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]

God’s Blessings Are to Be Used Completely When Given

line drawing of Israelites gathering manna

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they [knew] not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did [measure] it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked]: and Moses was [angry] with them” (Exodus 16:14-20).

In the early stage of their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites reached a point where there was no food readily available. Rather than calling out right away to God for help, they decided to murmur and complain about their situation instead. Yet God still provided for them, and in a way that they were not expecting. He blessed them with what has been referred to as “angel’s food,” or, as the people called it, “manna.” It was the ‘perfect’ food.

Unlike other things they had eaten, manna could not wait and be harvested at a later time. It had to be gathered and processed each morning; otherwise, it would rot or melt away.

They only took “every man according to his eating,” (other than on the sixth day on the week) as God had told them. Whatever they collected each day, it was always sufficient, and “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.”

We need to consider God’s blessings in our life in a similar manner. Whether small or great, we are not to delay in using what He has given us. So often, following a period of great need, we have the tendency to ration and store away what God blesses us with. We tend to take for granted that what has been distributed will always be there, or at least it will be for an extended period of time. Some of the Israelites acted in the same way. “Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked].”  Actually, if we do this, we are allowing unbelief to resurface in our hearts. We succumb to an attitude that either His blessing is not going to come to us again, or that He will keep our former shortfall from ever reoccurring.

As the children of God, we should not only ask of Him for all of our necessities and believe that He will supply, but we must also completely use what He blesses us with wisely in return.

When the Israelites gathered the right amount that they had to have of the manna for each day, they used it to satisfy that which they needed most. In this case, it was for the satisfying of their hunger. They didn’t pool it with their neighbors, making one big meal for the whole day, and then grumble about their ravenous appetite the rest of the time. Neither did they barter it with the surrounding nations to get meat or rich delicacies which would have had much less nutritional value.

Ultimately, what God desires in all of this is for us to depend on Him for our concerns. He wants us to come before Him continually.

The Lord does not like to see us hoard that which He freely gives us, and then become complacent or less reliant on Him. Therefore, let’s cheerfully and generously use with thanksgiving all that He blesses us with.

 

[Image credit:CCXpistiavos/Pixabay]

Why Look to Your Past for Your Future?

 

image of seated man with glasses in mirror hanging on tiled wall

“And it came to pass, that as he was come [near] unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:53-43).

How often do we, the children of God, look to our past when we have a need that we cannot meet?

Jesus was on His way into the city of Jericho when He came within the vicinity of a blind man. He stopped to respond to the commotion that the man was making. This blind man, known as Bartimaeus, had heard that Jesus was within earshot and earnestly called out to Him. Why? Because he had a need that he could not overcome in his own strength. He also knew who Jesus was, and that He could cure his condition. Bartimaeus was not able to make himself see again. If he had reflected solely on the fact that he had been and still was without sight, he might have never called out to the Lord. But he did not dwell on the unresolvable—he put his full attention on Jesus.

The Lord is not looking for what we think is the best thing to do. He is seeking for what we believe He is able to accomplish, above and beyond our finite mindset.

Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). When we focus on what has not been taken care of—the negative things of our past—we restrict God. Almost anybody can believe for what is possible; but it is solving our impossibilities that God desires us to believe Him for.

We must reach the place where we believe that the Lord totally and completely is able to handle any difficult situation, infirmity, problem, or extreme condition that we may find ourselves in.

Even if the problem has been with us for most (if not all) of our life, we have to continue looking forward to the Lord in faith if we are going to receive our breakthrough. We need to let go of our old self with its negative mindset, and associate with Him to the point where we can see the impossible as being fully possible. We cannot allow ourselves to look back on our past, continuing to believe that our future is destined to be more of the same. As children of God, let’s do what the formerly blind Bartimaeus did—hold our peace no longer, but cry out persistently to Jesus instead, totally believing in Him for our miracle. Then He will be able to reply, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (emphasis added).

 

[Image credit: Charis Gegelman/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]

Where Were the Carpenters After They Built the Ark?

Drawing of workers constructing oNoah's ark by A. KircherImage Credit: Wellcome Collection

“God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me…Make thee an ark…” (Genesis 6:13-14).

For almost 6,000 years, God has allowed man to follow his own path to progress by permitting him to bring his principles and methods of accomplishing his goals to full development. By the time of Noah, what was the final outcome of the first sixteen centuries of “progress”? All Earth’s inhabitants had broken entirely free from any moral restraint and become wholly corrupted. Lack of belief in God and disobedience to Him had ruined the moral nature God had given them so much that no hope remained.

All flesh had reached the point where it couldn’t get any worse. So God had nothing left to work with. All He could do was to totally destroy them, saving only the few who were righteous and still obedient to Him. Only one man and his family qualified when the climax of evil had been reached. All the rest of mankind had become devastated. Now God alone could provide the remedy for the future of the human race.

Today man is exposed to a similar situation of danger. The Lord has declared that He’s soon going to call the whole world to judgment for its sins against Him—yet we do not prepare for it in any way.

In fact, many laugh and sneer at the very idea. Nevertheless, God’s wrath is going to fall. Why did God tell Noah “make thee an ark”? Because His sentence of death has been “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12) already.

But along with the sentence of death, God made a promise of deliverance. Whenever God makes His darkest threats, He always reveals a way of escape. He sent the flood, but also provided an ark. Lot had to flee from Sodom before God destroyed it, but He provided the little city of Zoar for him to escape to. And God warns us today of the penalty for sinning against Him, at the same time providing the message of Christ—that He is full of mercy, unwilling for any to perish.

Noah had a firm belief in what God said He was going to do, in spite of the unbelief everywhere around him. He was in awe of God and had made up his mind to take advantage of any means God might provide to escape the coming wrath. Nevertheless, God did not make an ark and hand it to Noah. Man had to construct it himself from materials of this Earth.

A photograph of a life-sized replica of Noah's arkImage Credit: Greg Reese

At the same time that other men were chasing after wealth and freely indulging in pleasure and sin, Noah was using his wealth and substance to build the ark. It was a gigantic ship, the largest to that time, about a third of the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier. His holdings must have been sizable to be able to provide enough funds to construct such a monumental project.

Certainly his three sons would have helped build it, but even so, much more manpower would have been needed to complete such an undertaking.

There were men living then who had prospered in just about everything material. Some would have gladly received a contract to work in Noah’s shipyard, all the while having contempt for his reasons for building the ark. But, in spite of their attitude, every time they hit a nail or sawed a board, God provided another chance for them to repent of their man-centered evil ways and come to Him.

God offered all the people a way of safety, of salvation, to see if they would believe Him and accept the only way out. But they were not willing to consider living in an ark for months, because they were not willing to believe that a life-destroying flood was coming. Who would trust the ark to be their salvation if they truly thought they could manage an easier way? The first and hardest step toward helping people to get saved is convincing the careless and the prospering that their way of salvation will not save them. Yet they are not capable of saving themselves.

Noah believed God when He told him a massive flood of destruction was coming for all mankind. He knew he had only two choices: destruction or deliverance. So he took the necessary steps to conduct himself in a way that he would be allowed to escape the coming disaster. We have to obey God’s instructions to us as much as Noah had to obey God’s instructions to him. He had to have an ark built to be saved. But all we have to do today is to get into the Ark God already prepared for us.

Noah’s eyes could not see a flood forming, but his eyes of faith did see, and he believed in the reality of it, more than the reality of all he could touch and see right around him.

This made it possible for him to ignore the endless taunts thrown at him day by day and year by year. The direction his life was going to take was either pure foolishness, or it was more real than anything else at that time. A hundred and twenty years might have passed from God’s warning to Noah until the Flood actually came. Yet Noah held to what he believed God had told him. He did not let his faith waver the whole time. Then he was taken away, just as the very apex of human evil arrived, before God’s judgment had to be poured out.

And what about our faith today? Are we even aware of the coming destruction that looms just ahead? Do we believe God as He forewarns us to come into the Ark of safety? He has provided a similar means of escape for us like He did for Noah. He has provided His only begotten Son as the Ark for all who will believe. They will be able to board the Ark, but it will not remain open for the multitude that refuses to believe. Those people think their own good works will be sufficient to save them, but their works are about as useful as a raft in a flood! Who would be foolish enough to provide himself with just a raft if he knew a monsoon was coming?

A graphical image of Noah's ark floating in water during heavy rains with dark grey sky all around.Image Credit: Jeff Jacobs

It’s possible that many workmen who signed up to work on the shipbuilding project may not have made fun of Noah. But where were they when Noah went up the ramp into the ark? The neighbors of Noah most likely helped him obey what God had told him to do also. They may have helped make the way of salvation possible, yet they never obeyed God themselves. They also stood watching as Noah and his family went into the ark. What happened to them? Every last one of them drowned in the Flood.

Faithfully building the ark in response to God’s command was one way Noah preached righteousness to those around him. Yet none of them took advantage of his invitation to come aboard and escape the inevitable destruction of themselves and all around them. Even the woodcutters, carpenters, and other builders were ultimately destroyed—because they would not come into the very ark they had built! They failed to consider the future while they worked on the present project. So they ended up outside the ark of safety, and when it was too late, they realized that it had been built for them!

Have you climbed aboard the Ark yourself? You may be one of those who helped build it, yet not be on it when judgment comes! Where were the carpenters after they built the ark?

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.

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!