans 12:19-21 TLB

One day, when my son was only about 6 years old, he came home from school without his lunch box.  I asked him where it was, and when he said he didn’t know, I suggested that he mentally retrace his steps.  As my son got more and more confused, I got more and more angry.  It seemed like he was always misplacing something, and for me, this was like the last straw.  I told him that when he went to school the following day, he had better go to the office and check the “Lost and Found.”  Over the next few days, my son tried everything to find that lunch box, but to no avail.  I was really disgusted with him, and I made sure that he knew it.  Then one evening, I opened up one of my kitchen cabinets and was horrified when I discovered the missing lunch box inside.  I had packed my son’s lunch and then, instead of handing it to him as he walked out the door, I put it in one of our cabinets.  With a heavy heart, I approached my son and asked him to forgive me for accusing him of losing his lunch box.  Without a moment’s hesitation, he threw his little arms around my neck and kissed me and exclaimed, “That’s okay, Mommy!”  It was a lesson in forgiveness that I’ve never forgotten.

These days, whenever someone attacks or hurts me, I try to remember how so many years ago, my little boy showed me that being kind and forgiving to those who wound us can cause them to feel the regret and repentance that God wants them to.  Jesus has commanded us to forgive our enemies, to pray for them, and to resist treating them as badly as they treat us. (Luke 6:27-28) Our Lord has called us to live “the most excellent way,” by “keeping no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 12:31;13:5)  And He expects us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not being done to us.  If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, the Spirit of God dwells on the inside of you, and He will empower you to forgive those who offend you the moment you make the decision to forgive.  In addition, God has given you the supernatural ability to love others with His kind of love. (Romans 5:5)  Does God care if we’re mistreated?  You bet He does.  And the Bible makes it clear that He is committed to protecting and defending those who are devoted to Him.  But He expects us to “leave room for God’s wrath” by refusing to avenge ourselves, and giving Him the opportunity to fight for us. (Romans 12:19 NIV)

The reason why we don’t see more believers winning battles is because, too often, we don’t want to wait on God to defend and rescue us.  We plunge ahead and try to fight our own battles and as a result, we forfeit the victories and blessings God had in store for us as a reward for trusting Him.  We need to remind ourselves that just because we let someone off the hook for wronging us, that doesn’t mean they’re off God’s hook.  When we forgive those who hurt us, we aren’t excusing their actions; we’re just forgiving them as an act of obedience to God, and we’re trusting Him to deal with them.  We can’t expect our feelings to help us.  We have to do it as an act of our will, and we may have to do it by faith.  After we make the decision to forgive, often our emotions will fall in line.

When Jesus spoke about prayer and mountain-moving faith, He said we had to let go of all unforgiveness in order for God to forgive us our sins. (Mark 11:22-25)  We can’t expect our prayers to get ready answers when we are holding grudges.  Ephesians 4:32 (MSG) says: “Be gentle with one another, sensitive.  Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”  When bitterness begins to take root in our hearts, it can poison us spiritually and make us physically and emotionally sick. (Hebrews 12:15)  It can also open the door to Satanic attack. (Ephesians 4:27)  Let me leave you with some food for thought from the Word of God today: “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good.  If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”  (John 20:23 MSG)

Lord, help me to be quick to forgive those who treat me unjustly, to respond in a Christlike manner, and to pray for them.  Remind me that “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13 TLB)  Thank You that as I sow seeds of mercy, I will reap mercy!  (Matthew 5:7)