Have you ever gone to bed at night with worries on your heart? I’m sure we all have. Have you ever worried that the sun won’t rise in the morning? Of course not. Or have you worried that spring won’t follow winter? Okay, so maybe we do wonder if spring will ever come when we’ve had a difficult winter. We joke with one another about ever seeing spring or summer again. But seriously…don’t we know that spring will indeed come? We may make silly comments about the seasons but just like the sunrise, we know for certain that the seasons change each year. We don’t stew about it, we don’t pray about it.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t pray every day that God will cause the sun to rise in the morning. I just know that He will. I know He has it under control. Maybe I’m just taking it for granted…but isn’t that like faith?
And what about the issues in our own lives — those concerns that are on our hearts in the quiet darkness each night? If we get to the place where we trust God to take care of those issues just as He does the sunrise and the seasons are we now walking in faith? Or have we begun to take God for granted? What is the difference between trusting in faith that something will happen and just taking it for granted? I think the difference can be expressed in one word — thankfulness.
If I am thankful I am acknowledging that the Father is in control. My desire is to get to the place where I can trust Him and thank Him for all that He has done and will do. There will always be cares that threaten to steal my peace. But if I will take those cares one by one and lay them at my Father’s feet I know he will be faithful to fulfill all His promises. If He can handle the sunrise, He is more than able to care for the things that concern me and I will be thankful.
Psalm 86:12 “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”
Imagine you have been given a brand new camera. A fancy one with all the latest technology available. It comes with a thick booklet of instructions. At this point, you have three options.
You can spend hours reading the manual, studying the terminology and how each function can be used to its greatest advantage. You can read the book until the pages are dog-eared. But if you never pick up the camera and start taking pictures how will you ever benefit from all your studying?
Another option is to pull the camera from the box and toss the instruction manual in the trash with the box and plastic wrap. You can snap dozens of pictures and maybe get a few decent shots but over all, you will never experience what your new camera is capable of because you never read the instructions.
Your last option is to open the box, remove the camera and open the manual. You read the instructions thoroughly and then practice what you’ve learned with the camera. Your pictures may not be all that great in the beginning but as you practice you improve and take some wonderful shots.
This scenario is based on two scriptural principles.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22 (NASB)
God wants us to apply what we learn as we study the scriptures. He has given us all we need to represent His kingdom but we need to be willing to act on what we learn and not just become well read.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)
The King James Version of this verse says, “study to show yourself approved.” It isn’t God’s plan for us to go running ahead, confident in our own abilities, without ever taking the time to learn His ways and to follow His leading.
To have the most productive and satisfying life requires learning and doing. Study God’s Word and then practice what you learn. And you might want to have your camera ready. You could capture some great moments!
You cannot return to the past. You must stay in the present. When someone talks about “the present” what are they referring to? Allow me a little word play.
To be present as opposed to absent. It means you are fully here. But present also means right now, in this moment. So to be present in the present means you are fully here at this very moment. Our culture moves so fast that sometimes you may feel like you have to run to just keep up with the present. You can’t even think about the future.
So if present means right now, then past means before right now. Sometimes we can get caught up in regret over our past. We know we can’t change things from a decade ago but we still may stew about it from time to time, saying things like, “I wish I had done things differently.” But according to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, the definition of “past” is “gone by; done; accomplished; ended.” So if the past is truly ended, then it’s untouchable. You can’t change something that is over. And it becomes heavy baggage to carry around with you when you can’t do anything with it. Freedom comes when you can leave the past in the past. And even if the past is full of good memories, you still can’t return to them.
So, yesterday is over. You can’t change even what you did yesterday. It’s over and done with. You CAN however, choose to do some things differently in the present. TODAY.
The future is what comes next. It isn’t some blurry scene in the distance. Tomorrow is the future. You can’t go there yet. All you can do is make wise decisions in the present that can affect the future.
So everything before this moment is the past. You can’t go back. And everything after this moment is the future. You can’t go there either. What you have is NOW. What are you going to do with it?
“The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NASB)
Are you believing God? Not believing IN God but believing Him?
Do you believe what he says about you?
“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 (ESV))
Do you believe His promises?
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:20 (ESV))
Do you believer what He wants to do in your life?
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” – Psalm 103:2-4 (ESV)
What if suddenly your church service lasted for 3 hours? Would you still go? And what if you had to walk an hour to get there and then another hour home? Would you still go?
When did we get so busy and when did we allow the distractions in our lives to become so important that spending that much time at church is out of the question?
What else have we got to do that is more important than worshiping God and spending time with the body of Christ? It’s completely a cultural thing, you know. In other parts of the world it isn’t uncommon at all. Sometimes folks bring their lunch and make a day of it. The WHOLE DAY, you say??? You must be kidding. No way do I have that much time to spend at church.
But I wonder what would happen if we did? What would happen to our relationships with our fellow church attenders if we spent some real time with them, talking about our lives, getting real, and discussing how the day’s message could be applied to our everyday experience? I wonder.
Remember how the church was described in the Book of Acts?
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:44-47 (ESV)
How many people do you see at church each week that you smile at and say hello to but don’t even know their names? What would happen if we got more intentional about getting to know the folks we sit beside every Sunday? What would it be like to speak to them by name and share life with them? All it takes is time.
It isn’t impossible. Just start with one person. Introduce yourself and ask their name. Then next week watch for them but also find another person to meet and maybe you could introduce them to each other. It doesn’t cost anything but time.