And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
For the past few mornings or so, God has been waking me up with the song, “Storyteller” by Morgan Harper Nichols. It has really been an encouragement to me. It has me wondering about the story my life is telling. We can go through life so caught up with our responsibilities and issues and everyday living that we may not even realize that our life is telling a story to the world, that people are looking on and reading the pages of our life and that what they read can either encourage or discourage them, motivate or inspire them, turn them towards God or turn them away from Him...
In the first verse, she talks about taking a trip down memory lane and as she turns each page of photographs she sees God’s faithfulness. I don’t know about you but that does something to me to be reminded of God’s faithfulness in every stage of my life. It reminds me actually of the poem, “Footprints,” where the poet, in the darkest times of his life felt as if God had abandoned him because he saw only one set of footprints in the sand. Yet, God had not abandoned him. In fact, He informed him that it was at those lowest times in his life that He had carried him. That’s God’s faithfulness in action. It can be so difficult to see or even feel God at our most painful and lonely moments yet He is there, silent maybe, invisible maybe, but very much there. And that’s the part of our story that we want to highlight, not just how terrible things were at those times but how faithful God was.
The chorus speaks about our mountain and valley experiences, our highs and lows and the fact that God is there for both. His Word says that all things work together for good for us His children (Romans 8:28). God knows how to bring good out of both the bad and good. In fact, He is able to create a beautiful story using both the good and the bad, the sorrow and the joy. I like to tell people that I thank God for the negative things in my life. He has taught me to be grateful not just for the good things that have happened in my life but for the bad as well. I am able to look back and see how those negatives have helped make me stronger, wiser, a vessel fit for His use. I never would be who I am today if everything in my life was perfect. None of us would. God certainly knows how to bring beauty out of ashes.
The second verse I choose to quote in part:
There were some nights that felt like
They would last forever
But You kept me breathing
You were with me right then...
Have you ever found yourself asking God, “God how long?” It seemed as if the challenge, the trial, the test would never end. You felt as if you wouldn’t survive, yet God kept you alive, He kept you going, He kept your head above water, so to speak, just when you felt as if you would drown. Yes, God was there, faithfully there, even when you felt that you couldn’t go another day in that situation and He helped you to survive, to face one more day in what at times seemed like hell.
We are living testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness. What story do you want your life to tell the world? What story is it telling now? Joseph went through a really tough time. He had lost his mother, was hated by his brothers and for several years in Egypt, faced one unfair situation after the next. Yet, God had a plan and years later his story is still being read and is a source of encouragement to many. What is encouraging is that he faced such unfair treatment, yet, it was all part of God’s plan to prepare him to become second in command to Pharaoh. He had to go through the pain he did; his character had to be molded and shaped to God’s standard so that he could fulfil his role in Egypt when that time came (Genesis chapters 37, 39-41).
No, we don’t like when negative things happen. But it’s all a part of our story, God’s story for our lives. So, what story is your life telling? When people open your book will they be inspired or turned off by what’s written on those pages? Will they be able to see God, ever-present and victorious in every situation or will they see a life devoid of God and filled with discouragement and defeat? The choice actually is yours. Your story can be one that points people to the God of hope and possibility in the face of impossible situations or it can be a story that focuses on hopelessness and despair, a life devoid of the God of hope. Yes, the choice is yours.
If you have not asked Jesus to come into your life, I invite you to do so now. If you’re not satisfied with your story hand over your story to Him and allow Him to create a masterpiece worth reading!
In the wee hours of the morning I got up to spend my much-needed time with God. During this session, I found myself crying out to God and asking Him what His will for my life is. Sure, I am doing various things for Him but as He helped me become aware of and sensitive to the hurts, pain and suffering of various people around the world, I found myself wanting to do more. Hence, my cry to Him, as I felt inadequate, like I’m not doing enough. Have you ever felt like that sometimes?
Hours later, while going about my tasks for the day, I listened to a sermon and God answered my prayer right there in that sermon! In that sermon, I heard stories of Saul and Joseph. Saul’s father’s donkeys got lost and on the request of his father, he went with a servant in search of the animals. It wasn’t a noble or noteworthy task, but he went because of his love and respect for his father. In the process, he met up with the prophet Samuel, and was anointed king of Israel (1Samuel 9 – 10:1). Joseph, on the other hand, after being sold into Egypt by his brothers, faithfully and humbly functioned wherever God placed him. Even when he was wrongfully accused of rape by his master’s wife and thrown into jail, God’s favor was upon him and he conducted himself in such a noble and honest manner that the keeper of the prison confidently entrusted the prisoners to his care. In the process of time, he was able to accurately interpret the dreams of two prisoners which led to him interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and thus becoming second in command over all Egypt (Genesis chapters 39-41).
Each of these men, were not doing great, big noticeable tasks. They were simply functioning where God had placed them and when the time was right God promoted them to greater things. Sometimes, we may want to do more for God, something bigger and more noble, but all God wants from us is to do the “little” things that we are already doing. No one may see, know or care but those little things matter to God.
David, before he became king, was a humble shepherd. He faithfully tended his father’s sheep. Did his father or family notice? No. There he was fighting off a lion and a bear to protect his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:37) and his father probably never knew or even cared. He said nothing but continued faithfully to do his duty. He was so insignificant, that when the prophet Samuel came to anoint a king from among his father’s sons, he wasn’t even invited to the ceremony (1Samuel 16:4-12). Yes, he was that invisible and insignificant and what he was doing was going unnoticed. Yet, in the process of time, his seemingly insignificant duties, unnoticed by man was being noticed by God and God raised him up to be king of Israel.
Maybe the little or much you are doing seems insignificant, seems to go unnoticed by many even those close to you. Maybe you want to do so much more for God, but the opportunities don’t seem to be coming your way. Do like these men, be faithful in the little things. Be faithful, even when no one sees or cares. You want to do more for God? Keep doing what you are doing for Him now. That’s what God helped me realize today. His will for my life is to continue doing the little or much that I am doing, and all these tasks will lead to greater and greater things for Him. Sometimes, we want to do so much for God and may feel like what we are doing isn’t enough. But take heart, God sees and knows, and He just wants us to be faithful in the little so that He will know we will be faithful in the much.
Think about it, Saul was anointed to be king over Israel, while he was doing a seemingly insignificant task as looking for his father’s donkeys. David was doing his duty and tending his father’s sheep and wasn’t even invited to the ceremony, but God sent for Him. No matter where you are and what little task you are doing, when God is ready for you He knows exactly where to find you and hopefully He will find you faithfully doing those “little” things that seem so unimportant to others, the tasks sometimes that no one else wants to do.
Use the gifts God has given you to use right now; do those things that your hands find to do right now, even if trivial. Each little thing is like a stepping stone to greater things for God. God knows your heart, that you may want to do more for Him but take heart, He sees those “little” things and He is pleased.
If you have never asked Christ to come into your life, invite Him in now. Simply ask Him to come and forgive you of your sins and be Lord of your life. When you have made this step, watch God do greater things in you than you could ever dream of or accomplish on your own.
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19
Last week we looked at the fact that the new thing that God wants to do in our lives has to begin with us, with our effort to shift our focus from the old, sometimes negative things of the past as we choose to look forward to the new thing God has in store for us. It’s not easy, especially when you are accustomed to focusing on what’s behind but if we want to experience the new thing God has for us, we have to make a conscious effort.
Thankfully, after our focus is adjusted, we can rest in the fact that God is going to do it. We can be pretty dependent as human beings. We love to be able to have a say in what happens to us and that is totally normal. Yet, sometimes we just have to hand over the reins to God and let Him do His perfect work. It won’t be perfect if we interfere, if we have a say in how it is done, when it is done or who will be used to make it happen. God has our business, which by the way is His business, all worked out.
Here’s the challenge though – He said He will “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” He never said that He would take us out of the wilderness but make a way for us to bear it. He never said He would take us out of the desert either but that He would make rivers there to refresh us and sustain us as we go through. Yes, sometimes the “new thing” doesn’t always look too new. Sometimes, the greater victory is not removing the problem but enabling us to bear it and to still thrive and to still succeed in spite of it. It does take “new” eyes to see the miracles God is doing in our desert seasons. It takes a grateful heart to choose to be thankful as we walk through and sometimes crawl through those wilderness experiences. Sometimes, the new thing is “us” and what God is doing in us in the midst of our situation.
Years ago, when I first started teaching, the experience was a very challenging one for me. I am a naturally shy, introvert, not always comfortable with crowds or worse yet standing in front of a crowd to speak. So, you can imagine teaching was something that I wanted to run from, but I knew in my heart of hearts that that was exactly where God wanted me to be. I struggled for a long time to be able to practice good classroom management skills and in short did not enjoy my experience as a teacher. Yet, I plodded on and gradually learned to turn it over to God. After some time, I realized something interesting. My classes were still difficult to manage – that had not quite changed – but there was a change taking place in me. I actually started to enjoy my job and I realized that I was the one who had changed. I guess you can say that God had made a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert for me. He didn’t take me out of teaching and put me in a new profession, He simply changed my heart, my attitude, my focus. As I let go of my negative experiences and put my focus more and more on my God, although the challenges did not necessarily go away, I was the one that was experiencing a new thing, a new attitude, a new perception of things. Today, I find myself enjoying being with my students no matter how challenging behaviors may be at times. I have learned, as much as possible, to start each class with a fresh slate as if any negatives of the class before never even happened. Yes, God has certainly done and is still doing a new thing in me.
What does your desert experience look like? Maybe the new thing God is going to do is to transform you into a new you. He knows how to use those challenging, painful things in our lives to transform us into something beautiful and precious. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing is wasted by God. He will use both the good and the bad to do new things in us. And when the time is right, He will bring you out of the desert. He will remove that problem as if it never even existed. It. Will. Not. Last. Forever. Trust the process. Trust God. He will make all things new.
If you have never asked Jesus to come into your life, invite Him in now and watch and allow Him to transform you into a “you” that you can be proud of.
At the start of the new year, I received several New Year’s greetings, a few of which highlighted this portion of scripture. To be honest, last week when I wrote my post, I did start my post with this verse expecting it to guide what I wanted to write. But, somehow, it didn’t quite work out that way and the idea for that post took a different turn. This week, however, I feel the need to come right back to these verses. God is doing a new thing… But what if, sometimes, everything still looks the same? What if the new that you may have anticipated doesn’t quite seem to look “new?”
As I read these verses again, something caught my attention. The first line says: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.” I realized that I have an important part to play in this – I have to choose to forget, I have to choose not to dwell on the past. The word “consider” shouts this loud and clear. The word “consider” means to think carefully about, to think about and be drawn towards (a course of action), to look attentively at. Synonyms include: reflect, ponder, study, believe. This word carries a lot of heavy meaning and to me, it gives us an idea as to why it can be so difficult to move forward into something new. Now mind you, your circumstances, situation may not be showing any change at all, so maybe the new thing has to begin with me and in me. You can’t force people, circumstances, situations to change but maybe you can focus instead on changing you.
I think this is where leaning on what God says about us comes into play. For several months God has been redirecting my thoughts and my focus to Him and to what He says about me. I guess when you are so focused on your perception of yourself and on other people’s perception of you, your vision of who God says you are becomes clouded. The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7). How you view you and your situation will most likely guide your actions, your attitude, even your very life!
The brief account of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4 tells us that we can be a part of the positive change. Jabez’ mother called him Jabez because she gave birth to him in sorrow (1 Chronicles 4:9). Jabez, however, chose not to let that negative guide or control his life. He cried out to God and asked Him to bless him and enlarge his borders. He asked that God’s hand would be with him and that He would keep him from evil. God granted him his request (v.10). He chose not to dwell on his painful birth which caused his mother to give him a name that would be a reminder of that negative past. He chose to have a positive and bright future. He chose to forget that past and his mother’s perception of it and he chose to create a new and improved future for himself. The first thing he did was change his mindset, the second thing he did was enlist God’s help to bring it to pass.
What mindsets do we need to change? What negatives of last year and years gone by do we need to take our eyes off of? What negatives of five minutes ago do we need to choose not to remember? God is ready and waiting but we need to work with Him instead of against Him. He is ready to make all things new but are we ready and willing to let go of the negatives of the past that we cannot change and allow Him to do the new thing? The choice is really ours. God could be presenting something new to us, even right under our nose, but we can’t see it because of where our focus is.
So, maybe for this new year, we need to let go of those things which are behind and press towards what lies ahead. And you don’t have to let go on your own. Ask God for His help. Confess those things that you find so difficult to let go of and let Him help you release them. If you don’t have a relationship with Him, ask Him to come into your life through His Son Jesus and help create that new and improved life you so desperately want. That’s what our God is there for, to be a present help when we need it.
At the end of 2020, as I looked back over the year, I remembered the challenges, the trials, the uncertainties at times, the negative things that had happened. At the start of 2020, interestingly, I was speaking with a friend of mine and she mentioned something that caught my attention. She was spending some time with God and He told her that the game had changed. At that time, Covid19 wasn’t even an issue, at least not in many countries including this one. So, when she told me about it, neither of us had a clue of what God meant but we knew He was up to something. We were expecting, I think, unexpected things to happen. And it did. By March 16th schools here were closed – three weeks before the official end of school – and the country started its first lock down.
During this season, there was so much uncertainty and fear. No one knew exactly what to expect because we had never been through something like this before. Stories of other phenomena in years gone by started to surface and no one seemed able to predict exactly how all this would turn out. Plans suddenly had to be shelved, major events postponed or cancelled. It did not help that millions were contracting the virus and thousands around the world were dying. Indeed, for many, the game had changed, this year was certainly a game changer.
But where was God in all of this? Did He drop off the face of the earth, so to speak? Was He silent as the world was in turmoil? No. Actually, I think God spoke His loudest at this time. Even as church doors closed around the world God was speaking loud and clear. Things may have been happening in the physical, but in the spiritual I believe God was moving mightily. God was not clueless or helpless. He had not lost His control on things. In fact, it is during times like these that our God does unexpected and amazing things. I’m not saying there wasn’t death, discouragement, despair, not to mention loss of jobs and thus financial independence for many, or loss of loved ones. But God was sustaining His people in the midst of it all. He was keeping us, He was enabling us to go through the fire and the flood and not be burned or even drown.
For me, it was a year not without its challenges, but I thank God for it. God’s provision during this season was amazing. Even as attacks from the enemy came my way, what the devil meant for evil God worked it out for my good. I grew even closer to God. I spent more time with Him this year than any other I think. I became so dependent on Him for everything, and I know this is exactly what He wanted. He desires relationship with us so when He allows challenges and trials to come, don’t be discouraged, it’s an opportunity to draw closer to Him and the closer you get to Him, the more encouraged, the more empowered you are to handle anything that comes your way.
So, at the end of last year I found myself thankful for everything good and bad. And at the start of this new year, I am still so thankful for everything good and bad. With this new year brings the promise of new beginnings, fresh hope and fresh strength to face whatever comes our way. We did not know what to expect last year, but guess what? Last year ended and if you made it you should be thankful. It was a tough year but you are still standing and you are able to greet the new year standing! The devil may have tried to take you out many times last year, but you are still standing. You may feel that you are barely standing but you are standing. God is good and He is faithful. There is a song, “Promises,” from Maverick City Music that says,
Great is your faithfulness to me
Great is Your faithfulness to me
From the rising sun to the setting same I will praise Your name.
Great is Your faithfulness to me.
I have found myself saying a number of times, “God is faithful,” because I saw His faithfulness to me through the good and the bad. So, if you have not surrendered to the God who brought you through last year, you need to. He has been faithful even when you have not been faithful. He took care of you even when you didn’t ask Him to. God loves us and even though last year changed many of our plans it could not and cannot change God’s good plans for us. His plans for you child of God have not changed. He still wants to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Believe it!
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.