Heading into a new month, I consider the goals I’m setting, but first, I lay down the things that are heavy on my heart. Fear. I list the things that I’m afraid of, and new questions emerge–what if? I shift my gaze and ask new questions–what is the next right thing, the next loving thing; what is God’s will for me in this situation? How can I honor God?
Solomon asked for wisdom to lead, and how blessed I am too to have a Father who doesn’t hold back love or wisdom, in fact, gives me his Spirit to intercede when words fail me!
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and 6 my God! (Psalm 42:2,5-6, NLT)
I praise him, my Savior, my God.
I can walk in the Spirit. (Singing freedom!)
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:5-17, NLT)
I’m not a slave to fear. I am a child of God.
Deeply, completely, eternally grateful.
We find the story of Gideon in our passage in Judges this morning. Many if not all of us have read this many times. There is one small bit of the story I have overlooked before:
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” (Judges 7:8b-14 [NIV])
So the whole story as we know is a one of a test of faith for Gideon. God sees Gideon as a might warrior even though he was hiding in a grain bin. God whittles his men down past the bare minimum. No way would I have gone into battle with only 300 men. Then God gives Gideon something to hang on to. After he has obeyed God — probably thinking he’s going to die — he is given a reassurance that he will be victorious. It’s obvious he’s afraid — thus Purah going with him and then he hears good news. A prediction of victory from the enemy’s lips. What more could he ask for.
That happened to Moses too. It wasn’t till he started back to Egypt from the wilderness did God tell him the people that would have killed him for going back were gone.
How often does God do that for us? But it takes our obedience first before he reassures. Are you reading to do the next thing God wants you to do? If so don’t wait for the assurances, they will come after your first steps in His direction.
“Come, all of you who are gifted craftsman. Construct everything that the Lord has commanded: the Tabernacle and its sacred tent, its covering, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts, and bases; the Ark and its carrying poles; the Ark’s cover-the place of atonement; the inner curtain to shield the Ark.” Exodus 35:10-12 NLT
My one word for the year is TRUST. But, since I had a difficult time narrowing it down to just that word, give and create are also on that list. I’ve come to realize they both fall under the umbrella of trust. I have to trust that God will take what I offer him and use it for his purposes, even if I can’t see it now. He cares about the big and small details. So many details went into the making of the Tabernacle, Ark, Table, Lamp stand and Incense altar. He didn’t just ask anyone to make it. He chose certain craftsman (Exodus 36:1 NLT). This is such a great reminder that when my calling feels small and insignificant, he sees me and gave me unique skills that only I can do.
“Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Take a sacred offering to the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the lamps.” Exodus 35:4-8 NLT
The people were generous in their help donating material things towards the completion of the sanctuary. They gave. They didn’t hold back. What might I be holding back from the Lord? Being generous and living in community will cost me something… time, energy and resources. Do I trust that God will supply what I need like Paul did?
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward in kindness. At the moment I have all I need-and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And the same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:11-19 NLT
Dear Father, thank you for your provision. I pray that I wouldn’t let fear hold me back from what you called me to do. Help me to love others and share my life with them. Amen.
“I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord.” Psalms 26:1&12 NLT
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:16-19 NLT
This passage brings to mind a book that I was given years ago when I was letting fear grip my life. I flip through the pages and let the underlined words sink in… “My fear is really loneliness for God. Therefore I will claim His promise to never leave or forsake me. It’s in the secret place of our spirit that we need to receive profound love, the only lasting antidote to fear. And only God can love us as much as we need to be loved. Not just once, but daily, hour by hour, moment by moment” (Living Without Fear, Lloyd Ogilvie).
If I’m not on guard, I can let fear consume me even now…
Fear of what someone might think.
Fear of failure.
Fear of the future.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of lack.
The list could go on and on. But, when I trust in God’s perfect love for me, I have no reason to fear. Because I know that he won’t let me down. God’s love is the only one that’s perfect. He pursues me, like he did Zacchaeus. And my heart is changed.
“Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there names Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Luke 19:1-5 NLT
I am thankful for a God who keeps his promises.
“Praise the Lord, God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, ‘From the day I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where the Temple should be built to honor my name. Nor have I chosen a king to lead my people Israel…”And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 6:4-10 NLT
Dear Father, thank you for loving me. I praise you for who you are. Help me to surrender my fears to you. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT
I am a person who likes to avoid a disruption of peace, whether it be conflict or trials. But, God has been teaching me that they are a necessity for my growth. I tend to reflect back on “if only” than _______ wouldn’t have happened. But, I am learning that God is using those times to show me that I’m not in control. Before we left for our family beach vacation, my youngest daughter was hit in the eye with a golf club. Her eye is fine, but it left a bruise that took the whole week to go away. After we stopped for lunch on our drive to the beach, my other daughter threw her retainer away in the trash. Which I than spent an hour searching for and never found. I felt like I could breath a sigh of relief once we arrived. Only to start off the next day with a bike ride with my four kids that ended in scrapes and bruises from two of them colliding. God is showing me that I can’t escape trials. He is using them to refine me. He is testing my character and wants to see how I react. When I am in constant communion with him and in His word, I have more patience and his words come out of my mouth. If I am bound by my own fear and mistrust, I can let anxieties overtake me and be quick to snap and yell.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:14 NLT
Nothing compares to hearing my child pray before bed to heal him and his sister from their cuts and scrapes. Childlike trust. Knowing that God didn’t cause the pain and he is sovereign.
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world…The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” Psalms 19:1-8 NLT
But oh, how the ocean’s vastness, compared to my smallness humbles me and puts things into perspective.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good…So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends with God.” Romans 5:6-11 NLT
Father, I pray that I would run to your presence instead of turning away(Jer.43:7). I praise you. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. For pursuing me. I love you. Amen.
“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.” Acts 5:38-42 NLT
Is my walk so close with Jesus that I can truly rejoice in my sufferings? Usually not when I am in the midst of it. My own humanness wants to complain. But, looking back I can see that those were the times that have strengthened my faith. And where God has shown himself most clearly.
“Lord, we confess our wickedness and that of our ancestors, too. We all have sinned against you. For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us. Do not disgrace your own glorious throne. Please remember us, and do not break your covenant with us. Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain? Does it fall from the sky by itself? No, you are the one, O Lord our God! Only you can do such things. So we will wait for you to help us.” Jeremiah 14:20-22 NLT
Sometimes it seems that he has left me in the waiting. And there is a drought in my soul. But, he reminds me that he is right there when I call out to him. He promises to be with me.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NLT
I can still remember back to six years ago when the Father spoke this verse into my clouded and fearful mind. Never did I sense His presence more. If I hadn’t gone through that dark time, it wouldn’t have the meaning it has today. When worry strikes again, that day is a much needed reminder to my weary heart. He was with me than and is with me now.
Thank you Father for making a way to always be with me. Thank you for meeting me where I am. I praise you for who you are. Amen.
“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord; “Please, Lord, save me!” How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth! I believed in you, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you, “These people are all liars!” Psalms 116:1-11 NLT
Surfing through my news feed I came across a quote from Max Lucado that said, “Anxiety and Fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.” Underneath he lists some practical steps for overcoming this. The first step is, Pray. If only that was my first instinct when fear or worry comes creeping into my mind. I am reminded in the Psalms that the Lord hears my voice. How comforting it is to know that He never tires of me coming to him. He doesn’t grow weary of my voice, like I sometimes do with my kids . But, more often than not, I don’t cry out to him enough.
“Never forget what the Amalekites did to you as you came from Egypt. They attacked you when you were exhausted and weary, and they struck down those who were straggling behind. They had no fear of God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies in the land he is giving you as a special possession, you must destroy the Amakelites and erase their memory from under heaven. Never forget this!” Deuteronomy 25:17-19 NLT
“Don’t let your thoughts run away on you!” is number 6 on Max Lucado’s list. I know what it is like to let my thoughts spiral downward. I need to be on guard, because Satan knows my weakness. And if I am not on constant watch, I can quickly forget the Lord’s power.
“But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. Then at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them. Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean…You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind” Isaiah 52:10&11NLT
Thank you Father for your faithfulness. That you go before me. And I can look back and remember all the times when I cried out to you and you answered. Help me to live from the victory that I already have in you. I praise you. Amen.
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of the prophecy written in this book.” Revelation 22:7 NLT