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Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, Romans 4:20

It had been years since God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Today that doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but in his society not having a son meant Abraham would have no one to pass on the family name and inheritance. For Sarah, a woman who couldn’t bear children was considered second-rate. In fact, among some circles, not being able to bear children was grounds for divorce and the woman was always to blame in those situations.

God always makes good on His promises, but He does it in His time, not ours. That makes life hard. When someone promises something to us we expect delivery in a reasonable amount of time and in a manner of our choosing. God doesn’t operate within our rules or our time frame.

When He is slow (by our standards) in fulfilling His promises we can respond in a variety of ways. We may get angry with God. We throw our temper tantrums, maybe even shake our fist at Him and demand answers. Usually our anger with God causes us to begin to doubt His promises and His ability to make good on them. “If He couldn’t do this, maybe the rest of the other things He promises are false too!”

When God doesn’t come through on promises for us we may also blame ourselves. We remind ourselves of past mistakes, poor choices or those rebellious times in our lives. We may conclude from this that ‘God must hate me. He’s just getting even with me for doubting Him and doing my own thing.’ We beat ourselves up emotionally for awhile and then, if we aren’t careful we give up on God altogether. “It’s no use. I can’t do this ‘God thing’. I give up. May as well have fun and do it on my own.” Taking matters into our own hands usually only makes matters worse.

A variation of the ‘self-blame game’ is the comparison game. We look at those around us who have the ‘God life’ all figured out. We see how spiritual they are and how they’ve been blessed. We hear them speak of God’s love and mercy and how He is doing such wonderful things in their lives. We naturally conclude that since we don’t have a squeaky-clean, spiritually blessed life like them we must have something wrong with us. The enemy may even chime in here and tell us ‘they are all a bunch of hypocrites’ and urge us to go life alone.

It’s a hard pill for us to swallow, but we need to realize that as followers of Jesus Christ we have many promises from God’s word. But those promises don’t necessarily include comfort, financial prosperity or good health. We weren’t put here on earth to live a country club lifestyle. We were put here to glorify God. During a time when life was at its worst for Abraham and Sarah, they did not waver in their faith in God. The Bible says that is was this unwavering faith that gave Abraham and Sarah the strength they needed to hold on until God’s promise came true.

We give glory to God by believing in Him when we can’t see his way in the darkness. We give glory to God by remaining faithful when life isn’t fair; when the doctor gives us a bad report; when a relationship goes south; when finances dwindle and our job ends; when the bank finally forecloses on our dream home.

Whatever you are going through at this time, remember that God can and will eventually come through on His promises. It may not be like you were hoping. There may be lots of pain and confusion along the way. There may be times you don’t think you can go on. These times are needed to strengthen you for the road ahead. God DOES love you. He WILL fulfill His promises. Hold fast to your faith. If you do this, with the help of the Holy Spirit, chances are, years from now, you will be stronger and look back to see how much better God’s ways were than your ways.

PRAYER: Holy God. You have given me many promises in your Word. Frankly, right now I don’t see them. I’m tired. I’m battling anger and doubt. I see other people who seem to have it together and wonder what’s wrong with me. Forgive me for my doubt. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to be able to believe like Abraham did. Let others see your glory in my strength as I battle what life has in store for me. May you be glorified in my trial. In Jesus name, Amen.

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. John 12:35

Jesus was coming to the end of His earthly ministry and many were questioning Him concerning His teachings about the Messiah, or the ‘Son of Man’. The people were sure that they had the whole picture of God’s deliverance figured out. Their religion had built a comfortable box around their concept of how God would work and how they would, in turn, benefit.

Unfortunately, the people of Jesus day had the same problem many of us have today. We think we know exactly how God will work in a given situation. We expect that He will work the same way one time as He does in other times and circumstances.  But God works in His own way and on His own timing and wisdom. Even while Jesus was on earth He didn’t heal people in the same way every time. God works in different ways at different times according to His wisdom and glory and not ours.

In John 12:35 Jesus teaches us an important lesson about the journey we call life and there is a sense of urgency in His voice. Jesus says, “Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” There is a nugget of wisdom in this little phrase hidden in verse 35. Life won’t always be as we see it now. Those of us who have lived a few years on earth are amazed at how life has changed socially, politically, economically and even spiritually.

Jesus tells us to walk. Walking is not standing. As a Christ-follower we cannot ‘stand’ for we are either progressing in our relationship with Jesus and others or we become stagnant. Stagnancy in the spiritual realm is the same as going backwards. It doesn’t do you any good, in fact it harms you. To avoid being stagnant in your spiritual walk it’s important to discipline yourself to read God’s word regularly, pray often and plan to fellowship with those who love Jesus as you do.

Jesus not only tells us to walk but He warns us to not ‘let the darkness overtake you’. When you walk in the evening it’s always a good idea to plan your walk wisely. Be aware of the surrounding changes in light, weather and topography. If you walk too far from home you could get lost in the darkness and not make it back safely.

The same is true somewhat in our spiritual lives. If we are not careful we can walk right into danger without realizing it. Wise walking means that you are careful not to allow yourself to be trapped by the enemy. As Christ-followers Satan will do whatever he can to sidetrack you from your mission to live for Jesus by bringing darkness unexpectedly into our lives.

The darkness he brings upon can be like shadows of our past which haunt us continually with guilt for poor decisions, the pain of broken relationships and doubts about our abilities to recover. His darkness can bring the worry and anxiety of the future, infecting us with fear for our own well-being and the safety of our children.

But Jesus tells us to avoid the darkness. Light destroys shadows and Jesus is the light! The closer we walk to Him the less effect the darkness will have on us. As we walk with in wisdom, aware of our surroundings, His light shines the way to show us safe passage through obstacles the enemy lays before us to trap us.

Walk. Don’t run. Don’t stand. Don’t waiver. Move on in life through the light that only Jesus can offer you. In Him is all you need to travel this journey called life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you for being the light of my world. I praise you that you alone will show me the way. I trust in Your promise to keep me from being trapped by the shadows of darkness that Satan throws across my path. Empower me with wisdom to walk in your way and strength to keep on when the way grows weary. Amen.

 “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11

In Old Testament times when people were in deep distress they would put on sackcloth and wail in anguish. This was particularly true when they mourned over the death of a loved one. As it is today, this was perhaps the deepest agony of all. Death brings with it the loss of dreams, the loss of companionship and the loss of hope for the future.

In Psalm 30 David recounts the many times that God has delivered his people from a variety of disappointments and tragedies. In verse 11 of this song of praise he tells us how, in the midst of their agony God brought them joy. The rough and uncomfortable clothing of sackcloth became clothing of joy and comfort. Their songs of agony became songs of praise.

As we travel along the journey we call life there are many times when tragedy comes upon us. It can be the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job or a broken relationship. People we trust let us down. We let people down we trust and love dearly. We grow old and change becomes harder to adjust too. Health and financial woes remove our hopes and dreams.

How we react to the hard times of life is really up to us. We can dwell on the pain or we can allow God to turn even our own most desperate times into a time of joy and comfort. How we respond to adversity is largely dependent on our view of God and of ourselves.

If we allow the words and actions of other people to determine how we feel about ourselves and God then we will feel the pain of life’s disappointments. Life will seem hopeless. Pain and discomfort will be the rule of our days and sleeplessness will spend the night with us.

If we realize God’s great love and provision for us then we enable Him to make our darkest times to be times of comfort and joy. It is only God that can take the sackcloth of our mistakes and the abuse of others and turn it to joy. It is only through God’s love that we can endure the hardship of tragedy that comes our way.

You are a child of the God of the universe. You are His most cherished possession and the apple of His eye. Leave the ashes and sackcloth of yesterdays mistakes and abuse be replaced with the comfort of God’s love for you. Replace the wailing for the failures and tragedies of the past with praise for the fact that through faith in Jesus Christ you will see a better tomorrow.

You won’t find lasting joy here on earth through relationships, toys, wealth, power or popularity. Lasting joy comes only through complete faith in Jesus and the realization of God’s great love for you.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I’m in such turmoil today. You know the pain I’m feeling. You know the mistakes and tragedies of my past that handcuff me. I’m trapped by feelings of hopelessness and despair. To be honest there have been times of late when I’ve doubted your love or even your presence. I ask that you would empower me through faith in Jesus and the power of your Spirit to clothe myself with your joy and comfort even as I walk through these dark and lonely times. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:2-3 

There are times in our lives when we can become completely overwhelmed by all that is around us. We can be pulled by finances, family issues, relational struggles, health concerns and many other things. In fact, these things of life are just the tip of the iceberg.

While it isn’t mentioned in mental health circles as an official ‘diagnosis’, each of us can be affected by the ‘Messiah Complex’. The Messiah Complex can be described as that thought process that says we are to become the savior of our world. In other words, all that goes on around us is our responsibility to correct, redeem and improve.

The messiah complex is rarely intentional. Usually it sneaks up on us. We take on one more responsibility. Our hearts open up to one more problem. Our compassion is directed towards one more individual’s crisis. Soon, without our knowing it, our minds are filled with concerns that really don’t involve us or that we have no control over. The result is frustration, fatigue and perhaps anger. We become so overwhelmed by all we ‘should do’ that we don’t do anything well.

That’s when Jesus says “Come. Rest in my arms. Take time apart to relax.” In fact, the Psalmist implies that our Good Shepherd demands us to rest in His Rest. The Rest that Jesus promises us is complete rest. It comforts the soul, nourishes the spirit and feeds the physical parts of our being.

When we become distracted and overwhelmed by the cares of this world it gives the enemy opportunity to pull us away from the important things that build our relationship with Jesus. When our relationship with Jesus is weakened our relationships with others will falter as well.

Take some time to evaluate your priorities. The world should not rest on your shoulders. Prayerfully consider what things need to be given over to the power of Christ’s righteousness. When we learn to rest in the Rest that only Christ can give. Take another look at Psalm 23:2-3.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Who is the dominant one in our lives? Who is the one who gives rest, strength, comfort and peace? It’s Jesus! We are the receivers. He is the giver of all that we need.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’m tired. I thank You for the fact that you know everything that is on my mind right now. All the stress. All the frustration. All the things that are making me angry. I confess to You that I am taking far more responsibility for things than I can handle. I ask that with the help of Your Holy Spirit you would empower me to rest in your arms. I hand over to you all the things that are troubling me today. In Your powerful name I pray, Amen.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 

There are certain stories in the Bible that require us to take a double take. When Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family were rescued by angels, they were told not to look back. When Lot’s wife stole a glance at the destruction going on in Sodom and Gomorrah she became a pillar of salt. God showed no mercy in this situation. We can’t really blame Lots wife from taking a look back. The fire that fell that day destroyed the lives of her family and friends. But God’s command was clear. Move on. No matter how much it hurts, it costs to follow me.

Thousands of years later, the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14. In the preceding verses what is he talking about? Suffering and sacrificing of all things.

One day Jesus was walking along the road. People came and proclaimed their intention to follow Him, but each one had a pre-requisite. Each had an area of their lives they wanted to hold back from Him. Theirs was not a complete allegiance but a convenient arrangement for their own good.

Grace is NOT free. Grace costs and costs dearly. It is free for us to take hold of, but that is only because the payment has been made on the Cross and is finalized through the empty tomb. Following Jesus isn’t easy. If anyone tells you that if you turn your life over to Jesus all your troubles will disappear….RUN! Following Christ may be the start of struggle.

First, you may be misunderstood by others. When you say you are a Christ-follower people may automatically assume that means you are perfect. Christ followers are NOT perfect. We are however forgiven. We may suffer, but our suffering is never as great as the suffering Jesus did for us on the cross. His suffering was physical (death) and emotional (deserted by family and friends) and spiritual (forsaken by God “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”).

 The second area of struggle may be the struggle of our own self-image. It’s human to base your self-worth on what you do for a living, the decisions you’ve made in the past, the opinions of others. It’s human, but not Christ-like. Our self-worth, our heritage and our future are not based on anything we can do in life. Who we are and what we are to become is based solely on who Jesus is and what we allow Him to accomplish during our short stay on this earth.

What do you need to walk away from today to sell out completely to Jesus? Is it a job? A Relationship? A habit? A church? Nothing on this earth is worth risking your walk with Jesus. Only through Him will you be able to break free.

The good news is that Jesus looks on the heart. He knows our faults. He knows our struggles. He knows our desires. He knows how hard it is to break free. That’s why He patiently, lovingly and graciously empowers us through His Holy Spirit to move towards freedom and complete dependence on Him. Paul finishes his Philippians statement by saying, “Forgetting the past…I press on.”

Press on today in your walk with Jesus. Ask Him to show you what needs to be released. Trust Him to give you the power to let go for Him.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, this verse is a hard one for me. I know there are areas in my life that I’m not ready to give up to You. Please forgive me for that and help me to wisely and in the power of your Spirit, move towards complete dependence on You. Keep me from looking back. Help me to always see you before anyone or anything else. Amen.

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