Idols are falling all around us, and the temptation is there to create new ones instead of turning to the one true God. Some of our idols are education, vanity, sports, pleasure, consumerism, money, our jobs, and even church programs just to name a few. The schools, beauty parlors, sports organizations, restaurants, cruise ships, retail stores, and Disney World are closing. Jobs are telling people to work from home, and the market is not looking too hot right now. The things we have put our trust in and run to for comfort and security are being cancelled, they are failing us. Let me just say that these things are not evil in and of themselves, but when they take first place in our lives, then we have crossed over into idol worship. We have sacrificed so much on the altar of the aforementioned, mainly our relationship with God. He tells us in Exodus 20:1 that we are not to have any other Gods but Him. And now He has our attention, how are we responding? Instead of running to God, many are busy creating new idols, finding other things to sit on the throne of our hearts.
Some of us told God we would spend more time with Him if that time were available. What are we doing with the time we now have since so many things are cancelled and inaccessible? Does our current use of time prove that we were lying, that we were just offering lip service, and telling God what we thought He wanted to hear. Times of difficulty helps to reveal our motives. How long will our hearts be hardened, how long will we resist God, how hard does it have to get for us to give God what He deserves; our life, our surrender! While many things are being cancelled, let us not CANCEL OUR PURSUIT OF GOD! He is a firm foundation and the only sure thing in these times of uncertainty.
The scripture lets us know in John 7:30 that even though Jesus ruffled the feathers of the religious leaders and they hated him, they couldn’t kill Him before His time! Jesus clarifies that He did not come to earth for his own selfish agenda. He came because the Father sent Him to fulfill His will (John 7:28-29). Obedience to the Father kept Jesus from dying a premature death. Yes they ridiculed Him, yes they hated Him, yes He suffered, but they COULD NOT KILL HIM BEFORE HIS TIME and God’s purpose for His life fulfilled!
What a word for us today when the fear of death has gripped many! It’s easy for us to back away from doing the will of God because we fear death. We don’t have to allow the fear of death to grip us, because like Jesus, if we are walking in obedience to God we will not die prematurely. Additionally, if doing the will of God and acting in complete obedience leads to death, then it was our hour, it was our time to go. The catch to all of this is that because we hate loss, we view most deaths as being premature. This is where we need to have our mind renewed and ask God to give us a spiritual perspective. Jesus died in His early 30s while you have Anna, also a faithful servant of the Lord in Luke 2:33-38 who was still alive at 84. It’s easy to assume that our number of years here on earth determines if we have died a premature death but that’s not the case in God’s economy. The question is not about how many years God give us on this earth, but more about what we do with the years given. Have we fulfilled our God given purpose? Is our focus on bringing glory to ourselves and amass as much praise from man as possible. Or, are we like Jesus and focused on using our life to accomplish God’s purpose and bring Him glory?
Let us not abandon God’s plans for our lives because we fear death. Instead, let us pray to walk in full obedience and embrace the fact that God knows when our hour will come. Our job is not to figure out when will die. Our focus should be on obeying the will of God until we breathe our last breath-whenever that may be!
I declare that in my almost 42 years of life; I have experienced nothing like what is going on. The coronavirus has incited fear in so many and people are falling apart at the seams. I believe it is wise to exercise caution and abide by the safety guidelines prescribed. However, we as believers must understand that we play by a different set of rules when chaos strikes, Philippians 4:6-8 reminds us we are not to worry about anything, but we are to pray about everything. We have placed our trust in God, so we should not buckle at the knee because of fear. Watching the news and reading the reports on social media can cause us to forget that our God is sovereign, He is in control. Perhaps fear has arrested you, and you want to be free. The antidote is the word of God. We must meditate more on the word than we do on the news. He promises in Isaiah 26:3 that He will keep us in perfect peace if we keep our minds on Him. We must abide in Him. Not only are we to get in the word, but we are also to obey it as instructed in Joshua 1:8. I unlock the power of the word through my obedience. It’s not enough to just say it, I must do it! I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that it is wise to make it a habit to get in the word, not just when chaos strike but even in times of peace. Because when chaos strike, and the word is already in us, it helps to give us the proper response; the word prepares us for war. It is our weapon! We are in a war and it is time to pick up our weapon and use it skillfully!
Most love the idea of going to heaven. However, few will live a life that reflects that. If we can’t live for Him now, what makes us think we would want to live in His unveiled presence forever? If we worship everything else BUT God, here on earth, what makes us think we would want to worship Him forever?
Contrary to popular opinion, regular church attendance, saying I believe in God, good deeds or spiritual acts are NOT GUARENTEES that I will go to heaven. Read Mathew 7:21-23 for a sobering dose of this truth. According to Galatians 5:19-21, I can’t live a life fulfilling my carnal desires and expect to inherit eternal life. While many of us may have operated in the areas listed in Galatians 5:19-21, we can take heart in knowing that if we have sincerely repented then our past sins does not disqualify us from going to heaven. Thank God for the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if any man is in Christ, He is a new creature, old things are passed away and behold all things have become new.
According to the word of God, who exactly makes it in? Is it the one with a perfect tract record and who never messes up. No, not at all. It would disqualify all of us if that were the case. Instead, the scripture lets us know that the one who first believes God is who He says He is, repents of their sin and bares fruit worthy of repentance are the ones to inherit eternal life. Our fruit (the way we live our lives and matters of our hearts) is what confirms that we have truly repented and that we truly believe in God and that it is not just lip service. If we have repented and believe God is who He says He is, this does not mean that we won’t ever make mistakes. It means that we don’t practice sin and when we mess up; we are quick to run to God to get it right; not because of the consequences but because we love Him and want to please Him. Yes, I want to go to heaven and by the grace of God I want my heart and consequently my actions to match that desire. How about you?
In Genesis 16, Hagar ran away after being mistreated by her master Sarai. Out in the desert, the desolate place, the angel of the Lord visits her. This visitation encouraged Hagar and in Genesis 16:13, she responds by saying, “I have now seen the one who sees me.”
God is the God who sees. This seeing is not referring to Him sitting in heaven and just staring at us. It is not passive, it’s a seeing filled with action. We spend our time trying to get others to see us and forget that we are already seen by the true and living God. He not only sees, but He responds.
He sees when we pray in private and He rewards us. (Mathew 6:6)
He sees the weeping we do at night but turns our situation around and gives us joy in the morning! (Psalm 30:5).
He sees when the enemy is coming in like a flood in our life, but He responds by lifting up a standard against the enemy. (Isaiah 59:19)
He sees how we sow in tears, but he causes us to reap with songs of joy! (Psalm 126:5)
He sees us hiding like Gideon was because we don’t know who we really are in Him. He sees that the enemy has bullied us long enough and pushed us into hiding. Fear has robbed us of our purpose. He sees that we focus on our weaknesses and have made that our identity. He sees where we are, but He also sees who He made us to be and He calls us by our right name!
When all is well, it’s easy for me to take my gaze off of the one who sees me; it’s easy to set my sight on other things. Often, it’s my afflictions and desperation that causes me to see the one who sees me. There is something about having my back against the wall that makes me look to God. The dark causes me to search for the light.
As we come to the end of another year, perhaps you have not seen the fulfillment of what God spoke to you. We put our own timeline on when the word should come to pass and when it doesn’t happen when we expect it to; we become discouraged. Our impatience makes us feel forgotten by God and we shed tears while asking, “Do you see me, God?” God absolutely sees you, and in His perfect timing, He will respond!
As of late, God has been challenging me through others on my incorrect and even limited understanding of certain scriptures. It has been uncomfortable but good! We need tension for growth to take place. As believers, we don’t know it all and there are always opportunities for growth. It takes humility to sit and listen and allow the Lord to use others to challenge us to consider a different perspective from what we hold to be true or to add to what we already know. It’s unfortunate when we always want to be the teacher and not the student. We assume we know it all and are not open to being challenged. Acts 18:24-28 tells of Apollos and him being willing to learn from Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos loved the Lord. He was a very intelligent and well-spoken man. He taught the truth he knew with fervency, but he had a limited understanding because he knew only the baptism of John. Acts 18: 26 says, “when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Apollos accepted the invitation to learn more. What humility! Great growth came because of his humility and God used him to continue preaching the gospel with an even greater understanding. What an example for us as believers to follow.
It is necessary to offer a word of caution on our willingness to allow others to teach us. We must always pray and ask the Lord to help us discern if what is being taught is true before we receive it! There are many that teach error and the tradition of men. What they share satisfies itching ears and appeals to our flesh and it is easy for us to abandon what we know to be the truth and pursue a watered-down gospel. Allow the spirit of truth that lives in you to help you discern what teachings to receive. I close with the words of Philippians 1:9, “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”