I remember a particularly challenging class I took in college. I worked hard but just didn’t keep up. I was used to getting As but when I finished this class I was thrilled to see a B+ on my grades report. It wasn’t an A but it was good enough.
I know you’ve heard the phrase, “God doesn’t grade on a curve.” In fact, God only gives two grades. Pass and Fail. In His grading system, a B+ isn’t good enough, not even an A-.
God expects a perfect grade. We either pass or we fail. And…nobody passes. Nobody. Scripture says we all fall short.
” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – Romans 3:23 (NASB)
God wants perfect obedience to His commands. So the hard truth is that we will all fail miserably. But cheer up!
If you put your trust in Jesus, you can still do your best. But in the end, when it’s time to take the test, the creator of the test goes in your place and passes with a perfect score.
It’s not uncommon these days to see large numbers casually thrown around with little thought. We see the billboards with the lastest lottery numbers into the hundreds of millions. We also hear about the national debt being in the trillions. Just how big are these numbers? And can anyone actually count that high?
There are many people who have become millionaires and billionaires so I guess we can count that high. But what about trillionaires? Not so far.
It’s hard to visualize numbers this big but maybe this will help. A million seconds is approximately 11 days. How about a billion? About 32 years. And a trillion? how about 32,000 years!
We can barely get our minds around numbers that size. I read that if we could spend $1,000,000 a day and we started when Jesus was born we would have spent a trillion dollars by now. Incredible.
But we can count that high. We can really know precisely how much a trillion is. Even though a trillion seems like an astronomical number it is still a number we can identify.
I’m glad we can count that high because it makes something we find in scripture even more amazing.
“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:5 (ESV)
God’s thoughts toward us are too numerous to count. More than a billion, more than a trillion. If He were to think a new thought toward us every second it would take Him 32,000 years to get to a trillion and He would only be getting started.
When you feel small and irrelevant just remember how many thoughts God has toward you. He is the God of the entire Universe. His greatness surpasses everything we can possibly know and…
I’ve always heard that faith is the opposite of doubt. But lately I’ve been thinking about it differently. Perhaps it’s because I struggle with a lack of confidence sometimes. I find myself wondering if I am really equipped to do the thing God has told me to do. Kind of like Gideon asking God, “Who, me?” over and over. That is clearly doubt, isn’t it?
At the other end of this faith spectrum, if you will, is what I see as pride. If I move away from doubt and find myself confident in what I’m doing then I immediately begin to worry that I will become prideful and take the credit myself for what is really God’s doing. So really, from where I sit, doubt and pride are at the opposite ends of the road with faith landing squarely in the middle. Right where it belongs.
God calls us to a balanced life. We need to trust Him and take Him at His word. If we constantly wonder if God has really called us and equipped us to do His work then we waste time that we could be using to accomplish what He’s asked of us. But we dare not become over confident and forget where our true strength and ability comes from.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”– James 1:6 (ESV)
“Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)
I think the whole picture is really much simpler that it looks. If we are aware of our doubts we confess them to God and move on toward faith and if we find ourselves overstepping our faith, we again confess our weakness, humble ourselves and come back to faith. Right in the middle. I believe the Lord knows that we have this continuous struggle. I think He has put us in this place on purpose so we don’t ever fall off either end but we are constantly readjusting to stay right in the middle. Right where God can give us hope for the future as we walk with Him using the gifts He has given us to proclaim His goodness.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
I love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. He had a way with words that cut to the chase. Take this quote for example.
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!” -Dr. Suess
Can you just see one of his characters standing with a huge ball bat in his hand, poised to take on whatever is coming his way?
Of course, as Christ Followers, we don’t go out and buy a big bat. We have no need of one. We are already equipped with everything we need to face whatever comes our way.
This life is full of troubles. Everyone I know is going through something. And the troubles do seem to come from every direction. Sometimes we just want to raise the white flag and say we surrender, we give up, we’re tired and can’t fight anymore. But we need to take the words of the good doctor and stand our ground, facing our troubles with confidence.
Since we don’t have need of a big bat, what do we have to fight against these troubles? We have a sword. According to the Bible, we have been given armor and a sword.
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:17 (ESV)
We only need one weapon. The rest of that passage talks about items that are for protection. The only weapon we need is the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.The key to success is that we take the sword. We can’t just leave it lying on the ground and expect it to help us win the battle. We must take it up and use it with skill that comes from practicing with it daily.
When we have the sword and face our troubles, God has promised us the victory. And remember, we will never have to fight alone. God has promised to be with us.
“So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13:6 (ESV)
Pick up your sword and move out with confidence. The victory is yours!
There’s a story in a book called “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls that tells how you can catch a raccoon with a shiny object inside a log. You cut a hole it the log just large enough for a raccoon’s paw and put the shiny object inside. When the curious raccoon puts his paw inside the hole and grasps the object, his paw is now too large to come out of the hole and he is trapped because he refuses to let go of the object.
It’s an interesting story which some say they have proven to be true and others say is just an old tale with no truth to it at all. Either way, it’s a good picture of us, God’s children.
There are many things that we hold onto. It might be events from our past or unconfessed sin that we can’t seem to let go of. Those things torment us and keep us trapped. The enemy uses guilt, regret and shame as his chief weapons to keep us from letting go.
There are other things that have a completely different kind of hold on us. We might be clinging to what others think of us or habits we just can’t seem to break. We might be holding onto possessions or status. It might be greed, or a stubborn heart that motivates us to hang on, refusing to let go no matter what.
But God wants to set us free from this trap. He has a plan for each of us and we don’t always understand it but if we know God at all, we know that He is good and anything that he asks us to let go of will be replaced with something much better.
I want you to try a little exercise with me. Make a tight fist with your hand, palm side up, and just look at it for a moment. Now think of a problem or circumstance that you are struggling with and picture it within your clenched fist. If you hold onto it, God can never do what He wants to do with it. If you are holding it, you are allowing it to hold you.
Now, open your hand and ask God to take it from you and do with it what He chooses. By letting go, you have freed yourself.
What are you holding onto that you could give to God? Open your hand!
Proverbs 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.
A while back I had an experience that has become all too familiar. We all have our spiritual Achille’s heal. Mine happens to be the fear of being rejected. I can trace this back to elementary school. I’ve prayed and I’ve asked God to remove this from me, but like Paul, I seem to have a thorn that won’t go away.
This most recent challenge came on a Wednesday night as I sat in our women’s Bible study. I happened to be sitting near the door, and halfway through the evening, I had the nearly uncontrollable urge to bolt out the door. I heard the lie, “You don’t fit in.” And I also knew that at least one person in the room was, in fact, avoiding me. Of course, she was sitting directly across the room from me in the circle. The pressure to leave was almost insurmountable. I say “almost” because this is a familiar tactic the enemy uses. Instead, I fought to stay engaged and managed to finish out the evening.
On the way home, my emotions let loose and I cried as I drove. But, what I have learned is that while God hasn’t chosen to remove this challenge from me, He has promised to use it for my good. After many years of struggling, I learned a secret weapon that I now employ regularly. As I drove and cried out to God what I was feeling, I finished by saying, “God, show me truth.”
Almost instantly, my tears ceased and I felt a calm settle into my heart. I asked the Lord for truth and He was pleased to show it to me. The issue that night was about what I would be doing the next day. It was about something new that I was going to begin that was completely unfamiliar. I was moving forward with something God had called me to do and the enemy tried to distract me. But his tactic didn’t work because I had my secret weapon.
God’s truth will always overcome Satan’s tricks. No matter what way he comes to attack, you can always ask God for truth and He will answer. Then you can use that truth to have victory over the enemy.
It works every time.
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” – Psalm 25:5(ESV)
Do you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you just need to vent? Maybe things haven’t been going your way for a while and you are frustrated or angry about your circumstances. Maybe you need to get some things out of your system so you can take a deep breath and move on. You need someone to talk to that will listen and help you release all that’s been upsetting you.
According to the dictionary, the word vent, when used as a verb, has two meanings. The first is to “give expression or utterance to.” God understands our need to talk through our problems and He puts people in our lives that we can trust to listen to our venting and still love us. We weren’t designed to keep everything bound up inside.
The second meaning of vent is to “expose to cool or cold air so as to cool or freshen.” The vent in your car does a great job of providing fresh, cool air when you need it most. It sure feels good on a hot day.
I think both meanings apply to our need to vent when things aren’t going so well. On one hand we need to express what’s troubling us and on the other hand, we need a fresh perspective.
The important thing to remember here is that when we vent, we are seeking to get rid of what is stale and be refreshed. Only vent to people who will steer you toward a fresh touch from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the only true source of refreshment. He’s that fresh breath of God. Sometimes we need another brother or sister in Christ to walk along with us for a little while, but they can never refresh us like God can.
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Ephesians 3:16(NASB)
It’s not just about venting what is stale, it’s about breathing in a new perspective from God.
These days you see the word “makeover” in so many places. People crave the possibility of being made into someone who looks better, acts better or handles life’s responsibilities better. You can have many areas of your life made over, all it takes is the motivation to do it, or to allow someone to do it to you or for you. Usually it’s a simple several step process. You see the before and after pictures and your response is, “Wow! what a change!”
Makeovers can be great. A fresh start with your finances, a new look to your home, a new hairdo and makeup job to make you look years younger. Those can be great things but what is the goal? To make your life better? To make you feel better about yourself?
Jesus came with a different goal in mind. He didn’t come to heal the world, although He did heal many people. The reason He didn’t heal everybody is because His goal wasn’t to heal us all and “fix” the earth. His plan wasn’t to make things better.
Jesus healed and did miracles to show us what He was able to do, what His power was like. He fixed things to show us that He is powerful enough to make new what sin has destroyed. But He doesn’t do it with a makeover. He does it with a DO OVER.
What Jesus did on earth was to show us the way to the Father. When we repent, we don’t get a makeover, we get a do over. Jesus will make us new on the inside. It’s what man longs for. The relief from the weight of our sin.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
In the second chapter of the book of Mark, we find the story of Jesus eating with the tax collectors at Levi’s house. The Pharisees were appalled that such a “religious man” would be found among sinners and tax collectors.
Don’t we get the same response today? What if you are called to minister to someone who frequents bars. What if you are caught coming out of a bar by the modern day “religious community”? Isn’t there an opportunity for judgment? Don’t you wonder if people will talk?
Jesus is very clear with his answer to their criticism. He tells them in verse 17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
If Jesus was called to sinners, so are we. He was sent to them and He sent US to them. How are we supposed to reach them if we don’t send time with them? If we don’t go where the lost are because we are afraid of what people will think, how will they ever hear the Good News?
Who do you spend most of your time with? The people who are already saved or those who desperately need to hear the gospel?
Have you ever heard someone say that they were waiting for their ship to come in? In current culture, the saying means that they are hoping for something good to happen in their life that they have no control over. A hope that good fortune will visit them and all their problems will be solved.
The origin of the saying isn’t clear. It could have come from the days when merchant ships were coming into port every day and you never knew when the one that held your supplies would arrive or if it would ever arrive. Maybe it was overtaken by pirates or sank in a violent storm. With no communication between ship and shore, no one could know for sure if their investment had arrived until they saw the ship coming into port.
The story in Matthew 8 tells of a time when the disciples wondered if their ship would come it. They weren’t just looking for some investment to pay off. Their believed their very lives were at stake. They were in the boat, the storm came up and Jesus was where? Asleep. Didn’t He care what was happening to them or that their lives were in danger? But the scripture tells us three things. Matthew 8:18 tells us “He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea,” verse 23 says, “when He got into the boat His disciples followed Him,” and verse 28 says, “When He came to the other side.” It doesn’t seem that Jesus had any doubt at all about whether His ship would come in.
Maybe you are in the boat that’s tossing and rolling in a violent sea. Maybe it looks like Jesus is asleep. Doesn’t He care what’s happening in your life? Is He going to wake up and do something before it’s too late?
Remember the story in Matthew. Jesus commanded they cross the sea. He got in the boat and the others followed because they trusted Him. He knew they would reach the other side; there was never any doubt in His mind. Only when the waves looked too high and the storm too strong did the disciples get concerned. They looked at the storm and not their Lord to define their situation.
The storms in life may be overwhelming sometimes. You might wonder if you are really going to make it to the other side. But Jesus hasn’t left you. Keep your eyes on the horizon. The shore will come into view and you will land safely because Jesus is in the boat.