“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:1-6
When Jesus examined the church in Sardis, His heart broke over the state of this community. Unlike every letter written in Revelation 2 and 3 to other churches, there is no commendation. Jesus doesn’t utter a word of encouragement for the culture that had been created in Sardis. There was nothing occurring that was worthy of praise.
Instead, Jesus used one word to describe the state of affairs in Sardis: D-E-A-D. No life could be found within its walls. Imagine the church you are a part of being described in this way. This rebuke must have stung for those in Sardis. Or maybe, even worse, the reprimand was met with the same indifference that plagued and defined their community.
We don’t know how this letter was received. All we are privy to is a church currently going through the motions. Jesus doesn’t bring up persecution or suffering taking place in the city. Neither does He describe the riches of the world spoiling them or, on the flip side, them living in utter poverty. Since there is also no mention of heresy or bad doctrine, we are left to assume they weren’t being enticed by some misguided teachings.
It says the church in Sardis “had a reputation for being alive.” Reputations are built over time. They don’t just happen all of a sudden. At one point, this community of believers was laser focused on their mission. They were living out the Great Commission. They were making an impact.
So, how does a once vibrant church lose its vitality and passion? Quite simply, they let indifference creep into their relationships with God. They thought the level of faith required in the past would suffice for the steps they needed to take in the future. The stories of God’s faithfulness, along with their willingness to risk, eventually became tales of the past. The church was continuing to meet, but now they were just going through the motions.
This drift towards indifference and half-hearted devotion can happen to any of us, including you and me. In order to avoid this plight, we must be willing to be honest about the state of our heart. Does routine or ritual describe your walk with God? Are spiritual disciplines things you “have to do” instead of what you “want to do”? Are you doing the bare minimum required of you? Where are you going through the motions? Does the love of Christ move you into action?
Yet, the most important question we can ask ourselves is this: What is the last thing God asked you to do that you were unwilling to obey? This answer will give you your next right step of faith. Obedience fuels intimacy and trust. It also changes us – both our character and our heart. And change is critical towards our growth. If we are changing, it means we are living. There is no need for dead things to change or transform. Dead things stay the same. After all, they are dead. Today choose to change, choose to live.
- Do routine and ritual describe your walk with God? Where are you going through the motions in your relationship with Him?
God, I want people to look at me and see vibrancy, life, and vitality. I desire to pursue Your heart with everything in me. Yet, there are moments when I settle for indifference, when I let the allure of the world get the better of me. Help me to keep my eyes always on You. May I be bold in taking steps of faith which give me a greater glimpse into Your love and compassion. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
At the college I attended, every freshman was required to take a public speaking class. When I first heard the news, I was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t do well with crowds and I especially disliked being the center of attention (this hasn’t changed over time).
The news got worse.
Our professor informed us that he would be videotaping each speech and sitting down with us afterwards to dissect it. Knowing all eyes were going to be on me, I buckled down and practiced non-stop. I rehearsed any chance I got, practicing in front of the mirror and even in the stairwell of the dorms.
When the day finally arrived, I felt like I was prepared and ready. I stood behind the podium, took a deep breath and just went for it. The next 3-5 minutes were a complete blur, but I didn’t pass out and everyone clapped after I was done and, because of that, I felt like I did a superb job.
However, the replay told a different story. I looked on in horror as I watched myself fidget with my papers, my feet nervously tapping against the floor and my eyes looking like a deer in headlights. I lost track of how many times I uttered the words “um,” “you know” and “stuff like that.” My professor gently said there was ‘room for improvement.’
That day in speech class I got a firsthand look of what it was like to be on the other side of me. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: what’s it like to be on the other side of you? When someone approaches you today, what will they encounter? How are you setting the tone for these conversations to occur or be avoided? If something doesn’t go your way at work, what will your response be and how will others receive it? When your kids don’t listen or decide to act up will you act out in anger? Will you be more concerned with their actions or their heart? When people follow you, where do they end up?
Let’s take it a step further and not just think about today. How would people describe you? Do you tend to be judgmental? Do you make people feel less than? Does your demeanor give off the impression of being closed off? Are you quick to speak but slow to listen? Are others scared to tell you bad news because they know you’ll worry yourself sick?
Just like with my speech, sometimes our perception of things isn’t reality. Sometimes we just don’t know how we come across. It’s not that we want to be a difficult person. No one desires that label. We all have our blind spots. We also tend to give ourselves grace with our weaknesses and shortcomings while expecting others to be perfect. We embrace grace for ourselves but pronounce judgment on all the difficult people who cross our path.
So how do we come face-to-face with how we really are? First it begins by asking God to search our heart. This can be a scary venture. Scripture has the ability to reveal where we are resistant to faith as well as exposing our heart. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Tucked away in that verse is a promise. Scripture can change us. It can make us competent and equipped for every good work. Christ’s heart can become our own.
But, we don’t just stop there. We surround ourselves with others who can spur us on towards growth. We must be known by others and give them access to speak into our lives. Every one of us needs a few people to tell us the truth about our heart, point out our weaknesses, and check our blind spots. As difficult as it might be to hear, you need to ask a few close friends and family members – what is like to be on the other side of me?
Today take a moment to look in the mirror. You might not like what you see at first, but it is the beginning point towards change. Only through vulnerability and transparency can true heart change occur and those critical conversations take place.
- How are you setting the tone for critical conversations to occur or be avoided?
- What are you doing with the influence you’ve been given?
God, help me to ponder today what it’s like to be on the other side of me. I desire for my words and actions to serve as a reflection of Your heart. May Your Spirit speak into those parts of me that have rough edges. Soften them with Your love so that I can be transformed to bring You glory. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2
In a culture littered with dishonesty, hype, and confusion, people are crying out for leadership they can trust. They are looking for people who walk with integrity and embody the message they proclaim. Without trust being present in our relationships, influence and impact are incapable of taking root.
When trust has been eroded people hesitate to respond. Instead, the other person calculates the walls to erect and the boundaries to set out in terms of connection. People long to trust, but, living in a broken world, their default is to hesitate and withhold. They silently wonder the other person’s motives and whether they practice what they preach. They halt in their tracks, unwilling to follow someone they don’t trust. Distance and disconnection define the relationship.
With this being the case, there has never been a bigger opportunity to make an impact in this world and fill the void of humble, selfless, and outward focused leadership. We leverage the influence we’ve been given by serving others rather than trying to make a name for ourselves. We consider those around us before ourselves. We pay attention to the needs that present themselves and respond with love. Love is simply looking out for the good of another.
We do this not to please others or for them to think well of us. Our motives aren’t for applause, power, recognition or fame. What drives our words and actions is that people would see Christ in us and be drawn to the love of their Savior. Everything we do needs to bring His image to bear on the world around us. Our lives should look like Jesus who laid His life down so we could experience a full life and never feel the sting of death.
The only way this is possible is abiding in Christ and staying connected to Him. His love fuels our love for every person that crosses our path. Knowing we are loved completely by Him enables us to not seek the love and approval from another person. This allows us to love and serve others without condition.
The ability to love others is not complicated. It doesn’t require education or training. Love doesn’t care about the size of our platform or how many social media followers we have. It’s not reserved for some elite few. Everyone has the power to love and serve others.
Often, we get so caught up in our purpose and calling as believers. We obsess over it. We long for clarity and when it supposedly doesn’t come we don’t move and we become disheartened. In essence, we become paralyzed by purpose. But, here’s the thing: we don’t find our purpose by obsessing about it, but by orienting our life around other people.
The excuses for why we don’t use our influence has to stop. At some point, our lack of leadership becomes bad stewardship. Everyday leadership begins today. Don’t get bogged down by what you should’ve done in the past, focus on what you can do today to make a difference.
- How do you suffer from destination thinking when it comes to your leadership capacity? What does it mean to be paralyzed by your purpose?
- What would your life look like if you oriented it around loving other people?
God, may I live a life of integrity and purpose. The calling You have placed on my shoulders is simply to pursue Your heart while loving and serving others. Let me lead in such a way that people see You in everything I do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. EPHESIANS 3:16-20
My daughter’s small group leader gave me a book earlier this summer. It’s called Kisses From Katie, and it’s the true story of a Tennessee teenager who left her affluent life to work with orphans in Uganda. In fact, she wound up adopting 13 orphan girls by the time she was 20!
The author’s name is Katie Davis. I have the same name, just spelled differently. This other Katie has completely captured my imagination with her genuine and focused heart-set. Here’s one my favorite quotes in her book:
“I’m not here to eliminate poverty, to eradicate disease, to put a stop to people abandoning babies. I’m just here to love.”
Mike Ashcraft has been reminding us that we lead and influence by the little things we do over and over again. This Katie has simply shown love when needs have been presented to her — over and over again. She has opened her home to countless sick and hungry children (and adults,) having no idea how her actions would be financed, or how she would ever have the capacity to keep up with the needs. But God has always stepped in and given her the means and the strength to keep going.
For example, on one cold, rainy night, Katie was leaving the local grocery store when she saw a little boy huddled on the street corner. All she wanted to do was go home and get out of the rain. But, she stopped, took the boy into the market to dry him off a bit, and bought him some biscuits and juice. She also gave him her sweatshirt, some pocket change and a small wooden cross she carried around in her pocket. They exchanged names as they both went into the night. A year later, she walked into the same market. The same little boy, Daniel, ran up to her shouting “Auntie Katie!” Grinning widely, he pulled out the wooden cross and said, “I have never stopped praying for you every day.”
God wants to bless us, too, right where we are. He desires to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Our job is to pay attention to the needs around us and ask Him to direct our words and actions. The Holy Spirit really will guide us, and we don’t have to be perfect or profound to make an impact.
We just have to show up and love.
- Think back to a time when someone did something small for you that you remember to this day.
- What small thing can you do from where you are now?
Dear Father in Heaven, help us get past the lie that we have to do “big” things to make a difference. You have already accomplished the biggest thing of all — sending Your Son to die for our sins so we can be forgiven and have a life with You forever. As we go through the normal course of our days, give us eyes to see the pain around us and the grit to do something, even a little something, about it. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled up all of our sin, everything we’ve done wrong, on Him, on Him! Isaiah 53:6 (The Message)
Relationships and faith are two of the bedrock terms of a Christians life. I always find it somewhat amusing to hear a Christian say, “I’m ready for my Father to take me home, I put MY faith in Him,” when they are going through a particularly difficult time in their lives. Yet, as soon as a fortunate blessing enters into this struggle, their attitude shifts to more of, “The Lord has rewarded MY faith with this blessing and He wants me to stay here and enjoy it!”
While there is an ironic source of amusement in our ability to check in and check out of faith as if it were a hotel, I believe that there is a much deeper issue going on here. Where does faith come from? What is the source and who sustains it?
If I address any relationship in my life, I can pretty quickly capture how it stands. Is this a person that I would rely on to drop me off at the airport on time? Would I lend them money? Would I leave them alone in my home without worry? Without even realizing it, we have an ongoing relationship checklist that we are constantly engaged with. Over time and experience in this personal interaction, we gain firsthand knowledge of this person and some fruits, both good and bad begin to bear. Issues of trust, character, integrity, and faith, begin to emerge and solidify our more knowledgeable understanding of both the other person involved in this interaction and also the ultimate reward of every relationship that we encounter, a greater understanding of ourselves.
It has occurred to me that my faith in God is based on a similar process. The presence of faith in my life can only come from my relationship and knowledge that I gain from my personal interaction with my Creator. I simply cannot rely on self-willed faith or someone else’s understanding and explanation of God. The strength of my faith is born out of how well I truly know MY Jesus. It must be first hand and it must be face-to-face. This pursuit is seeking to know our Creator. This is on us, something we can and must do if we are to be truly Godly people.
I must position myself in a place of humility, not as peer to peer, for what kind of creature of measurable hours on this planet tells anything to the One who created the sun, who gave birth to the earth and will witness its last days? If you truly desire to strengthen your faith in Christ, you simply must get to know Him as you would the closest personal friend you have. By doing so, the fruits of His Spirit will bud in your life in Him and bloom in the relationships that He has blessed you with in this earthly life.
- What is your faith based on? Is it fashioned out of your changing fortunes in this world or out of your personal knowledge of God?
- If you were to wake up tomorrow and all you had was what you were grateful for today, what would that look like?
Lord Jesus, I want to know You in a way that quiets my intellect and fills my heart with desire for You. I want to welcome You with uncontainable joy and be Yours in this life. Teach me who You made me to be and enable me to recognize Your love, so I seek no other love, as my heart has no more space to give! Amen.
PC3 writer Dermot Gibney wrote today’s devotional.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We all have weaknesses. None of us are immune to struggles. This statement is often received in two vastly different ways. There are those who relate immeasurable more to weakness than strength, some to the point where they define themselves by their weaknesses. This mindset, where all you can see is your faults and shortcomings, leads to despair.
On the other side, there are those that define their lives by a lack of weakness. They never want anyone to see a chink in their armor. They run themselves ragged keep up the charade of invincibility. Pride begins to creep in and the ultimate end of pride is also despair.
Neither approach is how God calls us to respond to our weaknesses. Falling for the cultural trap of ignoring, covering up or overcompensating for our weaknesses has kept us from experiencing God’s strength in our lives.
Weakness is any place in our lives where our strength is not enough. If you feel boxed in, pushed down, held back, beat up or spread thin, you’ve collided with your weakness. Weakness can be spiritual, intellectual, emotional, circumstantial, relational and physical. Even the strongest of us has weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2).
In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul addresses a few issues taking place in the church of Corinth. Some individuals in leadership positions within the community were bashing Paul and boasting about themselves. Unlike the “weak” Paul, these “Super Apostles” were strong leaders worth following, or at least this is the message they were attempting to sell to others.
How does Paul respond to these charges against him? Rather than listing off his accomplishments and making much of himself, Paul speaks about a “thorn in his flesh” – a place where Paul’s strength isn’t enough. He doesn’t shy away from his struggles, but admits his weakness.
Paul’s “thorn”, his weakness, was difficult to handle and he was desperate for it to be gone. Paul was at the end of himself. He was tired of the struggle, he was out of options, and he was desperate. So Paul pursued God three separate times asking God to do what only God can do – take this place of weakness away. God answers Paul’s prayer but not in the way one would expect. This answer was not what Paul was looking for, it’s not what he wanted, and it’s not what he was asking for. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul grace. He tells Paul that His power is made perfect in weakness.
Instead of being bitter and jaded, Paul begins to boast and openly acknowledges his weakness. If the power of Christ would rest upon his weakness, Paul was willing to expose his struggles. He understood that when others saw him being strong in his weakness that Christ would be seen as strong. The same is true for us. God gets the glory when we are willing to let Him be strong in our weakness.
Weakness leads us to the point of desperate dependence on God. Without weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities we will be, just like Paul, prone to think we’ve got everything under control and don’t need any help. Without weakness and difficulties we are all prone to become prideful.
The grace of God in the midst of our weakness is that we are brought to a point of dependence on His strength. Faith is the act of turning away from our own weakness, to God’s perfect strength! Faith isn’t just the way to become a Christian, it’s also the way we experience the strength to live out the Christian life.
Admitting weakness is the first step to finding strength. If we’re going to be a people who find strength in our weakness we’re going to have to be a people who are honest about our weaknesses with God, with ourselves and with each other. Don’t cover your weakness up – allow God and others into those places.
Perfect strength is found in dependence on God. His power is fully realized, fully seen and fully experienced in our weaknesses. God wants to be strong for us in ways that we could never be strong for ourselves.
Our part in this is to first admit our weakness, allowing Him into the places in our lives where our strength is insufficient, but His strength is more than enough. Lets stop defining our lives by weakness or by a lack of weakness and instead let’s define our lives by dependence.
- God’s strength is found when we depend on Him in the midst of our weakness. Where do you need to confront and admit your weakness before you can begin to depend on God? Where is your strength insufficient?
God, where I am weak, You are strong. Rather than hide from or define myself by my weaknesses, may I freely admit my struggles. Give me the faith to depend on You for every circumstance that I face. Show Your strength in ways I could never imagine or hope for. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
Everybody is leading somebody somewhere. Yet, we rarely stop and consider where people end up when they follow in our footsteps. Contrary to what we might think, leadership isn’t reserved for an elite few or determined by a job title or position. How we see the world, and our part in it, determines our willingness to take action.
Leadership isn’t a destination we arrive at, but rather it’s something that gets formed in us in every moment of every day. We all have been given influence and have the power to make a difference in this world. Opportunities to influence are all around us. During the normal course of our day, we must pay attention or we’ll miss them.
Understanding the significance of the small things is something we underestimate. Because they aren’t seen on a big stage we don’t think they carry any weight. But, they do. The small things matter. These “as you go” moments of influence serve as the building blocks of leadership. Big things are just a pile of little things done really well over time. The pile begins to grow when we continually do what we can with what we have where we are.
The reality is that God doesn’t need us to do “big things” for Him. He would manage just find on His own. Yet, through His love for us, God graciously invites us to have a role in the bigger story He is telling in this world. We get to play our part in making His name known. By displaying humility, obedience, and faith, we can boldly step into opportunities that are presented to us.
We find our calling by leveraging our lives for the benefit of others. The weight of His image is seen in us today while the weight of His image is seen in them tomorrow. This type of investment can’t be done at arm’s length. It’s impossible to lead from a distance. Impact only happens through investment. As we pursue Christ with abandon and try to reflect His character, people encounter the love of God.
- Everybody is leading somebody somewhere. When people follow you, where do they end up?
God, help me to not take the influence I’ve been given lightly. Rather than being focused on making a name for myself, may my words and actions bring glory to Your name. Open my eyes to the opportunities to love and serve others that happen as I go about my normal day. Give me the courage and boldness to respond when I see a need. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love 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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13
My youngest daughter does not stop talking. Trust me, this isn’t an exaggeration. My wife believes she’s destined to be a politician due to her sheer ability to filibuster. From the moment she wakes up till the time her head hits the pillow, her mouth is in constant motion. Even when she is in dreamland we don’t catch a break because she talks in her sleep as well.
To make matters worse, she is what many would label as a “loud” talker. There is only one notch on her volume dial and that is a 10. I know as a caring father, I am supposed to say that I always cherish the sound of my daughter’s voice and for the most part I do.
But, if I’m honest, due to the constant noise, I at times tune her out. She is just jabbering on as loud as can be and I’m not paying attention. Even though everything is important in her mind, due to the never-ending dialogue at base booming levels, I sometimes disregard what she is saying.
Today I want us to pay attention to the noise we make. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reminds us that if we don’t love others we are “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
We can do a lot of good through our actions, but if our relationships aren’t defined and rooted in love, all we are is a bunch of noise. We forfeit the influence we’ve been given. We fumble away the opportunities to lead others well. When love isn’t present in our relationships, it doesn’t matter the power the Gospel message holds.
To the person on the opposite end, it will sound like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons: WAHHH-WAH WAH-WAHWAH-WAH, WAHWAH WAH WAHWA. There’s just so many times you can listen to a clanging cymbal or a loud talker’s voice until you tune them out completely.
It’s the love of Christ that should compel us to love others. Having experienced the love, grace, and mercy from our Savior, love must be the foundation upon which all our relationships are built. Don’t be a clanging cymbal, but let your life be a sweet melody that speaks to the amazing love of our God.
- When it comes to your words and actions recently, are you coming across as a clanging cymbal?
God, thank You for loving me. I am so undeserving and unworthy of Your affection, but yet You still love me anyway. May love be what fuels my relationships with others. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Therefore I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
My God will hear me. Micah 7:7 (NKJV)
I have a confession: I’ve not been the best at waiting. I’ve driven down I-40 when I’m going to visit family, frustrated as all get out because the car in front of me, who also happens to be in the left lane, just isn’t going fast enough for me. I’ve stood in line at the grocery store after a day at work, impatient because it’s already 6:30 pm and I just want to get home. I’ve gotten overwhelmed when I see things happening for others around me and the sudden realization that I’ve been in what seems like the same spot for way too long starts to settle deep within my mind. I start thinking, “Hey! What about me?”
But recently, during those moments of thinking about me, I’ve been hearing God whisper, “wait on Me, daughter.” And let me tell you, that is humbling.
When we’re walking with God, seasons of waiting aren’t as easily overcome as the American way of going out and making things happen for yourself. You might think you’ve found the perfect job to apply for, but God says, “not this one” when they decide to go with someone else. You might think you’ve found the perfect house to put an offer in on, but God says, “not that one” when that offer is rejected. You might be struggling with finances, wondering when you are going to finally catch up on everything, and God tells you to keep holding on. You might think, “I’ll just do this my way so I can get where I’m going quicker,” and from personal experience, God is usually super quiet on this one. You might be feeling like you’ve been praying for the Lord to move in your life – for Him to, at the very least, show you that He’s working on your behalf; still, you see nothing. But hold on, can I remind us of “faith”?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
Can I also remind us of Moses and Joshua? Moses wandered 40 years in the desert after God instructed him to lead His people out of Egypt. Joshua led a march around the walls that protected the City of Jericho for seven days following God’s instruction. For 40 years, Moses waited on the Lord, relying on Him to provide for His people – and He did. For seven days, Joshua followed the Lord’s commands to take the City of Jericho – and He did. Neither Moses nor Joshua actually saw the Lord working during those times of waiting – but He did.
If you think you’re alone in the waiting, you most certainly are not. Some of God’s beloved chosen people waited decades. Some of God’s beloved chosen people are still waiting. Make no mistake that He is, indeed, in the waiting.
I’ve been told many times that it’s not so much the destination that matters, but it’s how we get there. The journey we choose to walk with God is what matters. What He does in you and through you is of greater significance to Him. It doesn’t matter that you actually end up wherever you’re going. In the waiting, God is doing something inside you that you cannot always see. He is reshaping your heart to become a reflection of His own. He is training your spirit to stop relying on self and to start relying on Him. He is conditioning your whole being to run with Him.
…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
- Where are you today – a desert, marching around and around, or are you already running the race set before you?
- What do you believe you have to do to become fully immersed in the waiting with God?
Father God, we acknowledge that You are in the waiting. We know You are working on our behalf and that You have great things for us. You take care of us, even when we don’t see it. Let our hearts continue to be reshaped by You. Train and condition us to run the race set before us with patience and trust in You and You alone, Father. In Your son, Jesus’ name – Amen.
PC3 writer Sarah Leitner wrote today’s devotional.
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Matthew 25: 1–10
Are you waiting for something that seems like it’s taking forever?
How are you handling the wait?
What are you doing in the wait?
And have you ever thought of what you will actually do if and when that thing actually happens? When that moment arrives? When that person enters your life? When that dream happens? When that job offer comes?
Are you prepared?
The “Parable of the Ten Virgins” reminds us of the importance of being ready when that thing we are dreaming about actually happens. And it convicts me of my behavior these past few months.
You see, I dream of writing books, and I’ve actually had some recent interest in my ideas. I’m also a freelance editor, and I’ve spent a number of years encouraging other writers to be patient and not give up during the journey toward publication—to keep on submitting, that numerous rejections are common, and to keep on building “platform” (blogging, pitching articles, Instagramming, etc.).
Yet here I am after the quiet of ONE agent submission to the book I feel God calling me to write, and I’ve folded. I’ve given into feelings of rejection and have just about stopped writing these past few months. I spend time scrolling through other writers’ Instagram feeds and feeling quite bad about myself.
I let my oil almost burn out.
But God. He uses His word—His stories—and whatever is available and happening in our lives to speak to us if we will listen.
He is speaking to me now through the “night” to keep making preparations—to keep my oil jar filled. In this case, it could mean returning to the Tuesday morning writers’ chats that fuel my creative fire, preparing a proposal to the other two agents and one editor who expressed interest, starting that Facebook page I’ve been thinking about for months—THE GROOM IS COMING. God birthed this book idea. The dream will be fulfilled. This just might not be the door-opener—the “groom” for my manuscript, per say. Or, maybe it is, and it just isn’t time yet. (I haven’t yet received an official rejection.) And will I be ready for it? How am I preparing not only in practical ways but also spiritual ways? Am I spending time in study with the Lord? Am I letting Him use this time to build character and strength and confidence?
While I realize I may be taking great liberties with this biblical passage, it spoke to me in a personal way, a way others may also relate to.
Is there an area of your life taking too long between the anointing and the appointing (as Danny Rogers so awesomely illustrated in his sermon this past Sunday)? David was anointed king as a youth, but it took YEARS for him to be appointed king. How can you wait with purpose? How can you prepare in the time between the anointing and the appointing?
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
- Is there something in your life you are waiting for? Preparing for? Called to do? How can you wait “well” and not grow discouraged? What can you do to make sure you are ready when the “bridegroom” arrives?
- How can you keep the “oil jar filled” in those times of waiting?
Father God, help us to keep hope when the waiting is taking longer than we had expected. Help us to be patient and keep our lamps of hope, joy, and expectation burning steady as we wait for your promises for our life. Help us to prepare well in the wait. Show us step by step the practical and spiritual ways we can wait well—with purpose and intention and expectation—and help us hear your voice, Lord.
PC3 writer Andrea Barilla wrote today’s devotional.