We have reached the time of the year that falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time when we have just celebrated all that we are thankful for and yet we are looking forward to the more that is to come. A time when we have purposefully taken time to be intentionally content with what we have but yet we’re pressing forward with expectations of the gifts we want to give and if we’re being honest the gifts we hope to receive. This time of year creates tension.
I think the tension is good. I think we not only need it but I think we are called to it. We need to be both content with what we have and where we are in life but we also have to look forward with growth and expectation in mind. God calls us to be both thankful and content with where we are while also calling us to reach forward into the more and better that is to come. They are both very important and needed parts of life and we can find biblical examples of both throughout the Bible.
So if you are feeling this tension either now, with the holidays that are being celebrated, or at any other time in your life know that it’s part of the process. It’s important to be thankful for what you have but it’s also important to keep moving forward. God isn’t pleased with people that are just thankful for what they have without any forward motion but he also isn’t pleased with people that become so focused on growing and producing that they can’t be thankful for what they have. Learning how to move between thankfulness and growth appropriately both teaches and demonstrates spiritual growth in your life.
Here are a few scriptures and biblical examples for you to reflect on over this season:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
2 Kings 4:1-7
There are a lot of things that life throws at you that you just never expected to go the way it does. For example, when my family moved, my kids had to go to a new school and the new school was nothing like what I was expecting. I was pretty disappointed because I was sure that one of the benefits of moving to the new neighborhood was going to be better schools for my kids. Then a couple of years after we moved the pandemic hit. Being alive during a global pandemic is also something that I never expected would be part of my story and it added additional complications to our school situation. I had my own ideas of how I thought things would go in my life and in the last few years, almost every single one of them has been thrown for a loop. I imagine you probably have some examples of how things in your life might not be going as you expected as well.
So the question is, how will I adapt and keep going in the face of the unexpected?
I’m reminded that both Peter and Judas were expecting a king that would exude earthly power and would take an earthy throne and right all the wrongs that were happening to God’s people. But God’s plan of how that would happen was much different from what Peter and Judas were excepting. They both eventually realized that what they expected was not going to happen the way that they planned but they both handled the discovery very differently.
Judas was so set in his heart on how he expected or wanted things to go that when he realized it wasn’t going to happen he became bitter and sold Jesus out to the highest bidder. Peter, on the other hand, was disappointed that what he had planned wasn’t going to happen the way he wanted it to but he didn’t let his disappointment take root. He decided to set his heart on the truth of who he had discovered Jesus to be and because of that, he was willing to go along with the unexpected and see how God’s plan would play out. Because of his willingness to adapt to changes and his ability to trust God even in the midst of the unexpected, Peter went on to become the foundation of the church that we know today.
One thing that keeps me grounded in the unexpected situations of life is that even though I never knew these things would be part of my story God always did. He isn’t at all surprised by any of the events over the last few years or anything else that has played out in my life or yours. Just like Peter, we can rest in the thought that the things that God promised us weeks, months, or even years ago still apply no matter how different our lives may look from the expectations we have. In the face of the unexpected, we have the choice to become bitter and give up or to keep going by putting our focus on who God has revealed himself to be to us and trusting that his plans are perfect for our lives.
What will you choose?
Numbers 13 starts with God telling Moses to send one man from each of the ancestral tribes to explore the land of Canaan that God was giving them to be their new home. Moses of course obeyed and the 12 men went. At the end of the chapter, we learn that the land was more wonderful than they could have ever imagined. It was flowing with milk and honey. They even brought back bountiful fruit to show their friends and families but no matter how good the land was their minds were focused on the fact that the people that already dwelled in the land are strong and the cities were fortified and the Amalekites were living there. Verse 33 ends by saying “…to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed that same to them,”
I imagine that those were the facts, they probably were small in stature compared to the people living in Canaan. It probably was an impossible situation for them to undertake on their own. And of course, we know the outcome, they never enter the land that God promised them. This is one reason I enjoy history, and especially history in the Bible, it gives us an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. We get to see how the story played out and how history unfolded for the people that have gone before us and then we get the opportunity to apply it to our own lives. So, what those men didn’t know or couldn’t see while they were exploring the land of Canaan was…
(1) God had already given the land to them. It was a promise and God is always faithful to his word. We don’t have to fight, strive, or scheme for God’s promises for our lives. We just have to do our part to live them out.
(2) God had a plan. In Joshua Chapter 2 we learn that when the Israelites finally do enter the land, under Joshua’s leadership, God had prepared unexpected allies.
(3) Miracles were going to happen to help them get there.
One of the reasons they couldn’t see any of these things was because of how they saw themselves and how they saw themselves was how they thought others (probably including God) saw them too. They saw themselves as insignificant grasshoppers, not the valued and protected sons and daughters of the most high God. Their vision of themselves got in the way of what God was going to do.
So if you happen to be up against a giant in your life or an impossible situation, I want to encourage you to take a look at how you see yourself because just like the Israelites, how you see yourself may impact your ability to see the promises of God unfold in your life.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t feel like I am doing anything that significant with my life. That can be hard for me because I want to make an impact on the world around me, I want my life to matter. I think some of you might be able to relate to that feeling. I think these feelings are something that we all deal with from time to time because we were all created on purpose for a purpose and it’s our hearts desire to live that out. The problem is that sometimes our sense of significance can become distorted based on the expectations of the world or the people around us.
With today being Ash Wednesday and the start of the lent season Christians all over the world are all thinking about the life of Jesus. Today though I’ve been thinking about Mary. We can all agree that Mary carries a great amount of significance but outside of giving birth to Jesus, the Bible does not really give us much information about her life. We know that Mary was personally chosen by God. She didn’t just happen to be the mother of Jesus, she was hand selected by God to bring his only son to life on earth. The lack of details about all of the ways that Mary had an impact on the world around her to me means that the things that made Mary significant to God are not necessiarly the same things that would make her significant to people.
I think Mary stood out to God because of who she was in her day to day life. Her significance was in how she was faithful in the things that no one else saw or maybe cared about. God knew who she was and he was sure he could trust her to be a good mom and to raise his only son. Mom’s have a big impact on their kids and God knew he could trust Mary with Jesus’ whole life on earth from the very beginning to the very end.
This is really encouraging to me because if God was paying attention to Mary and hand selected her, even if no one else saw her significance, then he’s paying attention to me too. He’s watching how I live day in and day out. Even if I don’t ever feel significant God sees and values that I am being faithful to the things that he has called me to do. This brings so much value to the things I do every day and encourages me to live my day to day life in a way that honors him. It helps me to see that even the seemingly insignificant things matter.
I hope that you are encouraged by this too. I hope that this week and in the weeks to come that you remember that God sees you and he values the way that you show your faithfulness toward him, especially in the day to day things that may seem to go unnoticed.
I’m so thankful for the Bible. I’m glad that it doesn’t hide anything from us and helps guide us both into what to do as well as what not to do. One example of this is found in Judges 13, the story of Sampson. While there is so much to learn from Sampson himself, I want to take a look at Sampson’s parents.
The Bible tells us that Manoah and his wife were unable to conceive and they longed for a baby. An angel appeared to Manoah’s wife one day and told her that not only were they going to have a baby but that their son would be set apart for God and would rescue Israel from the Philistines! The angel gave her some specific directions on how she and her son were required to live in order to honor the Nazarite oath.
Manoah and his wife so desperately wanted a child that they were willing to do anything that the angel told them to do. They followed the directions to the letter. They were well aware of how to physically set Sampson apart for God but I don’t think they understood their responsibility as his parents to also teach him how to set himself apart spiritually.
It’s completely understandable though because they were a part of a generation that was considered evil in God’s eyes so they may not have had any examples set before them on how they should raise their son. I believe they were doing the very best they could in how they raised Sampson and we all know that even though they didn’t really know what they were doing, God did and he chose them as Sampson’s parents.
I think that Sampson’s parents were probably older than typical parents of that time and since they didn’t ever think they would have a son they wanted to make the most of the gift they had been given. Because of that they probably prioritized Sampson’s happiness over the call that God had put on his life. Again, not on purpose but because all parents want their kids to be happy in life. Although there isn’t anything wrong with our kids being happy it’s really important that we don’t make happiness a priority over raising them to be who God created them to be.
Because of Sampson’s parents’ mistakes, Sampson learn how to work the system to get what he wanted even if it wasn’t good for him. He wasted the gifts and strength that God had given him on practical jokes and revenge when things didn’t go his way. Eventually, he even gave up his own oath to God entirely for his own human pleasure that he found in a Philistine woman.
This is why I’m so thankful for the Bible, we can do better with our kids because now we know better. We can help our kids to live out all that God has called them to do and help them to leave a legacy that others want to follow by learning from a few mistakes that Manoah and his wife made. We can help our kids know how to honor their own oaths to God by teaching them to…
- Use their gifts and abilities from God with wisdom and responsibility
- To not give in to short term pleasures or happiness over the joy and honor that comes from fulfilling the call of God on their lives
- Control their own will in favor of God’s will for them
- To not confide in the wrong people and better yet to surround themselves with the right spouces, friends and influencers
It’s such a great honor from God to be a parent and I want to do the best I can to help my kids become exactly who God has made them to be. I know you do too!
I’m hosting a family grow group at my church tonight on mistakes that parents can avoid so in honor of that I am going to share a little bit of my perspective on raising my own kids.
I think a general accepted goal of most parents is to raise kids that turn out to be good adults but that’s not my goal at all. I want to raise kids that are ready to stand before God. The thing is none of us know what tomorrow will bring for our kids here on earth but no matter what I know that someday they will defiantly be standing before God. I know that they will be held accountable for their life no matter how long or short it may be. I want them to be ready for that day at any age.
I do want them to do well in school, I want them to work hard and learn a lot, but not so that they will get into a great university or get a good job when they are older but instead so that they will be prepared and equipped for the things that God calls them to do. I don’t want them to be thinking, I’ll do the things God has for me some day when I grow up, but instead I want them to be prepared for what God has for each of them right now and for all the days to come. I believe that their lives have an impact on the world around them no matter how old they are. It’s important that they are aware and ready to be used by God at any age.
I also want my kids to learn how to make friends and learn how to get along with with difficult people. Not just because it will help them to succeed in their careers but because people matter to God (even the difficult ones). I want people to matter to my kids too.
I’m not preparing my kids to be good adults (although they will be) and I’m not preparing them to be world changers (although they will be that too). I’m preparing my kids to stand before God one day so that they will be able to hear him say to them well done, good and faithful servant.
I don’t know about you but often things don’t really go the way I planned for them to go. Sometimes it’s important to fight for things in your life to turn around but sometimes we have to just let things play out. It’s important to be able to determine which is which so we can stay in the middle of God’s plans for our lives.
I want to encourage you that even if things are not going the way you planned, and it’s one of those times you need to just let things play out you’re not alone. One of the devils greatest tricks is to make us feel isolated and alone but that’s never the case. Someone else has always been or is going through something similar to what you are experiencing right now.
Don’t let a change of plans take you off course. Instead use it as an opportunity to evaluate the direction that you really need to be going. I’ve found that when I feel like things are not going at all the way I had planned it’s often because of 1 of 2 things.
(1) It’s just a seed planting season not a growth season. When things aren’t going the way I expected it’s sometimes because the situation isn’t ready for the change I want to see happen. When this is the case instead of allowing a sense of defeat to take over I adjust my perspective to see that the change of growth I so long for will eventually happen but maybe at a different time. For now I have to focus on planting the right seeds in the right places so that things will be able to grow when the time is right.
(2) The short term plans that I had for myself would actually take me off course from my long term goals. It’s not always easy to know exactly how to pave a direct path into the future you want for yourself. We just don’t have the perspective that God has to get us to the right places at the right times. When I realize that my plans might not be the best way into my future it’s a lot easier to just let things play out and focus on figuring the next best step instead of fighting for something that will never get me to where I want to go.
In Jeremiah 29 the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the surviving exiles in Babylon. I think it’s safe to say that being and exile was not at all what these people had planned for their lives! The letter was to tell them what God was saying for them. In verse 11 it says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
That is so encouraging to me and I hope it’s encouraging to you too. No matter what things look like for each of us today, even when things don’t look at all the way we had planned, we can always rest in the assurance that God has good plans for our future and we can trust him to get us to the exact right places at the exact right time.
When we read about the birth of Jesus the focus is usually on Mary & Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, King Herod, and of course Jesus. I want to for just a minute focus on someone that is probably overlooked, the person that offered his barn (or cave) for Mary and Joseph to sleep in that night.
In Luke 2:7 there is hardly even a mention other than Mary wrapped baby Jesus in snugly strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the village inn. Think about it though whoever offered them that humble place to sleep that night was giving what they had and it was impacting the world.
When he offered to let them sleep in that barn he had no idea that his small act would play such a major part in saving ALL of mankind. He had no idea that when he offered what he had to help that man and his pregnant wife he was impacting every nation and every single person throughout time.
My take away is simple:
- Take care of what you have because you never know who you may be asked to entertain there.
- Be willing to give what you have because you never know who you are giving it to.
- Listen for promptings & then follow through because you never know how big of a story those subtle promptings are playing into.
Be ready with what you have been given!
Hebrews 13:2 – Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!