When God gives us something to do, He expects us to do it. That is when good stuff gets done, when God’s people obey Him.
Gideon is best known for putting out a fleece and asking God to drench it, but there’s so much to learn from this valiant warrior.
When the angel of the Lord came to Gideon, he was hiding out in the winepress threshing wheat, hoping to not be detected by the Midianites, who like locusts, ravished all the food of the land, time and time again. They were a powerful gang of bullies who would come and take what was not theirs and leave nothing for the one who sowed and tended the crops.
At the time, the Israelites were living in the land of the Amorites and instructed by God to not fear the gods of the Amorites, but the Israelites disobeyed. Just as with our own disobedience, theirs was followed by oppression by their enemies.
The oppression reminded the Israelites to call out to their own God, the one, true God for help. God replied by sending a prophet to lay the facts straight regarding God’s deliverance in the past and their own disregard for His commandments. Then God sent the angel who appeared to Gideon.
Gideon questioned the angel, “Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6:13).
God replied with a directive for Gideon. He did not engage in debate, nor did He communicate anything impertinent. He told Gideon to “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (verse 14).
Gideon’s confidence was as weak as a wet noodle. He was full of questions and reasons why he was not the one for the job. After all, he was threshing wheat in a wine press at night to avoid trouble with them.
After waiting patiently for Gideon to voice his concerns, God said, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (verse 16, emphasis added). The whole of them smited as simply and surely as one man: all these bullies that were more populous than grasshoppers; “for both they and their camels were without number” (verse 5).
I imagine Gideon was caught off guard, thankful God was really there and cared, and he was amazed that God wanted to use him—the weakest in his family from the weakest tribe.
Gideon respected God and wanted to offer thanks and sacrifice. He also needed to be sure he understood God’s directive clearly, so he asked the angel to stay put while he went to prepare a sacrifice: no quick, easy task. Verse 19 tells us that “Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought I tout unto him under the oak, and presented it.” That’s a lot of work anytime but especially in the dark of night. Still, it was important to Gideon to be sure.
The exchange continued between Gideon and the angel and God with directives for Gideon and his needing assurance. It’s important to note that even though it may have made absolutely no sense to Gideon, he obeyed God, and God honored that obedience.
When the angel of the Lord told Gideon to “throw down the altar of Baal that [his] father hath, and cut down the grove that [was] beside it: and build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of [the] rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove,” Gideon obeyed. He and ten of his men servants worked hard for the next few hours to do exactly as God instructed.
When folks awoke to find Baal’s altar cast down and the grove cut, they wanted to kill Gideon. Thankfully Gideon’s father wisely rebuked them saying that if Baal was really a god that he could plead for and defend himself.
The visit from the angel of God was the pivot point in Gideon’s life as well as for the children of Israel. Gideon’s own family had left God. Gideon’s people left God, thinking wrongly that God had left them.
Gideon appeared to listen intently, engage, and obey God’s directives, thus building a strong, personal relationship with God and shaping his nation and their relationship with God.
Just as God gave Gideon the steps to accomplish as he needed them, and He provided assurance that Gideon wasn’t misunderstanding, God gives us what to do as we need to do it, and the next step won’t come if we don’t obey the one right ahead of us. As a teacher and parent, my motto was always, “Do what you should when you should how you should why you should, and you’ll be happy with the outcome.”
Gideon obeyed each step, and he was reverent to God. He wanted assurance he wasn’t misunderstanding God’s directives, but we never see that he doubted God after his encounter with the angel that night.
God prepared Gideon through several tasks. Upon obedience to each, God gave Gideon another directive.
Then we get to the big moment that all the preparation was leading up to: overtaking the Midianites. Gideon had not voiced concern to God, but just as God knows our own human emotions and tendency to fear such giant tasks, God gave Gideon the directive and also a step of preparation for his heart to be fully courageous. Judges 7:10 records that after God told Gideon the main directive to conquer the Midianites and Amalekites, He said, “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: and thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host."
God knew Gideon was such a conscientious person that this preparation would yield great results. God knows our needs and delivers right on time. If we trust and obey as He gives us steps to do, our tasks grow more important. We needn’t worry about preparation for the tasks. God handles that and lets us know what to do, just as He directed and prepared Gideon.
Sure enough, Gideon and Phurah sneaked down to hear what the enemy army was saying in their nighttime camp. One man told another of a dream he had. The other man interpreted it as God giving them over to Gideon’s hand (7:13-15).
Immediately upon hearing the interpretation of the dream, Gideon worshiped God.
Overhearing the dream and interpretation gave Gideon the confidence he needed to pursue this army that “lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude…and as the sand by the sea for multitude” (7:12).
God gives us directives every day, whether it is in His Word or as a direct result of our prayer time. Sometimes it may be a directive given to us by His Word and prayer, and confirmed by things in our lives, maybe even something someone says. Just like the assurance God gave Gideon by his overhearing the conversation at the enemy camp. God desires for us to obey, even when we don’t understand or see the next step. Often, as was the case for Gideon, God gave him the call, but then each step was given one at a time.
Gideon was told by the angel that night, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). By this Gideon was called by God to serve in a mighty way. Gideon was confused by the angel addressing him as a “mighty man of valour” since he didn’t see himself that way, and obviously his peers did not either. God doesn’t see us how we see ourselves or how others see us. God sees us as how He created us: mighty for His purpose. For us to live up to that vision, we must live in Him, seeking Him and obeying Him one step at a time.
The blessings I cherish most are those challenges that transform me and move me closer to God. A challenge is an opportunity for us to exercise our faith in God and to trust His love for us and others.
A challenge is a call to train for bigger things. If we don’t show up for training, we’ll never get stronger, and we’ll not be equipped to handle what comes next in life.
Let’s look at Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19. He trusted God when he prophesied there would be a drought and famine. God told him to run for his life after he prophesied the hard times ahead.
Elijah obeyed, and God honored his trust and obedience by taking care of Elijah through birds and a poor widow preparing to die.
Would you tell a powerful leader something so terrible that it jeopardized your life? Would you then trust God for protection to hide out for over three years in a ravine and trust His provision all that time? Elijah did so, and God had ravens bring him bread and meat, and he had water from the brook in the ravine until it dried up.
After the brook dried up, God instructed Elijah to go to a poor widow in Zaraphath. At the same time, this widow was preparing for herself and her young son to eat their last meal. With the drought and famine causing there to be no more food to be found, she was preparing to bake their last small cake.
But then Elijah came and instructed her to bake one for him first and then for herself and her son. Elijah may not have fully understood, but he had lived solely off the Lord’s divine provision for the past three years and trusted what God told him to do.
Would you use the last of your meal and oil for a stranger, trusting God for what came next? What if this widow had not obeyed? We see that God made her barrel of meal and crux of oil to be enough each day until the end of the famine and drought.
But neither Elijah nor the widow had a promise from God what would happen as a result of their obedience. They just knew to trust and obey the one, true God and leave the consequences to Him. They willingly placed their lives in His hands.
Often after we do something in faith, we soon experience a life-shattering event that Satan wants to use to shake our faith in and allegiance to God. The widow’s son fell ill and died. She was a basket case of emotions and was bitter toward Elijah and God, though God had preserved their lives for a long while after she thought they both would die.
Elijah took the boy and prayed over him three times, and God restored his life.
After this, Elijah met Obadiah, the governor of King Ahab’s house. Obadiah was scouting the land to find grass and water to keep livestock alive. Elijah requested Obadiah to go tell King Ahab he was there. Though Obadiah thought this was nuts, he finally agreed, and King Ahab met with Elijah.
Then we see the well-known account of God showing up and showing out to make it known that He is the only true God, that Baal was not alive, did not hear, and could not answer those who called on him.
After God brought fire to prove Himself to all watching Israelites and Elijah slayed all 450 prophets of Baal, God sent rain. Elijah prayed hard for the rain and went ahead and sent word to King Ahab that rain was coming, even when there was only a tiny cloud seen above the sea. Elijah had faith God would deliver. He had depended on God in the past and knew God would not fail.
We read in 1 Kings 18:46 that God’s hand was on Elijah. Elijah didn’t get to stop and rest in comfort after God sent the rain. Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab and saw that Jezebel threatened his life.
Just as he hid himself after he prophesied the coming drought and famine, Elijah ran to hide himself in the wilderness. God sent an angel to provide sustenance and minister to Elijah. Now Elijah was strengthened to make the 40 days and nights journey to Horeb, the mount of God.
This is where we see the familiar account of Elijah hiding in a cave. He felt misunderstood and alone and knew that his life was targeted because he had been faithful to God. God asked him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah pouted woefully instead of directly answering God.
Then God directed Elijah to go out and stand upon the mountain before God. Elijah stayed in the cave while God sent the mighty wind, earthquake, and fire. After the fire, God came to Elijah in a still, small voice repeating His question. Elijah, still feeling misunderstood, targeted, and alone repeated his answer.
So then God instructed Elijah to go to Damascus and anoint the future kings of Syria and Israel, as well as his own successor as God’s chosen prophet. Elijah may not have understood right away, but God explained that there was a remnant of 7,000 in Israel who’d not worshiped Baal. The remnant would escape the swords of these two kings to come.
God used Elijah in mighty ways. In the entire account we are given of Elijah’s life and ministry, we learn that God expected full obedience without first having full understanding.
God expects no less from us. We are commanded to trust and obey. There is no promise of understanding before this. The understanding typically occurs as a result of obedience and is packaged with other blessings.
God uses all situations, challenges included, to draw us closer to Him and grow us stronger and wiser for His purpose. We read in Romans 8:28 that everything is promised to work for our good and His glory if we love God and live to honor Him.
I love the old hymn that goes, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus…” This truth will never change because God doesn’t change. He is the same as He was in Elijah’s time, and His modus operandi will not change.
When we fail to seize a God-given opportunity to step out on faith and prove God to the watching world and to strengthen our own understanding, we are miserable creatures, to say the least.
I cannot find the words to describe my personal misery I have suffered in not stepping out in faith when God has called me to do so. It was always more than an emotion. It was a disconnection from my Maker. It was physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial repercussions, broken relationships, and so much more. It was misery in its worst sense.
The good news is that we can avoid this misery by stepping out when God calls us to. And just as importantly, step out and DO what He calls us to do. Sometimes we want to just step out and do part of what God asks of us, maybe our own form of the task.
It’s like dipping our toes in at the water’s edge instead of diving in. God calls us to dive in. He doesn’t take excuses and bless us anyway. We can only get the blessings God tosses out there for us when we jump in and swim toward them even after we are exhausted, numb, and can no longer see the shore.
Is God calling you to step out in faith in something today? If so, just jump. Don’t look back. Just swim forward with all your might and then keep going well after your strength is gone. God will sustain you in what He calls you to do. Just obey and leave all the details to Him.
If you’re not sure of God’s leading, pray, pray, and pray more seeking His wisdom and His peace as confirmation. Live a life of prayer regardless. We cannot find our way to our destination without Him.
Imagine being a newly graduated nurse during the pandemic. You dream of working with cardiac patients, but your reality shifts quickly. You take a job on a dedicated COVID floor. You’re aptly introduced to circumstances for which nursing school did not prepare you: short staffing, inadequate equipment, treating needs that normally would be treated in ICU or on a step-down floor, and much more.
This is the COVID reality for one friend who says she never envisioned her work so greatly impacting her personal life. She developed a different awareness about herself and the job she was called to do. She realizes her vigilance to protect herself, her family, and others is vital.
This nurse was baptized by fire, so to speak, and quickly learned resilience, vigilance, compassion, patience, dedication, and adaptability. With deep conviction she says, “Each day I hope to be a light in my patients’ lives and show them Christ through my work. I will continue to do this work because I care about this field and want to do my best to add support during this time.”
This young nurse’s response to the pandemic shows the resilience of the human spirit. God gives us a fire deep within to survive and thrive. All humans have this burning desire, but we go about it in different ways. This nurse’s dependence on and trust in God brings forth the best fruit of this desire: glory to God, blessings to others, and peace within ourselves.
Even during chaos, we can have that inner peace that only a close dependence on God can bring. It comes with godly wisdom for living. We are all prone to human error, but we increase our odds of living wisely the more we seek and depend on God.
Some folks have exercised their faith in new ways as a direct result of the pandemic. Many have learned a new level of dependence on God for wisdom, peace, protection, and provision.
The pandemic has affected every aspect of life. Many more are grieving, poor, homeless, battling addiction and depression, and facing life challenges of survival that they never imagined possible.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as of August 9, 2021, nearly 20 million adults in the US live in households that did not get enough to eat, and 11.4 million adult renters are behind on rent, despite all the economic relief and recovery support given by the government in numerous forms (cbpp.org).
“During the pandemic, adults in households with job loss or lower incomes report higher rates of symptoms of mental illness than those without job or income loss (53% vs. 32%)” (kff.org). In a survey by the CDC just a few short months into the pandemic, 31% of US adults reported having anxiety or depression. 11% reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days. These numbers are nearly double the rates expected pre-pandemic (nimh.nih.gov).
As a result of the pandemic, the number of US adults who reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder rose from one in ten from January to June 2019 to four in ten. 36% US adults reported difficulty sleeping, 32% reported difficulty eating, 12% reported an increase in alcohol consumption or substance abuse (kff.org).
According to chalkbeat.org, the pandemic slowed progress in math and reading for millions of US students; Black, Latino, and low-income students were hit hardest. NWEA released data showing that students in grades 3 through 8 were 3 to 6 percentile points behind in reading and 8 to 12 points behind in math. Even students in affluent schools dropped significantly—the typical fifth grader dropping from 71st percentile to the 64th. Students in low-income schools dropped significantly over the pandemic year from 35th to the 24th percentile. Another analysis based on a different test and released July 27, 2021 by the consulting firm McKinsey showed first through sixth graders being an average of five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.
Home school parents report increases in isolation and depression for themselves and their children not being able to co-op and go on fieldtrips. This year many are still trying to complete lessons behind on from last year and trying to regain normalcy with hopes of getting back to extracurricular and social activities.
From ghost town campuses and converting traditional to digital instruction, fees for not being being vaccinated, to housing plans for isolating those suspected of having COVID, higher education has undergone many changes as well (insidehighered.com). Some universities are waiving fees usually customary for those who want to live or dine off-campus. Others are trying to impose fees on students who are not vaccinated; those institutions say the fees are to cover testing costs and costs of quarantine, meal delivery and laundry facilities, and cleaning and sanitation efforts (insidehighered.com).
Gardening boomed at the beginning of COVID causing a national seed and canning supplies shortage. Some major changes in gardening resulting from the pandemic are that there are more first-time gardeners, more year-round gardening, more planting space, and more food preservation. Some folks planned bigger vegetable gardens and even planted fruit trees then lost them due to having COVID. Some folks found gardening to be their therapy.
The help and encouragement from veteran gardeners and food preservers to greenhorns has been one of the biggest victories in human helpfulness as a result of COVID.
One lady and her family cleared part of a pasture to grow more veggies. Her sister volunteered for meals on wheels during COVID and distributes extra produce to those meal recipients.
One lady lost her garden this summer after her sister passed away with COVID in March. Her attention shifted to getting her home ready for her sister’s four children to move in with her.
Curbside pickup, ordering everything from Amazon, overshopping, not eating out at favorite restaurants are some of the major changes reported in retail and food industries. One friend shared that she and her family haven’t eaten in a restaurant in over a year and a half. They do curbside pickup. Many folks discovered the quarks of at-home haircuts and styling. I have noticed more ladies donning natural looks and less makeup.
For some who have survived having the virus, their daily routines remain changed. One lady shared that her sense of smell hasn’t returned since having COVID six months ago. Another lady reported that she is still weak a year later and is very soon out of breath. She shared the struggle of her husband having to carry more of the load for gardening and household care.
For all of us, daily life has changed in many ways. COVID conversations are now a part of daily life. We seem to be realizing things about ourselves as a result of how we respond to the social isolation, federal and local mandates, and growing tension between those pro and anti vaccine and masks.
For those becoming new parents during the pandemic, they are learning new ways to share their bundles of joy with family without in-person contact. For those in hospitals, having medical procedures, or living in retirement homes, isolation is definite.
Satan is using the chaos to divide and conquer individuals, families, churches, communities, and nations. He is pitting us one against another, and we feel helpless to participate in his attacks. Regardless of the chaos around us, God’s Word instructs us to seek Him with our whole heart (Deut. 4:29, Jer. 29:13) and keep our minds on whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue, and praise (Phil 4:8).
Throughout scripture God promises peace as a result of holiness, and most intensively in Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah is known as the prophet of holiness. “In Isaianic literature the adjective ‘holy’ (gados) is used of God more frequently than in all the rest of the Old Testament taken together.” ‘Holy’ appears 33 times in Isaiah as compared to 26 times in all the rest of the Old Testament (Motyer, 17). Isaiah ministered during a time when it was “clear that Judah would have to make up its mind wherein its security lay in a day of threat” (Motyer, 19).
We are in a time where we must make up our minds wherein our security lies. 19th Century Scottish Theologian P.T. Forsyth said, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.” Regardless of our circumstances, we can benefit from God’s presence and gift of peace. 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). The gift is there already, but we must do our part to access and enjoy it. God calls us to holiness. His Word teaches us to cleanse ourselves from unrighteousness (Matt. 5:48, Romans 12:2, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 7:1).
No matter on which side of the current debate we stand, we are to seek God and ask Him to reveal any wicked way in us just as King David pleads in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 instructs: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Notice the blessing can only be received after we do our part. Our part is to humble ourselves, pray, seek God, and turn from our wicked ways.
The newest federal mandate directs the Department of Labor to require companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccines or weekly testing and fines up to $14,000 per incident of incompliance. It also requires vaccines for most federal employees, federal contractors, and all healthcare workers (cnn.com).
Many who oppose the vaccine mandates are carefully considering their next steps. One woman asked prayer for her family, as her husband now is faced with what to do regarding his company with over 100 employees. This family is considering the option of folding up and moving. The impact on the entire world of this US mandate is not yet realized.
As earth-shattering as all this is, many of us have yet to face the persecution Christians around the world face, just for believing in Christ. While it’s natural to crave our lost creature comforts, we are wise to remember and thank God for our many blessings.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3-9).
18th Century Welsh poet, priest, and painter John Dyer said, “A person may go to heaven without health, without riches, without honors, without learning, without friends; but he can never go there without Christ.” No matter what we face during the pandemic or otherwise, our salvation depends on our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our peace depends on this same variable.
Barnum, Matt. “The Pandemic’s Toll: National Test Scores Show Progress Slowed, Gaps Widened.” Chalkbeat, 28 July 2021, 12:01 AM, www.chalkbeat.org/.
“Coronavirus Affects Higher Education.” Inside Higher Ed | Higher Education News, Events and Jobs, 2021, www.insidehighered.com/.
Liptak, Kevin, and Kaitlan Collins. “Biden Announces New Vaccine Mandates That Could Cover 100 Million Americans.” CNN Politics, 9 Sept. 2021, 9:01 PM EDT, www.cnn.com/2021/09/09/politics/joe-biden-covid-speech/index.html.
Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy Of ISAIAH: An Introduction & Commentary. InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Panchal, Nirmita, et al. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” KFF, 10 Feb. 2021, www.kff.org/.
“Tracking the COVID-19 Economy's Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10 Sept. 2021, www.cbpp.org/.
The other day while flipping through some of my old journals, I came across an entry where I berated myself for not attaining the “abundant life.” In the journal, I acknowledged God’s grace and goodness and that it took faith and faithfulness to attain the abundant life. I defined the abundant life as a successful life. None of that has changed; however, the problem was how I defined the success. My definition was shaped by the expectations of others. As defined by the Christians surrounding me, success would mean that I had my life together, effectively accomplished meaningful tasks, and was reliable. My reality was that I was becoming less and less reliable as a result of compounding health problems.
Without controlling my health, I couldn’t figure out how to change my behaviors that appeared to be the antithesis to the abundant life. My body and my life as I knew it were crashing. The self-discipline that had always gotten me through suddenly wasn’t enough. To others, it seemed that I had stopped trying. Suddenly, I was a failure. Failures don’t live the abundant life. While hating who I was, I persevered still hoping for a change. I became more of a failure.
So many folks over the years had prayed over me, rebuked my faithlessness, and told me that if I only had the right faith, or enough of it, that I would be completely healed. Others told me the way to succeed was to ignore my health conditions and limitations. That’s like telling someone to run a marathon with a crushed foot.
Ignoring facts doesn’t change them. But I still tried. Eventually, the limitations outweighed my want-to, and the fact that I live with chronic, disabling illness is something I now give myself grace for. I realized that God allowed the sicknesses and loves me no less because of them. God gives grace, and we should, too.
We all have obstacles in the way of our success. Whether it’s a health condition, addiction, the past, obligations, or one of countless other limitations, nothing is too hard for God. Nothing has to stay in between us and our Maker. He designed us all for the abundant life and makes it easily accessible—no tricks, gimmicks, or trying to guess the secret code. It’s a free gift for us to accept just as it is given-simply, in love, with no strings attached.
The abundant life is the successful life. While this is true, our definition of success is critical. Success doesn’t mean getting done what others think we should.
I love Thelma (Mama T) Wells’s formula for success: B+E+E=S
B—Be aware of who you are. What is your mission? What is your vision? What is your passion?
E—Eliminate the negatives. Or, better said, ‘Eliminate the effects of negativity in your life.’
E—Eternal value. Only what you do for Christ will last.
S—Success. Everybody wants success; everybody’s looking for it. I love what Booker T. Washington said: ‘Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed’ (Wells, 116-123).
The abundant life means living in faith and with faithfulness. It’s important that we acknowledge our power of choice when it comes to our faith and faithfulness. Christian Rapper and Preacher Trip Lee said God “hasn’t called us to worldly success; He’s called us to faithfulness. We need to adjust our goals, and further, adjust our dreams” (Lee, 116). What or Who we have faith in and live for matters. Christian Evangelical Author Timothy Keller said, “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.”
If we choose to have more than just a lip service faith in God, we will submit 100%, not holding anything back from Him. God gives us all a set of talents and expects us to be faithful to Him with each one. In the parable of the talents, Jesus shows that the servants given five and two talents worked and invested wisely, putting the talents to good use and returning to their master more than the initial sum they were given. The servant given only one talent chose to bury it instead of investing it wisely (Matthew 25:14-30). The lazy servant justified his choice with his flawed analysis of his master. Instead of obeying and putting the talent to good use, he analyzed and thought about it. This is always a mistake because God’s ways are not our own. His ways don’t always make sense to us at the time He instructs us to do something, but our obedience is always best. God tells us to do something. He doesn’t tell us to analyze to give our opinion about it. In Zechariah 4:6, God instructed King Zerubbabel to lead the people by His Spirit and not by power or might. In other words, King Zerubbabel was to put faith in God and not in common sense, and he was to faithfully rule the people God’s way instead of the common way of kings, with power or might.
Trip Lee describes the abundant life this way:
The good life doesn’t mean we get everything we want.
The good life is belief in God even when we don’t get what we want.
The good life doesn’t mean we live whatever way feels best to us.
It means we live how we were created to live.
The good life isn’t the high life.
The good life is the life that’s been laid down (Lee, 44)
God’s design in nature lends wisdom for putting life in perspective. In the oceans, there are tides and there are waves. The tide is “the rhythmic rise and fall of the water of the ocean which is caused by the strong gravitational pull on the Earth’s surface exerted by the sun and moon. Waves are formed because of the raging force exerted by the winds which blow over the ocean’s surface” (https://askanydifference.com). The tide in life can be seen as the expected ebb and flow, natural rise and fall, that occurs across stages and cycles in every life. The waves can be seen as the turbulence that comes to confuse our way. When the waves toss and turn a ship, it needs a way to find the right path again. We have the Holy Spirit available to us to keep us focused and on track, despite the waves. When General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, encouraged his daughter in her endeavors for the Lord, “he urged her to keep her eyes on the tide and not on the waves” (Blackaby, Blackaby, and King, 230).
The abundant life means knowing God is with us and cares every moment. Sometimes we are tempted to think that God got too busy to love us, that He forgot about us, or that He stopped caring. These are never true. Suffering is a part of every life. “Suffering is not always the result of sin…Suffering, in fact, is sometimes the result of righteousness and of God’s eternal plan for our lives. Satan has his reasons for wanting us to suffer, but God has His reasons for allowing us to suffer, and His reasons will ultimately bring perfection out of our pain” (Stedman, 67-68).
The abundant life is led by God’s Holy Spirit and bears good fruit. Galatians 5:16-23 outlines that if we walk in the Spirit we will “not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” We are to avoid and walk away from such things as sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. We learn that the good fruit we will live as a result of living in God’s Holy Spirit are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.”
The abundant life is humble. “Humility responds to failure with a sincere desire to grow, and sees itself as perpetually needy of divine forgiveness and empowerment” (Swindoll, 75). Psalm 51 is a prayer in complete humility.
Based on this prayer, Charles Spurgeon identifies four destructive flaws absent in complete humility as a result of God’s conviction:
Absence of self-importance. Any advantage you might feel over another is erased when you see yourself through the eyes of the omnipotent, holy God.
Absence of carelessness. A broken heart never tries to play tricks with God.
Absence of hypocrisy. A broken heart cannot bear hypocrisy, especially with itself.
Absence of secrecy. Broken, contrite hearts are remarkably transparent, almost inappropriately so, perhaps because they have nothing more to hide (Swindoll, 73-74).
The abundant life means abandoning sin. “Sin is its own worst punishment” (Blackaby, Blackaby, and King, 115). When we realize we have been in hot pursuit of a fraud, we can turn around. Abandoning sin grows us spiritually. But “spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment” (Warren, 179).There are many examples in the Old Testament of God’s people repenting and turning from their self-centeredness back to God. King David, the only person God officially labeled as a man after His own heart, is a prime example of a man who got off track and quickly turned back to God once he realized his error. Look at Peter’s loss of focus in Luke 22. Jesus knew that Peter wasn’t as faithful as he should be, even though Peter himself didn’t know at the time. He told Peter that he would betray Jesus three times in the next few hours. Jesus warned Peter that satan wanted to ruin him. Jesus also showed His love for Peter in that He prayed for him and encouraged Peter to strengthen his brothers after he got things in proper perspective to live faithfully. All this before Peter denied him. God is the same today as He was then. He knows we will mess up, and He has already extended His invitation and helping hand for us to turn back to Him. Dr. Charles Stanley simplied it when he said, “We are never outside of God’s overarching plan. It may seem that we have taken a wrong turn, gotten off track, or that the sorrows of this life have caught up with us; but God is never surprised by our circumstances, and He is never out of control” (Stanley, 141).
The abundant life gives hope. God’s Word is a message and record of hope from the first to the last word. 1 Peter 1 speaks much of hope. I love verse 3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We have hope because of God’s love and in that, Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. It is His mercy and grace that give us hope now and after this life is done. That hope invites us to exit what we have been chasing—the perfectionism and worldly success we may never attain—to pursue a life of faith in the God who makes the abundant life a reality for all those who put their trust in Him.
Blackaby, Henry, and Richard Blackaby. Fresh Encounter God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening. B & H Books, 2009.
“Difference Between Tides and Waves (with Table).” Ask Any Difference, askanydifference.com/.
Lee, Trip, and Matt Chandler. The Good Life. Moody Publishers, 2012.
Stedman, Ray C., and Jim Denney. Let God Be God: Life-Changing Truths from the Book of Job. Discovery House, 2007.
Swindoll, Charles R. A Life Well Lived. T. Nelson, 2007.
WARREN, RICK. The Purpose Driven. ZONDERVAN, 2002.
Wells, Thelma. God, I'm Ready to Walk in Faith. Harvest House Publishers, 2011.