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
As I sit here sifting through the thoughts in my mind, wondering what to share with you, I am reminded of a speech I heard given by a young woman from the U.S. army. I believe she was speaking to a University graduating class trying to inspire them on the next leg of their journey. She shared with them an interesting story of her journey to becoming the first woman from the army to win the Miss USA pageant. One day, at the age of 19, she met a woman who fired a number of questions at her. She responded to each one giving information, among other things, on her citizenship, her marital status, her age. She was curious and somewhat offended by the questions, but she responded anyhow. At the end of the questions she was surprised when complimented on her beauty and told that she could be the next Miss USA. She met the woman again the following day and was given material to help her prepare for the pageant. She proceeded to enter and unfortunately lost. She entered again and again and continued to lose, about six times in all. As I listened to her constant failure I found it a bit discouraging. I felt she had tenacity though to consistently enter a pageant even though she kept failing to win.
I wondered to myself how many of us would be that persistent? How many of us would have even bothered to try after the first two or three failures or even after the very first failure? She probably had well-meaning friends and family who told her to give up, who reminded her that at least she had tried and that it was better to try and to fail than to fail to try. It can’t be easy holding on and trying when all you are meeting is failure. So, the question to probably ask is this: What in the world was motivating her to keep going back, to keep trying? Simple. The word she had been given. You see, someone spoke a word into her spirit and she ran with it. Without that word she never would have even bothered to enter the pageant in the first place. So, my question to us is this: What word are we listening to? Is it the word of logic that says, “Don’t worry, you are never going to be much more than that so don’t even bother to try?” Or is it that word that is pulling out that hidden potential that is there that no one else can see or even bothers to see? Sometimes God will just send the right word to expose and pull out the potential in you.
After her many failures, one day, she called the woman and said, “You told me I could be the next Miss USA.” The woman encouraged her however, not to quit, to keep working, to not give up. Sometime later the woman died from leukemia. A year after the woman’s death and after being persistent, she finally won and became the first soldier to win the Miss USA pageant. She held on to a word from a stranger who knew absolutely nothing about her and after years of trying and failing she finally won. My focus this afternoon isn’t so much that she didn’t give up but that she held on to a “word.” What is the word that you are holding on to? What is the word that God has spoken to you? God’s plans are still to prosper not to harm you to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Over the years, I recall a few times when someone said something to me or about me that caught my attention. It caught my attention because their words did not seem to match my present ability or accomplishments. I realized that God had allowed them to see the potential in me and they were calling that out. Now mind you, there were even more negatives that I was seeing and hearing, but it was interesting that a word could go past my limitations and failures and choose to expose the potential that God had placed there.
I encourage us today to hold fast to that word of hope, that word of encouragement in the face of obvious despair and negativity. I encourage us to hold tightly to that word that calls out from the very depths of our being that potential that God has placed in us even though many others seem to only see in us disappointment, failure, unworthiness. Sometimes all we may have is a word, but I encourage you to hold on to it until God fulfils it in His own perfect timing. Remember, we are all a work in progress, so allow the right words to mold you into the person God has created you to be. If you don’t have a relationship with the God whose Word gives life, I encourage you to ask Him to come into your life and daily as you read His Word you will always find a word to encourage, sustain you and bring you into His destiny for you. I truly admire that young woman’s tenacity, but I realize how powerful, not just any word, but the right word can be.
I was listening to a sermon recently and the point that got my attention was the fact that we should stay the course. Many years ago, when I was a child, I remember my grandmother telling me that I had to learn to finish what I started. I can’t remember what I was doing to prompt her to say that to me, but her words have stuck with me to this day. Listening to this point in this sermon reminded me of that.
We love to say that the hardest part is to start, and you know what, I usually would agree. Many times, we have a thought, a plan, a vision in our minds and even on paper, but we just can’t seem to get it off the ground. When we finally do make that first step to make it a reality, somehow it just seems to get easier from that point. However, as I listened to this sermon, I realized that in fact it can be even more difficult to stay the course. I thought of a marathon and that along the way there may be various obstacles and challenges. The focus may not be to simply win the race but to finish it and over the years I have watched races where the athlete for one reason or another dropped out of the race and never crossed the finish line. At the end of the day finishing somehow for an athlete becomes even more or just as important as winning. Being able to complete a race, especially a marathon, gives a person a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of “Yes, I made it!”
It’s the same thing with life. We will face storms and challenges, but the goal is always to finish our race, or as some of the stories in the Bible, to get to the other side. At various times, the disciples got caught in storms and in those accounts given in the Bible, they never once turned back, they always moved forward to their destination. Jesus usually came to the rescue to calm the storm, but He never told them to go back, they always had to keep going forward to their destination. They had to stay the course no matter what.
The temptation to “jump ship” will always present itself to us when challenges and danger come our way. But our goal should always be to reach the destination that God has mapped out for us. In my own life I can tell you that there have times when I wanted to “jump ship,” I wanted to give up because the course seemed too hard, too painful. There would even be people around me encouraging me to give up, why bother to continue travelling such a difficult road. But I remember the story in the Bible about two roads, one broad and easy but the other narrow and difficult. Many people choose the broad, easy road, and that’s totally normal, but only a few choose the narrow, difficult one. Here’s the thing: the broad, easy, popular road will always be the more tempting road to choose because on that road you get to do what you want, live how you want. But unfortunately, that road leads to destruction. The narrow, difficult one will always be the least popular because it’s too hard, too restricted, there are too many potholes and challenges, yet, that road leads to eternal life in Christ. It’s also the road where our character is molded and shaped into what God wants it be. It’s the road with the greatest reward at the end.
For more than twenty years, I have been travelling this narrow road. A number of times I wanted to “jump ship” I wanted to turn back and follow the broad road. But the longer I stayed on this road, the more I have come to appreciate this road in spite of all the challenges. You see, on this road I have a Helper, a Comforter, a Friend who is ALWAYS there with and for me. I am NEVER alone. I always have support and strength as needed. On this road there is a guarantee of rewards at the end of this journey; a guarantee of receiving double blessings and even more for all the trouble I face on this road. I choose to stay the course because I know in whom I have believed. He has promised to never leave or abandon me and once I stick with Him I will NEVER be disappointed.
So, my encouragement to you today, is to stay the course. I cannot guarantee you that it will be easy. It will be downright difficult at times to the point where you want to give up. But once Jesus is on your side YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT! If you haven’t yet accepted Christ into your life as Lord and Saviour, please make that step. Simply ask Him to come into your life and forgive you of all your sins. Once Jesus is in your life, He will walk with you every step of the way on your life’s journey. In the tough times He will be your strength and comfort and He will ALWAYS get you to your destination safe and sound no matter what danger comes your way. With Jesus in your boat – or on that narrow road with you - you can’t lose!
I had jotted down a thought for a possible post for today, but I decided to speak a little bit more about the vines from last week’s post. As I continue to look up the hill to that house morning after morning, I must say the view of the house is clearing up nicely. But there is one thing that I noticed that I decided to speak about today. The vines have dried up, it is clear they are dead and you can see the house that was previously covered under that thick green foliage. However, . . . the dead vines are still there! No one has taken them down. Although they have dried up and are clearly dead, they are still hanging there. They are not as visible or noticeable of course as when they were thick and green and alive, but they are there.
It reminds me of our own lives. Sometimes, we have overcome in one area or another, God has delivered us, we know we have been set free, but certain feelings, thoughts, even temptations, still seem to nag us. We start to doubt, we start to wonder if we are really free and before long we seem to be right back where we started - or so it seems… I have learned over the years that there are some things that seem to go away overnight, almost immediately, and there are other things that take time. Yes, you are delivered, yes, you are free, but you have to daily walk out your freedom in faith. It’s the stubborn choice to confidently walk and talk and act free instead of walking, talking and acting defeated. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, it’s simply learning to do what you have to do in spite of the challenge or limitation you face.
For years I have battled with fear. I knew it was crippling me and my ability to do great things for God and I had to make a choice – I had to learn to do things afraid. Many times I simply relied heavily on God to get through some fearful experience or the other. I don’t like being in front of a crowd – small or large – but I have learned to trust God to get me through each time. I have also learned to not back down from opportunities to stand in front of a group of people and do what I have to do. Yes, it is intimidating. I remember once that my heart was pounding so loudly I was sure everyone could hear it. Yet, God got me through that experience and my heart quieted enough for me to do what I had to do for Him. I have learned not to make fear an excuse.
What is your excuse for not allowing God to use you? Last week I shared some possible vines in our lives – fear, doubt, worry, sin, people’s expectations. God may have already “dried up” these vines in our lives. He has already applied the “chemical” to kill them but we are holding on to them. Maybe we have become so accustomed to them, that although He has dealt with them we don’t want to let go.
You see, although I can see that house more clearly, until someone comes and actually removes those dead vines, the house is still being blocked … even if in a tiny way. And that’s what happens to us sometimes I guess. God does His part but we have to do ours. We have to actually let go. That sometimes means we have to change our actions and attitude. Stop acting afraid, stop acting worried, stop acting with doubt expecting something to go wrong, instead trust God that He will work it out. Stop continuing to hold on to people’s expectations hoping that they will be pleased. They won’t. Get over it. Do what you have to do. And whatever your “sin” may be, stop putting yourself in situations where you can’t help but commit that sin over and over. If God has set you free – and He has – walk as if you are. It will take a LOT of practice to break the habit but be patient with yourself and keep at it until you get there.
If you don’t have a relationship with this God who is able to set you free from those vines in your life, I invite you to ask Jesus to come into your life and give Him every one of those vines that are blocking the beautiful you that God has originally created you to be. Allow Him to not only set you free from bad habits and attitudes but to help you to daily walk in freedom from those things that are only stressing you out. And if you have already made a commitment to God, remember it’s a daily walk. You won’t become perfect overnight. It’s a lifelong walk I’m afraid. But you can have the confidence that your God will never leave you or abandon you because you are not good enough. He will love you through each fault and enable you to be the excellent person that you can only be in and through Him!
It became a habit almost every morning, as I looked out my kitchen window, to fix my eyes on a red-brick, two-story house at the top of the hill. It fascinated me for some reason, maybe because I wondered ever so often if anyone lived there because it seemed so abandoned. I would sometimes see vines covering it and other times it was free of greenery. But one morning, I really took notice because of how thick this particular vine covering was. They covered most of one wall of the house from top to bottom so that it was barely visible.
As I pondered this, different thoughts started going through my mind about life and the fact that at times there are things “blocking” us, covering us, preventing us and the world from seeing and experiencing our true potential. Unfortunately, these things, if left unchecked, can truly hinder us from being all God has created us to be. I’ve been thinking about the things that are like vines in our lives: fear, doubt, worry, sin and sometimes an unhealthy concern about people’s opinion of us. You see, the vines covering that house seemed harmless. They were not destroying the house per se, as far as I know, they were simply “blocking” it, hindering the eye from seeing what was really there – a house. In our lives the same thing happens. Here’s the problem: we don’t see it as a big issue – no one is being hurt, it doesn’t seem to be affecting anyone’s life in a negative way – yet it is actually hindering us from being all that we are created to be and preventing us from doing the great things God wants to do in and through us.
One day, I happened to notice a man cutting away some of the vines. He was not tall enough and barely seemed capable of this mammoth task. That’s how those obstacles in our life sometimes seem, insurmountable, like there is no way that you will ever be able to overcome the fear; worry and doubt seem to consume you; and the very people you are battling to please seem incapable of seeing your true value and worth. You feel stumped, you feel defeated, you feel hopeless even helpless.
But, there is something that started happening to those vines. No, there was no way that this one man could cut down all of that, he seemed so tiny and insignificant against the backdrop of this huge task. He had to apply a chemical to kill it and so destroy the entire mass. What was interesting to me was that the vines did not die immediately. For the next week or so, as I looked up at this house each day, I witnessed these vines drying up bit by bit until gradually I began to see the house again. The process was very slow, but I was once more fascinated as windows and walls gradually became visible.
That’s what our God is there for. He knows how to “clean out the clutter” or in this case, help us deal with those things in our life that are blocking out the good things He has deposited in us. Unfortunately, the process does take time. But, as we surrender each issue to Him, He works assiduously to allow the best you, the best me to shine out. That’s His job. Our job is to surrender, trust, and obey His instructions. Yes, it can be difficult to do but it’s worth it in the end.
Now, when I look up I’m seeing windows and realize I had forgotten where the windows even were in the first place. Now, natural light can actually penetrate that house once more and brighten things up. That’s what God will do for us too. As He removes the vines in our lives, we become brighter and more alive because we are now positioned to fulfil His original plan and purpose for us.
If Jesus is not the Lord of your life, ask Him to come in and clean up the mess that is there and help you be the person He wants you to be. If you are already His child, yes, the mess may not go away immediately but as you surrender each area to Him, and trust that He knows what He is doing, He will faithfully clear away whatever your vines may be. He will do it. You just have to surrender and trust the process He is taking you through.