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]

Are You Traveling On or Giving Up?

hikers on small clearing of hill

There was a man in the Old Testament named Job (rhymes with globe) who was in right standing in God’s eyes. Yet he went through suffering and an extremely great loss to the point that he wished he was never born. Even his wife said to curse God and end his life! Several of his friends, hearing of his losses and the anguish he was going through, came to the place where he resided. Rather than giving encouragement and support, they chided and ‘counseled’ him in what they believed were his erroneous ways. Each one felt that, obviously, he must have sinned and needed to repent of his wrongful actions. They were convinced that God was punishing him and that there was no possibility that He would work in any other manner.

Their ‘help’ was really just condemnation after condemnation.

Not one openly sought God first about Job’s condition; they firmly believed they were right and he was wrong. None ever considered that God ordained all of this and was behind it all, even Job himself—until sometime later when God made it known.

Yet, through it all, Job did not sin against God. He did not follow his wife’s advice. He lost his wealth, family, and health. This struggle brought him down to the very core of his being. But in the end, he knew and trusted in God in a manner like no one else around him. God works this way in all who truly want to follow Him. As we travel the path He has laid for us, we often find it to be a real struggle. There are rough places and narrow stretches. We are accused and blamed though we have done nothing wrong. It is not easy like others said it would be.

But, in spite of it all, as we follow God’s word and draw closer to Him, we continue to find many areas of our life become better than they were before we knew Him.

The word ‘travel’ has the same origin as ‘travail’—meaning to torment, labor, or journey. While we are not necessarily tortured, we do toil, labor, and struggle on a journey—but this one has eternal rewards. And, unlike traveling (or travailing) in this current world’s system, which leads only to physical exhaustion and death, we are on our way to a heavenly place which has no pain, struggle, toil, or travail.

We, like Job, are in a continual refinement process, not so much to prepare us for our heavenly destination, as for the present age that we live in.

We could equate our travail with the actions of a vaccine. It introduces a small amount of a disease into us so our body builds up immunity, or a means to cope with greater amounts of the same or a similar malady in the future. Similarly, God leads us into situations to bring us where we will turn to Him for deliverance. As a result, when similar problems come our way, we know how to handle them victoriously, just as Jesus did when the storm came upon the boat He and His disciples were traveling in.

“Now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with His disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed He fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then He arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And He said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him.” (Luke 8:23-25 emphasis added). Jesus had been tested in another manner sometime prior to this. Having successfully gone through that particular trial, He was now able to rest, knowing His Heavenly Father would bring Him through this one safely also.

Looking back over the centuries, multitudes have traveled on in their journey to their resting place in heaven. Many were beaten, stoned, tortured, burned, ridiculed, imprisoned, maligned, falsely accused, and the list goes on—but they did not compromise or give up in their journey. Their focus remained on their heavenly home, knowing that this life is only temporary and all it contains will not last.

Problems and trials should never keep us from wanting to go forward in our walk with God.

In the beginning, it looked hopeless for Job. Yet he never threw up his arms in desperation and gave up on God (although he may have wanted to concerning his so-called ‘friends’!). The apostle Paul went through all kinds of anguish, but his response was: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10). When trying situations and circumstances come our way, let’s not be downcast, but rather let’s say, in the words of the hymn writer:

My heav’nly home is bright and fair,
I feel like traveling on;
Nor pain nor death can enter there,
I feel like traveling on.

Let others seek a home below,
I feel like traveling on;
Which flames devour, or waves o’erflow,
I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,
I feel like traveling on;
Until that blessed home I see,
I feel like traveling on.

Tempted and Tried

sunset

“Jesus said unto him, It is written again…You shall not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7).

What does it mean to “tempt” God? It refers to testing His strength, goodness, value, and truth, or to put Him to the proof to see if what He says is true. It means that we are not to intentionally enter into danger that only the power of God can rescue us from, in order to force Him to come to our aid and rescue us. It can also mean trying Him to see if He really exists. Will He actually come through for us when we really need Him to?

Do we really think that we are strong enough on our own to take it upon ourselves to dare the devil to tempt us, because we feel that we can win against him? Then we imply that we don’t need God to help us. We are purposely stirring God up—not to rescue us—but to leave us to our own devices, since we are so sure we know what we are doing.

And just because God has given certain people great privileges, these alone do not protect or exempt them from being tempted (tested, tried) also. Jesus Himself was put into a situation where He would be tried by the devil. His faith proved to be perfect and determined.

There was not even one thing He was willing to do to put the goodness of God to the test. Why? Because He was already positively confident that God is good. He didn’t need any proof of it at all. He already had all the proof He would ever need of the truthfulness and power of God.

Many people are tempted when they long after or chase their own strong hopes and desires. But Jesus did not have a fallen nature like the children of Adam, so He had no evil hopes or desires beckoning Him to pursue them. This is why the devil was the only one who could be used to tempt Him. All the temptations the devil threw at Him were for one primary purpose. He wanted to get Jesus to wonder if He could trust His heavenly Father in all things, at all times. He wanted to bring Jesus to the point where He would do something to sin against His heavenly Father.

When the devil tempted Him, Jesus did not plead His case against him, or even engage in a discussion with him. He simply replied “It is written” (in the Scriptures/Bible) and quoted the appropriate passage to him. The Devil can use the word of God too, and be very artful and clever about it. But when he uses it, he twists and turns it to fit what he wants to say, or to try to produce the outcome he is looking for. How very crafty he is, as he confronts and very boldly defies God.

But He can be successfully opposed, as Jesus has already proven for our sake. Jesus was successful when He encountered temptation because He met it head on with the proper weapon—the Word of God used in the proper way. How comforting it is to us therefore to know when we are tempted if we do not yield and no longer have ungodly lusts for the devil to appeal to. Then we are not so much tempted as we are tried.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Jesus learned by personal experience what it meant to suffer being tempted. This way, He was also able to learn what it was like to receive support from God the Father and to be delivered from His distress. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor [bring relief to] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Since Jesus has already gone through temptation and successfully resisted it, we can be confident that we can also go through it and be successful too when we follow His example. He will be right there with us to bring assistance, and to relieve and deliver us from every difficulty, every need, every distress.

What can we learn from all this? We need to go to God for help when our need is oppressing, and nowhere else. We need to counter the devil with the Word of God, not our own pitiful ideas and arguments and experiences. We can be confident that our heavenly Father will provide for our need, just as He did for Jesus. Why should we presume? Why should we despair? He is right there to meet our every need and rescue us from every temptation!