Category Archives: Victorious Living

Desperately Seeking Happiness

“Then He (Jesus) began to speak, and taught them.” Matthew 5:2 (NRS)

At the top of the list of things people desperately seek is happiness.  Kirk Franklin, gospel extraordinaire, several years ago shared this need in a song that expresses the frustration people feel in their attempt to find happiness.  Exasperated with their situation, they sadly cry out, “I just wanna be happy.”

Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and contentment.  Happiness is truly a function of one’s personal perception, circumstance, and desire.  For the person who is lonely, happiness may be experiencing true friendship and community.  For the individual who feels powerless, happiness may be wealth and influence.  Regardless of the need behind the pursuit of happiness, the quest to find it has been and continues to be man’s greatest quest.

During the mid-20th century, the pursuit of happiness was found in the discovery of self.  “Self” became the surrogate for happiness—self-gratification, self-satisfaction, self-actualization.  With the dawn of the 21st century, man has now “turned his ear” (2 Tim. 4:4) to the sciences to help him find happiness.   Positive psychology is the study of how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  In examining the different paths to happiness, there is one obvious way that is missing. That way is Jesus Christ—He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

In Psalm 18:2, David describes his source of well-being during his deliverance from King Saul and his enemies:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  David looked to God to insure his well-being and in exchange received security, safety, and health.

The Apostle Paul exchanged his earthly power and position for the contentment that only Jesus Christ could provide.  He proudly boasted in Phil. 4:11-13 (NRS):  “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Paul’s secret to contentment was not tied to his circumstances but to his God.

Like these and other biblical witnesses set your sights on that which transcends the promises of happiness that is tethered to this world.  Seek the intangibles that provide true well-being and contentment.  The only one that can provide what “transcends” is our Transcendent God.  He alone knows our needs and how to satisfy them.  It is our responsibility to trust God for our happiness.

Desperately Seeking the Will of God

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (RSV)

In our initial teaching, Life Lived Desperately Seeking, we identified those things that people wanted out of life but couldn’t seem to obtain.

In examination of this list, it was observed that the top items were “intangible, internal, and subjective”.  It was obvious that the “things people wanted” in actuality were those things that are matters of the “heart” and not the “hand.”  That heart is missing a piece that only God can fill.  God has placed “eternity” in our heart and it cannot be satisfied with the things of this world (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  God alone satisfies.  Knowing this should calm restless hearts and direct those who are still desperately seeking what they want out of life.

We should also look at Jesus for our model as to what we are to seek in life.  If we were to look at the list of things Jesus sought while on earth, it could be summarized in four (4) words—the will of God.   Jesus often emphasized to both His inquisitive disciples and His devious opponents that the only thing that He sought in life was to accomplish the will of His Father.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”  (John 4:34)

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”  (John 6:38)

And what was the will of the Father?

“…that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40)

Eternal life is not only a place with God in the future but it is also a state of being, right now, that makes available spiritual blessings for living victoriously in this present world (2 Pet. 1:2-4; Gal. 5:22-24).

When we seek the will of God, we no longer live for ourselves or for the things of the world (1 John 2:17).  A life that seeks the will of God is lived pursuing those things that are above (Col. 3:1).

“Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Paul describes this “no longer living” for self as being “crucified with Christ.”

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Gal. 2:20)

Peter advises those who “no longer live” to themselves to “be armed” with the same thought or motive as Christ.  To arm ourselves is both strategic and intentional.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.  Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.  (1 Peter 4:1-3)

The motivation for “seeking” is no longer self-gratification, self-serving, self-aggrandizements, or self-satisfaction.  Our motivation…our life style…our mindset should be directed at understanding and seeking the will of God.

The scriptures used today were chosen so that we as believers will fully grasp where and who our focus is to be on.  Our satisfaction is to be found in the will of God.  Living in a materialistic society, we may be tempted by the alluring promises of possessions, power, and privilege.  But as attested by those who are “still” desperately seeking, the world often falls short of delivering on its promises.

Only God can give what we truly need.  Within God’s will is the “missing piece” for our heart; therein lies God’s provision, peace and joy.  Stop seeking satisfaction from worldly counterfeits.  “Set your minds on things that are above.”

Desperately Seeking Righteousness

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matt. 6:33 (NRS)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.

Matt. 5:6   (NRS)

In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a desperate individual endeavoring to save his family from dire circumstances created by his lack of employment and subsequent homelessness.  Chris is given the opportunity for a job on Wall Street by a benevolent mentor who sees in him, not only hidden talent, but a “hunger and thirst” for a better life.  When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, He knew the impact “kingdom living” would have on individuals in search of a “better life”.  Jesus saw individuals who were spiritually hungry, starved by the empty promises of this world.  The result was emaciated spirits and dry souls.   The world was desperately seeking.

To be righteous (dikaios), in a broad sense, describes man as God had originally created him to be—one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. The believer’s righteousness is not their own but is the imputed (credited) righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1) and the desire to continue living righteously before God is made possible by Jesus Christ’s presence within believers through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the believer the ability to live right and to do right (Ez. 36:25-27; Phil. 2:13).

To “seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness” established the right priority and focus in the life of the believer.  With the many enticements and distractions offered by the world, it is easy to understand the lukewarm commitment to the things of God—even within the church.  But God demands our love and our loyalty as we seek to live for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.  The Apostle Peter reminded persecuted believers of their “new priority” as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  (1 Peter 2:24)

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.  (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—kingdom living; no longer marked by hypocrisy and corruption as seen in the lives of the ruling religious leaders. Jesus invited those who sought God’s righteousness to simply “Come” (Matt. 11:28-30).  This invitation would resonate with individuals in familiar terms they could easily understand—hunger and thirst.

To “hunger and thirst” for God’s righteousness indicates a strong craving that becomes the driving force in the life of the believer.  The Psalmist captured this fervent yearning in Psalms 42:1-3:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

While hunger and thirst are terms typically used to express basic human needs, the hunger and thirst that Jesus describes in this beatitude depicts a “spiritual hunger and thirst” that finds no satisfaction in the physical realm.  And what is the effect of this yearning?  “It is filled!”

The world is at enmity with those seeking the righteousness of God.  But in spite of the persecution we may encounter or the rejection we may face, it is imperative that we stand firm and give the world the reason for our hope—a living hope that is realized both now and in eternity future (1 Pet. 3:15).     Our culture continues to seek answers to the moral and social problems of our day using man’s wisdom.   Such efforts are “senseless striving” without first desperately seeking God’s righteousness.

Desperately Seeking God

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is.

Psalm 63:1 (KJV)

Recent news featured individuals who were lost in the wilderness. One story told of a young boy who became separated from his family when he left them in search of mushrooms.  In another story, a hiker who left her team experienced a dangerous fall resulting in a badly broken leg.  In both stories, their separation from others resulted in fear and despair until they were rescued from their dire situation.

The same is true of man when he is separated from His beloved Creator.  Without God, man is left to live desperately seeking what only God can provide. To try to do so, can only results in fear and despair.    Therefore the logical way to end this desperate dilemma is to seek God.  In Psalm 63 David shares his despair as he finds himself separated from God. It is here that we find David desperately seeking God.

The historical context for this psalm can be found in 2 Samuel 15. David’s despair is the result of his son Absalom’s conspiracy to steal the kingdom from his father. Fearful of the potential shift in power, David vacates his throne in Jerusalem and heads to the wilderness of Judah.  While David was in fact, in a physical wilderness, the wilderness he speaks of in this psalm describes metaphorically his desperate longing for God.  It provides a powerful outline of how to find God.

First, David spiritually reconnected with God.  David’s desire for God became the first thing he sought when he rose in the morning.   His soul—his mind, will and emotions—thirsted for God.  His flesh responded to this insatiable thirst in a strong longing to be with God.  Do you thirst for God?  How do you connect with God?  Are you intentional in your making “quality time” for Him or does He only get a quick bible verse reading when you have time?

Next, David recounted His previous experiences with God.  Though David had never seen God physically, he had personally experienced God’s power and glory through nature and His attributes. He knew God’s love and mercy as he tended to his father’s sheep as a young boy (Ps. 23).  David was witness to God’s protection as he faced the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49-51). David knew the source of his success in battle against Israel’s enemies (1 Sam. 18:5, 7).  David knew the power of God’s presence.

Finally, David relinquished His will to God.  Though a mighty king, David humbled himself to God knowing that the only way to reverse his situation was to totally trust and depend on God for all his needs.  Christian pastor and author, A.W. Tozer, identified the root cause of man’s dissatisfaction resulting in his continual search for that which he “cannot have”.

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”

In today’s society people are desperately seeking relief for their spiritual thirst. They are searching for life options they feel will satisfy their needs through hedonistic pursuits, spiritual experimentation, and material gain.  These efforts unfortunately never satisfy and often result in further despair and darkness.

Because David desperately sought God first, he was able to experience a confident assurance that would have been impossible through human seeking or striving.  God our Father and Creator knows and possesses what is needed for spiritual and emotional “dryness”.  Only God can truly satisfy.  It was in seeking God that David found spiritual relief for his thirst.

During the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacle, Jesus offered Himself as the source of relief for the thirsty soul:  “Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37-38).   Jesus still calls today—offering living water to the world—a “thirsty land where no water is.”

Satisfying Restless Hearts

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

He has planted eternity in the human heart,

but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)

In what is now becoming an endangered means of communications, the newspaper offers a service known as classified ads.  The “classified’ allows individuals to list requests for particular services or products they want.   If you were to purchase a classified ad, with regard to “desperately seeking”, what would you request?  What is the motivation behind your request?

Motivation is the force that initiates, guides, and maintains behaviors. It is what causes us to take action.  The forces that lie beneath our motivation can be biological, social, emotional, or intellectual in nature. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the best-known theories of motivation, states that our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs ranging from basic needs for survival to the highest level of motivation dealing with self-esteem and the need to be “all one can be.”

How does this theory of motivation square with the biblical explanations for our “seeking” behavior?  The Words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (Solomon) gives us the answer.  In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is desperately seeking what is the true source of meaning and happiness in life.  Much like those in last week’s WordBytes, he is seeking those things he “can’t seem to get”.

Solomon investigates those things which his “lusts” have directed him to pursue:  pleasure-seeking (2:1-11), wisdom (2:12-17), and labor for reward (2:18-6:9).  In the process of his search, God slowly reveals the explanation for Solomon’s restlessness.  God’s revelation begins in Ecclesiastes 3:11:  “He (God) has planted eternity in the human heart.”  God made men for His eternal purpose, and nothing in this fallen world can bring men complete satisfaction.  I visualize this fact in the picture of the heart with a missing piece exposed to the world.

Many times we pursue counterfeits instead of God—the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16)—thinking they will satisfy our deepest needs.  This pursuit, unfortunately, can prove to be a dangerous path to follow.  We witness the lives of celebrities and social icons whose needs have been met through fame, fortune, and influence yet still voice dissatisfaction with their life.  Many have fallen victim to addictive activities, broken relationships, and suicidal behavior.

Can you image driving your car without an engine?  You put new wheels on it but it won’t go.  You park it in the best garage money can buy yet it still won’t move.  It can’t go!  It cannot accomplish its purpose without an engine.  God created us for His specific purpose that includes a personal relationship (not religion) with Him (Is. 43:21; Eph. 2:10).   It is in daily discovering God’s unique purpose for our life that we find meaning, satisfaction, and contentment.

God is the missing piece in the life of those who are desperately seeking. God is the critical, life-giving piece.  In Him, we live and move and have our meaning (Acts 17:28).  The restless heart can only find satisfaction in God.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430), like Solomon, offered a “faith nugget” for the desperately seeking heart.

Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

Now that we have THE ANSWER for those who are desperately seeking, we will focus the remainder of our series on the specifics of how God satisfies the desperately seeking heart.  Please share this devotional with friends and family.  Also let us know what you think of the series by writing your comments below—we’d love to hear from you.

Life Lived Desperately Seeking

What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?

Ecclesiastes 1:3 (The Message)

I recently read an article entitled The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get.  I was amazed in reading the responses to this informal survey that probed a number of “critical life and career questions.”  This further piqued my curiosity leading me to find other “lists” of how individuals might feel about their current lives.

As I read the various articles, the words “desperately seeking” came to mind.  Therein was the birthing of this new series entitled, Desperately Seeking.  During this series, I’ll be using three (3) lenses to examine the real issues behind our desperate search for the things we feel will make our lives better.  They include:  (1) the current situation, (2) the worldview, and (3) God’s view.  As you follow with me, it is my hope that you will better understand God’s plan for your life and be able to quickly extinguish any desperation you might currently be experiencing.  Let me begin by sharing the current situation.

Desperation is defined as a state of despair or distress, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior—even reckless or dangerous. Desperation is sometimes described as hopelessness.  How would you describe the world today?  You need only look at your phone, notebook, or other source of information to experience the alarming state of our world.

As we view the larger global issues of this nation and world, it is evident that the current political, social, and financial climate cannot be resolved through traditional methods or approaches.  Our hope that technology would offer the panacea to all our problems is daily being dashed as it presents its own set of “new problems” in the form of ethical dilemmas, moral failures, and social shortfalls.  Tricia McCary Rhodes in her book, The Wired Soul, captures this feeling of distress.

I am not personally prone to panic attacks, but these days there are moments when I find myself out of sorts, almost as if I can’t quite catch my breath. I don’t think I’m alone in this. People of all ages seem terminally distracted, perpetually hurried, and often harried.  It is rare for an answer to the question “how are you?” not to include the word busy and elicit some degree of angst. Collectively it feels as if we are losing something important in the name of progress, as if life itself is slipping through our fingers.

But the real challenge of desperation comes, not only globally, but “up close and personal”.   It comes as individuals look in the mirror and ask, “What about those things that I want in life but can’t seem to get?”  From my reading, I compiled (in their order of importance) the top five (5) areas people are feeling desperate about:  happiness, money, freedom, peace, and joy.   I’ve included a sixth, since it seems the focus of many Millennials and Gen xers—balance.

Examination of this list resulted in the following observations.  What’s surprising are the things missing from the list.

1)  The list contains more intangibles that tangibles (money).  Why?

2)  The list is more subjective (what I can feel) than objective.  Why?

3)  The list focuses on “internal” versus “external”.  Why?

What can be said about a “life lived desperately seeking”?  Why are we desperate?  What’s missing in our lives and why can’t we get it?  Join us as we “desperately seek” answers to these and other questions.  Please share this devotional with your friends who might be feeling desperate.  Feel free to share your thoughts on this new series  in the “Comments Box” at the bottom of this page.

Kingdom Living, Part 1

“And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.”  Luke 4:43 (KJV)

What does it mean to be a citizen?  A citizen is defined as “a native or naturalized individual who owes allegiance to a government (as of a state or nation) and is entitled to the enjoyment of governmental protection and to the exercise of civil rights.”  Our news lately has been full of cover stories on how America is changing the definition of citizenship and who is eligible to become a citizen of this country.  BUT GOD, never changes the definition or the privilege of citizenship in His Kingdom—a kingdom that is eternal and everlasting yet fully realized today.

When God the Son stepped out of eternity into time, He ushered in the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15).  The “kingdom of God” is manifested in two ways. By the sovereign control and:  (1) future reign of Jesus Christ as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15) AND (2) present reign of Jesus Christ in the heart of believers as we become “transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).  It is this latter understanding of the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of when He taught His disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).  What does kingdom living look like in our daily “profession of faith”?  As believers in the twenty-first century, what is our role in bringing the kingdom of God into existence? 

We are citizens of His kingdom.    “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).  When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, Father God  “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13, 14).  When that occurred, our allegiance and loyalties changed.  Death no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:9); sin no longer reigns in our bodies (Rom. 6:12).   Our Sovereign is Christ and we live under the “Banner of the Cross.” 

We are stewards of His kingdom.   “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2)   God has entrusted us with both spiritual (gifts and talents) and physical resources (blessings) to accomplish His purpose through our lives.  We are to continually examine how well we are managing those resources.  Unlike the foolish servant who failed to “invest” his resources on behalf of his master’s kingdom, we are to be both fruitful and faithful (Matt. 25:21).

We are ambassadors for His kingdom.   “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).    An ambassador functions as a representative of a ruling authority.  We, then, are representatives of Christ and serve Him by doing the work specifically delegated to us by Christ (Ep. 2:10).  We do this through our personal testimonies and by inviting others to join us as citizens of the kingdom of God.     

As believers in Christ, it is critical that we understand that we are part of God’s kingdom—individually as believers and collectively as the Church of Christ.   He is our King.  As heirs and citizens of the kingdom of God, our purpose is to do our part in the furtherance of His kingdom.  This goes beyond “walking the talk”; it is a matter of “walking by faith” (Rom. 1:16, 17).  The kingdom of God is brought to fruition by our love for and our loyalty to our King.  “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).

Also Read:  Kingdom Living, Part 2

SELAH:    In Acts 17:16-34, Paul eloquently explains to the philosophers and truth-seekers of that day the source of truth and life.  In verse 28, He describes God as the source “in who we live and move and have our meaning.”  For me this is a great reminder of my citizenship in the kingdom of God.

Journal what it means to you to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  Use one of the scriptures included in today’s teaching or one from your Bible concordance.

Blue Tassels

Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner that when you see it you shall remember and do all my commandments, and you shall be holy to your God.”

Numbers 15: 38-40 (NRSV)

Today is my birthday.  Yes, I was born on Memorial or Decoration Day.  Originally held on May 30th, 1868, Memorial Day is to remember people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.  The holiday (unlike my birthday) is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May and marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.  It is so important that we remember notable dates and celebratory events.  Activities such as family and high school reunions and special memorial services act as “points of stability” during times of uncertainty and confusion.  They help us solidify our belief systems by revisiting roots and remembering our past.  It is with this in mind, that I’d like to share my favorite WordBytes, which always helps me remember not only who I am but also, “Whose I am”.

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It is not unusual to see people “wearing” their beliefs. They do this by putting on designated colors to show their affiliation and support. In October, both men and women, showed their connection with breast cancer awareness by wearing the color pink. During the Vietnam War, friends and family wore yellow ribbons to show their support for the young men engaged in battle on behalf of this nation.

The newest trend is wearing rubber wristbands in a myriad of colors to support everything from prevention of animal cruelty to sexual preference.   But the wearing of color as a reminder is not a new phenomenon. In Numbers 16:37-41, God instructs Moses to tell the children of Israel to place tassels on the corners of their garments with a blue tread. These blue tassels, in the form of a flower or petal, were attached to the edge of one’s garment. They were placed there as a perpetual reminder of two things.

First, the blue tassels reminded the Israelites to follow God’s commandments. God’s commands are more than a list of “do’s and don’ts”. They are His instructions on how we are to live in relationship with Him and with our fellowman. God’s commands, found in the Bible, are divine orders to help us live victoriously in a fallen world. By them we are warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Ps. 19:11).

Second, the blue tassels reminded the Israelites to live holy for God. Why was God concerned with holiness? God knew the children of Israel would be tempted to assume the habits and beliefs of the pagan, sinful society they occupied. Holiness demands separation and consecration of oneself for God’s special purposes. Each step of the believer was to be encircled by blue tassels that symbolized the restraints and freedoms of knowing Yahweh (Deut. 6:8-9).

How do you remind yourself to obey God’s commandments?  Many of us don’t even think about God’s expectations for our lives until Sunday morning. What’s your cue to help you live holy? God knew that the children of Israel needed a reminder. In His omniscience, He saw that we needed a reminder, too. Where are your blue tassels?

It’s not easy to live in the world and not be of the world (John 17:14-16). The world consists of the people, place, and beliefs that make up the environment we live in. We interact with the world through our social networks, our jobs and other relationships. Jesus warned His disciples, “If the world hates me they will also hate you” (John 15:18-19).   The world will try to change your beliefs concerning God. They may call you bigoted, intolerant, or small-minded. When this happens, look at your “blue tassels” and continue to walk confidently with the Lord.

SELAH:    What are your blue tassels?  What memory or belief do your blue tassels represent?  Are they seen by the world all the time?

When Life Happens

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.  Ecclesiastes 9:11 (KJV)

You rush to the bank to make that critical deposit on Friday afternoon.  Your watch shows you have five minutes before closing.  As you pull up to the bank window; instead of the teller, you see the “closed” sign.  Your watch evidently was running slower than you knew.  Life happens!  You go for your annual mammogram examination.  The technician finishes with a smile and a promise to be right back.  She leaves to share your pictures with the attending physician.  She returns and somberly informs you that after dressing, the physician would like to meet with you.  Life happens!

From minor irritations to upsetting reports, life happens.  These interruptions catch us unprepared for the inevitable. They are unexpected and usually, unfavorable circumstances that come to take “the wind out of our proverbial sail.”  In our text today, The Preacher (King Solomon) makes the assessment that regardless of personal capacity or ability—speed, strength, wisdom, cleverness or skill, life happens.  He uses two words, time and chance, to create a figure of speech that represents “life happens moments”—we call it misfortune (Ecc. 9:11b).  Misfortune nullifies both personal capacity and ability.  No one is exempt from misfortune.  We all have our day when it gains our full attention.

What is your response to misfortune?  “Why me?” We try to do the right thing, make the appropriate preparation, and make the best choices based on “what we know at the time.” So what happened? Life happened. As inhabitants of fallen world, we are not immune to the affects and experiences which life presents. But while believers live “in the world”, we do not have to respond as the world when life happen moments occur.  I’d like to recommend three (3) principles for managing “misfortune”.

#1. Remember your position. We are not our misfortune. Our hope and security lies in our position in Christ Jesus. In Christ, we are heirs of God and therefore, the object of His love. Therefore, in spite of misfortune, we stand firm on God’s promises and His power (Eph. 1:19).

#2. Reframe your situation. We are not blind to misfortune but we know who controls all circumstances. Nothing happens to us that does not first pass God’s examination. Reframing begins with accepting God’s sovereign rule over our lives (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

#3. Recast your response.  Recasting is accomplished by trusting God and looking for ways to transform misfortune into opportunities that enrich our spiritual life. These opportunities may be more time in personal witnessing, intercessory prayer, fasting, and Bible meditation.    We respond with confidence times of misfortune because we are assured of who will be with us until the end (1 John 4:4).

The next time you have a “life happens moment”, read Ecclesiastes 9:11. Better yet, commit to memorizing this scripture for future reference. Why? Because life happens!

SELAH:   Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to memory a time when “life happened” to you.  How did you respond?  Using the three (3) principles listed in today’s teaching, journal how that moment or situation can now be understood differently.  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Stay on the Path

“Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)

 

A few years ago there is a commercial for financial planning that features a wide green path and arrow to guide the investor along life’s path.  As the investor strolls through the city, they are tempted to step off the path to pursue things that could hinder their ability to accomplish their long-term investment plans. The voice of the financial advisor coaches the investor to “just stay on the path.”  The implication is that as long as the investor “stays on the path” they will realize their financial goals and live happily ever after.

This commercial reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He told His listeners to, “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The King James Version renders “narrow” as “strait.”  Strait (stenos) refers to a narrowness created by obstacles standing close about.   These obstacles could be the world’s view on how we are to enter God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ point in this teaching is that the way to life is through a portal providing controlled access along a narrow way defined by God.  In contrast, the wide highway represents the world’s “substitute” for the way of life.  The end, of course, is death.

As I talk with believers about activities in their local churches, I am disturbed and heartbroken.  The Church, which was created to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13), is choosing to “get off the path.”  Churches across this country have abandoned teaching and preaching the “full counsel” of God for “trendy methods” of ministry.  The “fervent prayers of the righteous” (James 5:16) have been replaced with small group discussions on why the church should practice religious tolerance.  Churches are more concerned with not offending others than with grieving the Holy Spirit.  Peter reminded the early church, that Christ Himself was “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (1 Peter 2:8).

It is extremely difficult to stay on the path of God when the world, especially the Church, is encouraging us to do otherwise. It is critical and life affecting that we stand fast in our faith (1 Peter 5:12).  We must resist being lured to “enter through the wide gate.” Do not be enticed by false teachings with their “faith-by-works, all-roads-lead-to-God” beliefs. Stay on the path until you reach your eternal goal of heaven. Remember, it is a narrow path that leads to life, and only a few find it.

SELAH: One of the inherent gift that is available with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is spiritual discernment. Spiritual discernment is “the ability to see life from God’s perspective”. It helps us to evaluate potential choices, options, and actions we may need to make in our life. Spiritual discernment helps believers to avoid potential “spiritual landmines” that might take us off path.

Read “The Power of a Discerning Spirit” then invite ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your discernment and reveal spiritual landmines currently in your life that might detour you from God’s desired purpose.