Mark 4:40 NLT
When life seems to be going wrong, and everything seems up in the air, we have a choice to make. We can either panic or we can trust God and believe that He’s got it all under control. Many of us would like to say we do the second, but often we wonder if we are going to be able to cope with what we are facing. We search frantically for things that will help or distract instead of bringing it all to the feet of Jesus and acknowledging that He is still in control. When the disciples were in the boat and a storm arose, Jesus was asleep. It might have appeared that He wasn’t in control. The storm was raging, the disciples were scared, and Jesus didn’t seem to be waking up and doing something about it. ‘The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to drown?”‘ (Mark 4:38 NLT). Sometimes we can find ourselves shouting at God too. The storms in our lives seem to be getting increasingly strong, and we shout at God trying to get His attention. But Jesus ‘rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm’ (Mark 4:39 NLT). There’s no doubt that God has the power to calm our storms too. He is in control of everything, and can bring calm just by speaking into the situation. Jesus asked the disciples: ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ It’s natural for us to be afraid in stormy situations, but God wants us to have faith in Him. He wants us to trust His goodness and believe that He can calm the storm. He is ultimately in control, so why should we be afraid?
1 John 3:11-5:21; John 7:25-44; Ps 104:27-35; Prov 24:29
Matthew 6:31-32 NLT
We can often find ourselves saying that we trust God, and then worrying about our relationships, health, jobs, and money. But Paul writes, ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace’ (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT). We can choose whether to worry, or whether to pray. We can choose whether we try and do life on our own, or whether we surrender it to God and allow Him to take control. Jesus said, ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (Matthew 6:34 NIV). It can be easier said than done to think about one day at a time. The trouble is, when we start overthinking our future, we try and take control. We try and figure everything out ourselves, rather than handing everything over to God and trusting Him. And that means we don’t have His peace. Worry can be like a snowball; it starts small, and as we keep rolling it forwards it becomes big enough to knock us down. But if we hand every worry over to God, we can keep going. God says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). God will only give us what we need for today; that way we have to keep trusting Him for tomorrow. The Bible tells us Jesus is the Good Shepherd who ‘calls his own sheep by name and…walks ahead of them’ (John 10:3-4 NLT). He has already gone ahead of us to arrange everything. Knowing that should help us face tomorrow, confident that God will take care of us.
Ezra 1-2; John 6:25-34; Ps 98; Prov 24:15-18
Genesis 32:24 NCV
In Genesis 32, we find the story of Jacob wrestling with God. We are told: ‘Jacob was alone, and a man came and wrestled with him until the sun came up.’ This man was in fact an angel, or actually God Himself. Hosea wrote: ‘When Jacob wrestled with the angel and won, he cried and asked for his blessing’ (Hosea 12:4 NCV). God did bless Jacob, but before that blessing, God dislocated his hip. This probably wasn’t what Jacob was wanting. The dislocated hip meant that Jacob would have to be reliant on God. He could no longer depend only on his own strength. When we think about wrestling with God, we can think it means trying to make God do things our way, to bless us the way we want to be blessed, and to give us the things we think would make our lives better. But wrestling with God is a process of laying down our plans and desires, and learning to trust God to provide and fulfil His promises for our lives. There’s a ‘Jacob nature’ in each of us that resists the will of God, and it has to be dealt with. Here are a few questions we need to ask ourselves: 1) Am I willing to let go of what I want if it’s not God’s will for me? 2) Do I want what others have instead of waiting for God’s provision for me? 3) Do I keep talking about my rights because I haven’t fully surrendered to God? God longs to bless us, but that blessing won’t always look like we thought it would. Sometimes we need to lay things down before the blessing comes. We need to surrender all of ourselves to Him.
Ezek 10-13; Matt 21:18-32; Ps 84; Prov 19:11
Genesis 32:24 NLT
Some of your toughest battles in life will be with God. That’s because there’s a “Jacob nature” in each of us that resists the will of God, and it has to be dealt with. The same God who asked Jacob, “What is your name?” will ask you to identify yourself too. And until you’re willing to do an honest evaluation and answer truthfully, your life can’t change for the better. God had to break Jacob by dislocating his hip, the thing he depended on. Jacob got his blessing at the same time he got his limp. Ask yourself, “Do I really want the blessing of God on my life?” Before you answer, stop and ask yourself these questions: (1) Am I willing to let go of what I want if it’s not God’s will for me? (2) Do I covet what others have instead of waiting for God’s provision for me? (3) Do I keep talking about my rights because I haven’t fully surrendered to the Lord? (4) Do I truly love others and think of them first? (5) Am I practicing the daily disciplines of prayer and Bible reading? (6) Am I allowing God to handle my public relations instead of promoting myself? (7) Am I expressing joy in the midst of adversity and trusting God to reproduce the character of Jesus in me? (8) Am I taking risks in obedience to Christ instead of giving in to fear and playing it safe? Not only will your answers to these questions determine your discipleship, your direction, and your destiny – they will also determine your level of blessing.
Soul food: Ezek 10-13; Matt 21:18-32; Ps 84; Prov 19:11
1 Samuel 12:21 NKJV
In order to succeed in what God has called you to do in life, you must recognize your gift and know your goal. When you’re clear about and committed to these two things, you need to demonstrate two qualities: discipline and determination. Fritz Kreisler, one of the greatest violinists of all time, had them. Crowds packed Carnegie Hall in New York to hear him. But the road to success was a bumpy ride. As a boy he wanted to do nothing more than play the violin, so his parents paid for him to have music lessons. But he didn’t make as much progress as they hoped, and after a few years he quit the lessons. Over the next several years, through college and early adulthood, he studied medicine but failed to complete medical school. He joined the army and failed to be promoted. He tried and quit many other pursuits. Realizing that the one piece of success he had enjoyed in life related to the violin, he went back to his instructor and said, “I want to play.” She said, “Fine, I’ll take you back as a student, but only if you acquire the irreplaceable quality that is necessary for you to become a great violinist. You must exhibit undefeatable determination.” So once again, here are your steps to success: (1) Recognize your gift. (2) Know your goal. (3) Dedicate yourself to the process no matter how long it takes. (4) Trust God to bless your efforts.
Soul food: 1 Kings 10-11; Mark 8:27-38; Ps 45; Prov 12:7-9