Archive for the “Success” Category
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
I love Paul’s prayers, and this is one of my favorites. As I read it this morning, what struck me was that we would be able to discern “what is best” – not just what is good or what is better, but what is best. I love it that God has what is best for me held in reserve just waiting for me to discern and choose it.
I have never wanted to live a mediocre life, and I bet you haven’t either. This Scripture points to an extraordinary life – one that choose the best. A mediocre life makes choices that are OK, but not excellent.
I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, and they flow so well with his words to the Philippians:
12bAnd now I will show you the most excellent way.
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:8, 13:13
The most excellent way is love. It’s what Paul prayed for the Philippians. Go back to our first passage:
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best…
Philippians 1:9-10a (emphasis mine)
How is it that they (and we) would be able to discern what is best? It is through love that grows deeper in knowledge and depth of insight! Love is the most excellent way because it never fails. It is never stilled and it never passes away.
To my detriment, when I think about making excellent decisions, I don’t typically ask “which choice represents perfect love?” If I want to lead an extraordinary life, if I want to make the best (most excellent) choices, that life and those choices must be rooted and grounded in an abundance of love.
I think I’ve got some work to do! Father, help me!
Posted by Sandy in Blessed Life, book references, Christian Living, failure, Faith, God's priorities, God's ways, Hearing God, joy, Philippians, Romans, Serving God, Success, suffering
Note: you can purchase each of the books discussed in this blog simply by clicking on the name of the book.
Having graduated with my masters a few weeks ago, I have been thinking a lot about “what’s next?” I want to pursue more speaking and writing, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture and I don’t have many answers to that question. I am, comfortable resting in God as He unfolds things before me, yet “what’s next?” keeps reverberating in my mind. It’s created in me a more watchful state about opportunities that might appear on the horizon (at right in front of my nose).
It’s also had me thinking very specifically about what I’d like my life to be. I am regularly and eagerly praying “Lord, Your will, not mine – where can You best use me in Your kingdom,” but I am also thinking through what I would like to do in this next phase of my life and asking God to fulfill those dreams.
With that as a backdrop and having been released from “required reading,” I’ve read three fiction books in the past month (!). Interestingly, each has lent its perspective to the process and has made a strong impression on me. Curiously, I didn’t choose any of these books:
- My husband, Phil, picked the first book – one that had been sitting in our library for quite some time and neither of us had read yet. It didn’t appeal to me at first, so I laid beside my bed and it stayed there several days – until I was leaving for an appointment and wanted to something to read should I have to wait. I quickly grabbed the book and was out the door.
- A few days after finishing that book, I picked up another book at the retreat house I stayed at for a couple of nights. Having read Scripture and a devotional book, meditated, prayed and worshipped, I felt ready for something lighter and found a basket of books. I picked up the one by an author I had read a book by almost thirty years ago.
- Finally, two weeks ago, Phil stopped at a discount store and for only $1.99 they had a copy of the first book in a six-book series by my favorite fiction authors. Who could resist such a bargain! Being side-lined a bit after my knee surgery, I’ve had plenty of time to read it.
I’ve provided this detail because it’s so interesting to me that I truly had little to do with choosing the books I read, and each has challenged me in the same way, while weaving stories across three continents and sixty years.
Can you say “God speaks?” One of the way God speaks to us is by the repetition of a theme – it comes up in a conversation with a friend, then we read an article that touches on the same topic, then our Scripture reading that day reinforces the message…or perhaps we just read three books in a row with the same message. Clearly, God is speaking.
Each of these books has made me very aware of the blessed life I lead and even more aware of how warped my definitions of a “blessed life” and “success” are. But I’ll get to that. First, a little about the books I’ve read:
Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn, was the first book I read. It is a story about a Chinese man, educated in the United States and on the fast track to becoming a professor and famous thinker of his time. He is also a Christian and upon returning home, he finds all opportunities closed to him…except that of a lock maker. He becomes the best lock maker, living a life that challenges the reader to make sense of the world in which we live and the purposes of God in one man’s life. “Is this the day I die?” the lead character asks every day as he lives for eternity instead of for himself.
Secret Believers: What Happens when Muslims Believe in Christ, by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen, is the fictionalized account of real people who live in Muslim countries and come to faith in Christ. How are the people in the story to fulfill their calling to strengthen the Church when it is illegal for the Church to exist? It is a story about how believers live, struggle, and glorify God when the place to which they are called is hostile toward them and their faith.
Jerusalem Vigil, by Bodie & Brock Thoene. The Thoenes are masterful authors of historical Christian fiction. Jerusalem Vigil is the first book in the Zion Legacy series and begins with the creation of Israel is a nation. Jews and Christians attempt to make their home in the war-torn city of Jerusalem as neighbors on all side seek to destroy the nation before it has a chance to live. It is a gripping novel about the lives of those transplanted from safety to a place requiring all they have to give and more – all the compassion, all the strength, all the love, and most importantly all the faith.
In all cases, the main characters lived with great fear and sadness. In all cases, the main characters redefined for me the phrase “blessed life” and the concept of “success.” Both have little to do with circumstances and everything to do with perspective. I am blessed to serve God in my circumstances. Success is a life lived for God with integrity and purpose…regardless of whether that life is lived out in a place my “dreams” would never take me, or exactly in the place my dreams would take me.
I’m reminded of what Paul said:
20For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. 21For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better.
Philippians 1:20-21 (NLT)
20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:20-21 (NIV)
As I recall, there is also that phrase in the Bible about sharing in Christ’s sufferings:
17Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:17 (NIV)
Wow…we are His children IF we share in His sufferings. And sharing in those sufferings is living for Christ, seeing Him exalted in our bodies. Somehow I think that message gets lost in American Christianity. Lord, forgive us.
Can you pray this simple prayer with me?
Lord, continue to shape and mold my understanding of success and blessing. I submit to Your will for my life…where ever it leads.
On Monday, a blog about destiny…..hmmm, I see a theme here!
My Baccalaureate service was last night and I am taking my theme from the message that was preached by the Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Fowler. Some of these points came directly from Rev. Fowler’s message, but others are my own. In truth, it’s difficult for me to separate them because his theme has gotten into my spirit and become a part of me. So, thank you Rev. Fowler.
My prayer as you read this blog is that its theme will also get into your spirit and bring an enthusiasm, a rejoicing, and a commitment that perhaps has begun to wane in recent months.
Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5, New Revised Standard Version
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5, New International Version
The Israelites were about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. They were about to enter the land that God had promised them hundreds of years before. Talk about a long-awaited dream! It was the dream that their parents and their parents’ parents dreamed. It had been passed from generation to generation through hardship after hardship. Now the time has come for the dream to become a reality.
Yet, like the fulfillment of many dreams, the reality of life pushes in with its share of heartache and trepidation. Nothing this side of heaven is perfect. Moses, who had led the Israelites through their greatest victories, who had spoken to God face to face and relayed God’s messages to the people, who had prayed for and protected the Israelites since their release from Egypt – Moses had recently died. Just before dying, he installed Joshua as the next leader. I imagine that the people were still grieving and that they were unsure of Joshua’s ability to lead them. They were also nervous about what tomorrow would bring. The long-awaited tomorrow now loomed in front of them bigger than life itself.
And what advice did this new leader Joshua give to the people? “Sanctify yourselves.” He doesn’t say “get a good night’s sleep” or “pack your clothes” or “be sure your weapons are ready for battle.” He says “sanctify yourselves” – “set yourselves apart.”
Hmmmm…Several things about that passage interest me.
The first thing that catches my interest is the kind of advice Joshua gives. He didn’t give advice that we might consider practical or even useful. I think that I’d want some practical advice at this point. I went to my Commencement rehearsal two nights ago because I wanted to know how to get ready for the event. What do I do? When do I do it? How do I do it? When it came to the battle they were facing, my guess is that Joshua himself didn’t know the specific answers to those questions yet. Joshua had a promise from God that tomorrow would be the day they would begin to move into the Promised Land. Beyond that, he had a confidence that God would keep His promise. And that’s all. He didn’t know much about the “how.”
It’s important to take a short step backwards here, because Joshua had given some practical advice:
When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. Joshua 3:3b-4a, New International version
While that sounds like it is only practical advice, it is really much more than that. To the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God. It is the place where the spirit of God dwelt. Joshua was saying, “Follow the Ark of the Covenant closely. Turn where it turns, stop when it stops. Stay close to the Lord.” The Israelites were to keep their eyes on the Lord and to follow His every lead.
Still, where’s the battle plan? I’d want to know. “OK, Lord, I’ll follow you, but can you just tell me what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it? Please?” But that’s not the instructions Joshua had, so it’s not the instructions he gave. Instead, Joshua said, “Sanctify yourselves.” “Set yourselves apart as holy.”
The second thing that amazes me about this passage is the advice itself: “Set yourselves apart as holy.” Sanctification strikes me as something that God does in me, not something that I do myself. Yet Joshua’s instruction to the people is to set themselves apart as holy. He doesn’t say “prepare yourselves to be made holy by God.” Instead, he says, “Set yourselves apart as holy.” “Sanctify yourselves.” He says, “You do it!” He is imploring the people – no, as their leader he is commanding the people, to develop a mindset, a positioning of the mind, which recognizes that they have been established for holy purposes. I am not denying that there is a physical aspect to this command, that is, to put away those sinful things and habits that might be a part of their lives, but beyond that, I believe there is a frame of mind that says, “I am God’s, set apart for His purposes, His holy purposes.”
While the actions of purifying ourselves may come before the mindset, it is the mindset that gets us through. It is the mindset that establishes our identity, and I think Joshua is referring to the development of that mindset as much as he is referring to physical and spiritual cleansing in preparation for moving into the things God has. You see, God had already sanctified the Israelites – He had already set them apart for His purposes. But it was necessary that they recognized that they were set apart for His purposes.
God wouldn’t reveal the “what” and the “how” until the Israelites obeyed His command to sanctify themselves and thus be prepared to receive His next instruction. They would never be ready for the “what” and the “how” until they were sanctified for God’s purposes. The natural man is consumed with the “whats” and the “hows” of life, but those things are low on God’s priority list. God has an infinite number of “whats” and “hows,” but they are insignificant compared to the preliminary step of sanctification. Once we have entered into that dynamic partnership of allowing Him to sanctify us and then sanctifying ourselves for His purposes, we are prepared for whatever God has for us.
The same is true for us, friends. God has sanctified each of us – He has set each of us apart for His purposes; but until we establish that in our minds and develop a mindset that says, “I am set apart for His purposes” we have not sanctified ourselves and prepared ourselves to move into what God has called us to. This message has grown in my spirit overnight and I am beginning to become quite excited about it. I have been set apart by God to establish His purposes on this earth. That’s a pretty amazing statement. He has already sanctified me. I am now in the process of sanctifying myself, internalizing and identifying with the work that God has already done in me.
And that’s a good thing, because tomorrow…tomorrow…tomorrow…
Again, put yourself back in the Israelite camp. Joshua has told you to consecrate yourself because tomorrow God will do wondrous things. We’ll get to the wondrous things in a minute, but first let’s look at the word “tomorrow.” “Tomorrow.” The very word holds such promise. The Israelites have been wondering the desert for forty years, but tomorrow…Wow! Friends, the same is true in our lives. No matter what the past ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, or even seventy or eighty or ninety years have been, tomorrow God can do a new thing. Sanctify yourself because tomorrow holds a new adventure with Him. It might be a continuation of the same adventure, but it is “with God” if you have sanctified yourself! Yes, I’m a bit off message here, but I am so excited about it. Tomorrow God has new mercy, new strength, new blessing, new courage, new power, new love to pour into your life. Tomorrow…
“Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Tomorrow, the Lord will do wonders among you.
Friends, may I encourage you to get as excited about this promise as I have? No, you may not be an Israelite who has wandered through the desert for the past forty years (in fact, I’d bet money on it!), but my guess is that you have been doing some wandering of your own. My guess is that you have dreams that have not yet been fulfilled. Maybe they are dreams that were passed on to you by your parents. Maybe they are dreams God has put in your heart. Dreams are given to us to help us recognize the “more” that God has for us, but if left unfulfilled, it’s easy for those dreams to become the source of your defeat. Instead, God says, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Set yourself apart for God, follow the Ark (which represents the presence of God) and tomorrow He will do amazing things to bring about the fulfillment of those dreams. You set yourself apart, you follow the Ark. He will do the amazing things. Praise God!
20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Are you happy with the way God made you? Or do you long for a better singing voice, or greater organizational skills. Do you wish you had curly hair or straight hair or more hair? In my family, my siblings always thought I had all the brains and I always thought they had all the common sense. None of us were happy with the way God had created us. (Now just for the record, I didn’t get all the brains and they didn’t get all the common sense. I’ve come to understand that as an adult, but childhood images of one’s self can be hard to shed.)
God has created each of us uniquely to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us. He has custom-made us to fill the hole in the universe that He created for us to fill. If we don’t fill it, it will just be a void – a place in time and space that is empty, waiting for the perfect fit to come and fill it.
We have such a tendency to be dissatisfied with ourselves, when what we ought to do is celebrate that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God for His purposes (Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10).
I cannot fulfill God’s purposes for me when I am wishing I were or trying to be someone else. That either makes it really crowded in the space that God’s created for them or makes my space seem ill-fitting. But when I celebrate and grow in the person God has made me to be, my space begins to feel just right for me. In fact, my space probably expands a bit because I fill it so well.
How insidious is this desire to be other than we are! While writing this blog I began to look up a Scripture. It was the Ephesians passage I referenced above. But I didn’t know it was in Ephesians. So I started using the search feature in my Bible software. In the meantime, I asked my husband for help. He immediately gave me the reference I was looking for. The words that came out of my mouth next are the exact opposite of what this blog is about! Aargh! I immediately said, “I wish I could do that.” Well, yes, it would be nice to have the recall of Scripture that my husband has. But God hasn’t wired me that way. I have read and studied Scripture as much as he has. I have applied myself to memorizing it as he has. But unless I continually review those memorized passages they are easily lost from the front of my mind. He, on the other hand, has probably not reviewed Ephesians 2:10 lately. He just learned it once and now he knows it. He just knows where to find whatever it is he is looking for. And the truth is I’m jealous of him because I have to research to find those passages that I already know or once knew. I need to keep a good concordance or search feature nearby. Does that make him smarter than me? No, it just means he was created differently and for different purposes. And instead of wishing I were like him, I want to pursue the place God has uniquely created me for.
There is a flip side to all of this. Just as we ought to celebrate and grow into the person God created us to be, we ought to be very careful to not try to fit anyone else into a slot that God has not created for them. Phil and I served as co-pastors for a short time. We work very well together. Where one of us is strong, the other is weak and vice versa. We submit to one another according to our areas of strengths and God’s leading. During the time that we were pastors, our supervisors tried to force each of us into roles for which we were not created – roles in each of our areas of weakness. It made for an exceedingly difficult experience for all of us. In fact, the affect it had on Phil and I was that it made us feel like failures and doubt the abilities God has given us. We were not, in fact, failures. We were just the proverbial square pegs being required to fill the round holes. Had we been given the freedom to let Phil fill the holes that he was created to fill and me fill the holes that I was created to fill, the needs of the church would have been met as God intended them to be.
When we force someone into a role that God has not designed them to fill, we not only are working against the plan of God for that person’s life, but we are assisting in making them ineffective for the Kingdom of God. As a coach, we ought to look for the best in each person, celebrate it, water it and nurture it.
So this week, my goal is to do just that – in myself and in others. Lord, let me celebrate the woman you have made me to be, trusting that you have created a perfect hole for me to fill. Let me also see others as You see them, celebrate who they are, and encourage them to grow into the person you’ve designed them to be.
I invite you to join me in celebrating God’s creation – you, me and those around us – uniquely created to fulfill God’s purposes.
Our Pastor said something that has stuck in my brain this week. He was describing the frustrating Sunday morning he had had – nothing big, just lots of little things that were starting to annoy him. Pretty soon those little things add up and the annoyance grows and if you’re not careful all that UN-Christ-likeness inside of you spills out on everyone around you. (Well, maybe not you…but that’s how it happens to me.)
In his frustration, he muttered the question “what’s going on here?”
And the very act of asking the question brought enlightenment. It gave him enough of a pause from the earthly frustrations to let His spirit kick in and remind him that what was going on was the enemy trying to arrest his attitude and mood. He saw the day for what it was – a day to worship the Lord (like every day is, of course), a day for allowing God to enable him to rise above the frustrations, a day to serve others as the hands and mouth of the Lord. If he had not asked the question, he would have continued to get ready for church, but his frustrations would have continued, and perhaps even increased. Eventually, they would have “spilled over” onto:
- Spilled over onto the worship team
- Leaked on all those who help prepare for the Sunday morning service
- Creeped into his tone of voice or expression as he delivered the message and prayed.
Eventually, everyone attending that morning service would have been affected by his frustrations. Wow! The enemy sure can get a lot of traction out of a few frustrating annoyances.
You may not be preparing to lead a Sunday morning worship service, but your life is not so very different. When I allow the frustrations or fears of the day to impact me, those frustrations and fears leak out onto my husband, everyone in my office, and everyone I meet during the day. We’ve all experienced it –been waited on by the person who is annoyed about the previous customer in line. Or we’ve waited on someone and their attitude has spilled over onto you. It doesn’t matter which side of any transaction you’re on – if you have allowed the frustrations of the day to seep into your soul, it’s going to spill out on those around you.
I don’t want that to be my legacy. The easiest way to stop the whole process is to ask the question early. “What’s going on here?”
I’m not trying to write an easy-fix-it blog or a pie-in-the sky remedy for difficult circumstances. I’m not even saying that adjusting your attitude is easy after asking and getting the answer to your question. I am saying, however, that if you don’t ask the question, you continue down the negative path and the farther you walk down that path, the farther you have to walk back before you can go down the right path again!
God has been speaking to me a lot about perspective lately – how important it is to look at things from God’s perspective, not mine. That’s another blog for another time…but I know that one of the first steps in keeping the proper perspective is to quickly recognize when I’m drifting. It’s at those times that it is most important to just ask the question!
Because today is a day to worship the Lord, a day for allowing God to enable you to rise above the frustrations, and a day to serve others as the hands and mouth of the Lord.
He does not need to transplant us into a different field, but right where we are, with just the circumstances that surround us, He makes His sun to shine and His dew to fall upon us, and transforms the very things that were before our greatest hindrances into the chiefest and most blessed means of our growth. No difficulties in our case can baffle him. No dwarfing of your growth in years that are past, no apparent dryness of your inward springs of life, no crookedness or deformity in any of your past development, can in the least mar the perfect work that He will accomplish, if you will only put yourselves absolutely into His hands and let Him have His own way with you.
Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911)
Quoted from page 45 of The NIV Worship Study Bible; published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2000 by The Corinthian Group, Inc., Dana Point, CA.
Posted by Sandy in Christian Living, Dr Shane Johnson, Forgiveness, Genesis, God's Love, Gospel Message, joy, Philippians, Resting at the River's Edge, Success, training for spiritual growth, Trials
Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, had a life defined by many things, but as I read through Genesis 37-40 this week, what struck me was the frequency and depth of betrayal that he experienced. Before his death, Joseph became an incredibly blessed man – he experienced reconciliation with his family, extreme professional success, and had great riches. But before any of those things occurred, he endured betrayal after betrayal after betrayal.
As I pondered this a bit, I was reminded that betrayal was a significant factor in Jesus’ life. It was as a result of betrayal that Jesus was arrested, accused and then sentenced to the cross. But it wasn’t just the betrayals of Judas, those at Jesus’ trial, and Pilate that sent Jesus to the cross. It goes way beyond that. The cross was only necessary because we had sinned and needed someone to save us from our sin. We had betrayed the Lord, and our betrayal sentenced Jesus to the cross. I had betrayed the Lord, and my betrayal sentenced Jesus to the cross.
Joseph is Betrayed…Again and Again
But I started out talking about Joseph’s experience with betrayal. Let’s return there. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. OK, while what they did wasn’t right at all, maybe you can understand it. After all, Joseph was the bratty little brother who tattled on them (Genesis 37:2), was spoiled by his father (37:3), and thought he was better than his brothers (37:5-11). So they sold him into slavery.
But Joseph’s other betrayals were fully unprovoked.
- Potiphar’s wife accused him of raping her. He had not.
- Potiphar sent him to prison without giving him a chance to speak the truth.
- The Pharaoh’s cupbearer immediately forgot about Joseph once he was restored to his position of cupbearer.
And yet in each setback, God blessed Joseph. And, in fact, each betrayal led Joseph one step closer to the purpose God had for Joseph’s life. If his brothers had not betrayed him, Joseph would not have been in a position to be accused by Potiphar’s wife. If he had not been accused by Potiphar’s wife, Potiphar would hot have had the opportunity to have him thrown into prison. If Potiphar had not betrayed Joseph, the Cupbearer would not have had the opportunity to forget him until Pharaoh had his dream.
Betrayal – A Part of Life on This Earth
It seems to me that Joseph’s life is not too different from yours and mine. Betrayal is part of the package. It’s part of the package because we live in a sinful world and because we are sinners. All of us. Your best friend is a sinner. Your spouse is a sinner. Your children are sinners. The person you esteem most is a sinner. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. And sin is a betrayal. And if betrayal is in our very nature, we should not be surprised when we are betrayed. It’s part of the package.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting you develop or nurse a pessimistic attitude. “No good deed goes unpunished” is a common sentiment, and one that I hate. I cringe every time I hear it because it reveals a root of pessimism that I believe does not honor God. Because truth, God’s Word, says that good deeds will be rewarded. Yes, we might experience betrayal in this life and our good deed might yield negative consequences for a short time, but our focus isn’t on this world. In the world we ought to be living for (i.e., the Kingdom of heaven), good deeds are blessed.
So Let’s Live for the Kingdom of God
What I am suggesting is that we focus on truth instead of lies. And since betrayal is not truth, since it is perpetrated by the father of lies, perhaps it ought not be our focus. I know that’s not an easy thing to do when you’ve been betrayed. I’ve been betrayed. Badly. It sent me into a tailspin. I understand the emotional damage that betrayal can cause. I admire Joseph for his apparent ability to shake it off quickly and continue to be faithful to do his best in each place he was put. I can’t help but wonder if his earlier dreams of what God had for him sustained him as he was continually pushed down. Scripture doesn’t say that, so we don’t know.
One instruction that Scripture does give us is to think about those things that are true and noble and right, those things that are pure and lovely and admirable, those things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Let’s recognize betrayal for what it is – at the very root of our nature and from the hand of the Enemy. Then let’s turn our focus away from it and toward the One who faced our betrayal by stretching out His arms in love.
A Step Further
In each situation, Joseph continued to be faithful to God. Dr. Shane Johnson’s definition of success is this: “Doing the right thing over an extended period of time.” Notice that the definition doesn’t include anything about income or fame. He leaves the issues of income and fame to God and instead teaches that success is an issue of character. Success for Joseph wasn’t becoming governor of Egypt. His success was in not letting each betrayal keep him from being faithful in whatever position God placed him.
Betrayal is most devastating when it is a violation of trust from the hand of someone whom you have allowed to become close to you. The betrayal from a stranger affects your circumstances but doesn’t pierce your heart. The betrayal of a friend, a family member, or an authority figure has the power to debilitate you unlike that of other betrayals. These betrayals will come into your life, though. Remember, we are all sinful; betrayal is part of our sinful nature. We all have the capability to betray one another. The Enemy wants to use these inevitable betrayals to cause you to build a wall around yourself so that you let no one, not even God Himself, get close enough to hurt you like that again. But Joseph didn’t let the repeated betrayals of these significant people in his life shake his trust in God. He continued to do the right thing over an extended period of time, and that was the secret of his success.
Think Kingdom living and keep at it. That’s what we are called to.
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Posted by Sandy in 2 Kings, Blessed Life, Christian Living, devotions, God's Faithfulness, God's Protection, Humility, prayer, Psalms, Success, Trusting God
When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the Temple of the LORD to pray.
2 Kings 17:1 (NLT)
I love this verse. It is a constant reminder that when things fall apart, the best thing for me to do is humble myself and pray. King Hezekiah had received a report that he was about to be attacked by the Assyrian army – an army that was kicking butt across the region. Israel was next on the list. How could the small nation stand against such an army?
The king of Assyria tried to weakened the Israelites before actually engaging them in battle. He sent messengers before him who:
- Taunted King Hezekiah and the Israelites. He basically said “If you can find 2,000 horsemen in your army, I’ll give you 2,000 Egyptian horses for them to ride and then I’ll still beat you!”
- Challenged their faith by saying “Do you think we’ve invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord Himself told us ‘Go and destroy it!’”
- Destroyed their confidence in their king and God saying directly to the people “Don’t let the king fool you. He’ll never be able to save you from my power. None of the other countries were able to stand against me.”
King Hezekiah heard all this and went into the temple of the Lord to pray.
Lord, make me more like Hezekiah – I want to act with a calm faith in the face of what looks like sure disaster.
In our economy today, many people are listening to the kings of Assyria in their lives. They are hearing and believing that they will come to ruin unless they surrender now. The enemy is whispering in their ears “Who do you think you are that God would deliver you? Don’t you know that I’ve been sent by God to humble you – to punish you or to teach you a lesson? I could give you free housing/car/health insurance (choose your most pressing financial issue) and I’d still drown you in debt before the end of the year. Why will your God deliver you?”
The answer is He will deliver us because He is our deliverer. He will deliver us because we belong to Him. Husbands don’t let their wives be taken captive. Jesus Christ is the bridegroom of the Church – He is our husband.
But let’s respond correctly. Let’s choose to believe our God instead of foreign kings and let’s humble ourselves and pray.
I’m not making economic predictions. I have no idea if the economy will turn around in January or March or March of 2020. But I know that my deliverance comes from the Lord and is not dependent on the economy. My deliverance is not dependent on my own ability to work hard or to make money, it’s not dependent on being at the right place at the right time, and it’s not dependent on the amount of faith I have. It is dependent on God’s mercy and grace and His mighty power.
Where do you choose to place your trust – in the economy or in God’s mercy and power? Who do you choose to believe – enemy kings or the King of Kings?
How you approach 2009 depends on where your trust lies. If your trust is in God’s mercy and power, you can face the new year with confidence, not despair. Place your trust in the King of Kings. He is the faithful provider, not dependent upon the whims of the economy. Strengthen that trust by visiting with Him regularly in prayer and by reading in the Bible about His nature and His history of faithfulness.
As an aside, let me give you something to think about. I’m going to be providing a plan for read through the Bible in 2009 along with weekly encouragements and blogs that correspond to the readings. Don’t be intimidated by it! You can read throught the Bible by reading about 3.2 chapters each day. For now, just be open to the idea. You’ll learn more about the plan in a day or two.
As I was writing this blog, a favorite verse came to mind:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
I wasn’t sure of the wording or the reference, so I looked it up. I found it in the middle of this wonderful prayer that seems a perfect ending to this blog. It is my prayer for you as we look toward 2009.
1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9 O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call!
Psalm 20 (NIV)
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I’ve spent almost the last hour looking for a quote. It’s a really good quote, but I can’t find it. So I’m going to paraphrase it…”The best thing for a dull mind is to break up the routine.” Now that’s not original, The original was much more eloquent. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said it, either. I’m guessing A.W. Tozer or C.S. Lewis. Oh well please pretend it’s eloquent and properly cited. (If anyone can find the real quote, I’d be much abliged to you if you were to pass the info on to me.)
Everyone…yes, EVERYONE, has a routine that provides structure to their lives. For some, the routine is easily recognizable and looks (from the outside) very constricting. For others, it may appear that there’s nothing but haphazardness about someone’s life…but upon close inspection, one will find a routine, even if it’s only the routine of sleeping and waking with an obvious eschewing of any routine in between. Even the eschewing of routine is a form of routine that provides structure to the person’s life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about routine lately because Phil has a new job and it’s messing with our routines. It’s a part time job — 20 hours a week — but different hours every week and at least so far it’s been constantly changing. We’re told that it will repeat, but in the 2 months he’s been there that’s not proven to be the case. This new non-routine has caused many of the things that have defined who we are as a couple no longer exist. I’m sure that sounds overstated, but it’s certainly how it feels. (I guess this is where I lecture myself on truth vs. perceptions — perception is NOT reality — truth is reality…but that’s a topic for another blog.) You see, as a couple, we had routines related to when we woke up, when we ate, when we worked, when we played and when we “talked about our day.” Now that’s all jumbled up.
Phil’s new job isn’t the only thing prompting these wonderings about routine. When my dad died, I felt as if all of my internal structures has been shattered. It both made sense and it made no sense. It made no sense because I hadn’t actually depended on Dad for anything over the past 20 years or more (except perhaps the occasional advice…which I usually didn’t follow anyway). Yet it made sense because something that had been truth for 51 years, suddenly, on the first day of my 52nd year of life was no longer true. My dad had existed, had been alive…now he isn’t. And truth isn’t supposed to change. And the internal structure that had existed because of that fact had been shattered. Weird.
So I’m meditating a bit on the subject of “routine.” Routine provides structure for our lives. Yet occasionally it must be jumbled up a bit to bring us out of the slumber it nurtures. A.W. Tozer recognized this when he wrote “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth” (The Pursuit of God: p. 17).
Undoubtedly, God is a God of routine and structure. He created a world with day and night, high tide and low tide, summer and winter. Yet He recognizes our sinful tendency to not appreciate that which we have and to become self-absorbed when we’re not absorbed with something greater than ourselves. So He built into our lives seasons that jumble up the routines — seasons of mourning and seaons of joy, seasons of success and seasons of failure.
We like to pretend that we should always be at the top of our game, or at least nearing the top with the top just another step or two ahead of us. But that’s not consistent with Scripture — either the teaching or the experience documented in Scripture. “To everything there is a season” Ecclesiastes tells us. Part of “everything” is joy AND sadness, success AND failure.
Enough rambling! Suffice it to say that God has been jumbling my routines. From what I read in other blogs and from what I hear talking to others, I’m not alone. Here’s to God doing NEW things in our lives — yours and mine. May we all be open to them.
Comment by dansdesk
Good thoughts! I’m not saying this about you but I wonder how often God shakes up my routine because it’s a “bad” routine!
Thursday July 19, 2007 – 04:16pm (EDT)
Response by Sandyhov
I’m absolutely positive (for me, not you) that it’s sometimes shaken because it’s a “bad” routine. This current shaking is a prime example. There were many reasons for Phil taking the part-time job at the hospital, but part of it was that we just came to a point where after almost 20 years in business it was a bit unhealthy for Phil & I to be working together at Data Designs as we were. We needed more outside interaction. He needed to be around people more. Yes, God’s shaking is scary but good.
Monday July 30, 2007 – 09:21pm (EDT)