And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
It is the easiest thing in the world to be thankful when things are going favourably. No one has to prompt you, it just seems to burst forth without much effort. But, what about being thankful in the midst of adversity, when all you want to do is grumble and complain?
When I awoke a few mornings ago, I was not in the mood to be thankful. Interestingly, however, I felt God directing me that day to not just be thankful but to give Him praise. To be honest, all I could see with my natural eyes were things that incited fear and discouragement. Yet, through more than one source, I felt that God was clearly telling me to be thankful and to give Him praise.
As I recall my experience, I remember the story of Paul and Silas in Acts chapter sixteen. As they went about their business, they were followed by a slave girl. She kept crying out: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (v.17). When Paul could take it no more he cast the evil spirit out of her and she was delivered. Her masters became angry because she was a fortune-teller and brought profit to them. They subsequently had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison. When given the command to secure them, the jailer put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (vv. 16-24).
According to research, the inner prison was a room, possibly below ground, with an unbearable stench, damp, and without ventilation or light. To add to their discomfort, Paul’s and Silas’ feet were fastened in stocks. This made movement uncomfortable. As if that were not enough, their bodies must have been sore from their beating so that even if all they could do was lie back, the pain of that would have been unbearable.
Sometimes our situation can feel exactly like that inner prison. It’s uncomfortable, unbearable and we may feel as if we will never be able to escape. We have been praying, we have been trusting God but nothing seems to be happening. Like Paul and Silas, we feel beaten and the pain is so poignant that no matter what we do, discouragement seems to be sucking the life out of us. Yet, in the midst of that, God may be saying to be thankful, to give Him a sacrifice of praise. It’s a sacrifice because nothing about our situation is motivating thanksgiving.
The Bible says that at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God (v. 25). They must have been loud because the other prisoners heard them! In spite of their painful, challenging conditions, you would think that they would be moaning and groaning in their pain and discomfort. But they were not! They chose to give God thanks and praise instead! They were in the worst of conditions but singing and praying with gusto to their Lord. Why? They made a choice. It was not any easy one, quite painful and uncomfortable actually. Their choice had nothing to do with their feelings. They chose to look beyond how they felt and where they were and focus instead on their God. When they did that miraculous things happened (v.26).
God is still good and still able to deliver. We could be in the darkest, deepest prison and God is able to reach us even there (see Psalm 139:7-8). We may not always be able to feel His presence when we are going through but He is there. Believe it or not, He is the One giving us the strength to keep going, to keep striving even when we want to give up. And, if He tells us to be thankful and to praise Him in the midst of that situation, it’s because He knows the good that is coming even though we can’t see it.
Interestingly, Paul and Silas did not wait to get out of their prison to start praying and singing. They prayed and they sang while they were there. They did it when it was difficult to do it. And, when they prayed and sang to God, not only were they set free, but they were able to lead others to their Lord! (vv.25-34)
When we choose to be thankful and give God the praise in the midst of our pain, disappointment and discouragement God steps in and does the unexpected. We are free even when we are in prison and we are able to encourage others who need it. With God there is always a bigger picture.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so today. Adversity is an unavoidable part of life. We can’t always escape it. Yet, when we choose an attitude of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of it, powerful things can happen, as God meets us where we are and does the impossible things that only He can do.
Although I have not personally checked it myself, I have read that the command, “Fear not!” appears in the Bible 365 times. It seems to me that God had a very good reason for repeating that command that many times, enough for each day of the year!
The thing is that fear is a very real for many of us. At some point in our lives, we will face situations that will cause us to feel very afraid and uncertain about our future.
I listened to one such testimony of a woman, Sonia, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and had it gone undetected she would have had eighteen months to live. Interestingly, the verse that God gave her to hold on to during this difficult season was: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Right there, in that verse, we understand that there is really no reason to be afraid. If God did not deposit fear into us then we are not obligated to submit to it. Yet, that is of course easier said than done.
After receiving her diagnosis, her doctor recommended a treatment of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and finally radiation. This was her best chance of beating the cancer and preventing it from reoccurring. Sonia was not at peace with the idea of the chemotherapy and radiation and finally decided to only do the mastectomy. She was able to stand by her decision with the help of the verse God had given her in 2 Timothy 1:7. Although her family were not in agreement with the choice she had made, they chose to support her. After the mastectomy Sonia had to do another surgery to remove twenty-one lymph nodes. After her recovery, she had to do another mammogram a year later to see if the cancer had spread. During this season of waiting her faith was tested but she found encouragement in God’s Word and nature. She was reminded of the reality that He held nature together and He would do the same for her. When she reached the point of accepting the possibility that she might not be healed, God reminded her that the Father had left her an inheritance through His Son. Similarly, just as she would be happy to leave something for her children, the Father would be happy if she would receive what His Son had died to give her. At that point, she knew she would not die. When she finally did her mammogram and followup, there was no sign of cancer.
As I recall her testimony, I am reminded of the reality that our road can sometimes be a very difficult one, even more so when we can’t see what lies ahead and we are uncertain of whether or not we are going to make it. As I said, fear is real - the fear of not knowing what lies ahead; the fear of things not working out the way we would like; the fear of unanswered prayer. And yet, God tells us repeatedly, “Fear not!”
One of the verses that has truly given me encouragement over the years is found in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” In this verse, God gives one of the best reasons for not being afraid - He is with us. Because He is with us and because He is our God we can be encouraged by the truth that we have the strength we need when we need it. He will help us. We don’t have to go through alone and in fact He promises that the battle belongs to Him so we don’t have to fight on our own, if at all. On top of all of that, He will uphold us with His righteous right hand. In short, He will protect, sustain, preserve and keep us. We don’t have to do it ourselves. He is the One who will do it for us!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to make that step today. Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. If that is the case, and we have His Presence with us 24/7, then indeed, why be afraid? He is El Roi, the God who sees me. He does not miss a thing. We are covered and we are safe because we belong to Him. Be encouraged.
Have you ever wondered how Jesus could impact so many lives in a powerful and mighty way yet He Himself was not negatively impacted by their infirmities? Jesus came into contact with so many people inflicted with contagious diseases as well as negative situations, yet, He was not negatively affected by what was afflicting them.
As I look back on His life, I recall that everyone who connected with Him experienced transformation, healing, deliverance and yet, He was not at all negatively impacted by their infirmities! He changed them from unclean to clean yet their situation could not change Him from clean to unclean. He connected with the woman with the issue of blood and instead of becoming unclean when she touched Him, she became clean while He remained clean (Matthew 9:20-22). He even came into contact with lepers and did not contract that contagious disease. In Genesis, after Adam and Eve sinned God prophesies this to the serpent and to Eve: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). To me that is simply confirmation that the enemy is under Jesus’ feet. Jesus has triumphed over all the works of the enemy. So, what is unclean or evil cannot prevail against Him!
I can also parallel here the book of Leviticus where the laws for the Israelites to live by are clearly outlined. In chapter eleven we see a list of animals that were considered clean and unclean, that could be eaten and that should not be eaten. One of those laws had to do with touching the carcass of an unclean animal. Whatever touched it or whatever it fell upon and touched was considered unclean. Interestingly, however, if any part of that carcass fell upon seed to be sown, the seed would remain clean (v. 37). It would not be contaminated in any way! In the New Testament the parable of the sower reveals that seed as the Word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:18-23). This caught my attention. It reminded me of the reality of the power of the Word of God. Not even something that is dead could take the life and power from it. It is that powerful and alive! Jesus Himself is that Word according to John 1:1-4,14 and whatever He spoke and determined had to come to pass!
When we speak the Word of God we should expect that it has the power to overcome that negative thing. It doesn’t matter what looks dead in your life, what looks as if it will never change or never work out, keep standing on the Word of God. Many of the people healed by Jesus were healed because of their faith. They could have focused on their dead situation but they chose to focus on the One who could reverse their situation and even bring it back to life. The One person who is not moved by what is dead is God because He has power over death, hell and the grave. So when we speak what He says, we expect that He can and will reverse even the most hopeless situation.
In my own life as I face various challenges, God has been teaching me an important lesson. When I stand on His Word, no matter what negative thing comes my way, that negative thing, cannot cancel out what God’s Word says. Where my health is concerned, any negative symptoms cannot cancel out the fact that God’s Word says that by Jesus’ stripes I am healed! Sometimes we get so distracted and discouraged by our “symptoms,” we tend to take our eyes off of what God has said and focus on the negative that we can see or feel.
What does God’s Word say about your situation, about your finances, about your family, about your marriage, about your health, about your deliverance? The Bible says that God’s Word is forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89), that He watches over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12), that His Word will not return to Him void but will accomplish what He desires it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Word is steadfast and immoveable. Nothing moves it, nothing changes it, nothing contaminates it. We can depend on it! It may not move as quickly as we would like but it will fulfil itself in God’s perfect timing!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so today. Life can knock you down and try to keep you down but the Word of God has the power to revive, resurrect and sustain. It never fails and will always be the source of hope and strength needed in challenging times.
I have spent the last few weeks in Ezekiel 37 as I looked at the story of the valley of dry bones. As I said last week, various things were coming to my attention through this story and I have felt the need to share them.
Last week, I looked at the process God sometimes takes us through as we go through various seasons in our lives. We would like some things to happen right away but the process is important as there are things God wants us to learn during the process.
At the end of this story in Ezekiel 37, an army of men has been created out of these bones and as the breath of life is breathed into them, they stand on their feet. What comes to my mind is the reality that God does not simply create a band of men. They are described as “an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). According to Strongs Concordance the word “army” denotes: “man of valor, force, strength, virtuous, worthy, riches, wealth, etc. As I look at this string of words, I see a contrast. Moments before we are told about a valley filled with dry bones. It was a valley of death and no hope lived there. Now it is filled with a mighty army, a group of men of strength, virtue, worth, wealth. God did not just give life to these dry bones, he deposited worth and value into them! He gave them purpose. They were no longer a tangled mess of dry useless bones, but an army energized with purpose and worth! On top of that, He removed their shame. They had not even received a proper burial but had been left in the hot sun where every hope of life and a future had been drawn out of them. God had now infused worth and value into them and also given them the ability to survive and thrive.
Here’s the thing - when God restores you, He will make you better than you were before! When He breathes life back into your situation - your marriage, your family, your finances, your health, etc. - He will make it even better than before. I think about the stories of Jesus’ miracles in the New Testament. Every one of those people He healed or delivered were living a below standard life before He touched them. When they came into contact with Him, not only did He heal and deliver them, but I am sure their lives overall were better than they were before. He gave them hope, value, worth and a future they could look forward to. The woman with the issue of blood could once again lift her head in society because Jesus restored her worth and value (Mark 5:25-34). When Blind Bartimaeus received his sight, he no longer had to wear his cloak, a symbol of his old way of life of being blind and a beggar (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus restored his worth and value. Each person Jesus healed was delivered from their shame and bondage. Jesus made their life better than it was before! And God wants to do the same for us today.
Here's another thing. In that valley of dry bones, God worked with what He had - dry bones. He went on to add what was needed - flesh, sinews, skin, breath. If you give God the little that you have, He will add everything else you need and so increase your worth and value. God knows what you need, even when you don’t. So, my encouragement to you is to give God the little that you have, no matter how little and insignificant it may seem. Remember, God sees what we can’t and He knows what we don’t. We see our present, pitiful, limited, hopeless state. God sees the bright, enriched future that He has in store for us. And as if that were not enough, He knows exactly what to do to make it all a reality - even when we don’t. He also has the resources needed to bring it all to pass. God is truly an awesome God!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I invite you to make that step today. God, our Creator knows exactly how to fix what is broken and to give it the value and worth needed to successfully live this life. God never leaves us undone and never does a halfway job. God always does a complete work. Trust Him today.
There is so much coming to me out of this story of the valley of dry bones. Last week I spoke about being careful what we speak over our situation. The Lord told Ezekiel to speak the Word of the Lord over the dry bones because God still had a future for those bones, He still had a plan for them and He was going to be the one to bring His plan to pass.
As soon as Ezekiel spoke what God told him to speak over those bones, things began to happen. God began to put those bones together piece by piece. But He didn’t stop there. He then put flesh on them and finally skin over their flesh. But before all of this took place, something noteworthy happened - there was a rattling sound. This valley of bones did not come together just like that. There was first an indication that something was about to happen.
I am reminded here of the story of Elijah and the drought that Israel faced in 1 Kings 18:41-45. The prophet Elijah announced to king Ahab that rain was about to finally come. After that he sent his servant to look for signs of rain. Six times he sent him but his servant saw nothing. The seventh time he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand rising out of the sea (v.44). At this point he sent his servant to let king Ahab know that the rain was about to come. Sometimes, while we wait, we need to be aware of the little signs and indications God is sending our way to announce what He is about to do. We can become so focused at times on the end result that we miss the little things, even the small miracles that God is doing along the way. Maybe He wants us to be thankful every step of the way even when we don’t yet see our final breakthrough.
At the end of the day, I believe God is a God of process. He does things for us step by step because I think He is more concerned about the lessons we can learn while going through. It would be so nice for Him to bring us to the finish line in one step but He rarely does that. We have to run our race and face everything that comes our way during the race.
In the case of the bones, God did not just create an army. He took His time to put each man together bit by bit. First, He brought the bones together, gathering each man’s bones from the mixed up heap. He then put the sinews or tendons in place to join muscle to bone, then the flesh and finally the skin to cover over everything. Yet, that was not the end. They each had a body but there was no breath in them (v.8). God then instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the four winds to breathe the breath of life into the men (v.9). When this was done, this mighty army of men stood on their feet. They were ready for battle!
It is so important to be patient while God works. We would love for things to work out all at once, but that rarely happens. God chooses to take His time. He wants to fix everything that needs fixing, He wants to make sure that everything is properly in its place. And think about this as well - each person received individual attention from God and at the same time. God is capable of dealing with a whole bunch of problems at the same time, yet still pay individual, loving attention to EACH one. Only God! Never think that God is too busy with someone else to help you, or that your problem is not as important or that you are not as important as someone else. God loves each one of us and sees and treats each one of us with importance and honour!
If you have not yet accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so today. Never think that you are not important to God. He is concerned about us individually and is interested in fixing everything in our lives that require His attention. He is a thorough God and is quite capable of bringing to pass His purpose for our lives in His own way and timing.
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.