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!

God is a Rewarder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Kind of Tranqulizer

man with insomnia

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

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

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

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

young girl praying

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