Faith in the Call
If faith is the substance of things of hoped for and evidence of things not seen, fear is a mask which blinds us to the possible. All too often, we feel the Holy Spirit’s quiet tug in a particular direction, but instead of going forward, we stop for fears and doubt.
We’re hardly alone in this struggle to live forward into the coming present only God can foresee. Moses, among the greatest of leaders in world history, could have quite easily remained a ranch hand on his father-in-law’s property in Midian had he trusted his doubts.
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11 NIV)’”
Keep in mind, Moses had good reason to be concerned about God’s proposed mission whereby he would confront the ruler of Egypt himself and demand that all Israel be freed from slavery. A full-grown father and husband at this point, like all of us, deep within him was the child’s memory. And in his case, that childhood was surrounded by the executions of Hebrew children and beatings of his people. Moses knew what manner of man the Pharaoh was, and that was one of many reasons he was content to live in the boondocks of Midian.
But God made clear that He had not only chosen Moses, humble shepherd though he was at that point, but that He Himself would be fully behind him in this endeavor.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).”
Moses had faith in the voice he heard calling from a burning bush, faith in the God of his ancestors, and faith in the promise made Abraham of a free Israel. And at that point in history, that faith was the lone substance of many things hoped for, the only evidence of a promise unseen. What would the history of Israel, and in point of fact, all Christianity, be had Moses faltered and turned aside? God’s will always wins in the end, and perhaps He would have simply gone on down the road to the next in line. We’ll never know how many opportunities we’ve missed to play the role of Moses in God’s great design if we wear the mask of fear.
Who are we to be called to God’s work? Who was anyone before God led them to what they became? A walk with God is the substance of things hoped for, but that substance is rarely seen on the first step.
Run the Race
JANUARY 21, 2020
“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5 (NIV)
When I go for what I call a “run” — jogging around my neighborhood for about 10 minutes — I often take my large Goldendoodle dog named Winston with me (whose favorite pastime happens to be napping).
Unlike some dogs, Winston doesn’t just run right alongside me or in front of me. He needs a little motivation. So I grab a doggie biscuit and hold it like a baton in front of him. He sniffs with excitement and follows me, usually trailing for the first four houses before catching up. He loves getting his biscuit treat after our exercise!
With the reward in sight, he runs onward.
The Christian life is compared to a race in the Bible many times:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” (1 Corinthians 9:24a, NIV)
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7a, b, NIV).
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1c, NIV).
Running a race takes discipline, consistency, effort and movement in the same direction. When we have a reward in sight, like Winston and his dog biscuit, it keeps us motivated, helping us to persevere through difficulty or fatigue. We certainly run for the prize of heaven and rewards like the crown of life (James 1:12) and a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25) But there are rewards and benefits to enjoy right now in your race!
Our key verse written by David, highlights the benefits of serving God: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).
David is talking to himself in these verses. He’s encouraging his own heart. He’s reminding himself of the benefits of following God’s commands. He’s giving a “locker room talk” to an audience of one — like a rousing speech coaches give to sports teams before playing a big game.
He’s stirring up praise in the inward man.
He’s remembering what God has done for him that no one can take away.
He’s grateful to be forgiven.
He’s recognizing it is God who satisfies with good things.
This is a glimpse into David’s inner life of praise. It reveals his motivation and what kept him running so strong that he was called a man after God’s own heart. How can we keep running the race faithfully every day after the heart of God?
There are many sinful distractions along the way that trip us up. There’s also a very subtle snare — the trap of forgetfulness. We don’t go off on an evil path. We just slow down and stop remembering all that God has done. We become forgetful, then unthankful. We forget the awesomeness of God. We forget how God has delivered us. We forget why we made the commitment to run the race as a disciple in the first place.
It’s time to awake our souls to remember our God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. When we remember who He is, we have the power to keep running, jogging, walking in the right direction. So what keeps us running the race? Remembering the benefits of following God. Let’s not forget He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns and satisfies!
The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back. – Proverbs 21:25-26 NASB
Some people seem primarily concerned about themselves. They passionately hoard their possessions and indulge in personal pleasures. This lifestyle may bring to mind cranky billionaires or selfish entertainers. But the Bible warns that these also are characteristics of “the sluggard.”
These people are not concerned with faithfulness or responsibility, but they do as little as possible. They don’t want to work, yet are filled with cravings “all day long.” Sluggards may not realize it, but this kind of craving “puts [them] to death.” It strangles them.
But people who fear God are different. They seek to please Him and live according to His Word. They seek first His Kingdom and have a balanced attitude toward their possessions. And they work as unto Him.
They also cultivate an attitude of giving. They realize that everything they have is a gift from God and that He “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Instead of hoarding, they look for opportunities to give. They are generous and do not hold back.
What is your attitude toward your possessions? Time? Resources? Are you selfish? A sluggard? Or do you try to please God, always seeking opportunities to serve Him with the resources He has given you? Apply the talents you have been given. Invest your resources in His Kingdom. Seek to obey and serve Him. Cultivate a life of giving. Remember, you have been blessed so that you can bless others!
Streams in the Desert – January 21
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
None of these things move me (Acts 20:24).
We read in the book of Samuel that the moment that David was crowned at Hebron, “All the Philistines came up to seek David.” And the moment we get anything from the Lord worth contending for, then the devil comes to seek us.
When the enemy meets us at the threshold of any great work for God, let us accept it as “a token of salvation,” and claim double blessing, victory, and power. Power is developed by resistance. The cannon carries twice as far because the exploding power has to find its way through resistance. The way electricity is produced in the powerhouse yonder is by the sharp friction of the revolving wheels. And so we shall find some day that even Satan has been one of God’s agencies of blessing.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth
A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails.
Tribulation is the way to triumph. The valley-way opens into the highway. Tribulation’s imprint is on all great things. Crowns are cast in crucibles. Chains of character that wind about the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No man is greatest victor till he has trodden the winepress of woe. With seams of anguish deep in His brow, the “Man of Sorrows” said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”–but after this sob comes the psalm of promise, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The footprints are traceable everywhere. Bloodmarks stain the steps that lead to thrones. Sears are the price of scepters. Our crowns will be wrested from the giants we conquer. Grief has always been the lot of greatness. It is an open secret.
The mark of rank in nature.
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain.
Tribulation has always marked the trail of the true reformer. It is the story of Paul, Luther, Savonarola, Knox, Wesley, and all the rest of the mighty army. They came through great tribulation to their place of power.
Every great book has been written with the author’s blood. “These are they that have come out of great tribulation.” Who was the peerless poet of the Greeks? Homer. But that illustrious singer was blind. Who wrote the fadeless dream of “Pilgrim’s Progress”? A prince in royal purple upon a couch of ease? Nay! The trailing splendor of that vision gilded the dingy walls of old Bedford jail while John Bunyan, a princely prisoner, a glorious genius, made a faithful transcript of the scene.
Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply, he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, all covered o’er with blood and sweat,
Sinks fainting, but fighting evermore
Is greater yet.