How To Win All Of Life’s Battles

prayer, praise, worship, 2 Chronicles 20It seems to be the case lately that God is taking me on a journey of discovery in His word.  Several times in recent memory I have been reading a Sunday School lesson or studying for a blog post when a verse or group of verses will seem to leap right off of the page and into my heart and mind, grabbing my attention and imprinting a vital truth in the process.

This seems to happen in spurts and although I don’t know exactly why it works that way, I just do my best to listen and to learn.  These teachable moments sponsored by the Holy Spirit are precious to me and I hope that they continue throughout this lifetime and in to the next one.

That being said, I believe that God works and reveals Himself to us in unique and individual ways just as we are all unique and individual.  Such “inspirational” moments may not happen to you in the same way but I do believe that, based on the promises in the Bible, reading, studying and meditating on the good book will cause us to change for the better.  We truly have all of the resources we need in God’s word provided to us by the Holy Spirit and that includes help in all of life’s battles.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we see a glimpse into the life of King Jehoshaphat as the Ammonites, Moabites and inhabitants of Mount Seir arrayed themselves against God’s people.  To really get the full picture of what is transpiring here you should read all of 2 Chronicles 20 but focusing in on the following verses we see something really amazing happen.

 18Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

Jehoshaphat knew that a battle was coming.  He knew the enemy was coming against him and he didn’t run from it or try to hide from it.  He faced it in the best way possible.

 Notice in verse 18 of chapter 20 that the first thing he did was fall on his face before God.  He called all of the people together and as one body they fell on their faces and worshiped the Lord.  After praying and worshiping he encouraged his people to have faith in God (verse 20) and then he did a very curious thing (verse 21).  He put the choir out in front of the army!  And of course you can read the result of this unorthodox battle strategy: the enemy turned on each other and was utterly routed in defeat.

Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel were victorious because they let God fight and win the battle for them.  They were careful to call on His name in faith and then they trusted God to see them through.  They began with prayer and worship and then praised God to begin the battle.  And on hearing the praise of the true and living God the enemy was defeated.

For me, this was a powerful and meaningful lesson from the Lord on how to fight and win the battles that I face in life.  That doesn’t mean that I will always understand every outcome or that things will always go my way but that as long as I am trusting the Lord and fighting with worship and praise then the result of the battle will surely belong to the Lord.

Fighting our battles with prayer, worship and praise as a three pronged strategy is a tried and tested method straight from God’s word to us.  It is a strategy that I have implemented lately to wonderful results and I would encourage you to do the same.

Among The Highly Favored

highly favored, salvation, BibleI’ve mentioned Sean Hyman on this blog before.  He is a former pastor who has gone on to become a financial advisor with a focus on teaching Biblical principles for money management and investing.  Sean’s book, Six Keys to Financial Success, has been reviewed on this site previously.  If you haven’t already read that review, I would highly recommend checking it out and then picking up a copy of the book.  You can find that review here.

Watching one of Mr. Hyman’s video updates recently, he said something that I think needs to be shared and expanded on.  He said, “I try to show people a way to think and handle their resources in a way that makes them highly favored because they are following Biblical instruction and teaching”.  Those were not the exact words, but he did use the phrase “highly favored” in regards to following Biblical teaching and that stuck with me.

First of all, do we realize that if we are saved children of God, we are already highly favored?  If God has seen fit to call us out of sin and darkness and redeem us with the blood of Jesus unto eternal salvation, then what an amazing position we occupy!  In both Psalm 17:8 and Zechariah 2:8, we are referred to as “the apple of His eye”.  God truly loves and adores His children and stores up amazing blessings for those who are His.  Often times, I don’t think we realize how blessed we are just by being saved and redeemed.

And even though our salvation and eternal life is an unsurpassed gift, God’s favor for His children doesn’t stop there.  He has also given us the gift of His spirit, in our hearts, to live and reside with us during our time here on this earth.  We are free to commune with the Spirit of God and to spend time in His presence and are encouraged to do so by His Word.  The results of which are peace, joy and abundant love that lasts despite our circumstances and remains strong even in the midst of life’s trials.  God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts assures us of His never ending, never changing love for us.

But that’s not all.  The Bible is full of God’s teaching and wisdom which, if we will read and apply it, will cause us to live lives that are highly favored and blessed beyond measure.  Being saved is wonderful and fantastic but if that salvation is accompanied by ignorance of God’s Word and His teaching then we will not live the kind of lives that God would have us to live and we run the risk of doing more harm than good in this world.  We as Christians have a responsibility to know what God says and then to live out His instruction so that we may be good examples to all who know us.

We have a choice to make.  Do we choose to think and act in such a way that allows God to bless us and through us, bless others?  Do we desire to live a life that is highly favored because we are doing what God says and are therefore receiving every gift that is ours to claim?  Or are we simply content with our salvation, just trying to muddle through until our time on earth is over and the Lord calls us home?

I would hope that we see our salvation as the precious gift that it is but that we also see it as a starting point for real growth and the beginning of an amazing life.  I believe that God intends salvation to be built on like a foundation, not sat on like a piece of furniture that never changes.  God desires to take us on a journey towards Him and His heart and we can’t do it by sitting still or choosing to remain as we are.  God’s favor and blessings for your life can grow, but do you want them to?

 

The Most Important Peace

Psalm 34:11-14, peace, repentance, confessionThe correct understanding and application of scripture is of vital importance.  God’s Word is literally life and wisdom incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ.  When we seek to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and to go deeper into the study of the Word then we are really seeking to grow our relationship with Jesus.  And that is an endeavor that will always be worthwhile and eternally profitable.

As we discussed Psalm 34:19 last week I mentioned that the entire chapter was worth careful study and contains wonderful wisdom and encouragement for the believer.  As I originally read through and studied Psalm 34 I completely misunderstood verse 14 and it is that verse (with a few more) that we will be looking at this time.

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:11-14

In verses 11 through 13 we have an invitation to listen to the speaker as he imparts Godly wisdom to us.  If we heed his instruction then we will learn to fear (respect and admire) the God of eternity who is our creator.  His follow-up questions to this bold statement are good ones.  Do we desire life?  Do we truly want to see “good” during our time on earth?

If so, we must learn to tame our tongues and ultimately depart from evil and towards good.  Sounds simple but we know, because of human nature, it really isn’t.  Choosing to do good and seek a relationship with God while denying that fallen human nature can only be accomplished with God’s help and through God’s grace.

But what about that very last line of verse 14?  “Seek peace and pursue it”.  At first glance, this bit of instruction seems to come out of left field.  Thus far the speaker has been talking about personal behavior and that which comes from within.  If we take “peace” to mean the absence of conflict and violence then that would seem to point more towards our outward behavior towards others.  And initially, that is exactly how I read and understood verse 14.  But what if the speaker is talking about a different kind of peace?  What if he means inner peace that comes only from being in right relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ?

See, the only way any of us can truly be at peace is when we know our sins have been forgiven and we are walking in the light of His love.  And when we sin against Him and do not confess our sins it creates inner conflict and we are doing the opposite of verse 14.  To “seek peace and pursue it” is to make confession and repentance a priority!

Once I understood what verse 14 was really saying it really connected the entire thought from verse 11 all the way through verse 14.  And because of my initial misunderstanding of verse 14 I almost missed a powerful and life changing truth from God’s Word.  (Thank God that He led me to the commentary of Charles H Spurgeon who’s work inspired me to write this and to share what I had learned!)

Ultimately, the most important peace is the peace of God in our hearts and that peace will guard our hearts and minds no matter what this life might bring against us.  It is one of God’s most amazing gifts to us but it is an easy gift to miss if we don’t make it a priority and continually seek after it.

When the Righteous are Afflicted

Psalm 34:19, David, prayer, praiseLife is not easy.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  Striving to live a Godly life is not easy.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is very difficult indeed.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is coming against us.  As if every obstacle that could possibly appear has launched a coordinated attack on us, all at once.  I can assure you, this is not by accident.  We have an enemy that is in opposition to God and all that is good.

And when we visibly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ and try to stand up for good then we have drawn a line in the sand and planted a flag of battle that the enemy can’t help but see.  As we strive for good the enemy will come against us and will seek any and every way to afflict us, discourage us and try to get us to leave the fight.  (As an aside, I think it’s important to note that evil has no real power over the redeemed child of God.  God holds the lives and souls of the redeemed in His hands and nothing can ever pluck them out or change their ultimate destiny.  God is always sovereign no matter what it might feel like at the time!)

King David, one of my favorite Biblical heroes, knew affliction firsthand.  He had enemies that wanted to kill him from both outside his country and inside his own family.  He struggled with doing the right thing and with his own faith even while trying to lead a country and be true to God and what he knew was right.

In Psalm 34, David speaks about affliction but he also talks about the victory that we have in God alone.  When you have a few minutes you should read the whole chapter.  It isn’t very long but I promise you that it can change your outlook for the better if you read it and let it really soak in to your heart.

Here’s the verse that is the key idea for today:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.  Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)

What a statement!  What a promise!  If can’t help but get a little bit ecstatic when I read it.  Yes, David says, we will be afflicted.  And not just a little bit.  Our afflictions and our trials will be many.  There will be a multitude of things that come against us and no it won’t be easy to be in the midst of the turbulence.  But!  But!  The Lord delivers the righteous out of ALL of his afflictions!  Not just some.  Not just one every now and then.  Every single time we encounter trouble we are promised victory and the power to overcome simply because the Lord has declared it to be so.

You might have many troubles.  And some days it might feel like there is no end in sight and no victory could possibly come from what you are facing.  But take heart, Child of God.  You are not forgotten and God is not a liar.  He has declared that He will deliver you out of that trial and that someday, perhaps soon, your current affliction will be no more.

And when that day arrives you will know that God has delivered you and you can voice your praises to Him and tell others how God won the victory in your life.  This is what happens when the redeemed gather together and tell their stories of redemption!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:1-3) NKJV

The Heart of the Gospel

relationships, peacemaker, God's loveIt matters how we treat each other.  Our behavior towards our friends and enemies alike is of great interest to our Heavenly Father.  God commands us to love one another and to show kindness and compassion even to those who call themselves our enemies.  Not an easy thing to do!

I think most of us who call ourselves Christians understand this on an intellectual level but I wonder if we have really taken it to heart.  Do we understand why God commands us to love one another and what our motivations should be when we interact with others?

The heart of the gospel is God reaching out and showing His awesome love to mankind.  The word gospel literally means “good news” and to a creation that is lost in enslavement to sin and corruption, God’s redeeming love is the best news possible.  God wants all the world to know, every single man, woman and child, how much he loves them and how much he desires a relationship with them.

God loves us in spite of our fallen state.  He loves us and seeks us even when we are at our worst.  God’s love is consistent despite our attitudes or actions and no sin of ours can ever stop God from loving us and seeking us.  And so it should be with us and how we treat those around us.  Simply put, when we show love, compassion and mercy to others we are showing forth Godly attributes that points people towards Him.  However, when we fail to show love and instead respond with an attitude of complaint, aggression, superiority, judgement or self-seeking we put the focus squarely on ourselves and do not show God through our actions.

Remember what Jesus said was the most important commandment?

 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

 

Jesus thought our treatment of one another was important enough to include in what we know as “The greatest commandment”.  Loving God first and foremost and then out of that relationship, loving others unconditionally is the cornerstone of the Bible.  And lest we think that was a new idea first presented in the New Testament we can go all the way back to the book of Exodus to see something very similar.

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.  Exodus 23:5-6 (NASB)

This passage from Exodus is in the midst of several chapters of instructions that God gave directly to His people on how to treat each other and how they should act.  Notice verses 5 and 6 above that specifically talk about how we should treat those who call themselves our enemy or even those who hate us.  We are to actively seek to help and render aid whenever and wherever we can.

I think it’s interesting that verse 5 talks about a donkey or ox that has wandered away, meaning a lost possession that would be nonetheless important to him who lost it.  If we were to come upon such an item most of us would think that there would be no harm or foul in simply going on about our business and hoping that things turn out ok.  After all, we didn’t take the item and we didn’t cause it to become lost, right?  But God says specifically to take the initiative in returning that thing to him who lost it and by our action, show love and concern.  Why?  Because it’s what God does for us all the time!

God is not miserly or stingy with his love and blessings on us and neither should we be with each other.  If we have an opportunity to serve someone and be of help to them then it is our God given duty and privilege to do so.

Danger Ahead! Too Much Sand, Not Enough Rock

prayer, worship, bible studyDo you ever find it difficult to sit still, put your body at rest and lift your heart and mind up to God in earnest prayer?  I know I do!  It seems our natural inclination these days is to go, go, go and to fill our days with activities and tasks that need to be completed.  We have digital calendars and address books, Facebook reminders, friend requests, email that needs to be read and a million other things that vie for our attention.

Our jobs, our families, our hobbies and even our churches; these are good things and gifts from the Lord.  We have a responsibility to love and care for those around us, especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is absolutely a God-given duty, and not to be taken lightly.

But what about God?  Where does He fit?  He who is high and lifted up, the creator and the one who sustains it all.  He has such great love for us that He gave His only son to go and die a cruel and horrible death on a Roman cross just so we could be redeemed and have the opportunity for salvation and eternal life.  If He is our savior then He must be first.  And for Him to be first we must abide with Him through prayer and through time spent in Bible study and meditation on Him and His word.

This is a lesson that I am still learning but when I am successful in putting it into practice I am always blessed and always amazed at what the Lord can do in my life.  One of the most wonderful truths of God’s love for us is that He desires to work in us, through us and along side of us, if we will allow it.  The all powerful God who needs nothing chooses imperfect vessels such as you and I to carry out His work and to show His love.  If we allow that to happen then there is such great joy and great blessing that is poured out on us and through us!

But before we can be used, we must be connected.  And to be connected we have to train ourselves to slow down and to listen.  We must listen for His still small voice as we lift our hearts and minds in prayer and we must learn to be still and to know that He is God.  We need His Word, the Bible, foremost in our thoughts and His truths written on our hearts so that we might not sin against Him and so that we might be well equipped to serve as His hands and His feet.

This is a process.  It does not happen overnight.  It requires care and attention, focus and effort.  But the rewards are eternal and marvelous, both for us and for those touched by God working through us.

Whatever else might be happening in your life right now, however big or small it might seem, it doesn’t matter as much as the call to pray, to worship and to be still before God.  Be right with Him and He will take care of all else.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,  may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

Embracing Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9, grace, weaknessIs it ok to be weak?  And if so, is it ok if we are perceived as weak by those watching us?  It is something that has been on my mind lately and while I don’t have all of the answers I do believe that God’s Word has some things to say about the idea of weakness.

Before we look to God’s Word I think it is important that we define weakness.  For the purposes of this blog post weakness will be defined as “unable to accomplish something or not having the necessary resources to do something in our own strength or under or own power”.  Think of an old-fashioned steam locomotive travelling up a long incline and not having enough fuel (coal, wood or oil, generally)  to reach the top.  The train slows and then is at risk of stopping and going backwards unless more fuel is found to power up the steam engine.

With that definition in mind, let’s ask our original question again:  Is it ok to be weak and is it ok if we are perceived as weak by those who are watching us?  The answer is absolutely yes, on both accounts!

Why is this?  Because despite what the world and society tells us, self-sufficiency is a lie.  In the temporal realm even the strongest of us is vulnerable to disease, to injury, to mental and physical deterioration and eventually, to death.  Spiritually speaking, without divine intervention, we are in even worse shape.  Because of Sin we are all born spiritually dead and without the washing and regeneration provided by the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation we are all bound for eternal separation from God in a place called Hell.  In other words, to rely completely on self in this life is to face death alone while headed straight for Hell.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything worse than that!

Perhaps we need to rephrase our original question at this point.  Based on this discussion it would seem that in actuality, everyone is weak but some do not choose to acknowledge it and in fact do everything in their power to hide it.  Maybe what we should be asking is, “Is it ok for me to acknowledge my weakness and to not try to hide it or pretend like it doesn’t exist?”  The answer is still “yes” but by rephrasing the question like this I believe we get a little bit closer to God’s truth about our self-sufficiency or lack thereof.

In the spiritual realm, unless we come to the place where we acknowledge our weakness and inability to save ourselves then we will never turn to God and ask Him for His salvation.  Once we’ve done that we can also begin to take God’s point of view about our physical bodies and mental capacity and see that no matter how physically fit or intelligent we might be, we are a long, long way from being perfect and from being like God intended us to be.

The Apostle Paul, looking as it his own condition stated: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)    Paul, who was responsible for writing most of what we call the New Testament and was a missionary to so many people in the early church was still able to realistically see himself for what he was; a sinner, saved by grace.  When he prayed to God about it the Lord answered Him and he recorded that answer in 2 Corinthians 2:9.  For Paul, his weakness was an opportunity for the power of Christ to show through him and so it is with us today.

 

I believe that anyone who spends any amount of time with us or who knows us on more than just a passing basis should see that we attribute our hope and strength to the Lord.  The people around us should know that our provision comes from God and that only by His grace are we able to stand.  Our own strength should not be what shows forth when people look on us from the outside and our attitude should be “less about me and more about Jesus”.

This is a difficult concept.  Making our lives about something other than ourselves is not in our nature.  Even when we get to the place where we acknowledge that we need a savior and begin to understand how utterly non self-sufficient we actually are it can be a long time before we begin to show forth Jesus to others.  If this is where you are right now then I would say to you don’t give up and don’t stop striving.  Spiritual maturity takes time and effort but comes with the absolute best reward possible; constant fellowship with the Heavenly Father who loves us so very much.

As for me, I’m still learning to embrace my weakness.  The various problems and trials that I face seem to be mystifying at times but they do keep me on my knees asking the Lord for deliverance and for strength. And if that’s what it takes for the power of Christ to rest upon me then so be it, let them come.

Vision and Perspective for the Year Ahead

vision, perspective, Romans 5:20Believe it or not, we have almost completed one full month in the new year.  One twelfth of the allotted time for this calendar year is nearly gone even though it feels like we just finished putting away the Christmas decorations.  The hours and days continue to move forward at what seems to be a faster and faster rate and I have to wonder what the rest of the year will bring.

Am I ready for what God has in store for me?  Do I have the vision to stay the course that God has laid out for me and the perspective to know where I fit in to His grand design?

Vision and perspective.  I’ve been thinking a lot about those two words lately and how they relate to this new year.  Taken individually, vision (or a vision) can be thought of as direction, inspiration and a goal or goals.  Setting goals according to worldly desires and ideas can lead to short term gain but is not of eternal significance.  Letting God give us a vision and inspiration for our future path and then setting goals based on that is always going to lead to eternal and everlasting reward.

We can and should pray for a God-given vision and inspiration for the future.  This is the starting point for an amazing journey of faith and whatever that vision from God happens to be it will be personally significant and tailored for each of us individually.

What about perspective?  How does it relate?

Proper perspective helps to keep us humble and to honor God with everything that we have.  We may have a grand vision that God has given us but if we allow our perspective to change (and because of our human nature our perspective will change for the worse unless we work to maintain it through the power of the Holy Spirit) then we will not be able to move forward towards our goals in a way that would please God and bless others.

This is especially dangerous for anyone in a ministry position and is the cause of so many troubles in our churches today.  We’ve been called to teach, to pray, to serve, to preach, to lead and we may start out with the best intentions but because we aren’t taking our daily walk with God seriously and aren’t guarding our hearts and lives from the evil one our perspective shifts away from God and towards something else.  And once that happens, sin inevitably follows and there are always consequences for sin.

The truly great news is this: where sin abounds, grace abounds more!  God’s grace is always greater than any sin that we can commit and His forgiveness and mercy are ready for every person who repents and turns away from their sin and towards Him.

Right now, while we still have time and most of the year in front of us let us recommit to following God’s vision and keeping our perspective aligned with His.  More lives than ours depend on what we decide to do today.

God’s Provision for a New Year

provision, Philippians 4, faithLast year is over.  A new year has begun.  While making New Year’s Resolutions might be the popular thing to do, as God’s people we are assured that we don’t have to wait until a new year in order to turn over a new leaf.  God says “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and God’s help and provision are always present tense and available right now to all who would receive.

Maybe last year wasn’t a good year for us.  Maybe there were circumstances that brought pain and sorrow or perhaps we found ourselves in a place of regret over mistakes that were made.  Maybe we began this new year with a hope for something better but without a concrete plan for positive change.

I’m here to tell you, God has what you need.  In his letter to the church at Philipi, Paul offered encouragement and Godly wisdom which is still applicable to us today and can completely transform our lives if we will put it in to practice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB)

Thankfulness in all things and in all circumstances is the first step.  No matter what’s happening and no matter how we feel at the moment, we can express our thanks to God.  Not that all things are good or desirable, but that God Himself is always worthy of our thanks and that His salvation and Spirit sustains us even in the midst of the darkest days.  And with that thankful heart we are then in a perfect position to offer up our prayers and requests to God who is able to provide for all of our needs.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Once we have decided to be thankful (and it is a conscious decision that we must make) and offered up our earnest prayers to God, then God Himself will provide an incredible peace which is able to do a miraculous thing for us.  God’s peace will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”!  This is a wonderful promise because a heart and mind that is guarded by God’s peace is one that is not easily moved or swayed by the evil of this world and can begin to be a light for others.  In other words, this is the foundation for a vital and growing faith that we must exercise and put to daily use.

Ultimately it is God who controls our circumstances and much of what happens around us is outside of our ability to change.  What is possible and expected of us is to become all that God would have us to be by putting His word into practice.  We must trust God with our lives and with our needs and most importantly, with our hearts and minds.  There is no blessing that God will withhold from the one who is completely surrendered to Him and there is no power in this world that can overcome those that are committed to doing His will.

An Opportunity For Mercy

mercy, grace. ChristmasMy family deals with a local business for goods and services a couple of times a year.  We’ve enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement for many years now and we’ve gotten to the point where we are on a first name basis with most of the staff.  This business relationship has gotten more personal as we’ve gotten to know each other and my trust in them has grown as they have proven themselves over the years.

But now, for the first time, we’ve run into a problem.  The single largest order that I have ever made with them for a part seems to be stuck in limbo.  Because they are a successful business they are in the middle of an expansion project and it seems like during their office move some records got misplaced and no one is quite sure if my part has arrived or where it might be.

If this was just a simple order and pay for it later type of thing then it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But because of the special nature of the part and the customization it required we were required to pay up front at the time the order was placed.  We were told it would take around two weeks.  It has now been more than a month due to the complications with the move.

I spoke with someone in the office recently and it seemed like the move and expansion was still under way.  And because it is now the end of the year and the Holidays are upon us, it may be sometime after the first of the year before they are able to deliver the part.  What should have taken two weeks will probably end up taking over two months.

I’ve been tempted to complain to the owner and make a bit of a fuss.  As a consumer it would be within my rights to do so.  But as soon as I had the urge a thought popped in to my head.  The thought was “well, here’s an opportunity for mercy”.  I can assure you this thought did not originate in my flesh.  My flesh knows only selfishness and the concepts of grace and mercy can only come from the Father through the Spirit.

Despite the fact that I could claim my right to ask for my money back or take my business elsewhere or even complain in any number of different ways the Holy Spirit has prompted me not to do so and to be patient.  And in doing so, I am reminded of what God did for me and for all mankind.  I am reminded that we celebrate Christmas because God had an opportunity for mercy and sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins and be the savior of the world.  I am reminded that God is patient with us despite our failings and our weakness.

In the end, as a child of God, I choose to forfeit my rights in favor of the better, more perfect will of Him who died for me.  But even as I make that decision I know that there will be more opportunities for mercy in the days ahead and not just for me but for all of God’s children.  My prayer is that we set our flesh aside and choose the path of grace and mercy because in doing so we show forth the attributes of our Savior.