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
This is the line to a song sung by Preashea Hilliard which I heard a few years ago. The song almost immediately got my attention. It awakened in me a motivation, a drive to expect great things from God. It can be so easy to expect little from Him. We focus on the problem, the situation, the challenge, the hurt and it becomes so big in our eyes and mind that God becomes very small, and we don’t even realize it. It’s about focus really. Where we place our focus will determine our expectation. If we focus on the problem, our faith becomes weak and we can’t see ourselves overcoming that situation. But when we focus on our God instead, the situation becomes smaller and smaller until hope and faith rise up and we start expecting great things from the God who is well able, even more than able to deliver and to set us free.
Interestingly, I had a conversation today with someone and towards the end of our conversation these words came out of my mouth. We had come together to agree in prayer on behalf of someone who is going through a really tough time. We agreed that we needed to stand in the gap for them. Even as we remembered the seriousness of their situation, we also remembered God’s Word that if two shall agree as touching anything they shall ask it shall be done (Matthew 18:19). Once we lifted this person and their situation up in prayer to our big and awesome God, we felt more confident, more hopeful that God would come through for this person. In short, we are expecting great things from God in this situation and in this person’s life. Here’s the interesting thing, we weren’t expecting great things from ourselves because as the Bible says: “With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). We were expecting great things from our God. He did it before for so many others including us, and He would do it again. Our focus was adjusted when we looked to God in prayer knowing only He could work this situation out on behalf of our sister in the Lord.
I can’t end this without mentioning king Jehoshaphat. When he found out that a few nations had joined together to fight against Israel he became disheartened and afraid. When he turned to God in prayer, he acknowledged that they could not fight against this great army yet he ended his prayer by saying something interesting: “…nor do we know what to do but OUR EYES ARE UPON YOU” (2 Chronicles 20:12b NKJV). He was afraid but he shifted his focus to his God who again and again had fought and won battles on behalf of His people, Israel. In himself he knew he could do nothing but he expected great things from his God. And Israel did not even have to fight. They praised their God and trusted Him and He did indeed do great things for them.
So, reset your focus today. Put it and leave it on God, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). That’s all God needs to start working on our behalf. Fix your focus today!
I had been involved in music for many years when I started playing the keyboard and singing in church. I never had a lot of confidence in my ability but some years into my ministry I discovered something I had never known. My father shared with me that he had prayed me into music. He was involved in leading worship at the time and had prayed this ability into me but the condition was that I had to play only for the Lord not for the world. At that point I finally understood why I had been battling for so many years in the music ministry even to the point of giving up a number of times - the devil did not want my father’s prayer over my life to come to pass. I was constantly comparing my ability to someone else, both my singing and playing the keyboard. I would say things like, “I don’t have a voice like this person or that person…” But one day God spoke a word very clearly to me that stopped me in my tracks and it has changed my attitude for the better ever since. He said, “But you have a voice.” From that time till now I have learned – and I am still learning - to use what I have. God did not expect me to use someone else’s voice but my own. And when I use what I have He would perfect it and bless it.
Even Moses felt like me, I guess, and did not see himself capable of going before Pharaoh to speak on behalf of God’s people (Exodus 4:10-12). But God had purpose for his life and allowed his brother, Aaron, to be his mouthpiece. But Moses still had to do what God had called him to do – lead God’s people, Israel. He had been trained in the palace for leadership when, many years before, Pharaoh’s daughter had adopted him as her son. So, he was capable of handling the job but he couldn’t see it. He had a voice that God could use and that was the voice he used in the wilderness. It wasn’t Aaron’s voice anymore but his own. He had to trust God to use what He had given him.
We all have a “voice,” one that could be used to lead others to Christ. Whether it’s singing or preaching or teaching or simply just sharing a testimony, we all have a voice. We can go even further. Maybe you don’t see yourself capable of doing any of those things. But guess what? Social media has made it easier for you. Through it you can send a word of encouragement, a message. You can “speak” through a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram post. Instead of succumbing to gossip and negative criticism, use these media to spread the gospel. Or maybe your voice is art or dance or the ability to write. All these are “voices” that you can use to lead many to Christ.
Let’s face it, you have no excuse. Your voice is unique to you. Use it. God doesn’t expect you to use anyone else’s voice but your own. God will perfect that which concerns you (Psalm 138:8), He will accomplish His purpose in and through you, but you have to use your voice. Don’t let the spirit of comparison stop you. Don’t let fear cripple you. Use what you have, give God something to work with and you will do great and mighty things for Him.
Recently, while reading a book entitled, “Uninvited” by Lysa Terkeurst, she looked at the idea of a “miracle in the mess” and used the story of Jesus walking on water to illustrate her point (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52). As I read on, a few ideas came to mind. For one thing, the disciples missed the greater miracle of Jesus walking on water. They were so caught up in their crisis, that they were blind to everything else good, including a miracle. Maybe, that’s why Jesus did not rebuke the wind and the waves, because the miracle was that He actually walked on water NOT that He calmed a storm. Maybe, He wanted them to see that miracles do happen IN THE STORM. The storm did not have to cease for the miracle to take place. In fact, it happened while the storm was raging. They almost even missed Him, the miracle-worker, because they didn’t even recognize Him at first.
How many times do we miss the real miracle in progress because our eyes are so focused on the mess we’re in. All we want is for the storm to be over, to see and reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, that’s normal human behavior. We all want to reach the end of our “hell,” our “mess.” But what if the greater miracle is right there IN the storm. What if the greater miracle is being able to be at peace in the storm, to experience joy, even hope in the storm and what about God’s strength? The only time we will appreciate this is when we are in a debilitating situation that is sucking the life out of us. I remember various storms in my life. I wanted them to be over but right there in those stormy situations was where I felt closest to God, where I experienced His strength, His love, His peace. It was where I developed backbone and where my relationship with God grew and matured.
Interestingly, only Peter seemed to get a glimpse of what was going on. He was the only one who asked Jesus to bid him come to Him on the water. Only Peter seemed to recognize a miracle in progress and wanted and chose to be a part of it. He chose to take his eyes off the mess they were in – it was still there – and to be part of the miracle in progress. And he would have made it too, but he once again put his eyes back on the problem and started to sink. He never asked Jesus to come to him, he chose to go to Him. He fixed his eyes on Him and went forward towards Him. He only stopped when he lost his focus, when he took his eyes off Jesus and put them back on the problem. At that point, not only did he begin to sink, but he was unable to move forward. He got stuck. When we get stuck it may be because we have taken our eyes off the Author and Finisher of our faith and focused them on the wrong thing. We can’t move forward anymore, or even backward, we’re just stuck. But guess what? When Peter cried out, “Lord save me,” Jesus CAME to him WHERE HE WAS and helped him. God will never leave us in our stuck position to drown. When we cry out to Him for help, He will always come to our rescue.
The interesting part is, when they got into the boat, the stormy weather ceased. Jesus did not have to say a word maybe because the real miracle had already taken place . . . during the storm. How many miracles have we missed as we battled the storms of life? Maybe we experienced God’s strength and peace. For some of us maybe the fact that the storm did not kill us and that we’re still alive and standing and in our right minds, is the greatest miracle of all!!!
I love movies. I recently watched “The Greatest Showman” and I must say I was impressed. No, it’s not a Christian movie but it’s a story based on the life of P.T. Barnum, considered one of the greatest showmen of his time during the 1800’s. What gets my attention is his tenacity, his risk-taking. He never seemed to allow the challenges or failures of life to keep him down for long. By the time he hit the ground he was back up on his feet with a new idea, a new daring, risky venture. But one of the things I take from this movie was the issue of discrimination. You see, his acts were real live “strange” people. Among others, there was a miniature man, a giant, Siamese twins, and let’s not forget a bearded woman. These people were considered outcasts by society. Even though people came and paid money to see this circus of queer folk, they were still not accepted by society. They were still rejects.
I parallel this with some reading I’ve been doing recently on dealing with rejection. No one likes to be rejected. Most if not all of us would like to “fit in.” Sometimes, just a word or a look or even no words at all, can cause us to feel rejected, left out of a group, a conversation, or an activity. But I realize that one of the best things we can do when dealing with rejection is, one, understand who we are in Christ and two, totally and intentionally shut out the negative thoughts and images that the devil shoves into our mind. I’m learning to remind myself about what God says about me and to me; that His thoughts toward me are for good and not evil and that He still has plans to prosper and not harm me (Jeremiah 29:11); that He loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Why? Simply because I am His child. Daddy’s got me and I’m going to be more than okay no matter what comes my way.
Many times, we would love for nothing negative to come our way but in this life, we can’t avoid the inevitable. And, in the movie, as I recall the response of P.T. Barnum’s human acts when rejection came their way, I am encouraged. They were not Christians, but they learned the invaluable lesson that this is who they were whether people accepted them or not and they had worth. Now if that is the lesson from a non-Christian standpoint, how much more is that true for us as children of God?
We have a God we can lean and depend on. He will never leave us or abandon us. He will never reject us because of our imperfections or other people’s opinions. He will always love us. He will always stand by us. He will always want a relationship with us. We have it made and we don’t even know it. We’re still trying at times to make it, to survive, to overcome as we battle, we stress, we fight, not even remembering that God’s got this battle and the next and the next. If we would just learn to curl up in His big capable hands and let him do the heavy work, we would be so much better off. But it’s hard. I am living proof that it is hard. But I’m at the point where I don’t want to fight anymore, I don’t want to be stressed anymore, I don’t want to be scared anymore, I just want to curl up in His big capable hands and let Him handle it. After all, that’s what He’s there for. And the more I rest, the more I trust, the more I spend time listening to what He’s saying to me, the more He comes in and takes over and starts working it out. It is a process. And process takes time but in the end it’s worth it.