Getting things done. This is the 7th day of 2017, a brand new year. It used to be at the beginning of a new year that we all made promises to do something that we said we were going to do to fulfill some desire that we have had for a long time. We would say that we were going to get ourselves in better shape, eat healthier, save more money and/or get into a better relationship with God. We all started out with good intentions; however, we all know that good intentions do not always lead to a change in action. There is a scripture in the Bible that tells us that God not only sees what we do, but he is able to discern our thoughts and what we intended to do. Good intentions are important to have, but often times there is a disconnect between intent and action.
For most of us, we struggle in the doing part. What is it that causes us to not do what we intend to do? We all do things that we do not intend to do and this often gets us into big trouble. What is the difference between succeeding in what we intend to do and failing? You tell me. Why do you fail? For a lot of us, I do believe that the difference is in perseverance. Perseverance is a key ingredient to succeeding. It is possible to have a vision and no perseverance and it will still lead to failure. I have learned from my journeys that I will always have obstacles in my way that will hinder my good intentions. If I do not have the muscle of perseverance to keep me going, I will fail. There are many ingredients to success, like being surrounded by the right people; people that will encourage you when you are down to help motivate you when you are falling short of the intent.
Nobody succeeds at anything without having setbacks. One of the reasons for failure is the lack of planning. It has been said by someone that "to fail to plan is to plan to fail". We need to remember, in our planning stage, that God does not always honor our plans. For some of us, our plans are against His plans for our lives. The Bible tells us, in Jeremiah 29, that God said to Israel, I know the plans that I have toward you. Plans to prosper and to not harm you. He has plans to give you an expected end. The expected end is what God desires for us in our lives and when my plan goes against His plan, I will never receive it. Believe me. He knows what is best for you.
All of us know that love is a characteristic of life that makes one unselfish. Or does it? There is an aspect of love that can turn into a very selfish thing. This is manifested in immature actions and in the context of loving the idea of love as opposed to accepting the reality of love. Sometimes, it is hard to tell the difference between the two. Mature love reveals itself through the actions of demonstrating understanding and long suffering. Immature love thinks only in terms of what one feels and the personal benefits that one receives from love. That is selfish love.
In my years of pastoring, I have counseled many individuals in troubled marriages. After listening to the issues, it has become apparent to me that a lot of us enter into marriage with selfish love. I remember reading a passage of scripture concerning the life of Abraham in Genesis 20. (I hope that you will go there and read verses 1-18 after reading this post. ) Abraham demonstrates to me the struggle of a man attempting to live a life by faith and a love of God.
One of the most powerful lessons is what Abraham's story teaches us about God's reaction in faithfulness to us. Abraham, at this point, is an old man, but he commits a sin that is identical to the sin that he committed many years earlier while he was in Egypt (Genesis 13). Even though Sarah was advanced in age, it is obvious that her physical attraction had not diminished that much at all. Abraham attempted to deceive Abimelech, ruler of the land that he was living in at the time. As it was in Egypt, God himself intervenes on behalf of Abraham by appearing to Abimelech in a dream to rescue him. How would he not have learned from the first mistake?
For all of us who take the journey of living by faith, this is a real problem. The Bible tells us that we all have to walk in the steps of Abraham in Romans 4. Our love for God calls for us to do the right thing, but the pressures of life and the love of self can push us in the other direction. The reason Abraham gave for his actions was this: "Because I thought surely that the fear of God is not in this place and they will slay me for my wife's sake" (Genesis 20:11). I see this as a clear example of selfish love. He was willing to put his wife in harm's way in order to save himself. Was this not the statement that satan made to God in Job 2 where he said "skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life"? Satan is speaking about selfish love.
When our relationship with God is built so that we only think in terms of how our actions impact self without thought for others who are part of our influence, the tendency is to make a wrong decision even to the point of making the same mistake over and over again. As believers, we cannot please God if we are living life in the flesh. That is Lucifer in the flesh!
I was passing by a lady's house, about 4.5 miles from mine. I had to stop because she was backing out from her driveway and I couldn’t go anywhere without risking getting hit. She lets down her window and says, "I’m so proud of you. I’ve been watching you for years and I’m so proud of you for what you are doing". She doesn’t know that I’m a father and that I’m a grandfather. She does not know that I am a pastor of 36 years. She does not know that I’m a business man, yet she says, "I’m proud of you". I’m assuming that what she is proud of in me is that I continue to stick to my morning routine in exercise. Here’s a woman that I have never known who takes the time out to tell me this. What does it mean? Has she wanted to be one who works out and has not been? Is she getting encouragement from someone who has “stickability” (my word for it).
It is interesting how people who may cross your path and that you may never know are getting strength from watching you stick to what you are supposed to stick to (and this is not about exercise). My words to all of my friends is don’t give up. Don’t give up on your marriage. Don’t give up on your hope of finding gainful employment. Don’t give up on your hope of getting married. Don’t give up on your walk with God. Don’t give up on being a person of integrity. Don’t give up on being a friend in deed even when your friendship has been taken advantage of. Somebody is watching you. Stick to it. I know that it gets tough sometimes, but the life that you save just may be your own.
I have come to realize that it is never just about me, but it is about the people that God has set me in the middle of. There is a scripture in the book of Romans that says, "but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5: 3-5).
Have you ever had one of those days when it seemed like everything was going wrong and it left your head swirling around? You may even feel like screaming! From time to time, everybody has a day like that. And when you do, you probably feel like saying something that you know will hurt somebody; something ugly that just wouldn’t be good to say because it will not solve the problem. You may even get depressed, try to sleep it off and forget about it, but because you have tried this many times before you know, as well as I do, that none of these choices will solve your problems. Rather than get emotional or throw in the towel, I want you to learn to do what I have learned to do over the years. Stop. Make a choice to let God lead you, lead you not only in a bad situation, but even in obvious situations that may seem easy to handle on your own. Let the peace of God rule your heart. Starting on this Resurrection Sunday, invite Jesus in everyday to help with whatever situation you are going through. Instead of throwing in the the towel, throw up your hands towards Heaven.
If you have ever played or watched any organized sports, then you know that there is a major difference between the level of play that is on the field. There is always an official who governs the game when it really counts. The game on the average playground does not have an official. There is no one who is enforcing the rules of the game when it’s not for keeps. In Colossians 3:15, the word rule was used in ancient times to describe that very thing: an umpire or referee who would judge an athletic competition. This word tells us that the Word of God can work like an umpire or referee in our hearts, minds, and emotions. So, when detrimental emotions try to throw us into a state of emotional despair, we can stop it from happening by calling for a Time Out! By making the choice to let God’s word rule in our life and allow him to be the umpire In the words of someone that I know very well, “Don’t worry about a thing!"
What does it mean to be spiritual? No one can be spiritual or biblical without first experiencing new birth. New birth is life, life that is freely given to all who believe in the Lord Jesus as their personal savior. Spirituality is growing in relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is simply Christian maturity; however, like in the natural, no one is born mature. It is a process that one must go through to become a grown up. The same is also true with spirituality.
A new Christian cannot be called spiritual simply because he or she has not had sufficient time to grow in knowledge and experience. A new Christian can be spirit control, but the area of spiritual control will be expanding in the process of Christian growth. A young Christian has not yet been confronted in many areas to try his or her faith in their life.
When he/she is first saved, they may not even know that there is such a person as a weaker brother. Although he may be not be unwilling to curve his liberties for the sake of that brother, he has not yet faced a real challenge. He may say that he has, but he has not faced having to actually not do something that he really wants to do. He does not have to refrain because it is a sin to do whatever it is, but he needs to refrain because it may cause someone else to become weaker in faith or do something that will ruin their life.
A Christian of longer standing may not be spiritual either; not because he has had insufficient time, but because over the years of his or her Christian life, he or she has not allowed the Holy Spirit to control them. The difference here is that the new Christian may lack the time required for spiritual growth, but the believer that has been saved for years may be deficient in his or her submission. Without continually submitting to the Holy Spirit a Christian cannot mature. They will remain immature.
A Christian can backslide in certain areas of his life without losing all of the progress that he has made while being saved. The flesh may control his actions during a period of backsliding, but when he comes back to the Lord, he does not necessarily have to start the process of growth all over again. This principle does not apply in every area of our life. There are some aspects of living that, when they have been violated, may never fully be redeemed.
There are stages of growth within the area of maturity. The Bible says that we grow from faith to faith and also from strength to strength. Are you spiritual or just saved? To make progress in your faith walk you must grow in submitting to the powerfully teaching and leading Holy Spirit.
You may or may not know that I recently had a pretty bad cold, so I was in search of some medication to relieve my symptoms and I knew that I had to go to the pharmacy counter to get it. It's been a practice for several years now, but I recently heard that a major drugstore chain in the Northeast is now requiring a photo ID for yet another commonly used product. All of you ladies are really going to love the hassle that you will have to go through to purchase fingernail polish remover in the future. That's right, fingernail polish remover is becoming a restricted item in our nation.
When I realized this, of course, I asked myself why? And to my surprise, I discovered that it is being used to help create illegal substances. It is sad to say, but it is true that the illegal actions of just a few can cause restrictions to come upon many. The law is not for the law abiding but for the lawbreaker. If someone really wants something bad enough, they will figure out a way to make it happen or get around the existing restrictions and rules.
Isn't this just like it has always has been? It reminds me of what took place in Genesis 2 when God put a prohibition on consumption of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The actions of few affected the many. You see, I am convinced that when you misuse freedoms in minor areas it will have results leading to a greater loss of freedoms in major areas.
While it is true that the Lord has given us Christians many liberties, He also told us not to use our liberties as a cloak for wrong intentions (1 Peter 2:16). While many people have never had any evil intention by trying to use such a product as nail polish remover, there are others who have gone to the extreme and found an otherwise harmless product to be helpful in causing great harm. We as Christians can find ourselves in the same predicament. Something that starts out seemingly not doing much harm can turn into harmful and sinful actions, if we begin to look at it from the perspective of meeting a desire in an area where God has placed clear restrictions. It's when we feel like we are in a tight place, that we begin to compromise and seek out ways to violate our convictions and bend the rules to fit our desires.
So the next time that you find yourself being tempted to compromise think about this statement. You may lose a lot more than you gain and find yourself bound instead of free. You may even find yourself having to pull out some kind of proof to let others know who you are in Christ because you've lost your identity.
I was out on the road and saw this thing moving and the closer I got to it, the more I figured that it had to be some kind of animal. It was a cat who looked like he had been hit by a car, but was struggling trying to get up. He was trying to do what he used to do with ease before he was hurt. He was probably able to leap and jump and run with no problem, but not now. I knew that it was bad. I went out another hour out and finally came back and expected this cat to be dead. He somehow had managed to get off of the road, but I knew that there was very little chance of him living. His instincts were probably kicking in, but he just couldn't do it. I don't have a cat, but I think that he probably belonged to someone and they would be missing him. Every life is valuable to someone even if you don't know who that cat is. When we get hit on the highway of life emotionally, our instincts may kick in and think that we can get back up quickly again. It could be a romantic, financial, or friendly relationship and you've gotten hit on the road. It is not always good to get back up and act like you haven't taken a potentially fatal blow. Don't get bitter if you've had a hard hit and may be limping. You are important even if that person who hit you has run on with their life. Instinctively, you may want to get up and do what you have always done but you need to pull over and get some help. Learn how to let it go and live your life to the fullest. Your life is valuable and someone is concerned about you.
Have you had a time in your life when you were waiting on the Lord and you decided that you could take matters in your own hands to speed things up a little bit? After doing this you saw that, instead of making things better, you made things worse. Now, you regret the fact that you didn't wait on the Lord. I think that all of us, if we spoke truthfully, would have to admit that we have been guilty of the same thing. Think about it...how many times have you opened up your mouth and said things that you regretted later? Perhaps, you reacted to a circumstance before you really had enough time to think it through. Maybe you got so angry at somebody that you actually verbalized your anger and hurt that other person. Later on, you realized that the person really wasn't saying what you thought they were saying. The Bible tells us, in the book of James, to be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). Good fruit is rarely produced in moments of anger.
The fact of the matter is that we all need patience. Patience is the fruit that is produced by the Spirit of God. As we go through our trials and our mess ups it is something that we have great need of. I don't know that there is any better story in the Bible that demonstrates the tragedy that impatience brings to a person's life than the story of Peter in the garden of Gethsemane the night that Jesus was taken. You can read about it in John 18 and Luke 22:49-50. Peter, through his impatience, was the first one to tell Jesus that he would never leave him; that others might, but that he would not leave him. When the solders came into the garden, Jesus asked them, "Whom seek ye?" When they said Jesus of Nazareth Jesus, by saying "I am he," found the solders and the temple police knocked to the ground by His words. The power that was released hit them so hard and fast that they were on their backs before they knew what had happened. While these soldiers were still flat on their backs, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands. Maybe he thought that it was an opportunity to show courage, but what he did was wrong. It is the perfect picture of someone being impatient and acting before thinking a thing through. So, you need to think before you move. He pulled out his sword and swings for the head of the high priest servant. He missed the head, but he didn't miss entirely. He cut off the servant's ear. This last action of Peter put him in great jeopardy. Had it not been for Jesus, Peter's actions would have landed him in jail or worse.
In Romans 6:16, the Bible says that "to whom you yield yourself servant to obey, his servant ye are." Many Christians fail to realize that obedience is God's love language. If you are going to communicate to God that you love Him, it has to be communicated through what you do and not just what you say. Even Jesus said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 4:46). I think for a lot of us what we call obedience is simply doing what we want to do and putting a label of obedience on it. But as has been said, a rose by any other name is still a rose. You can call it anything that you like, but one thing is for certain, God knows obedience. He is not necessarily looking at the outward appearance, as he said to Samuel, God looks at the heart. He looks at why you do what you do and not just what you do. So, I am convinced that for some of us that it takes a lifetime to learn how to obey God and to learn that obeying God is loving God.
In a parable that Jesus told about a father who had two sons that he asked to go to his fields and work, the older son said, "I go, sir", but he did not. In essence, he told his father what he wanted to hear, but he did not back it up with action. The second son said, "I will not" and afterwards he changed his mind and went. He said no to his father because that was how he really felt at the moment, but afterwards he repented and went to the field. Jesus asked the question to the Pharisees: "Whether of them twain did the will of his father?" (Matthew 21:28-31). The answer is obvious, the one who actually obeyed. Obeying God is critical to knowing the father's will.
In my years of pastoring, I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of people who have confessed to not knowing what the Will of God is for their life. In most cases, this stems out of a heart of disobedience. Somewhere in their lives they have failed to obey God. Perhaps, it may have been something small and seemed insignificant. Nothing is insignificant to God. From there the gap widens as you go out; what starts out as small, becomes wider as you go out several feet. The further you get away from and look at it from another angle, the wider the gap gets. Listen to what God said in the Old Testament: "Behold, the Lord 's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save;
neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God ,and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-9). If you are among the thousands of Christians who feel distant from God, it may be that you need to ask God to forgive you for being disobedient.
It is not enough to just start obeying God when you have been disobedient. The way to correct it is to repent and confess and then move forward in obedience.
We are in the midst of the football season and there are a lot of big games that will be played in the next few weeks. During every game those who are watching them will have the privilege of seeing the big play again through instant replay. On the professional level, when a difficult call has to be made, the officials will often review a play before the official call goes on record.
In 2 Timothy 1:5-6, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy when he was facing some of his biggest obstacles in ministry. Nero, the Roman emperor, was persecuting Christians and many of them were dying for their faith. In the midst of all of that trouble, I am sure that Timothy feared for his life and the future of his church. On the basis of what Paul said to him, he had to be wondering if God was going to keep him in the middle of all that was going on around him
So in verse 5, he says to Timothy, “when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also”, he wanted to remind Timothy about some very important things connected to his heritage. It was like he called a time out for Timothy to get it together. Sometimes we just feel like we need to quit and give up without even trying to win the game. What usually happens during a football game when a team is faced with special challenges or circumstances that the opponent has presented? The coach will call a time out. The water boy comes running out and brings the players much needed hydration while the coach reminds the team of the strategy.
I am sure that you have had situations in your life when it looked completely hopeless, and the power of God quickly stepped in and miraculously turned your situation around. We often fail to remember God’s faithfulness in the past when we are confronted with new challenges in the present. Our faith gets weak because of the problems we are facing right now and we forget that we have gone through circumstances that were similar, or even worse, before. The vastness of the problems in front of us looks so great that we fail to remember all of the other situations we have already come through with the help of God. So in 2 Timothy 1:5, when Paul states “when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee,” he knew that Timothy needed to be reminded of something that was very important: God’s faithfulness.
Paul took the opportunity to remind him that God brought his grandmother and mother through great difficulties in their lives. Just as God never failed them, he would never fail Timothy in this hour of trial. Then he told him in verse 6, “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God that is in thee by the putting on of my hands”. The phrase, “I put thee in remembrance” means to regather or to recollect memories. In the Greek, the prefix to this phrase carries the idea of playing these memories over and over again in your mind.
I remember years ago, as a young preacher starting out. In our day we did not have DVDs or CDs. We had cassettes and I would listen to the Word of God. When something really caught my attention I would rewind it and play it over again, rewind it and play it over again and rewind it and play it over again. I kept hitting rewind and backing it up to make sure it stuck. So, the way that I would hit the rewind button on my cassette player is like looking back at a part of life over and over again. I am talking about the times when God delivered you.
The next time the enemy says to you there is no way you will come out of this...What you are facing is going to end the game...call a time out and get alone with God and review what God has already done for you. That’s right, watch the instant replay in your mind of everything that He has already delivered you from. Your faith will rise to a new level of confidence as you replay those memories over and over again in your thoughts. God will bring you to a place where you will be able to face your problem and declare that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Tim 1:7. You don’t have to fear your problems, face them.
Pastor Earl Goings shares his thoughts on everyday concerns.
Comments Are Welcomed