See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way
in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Last week I introduced Hannah, the heroine of the movie “Overcomer.” I focused on her challenges and the fact that they did not stop God from doing great things in and through her. This week I want to delve a little deeper into her story because there is a lot more to be learned from all that she went through.
Hannah lived with her grandmother. She had lost her mother and had been abandoned by her father years before. She harboured a desperate yet secret need for a relationship with her father, one that seemed completely out of her reach. Her grandmother could not always be there for her because she had to work, so, she was constantly alone with no friends at her new school.
One day, her new cross country coach, John, while on a hospital visit to check on a church member, met and became friends with another patient at the hospital. That patient turned out to be Hannah’s father. He too had a desperate desire to reunite with the daughter he had abandoned years before and with John’s help, this became a reality. Ironically, he was also able to help coach his daughter for her upcoming race because he too had been a runner.
What I like about this is the reality of how God operates in our lives. Even when we are not seeing Him working, He is. He was working and putting things in place in both of their lives and neither of them knew it. God was literally orchestrating everything so that not only would they be reunited but they would receive the secret desire of each of their hearts - to have a relationship with the other. He put the people and things in place just so that they could have the relationship that they always dreamed of. I see God as a master orchestrator, setting things up and putting things in place to bring about His wonderful purpose and plan for our lives.
His Word says that all things work together for good for those of us who are His own (Romans 8:28). Both Hannah and her father had given their hearts to God and they were able to see how that same God loves them so much that He put things in place to give them the relationship with each other they always wanted, even if for a brief time. Hannah’s father went on to be with the Lord some weeks after their meeting. They were the best weeks of her life and she was able to carry the memory of them with her even after he was gone.
We can’t always see God working. Sometimes, we get discouraged, even angry with God because He seems to be silent and still. But, He isn’t! This is where trust in Him while we wait becomes so important. The waiting process isn’t ever an easy one but while we wait we can learn to trust, we can learn to worship, we can learn to hold on to His Word like a lifeline. We can hold on to those promises He has given us for that season knowing that in Him all His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). I guess that’s how it was for the children of Israel on their way to the Promised Land. During the journey they became discouraged and they complained and complained. They sinned against God because they chose to worry instead of trust Him.
When we cannot see how things are going to work out, it can be so easy to shift our focus away from God and His Word and to put it on the problem. Just like Peter, we take our eyes off of Jesus and unfortunately we start to sink - sink into depression, sink into despair, sink into negativity, sink into disbelief. The nice thing is, when we cry out to God as we are sinking, He immediately reaches out and rescues us (Matthew 14:28-31).
God is still faithful. He knows how to orchestrate things to bring to pass His best for us. He knows how to use good and bad situations - like He did for Hannah and her father - to work out the best for us. With God, even a negative turns out to be a tool God uses to orchestrate His beautiful purpose for our lives.
Even as I go through my various seasons of waiting, I am encouraged when God reminds me that He is sustaining me in those seasons. I am not alone, I will make it, because my God is the One orchestrating it. He will do the same for you!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour I encourage you to do so now. God is able to take everything in your life, both good and bad, and work it out for your good. God wants the best for you and He is the One person who knows exactly how to bring that to pass!
This week, I am introducing you to Hannah Scott, the sole student who tries out for cross country in the movie I introduced last week, “Overcomer.” She lives with her grandmother because she lost her mother at an early age and never knew her father. In fact, she was told by her grandmother that he is dead.
With all of these realities which she faces, let’s add to that the fact that she is a runner but has asthma. She therefore has to make sure that she has her inhaler with her during races.
I like the fact that in spite of all these seeming negatives, they don’t stop her from trying out. She could have easily used her asthma as an excuse not to be a runner, but she didn’t and became a runner anyway and tried out for cross country. John, the basketball coach turned cross country coach, seemed to think it was major enough that she should not try out. He even tried convincing the principal of this but the latter was adamant that she should be given a chance. After all, she had been given clearance by her doctor to run.
What’s your excuse for being less than your best for God? What or who has been holding you back from being and doing all that God has called you to? Sometimes we may be in a place where our past, our limitations, various situations may seem to dictate our ability to accomplish one thing or another. We may be deemed unfit, unqualified, even disqualified by some. Yet, at the end of the day, God still has the final say!
I recall Ehud in the book of Judges. He was one of the judges who delivered the Israelites from their enemies and he ruled over Israel eighty years (Judges 3:12-30). One interesting thing about him was that he was left-handed. That may not seem like a big thing to us but for the Israelites at that time, left-handedness was considered a disadvantage, even a physical defect. However, in God’s eyes, he was every bit fit to lead His people and to deliver them from their enemies. In fact, his left-handedness is what God used to kill Eglon, king of Moab and so defeat this nation that had been oppressing Israel for eighteen years.
Ehud did not see himself as disqualified or unfit to deliver God’s people. In fact, he saw his "defect" as an opportunity. When he went to present their tribute to the king, he hid a dagger he had made under his clothes on his right thigh. Every “normal” human being would have fastened their weapon to their left thigh so that they could reach for it with their right hand. When he sought a private audience with the unsuspecting king, as he reached for his weapon on his right thigh with his left hand, the king never suspected a thing. God used his “defect” to bring deliverance to the people of Israel!
Don’t discount what God can do in and through you today. No matter what your “defect” may be, God is not turned off by it as others might be … or as you might be! He is not using it as an excuse to declare you unqualified, disqualified or unfit. God can use that defect to bring honour and glory to Himself!
Hannah went on to win the cross country championship. Her challenges and defects did not stop her from accomplishing great things. They did not stop God from choosing to do great things in and through her. Your challenges and defects won’t stop you neither can they prevent God from doing great things in and through you. According to Mark 10:27: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I invite you to do so today. None of us are perfect. We all have shortcomings and limitations that seem designed to derail us. But with God on our side, nothing - or no one - can hinder God from doing His best work in and through us!
Have you ever seen the movie “Overcomer” by the Kendrick brothers? It is the inspirational, heartwarming story of a basketball coach, John, who is forced into coaching the one sport he doesn’t even consider a real sport - cross country.
As the story begins, John’s basketball team loses one of their games against a formidable team. He promises his team that the following year they would see a turnaround and be victorious. Little does he know that their world as they know it is about to turn upside down. One of the town’s manufacturing plants is forced to close down and many workers move elsewhere to find work. Unfortunately, a number of these workers have sons on the basketball team, some key players in fact. Suddenly, John finds himself being a basketball coach without a team.
His principal, Olivia, suggests that he coach cross country. He is reluctant to do so especially since he is not strong in the sport himself. He finally agrees and when he goes to tryouts, meets one girl willing to be on the team - Hannah Scott. Not only is it daunting that one person in the entire school is willing to try out for the sport, but she has a challenge - she has asthma. He tries to get out of coaching her but the principal is adamant, stating that she is cleared by her doctor and she actually is a runner. All she has to do is ensure that she has her inhaler with her at all times.
As I paint the beginnings of this story, it seems filled with negatives. It doesn’t seem as if anything could possibly go right. This coach could not seem to catch a break. Sometimes, as we know, that’s how life feels. It seems as if one negative thing after the next comes our way and we can’t even get the opportunity to breathe. In fact, the challenges and the speed with which they are coming at us, seem designed to knock us completely off our feet. We barely get back up and another problem comes our way.
However, one thing catches my attention. At the end of their losing game, John tries to encourage his team telling them that next season they would take everything. Even though they had lost, they still had a chance - once they were together. That was John’s plan. Proverbs 19:21 comes to my mind: "Many are the plans in a person’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” There isn’t anything wrong with making plans, mind you, but we need to also make room for the possibility that things may not go exactly the way we have planned. In fact, with God as our guide, things will go even better.
Everything seemed so negative at first, but God was shifting and moving things and people around getting ready to do some great things in the lives of this coach and his family and Hannah. Sometimes it’s just about trusting God. Once you are His child, you can be encouraged that He is ordering your steps. He is not unconcerned about your plans, He is just more desirous to do what is best for us, even though we can’t see it at first.
When we look at Joseph’s life, Joseph seemed to be facing one negative thing after the next. After having a dream that his family would bow down to him, he was sold to merchants by his brothers, accused of rape by his Egyptian employer’s wife, cast into prison, when faced with the opportunity to be released from prison, missed that opportunity because he was forgotten and had to spend a few more years in prison until finally released (Genesis 37, 39-41). I would imagine Joseph felt discouraged and disheartened time and again yet, he never gave up on his God. It turns out that like John in our story above, God was shifting things around, even moving people out of the way, so that the dream that he had received from God could become a reality.
God wanted to do something great in John’s life as well. He did, but He had to do it outside of his comfort zone. It’s about trusting God to do what is best even it means being uncomfortable for a while. Sometimes we can’t even see the road ahead and it’s difficult to anticipate what may come our way. But, we can be confident that God is able to see when we can’t and He is the One who will guide us into His purpose and plan for our lives.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. God knows how to orchestrate the perfect plan for your life. He doesn’t want to give you anything less than His best for you. Trust Him to guide every step until you fulfil His perfect purpose for you.
I recall the story of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. God had told Abraham to leave the country where he was and his father’s family and journey to Canaan. The only person that was supposed to go with him was his wife, Sarah. However, his nephew, Lot also went with him (Genesis 12:1-5).
Along the journey, both men acquired many animals and great wealth to the point where they were forced to separate. While Abraham settled in the land of Canaan, Lot chose to settle in the cities of the plain of Jordan, as far as Sodom (Genesis 13:1-12). Years later, because of the intense wickedness of that country, Sodom, God chose to destroy it. As Lot and his wife and daughters fled the city when God visited it to destroy it, they were warned not to look back. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife did just that and turned into a pillar of salt. She missed what God could do next with her family.
We all have choices to make. Some are easy but some are not. In the above story, Lot’s wife had a choice but she made the wrong one and caused her family to miss the opportunity to live a better life (see Genesis 19:30-38).
I parallel this with the children of Israel as they fled Egypt. Believe it or not, they too had choices. When God led them down that difficult path which caused them to be trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptians, they had a choice - to go forward or to go back. They were scared and in their minds and hearts they shifted into reverse wishing that they were back in Egypt (Exodus 14:10-12).
How many times have you been tempted to shift into reverse. You know this is the path God wants you to go down but the temptation to return to the old and familiar presents itself. God’s path for you may be a path that leads to victory or to the next level or stage in your life. It’s a better path filled with hope and joyful expectation. Yet, when the challenges appear, the old and familiar seem more inviting. The road all of a sudden looks too hard, even downright impossible and you find yourself wanting to turn back. Maybe the “Promised Land” isn’t so wonderful after all. Maybe you can make do and make it work right where you are … or where you used to be.
The path of trust in God is never an easy one. The life of faith in God will always be fraught with setbacks, disappointments and challenges - some foreseen, many unforeseen. But, like the children of Israel, when God gives that command to “Go forward,” there is only one choice to make - obedience to God’s voice and leading. It’s at that time when you can’t see very far ahead on the road, when the obstacles seem never-ending, that you really have to make up your mind that it’s GOD or nothing!
I’ve coined a favourite phrase these days when faced with insurmountable challenges. That phrase is: “God, it’s me and you!” You see, that’s the point where I realise that it’s not going to get done, I’m not going to get past that problem unless GOD is in it and acts on my behalf. I don’t have time to stress myself out trying to do it on my own. At that point, I HAVE to trust God to see me through!
I encourage you today to come to that point where you say with determination: “God, it’s me and you!” It was God and the Israelites in it together when faced with the Red Sea. They were never alone. They could not get through that challenge alone. God covered them, God protected them from their enemies even while they waited all night as those winds blew to part that Red Sea. And, God is going to do the same for you and for me. When your back is against the wall, and you feel tempted to go back, DON"T! Just remember that God is able and He WILL come through for you. You may not know how or when but He will!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. God is faithful. He will never lead you down a path to destruction but always down a path that will inevitably lead to His best for you. He never fails, you can trust Him!
I must admit, this post has been a bit of a challenge to write. Sometimes the words flow, other times they don’t. This is one of those times when the words were not quite flowing. Even though I tried to change my train of thought, I can’t help but come right back to what I have writing about in my past two posts.
When you picture a valley, you may picture mountains on either side. We can speak of mountain top experiences which speak of victory, and we can contrast these with valley experiences which may denote challenges. But, mountains can also represent challenges, insurmountable challenges that are difficult to overcome. It’s difficult to go around them, over them or even through them. At the end of the day, the only One to help us is God.
As I recall once again the journey of the Israelites through the Red Sea (Exodus 14), that body of water was like a mountain; it was an insurmountable obstacle that they could not possibly overcome on their own. They needed help … big time! God did not fail them. No, He didn’t want to carry them through any other route because He wanted them to see His might and power. He wanted them to experience Him in a great and supernatural way - as if the ten plagues He had sent in Egypt weren’t enough! He knew the challenges they would face in the wilderness and they needed to have confidence that the God who was leading them would lead them safely. This Red Sea miracle would just do the trick.
They couldn’t move that body of water out of the way. That wasn’t God’s plan anyway. He was going to do something different, something that had never been done before - He was going to make a way through the problem. So, He didn’t move the mountain but He parted it. All through the night, the winds blew until the waters had heaped up on either side and a clear path appeared down the middle (vv. 21-22). I picture it as God creating a safe valley for His people to walk through while the waters were heaped up on either side of them like a mountain. The interesting thing is, no matter how much the waters may have wanted to, they could not move from the place where God had put them to reach out and touch God’s people. The obstacle had not moved away, but to the side, making a way for God’s people to pass!
Sometimes, God may not move the problem out of the way but He will make a way through it so that you can get safely to the other side. He will cause it to move to the side so you can safely continue your journey. And get this - while you are walking through, it cannot touch you, it cannot harm you and it most certainly CANNOT stop you! The enemy may intend for it to hinder you, even destroy you, but God knows how to deal with our challenges so that they cannot fulfil their desired purpose. God’s purpose for us will still prevail!
Only God can do such an impossible thing as part a Red Sea. Only God can make our problems stand at attention, watching helplessly as we pass through them…safely! Only God! It’s up to us to keep our eyes fixed on Him, trusting that He will bring us through again and again without fail.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. Mountains and valleys are a part of normal life. We need to be connected to a God who can help us safely navigate those mountain-valley experiences; a God who can make an impossible way safely through to the other side.