Casting Away Our Garment

A color slide of a pair of seated beggars in Alexandria, Egypt.

Many of us have at least one item in our possession that we hold onto for security. It might be a particular article of clothing, a piece of jewelry, an official document, some kind of correspondence or a card, or it could even be just a toy, book, or stuffed animal. For some, it is not a tangible object, but is instead found only in the heart. Whatever it is for each of us, we value it greatly and refuse to let go of it.

While it is not necessarily wrong to have something to fall back on in times of distress and uncertainty, it is a real matter of concern when the reason or need for this item is removed—yet we still continue to hold onto it anyway. Some will never give it up for the rest of their lives.

There was once a blind man who sat along the highway outside the city of Jericho in the Middle East begging long ago. How he became this way, we are not told. He had a garment with him that he would have used during the day to collect support from travelers passing by, and at night for protection from the elements.

When Jesus was leaving the area on His one and only trip to Jericho, He walked in the vicinity of this blind beggar. The man already knew who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing, because we read in the book of Mark that “…when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).

Now Jesus could have passed by him and kept on going, but this was not in God’s plan. So “…Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; He calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49,50 emphasis added). We know this piece of clothing was essential to his well-being as a beggar outside of the city. For him to throw it aside meant that he no longer needed it.

The beggar could have brought it with him when he went to Jesus, as a precaution. But, by letting go of it and throwing it aside, he fully demonstrated that his trust was in Jesus to set him free of his blindness once and for all. Even after Jesus healed him, he did not go back, pick it up, and resume sitting by the roadside. Instead, he “followed Jesus in the way (verse 52). He wanted to be with the One who opened his eyes, the One he knew would be true to His nature and His word.

God wants us to let go of whatever we have been clinging to for our security throughout our life. He wants us to give it up totally, toss it aside, and believe in Him to make us whole and to set us free. The blind beggar cast his garment aside before Jesus even touched Him, because he was already believing that He would restore his sight. This beggar was capable of believing God and doing this over two thousand years ago, and we are just as able to do the same thing now—thanks to the victory Jesus made possible for us through His sacrifice on the cross.

Where is that “old garment” you have been depending on right now? Is it still in your possession, even after He has delivered you from your physical or spiritual blindness? Or is there something you are keeping by your side ‘just in case’ things do not work out? If so, cast it away now and leave it behind forever; you do not need it anymore. Do not let doubt and unbelief take away the deliverance Jesus has made possible in your life. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 

[Image credit:Brooklyn Museum]

What Cloud Are You Under?

 

A watercolor painting of cloud over camp of Israelites in the wilderness

When God brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt into the wilderness, He led them in a rather unconventional way. “…the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). One pillar provided shelter from the hot sun, and the other illuminated the darkness—both of which were a visible expression of God’s presence, since no human being can physically see God Himself and live.

Wherever the cloud went, the people were to pack up and follow it.

“And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed” (Numbers 9:21-22).

Notice that the cloud remained ahead of the people; they did not move on past it into unsafe and uncharted territory.

Only once, when they were being pursued by the Egyptian army, did God arrange for it to be behind them as protection. “…the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:19-20).

As children of God today, we likewise need to pursue after God’s presence.

He wants to continually dwell among us now spiritually, just as He did physically, in a sense, among the Israelites. But sadly, we often follow the wrong cloud. This kind begins as a small cluster, but develops quickly as it feeds on our unbelief and worry. The more we focus on it, the more it grows, filling with all kinds of sin, such as lust, adultery, pride, greed, envy, hate, murder, etc. It does not just linger over us; it envelopes us as well.  If we continue on after it, we will eventually be overtaken to the point of death. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord desires our obedience to His Word and our continual fellowship with Him, not with the cares or pleasures of this sinful world.

It is when we take our eyes off Him that we no longer know if He has moved on. It is not that He actually leaves us behind, but that we become distracted and end up not moving, or we drift away in another direction. This is when that dark mass of evil and sin starts to form like a cloud over us, which ends up restricting the view we can see around us, and, unlike God’s presence, it will not illuminate the night. In fact, it is the very darkness that only He can dispel.

What cloud are you following today? Is it the one of His presence and life, or of unbelief, sin and death? There are all kinds of clouds—yet only one is His.

Your life will never be secure and at peace with God if you are under one of the other kinds of cloud.

Too many in this world today have the wrong cloud covering over them. As a result, they continually wander in the desert, vulnerable to the enemy. God made a way for us to know where He is, day or night. Look upon His cloud and be led by Him, and you’ll be safe and sheltered from all harm.

 

[Image credit: J.J. Derghi, 1866. Wellcome Collection. CC BY]

Don’t Let Storm Clouds End Your Journey Prematurely

clouds obscuring top of mountain

The view was outstanding, and they were only a couple of hundred feet up the side of the mountain. Now more than ever, Janet and her younger brother Caswell wanted to reach the peak. If the sight of the surrounding region was this wonderful here, it must be absolutely breathtaking at the top. Hal, their guide, was relieved, since many of those that he leads often want to turn around at this point.

After struggling up one precipitous path after the other for another hour, they finally reached a small plateau.

With much pleading and coaxing from the hikers, Hal reluctantly conceded to their request to refrain from further climbing, and they set up camp for the night. Janet bundled up in preparation for the chilly night ahead, while “Cas” preferred to wear only what he had on, relying on the sleeping bag for warmth. Hal, still somewhat wary of stopping at this location in their ascent, chose to dress for a quick departure.

Three hours later, their slumber was abruptly cut short as the ground started shaking and the sounds of tumultuous rumbling filled the whole region.

“Get up! Get up! It’s a rockslide!” Hal shouted. They all scrambled out of their tents while grabbing as much of their supplies as possible. In the midst of all the commotion, Hal ordered them to move quickly along the side of the mountain, just near the left edge of the plateau. Mere moments later, a deluge of small boulders and gravel poured over the cliff right above their heads. The place they had just fled from was completely inundated.

Each hiker, although very shaken up, breathed deep sighs of relief. “Wow, that pile of rocks could have fallen all over us,” Cas remarked, looking back over the place where they had just been sleeping.

“Well, actually, you would be all the way down there, and asleep permanently,” Hal grimly responded while pointing to the valley hundreds of feet below.

“That slide was more powerful than it appeared. Your tent would have been no match for it.” Following a few more minutes of rest, the group pushed forward on the small trail they had used as an escape earlier. “Now you know why I wasn’t keen about resting in that spot. Come on, let’s keep moving for a little longer. I know a better place just a short way ahead where we go and can finish sleeping,” Hal said encouragingly.

The following morning broke with a bright sun, a beautiful blue sky, large clusters of clouds, and a cool, light wind blowing over the tired but enthusiastic hikers. Hal managed to put together a small breakfast with some of what was left from the previous night’s escapade. After they ate, everyone pressed on toward the peak.

Hal estimated that there was just over a mile to go, but he also cautioned that this would be one of the most difficult parts remaining. Even so, his two intrepid explorers didn’t let this dampen their zeal.

Their excitement did not last long. The sun soon disappeared, and the clouds seen earlier began to thicken. The breeze became a strong, biting wind. Hal informed them that a storm was moving in, but they were not to panic, since he was going to lead them on a longer route instead, which would provide some shelter. Janet and Cas’ exuberance began to fade. They no longer wanted to continue, despite Hal’s reassurance.

Thunder echoed among the mountains as the hikers moved slowly along. Hal was right—the detour did give them a fair amount of protection.

While the stormy weather raged on all around them, they still managed to climb higher. Yet Cas could not be convinced that things were going to improve if he kept going.

He stopped, warily looked around, and then began to cower in fear. “We’ll never make it,” he moaned. But he knew that turning around and returning home was not a reasonable option.

It wasn’t long before Janet started feeling the same way, and in a short time they both came to a total standstill. The top of the mountain was completely gone.

All they could see was a wild and turbulent situation above them. Even Hal had vanished from sight in the clouds earlier.

Then, a short while later, he returned to the two scared hikers who were trying their best to hide from the dreadful conditions.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted. “Let’s move! The best is yet to come!”

“We can’t go any farther. Don’t you see how awful it is out here? What do we gain by going on? It’s just not worth it!” Janet screamed in reply.

“I told you earlier that we were at one of the hardest places in our climb. Don’t give up now. You are letting your discouragement run your life. These storm clouds are obscuring your view. It’s beautiful up there!”

Reluctantly, the two hikers pulled themselves together and slowly followed Hal up through the thick and tempestuous clouds ahead of them.

After a half hour of struggling, things started to dramatically change. The atmosphere began to thin out and the sun started to shine brightly again.

“Hey, look, we are climbing up out of the storm!” Cas eagerly remarked. “It’s not as bad as it appeared. I can see for miles now!”

man sitting on mountainside overlooking clouds below

Janet’s countenance began to change as she, too, was enveloped by the bright sky. “Wow! The clouds are now beneath us! It’s a beautiful day again!”

As they finally arrived at the top of the mountain, the two climbers danced about. “We made it!” they shouted joyously.

In our walk with God, we are also going to find difficult areas and places where we cannot see how we can make it through on our own. There are going to be mountains to climb, and valleys we must descend to. But we should not allow rough areas or storms to deter us from traveling on.

The Lord, our guide through this journey, expects us to look to Him for direction, encouragement, protection, and strength.

In Exodus, God guided His people on a journey through the wilderness. They looked forward to it when it began, but soon became discouraged when they encountered difficult obstacles they didn’t know how to deal with. But every time they turned their latest challenge over to God, their leader throughout the whole trip, trusting in Him, they would make it through. But when they let their doubt, fear, and discouragement obscure their view, their circumstances were able to block their way or overtake them.

In our journey with God, we can easily let stormy weather discourage us from going on to higher altitudes, too.

We often want to just turn around and go back where things seem calmer and more manageable. But if we do this, we will still have to go through the previous challenges we had to overcome before. It is very likely that we will find ourselves even worse off than if we had pressed on and gone forward. This is the reason we need to turn any difficult situation over to the Lord, and not rely on our own feelings or understanding. We don’t want to let fear of the storms end our journey prematurely. If we keep following Jesus, our Guide who has already succeeded in reaching the top of the journey, we can be sure that He will lead us safely all the way through.

 

[Image credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger/Pexels; Joshua Earle/Unsplash]

The Next Move Is Ours

 

In every board game, such as checkers or chess, the first player makes a move and then another move always has to be made, alternating back and forth until the game ends. Whether you go first or second, your opponent will always have to move one of his pieces to another space after you make your move.

While the work Jesus does is not a game, He does expect the same kind of action from us. In many areas during His time of ministry here on Earth He made the first move. Then He expected man to make the next move after Him.

Let’s look at a few examples. We find the narrative of the death of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus was informed by Mary that her brother Lazarus was sick to the point of death. Jesus could have just said the word and healed him, like He had done on many other occasions. But this time, He chose to wait until after Lazarus died before He traveled to Bethany where he once lived.

When Jesus finally did arrive, Lazarus had already been dead and buried in a cave for four days. At this point nobody believed there was any hope for him. But that did not matter to Jesus, for “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). When He reached the opening of the cave that had been sealed with a large rock, Jesus told those present to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39). He made the first effort in regard to raising Lazarus from the dead; now they were to make the next move.

Jesus could have moved the rock Himself, but He wanted to see how much they really wanted Him to work in this predicament.

If they were not willing to take the simple step of removing the barrier to the cave, then why should He continue? “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid” (John 11:41). After a brief prayer to His Heavenly Father, “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” (John 11:43-44a). Then “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b). It would not have been difficult for Him to go one step further and free Lazarus from his burial cloth right then, but that was not the focus here. Jesus expected the next move to be made by them.

Another example is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. “…behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him” (Luke 8:41-42). Common sense says that Jesus should have ordered the crowd to turn aside, rushed over to the ruler’s house, and healed his daughter while she was still just sick. But Jesus does not follow human common sense; He is only obedient to what His Father desires. Therefore, He allowed Himself to be delayed. When He finally arrived at the ruler’s residence, the man’s daughter was dead.

This time, Jesus did not tell anyone to physically do something. He expected them to: “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).

The next move was in their hands. Jairus needed to believe that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. In verses fifty-four and fifty-five, at least one of those present followed through and trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness. “And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat.”

Look at one more example found in the fifth chapter of John. In Jerusalem, there was a pool of water that was stirred up periodically by an angel. Whoever entered in during this time would be healed of his infirmity. One man present had been afflicted with a disease for at least thirty-eight years, yet he had not been able to enter into the water in time to be delivered from his condition.

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6-7).

Obviously, the man wanted to be healed; he was just at a loss as to how to do it. But Jesus came along and made the first move: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

At this point, the man could have replied, “But sir, I have been trying to walk for some thirty-eight years now and nothing has happened. Could you just pick me up and place me in the pool when it is stirred again?” Yet, in the next verse, the afflicted man believed in the words of Jesus and he made the next move. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…”

Time and time again, we find that God will move first, and then hand it over to us to trust in Him and make the subsequent step. He leaves us with the choice to either obey His request in order to have our victory and deliverance by faith, or to stand still in doubt and unbelief, missing out on the blessing He has in store for us.

The bones of Lazarus might still be sealed in a cave, a synagogue ruler’s young girl would never have seen her thirteenth birthday, and a man might have died next to a pool of healing water if those present had not obeyed the Lord’s command.

Jesus isn’t going to make all of the moves for us. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He will often leave a portion for us to do, in order to try our faith in Him. Whenever the Lord moves first in our life, we need to remember—the next move is ours.

 

[Image credits:channah/Freeimages;Devanath/Pixabay]

Watch Out for Doubt – It’s Contagious!

Clouds, blues sky and a billboard with words: Warning: Doubt and Unbelief Aheadquarantine highway sign

If misery loves company, then doubt and its close companion, unbelief, are like a contagious disease. Since we are more inclined to not believe in something, it only takes one doubting person to infect a large group of people. Let’s look at an example from the Bible and see how a little unbelief spread across most of a whole nation.

“And they…said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 13:27-32; 14:1-2)

The Israelites had finally finished their journey through the wilderness and were about to enter the land God had promised to them. But first, Moses sent a handful of men to spy out the land, who obediently went and traversed the region. Upon their return, they reported that they found the area fruitful and abundant, much more than they had experienced before. They also saw that there were many inhabitants there, and they were great in stature and number. But one of the spies did not see that as a problem, because he felt that they were “well able to overcome it.”

Yet the other spies did not share his optimism. They looked more at the inhabitants overcoming them than the other way around. They were full of doubt and unbelief.

As a result, their doubt quickly spread to the rest of the people. Most of the nation then became bent against Moses and God for leading them out and setting them up to be destroyed by the inhabitants of the neighboring lands.

They forgot again about all of the miracles God performed during their time in the wilderness—how He parted a mighty sea, destroyed the whole Egyptian army, gave them ‘perfect’ food and water from a dry rock, provided full light at night and the shade of a cloud by day, and the list goes on.

From the negative word of the spies’ unbelief, practically a whole nation became doubtful.

This resulted in God ultimately barring their entrance into the Promised Land. This also meant that all of that current generation, excluding Caleb and Joshua (two of the spies who did not doubt), had greatly sinned against God. If Moses had not interceded for all of the people at fault, God would have destroyed them.

This is how great the sins of doubt and unbelief are to God. Of course, in this instance it is rather obvious, as God had promised this land, and He does not fall short on His word. All the people had to do was to obey Him and enter into it. But instead they chose to follow by sight and not by faith. The Israelites let the problem overcome them and doubt entered in. There was never any consideration that God was more than able to take care of the situation—if only they had put their trust in Him.

Jesus said, “If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea…” (Matthew 21:21). The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). God wants us to have faith and believe in Him concerning that which is unseen. If we could see the outcome or results first, then what is there to believe? Anybody can do that.

It is God’s plan that we trust Him. When we doubt or show unbelief, we are demonstrating that we think He is not capable of solving the problem.

As His children, we are to put our faith in Him and not in others or ourselves. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Remember, doubt is contagious. Don’t become the next victim. Don’t follow the example of the Israelites and allow unbelief to keep you from that which God has promised us.

[Image credits:Billboard (modified by author) by ilker/freeimages; Quarantine sign by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alphastock Images]

How to Fail God

man with head down, eyes closed and hand over face

If we want to know how to succeed in life, we should turn to the Bible. But how many realize that the Bible also gives many instances on how to fail? It’s true! Take a look at a few examples:

Man’s first failure came right at the beginning of the human race. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This commandment was simple: Don’t eat the tree’s fruit and your relationship with God will remain good. But, sadly, it did not work out well. Eve was deceived by the serpent into taking a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual act of failure. Then she gave the fruit to Adam to eat. At this point, he could have refused and rebuked her for yielding to the deception. But he willfully decided to go ahead and eat the fruit.

His point of failure came when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Now their relationship with God was broken and sin entered the picture.

And from that point forward, all of humanity-to-come became destined to inherit a sin nature. This means that we are born inclined toward sinning rather than against it—all due to the failure of Adam and Eve.

Now see what happened with the Israelite’s King Saul. God told him to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites when they left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness.

So Saul mustered thousands of soldiers and headed over to Amalek, dutifully following God’s command. He even warned the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region or they would also be killed. (The Kenites had been kind to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites).

Upon reaching Amalek, Saul and his forces“…took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). So far, so good. But the problem was that Saul did not fully obey what God had ordered. “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Samuel 15:9). He let their king live and kept the best of the livestock.

Saul acted upon his own best interests, not what God required of him.

And not only did Saul disobey God, he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (1 Samuel 15:20). In the next verse he plays the victim, shifting the blame to his people. “…the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel saw though all of this. He proclaimed to Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then the Lord led him to declare, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Saul failed by doing what suited him rather than God. He was therefore rejected as king because He would not fully obey God.

A New Testament example of failure can be found in one of Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter…said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not bashful, to say the least! He spoke his mind, as portrayed later when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Peter did believe that he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus was standing. His downfall came when he took his focus off of Jesus and put it onto the conditions around him, where the winds were still rough. And then, “…when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when doubt found room to work in his heart. No longer did he trust in Jesus’ faithfulness.

Instead, he slipped back into believing in himself, and then grew fearful and began sinking. But “there is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter dearly loved Jesus, but his faith failed because it was not yet strong enough to let go completely and totally trust Him.

Throughout the Bible failure comes after God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow anything other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him. Over and over, the Word of God reveals that failure is a product of disobedience.

But God does not desire for us to fail Him. We find so many occasions of failure recorded in His Word because He wants us to see that we will ultimately fail when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right. He wants us to not just read His Word, but to follow it. Let’s read the Bible therefore, and learn from the downfalls of others—and not become another example of failure ourselves.

 

[Image credit: Darwin Laganzon/pixabay]

Have You Reached Your Dead End?

A pale rust covered block wall indicating a dead end

Once you were in bondage to sin, but a way was made for you to get free. You acknowledged the price paid, and were then granted your release from captivity. The enemy was forced to let you go. Now the world you are in is a beautiful place. The burdens that weighed you down are gone. You triumphantly travel down the road of victory, eager to tell others what has transpired in your life. It’s a happy journey! You feel like nothing can stop you anymore.

But what is this obstacle ahead? It looks something like a great channel of water. You cannot safely cross it, nor go around it. To make matters worse, the one who released you from captivity is now in hot pursuit and threatening to capture and destroy you. You can’t go forward, left, or right. You certainly can’t go backward either. Even standing still can only be for a limited time. You have hit a dead end.

You thought that, by following the One who led you out of the depths of sin, you were now free from all kinds of problems and difficulties. Yet it seems like everything is going against you. So what do you do?

The first inclination is to doubt, complain, and murmur about your circumstances and leadership, just like most of those around you.

But this never solves the problem and only worsens your relationship with God (although it hasn’t stopped anyone to this day from trying!). Or you could just continue to trust in the One who led you out. He is in direct communication with God and surely will know what to do next.

The Israelites encountered this kind of situation when they left Egypt several thousand years ago. For years, they endured the bondage of the Egyptians, which continually grew more harsh and demanding. God heard their eventual cry for freedom and raised up Moses—one of their own—to be their deliverer. In due time, the Egyptian leaders finally let them go, and God led them out into the wilderness through the obedience of Moses. During this time of exodus they rejoiced greatly. The weight of Egypt and their taskmasters was gone at last. They also had the glorious visible presence of God with them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

But all of this joy ceased when their journey abruptly ended at the Red Sea. They immediately descended into murmuring and complaining also—first against Moses, and ultimately against God Himself. In fact, what they really wanted was to kill Moses for leading them out into this wilderness to die. To make matters worse, the Pharaoh of Egypt changed his mind, and now the whole Egyptian army was rapidly gaining on them, intending to permanently end this migration! Even if they were capable of building a bridge or some type of watercraft to cross the water, there was absolutely no time. They (like you are at this very moment) couldn’t safely travel in any direction. They were truly at a dead end.

A yellow street sign displaying the words 'dead end.'

Did God abandon them and leave them to their own devices for survival? Did He tell them: “I delivered you from the bondage of the Egyptians. Now, go figure out the rest of the way for yourself”? No! He made a way that was completely unexpected by everyone. But first, Moses had to be obedient to God and not give in to the unbelieving crowd around him. Then “…the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:15,16).

Moses did as God commanded and the millions of Israelites went across the Rea Sea just as dry as they were on the shore. The Egyptian army believed in God less than the Israelites did, which they demonstrated when they hotly pursued the people right through the parted waters! They could have stopped on the shoreline, or even have just sent a small company—but no, the entire army went forward! As a result, after Moses led the people across the waters, “…the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them” (Exodus 14:25-27).

God led the people across a great sea without so much as a sandal getting wet! He even took care of their oppressors (who might have survived if they had only feared God). Therefore, if God can open a dead end for millions of people, and bring them through safely, He can certainly bring you through your impossible situation right now. God has allowed you to reach this point to show His faithfulness. God wants you to believe in Him for the impossible, to expect the unexpected. If you trusted Him for what you or someone else could accomplish for you, then there is really no need for Him in the first place. But He already planned a way out for you long before you reached your present dilemma.

When you try to solve your problems on your own, you will always reach a dead end.

In Proverbs 3:5 God said, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” He sent His Son to sacrifice His life on the cross, not just to save you from being eternally lost when you die, but also to make your life right now victorious in Him. Jesus has already fought and won the war; all you are expected to do, as a believer in Him, is to put your complete trust in Him to bring you through the battle you are facing right now.

Throughout the Old Testament, when the Israelites went before God in unbelief, they encountered impossible situations. Yet when they cried out to God, repented, and put their trust in Him, He changed their impossible situations. Take your eyes off of the impossible, and place your faith in the victorious and finished work of Jesus at the cross. Make His victory your victory, and watch the dead end you are facing turn into an open pathway.

God is a Rewarder

Jesus reaching out to Peter on the water By François BoucherUnknown, Public Domain, Link

Jesus told His “…disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away…[then] He went up into a mountain apart to pray…” (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus wanted His disciples to go to either Bethsaida or Capernaum in the boat. These two cities were only a few miles apart on the same side of the Sea of Galilee. They made their way along the western coast of the sea, most likely expecting Christ to meet up with them along the way.

Imagine how they felt after nightfall out in the middle of the sea, as storm clouds rapidly forming in the distance came toward them. This time they were alone, without Jesus in their midst. Strong winds and enormous waves came and continually beat against the boat. It wasn’t long before it began to take on water and they thought they were going to sink. In vain they tried to bail water out of the boat, while enormous waves continued crashing all around. When they looked at their terrifying circumstances, the situation appeared hopeless. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, most likely sent the storm. But the Lord would not allow it to harm His disciples, because it was designed to test their faith.

Sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them “…walking on the sea….” When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they became very troubled. They said to each other, “…It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:25-26).

How often have we also cried out in fear in response to the stormy tumult of the world? And how often have we been distracted by our circumstances, and failed to keep our eyes on the presence of Jesus in our midst?

Our doubts, fears, and unbelief hinder us in our walk with God. When we face any type of difficult circumstances, Jesus wants us to reach out to Him in true, believing faith. He wants us to trust Him no matter what type of circumstances or difficulties we may go through. “…without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus calls for us to “come” to Him, just as He told Peter to do. He wants us to become a chosen ‘living vessel’ unto Him, “…which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Those who are a ‘living vessel’ are unconditionally chosen to do the works of God. He wants us out of our comfort zone of life. Peter was able to actually walk on the water when he turned to Jesus to help him. When we respond to the divine presence of the Lord in the midst of our storm, He promises to provide for us also. He will encourage us to ‘walk on the water’ in spiritual pursuits. But we cannot come to Jesus unless He upholds us by His divine power.

If we understand that God sustains all life, then we can begin to better understand who He is. Jesus said, “If you have known Me, ye should have known My Father also (John 8:19).” He is Jehovah-Elohim (“Lord God”)—the Creator-God—who is not detached from His creation. He attends to the needs of His people. In fact, the Lord Himself came down in person to help and save us all, demonstrating that He really is the covenant-keeping God. And when Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples on the sea, He revealed who He really is.

The greatness of Jesus’ power and grace was demonstrated to Peter when he trusted Jesus and stepped out of the boat onto the water.

But Peter took his eyes off of Jesus when he looked down fearfully and saw his own weakness of faith. He failed to keep his eyes on God there with him when he started to sink, because he was overcome by his doubt, fear, and unbelief. So he cried out to Jesus, “Help me, Lord, save me!”

When we look fearfully at the magnitude of the difficulties that come against us, we also take our eyes off Jesus. Then we, like Peter, begin to sink. But when we call out—“Save me, Lord, from these difficulties opposing me!”—He stretches out His arm and rescues us! Jesus shows Himself with more grace for the sake of those who believe in who He is. For all who have Jesus near them, and know that He is theirs, nothing should overwhelm them to an extreme degree with fear and anxiety—not even death itself. Jesus Christ is fully able to take whatever divine action He desires to save His people.

Are enormous waves beating against you right now? This same Jesus is right there with you and is coming toward you—His ‘living vessel’. The same One who stretched out the heavens and walked “…on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8) is now calling with His gentle voice of peace—“Come to Me.” He walks on the water so that you will know His power.

But He also does it so that you will know your weakness in yourself, as you step out of the safety zone of your life as His disciple. We are never brought to this position on our own—until we find ourselves sinking.

Then this same sense of need drives us to Him. Come to Him as you begin sinking in the deep waters of your own difficulties. Cry out to Him, “Lord, rescue me!” He will stretch out His arm and rescue you.

The Best Kind of Tranqulizer

man with insomnia

Stress, turmoil, anxiety, worry, tension, uncertainty, pressures, hassles, revenge, lawsuits, bankruptcy, crime, assault, disease, accidents, anger, tragedy, violence, suffering—the list goes on and on. At various times, there will be upsets in our life that will leave us sleepless. It might be a major ordeal or maybe just a minor event. Whether we are young or old, married or single, rich or poor, weak or strong—something will bring us to a point of being disturbed and restless. Even if we are extra cautious, watching our every thought and move, a situation is sure to come our way that will not let us sleep in peace. There will be times when we are totally innocent, minding our own business and doing what is right, and we still end up in the wrong. We might find ourselves in error over something that we had no control over, or we might happen to be in the wrong place at the right time.

It may feel like we are the only ones going though a particular problem. There was a man who lived thousands of years before us who had to struggle like this as well. In the Bible, King David of Israel was a person whom God declared to be a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22b). David was a mighty man who killed a lion and a bear at the same time when he was rescuing a lamb from the mouth of a bear. Later, with only a stone and a slingshot, he slayed a giant that had been threatening his nation for quite some time. And all of this occurred when he was only a young man! He later killed tens of thousands of enemies of his kingdom, yet, in spite of all his strength and his favor with God, he still went though struggles that would keep any of us today agonizingly awake for a multitude of nights.

What did he ultimately do about his troubles that robbed him of sleep? Did he flee, never to be found again? Was he discovered attempting to take his own life? Did he give up and just surrender to the enemy? Did he go insane? Did he personally take vengeance on those who were against him? Did he relegate his problems and torments to someone else in his kingdom and order them to come up with a solution? No, he did none of these. Instead, he turned to God. Look at what he said in verses three through five of the fourth Psalm, “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” King David knew by past experience that God would hear him when he called out to Him. But he also knew that he could not continue in the path of sin and still expect God to readily hear him. He had to surrender to God, forsake his sin, and put his trust in the Lord—then wait on Him. He knew that God would provide for His circumstances in a way far greater than those who were against him.

So what happened? Verse eight sums it up nicely: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” He didn’t lie awake all night agonizing over everything that was coming against him. Instead he declared, “…thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” What better sleep aid could anyone ask for? David turned to the Lord and put his trust in Him. He did not pursue the matter in his own strength any further. David stated this again in the first two verses of Psalm twenty three: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.”Still waters” here literally means ‘waters of rest.’

young girl praying

What a wonderful antidote to the situations that torment us throughout the night! All that we have to do is come before the Lord with all our distress and release it to Him. We need to stop sinning through doubt and unbelief, and trust in Him to resolve the conflict. He continually waits for our most feeble cry. He wants us to lie down in peace and sleep. But without God, we will never “dwell in safety.” He told us to “…commune with your own heart upon your bed…” With our own heart we are to commune with whom—our spouse, our relatives, our neighbor, our closest friends? Of course not! We are to commune with the Lord. Next comes “and be still.” Don’t drop your problems in His lap and go on your way. Spend your time with Him in intimate fellowship, reading His Word, and then—just be still. Don’t fill your mind with all kinds of trivial nonsense and needless thoughts, just “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a). God never wants us to lie awake and be restless, our hearts and minds filled with worry or stress. Let’s open our hearts freely to Him like a child does and let Him lead us by the waters of rest. With the Lord in charge of our life, we can truly sleep in peace—for He alone is the best kind of tranquilizer.

A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.