Where did the phrase “go the extra mile” come from? Actually, it refers to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
In this passage, Jesus was referring to a Roman law called angareia. According to this law, a Roman soldier had the right to force a civilian to carry the soldier’s packs for a mile. Their packs could weigh nearly 70 lbs. so it was no small thing to be drafted for this duty. This law was also used when a soldier enlisted Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Jesus. But they could not demand more than a mile. That would be a crime against Rome.
Jesus said to go the extra mile. No one would expect someone to go to all that extra trouble. No one but Jesus.
Why did Jesus say we should be willing to go two miles if we are forced to go one? Why would he want us to go out of our way like that? It show’s the heart of Jesus. Being willing to go above and beyond what is required or expected. Being willing to do something beyond what is deserved. Being willing to show kindness to someone who may have treated you wrongly. In fact, perhaps the act of kindness would be directed toward your worst enemy.
In what ways have you experienced someone going the extra mile for you? How did it make you feel? If we do a kindness to someone not based on whether they deserve it, we open the door for the power of God to take over.
No one really expects that we pray for those who persecute us or that we show love to our enemies. No one except Jesus. He asks us to go above and beyond. He asks us to go the extra mile.
Have you ever tried to cut a tomato with a dull knife? It can be a frustrating experience. When you are trying to prepare a meal, there is nothing more exasperating that working with a knife that needs sharpening. It’s inefficient. It slows you down. It simply cannot do the job it was designed to do without being sharpened once in a while.
Scripture tells us that we are like that dull knife. We need to be sharpened regularly. How does this happen? God designed us to sharpen each other.
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
It has been said that iron cannot sharpen iron because they are both the same substance so they are unable to sharp each other. In order to be sharpened, one substance must be stronger than the other. Could it be that we take turns being strong depending on which of us needs sharpening in a given circumstance? I think so.
Do you have people who rub up against your life and sharpen you? I do. Those people are a vital part of my everyday life. They are necessary if I am to keep from becoming the dullest knife in the drawer. If I am to be useful for God’s kingdom, I have to be sharp. When metal rubs up against metal it also shines more. I need to be able to shine for others to see. I need to have a sharp and clean edge so I am useful to God.
To be sharpened in this way we must become vulnerable. We must allow someone to come close enough to touch our lives. We must be willing to feel a little uncomfortable when we experience a bit of friction as our edge is honed.
But it’s well worth it. Find others who are willing to sharpen you when you need it. You will be made more useful to our Lord. You will be the knife he reaches for when he has a job to do because He knows you are one of the sharpest knives in the drawer.
Have you ever had a friend that knew you so well they could anticipate what you were thinking? Were they even able to finish your sentences because they knew what you were going to say? In some social circles, that person would be called your BFF (Best Friend Forever).
Or maybe your son or daughter planned to ask you for something but you had already anticipated their request and arranged to fulfill it even before they asked. Because you love them so much, you want to take care of them, to surprise them, to make them smile.
There is someone who knows you that intimately. Who knows your thoughts and knows what you need. Your Heavenly Father begins to answer your prayers even before you speak them. He is so tuned in to what you are thinking that He can finish your sentence while you are still speaking. He loves you that much.
Isaiah 65:24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.
Go ahead and tell Him what’s in your heart and on your mind. He’s listening.
Pollyanna is a character of a classic children’s book by Eleanor H. Porter. She is continually playing the “glad game.” In this game she faces every circumstance with the belief that there must be something to be glad about if you look long enough. In the story, the adults get annoyed with her constantly optimistic view of life. In fact, that annoyance continues today. The dictionary actually has a definition for a Pollyanna.
Pollyanna: an excessively or blindly optimistic person. To be unreasonably or illogically optimistic.
But I think she had it right. One of the quotes from the book says, ” if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it SOME.” Now I have never counted to see if she was right about there being eight hundred verses telling us to be glad. But do we really need that many?
Here are a few that should confirm His desire for us to be glad.
Psalm 68:3 But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.
Psalm 90:14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 104:34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.
So, I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind in the least if I am called a Pollyanna. In these days that we are living, it is so easy to get discouraged. Reading the news, hearing what others are struggling with on a daily basis, how can we possibly be glad? It certainly looks excessive or unreasonable, even illogical to think that we could be glad in the midst of what is going on around us every day. But God says we are to be glad. Why?
Because God is still on His throne.
Psalm 92:4 For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
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.
James 1:6 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.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 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.
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.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hide and seek is a fun childhood game that we’ve all played. When I was a child I remember playing this game in my house with an older girl who lived next door. She was already in middle school when I was just beginning elementary school, so I felt very special when she came and played with me. I loved every minute that she spent with me. I especially loved playing hide and seek. And I remember another form of hide and seek that I played when it was time for her to go home. I hid her shoes so she had to stay a little longer!
As we grew older, the neighborhood kids would play more elaborate forms of hide and seek, playing in the yards of neighbors on our block. There was one boy who didn’t want to play by the rules and instead of hiding, he would go home and have a snack while the rest of us continued to hunt for him with no success. Finally we caught on to his trick and made him promise to play fair or go home.
As a child I loved to hide and try to be clever so I’d be the last one found. But later as a parent of young children I found a different aspect to the game. When we would play with our little boys, it was more fun to see the look of triumph on their faces when they found us so we learned not to hide too well. We wanted to be found.
God loves to play hide and seek with us. He says that when we hide, we can feel safe. We can hide in the shelter of His wings. He doesn’t want us to hide from him like Adam and Eve did. He wants us to hide in Him.
When God hides, it’s for the purpose of drawing us to himself. He says that we will definitely find him if we seek him with all our hearts. This is a little different than what we played as children. Instead of one person seeking and everyone else hiding, it is the opposite. In this version God is the only one hiding and all of mankind is seeking. And the greatest mystery is that He wants to be found! The God of the Universe wants you to find Him. Each day we can begin again to seek him with all our heart and we will be rewarded by sweet fellowship with Him when we find Him.
Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.
Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
Winter is sometimes a dreary time. Dark days, overcast and void of color. Sometimes after a few days of that sort of weather it is such a relief to see the sun. After the clouds clear and the sun is shining in a brilliant blue sky we just feel better.
Life can sometimes seem like those gray foggy winter days. Like we just need to see the sunshine for a little while. Whether we are facing difficult circumstances or trying to remain faithful to do what God has called us to do day after day, we can get weary and feel like we need refreshed.
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane on a cloudy day you know the feeling of climbing through the clouds and seeing the sun turn the clouds, gray from below, into a dazzling white from above. The sun was always shining, you just couldn’t see if because of the clouds. You never doubt that the sun is still up there, somewhere, even if days and weeks go by without a glimpse of it. You never wonder if it is still shining you are certain it is and that you will eventually see it again. The clouds will clear and the sun will shine.
Isn’t that just like life? Don’t we have dark days when we long to get a glimpse of God’s goodness? When we feel like all is overcast and gloomy? But we must not despair. Just because we can’t see God’s hand, doesn’t mean he isn’t working.
Just like the assurance we have that above the clouds the sun is still shining, we can also have assurance that beyond our gray circumstances, the Son is still shining as well. The Bible says that one day we will no longer depend on the sun or the moon for light. The Lord will be our everlasting light. He will shine over us for eternity.
Isaiah 60:19 No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory.
When we get discouraged, we can imagine ourselves rising above the clouds where the sun is still shining. We can put our hope in our Heavenly Father, who’s light is never extinguished.
God’s Word has always been a comfort to me. I go to the Scriptures when I am in need of encouragement, counsel and wisdom. I seek God’s direction in His Word. But sometimes I find myself in a place where even the energy to decode the words is beyond me. Have you ever been there? When you can’t even seem to understand what you just read with your own eyes?
As I write this, I have just experienced that again. Yet another family crisis has taken us from our comfortable routine. I find myself in the middle of a set of circumstances that swept us off our feet and hundreds of miles from home in bad weather. When we will go home is uncertain. What we will face as this day begins is uncertain. We don’t know how to prepare for the unknown.
Of course, the unknown to us is never unknown to God.
When we got the news that would take us on this latest unexpected journey we made the decision to travel at night. We drove twelve hours in the middle of the night and went immediately to the hospital. After several hours there, we finally went to our son’s home to eat a meal and rest. By this time I had gone about thirty hours with no sleep. I knew I was struggling to even think clearly. At this point God knew exactly what I needed.
As I rested my head, eyes closed, for a few minutes I heard a small quiet voice say, “Grandma, do you want me to read to you?” I really didn’t have the energy to listen to a story. While I was trying to find a nice way to tell this precious granddaughter that I really wasn’t able to listen right now, I heard her ruffling pages. Then she said, “Which Bible verse would you like me to read?” She wanted to read to me from her Bible? Well, yes, maybe I could listen to that. I knew just what to tell her. Psalm 34. A place I have gone frequently over the years.
She flipped the pages and soon, in her sweet six year old voice, she began to read. The words soaked into my soul. I never opened my eyes, never moved. I just stayed there, quietly allowing God to use this precious little girl to sooth my tired spirit. Her gift to me was such a simple act of love. She knew I was tired. She just wanted to help. What an amazing gift. I need to remember to allow God to use me in other’s lives in such simple ways as well. It doesn’t always have to be a big deal to be a blessing to someone else.
Some of the highlights of what I heard?
Psalm 34: 4-9 I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.
Psalm 34: 17-19 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Just what I needed. The reminder that He is here no matter what the circumstances. As I listened I felt the tears begin to roll down my cheeks. Tears of exhaustion turned to tears of joy. God was speaking to me through the voice of a little girl who brought me the simple joy found in His word.
The holiday season is nearly over. You know you’ve overindulged. Maybe you’ve added a few pounds. You know you haven’t taken time to exercise properly because the holiday season has been busier and you just haven’t had enough time. Maybe you feel sluggish and just not like yourself. So what do you do?
A large percentage of the population approaches the new year with a fresh resolve to change behavior. They make New Year’s resolutions. In the top ten most popular New Year’s resolutions you will find these: lose weight, eat healthier, drink less, quit smoking and exercise more. Why would these be so common? Perhaps because after a month of too much food, too little exercise and less that ideal schedules, we just don’t feel good. We know the answer is to make some new goals and get a fresh start. We instinctively know that if we want our physical bodies to come back into line, we need to make some changes.
But what about our spiritual health? Do we recognize that when we haven’t been feeding our spirits the right diet we can also get sluggish and flabby in a spiritual sense? Our spirits need a regular diet of God’s Word. We also need regular daily check-ups in God’s presence so He can tell us the things He desires us to know. But we also need to cut out the less than healthy parts of our spiritual diet just like we do with our physical diet. Even if we eat lots of fruits and vegetables and get plenty of good protein and lots of fiber, if we continue eating donuts and French fries on a regular basis, we still may not be caring for our bodies in the most optimal way.
Spiritually speaking, we need to pay attention to the “junk food” we are feeding ourselves every day. Perhaps we need to consider what we can cut from our daily intake. Perhaps we would benefit from looking at what we allow into our hearts and minds every day. Maybe we can make some changes that allow God more room to work because there is less clutter in His way. It’s kind of like comparing the way fats clog our arteries in our body to how worldly indulgence clogs our spiritual arteries.
I know I’ve found that writing these devotions is much more difficult if I’ve neglected this intentional feeding of my spirit. I’ve found it’s much more difficult to hear what God has to say when I’ve filled myself up with things of the world. They aren’t all necessarily sinful things, just too much of something that distracts me from God’s voice.
While I’m not particularly inclined to make New Year’s resolutions, I do think it’s wise to consider my behavior and recognize that I make choices every day that either draw me toward my Father or away from Him. It may not be as visible as our efforts to lose weight or exercise where we can see definite results. We need to trust that God will use our desire to draw closer to Him for our good even when we can’t really see any difference.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
With regard to making healthy choices for our bodies, we are really fighting a losing battle. There is only so much we can do to prolong life on this earth. Eventually our bodies will fail us and we will need them no longer. Our spirits are a different matter entirely. We are continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, Himself. More and more each day. One choice at a time.
What choices can you make today that will draw you closer to your Heavenly Father?
What will you feed your spirit today?
They embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.
What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were not suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!
But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in her final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.
They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.
They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.
What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you. For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.