Welcome the test (1)

Genesis 22:1 NKJV

The Bible says: “God tested Abraham, and said…’Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham…went to the place of which God had told him” (vv. 1-3 NKJV). You say, “Why would God test me?” First, to prove Himself faithful to you. Second, to give you an opportunity to prove yourself faithful to Him. Your tests are God’s proving grounds. They’re the way you graduate to the next level in His kingdom. That day Abraham proved there was nothing he loved more than God. And that was the day when God introduced Himself to Abraham as “Jehovah Jireh,” the Lord who provides. It’s when you exercise your faith that you discover God’s faithfulness. That’s why God will test your faith. The tests get progressively harder as the stakes get higher. And the tests will undoubtedly revolve around what’s most important to you. What do you find your identity in? What do you find your security in? That’s your “Isaac.” God will test you to make sure your identity and your security are found in Him alone. Indeed, He will go after anything you trust in more than you trust Him until you put it on the altar. Don’t worry; you don’t have to live in fear that God is going to take away what is most important to you. But if the gift ever becomes more important to you than the Giver, then the very thing God gave you to serve His purposes is undermining His plan for your life. And that’s why God will deal with it.

Soul food: Deut 32:29-34:12; Mark 9:1-13; Ps 62; Prov 12:18-19

Jabez (3)

1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV

One of the things Jabez prayed was ‘enlarge my territory’. That can be confusing when we first read it. We’re used to being told not to desire material things or crave loads of possessions. Luke 12:15 says, ‘Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own’ (NLT), and Hebrews 13:5 says, ‘Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you”‘ (NLT). And then here we find Jabez asking for more. Not only that, but we’re told that ‘God granted him what he requested’. So the meaning of Jabez’s prayer can’t be as straightforward as we think. He wasn’t simply asking for more land, or more money, or more possessions out of greed or of feeling entitled to them, otherwise God wouldn’t have granted the request. God knew that Jabez could, and would, use his possessions to grow God’s spiritual kingdom. In other words, Jabez was saying, ‘Please give me the tools I need to do even more for You’. Jabez must have had the potential to achieve amazing things for God, so God gave him what he needed to achieve that potential. So what can we learn from this? 1) We should be looking at the things we own, and thinking, ‘How can I use this for God’s glory? How can I use this to bring more people to Him?’ 2) God will give us exactly what we need to fulfil our potential and our role in His kingdom. We can trust Him to provide for us.

Deut 3-4; Mark 6:7-13; Ps 2; Prov 11:22-23

This year get out of your comfort zone (1)

Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Two of our biggest fears are – failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. You can overcome them, but they’ll show up when you face your next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, that you learn to conquer it. Indeed, as you look back at what you’ve already overcome, you realize that most times failure doesn’t do permanent damage – you actually grow stronger through it. If you’re anxious today, God is saying to you, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.” So trust Him, and get out of your comfort zone! An unknown poet wrote: “I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I couldn’t fail; the same four walls of busywork were really more like jail. I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor. I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much; I said I didn’t care for things like dreams and goals and such. I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep inside I longed for something special of my own. I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win; I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin. I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door. If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.” The word for you today is: This year, get out of your comfort zone.

Soul food: Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14

Leave the comfort zone (1)

Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Two of our biggest fears are: failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. We can overcome them for a time, but they will often show up when we face our next challenge. Yet when we accept fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, we can learn to grow stronger through it. When we feel anxious, God says to us, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ So we need to trust Him, and get out of our comfort zones. But that can be easier said than done. Entering a new year, we can have lots of ideas about how we’re going to change things and do things differently over the year, how we’re going to embrace our God-given calling or use our God-given skills, how we’re going to serve in new ways or finally get round to talking to a friend about our faith, or how we’re going to rebuild a relationship that’s broken down. But then the fear of failing or being criticised by others creeps in, and we can talk ourselves out of doing all those things. This was like when Peter walked on water. ‘Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink’ (Matthew 14:29-30 MSG). But Jesus saved Him. And when we step out and then become fearful, He will save us too. We just need to trust Him and take that step in the first place. So let’s make 2018 the year that we take the risk and step out of our comfort zones.

Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14

Walk by faith

2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

In the book of Hebrews we read, ‘By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going’ (Hebrews 11:8 NIV). When we follow God, most times we’ll go out not knowing as much as we’d like to. We want to be full prepared, to know what’s to come. We don’t like the unknown. But God calls us to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ He asks us to trust Him and step out of our comfort zone. He won’t give us all the answers before we step out, that’s where walking by faith comes in. We may not see where we’re going, but we know we’re being led by a God who we can trust to lead us to things that will ultimately be good, that He’ll walk with us every step of the way and will equip us to do everything that He’s calling us to do. The Bible says that we should: ‘Trust the LORD with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5 NCV). God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. We won’t always understand, but we always need to trust. God often shows us the way to go, and what we should do, one part at a time. So, like stepping stones, we need to just focus on the next step we’ve got to make and not worry about all the other steps to come. Living like this keeps us dependent on Him. And that’s exactly how He wants us to live. It takes time and practise to become dependent on Him, so let’s get practising.

Job 24-28; Luk 2:21-33; Ps 97; Ecc 10:15-19