What’s your ox goad?

Judges 3:31 NLT

Shamgar was able to save Israel from the Philistines. The Bible tells us that ‘he once killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad’. This suggests that he didn’t have a sword or spear, but just had to use what he had. And that was an ox goad, which was used to guide animals. What’s our ox goad? What has God given us that we can use to grow His kingdom? What gifts and skills do we already have that He can use? The Bible says: ‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another’ (1 Peter 4:10 NLT). Maybe our gift doesn’t seem to fit the calling. Shamgar had to use something that would normally be used to guide animals, to kill 600 Philistines and save Israel. The things we have available to us may not seem like the natural things to help us do what God’s calling us to do, but God can still use us. Even if we feel like we don’t have anything to offer, or we can’t do what God’s calling us to do, God promises to equip us. Whether that’s with the words to say or the strength to use what He’s already given us. He just asks us to hear His call, step out and obey Him. It may take us a lot of effort, but God never said it would be easy. The Bible tells us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (take a look at Philippians 4:13). So when we hear the call, let’s use our skills and give it everything we’ve got, relying on His strength.

Song 5-8; Luke 2:41-52; Ps 21; Prov 16:16-19

Make prayer a priority

Acts 6:4 NKJV

In Disciplines of a Godly Man, pastor and author R. Kent Hughes says: “Jay Sidlow Baxter once shared a page from his own personal diary with a group of pastors who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began telling how…he entered the ministry determined he would be a real man of prayer. However, it wasn’t long before his increasing responsibilities, administrative duties, and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get used to it, making excuses for himself. Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice was telling him to be practical and get his letters answered, and that he ought to face the fact that he wasn’t one of the ‘spiritual sort’ – only a few people could be like that. ‘That last remark,’ says Baxter, ‘hurt like a dagger blade. I couldn’t bear to think it was true.’ He was horrified by his ability to rationalize away the very ground of his ministerial vitality and power.” Understand this: Minutes invested in prayer will give you a greater return than hours spent in ceaseless activity. The New Testament apostles understood that. As the church grew bigger and they became busier, they made a life-changing decision: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and…the word.” As a result the church grew and multiplied. So make prayer a priority!

Soul food: 2 Kings 1:1-4:17; Matt 22:15-33; Ps 106:24-48; Prov 7:3-5

Your life’s assignment

Acts 20:24 NLT

To miss out on your assignment in life is to miss out on why God put you on earth. You’re gifted and called by God, and you need to take it seriously. The question is not what are you running from, but what are you moving toward? To succeed you must know God’s will and concentrate on fulfilling it. Having a powerful “why” will provide you with the necessary “how.” Purpose, not money and talent, is your greatest asset. To help you discover your life’s assignment, answer these questions: (1) What’s your temperament and what’s your talent? Psychologist and motivational speaker Charles Garfield said, “Peak performers are people who are committed to a compelling mission. It is very clear that they care deeply about what they do, and their efforts, energies, and enthusiasms are traceable back to that particular mission.” (2) Why do you do what you do? There’s a big difference between doing something because you believe God’s called you to do it, and doing what your parents, friends, or ego wants you to do. (3) What do you not do well? Knowing what you’re called to do often starts with discovering what you’re not called to do. When you can accept your limitations, you’re on the road to understanding your life’s assignment. When you pretend to be something you’re not, you live with a chronic sense of inadequacy and set yourself up for frustration. Don’t do that. Be open to the truth about yourself. Discover your God-given assignment, then give yourself to it.

Soul food: 2 Chr 19-21; Mark 6:45-56; Ps 119:121-128; Prov 22: 4-7

You’ve been called by God

Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…sanctified you [set you apart]…I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Let’s take a closer look at each of these points: 1) God knew you. The word knew means ‘to have intimate knowledge of’. When your fingers were just a web, before your heartbeat registered on the monitor or the doctor could predict your gender, God knew all about you. ‘You…scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe’ (Psalm 139:16 TLB). God knew what you were born to be, and provided everything you’d need to fulfil your purpose. 2) God sanctified you [set you apart]. Psalm 4:3 says: ‘Know that the LORD has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him’ (NIV). God has a purpose for you, but that’s not the only reason He’s set you apart. He doesn’t want to treat you as a servant, someone who just does what they’re told because they have no choice. God has set you apart because He loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. He wants to be able to talk to you about all your thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. 3) God ordained you. Men may ordain, but only God can foreordain. Stop worrying about who does or doesn’t recognise your gifts. John Mason says, ‘Each person has been custom-made by God the Creator. Each of us has a unique and personal call on our lives…to be our own selves and not copies of other people.’ God told Jeremiah, ‘Go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you’ (Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT).

Ezra 3-5; Mat 28:1-10; Ps 78:9-16; Prov 19:24-26

When God calls you

Isaiah 48:15 NIV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NCV). When God decides to use us, five things happen: first, there’s a call. God asks ordinary people to do extraordinary things, like Peter getting out of a boat and walking on water. Second, there’s fear. When God called Moses to stand before Pharaoh, he said, ‘Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words…please! Send somebody else!’ (Exodus 4:10;13 MSG). Third, there’s reassurance. The thought of having to fill Moses’ shoes must have terrified Joshua, so God told him, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Joshua 1:5 NIV). Fourth, there’s a decision. Sometimes we say yes to God and sometimes we say no. When we say yes we live with joy; when we say no that joy can pass us by. But there’s always a choice. Fifth, there’s a changed life. When we say yes to God’s call we don’t suddenly do everything perfectly. But because we said yes, we learn and grow even from our failures. Our failures often become part of our ability to reach out to others. And when we say no to God we’re changed too; but not in the best way. We become a little more resistant to His calling, and a little more likely to say no next time. So is God calling us today? Maybe it’s to do with our future career, or our current job, or our relationships, or our money, or facing our biggest fears. God’s call will go to the core of who we are and what we do. Saying yes to Him is the best decision we’ll ever make.

Zeph 1-3; Mat 27:45-56; Ps 46; Prov 19:18-20