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]

Our Steps Are Progressively Revealed

 

backside of woman hiking on heavy fog path

Have you ever walked down a path that you thought was the best way to go, only to find that you were greatly in error and you should have gone the other way—even though it didn’t seem ‘right’ at that time? Perhaps God pressed on your heart to travel in a direction where there is thick fog and you are unable to see past it. Yet in all other areas, it is mostly clear, or maybe just a little bit dense. Do you keep going where He is leading you? Or do you follow your common sense and go where it is easier to see most of the way?

In the book of Acts, the Lord told Philip the Evangelist through an angel to “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26). Now, to our natural, finite minds this does not seems logical.

Why should he go out into the desert? There is nothing there but rocks and sand almost as far as the eye can see. It is not very likely that anyone is out there to visit.

At the same time, right there in Jerusalem, hundreds of people are present almost everywhere at any given moment. It would seem best for him to just stay there, or maybe to go to a nearby village instead. Besides, the shade of the buildings in that area makes it cooler.

But that is not how God works in our lives. He reveals our path to us one step at a time. When we walk into an area of thick fog, it hits our eyes at first like a wall. As we move further inward, we can begin to see a little bit more of the walkway. And so, the pattern continues, as we progress even farther into the cloud and our way then becomes somewhat clear again. Notice how it only becomes clearer after we move to the next area. This is what the Lord wants us to realize.

We must go when He directs, even if the road ahead appears impassable, or just a waste of time. Not until we obey is the subsequent stage made visible to us.

Look again at Philip’s predicament and see what occurs. “And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read [Isaiah] the prophet” (Acts 8:27,28). Notice that he ‘arose and went’, meaning that he was obedient to the Lord’s command. As a result, the Lord revealed another section of the way to him.

“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). If Philip wanted to know what was to come, he first had to obey another directive from the Lord. Of course, he could have just kept on walking, since this person was linked with royalty and he was merely a commoner. After all, it wasn’t proper protocol to just run up and “join thyself to this chariot.” No. He fully obeyed what the Spirit of God put forth, and, in turn, the Lord opened the way for another step to be revealed. And Philip ran [toward] him, and heard him read the prophet [Isaiah], and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:30,31). Whether Philip was royalty or not, this eunuch wanted Philip up beside him to explain God’s word to him.

As a result of Philip’s diligent following of God’s commands, each part of the way was progressively made visible to him. At any point he could have concluded that there was no other way to go and reversed his course. Or he could have kept on moving instead into unsafe territory. Yet, if he had done so, this individual “of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure” would never have known Jesus Christ, never have accepted His plan of salvation, and never have been baptized.

We are not expected to know the whole picture that God sees in advance. He wants us to trust in Him for each part of the way.

It is human nature to want our whole day laid out ahead of time. Most of us would be quite content to know that at a certain time in the morning we will do this thing. Then at a later time, we will do something else. At noon we eat lunch, at five we eat dinner, and then we read some more of our favorite book and go to bed. We really prefer our life set before us in advance like this, and, of course, we want a little variety randomly distributed here and there throughout each week. As a whole, it is our human desire to know what lies ahead, both immediately, and in the distant future.

Yet doing so would only lead us to a lack of dependence on God. Why should we bother to look to Him, when we already know what each day will bring? This is the reason we need to trust in Him for the next step we are to take. No matter how obscure or odd the way may be ahead of us, if the Lord directs us to go, we need to move forward. Philip did not know that the treasurer of the Queen of the Ethiopians was out in the desert that day, and he certainly would not have expected that he would reveal Jesus Christ through the book of Isaiah to him.

But Philip did obey God, and one more soul was added to God’s Kingdom.

Actually, every step of our walk with the Lord needs to be ordered by Him. We, like Philip, need to let God’s Spirit direct us to wherever He wants us to go. It is not necessary to see the whole road ahead in advance. We very likely will not know who we may reach out to or speak with along the way. Instead of trying to figure out where we are going next, we need to let our eyes be on Him as He progressively reveals each step of the way.

 

[Image credit:Jason Blackeye/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]

Trust Your Shield

graphic of red and silver shield with sword and battle axe

“God is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

There are two ways we can obtain knowledge of God: by His word revealed to us, and by the experience of others who have put their trust in Him. His word portrays Him as the proper object for us to trust in both the natural realm and in the spiritual realm, always. Therefore, we are not to put our trust in rulers or in other men, but in God and His word. He repeatedly emphasizes that it is absolutely necessary for us to put our trust only in Him. Every word of God is pure, having already been put to the test in the hot oven of experience. And He provides perfect protection for all who rely on His word. Yet it is not so much His word itself that helps us, but God Himself, who spoke the word.

God called Israel, His chosen people to whom He had revealed Himself and His will, to trust in Him and no one else. And we are to trust in Him also. In fact, any soul who prays, whether Jew or Gentile, should trust in the Lord, not in man. He is the God who has made precious promises to man. He can always be trusted in everything earthly and in everything spiritual. He keeps His covenant. If we put our trust in God, we will not fail—because He cannot fail.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).

A warrior equipped with a shield on his arm can shove death aside. But the believer in God depends on Him as his shield to oppose the enemy’s blows. He is therefore kept free from harm. So we can put our full confidence in Him to protect us. We are not to trust in any creature. We are not to trust in our own righteousness or strength. We are not to trust even in our own heart. We are to trust in the Lord’s righteousness and strength alone. God told Abraham, “Fear not…I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). And He tells us that He will be our shield too, if we put our trust in Him. Then we will be able to receive His protection and blessing and prosperity. He is our shield to protect us from all our enemies by His grace and His power—whether sin, the devil, or the world—or all three. He also protects us from error and false doctrine.

“The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

The Lord will become our rock, our fortress, and our shield since we cannot become these on our own. No man could become them for us instead. Man is without help when Satan comes against him, because man and his methods have no effect on the supernatural powers of darkness. The only Rock and Deliverer we can turn to and count on is the Lord. In Him alone we can place our trust. He is “the God of my rock” who is my shield.

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3).

The power of demons will be strongly used against every child of God, especially those with a divine touch on their life. It doesn’t matter what we feel in times of danger; the only way to have victory over these enemies is through the Lord in all dangers. We must put our total trust in God or we will not have victory. When we are sure we totally trust in Him, then we can, with confidence, totally expect to be victorious and have complete deliverance ourselves. Whoever tries a direction different from what is stated here will not succeed. He will be destroyed by the enemy in the end. But when we will put our full trust in the Lord God, He will be our shield, and we will be victorious!

Want to Build a Fire?—Let Go of the Wood!

Two recently cut sections of a small tree

The woodpile grew rapidly as Leo and his dad finally cut up the old tree in the far end of the backyard. The huge tree fell eight years ago after a Nor’easter hit the region. It did not really obstruct anything, but had become an eyesore and home for many critters that raided the trash bin. Leo felt torn between holding onto the old tree and breaking it down for the fire pit. He had lots of fond memories of climbing and hiding between the various crevices of its larger branches. Sometimes when he was upset, he would sit on its large trunk pondering the meaning of life, or, at least, what little he knew of it.

The crisp Fall morning grew warmer as the sun climbed across the sky. Leo’s dad urged him to pick up his pace if they were to finish the tree before sunset. As Leo picked up a small bundle of cut branches, his mind wandered back to the time when the tree became his snow fort. It was impenetrable as long as he kept below the trunk. One time he failed to, just as a hard-packed snowball slammed into his forehead. Then he recalled the five-hour emergency room visit and head bandage.

A chain saw cutting a tree trunk

“Leo!” shouted his father over the chain saw growl, “if you don’t get that wood stacked immediately, I’m going to….” His voice disappeared as the growl changed back to a snarling roar. Leo quickly abandoned reminiscing and resumed his vigorous collecting and stacking of cut branches. Then the noon chime sounded on his watch, and he recalled the day when the neighbor’s dog slipped into his yard, chasing what Leo thought was a black cat with a white stripe. After a few minutes assisting the dog, a pungent ‘fragrance’ filled the air. Leo grabbed a broken branch from the tree and chased the dog instead, shouting, “Get away from here, you crazy dog! That’s not a cat!” but to little avail.

Lunch was a brief break before he and his dad prepared a crude fire pit in a sandy clearing. “That ought to help keep the fire in one place,” his dad remarked, while turning toward the house. “Leo, start stacking those logs while I go for the water hose and then get the fire underway. And I want results this time.”

Leo grabbed a tiny section of trunk. The day had become quite warm by then. This, along with his dad getting the hose, reminded him of the time when his friend came over to help build their version of a water park. They drilled holes in the newly-fallen tree, and were going to put sprinklers in at various intervals—until he broke the drill.

“Leo! What is taking so long? What’s going on in your head?” his dad angrily interrupted. “Stack the logs in the pit so I can get a fire going! How hard is that?”

Leo sighed, grabbed more logs, and stacked them down while his dad stuffed wood scraps all around the logs in the pit. He then turned one branch into a torch, lit it, and started setting the scraps on fire. Initially, Leo kept adding more of the old tree to the pile, but before long, strangely enough, he decided to take a few logs back and lay them aside nearby. Then he just stood staring at the newly-started fire and retrieved a few more branches that by now had begun to catch fire. It seemed like he wanted to get rid of the tree and all of the problems it caused, but at the same time, he didn’t want to completely let go of it.

A bonfire at night with large flames

“Leo! Come over here for a moment,” his dad motioned. Leo hesitantly walked a short distance from the fire. “Now you and I, along with everyone else around here, want this tree removed, right? Yet ever since we began, you have been daydreaming and taking your time. I’ve finally reached the point where we are able to burn the tree and get rid of it. But here you are, holding onto some of the logs. You’ve even gone so far as to pick them back up from the fire!”

“But I…” Leo started his defense.

“Look,” his dad interrupted, “we can’t get this fire going if you won’t let go of the logs!”

As believers in Christ, we are often guilty of doing the same thing with God—not with wood and a fire, but with leaving our problems and concerns at His altar. So often we want God to take care of our situation, but our unbelief won’t let Him. We go to the altar, commit our needs before Him, and leave. Then, after a few days, weeks, or even just a couple of hours, we return to the altar to retrieve what we left there. We never give God a chance to do much of anything. As a result, we become down in spirit or depressed. We may even complain that the problem doesn’t go away. Maybe we never truly wanted to give up the concern in the first place. We were moved in our heart to let go, but our old self, or “the flesh,” rose up and overruled—denying us the victory.

As our Heavenly Father, God wants us to come to Him with our needs and concerns. In fact, He will often allow, or even bring about, problems to affect us, to bring us to the point of committing them over to Him. In His love for us, He wants us to come to Him first and leave all of these things with Him. When we take them back (or never give them up in the first place) we are not allowing God to work in our lives. In essence, we tell God that we want to be free of the situation—but only on our terms and in our time frame.

Looking up a a stone cross with clouds behind

When Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for us, it was a complete, finished work. There will never be a return trip and another sacrifice, much less multiple sacrifices. He did everything required and was victorious, so that we can be victorious. But we must lay our concerns on the altar and leave them there, putting our complete faith and trust in Him and His victory at the cross. Don’t be like Leo, and hold onto, or, worse yet, retrieve the logs from the fire. How can we start a fire, if we don’t let go of the wood?

“And I Sent the Hornet before You”

 

A graphical image of a hornet.

Many times in our walk with God He will use something small, or even unseen, to bring about a great victory for His glory. One example of this occurred thousands of years ago, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River and were entering the land that God had promised for many years to give them. One thing remained though—the occupants of the land did not simply leave after their arrival. God ordered the Israelites to destroy the people of the land because they were idolaters who worshipped everything but God Himself. They loved the creation more than the Creator.

Some may think that God is an evil tyrant who kills on a whim and has no compassion for anyone, yet He is quite the opposite. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 emphasis added). He never wants any of us to die eternally lost. The depth of His love no one can fathom. What is overlooked here is, that God’s love and longsuffering had given these people the opportunity to forsake their disobedience and rebellion for hundreds of years—but they never did. Noah and his family did not build the ark in a few hours, and then God immediately destroyed everyone else with a flood. God continued to give the people time to change their evil, rebellious ways and turn to Him. There could have been many more than just the members of Noah’s family in the safety of the ark, but the people continued to refuse the offer from a loving and merciful God—only to die in the rising waters.

When the Israelites arrived, they did not just set up camp until God gave them the land as their inheritance and then wait for the enemy’s arrival to see if they were as evil as described. No, they went forward in battle in the name (or unfailing nature) of God, with Joshua as the captain of the host leading the way.

But while they may have fought and defeated their enemies, they were not the ones who actually drove the occupants out. The real victor was God. And He did it in ways not known to the Israelites.

“And I sent the hornet before you, which [drove] them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow” (Joshua 24:12). One insect sent a whole army to flight! Although some scholars believe this may not have been a literal hornet, it still shows that God uses a simple means that is not conventional to us to accomplish His task. Now look at verse thirteen: “…I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat” (emphasis added). Notice that the land was given to them, cities were already built, and crops were already growing—and were ready to eat. Even the very enemy they came against was brought out before them to be eliminated. And all of this was carried out without any work of their own. God, in His faithfulness, did it all Himself. Why? Because they trusted in Him, obeyed His commandments, and because of His immense love for them.

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).

This was the key for their victory. As we read throughout much of the Old Testament, whenever the Israelites forsook God and His Word, they were defeated in battle against their enemies. Yet when they cried out to God and repented of their rebellious ways, He would come in and deliver them. If they did not overcome and destroy their enemies, then their enemies would overcome them, due to the Israelites’ compromise and worship of their enemies’ gods. As long as the Israelites turned away from God and followed idolatry, they would walk in defeat, and ultimately in bondage to their enemies.

These verses apply in our own life spiritually as the children of God. We must remember that our success comes from trusting in God and obeying His Word, the Bible. Then God will drive out our enemies by means not seen, and He will provide for our needs through no part of our own doing. All He wants is for us to love and serve Him, and Him alone. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). We may never know how many ‘hornets’ have gone before us and driven out our enemies, but we do know that when we truly and wholeheartedly follow Him in trust and obedience, He will always go before us and bring victory.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Simple and Dependent

boy holding bible

In this world, a little child is generally considered to be at the lowest level in society regarding knowledge, maturity, experience, and gullibility. Yet in God’s plan, this concept is completely the opposite. He looks with great favor upon little children, more so than adults. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14b). Why? It is due to the child’s simple and dependent nature. God wants us in complete dependence on Him, not on our self. When Jesus came to this world as a man, He did not rise up and overthrow the government, declaring Himself the almighty Emperor. Instead, He came in dependence on His Father in Heaven for everything—from what He should say, to where He should go next. He was never concerned about how He would get His next meal or where He was to sleep each night. Even while in a boat during a fierce storm, He slept on in peace. He knew that His Father would take care of everything.

Now if Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was totally dependent on God, how much more so should we be in all areas of our life? Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Which kingdom are we seeking? Is it one where we are constantly struggling to get ahead without God, in order to achieve a high position in a fragile and evil world that will one day perish forever? Or is it a kingdom where our needs can be met just by asking and believing in simplicity like a child—with no room or need for anxiety, fears, or worry?

Father, I surrender myself to You, wholly and completely. Forgive me for my self-centered ways and motives. Turn my heart and life into one that is dependent on you. May I have the simple faith of a child that I may enter into Your kingdom and dwell there forever with You. Amen.

Greater Than Any Fence

sunset and heron behind fence

A simple chain-link fence was all that separated me from the Great Blue Heron standing at the pond’s edge. Hoping for the “perfect shot,” I carefully inched closer, camera in hand. With each successive step toward the fence, the heron became more wary of my presence. I slowly raised my camera to the fence top, when—whoosh—the heron made its rapid egress gracefully into the sky, evading me once again.

I spotted ibises later, moving across a grassy bank. With the tangled network of trees, bushes, and vines before me, the possibility was small that my presence would disturb them. Yet they still continued to hurriedly move farther down the bank. I cautiously repositioned myself just a short distance down along this barrier between the birds and me. Taking careful aim, I brought the ibises into focus, and waited silently. Suddenly, two boys gleefully bounded out of woods nearby toward my direction. The birds spotted them through this ‘fence’ and quickly flew off. Another fine photograph evaded me!

One would think that birds and animals feel safer behind fences and barriers. Yet almost every time, they flee at the slightest disturbance without hesitation. I’ve seen squirrels and doves high in a tree quite alarmed, that would run or fly away while I carefully walked underneath them. They didn’t know how difficult it was to reach them. So why would they, or a larger animal such as a cow or deer, feel compelled to move away from a human being, even though a large barricade stands between them? Could it simply be that they don’t understand just how secure they really are?

sheep behind fence

Many in today’s world harbor a similar fear. They consider the devil and all the evil associated with him a threat, and flee in the opposite direction at the slightest disturbance. This effort may be effective if someone nearby deliberately planned to throw a large object at them, but the devil operates in both the non-spiritual (natural, visible) realm, and in the spiritual (supernatural, unseen) realm. He is already waiting on the opposite side before they even get near there!

Wait—what about the fence mentioned earlier? Could the devil attack if a fence is in place in our life to protect us? It depends on our relationship with God. When we allow sin in our life, gaps appear in our fence, giving the devil access to us. Ever since the first man’s failure in the Garden of Eden, no human being has been able to be in God’s presence—whether in Heaven or on Earth—because of sin. Sin is disobedience to God’s laws and commandments, put in place for our benefit. Violating them results in both natural and spiritual consequences. God cannot permit or tolerate any sin in His presence, yet God wants every human being to be in His presence.

fence with hole

This is the point where Jesus, God’s only Son, comes in. Sin caused separation in the relationship between God and man. Through the requirements laid out in the Bible’s first five books, God made a way for man to come before Him, but only in a veiled manner back then. Sin couldn’t truly be defeated, because it required something sinless to overcome it—meaning no one from this earth would ever qualify. Sin could only be covered, or temporarily hidden, through the shed blood from the sacrifice of a spotless, innocent lamb. This meant that these lambs had to be continually sacrificed.

Jesus was sinless before He was born on this Earth as a man, and remained so all the way through His death on the cross and beyond. He was therefore able to fulfill this sinless requirement. He was the ultimate ‘spotless, innocent lamb’ that willingly (God never forced Him) shed His innocent blood by sacrificing His life on the cross. He permanently covered the sin of every man, woman and child that has lived, is living, and is yet to be born! Because He was the final sacrifice, no more lambs had to be sacrificed. When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished (literally just “finished,” John 19:30), He was referring to the end of the old physical sacrificial system, and of sin’s control over our lives. Not only did He sacrifice His life on the cross—three days later He arose from His tomb alive, completely victorious over sin and death!

So how does this apply to the fence I mentioned? Well, initially you need to admit to God that you were wrong and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross by faith, as if it was your own sacrifice of yourself. He took your place and paid your debt for sin that He didn’t owe (remember, He was continuously sinless and blameless) —a debt impossible for you to repay. In fact, you can’t even pay the interest! Ask Him to forgive you for all of your sins against Him, and turn completely around in the opposite direction of them, thereby allowing Him to be in control of your life. [Click here for more information about giving your life to Him.] Do this, and He, in essence, becomes a hedge or fence around you. Not a literal fence you can see, but a spiritual fence that the devil and his minions are aware of, yet cannot get past.

cross with blue sunset

Because of Jesus’ victory at the cross, the devil no longer has the legal right to break through this fence and attack you—as long as you are yielding to Jesus, allowing Him to work in your heart and life. This doesn’t mean that the devil won’t threaten and intimidate you though. Like the boys running near the barrier scaring the birds, the devil will still create quite a racket—enough to make you believe that he has actually broken through the fence! The difference is, when you put your trust in Jesus, focusing on Him and not yourself or anyone else, that fence will remain secure.

Actually, you will be even more protected than the birds I mentioned. They are only safe from direct attacks on the side that the physical fence covers. But Jesus protects you on all sides. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2). He is greater than any fence or hedge of protection that you’ll ever find on this Earth. Make a commitment to Jesus today and let Him be your shield and barrier.

More Than Food and Clothing

“Take no thought for your life,
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink;
nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Is not the life more than meat [food],
and the body than raiment [clothing]?
…If God so clothe the grass of the field…
shall He not much more clothe you?”  (Matthew 6:25, 30)

Since Jesus said, “Take no [distracting] thought for your life…”, why do you concern yourself with “what ye shall eat…drink…put on…”? Does He want you constantly anxious, distressed, or puzzled about how to get what you need? This attitude leads to despair and unbelief, which do not honor God. He expects you to leave your life in His hands—can’t you just let Him take care of getting your daily needs also? Jesus said not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, much less all the rest. Our Heavenly Father has so “much more” for us! Do we think we know more about how to take care of ourselves than He does? He concerns Himself with our circumstances even more than we do. Why do we let the cares of this world dominate our thinking? If we find them constantly competing for our attention, we need to stop and put our relationship with God first instead.

distressed woman

Constant perplexity over how to get what you need to survive is a waste of time, especially coming from a child of God. How we insult the One who promised to provide for us. You don’t need to get worked up about getting through tomorrow, next week, the rest of the month, or next year. There will be plenty to deal with as each new day unfolds. What will tomorrow bring? You don’t know. Why let it worry you sick, when it might be good tidings just around the corner, not more trouble? Take it one day at a time, Jesus said. Otherwise, you take out a ‘loan’ of trouble and worry on the future. You only need enough each day to get through that day.

head shot of man with concerned expression

Why such vexation about getting more fashionable clothing or a bigger house? Flowers don’t worry about buying colorful silk to make beautiful petals. Birds don’t worry about spinning yarn to knit a sweater to get through the winter. They expect to find what they need to get through each day. Both just go on, taking each day as it comes, letting God provide what they need. Can’t you do the same? If God cares so much about little birds, how much more does He care about those created in His very image? Can’t the God of the birds give you enough to get through each day? He gave us life and a body—the greater things. The same God can certainly make sure we get the lesser things—like food and clothing.

glasses and pen on sheet of financial rates

Who provided you with the body you now live in? You had nothing to do with getting it; you received it by no effort of your own. The same God who gave you your body is capable of taking care of it. Planning for the future is not wrong, but constant thoughts about a nest egg for old age should not consume your life now as you struggle to provide for a future you know nothing about. We say we trust God, and then do our utmost to provide everything we need ourselves! Where is our trust? Don’t lose your confidence in God and His provision for you. Having what you need when you need it provides contentment, not constant pursuit of more than you need. Jesus said, “Take no thought…” about your future. Then your thinking won’t be divided or distracted today. Otherwise, your mind will constantly dwell on the future, instead of concentrating on the important matters at hand in the present.

Are you experiencing the “much more” God promised to those who follow Him? Are you obeying the life He gave you? We get caught up in many things that confuse and distract us. But we only need to be very careful about one thing—our relationship with Him. Seek the kingdom of God first. Let Him be your business. Concern yourself with your soul—the matter of utmost importance. Have concern also for souls who might not make it to tomorrow, much less the distant future. Will their life end without them knowing God? (Will yours?) Help take care of others today and God will not fail to take care of you. In fact, He will provide for you so you can help others.

hands clasped in prayer

Jesus said to pray daily, to make ourselves ready to meet the temptations each day brings. Don’t be worried about fulfilling your every need; leave every need to Him. Those who fully trust and depend on Jesus simply rest in His loving arms. Let Him do all the worrying! He will provide much more than food or clothing!