21-Day Daniel Fast Devotions

  • Day 1- Informed Faith
    “If it’s you Lord, bid me come to thee on the water.”  Matthew 14:28
    This is one of my favorite faith passages in the scriptures.  I call it informed faith.  Here Peter speaking to Jesus.  Peter is prepared to exercise faith that reveals his readiness to do something that no one else, save Jesus, could do – walk on the water.  That’s amazing in and of itself.  He was willing to do what the others in the boat were unwilling to do.  It was an impossible act, but Peter was prepared to do something risky, something that just didn’t make any sense.  But there is a difference between faith and foolishness.  Peter is not simply getting out of the boat and walking on the water.  He prepares for the miracle by declaring “If it’s you Lord, bid me come to thee on the water.”  Peter was prepared to step out on the water but only if he knew it was Jesus on the water and only at Jesus’ bidding.” That was Peter’s way of saying “I’ll only go out there Lord, if it’s you.”  Before you step out of the ship of safety onto the tempestuous sea of uncertainty, you should check and see if its the Lord calling you!  Peter seems to say “If its you Lord, I’m coming.  But if its not you, I’m staying right here in this ship.”  It’s like saying “Lord, with you I’ll go anywhere. But without you, I’ll go nowhere.”  It’s informed faith.  It’s taking a big step but checking to see if it’s the Lord’s will.  It’s preparing to do something great, daring and what seems impossible, but being wise enough to determine if God is with you.  God does call us to step out in faith to do great things. But it is wise to see if Jesus is calling you.  I’m willing to do the impossible, to take a great step of faith but only if the Lord is calling.  So, before you start the business, marry that special someone, move to another city and start all over again, before you take that step of faith, say like Peter, “Lord, is it you?”  Lord, I’ll take this enormous step of faith, but only if you bid me to!

 

  • Day 2- Get Out of the Boat!
    ”‘Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:29
    In yesterday’s devotional we saw how important it is to check with Jesus before taking a bold step of faith. Today we see that once Jesus calls Peter out of the boat Peter actually steps out onto the water! That’s exciting!  It’s exciting first of all because he actually got out of the boat! So many people stay in the boat, the place of comfort and convenience, the risk-free place of safety and predictability.  But not Peter.  He took a step of faith and opted for adventure!  That’s what faith is for!  This year the Lord desires that we use our faith to attempt great things for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Don’t play it safe!  Once Jesus calls, get out of the boat!  A second thing that so exciting about Peter getting out of the boat is that he did it in a storm!  It’s one thing to step out in faith when the sea is calm and placid. But to step out during a storm is amazing!  The best time to take a step in faith is not always when things are calm and the weather is fair.  Sometimes Jesus will call you to take a step in faith at a time that doesn’t seem ideal and doesn’t even make sense! But what you need to walk on the water is not ideal weather, but a Word from the Lord.  And notice that it only took one word – “Come.”  That shows you the power of god’s Word.  Truth is, Peter was not standing on the water, he was standing on the Word! And when you are standing on God’s Word, that’s enough to keep you afloat in any storm! There is a third reason why it was so exciting that Peter got out of the boat.  It is not explicitly in the text, but its important.  Can you imagine what the other disciples were saying when Peter starting getting out of the boat? I can imagine they volunteered to give him all of the reasons why what he was doing was foolish.  Whoever heard of such a thing – walking on the water!  But he went anyway!  When the Lord gives you clearance to step out on faith, do not let the naysayers keep you in the boat!  Sometimes they want you to stay in the boat because misery loves company!  Step out despite what others may say.  You may end up doing what others have never done.  Besides, maybe Jesus wants you to get out of the boat because he knows you are a leader.  He knows that if you get out, others will too!  It’s your time – Get Out of the Boat!

 

  • Day 3- Under Your Feet!
    “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately  Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:30-32
    We have been looking at faith from the perspective of Peter who has stepped out of the boat and is now walking on the water! Notice that the turbulent waters of the storm are under Peter’s feet! This simply means that Peter is victor over the storm rather than victim of the storm. This portrait of a victorious Peter proves that you don’t have to be perfect to walk with this kind of victorious faith.  After all, Peter had issues. The scriptures reveal that he is impulsive – he leaps before he looks and speaks before he thinks. He carried a knife under his robe when the authorities came to arrest Jesus and almost cut off a man’s head. He denied that he knew Jesus once Jesus is arrested and even cursed to add emphasis!  Yet, we see Peter with wind blown waters are under his feet! Truth is, we all have issues. But if Jesus can teach someone like Peter, with all of his issues, to walk on the water, Jesus can teach us, with all of our issues, to walk on water too!  The key – Faith! Peter has learned to put under his feet the very storm that he and the other disciples were struggling with in the boat! Storms under your feet means that faith in the Lord can give you the power to master your circumstances rather than letting your circumstances master you! You cannot stop storms from coming in your life, but Jesus can teach you how to put them under your feet. He can show you how to stay on top of stormy situations. You can’t stop life’s storms, but you do not have to let life’s storms stop you! The key is to walk by faith. So, if you are wondering if you will have to face storms in the new year, you will!  Storms are inevitable, unavoidable, inescapable.  But a life lived by faith is greater, stronger and more than able to handle any storm you will face. Walk by faith into this new year and you will discover, that Faith can put adversity under your feet!

 

  • Day 4- Stay Focused!

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me!Immediately  Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, You of little faith,he said, why did you doubt?’”   Matthew 14:30-32

Today I want to continue considering yesterday’s text.  By faith Peter had stepped out of the boat and like Jesus was walking on the water. A storm is raging but Peter put it under his feet. Yesterday we celebrated how the Lord is able to show us how to master our storms. But if you keep reading the story something shifts. Peter begins to sink.  As long as he stayed focused on Jesus, he had victory in the storm.  But he was soon distracted by the winds howling around his head and the waves crashing around his feet. The distractions caused him to lose focus and he started to sink. There will be times on your faith walk when you are distracted by the things that are happening around you.  Things like the winds of public or personal criticism or the waves of intimidating circumstances.  Fear will take over and cause you to take your eyes off of Jesus.  Fear always comes when you lose focus, when you take your eyes off of the Lord. The key to victory is to not allow yourself to be distracted by what’s happening around you and to keep your faith focused on Jesus. Jesus is still greater than any storm no matter what kind it is.  Whether it’s a physical storm, financial storm or family storm. Whatever the situation Jesus is able.  Stay focused on Jesus and he will keep you afloat! But what do you do if you do become distracted, filled with fear and start to sink in your situation?  Do like Peter did!   Refocus and cry out to Jesus, “Lord save me!”  When you are going down do not be so proud that you pretend all is well and neglect to cry out for help! Call on the Lord and he will answer. Peter’s cry is a prayer. Notice how brief it is.  It’s just three words, “Lord, save me!”  There are times when you do not have time for long, impressive prayers. In emergency situations you have to put away pretense and pride and cry out to the Lord praying, “Help!”  Your prayer doesn’t have to be long to be strong, it just has to be real to get through!  When you cry out, Jesus will do for you what he did for Peter, “Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…” Ain’t that good news! Even with the best of efforts and intentions we will end up sinking. Life can be intimidating at times and we lose focus and end up going down.  But the Lord of life will always come when you call and reach down to deliver you. But once you are back on your feet, remember – Stay Focused

  • Day 5- Another Chance!

32 “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:32

We’ve been looking at Peter’s act of faith when he stepped out of the boat in the midst of a storm and walked on the water with Jesus. Imagine the excitement that Peter experienced once he got permission from Jesus to join him in walking above his circumstance. Faith in the Lord can teach you how to put the storms of life under your feet that threaten your destiny. We have learned that a key to staying above the circumstances is to focus your faith on Jesus. Peter was doing well, even in the midst of the storm, but when he became distracted by the winds and waves, he was filled with fear and took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink! People like to point out that Peter sank.  But he walked before he sank! And he knew what to do when fear got the best of him and he began to sink. He cried out to Jesus and Jesus reached down and picked him up. What a blessing to know that when we sink, Jesus is so merciful that he will reach down and rescue us. But there is something else in the text that is worth celebrating. Notice that after Jesus reaches down to lift up a sinking Peter the text says “…they climbed into the boat…”. What is clearly true is that when Peter begin to sink, he was good ways away from the boat. If he had been close, all he would have had to do was take hold of the ship and save himself. Evidently, while walking on the water toward Jesus, he walked some distance away from the boat. So, in order for him to climb back into the boat with Jesus, he would have to walk back to the boat to get in.  Do you see what has happened? He walked, he sank, he cried out to Jesus, Jesus reached down and rescued him, and he walked again and climbed back into the boat. That’s evidence of another chance!  Because of Jesus, Peter walked again! He may have failed because of doubt, but Jesus gave him another chance. The good news is that Jesus will do the same for you! Just because you sink while you pursue a life of faith does not mean that God will give up on you. Failure is not final! We serve a God who is quick to give us another chance! People may not.  But God will!  Do not let the fact that you may sink keep you from stepping out in faith on the promises of God. Peter would have never walked on water if he had been too afraid to get out of the boat. No one has ever accomplished anything great by playing it safe. Step out in faith.  When you fail – and you will – cry out to God and trust that God will give you another chance! And when he does, step out again and attempt great things for God and expect great things from God!

  • Day 6- For God’s Glory!

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:32-33

We return to the miracle of Peter walking on the water with Jesus. By faith he stepped out of the boat and at Jesus’ invitation he walked on the water. He was distracted by the winds and waves, took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But the Lord reached down and rescued him. They both walked to boat, climbed in and the storm subsided. This miracle happened all because Peter took a step of faith, got out of the boat and dared to believe that he could walk on the water with Jesus. Yes, he sank.  And everyone in the boat saw it. But they also saw him walk, and they saw Jesus rescue him, giving him another chance to walked again until they entered the boat. It was absolutely breathtaking! The disciples had never seen anything like it before!  Notice how the disciples who stayed in the boat responded to this absolutely exhilarating ordeal – “Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’’ What they witnessed caused them to fall down and worship the Lord! Perhaps one of the reasons God wants us to step out in faith is so that others can see the power of God at work in our lives. Maybe the miracle is not only about us walking on the water, but also so that others can witness God do something incredible in our lives. Miracles are not only for our blessing, but they are also for God’s glory! When we walk by faith, we give God a chance to flex God’s muscles and when people witness it, they are in awe of God. The disciples received a better understanding of who Jesus was because of what they saw him do in Peter’s life. They saw that he was indeed the Son of God!  But that wouldn’t have happened if Peter had not stepped out in faith!  God wants to get glory out of your life.  God wants others to be able to know about God’s power and love. But God wants to use your life to show them.  They may not come to church, read a bible or hear a sermon.  But they may be able to see God in you.  You may be the only bible they read or sermon they hear!  William Barclay declared that the best evidence for the authenticity of Christianity is a Christian who lives like one.  And when you walk by faith you give the Lord a chance to display power and love. That gives God an opportunity to draw others to the wounded side of his Son. If you would dare to walk by faith in 2020 you will give God a chance to do something great in your life.  And when people ask you how it happened, how you pulled it off, how you succeeded against the odds, how you survived the storm, how you walked above your circumstances, how you failed but started over again, how you walked on the water, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Tell them about the Jesus who called you out of your boat, kept you walking in the storm, saved you when you failed and gave you another chance.  And when people hear your testimony and see God’s work in your life, God will get the glory and maybe they too will fall down and worship him declaring, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

  • Day 7- It Was Only A Test

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Matthew 14:32

We return with a final look at Peter’s ordeal of walking on the water. We have seen, in the previous devotions, relevant details and important lessons from Peter’s miraculous faith walk on the sea of Galilee. But before we leave this biblical story, I want to make one last observation.  It’s a small one, but I think it’s worth mentioning.  After walking on the water, once Peter and Jesus enter the boat, the Bible not only reports the response of disciples who stayed in the boat, but it adds one small detail with these words, “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.”  The storm was in full force the entire time the disciples were in the boat and Peter was walking on the water.  But as soon as everything was over, suddenly the storm ceased. After Peter sees Jesus walking on the water; after Peter asked to join Jesus; after Jesus grants him permission; after Peter steps out of the boat by faith; after he is frightened by the winds; after he is filled with fear and sinks; after he cries to Jesus for help; after the Master rescues him; after he rebukes him about his lack of faith; after they both walk back to the boat and climb in and Peter is safe; after the disciples discover, because of everything they have witnessed, that Jesus is truly the Son of God; then the storm stops. Why now? Well, could it be that it was all only a test?   Could it be that the storm was a divinely designed classroom provided to test the disciples to see how they would respond?  Maybe sometimes God allows us to be put in stormy situations to test and to teach us. If Peter had never seen Jesus walking on the water in the middle of a storm, perhaps he would have never exercised his faith and asked to walk with Jesus. After all, Peter was essentially asking to be like Jesus! And when Peter made the request, Jesus did not rebuke him for asking to do what Jesus was doing.  Instead, he invites Peter to be like him and step out on the water with him!  Peter would never have learned what faith in Jesus was capable of accomplishing had there not been a storm.  Furthermore, the disciples who opted to stay in the boat would have never learned what faith could do in a storm either, even though it was not their faith that taught them the lesson. And they would have never been able to declare with certainty that Jesus was the Son of God if they had not witnessed the miracle of Peter and Jesus walking on the water.  There are some lessons you cannot learn on sunlit summer days.  There are some lessons you can only learn in the teeth of the wind.  Storms may be a test, an opportunity to learn something about yourself, your faith and your God!  So, the next time you are in the midst of a storm, do not be so quick to ask God to get you out of it.  Instead, ask the Lord, “What would you have me to do?  What do you want me to learn? How should I exercise my faith?”  And if you seek after God in the midst of the storm, the very storm that frightens you will be the very storm that blesses you, and once you have learned your lessons, the storm may cease, because the storm was not meant to harm you. It’s only a test.

  • Day 8- Struggling Faith!

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!  Mark 9:24

Have you ever had to struggle while you believed?  This verse is an honest response by a man who has brought his son to Jesus to be helped. His son is possessed by dark, demonic forces.  Evil has the upper hand in the boy’s life, so much so, that his son has been engaged in self destructive behavior since he was a boy.  One can only image the anguish in the heart of the Father who brings the son to Jesus. Initially the man does not bring his son to Jesus but to Jesus’ disciples.  He must have heard that they were meeting at the foot of Mt Hermon, so he took his son to see Jesus.  When he arrived, Jesus was not there.  Jesus was on the summit of the mountain in prayer with his inner circle of prayer partners, Peter, James and John.  But surely the disciples would be able to help him, after all, they were followers of Jesus.  But to his disappointment and dismay, they could do nothing.  Imagine how disheartened he must have been.  It’s sad when people come to the followers of Jesus for help, but the people of God are impotent.  But what I love about the man is that he did not give up.  He hung around until he could meet Jesus!  Don’t ever give up on Jesus because you are disappointed by Jesus’ people. Push pass their imperfections and weaknesses and meet Jesus for yourself.  Well, Jesus does come down and meets them all at the foot of the mountain.  Once he hears about the powerlessness of his disciples, he tells the man to bring his son to him.  But when Jesus inquiries about the man’s faith he gives this honest response: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” It is both a declaration of faith and an honest plea for help to aid him where his faith is still struggling.  Jesus responds to his struggling faith by granting the Father’s request and heals his son. Sometimes we think that faith has to be perfect for it to be effective.  As a consequence, we are tempted to pretend that our faith does not struggle.  But the truth is it does.  There are times when the blows of life are so hard and harsh that our faith staggers from its heavy blows.  But if we are honest with Jesus and bring our struggling faith to him, he is more than able to take our imperfect faith and do incredible things.  We have a perfect God who can take our imperfect faith and do impossible things!  So, never be afraid to be honest with God about your struggling faith.  Don’t let the fact that your faith is struggling push you away from God. Like the Father in this text, let it draw you closer to God!  If you do, you will be surprised by what God can do with our struggling faith!

  • Day 9- Sleep Through It! (Part 1)

There night before Herod was to. Bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound. With two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Acts 12:6

Peter has been arrested by King Herod.  He is in his cell, chained between two soldiers with two more standing outside his cell.  It is the eve of his execution. Herod is planning to sever his head from his body. He’s already cut off the head of the Apostle James. He plans to do the same to Peter.  The stone is waiting, the ax is shining, the executioner is ready, and Peter’s response on the eve of his personal crisis is that he is fast asleep.  How do you sleep on the eve of a crisis?  What is it that gave Peter such assurance?  Why does Peter have such great faith?  One reason could be that Peter has a history with God. This was not the first time Peter had been incarcerated. When it came to doing time for preaching the gospel, Peter was a repeat offender.  Peter had been arrested before in chapter 5 of Acts. But when they came to get him the next morning, he was not in his cell. When they finally found him, he was preaching in Solomon’s colonnade. The point is, he had been arrested before and God had freed him before. So, perhaps Peter went to sleep because he believed that if God did it before, God could do it again! There is something blessed about having a history with God. Daily walking in faith with God gives God a chance to show you just how faithful God is. Trials and tests that come in your life are all opportunities for God to flex God’s muscles, to show you just what kind of God we serve. In fact, it is the tough times in life that reveal truths about God that cannot be learn when the weather is fair.  You shouldn’t live in the past, or even dwell on the past.  But you can learn from the past, especially from past experiences with God. Mark the miracles. Take note of the breakthroughs. Remember each time the Lord brings you out. Chronicle those precious moments when God comes through for you. Note every act of past deliverance which bore the unmistakable fingerprints of God. Often it is our experience with God in the past that can strengthen our faith in God in the present and in the future.  When life puts your back against the wall and you’re caught in a cul-de-sac of human circumstances with no human way of escape, have faith in God. Draw from your history with God. Remember what God has already done.  And since God is in control of every situation, even when you are on the eve of a crisis, faith in the faithfulness of God can give you the ability to sleep through it!

  • Day 10- Sleep Through It! (Part 2)

There night before Herod was to. Bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound. With two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Acts 12:6

In yesterdays’ devotional I offered one reason why Peter, while incarcerated, had faith enough to sleep on the eve of his execution. God had rescued him from prison before.  He believed God would do it again.  Today I want to offer a second reason why Peter had the faith to sleep on the eve of his executions. It has something to do with what Jesus said to him as recorded in John 21:18. Jesus appeared to Peter after Jesus’ resurrection and said, “ I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you  where you do not want to go.” Verse 19 explains that Jesus was sharing with Peter the kind of death he would die to “glorify God”.  Jesus was saying to Peter that when he was young and strong could go where he wanted. But when he gets old and helpless someone will lead him to his death. Jesus did not give Peter the specific date of his death.  But he did indicate that it would happen, “…when you are old.”  At the time of our text, while Peter is in jail, he is not old.  According to what had Jesus said, since he was not yet old, it was not time for him to die. Peter was able to sleep through the threat because he remembered what Jesus said.  One thing that can give you faith in the face of negative and even life threatening circumstances is if you would remember the Word of the Lord. The Word of God is filled with precious promises and stabilizing truths.  And if you would trust God’s Word you can ignore what you see, hear or even feel if they do not line up with what God said. People may say that God has abandoned you. Ignore them. God’s Word promises that God will “…never leave you nor forsake you!”(Hebrews 13:5b)  The devil may insist that you cannot handle temptation. Ignore him and remember that the Word says, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”(1 John 4:4),  and “…with every temptation God will give you a way of escape…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When all hell is breaking lose in your life, the enemy may tell you that you will not survive it.  Ignore him because the Word says that you are “…more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37), and that you can “do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” People and the devil may try to convince you that because you have made such a mess of your life that God cannot save you nor will God ever use you.  But the Word says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved!” (Romans 10:9) When your circumstances do not match God’s Word, ignore what you see and remember what God said.  If you can exercise that kind of faith, no matter what you have to face, you can sleep through it!

  • Day 11- Sleep Through It! (Part 3)

There night before Herod was to. Bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound. With two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Acts 12:6

So far, we have considered two reasons why Peter had faith enough to sleep in a prison cell chained between two Roman soldiers on the eve of his execution. His faith was stabilized by his history with God and by a Word from the Lord. But there is another reason why Peter was able to sleep in faith on the eve of his execution. It has to do with the kind of faith Peter had in God. Notice in verse 2 the Apostle James had already been executed by Herod. James was just as faithful as Peter. James loved God just like Peter. God loved James just like he loved Peter. So how could Peter be so absolutely sure that God would deliver him? Why would James die and not Peter?  Well, I believe that Peter went to sleep on the eve of his execution not based on being absolutely certain God would deliver him.  Peter went to sleep because he trusted God to do whatever God thought was best to get glory out of his life. If rescuing Peter would give God glory, then Peter was prepared to believe God for a miracle. But as a follower of Jesus, Peter had given up all rights to his own life.  His life did not belong to him anymore.  It belonged to God.  Peter knew that sometimes your best witness is not that God got you out of trouble.  Sometimes God gets the greatest glory when you trust God no matter what the circumstances.  Sometimes it’s the way you suffer that’s a revelation of who you are and who’s you are.  Anyone can trust God if he promised to get you out of every negative situation.  But can you trust God when things may not turn out the way you want?  Can you trust God when God chooses not to deliver you, to heal you, to rescue you, to keep harm from you?  Can you trust God enough to go to sleep on the eve of a crisis knowing that there is a chance that you may not be able to avoid the crisis, and still believe that God loves you and has your best interest at heart? The best test of your faith is trusting God no matter what. In the Old Testament the king threatened to put the three Hebrews in a fiery furnace if they did not bow down to him.  They responded by saying, “Our God is able to deliver us.  And we believe he will.” That’s real faith! But what they said next reveals a whole new level of faith in God.  They said, “But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t bow down.”  Even if he doesn’t!  That’s the kind of faith Peter had. Peter knew God could deliver him and he believed God would deliver him.  But he also knew that what happened to James could also happen to him. But he went to sleep anyway, because his attitude was ‘Even if God doesn’t, I’m still going be faithful even if it cost me my life.”  When you get to the place where your life is no longer your own but you trust it to God; when you get to the place when you’ve decided to trust God and be faithful no matter what happens; when you get to the place when you know God loves you whatever the consequences; when you get to the place where you decide that I’m going to show people that God is worth serving even when life does not turn out the way you want; then not matter what you have to face, you can trust God with the outcome and sleep through it!

Day 12- Faith That Holds On!

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in his condition for a long time, he asked him “Do you want to get well? John 5:6

This text contains a question posed by Jesus to a man who had been sitting by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years! He was hoping to get healed by the alleged powers of the pool.  Rumor had it, that there were times when an unannounced angel came and troubled the waters.  The first one in the pool would be healed.  But when Jesus meets him at the pool, though he had been waiting for 38 years for a chance to be healed, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be made whole?  That seems like a strange, even insensitive question to ask a man who had been waiting for 38 long years for a chance to be healed.  But Jesus asked him the question to see if his faith was still intact.  Jesus was not being insensitive; he was being motivational.  Jesus was really asking the man if he still wanted to be made whole.  In other words, he was asking him if he still had faith after 38 years.  Sometimes the key to our breakthrough is not to simply believe, but to keep on believing!  38 years was a long time for the lame man to keep believing. But there he was by the pool still holding on to a dream that one day his destiny would change.  Imagination suggests that this lame man did not get to the pool by himself. Perhaps some friends who believed in the possibilities of a brand new future for this man put him at the pool.  But by the time Jesus got there the friends had probably stopped believing that anything would change.   But what I love about the man is that he kept on believing even when others no longer believed.  Always remember, the possibilities of your future does not depend on other people’s faith.  It depends on your faith.  Whether other people keep believing or not, if you want the future you envision then you keep on believing!  No doubt it had been a long time since anyone had shown this man any attention.  So, when Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole the first thing the man did was answer with a complaint.  “I have no one to put me in the pool.”  I suspect that the man responded this way because perhaps he hoped that Jesus would be the one to put him in the pool.  But soon Jesus revealed to the man that he did not show up to put the man in the pool.  The pool was not the answer.  Jesus was the answer!  And because he could still believe after so very long, Jesus said “Rise, take up your bed and walk!”  Immediately the man was healed!  Can you keep believing against the odds? Can you keep believing even if the answer takes time? Can you keep believing when others have stopped believing? If you can, God can prove you to that God still answers prayer. Do not give up on God.  If you keep trusting, even when you have to wait, God will make the wait worth your while!

  • Day 13- Friend With Faith!

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

This verse comes from incident where four men carry a paralyzed man lying on a mat to see Jesus.  Jesus was teaching in a house in Capernaum.  He actually had gone to the house to get away from the crowd for a period of peace and quiet.  But somehow the word leaked out that he was staying in the house, so people came from everywhere until the house was full in the inside and on the outside.  It was standing room only.  No one else could get in, not even through the door.  But there were four friends whose fifth friend was paralyzed, and they decided that if they could get him to Jesus he would surely be healed.  We do not know how far they carried their friend, but imagination suggests that each of them grabbed a corner of the man’s mat, carried him some distance until they got to the place where Jesus was.  Their faith had gotten them all the way to the door. But once they arrived there were so many people crowding around the door that they could not their friend in.  What happens next reveals a great deal about the kind of faith these four friends had.  They could have given up. But their faith was so strong that they refused to give up.  They were so convinced that Jesus could heal their friend that when they could not get him in the door; when they could not get him in the typical way; when the could not get him in the usual way; when they could not get him in the traditional, expected way; they went to the side of the house, climbed up the stairs carrying their friend as they went, and tore a hole in another man’s roof!  Then the lowered the man down the hole until he was laid at the feet of Jesus.  They bible says that when Jesus saw their faith, he ended up healing the paralyzed man.  What lessons can we learn from this scenario? The first lesson we can learn is that no matter how difficult the challenge, faith will always find a way!  Faith refuses to quit.  Faith does not take no for an answer.  If faith does not see a way, it will find a way!  If you really want to see a difference in the outcomes in your life, then you cannot allow yourself to be so easily by the obstacles you face. Keep trusting and trying and you will find out that faith will inspire a way!  A second lesson this text teaches is that faith is so determined to reach its goal or accomplish its task, that when the traditional, expected, accepted, usually ways do not work, faith will find a new, untraditional, unusual way.  Faith is not tied to any particular method.  Faith has methodological elasticity.  Faith is elastic enough to stretch to fit the contours of the given situation.  Faith is free to try something new, something that has not been done before.  If you ever want to accomplish something great for the Lord, you have got to be willing to keep trying to reach your goal even if it means tearing the roof off!  A third lesson that the text teaches is that if you want to participate in a miracle, you need to make sure you have friends who have faith.  The paralyzed man was not just healed by his own faith.  The bible says when Jesus saw their faith! Perhaps your life is stuck because you are tied to friends who have no faith.  If every time to try to do something meaningful with your life they are always there to tell you why it cannot be done,  then you need some new friends! If you want to witness miracles and breakthroughs in your life, then you have to be careful who you are connected to.  Choose your friends, don’t let your friends choose you.  And when you do choose them, connect your life to friends with faith!

  • Day 14- Forgiven!

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:5 (Read entire story in Mark 2:1-12)

Yesterday we considered a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus and healed because of the faith of four friends who brought him. The verse reads, “When he saw their faith…”. ‘Their’ may include the faith of the man also, but it involved more than his faith alone.  And we saw what kind of faith those friends had. They had a faith that finds a way; a faith that does the untraditional; and a faith that supports.  They were Friends with faith! Today I want to consider the ladder part of the verse which reads, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Once the man was lowered through the roof and laid at the feet of Jesus, notice that Jesus did not heal him by initially saying, “…get up, take your mat and go home.” (v. 11). The first thing Jesus says to the paralyzed man is “…your sins are forgiven.”  Could it be that Jesus starts with the man’s sins because, at least in this man’s case, there was some connection between his sins and is paralysis? The man’s physical condition may have been a manifestation of the guilt he felt from sins from his past.  His mind may have been so condemned that his body showed the symptoms of his guilt.  Perhaps he could not walk because he was carrying around a load of guilt and shame and it was so heavy that it was too much for his legs to handle.  It is not that unusual for our inner life to affect our outer condition.  Sometimes we are physically sick not because of what we have been eating but because of what’s eating us!  The guilt of our past sins has a way of paralyzing our present performance and future possibilities.  The best solution for the guilt of sin is not to pretend that there is not sin, or to push our sins deeper into our subconsciousness and try to will it away. The best solution for sins is to acknowledge our sins and accept the gift of forgiveness from God!  Apparently, Jesus understood that this man’s external condition was a consequence of his internal disposition.  He was paralyzed on the outside because of the guilt and shame of sin on the inside.  So, Jesus loved the man enough to deal with the root of his problem -guilt, shame, and feelings of condemnation, and not just the fruit of his problem – paralysis. Jesus knew that if he healed the man at the root with forgiveness, it would produce new fruit like freedom, power, gratitude, peace, joy!  What does that have to do with faith?  Well, it took faith for the man to receive the gift of forgiveness that Jesus was offering!  Sometimes we feel so guilty for sins we have committed that being forgiven by God is just too good to be true.  This is especially true if people refuse to forgive us! I suppose that we refuse to believe that we are forgiven because we know we do not deserve forgiveness. But  God does not forgive us because we deserve it.  God forgives us because we NEED IT!  And even though the Bible teaches that “the wages of sin is death”, God loved us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die in our place so that we can live forever! Because of the grace of God, we have been forgiven!  And we receive that forgiveness by grace through faith!  God is not mad at you; God is mad about you!  And when we surrender our hearts to the Lord and by faith, receive the gift of life through Jesus, we are forgiven – forever!

  • Day 15- By Faith! (Part 1)

24 “By Faith Moses, when he was gown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  Hebrews 11:24-25 

Today, January 15, 2020 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. If he were still with us, he would be 91 years old. Dr. King made an indelible imprint on American society and indeed the world. The courage and faith with which he faced the nightmare of racism with the dream of a beloved community still inspires hope in the human heart, especially in the hearts of the marginalized and justice loving people the world over. It is impossible to imagine a world without the irrepressible faith, unconquerable hope, and sacrificial love of God’s leader and liberator, Dr. Martin Luther King. There was another liberator who lived centuries before King named Moses.  Some of the parallels between his life and King’s may surprise you.  Moses was born in a dangerous time but ended up having the opportunity to live a life of relative ease early in his life in the house of Pharaoh.  King was born during a dangerous time as well.  He was born in a time of racism and oppression.  But he was born into the black middle class and though the times were hard for many, he grew up in relative ease. Moses received an excellent education while living in the household of Pharaoh, the one who was oppressing his people. In a real sense, Dr. King got his education from Pharaoh as well, receiving a grade ‘A’ education from a culture and educational system that oppressed black people.  But one day Moses saw the suffering of his people.  He noticed that while he lived in relative ease, his people, the Hebrews, were languishing in the brutality of Egypt’s oppressive system. He could not reconcile living in comfort while they suffered, so he decided that he would give up the plush palace of the Pharaoh and join the plight of his people.  King made that decision too!  He had all of the privileges afforded him, at least as much as could be enjoyed in the context of a racist society.  But once he was grown, he saw the plight of his people and could not abide living in comfort while Black people, his people, languished in a system of oppression.  So, like Moses, he decided to cast his lot with the oppressed and embraced a life of struggle for freedom.  Both Moses and Martin, gave up comfort and convenience in order to join the struggle to set captives free.  Neither of them knew what the future would hold nor the cost of the struggle. Neither of them even knew if their decision would bear the fruit of freedom.  But both of them knew that they had no real choice if they were going to live with integrity and answer the divine call to join God in the struggle for Justice and freedom.  And because they answered the call, people were blessed, and masses set free! How do you step out on a journey like that not knowing its end?  The bible tells us how Moses did it.  He did it “By Faith!”  And I contend that King did the same.  He set sail on the tempestuous seas of liberating the lives of the oppressed “By Faith!”  For the next several days I want to look at the journey of these two men and share principles of what it means to do great things By Faith.  But for this devotional please remember this undeniable lesson: Nothing great has ever been accomplish, except By Faith. No worthy cause has ever known triumph, nor worthwhile dream successfully realized, without walking By Faith! The bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. And Dr. Charles Adams said that’s because without faith it is impossible to have God! Walking by Faith invites God to the fight!  So, when you walk by Faith you are bound to experience some victories along the way, because nothing is impossible with God. I dare you in 2020 to walk By Faith!

  • Day 16- By Faith! (Part 2)

A Faith that Endures!

24 “By Faith Moses, when he was gown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:24 & 27

Yesterday, in honor of  M. L. King’s birthday, we began looking at faith through the parallel lives of Martin King and Moses.  Both engaged in the awe inspiring task of national liberation, and what characterized both their efforts is that they accomplished it all By Faith!  In fact, we concluded in the last devotional with this truth:  Nothing great has ever been accomplished except By Faith.  What else do the lives of these two men, Moses and Martin King, teach us about the nature of faith?  People often are excited about the notion that faith can accomplish great things. And faith in God can accomplish great things!  But they often fail to realize that in order to accomplish something worthwhile your faith must have endurance. It is true that faith can move mountains, but all mountains are not moved all at once.  Some mountains are moved one shovel full of dirt at a time.  It takes faith to do that, because it takes time to do that.  Moses liberated Israel by faith and brought them to the Promised Land, but it took him 40 years of leading them through a wilderness.  Martin King ignited a nation and started a Civil Rights movements that permanently altered the landscape of American life. The changes that were made were incredible.  But his contribution lasted from the bus boycott in 1956 until his assassination on April 4, 1968.  Every day of almost 15 years of his life was dedicated to challenging a nation to live up to its highest ideals. Significant change happened in America.  But it took time.  What you are seeking to do with our lives may not change the world, but the truth is, if it is worthwhile, it is going to take time.  And in order for you to see it through, your faith has to have endurance.  So many people start well.  But the key to accomplishing the goals, visions and dreams you have for your life is that you have more than just starting power.  You have to have staying power.  Anyone can start with faith.  But can your faith endure?   If you are going to accomplish the goals you have for family, business, career, ministry, neighborhood, health, finances, education or whatever your goals may be, you have to have a faith that is willing to believe until your goal is realized!  Often the difference between one person’s failure and another person’s success is not that one is more gifted than the other, but that one quits while the other endures until the goal is reached and the vision becomes a reality. Some things just take time. The challenge for our generation is that we are accustomed to getting things instantly. We have instant coffee, instant tea, instant access to information through the internet.  So, we want everything at once.  We have this itch for the instantaneous and burn incense at the altar of the immediate.  We want everything right now!  And for that reason, sometimes our faith is shaken when things do not happen as quickly as we would like.  We begin to think that it can’t be done just because it takes time.  So, we are tempted to throw in the towel or wave the white flag of surrender.  But don’t you dare quit. Have faith that endures and remember:  “Be not weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not.” Galatians 6:9

  • Day 17- By Faith! (Part 3)

A Faith That Serves!

24 “By Faith Moses, when he was gown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  Hebrews 11:24-25

Today we look one last time at the parallel lives of Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr. So far, we have looked at two aspects of faith in the lives of Moses and Martin. First, we learned that, “Nothing great has ever been accomplished except By Faith.” Second, we learned that, “In order to accomplish anything worthwhile your faith must have endurance.  Those are two powerful, nonnegotiable truths about faith.  But there is another aspect of faith that involves choice.  Notice in verse 25 that Moses chose to identify with those who were suffering and serve them.  Moses could not bear to see his people in need, so he made a choice to serve them.  Even though he did not know what the future would hold, By Faith, he chose to serve others.  Martin Luther King did the same.  He saw people in need, and he chose to serve them even though he was not certain what the future would hold.  Both Moses and Martin decided that their life of faith would not be one that just serves self, but one that served others.  No one can make you do that.  You have to choose to do that.  And because you do not know what the outcome will be, you make that choice By Faith! I believe God challenges us to do the same.  So often when we read or hear a teaching about faith, it is geared toward how you can be blessed, rather how you can be a blessing.  It is solely self – serving faith. To be sure, it takes faith to reach worthwhile, God-inspired goals in life. But one thing that makes the lives of  Moses and Martin so great is not how they used their Faith to serve themselves, but how they used their Faith to serve others!  The greatest life we can live is a life of service.  Sometimes it can be costly to serve others, especially when those you serve are the forgotten, downtrodden, hurting, neglected, mistreated and oppressed.  Verse 25 says that Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.  And when we draw parallels to Martin King’s life, we see the same.  Martin King was vilified, threatened, spied on, stabbed, harassed, bombed, and eventually assassinated because he chose to serve the marginalized.  When you live life of faith that chooses to serve others, you may not have to face what Moses and Martin faced,  but it costs.  But can I share with you a secret?  The greatest joys and deepest fulfillment you will ever experience in your life will come when you choose to serve others!  A Faith that serves will introduce you to a life of meaning and purpose.  When you serve others By Faith, you will discover and discern the “why” of your life.  It’s one thing to know that you are here.  But it’s another thing to know why you are here.  And when you chose to serve others By Faith, your purpose can become clearer and clearer!  An aggressively self-centered life, in the end, will leave you empty.  But a life of service, lived By Faith in God, will lead you to a life that is fulfilled. The song writer wrote: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer them with a word or song, if can show somebody that their traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.” What a difference our lives could make if, By Faith, we choose to serve others. Not only would others be blessed, but God would be glorified.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven.” That happens when you have a Faith that Serves

  • Day 18- It’s What You Know! (Part 1)

2 Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faithdevelops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

One thing that is true about life is that trials, tests and troubles are inevitable and unavoidable.  It does not matter who you are, who you know, what station you enjoy in life, what educational credentials you have, where you live or the size of your income, life is going to happen to you. No one gets out of this life without their share of cuts and bruises.  This is true for Christians too! The Lord never promised that being a Christian means living trouble free.  In fact, Jesus said “In this world you will have tribulation.” Salvation status does not inoculate you against the  hardships of life.  The life of a Christian is not lived on a playground, but on a battlefield. The enemy uses trials and tests to weaken our faith, to cause us to quit and question the love and faithfulness of God. When troubles attack your finances, family, physical health and other precious areas of your life, the enemy tries to use those attacks to make you lose faith in God.  But while the enemy is trying to use trials to make you lose your faith, God is simultaneously seeking to use those very trials to strengthen your faith. And whether your faith comes through trials weaker or stronger depends on what you know.  That means that ignorance is not your friend! Knowing the Word of God gives you the opportunity to see life from God’s point of view.  And therein lies the key to experiencing the abundant life that has been bequeathed to you by virtue of blood of the Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ! What is it that we should know? James writes, “ because we know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  The larger principle is that when your faith is being tested God is up to something good. God is using the test to develop your faith! You cannot develop strong, overcoming, mature faith in a vacuum.  God does not secretly slip stronger faith in you while you are asleep at night. God has to allow your faith to be exposed to life’s tests so the you can exercise your faith.  If you do not use your faith then it will become fat, flabby, weak and vulnerable.  If you do not use your faith, then you may lose your faith. But when your faith is tested by the trials in life, that is not the time to lose it, that’s the time to use it!  I hear people who are going through tough times say that they almost lost their faith.  But tough times are what faith is for!  That’s when it’s really time to trust God.  And while you are exercising your faith in the hard times, trusting God even when you cannot trace God, refusing to give in the temptation to give up on God, the very fact that you are using your faith is causing your faith to grow more and more!  And when you come out of the other end of one of life’s ordeals, because you exercised your faith and kept believing God through it all, you will discover what faith in God can do!  And the next time trials come, your faith will say, “Been there, done that!” Your faith will mature so much that the things that used to keep you up all night will hardly affect you at all! That’s because you will have learned that trusting God through hard times, gives God a chance to show you that God is faithful! It’s all in what you know.

  • Day 19- It’s What You Know! (Part 2)

2 Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faithdevelops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Yesterday we learned that God is using the tests and trials of life to develop our faith. Warren Wiersby writes that a faith that has not been tested is a faith that cannot be trusted!  Faith that has been through the fire learns to handle the fire and come out stronger than it was before. This means that without the tests and trials of life, faith could not grow!  We would not develop the kind of faith that attempts great things for God and expects great things from God. Noticed in the text what James, the author of this verse, names specifically as that which tested faith develops.  He writes, “the testing your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance is the ability to keep on going.  It’s the capacity to never quit. What is interesting about this attribute is that the only way to develop the capacity to keep on going is to be put in situations where you are tempted to quit.  And every time you overcome that temptation by faith, you develop the capacity to keep on going.  A long distance running learns how to keep running for long distances by training to run long distances without quitting!  While she is running, her body tells her to stop.  Her lungs hurt, her muscles ache.  But she ignores the pain and keeps on going. And as she keeps on going in spite of it all, her body develops endurance. Her body gets stronger and stronger until what used to hurt does not hurt.  What used to make her tired does not make her tired.  Whereas she used to want to quit, instead she keeps on running. Her body is conditioned to take what it could not take before.  But it was her running through the pain that gave her body the strength to keep on running through the pain.  It was that process that made her strong!  The same is true with faith.  The tests and trials of life are bound to come.  But if you keep on believing anyway, in the process of exercising your faith, your faith develops the capacity to endure, to keep on going.  The more you do it, the stronger your faith get.  The exciting thing is that it’s the process of dealing with trials that help you to develop the capacity to deal with trials!  It’s the hardships that make you strong, but only if you keep on believing in the face of it all.  If you persevere, you will learn to persevere! And one thing that will give the enemy fits is if you keep going no matter what the devil sends your way.  There is nothing more frustrating to the devil or devilish people than to see you keep on going anyway.  You may fall, but you just get up, brush yourself off and keep on running.  You may experience unemployment, betrayal, bankruptcy, divorce, sickness, loss of loved one, criticism and even failures.  But you keep trusting that God loves you, forgives you, believes in you, supports you and has your best interest at heart and you keep on going!  With that kind of perseverance, you will always be victorious because to be victories does not mean that you never get knocked down, it means that every time you get knocked down, you get back up! There is a phenomenon in long distance running called “hitting a wall”.  That phrase describes an experience where, in the course of running, all of a sudden, the runners body seems to have little or no strength.  It’s a struggle just to keep running.  It takes everything the running has just to keep her body going.  It feels like the runner cannot go on. At this point the running has the option of quitting.  But if the runner keeps running through the hardship even though they are bone weary and muscle tired, they will experience what is called a ‘second wind’.  All of a sudden energy comes out of nowhere.  The runner feels fresh and alive.  The runner feels like she can go on forever.  When those moments come when you want to give up on trusting God because life is so hard, keep trusting God anyway!  If you do, your faith will experience a second wind.  The grace of God will refresh your faith and, as the old folks say, “you can run on and see what the end is gonna be.”

  • Day 20- It’s What You Know! (Part 3)

2 Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

We have learned in the two previous devotions that trials will come in life to test our faith.  And while the enemy means for the testing of your faith to make you quit and give up on God, God uses the testing of your faith to cause your faith to grow and mature.  In the process, you develop the capacity to preserver. No matter what happens, when you keep trusting God through it all, your faith gets stronger and stronger until at last it has such endurance that you grow to the place where you are fully equipped to handle any situation that comes your way.  You are “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  This does not mean that you are perfect, rather it means that you have all of the tools necessary to handle whatever trials and tests your faith has to face. You are an overcomer!  In light of all of this truth, notice how the text says our attitude ought to be when various tests and trials come in our lives: “Consider it pure joy…” That seems a strange attitude to bring to the struggle of trials and tests in your life.  Usually people respond with fear, frustration, uncertainty, depression, complaints and even deciding to give up.  But James is trying to teach is that because we know that there is immense spiritual benefit from the process of dealing with trials, we do not have to wait until the trial is over to praise God and experience joy. Since we know, ahead of time, that it is all working to mature us and make us fully equipped to handle whatever life brings our way, we can shout right now!  I call it anticipatory praise!  It is praise, not because of what is happening now, but praise for what is going to happen! It anticipates that when the ordeal is over, because you kept on believing, you will be better, stronger and wiser.  So right in the middle of it all, even while you’re going through the trials, you can shout and joyfully praise God. It’s not the trouble that gives you joy, it’s the knowledge that the trouble you’re going through is developing you into a strong believer with unconquerable faith.  This is exciting because Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to his purpose.”  All the tests and trials that happen in your life are not good, but the promise of scripture is that God steps in the middle of it all and works it all out for your good.  God is so absolutely creative that he can take the bad that you are   going through and work it to your good!  Think it about it.  That is probably true in some measure in your life.  Some the good that you are, is because of the bad you’ve been through!  James is saying that since you already know that God is going to use the trials of life to make you better, then go ahead and praise the Lord.  “Consider it all joy….”  Do not let the trouble you are going through steal you joy.  Let it give you joy because what the devil means for evil, God is working out for your God.  And that’s all because of what you know!

  • Day 21- “Get to Steppin!”

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the Priest.’  And as they went, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:14

Martin Lawrence in the comedy series, Martin, would often kick people out of his apartment by pointing to the door and saying, “Get to steppin’!”  It is comical, but there is something powerful about his words when considered in the context of the text for today.  Jesus meets 10 men suffering from the dreaded disease of leprosy.  When they see Jesus from afar, they recognize him, and like a choir who had rehearsed a common song, in the key of need they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” No doubt they had heard of his healing power and hoped that he would heal them.  Jesus’s response was a curious response.  He declares, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  These were strange instructions because protocol required that they be healed first and then show themselves to the priests. The priest would then verify that they had indeed be healed.  Then they were free to rejoin society without others running the risk of being infected by their very contagious and deadly disease.  But Jesus instructs them to go show themselves to the priests while they still suffered from the leprosy. At that moment they had decision to make.  They could either stay there and argue with Jesus about how his words did not make sense, or they could choose to exercise their faith and follow his commands.  They chose the ladder. All 10 turned and started on their way to show themselves to the Priest.  But a strange think happened while they on their way.  The text reports that “As they went, they were cleansed.”  As they went; as they obeyed; as they walked in faith, they were healed.  What a lesson in faith.  Dr. King once said “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” These ten lepers were given instructions by the Master that did not make sense, but they responded by faith.  As they walked in faith they were healed.  But it was not until they took steps of faith that they were the recipients of a miracle.  So often we want God to explain everything ahead of time.  We want to see so we can believe.  But faith says you have to believe before you can see.  When you walk by faith, actions precede outcome.  It is the act of faith that brings about the miracle.  When Moses crossed the Red Sea, God split the sea and then the Israelites walked across.  They did not need faith to witness the miracle.  God showed them the miracle first and seeing it strengthened their faith as they crossed to the other side.  But later, once Moses died and Joshua took the reins of leaders, when Israel was about to cross the Jordan River to enter into the promised land, I imagine that Joshua, who was there with Moses at the crossing of the Red Sea, initially expected God to split the Jordan like God split the Red Sea.  But God did not do for Joshua what God did for Moses the way God did it for Moses. God did indeed split the Jordan, but it did not split until Israel walked up to the water’s edge and put their feet in the water.  Once their feet touched the water, then the water split and the crossed on dry land. They first had to act, then God split the Jordan!  First the act of faith, then the miraculous breakthrough. There are a number of things that God wants to do in our lives but there are times when we want God to do it before we do anything.  But there are some miracles in our lives that we will never see as long as we are waiting around for God to move first.  Sometimes God will not move in power until we step out in faith.  So, if you want to experience the things you believe God wants to do in your life this year then stop praying and waiting for God to do something.  If you want to see this next move of God…then “Get to steppin’!”

  • Day 22- Bigger Than Life!

13 “All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Hebrews 11: 13

This verse comes from the chapter in the book of Hebrews that is popularly known as the hall of fame of faith.  It chronicles the name of some of the most prominent people of faith in the Bible. People who lived by faith. It also includes nameless folks, believers who’s name we may not know but who also lived by faith.  They have joined that innumerable caravan of saints who have gone on before us to the other side. The verse we consider today makes a profound statement about these faithful believers.  First, it testifies that they “were still living by faith when they died.” Despite the hardships, trials, tests, persecutions, great loss and even death, they kept on living by faith.  This means that there was never anything in their lives so harsh that it made them believe that living by faith is not worth it.  In the face of life’s ups and downs they were convinced that the best way to face life’s uncertainties is by faith!  What a testimony! Later on, in chapter 12, these faith-filled people were referred to as “a great cloud of witnesses.”  The portrait that the writer of Hebrews seeks to paint is that of a stadium where we who are on earth are running a race and those who have run before us are in the stands.  Those in the stands have completed their race but their lives are proof that we can victoriously run our race as well.  They are examples of the fact that a life lived by faith in God is the most powerful and most reliable life one can live. Their lives testify that when life becomes difficult, it is best lived by faith. When we must face challenges, face them by faith.  When we are plagued by uncertainty, go on by faith. When you are pursuing the purposes of God in your life, do it by faith.  They are examples to us that life is best lived by faith!  In fact, Hebrews 11:39 says that “These were all commended for their faith…”. They completed their leg of the race running every step of it by faith, and God commends them because they chose to face life by faith!  Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  A life lived by faith is the key to a life of victory. Nothing can defeat someone who insists are living by faith!  Notice secondly that, “they did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”  There are some things that God shows you that you will not realize in your lifetime.  The vision and dreams that God calls you to pursue are often so big that they cannot be completed in your lifetime. In fact, this can be a sign that the visions from God! The work that God calls us to do and the vision God gives for our lives is bigger than us. In a real sense, they are not meant just for us alone. They are meant for generations beyond us.  When those Africans who were enslaved in America dreamed of freedom, they often died never realizing the dream of freedom for themselves.  But they prayed and worked believing that if they did not realize freedom for themselves that it would come for their children or grandchildren.  They did not realize their dream, but what kept them going is that they saw it and welcomed it from a distance.  Their dream of freedom was bigger than life. It was so big that even their death could not stop it from coming to pass. God has a way of giving dreams that are bigger than your life.  God intends  for those dreams to live on beyond you and to bless people other than just you! Jesus dreamed of freedom from sin for humanity.  And he believed it all the way to the cross!  But his God ordained dream was bigger than his life.  So big, that early Sunday morning he was raised from the grave with all power in his hand!  And because he lived, died and was raised from dead to live forever, you and I can realize the dream of salvation if we would receive him as Lord and Savior by faith!  Then you can live a life full of the dream God has given you designed to bless others and glorify God.  So, child of God, keep living by faith.  Keep being inspired by that big, beautiful dream God has deposited in your spirit.  And when you wonder if you will be able to accomplish it all in your lifetime do not fret, instead remember that God has given you a dream that is Bigger Than Life!

  • Day 23- Faith Takes Initiative

27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch is clothes, I will be healed.”  29 Immediately her bleed stopped an she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Mark 5:27-29

The text introduces us to a woman with an embarrassing flow of continuous bleeding.  She had been in that condition for 12 long years.  She had spent all of the money she had on doctors.  But her condition did not get better.  It got worse.  This woman had every reason to give up and give in to her miserable circumstances.  She could have reasoned in her mind that if God was going to do anything God would have done it by now.  But this woman had no such mindset.  Her body was weak, but her faith was strong.  She had run out of options, that is, until she heard that Jesus was coming by.  She was determined not to miss an encounter with Jesus. There are times when life seems like it has no options.  But I believe that as long as there is breath in your body and God on the throne, you still have options!  It was the chance of a lifetime.  Jesus’s popularity was pulsating throughout Palestine and she reasoned that if she was going to get help, she would have to get it now.  So, she decided to get up and go where Jesus was.  Life can never change for you as long as simply sit around and feel sorry for yourself.  If life is going to change then you have got to take action.  This woman refused to stay home and have a perpetual personal pity party.  She got up and took action.  She had a plan and she intended to execute the plan so that when she saw him, he was in a crowd.  Faith without works is dead! Notice the kind of faith this woman had.  She was not supposed to be in that crowd.  Her disease restricted her from touching anyone because, according to Jewish law, she was ceremonially unclean.  But she was going to risk it in order to get to Jesus.  He faith refused to let traditions, crowds or man-made expectations keep her from her breakthrough. It is important to remember that sometimes the thing that stands in between you and your miracle is people.  One way or another, people can be an obstacle to you exercising your faith…if you let them.  But do not give anyone that much power over your life.  Take action!  Her plan was to get healed without drawing attention to herself.  She was simply going to get close enough to touch his clothes and leave.  She said to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” What fantastic faith!  In spite of all of the trials she had been through; in the face of all of the obstacles she has had to face; she still has faith to believe that one touch of his clothes would heal her.  Notice that she is talking to herself.  I like that.  She did not have anyone else to talk to her.  And if she did, they probably had negative words to say about the prospect of her getting healed.  But she ignored the words of others and kept on saying to herself those powerful, purifying words “If I just touch…”  We have to learn how to talk to ourselves.  At times when great faith is needed but those around do not seem to have it, you have got to learn how to talk to yourself!  Finally, she had moved in the crowd close enough to execute her plan.  And when her hand touched what her faith reached out for; she was healed…immediately!  All because she had a faith that took action.  Her faith dared to believe that just one touch of the Master’s hem would make everything alright.  And because she dared to believe it could be done, and took action, it was done!

  • Day 24- Great Faith!

8 “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’  13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go!  It will be done just as you blipped it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.” Matthew 8:8,10,13 (Read Matthew 8:5-13)

In these selected verses is a portion of the story of a Roman centurion with astonishing faith.  What captures my attention almost immediately is that he had the kind of faith that astonished Jesus!  It must have been some kind of faith to get that kind of reaction from the savior of the world. The centurion comes to Jesus on behalf his sick servant. He must have heard of, or even seen evidence of the healing power of Jesus and was convinced that if he could get to Jesus his servant could be healed.  What a compassionate and selfless heart this centurion had.  He comes to Jesus because he convinced that he has power to heal, but he does not come on behalf of his own healing but on behalf of the healing of another.  He must have really had deep affection for his servant.  I suppose that even though he was not the one who was suffering from illness, because his servant suffered, he also suffered because love’s empathy makes you identify with the suffering of the ones you love.  The greater the love, the greater the suffering.  And as Charles Adams declares, that means that the greatest lover is the greatest sufferer – Jesus Christ! “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”(Isaiah 53:5). The centurion came to Jesus on behalf of someone he loved.  When was the last time you used your faith on behalf of the wellbeing of someone else?  The fact that the centurion came to Jesus on behalf of someone else was impressive enough, but apparently what is most astonishing to Jesus is the kind, quality and caliber of this centurions’ faith.  When Jesus agreed to go to the centurions’ house to heal his servant (Jesus makes house calls) the centurions’ humility would not let Jesus come under his roof.  Then he says, “Just speak the words from where you are, and I believe that my servant will be healed!”  His reasoning was based on what he believed he and Jesus had in common.  He commanded soldiers who, when he spoke, had to obey his will.  So, he reasoned that what is true for him in the natural realm must be true for Jesus in the supernatural realm.  All Jesus had to do was speak, and sickness like subordinate soldier had obey his will. When Jesus heard this man’s faith he stopped in his tracks, turned to the crowd and confessed that he had not seen a faith like that not even in Israel!  In other words, he had not seen, even among the people who say they know God, faith so certain and strong as this! You can find great faith in the strangest places.  This centurion was so absolutely convinced that Jesus could heal, that he was clear that nothing, not even distance, could deter Jesus from exercising his power!  Jesus is looking for faith like that!  He delights in faith that trusts him so absolutely. That kind of faith will never be wasted!  In the face of such faith Jesus declared “Go!  It will be done…” To borrow a phrase from Charles Adams: “By the long distance authority of his amazing grace and by the remote control of his omnipotent command”, Jesus healed this man’s servant!  What a miracle.  But it was a great miracle because a man exercised great faith! Imagine what would happen if we walked with such faith. May we all pray to God that God grant us the grace to live each day with such a great faith!

  • Day 25- Faith Talk: Never Alone! (Part 1)

45 “David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sward and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty….  46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head…. 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 1 Samuel 17: 45, 46, 48

This is without question among the most well-known stories in all of holy scripture.  It’s the record of David’s defeat of a giant named Goliath.  David and Goliath met on a battlefield where there was no one fighting. The soldiers of the Hebrew army were too frightened to fight, intimidated by the size and skill of Goliath.  When David came to front lines bearing supplies for his brothers, he expected to see the armies of God routing the Philistines, their age old enemies. But when he arrived, he found an army paralyzed with fear.  Once David heard the insults being hurled at his God by Goliath, he decided that if no one else was going to do something he would.  Now this was completely absurd in the eyes of everyone there.  David was too young for the draft, had no military training and was in fact a mere shepherd boy keeping his father Jesse’s sheep not he backside of the Judean desert. And besides, it was obvious from sheer size alone that David was no match.  But David did not see himself the others saw him. And that is key in living a life of victory. Too often we accept another people’s definition of who you are and what you can do.  But you do have to be what others call you. All you have to be is whom God has created you to be. And in case you have not heard it child of God, in Christ, you are more than a conqueror!  David was determined to defeat this formidable foe. So, he went to the brook and got five smooth stones and moved toward his adversary.  What I am impressed with is David’s’ talk.  He was not quiet, nor was his speech one of uncertainty or fear.  Instead, he spoke great faith and courageous certainty and in absolute defiance of his enemy.  When Goliath initially saw him, Goliath was insulted and said as much to young David, taunting him and telling him how he would defeat him.  But though Goliath towered over David in physical size he could not match David’s’ giant faith!  David responds to the taunts and jeers of the giant by telling Goliath, in no uncertain terms, that David would defeat him.  In fact, he went so far as to tell him how he would do it: “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” What was the secret of David’s faith?  First, he was clear who the author of his victory would be. Notice he says, “The Lord will hand you over to me….” David is clear that the victory belongs to God. He could talk with such faith because his faith was not ultimately in himself, but in Almighty God!  David understood that while it looked like he was by himself, he was not alone. The Lord was with him and indeed would give him the victory over his adversary.  There is nothing more invigorating to the spirit than to know that the Lord is on your side.  The bible says that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  We are not in the fight of life alone.  God grants believers his constant cosmic companionship.  When the giants of life threaten your situation, remember that the living God is with you.  And if God be for you who can stand against you! (Tomorrow Part 2)

  • Day 26- Faith Walk: Cut It Off! (Part 2)

45 “David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sward and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty….  46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head…. 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 1 Samuel 17: 45, 46, 48

When David took on Goliath, he was convinced that God was with him.  As a consequence of faith in God, David was willing to take on a problem that the other soldiers were unwilling to take on. Change could not come until Goliath; their adversary had been defeated. But is it not interesting that it took a young person to do what grown-ups should have been doing.  Never let others convince you that you cannot do something because of your age.  History has taught us that some of the greatest social, religious and cultural changes in America have happened because young people were willing to do what grown-ups were unwilling to do.  Perhaps young people are invigorated by a sense of idealism. They have not become jaded by life’s disappointments.  They believe that what seems impossible is still possible with God. And those of us who have a little bit of mileage on us must be careful not to lose our sense of the supernatural.  No matter how much older we become, we should never discard a faith that believes that all things are possible with God!  The certainty with which David is speaking about his faith is astounding.  It is as if by faith he has already won the battle in his mind before he fought it on the battlefield.  That is the power of faith.  Faith is not blind.  It’s just a different kind of sight.  It’s not physical eyesight its spiritual insight!  And by faith David could see the victory in his head before one blow was struck.  The mind is where the battle is fought.  If you can believe it, you can achieve it.  If you believe you can, you can!  If you believe you can’t, you won’t.  It starts in the mind.  As a person thinks in their heart so is, she or he. Faith had convinced David that he had already won the victory. All he had to do was go out and fight! And when faith convinces you that you have already won, then when you go out to fight, you do not fight for victory, you fight from a position of victory. Finally notice that once David kills Goliath with a rock and sling, verse 51 reports that, “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard.  After he killed him, he cut off is head with the sword.”  Please see the implications of this description. David knocks out Goliath with a sling and a stone.  But he was not finished or satisfied.  He took out the giants’ own sword, killed him and cut off his head.  David killed him and cut his head off to make sure that Goliath would never, ever be a problem again. Perhaps one of the reasons why some of us keep tripping over the same temptation and are dealing with same ol issues and people is that we are unwilling to cut them off.  We have to make a decision that those things that are constantly getting the best us must die.  And God is not going to kill them.  You will have to do that.   There are some places we have to cut off, some habits we have to cut off, some relationships we have to cut off, some attitudes we have to cut if we are ever going to get the ultimate victory!  Do not give any of these these challenges a chance to raise their ugly head of temptation again…cut it off!   (Tomorrow Part 3)

  • Day 27- Faith Walk: Take A Stand! (Part 3)

51 David ran and stood over him.  He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.  When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines….” 1 Samuel 17:51-52

David the shepherd boy has beat the odds and defeated the enemy of Israel. While others who were older, with more training and experience were too afraid to face the enemy, David, full of faith in God, passion for his people and jealously for the name of his God, did not run from the enemy but ran toward the enemy and defeated the giant Goliath.  No one expected it and it is doubtful that anyone even believed that David could do it.  But David’s victory was not contingent upon the faith of others. It was dependent upon his own faith in Almighty God.  David was convinced he could do it because he knew that he was not alone. God was with him. Earlier in the episode, David confessed something else that served as a source of strength for his faith.  When asked how he could defeat Goliath with no military training he responded by saying that God had helped him defeat a lion and a bear while keeping his father’s Jesse’s sheep.  He deduced that if God was with him with the lion and bear, God would be with him when he had to face Goliath!  There are few things more valuable in your walk with God than to develop a history with God.  What God does along the journey today, can serve as a source of encouragement to your faith when you have to face trials and tests in the future.  In short, David simply reasoned  that if God did it before, God can do it again!  It was with this confidence, courage and faith that David took on a Giant and did for his people what they were afraid to do for themselves.  But there is something exciting to me in the story that is seldom cited or celebrated. Notice what happens when David kills the giant.  First, when the Philistines saw that their hero Goliath was dead, they ran!  One victory put the entire enemy to flight!  In the face of intimidating and seemingly insurmountable odds, sometimes it takes just one person to take a stand and turn the tide.  As long and the enemies of hatred, injustice, exploitation, racism, sexism, economic deprivation, social isolation, political manipulation, poverty, homophobia, insensitivity, environmental injustice, mass incarceration, gentrification, and a host of other enemies run roughshod in our communities unchecked and unchallenged, evil powers and people will be emboldened and continue to win the day.  But sometimes if just one person steps up, God will step up with them and their faith, courage and work will begin to turn the tide in the direction of righteousness and good.  Just one person can make a big difference if they take a stand with God.  Finally, notice that not only did the Philistine enemy flee, but the Israelite army is emboldened and takes off after them in hot pursuit! The same army that was paralyzed by fear is now chasing the enemy they were once afraid of. This happened because one person, David, decided to take a stand.  Has it ever occurred to you that God is waiting on you to take a stand?  Perhaps that nagging impulse in you to do something is a divine impulse from God. Maybe God knows something that you do not realize yet – if you will do it, so will others.  God is counting on you because he knows that others will be inspired by your faith, courage and example.  God just needs someone to step up and prove that a difference can be made.  Often faith begets faith and courage inspires courage. David was the answer to the problem he saw.  So are you. And when you stand, you might start a revolution.

  • Day 28- More Faith, More Jealousy

 7 “As they danced, they sang:  ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ 8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him…  9And from that time on Saul kept. A jealous eye on David.” 1 Samuel 18:7-9

Yesterday we saw how your great faith can inspire others. Today we see how your great faith may upset others.  David has defeated Goliath by knocking him down with his sling and a stone and by cutting off his head. Once the armies of the Lord saw David’s victory, they summoned the faith to pursue the fleeing armies of the Philistines, defeating them and taking the spoils of war.  Apparently, the news of David’s great exploit reached the hometown of the soldiers because the text records the reaction of the women upon the soldiers return.  They were so elated by the victory that they sang a song.  But in the song, they gave David greater acclaim than King Saul.  And rightly so, for David exercised great faith in order to secure victory for his people.  Greater faith than even the King!  And instead of being grateful that the nation was delivered, Saul becomes jealous of David.  David’s faith got him the victory and the victory got him attention.  His success garnered him great praise. But with great praise came great jealously.  This should serve as a reminder to us that when you walk in great faith and God responds with great victory everyone will not react the same. Some may rejoice, while others will become jealous.  Part of Saul’s jealously was his insecurity.  He did not feel secure in his position as king.  So, David getting so much attention was a threat.  Saul was afraid that people might begin to admire David more than him. But David was not after anything except victory for his people and glory for God.  But Saul could not handle it.  Do not be surprised when you walk in faith and God gives you some success, that while some will applaud what God has done, others will be jealous. And the jealousy may come from places and people that you least expect!  David was probably thinking that Saul would be proud of him for winning the victory for the nation.  But it’s difficult for insecure people to help celebrate what God is doing in your life.  Their insecurity may cause them to hate you, speak ill or even plot against you.  But remember, you are not the problem, they are.  And the reason why they hate you is because they want to be you!  Do not let the jealousy of insecure people cause you to make yourself small and your walk mediocre just to make them comfortable.  You keep walking by faith! Let God handle those who are jealous and insecure.

  • Day 29- Even Now…

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  John 11:21-23

This text is extracted from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It began with Jesus getting news that Lazarus was sick. Since he was a close friend of Jesus, someone whom Jesus loved, the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Martha, sent word to him confident that he would drop everything and come immediately. They had witnessed Jesus’ power to heal the sick, so they were certain that Jesus would come and heal their brother. But Jesus purposely waits until Lazarus dies. Then he comes to Bethany where the sisters lived. When he gets close to the city, the word gets back to Martha and Mary that Jesus is close.  Martha quickly responds first and goes to meet Jesus.  When she meets him, she falls at his feet and in a voice that must have been heavy with grief, she reports that Lazarus is dead and adds that if Jesus had been there Lazarus  would not have died. Her words disclose great disappointment but simultaneously reveals a profound confidence in his ability to heal the sick by claiming that if Jesus had come in time Lazarus would have been spared.  That alone is impressive.  But it’s too late now. Lazarus is dead. Yet, though she is struggling with the loss of her brother, she mentions a phrase that reveals something about her faith in Jesus.  For all practical purposes it is too late for Jesus to do anything for Lazarus.  He was not only dead but had been dead for four days.  Jewish belief maintained that when someone dies their spirit hovers around the body for three days.  During that time, it is possible for the spirit to return to the body.  But on the fourth day it would be too late.  Decomposition would have set in, so recovery would not be possible. It was day four when Jesus arrived. Still, once Martha expresses her grief-filled disappointment, she says this: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  When she first spoke to Him, she spoke as if there was not hope, “If you had been here…” But in the midst of what should have been a hopeless situation, she added, “But even now….” That is what gave Jesus’ power access to her situation.  She had an ‘even now’ kind of faith. Something in her just would not let her close the door completely.  Something about Jesus helped her leave room for a miracle.  She had been around him enough to know that just when you think you have got Jesus figured out, he steps in and does something that defies expectation.  The situation looked bleak.  But she had enough faith to hope beyond the impossible and in her conversation with Jesus, she squeezed out these words,  ‘But even now.’  I believe that miracles can happen in our lives if we would leave some room for God to operate.  And it does not take God much room to work and much material to work with.  If he can step from ‘nowhere’ out on to ‘nothing’ and speak worlds into existence, all God needs is a little room and a little bit of our faith. The next time you are tempted to give up completely on what looks like a hopeless situation, I dare you to leave a little room for God by saying, “Lord, I know this looks impossible; I know it looks like it’s over; I know it looks like there is not hope – ‘but even now’ I choose to believe that you can make a way out of no way. Imagine what would happen if we made confessions to God like, “Lord, I know I’m in this bankruptcy, but I believe that ‘even now’ you can help me start again.  Or say “God, I know this marriage is on the rocks, but I believe that even now you’re able to restore it.”  Or insist, “God I realize that I have made some serious mistakes and to others it looks like you can never forgive and use someone like me, but ‘even now’ I believe my life is worth something to you and that you want to use me for your glory!” Whatever tragedy has happened in your life, do not let the situation get the best of you, convincing you that there is no future beyond it.  Confess to the Lord, “Even now Lord I believe that my future still has great possibilities! Martha believed it and Jesus ended up using her “But even so” faith and ended up raising her dead brother Lazarus from the dead!

  • Day 30- “Do You Believe This?”

 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘ I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? Yes Lord, ‘ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John 11:23-27

Today we continue the biblical witness of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus is in conversation with Martha, one of Lazarus’ sisters.  So far, we have noted that she has expressed to Jesus her grief regarding Lazarus’ death and her disappointment that Jesus was not there in time to heal him before he died. In fact, she says to him,Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  But then, in the midst of a hopeless situation, she dared to believe that a miracle is still possible by confessing, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Her words reveal her faith.  It is but a small flicker of faith, but it is faith, nonetheless. And Jesus seeks to fan the flames of her flickering faith with these words, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha agrees by responding, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus and Martha are on the same page as it relates to the reality of the resurrection.  Martha has faith in the reality that one day those who belong to God will ultimately be raised to new life.  And she believes that she and Lazarus will be in that number and she will ultimately see him again.  But Martha and Jesus are not on the same page regarding the timing and the source of Lazarus’ resurrection.  Martha confessed that Lazarus will be raised in the last day, but when Jesus reveals to her that she is looking at what she is talking about! He declares, “I am the resurrection and the life….”   What a jaw dropping claim! But he follows with even more!  “He who believes in me will live, though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus discloses a profound truth about his identity.  In him is life everlasting.  In him there is life eternal.  In him there is a life that is stronger than death.  As long as you have Jesus, you do not have to be raised from the dead to have new life because in Jesus, you already have new life!  It is a life that even death cannot take away! When you surrender your life to Jesus in faith, for you, death does not have the last word. Life has the last word!  What a life changing revelation!  You can have new life, eternal life, abundant life, in Jesus Christ!  After Jesus discloses this profound revelation, he follows up with a very important question, “Do you believe this?”  This is key.  The revelation that there is life in Jesus is real.  It is a profound truth.  And because of that truth about Jesus, he can change your life forever!  But the question is “Do you believe this?” That question is significant because in order to be the beneficiary of this new life in Jesus, you have to have faith.  Faith in Jesus is the key that accesses eternal life! What about you?  Do you believe?  Do you have faith in Jesus?  Do you believe that Jesus is the source of life itself?  Do you  believe that in him there is eternal, everlasting, unconquerable, abundant life?  Are you willing to bet your life on it?  If you are, then by faith, eternal life can be yours in him.  Martha not only says that she believes that he is the resurrection, but she believes it because of who he is. She confesses, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”  Jesus is the one sent by God. In a profound act of love, God came in Christ and died for us that we might live for God.  And when we, by faith, accept him as Savior and Leader, we can live with the blessed assurance that what Jesus said is true: “He who believes in me will live, though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

  • Day 31- “Move the Stone!”

38 “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.  ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘ by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ 40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone.” John 11:38-41

Today we continue our look at the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus has been brought to the tomb of Lazarus.  He is accompanied by a crowd, including the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  Jesus has been deeply moved by the loss of Lazarus, especially the grief of his two sisters.  He stands at the tomb. He is prepared to do something incredible. He is about to prove that life is stronger than death.  He is about to raise a four day dead Lazarus from the dead. But before he does so, consider what does. He instructs those who are present, “Take away the stone.”  Now it is astounding that he is about to give life to something that is dead.  But it is intriguing that he tells those standing by to move the stone from the mouth of the tomb.  If he has power to raise the dead, does he not have power to move a stone? What we can learn from this moment is that there are some miracles in our lives that do not happen without our participation. In order for some miracles to take place in our lives, we must recognize that we are in partnership with God. We are in a dust-divinity, creature-creator, collaborative effort.  There are some miracles in our lives that will never happen without our participation.  In fact, it is our participation that shows our faith.  Some things God will not do for you.  God is responsible for the impossible.  We are responsible for the possible.  And we show our faith that God will do God’s part by faithfully doing our part.  Jesus is prepared to raise Lazarus – that’s the impossible.  But Jesus instructs them to move the stone – that’s the possible.  If you move the stone God will give new life to what has died.  He will give new life to dead hopes, dreams, vision, opportunities, relationships, potential and possibilities in our lives.  But sometimes God cannot do God’s part because we have this great big stone in the way.  Perhaps it’s a stone of doubt, pain, grief, regret, guilt, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, disobedience, shame, or fear.  I suppose it could be any number of things.  But they stand between you and new life, new beginnings and new possibilities.  They are an impediment that blocks your purpose.  God is giving you permission to move it.  And if he gives you permission, then you already have the power.  You can move it.  It’s heavy. And you may need some help from others you trust.  And it may take a little time.  But you can move it because Jesus says so.  Martha protests moving the stone because she is embarrassed by the stench of Lazarus body being dead for four days. But Jesus is not deterred.  He is not afraid or ashamed of what you are fearful or ashamed of.  Jesus can handle what’s behind the stone. Your family or friends may not be able to handle it. But that’s alright.  Jesus can.  So, move the stone, step back and watch Jesus do the incredible.  God has an extraordinary future in store for you. Things may be tough and may even seem dead and therefore impossible to change. But what is impossible with people is possible with God. Jesus is telling you to move the stone and watch him work…

  • Day 32- “If you believe, you will see…”

38 “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.  ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘ by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ 40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone.” John 11:38-41

In yesterdays’ devotional we were standing at the graveside of Lazarus.  His sisters, Martha and Mary are there and so is Jesus. A crowd is there as well.  Little did they know that they were about to witness a miracle.  Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus had instructed those standing by to move the stone from the mouth of the tomb.  We saw yesterday how important it is for us to work together with the master in order to accomplish great things.  One of the things we must do is our part – move the stone.  Initially when Jesus told them to move the stone Martha objected because to do so would be to expose everyone to the embarrassing stench of Lazarus’ decomposing body.  But Jesus was not intimidated but consequences of a life that was falling apart.  With their cooperation, Jesus would reveal that he had power to put Lazarus’ decomposed life back together again.  What captures our attention today is Jesus’ response to Martha’s objection.  When Martha says “…by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days”, she was not only sharing her concern for the embarrassing odor, but she was also saying that it was too late.  Lazarus is too far gone.  Surely there is nothing you can do now.  In other words, Martha was saying, ‘I don’t see how you can remedy this situation.  I don’t see how anything good can come out of this. I don’t see how you can pull off this miracle.”  Consider Jesus’ response, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you shall see….” This is a crucial and critical phrase.  Jesus reveals a signal feature in our walk with God.  Perhaps you have heard the expression “Seeing is believing.”  Well, when you walk by faith with the Lord, often the opposite is the case.  When you live a life of faith, it’s not “if you see you can believe” but rather “if you believe then you will see.”  Jesus had already assured Martha that she would see her brother Lazarus again.  But his words apparently seemed too good to be true.  So, when the time came for them to move the stone it just did not make sense.  But Jesus was reminding Martha of what he had promised “Your brother will rise again.” (v. 23).  But she just could not see it.  So, Jesus revealed that she would see it if she would just believe it.   It takes faith to step into miracles.  It takes faith in what the Lord has promised to participate in the extraordinary.  It takes faith to do the work necessary to change lives, communities or circumstances that seem like they are too far gone.  When lives are broken, communities have fallen apart through neglect and circumstances seem hopeless, if you are going to change things you cannot go by what you see, you have to go by what Jesus said.  And if you can believe that change can come – that communities can be transformed; broken lives can be healed, and hopeless circumstances can be radically altered for the good – then you will see the glory of God!  It may not happen overnight, and you will have to keep on moving stones, but if you believe, you will see the glory of God.

  • Day 33- Our prayer-hearing God!

“ So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  42 I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here; that they may believe that you sent me.  43 When he had said this , Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out…”  John 11:41-43

Jesus, Martha, Mary and a crowd are at the tomb of Lazarus.  Lazarus has been dead for four days.  Even though it is believed that it is too late to save him, Jesus instructs them to move the stone and trust that he will do what he said he would do.  He had said to Martha that Lazarus would rise again, meaning that he would raise him from the dead.  Jesus intends to keep His word.  So, he tells them to move the stone. With all of the faith they can muster, they do what he says, even though their faith is struggling.  But Jesus can work with struggling faith.  Imagination suggests that once they rolled away the stone, they stepped back to see what Jesus would do next.  What captures our attention in this devotional are the words that Jesus utters before he calls Lazarus from the grave.  It is a prayer to the Father that is both personal and public.  In a real sense, it contains a powerful lesson on prayer that can encourage our faith.  Jesus prays in public for the benefit of those who are present with him.  He prayers, “Father, I thank you the you have heard me. I know that you always hear me…”.  What a prayer.  Jesus prays to the Father referencing a prayer he has already prayed – “I thank you that you have heard me.”  Jesus apparently had prayed to the Father before he came to the grave site, indeed before he even came to Bethany. Presumably he prayed that God would give him power to raise Lazarus from the grave.  So, when he prays at the gravesite, he is not asking God to do anything, rather, he is thanking God for what he believes God is going to do!  That is powerful faith.  He prayed and now by faith, he behaves as if the answer is done. I wonder what would happen if we prayed with that kind of faith!  What I am attracted to is Jesus’ certainty that his prayer had been heard.  In fact, Jesus does not simply thank God that God had heard his prayer, but he thanked God that he always hearshis prayers! That ought to serve as a bit of encouragement when it comes to our prayer life.  God always leans an attentive ear to our prayers.  You are never in a situation when God turns a deaf ear to his children.  Psalm 94:9 declares “Does he who implanted the ear to hear?”  Oh yes, God hears.  God hears because God cares for his children and is forever attentive to our needs.  Trust that with your whole heart.  When you pray you are heard, God always hears you.  Jesus lived so close to God in prayer to him was as fundamental as breathing.  Let us follow his example and live a life of persistent prayer as well!  And when we do, we can live with the faith and assurance that God hears our prayers.  Jesus demonstrates we should pray in faith, because the God we serve sees us, hears us and cares about us!  Our God is anxious to respond to our prayers. And it is answered prayers in the past that strengthens our faith for the prayers we pray in the future.  Be encouraged when you pray.  We serve a prayer-hearing God!

  • Day 34- Faith that separates!

39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.  Mark 5:39-42

This passage comes from one of my favorite texts in the bible.  A man named Jairus comes to Jesus on behalf of his 12 year old daughter who is seriously ill.  He asked Jesus to come to his house and heal her before it’s too late.  Jesus agrees and starts the journey. On the way home Jairus gets news that his daughter has died.  But Jesus encourages him to keep on believing. When they get to the house, Jesus leaves the crowd outside and only takes his prayer partners Peter, James and John in the house with him. Once inside they immediately run into the mourners who are wailing aloud because of the death of the child.  But when Jesus looks at the same girl he does not come to the same conclusion.  He does not say that she is dead, he says she is just asleep.  That’s the way faith talks.  Some people will look at a negative situation and quickly conclude that it is utterly hopeless.  But a person with faith can often look at the same situation and not come to the same conclusion.  Faith gives one the capacity to see beyond the sight of eye.  Faith sees past what is present and sees what is potential. Faith looks beyond what seems hopeless and dares to see the miraculous! Once Jesus says that the dead girl is only asleep, the text reports that the same people who were once crying start laughing!  Their laughter is not inspired by joy, but by incredulous unbelief.  Simply put, their lack of faith makes them laugh at Jesus!  Those with faith often seem and sound foolish to those who have no faith. Folks without faith may even laugh when you share plans for your life, plans that faith in God has shown you will come to pass.  They may laugh at first, but when God pulls off what he promised, you will have the last laugh!  Once they begin to laugh Jesus to scorn, Jesus does something that initially blows my mind.  The bible reports, “After he put them out…”. That was Jesus’ response to their active skepticism and scorn.  Jesus put them out!  Then, after he put them out, he raised the little girl from the dead. Notice the sequence of events.  First, he put them out, then he raised the girl from the dead.  There is a lesson in this.  Jesus had to put them out first, because he was having to confront a mean, stubborn challenge in the house. He had to raise a dead girl from the dead!  It would take the right atmosphere to pull that off.  It would take an atmosphere saturated with faith. Those who were laughing were compromising the atmosphere, so Jesus had to put them out.  He had to separate them from the situation in order to produce a miracle. There are some things that cannot be accomplished in our lives, some miracles that God cannot perform until we remove from our lives whatever or whomever is undermining our faith.  There are some people that we need to remove from our lives that are undermining our faith development.  There are some attitudes, habits, dispositions, or places that are short-circuiting the power of faith that God wants to use in your life to unleash some extraordinary things.  Are you willing to do what Jesus did?  Are you willing to put them out? It may be difficult.  You may be misunderstood and even misrepresented.  Folks might talk about you and criticize you. You may even lose some friends.  Still, you may be one decision away from seeing God do something unbelievable in your life! So, go ahead.  Take the risk. Get rid of what’s hindering you and watch God begin to do a miracle!  I dare you…

  • Day 35- Building by Faith!

7 By Faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  Hebrews 11:7

In Hebrews 11 Noah is listed among the hall of fame of faith.  His whole story is detailed in Genesis 6-8.  But in our text, the writer stresses that Noah built an ark and he did by faith.  When you think about it, it really took faith for Noah to build it.  Noah was a man who faithfully lived dedicated to God during a time when the world was morally spiraling out of control. The bible describes those times by saying that every inclination of the thoughts of the hearts of people “was only evil all the time.” (6:5). But Noah trusted God so much that he was willing to live for God even though doing so was not popular.  As a consequence, Noah’s faithfulness made him stick out like a sore thumb.  Sometimes a believer’s greatest witness to the world is not so much what we say but how we choose to live.  When we serve God in faith, the life we choose will not be popular.  Our lifestyle will, in many ways, be very different than the way the world chooses to live.  But if we love God and trust God, then we will trust the life he calls us to live, believing that God has our best interests at heart.  One day the word of the Lord came to Noah and told him to build an ark.  Noah’s faith in God resulted in his obedience to God and Noah did all that the Lord had told him to do.  It’s worth mentioning that if we really have faith in God’s word, then we demonstrate our faith by our actions.  “Faith without works is dead.” (James 14:26) Once God gave Noah the specific dimensions for the ark, Noah began to build.  Noah’s obedience to God resulted in ridicule from people.  After all, what Noah was doing did not make any sense.  In fact, it seemed downright ridiculous! There are going to be times when our obedience to God will seem foolish to those who do not know the God you know.  But faith in God strengthens you to keep on building the life God has called you to build, just like Noah’s faith in God caused him to keep on building the ark.  For over 100 years Noah built that ark. He had to endure the laughter and jeers of faithless people for a long time.  But he kept on building.  And though it had to be difficult to build in preparation for “things not yet seen”, it was worth it.  Eventually the rains came, and the floods came.  And when they came, Noah was prepared.  What he was building all that time saved him.  In fact, it saved not only him, but also his entire family.  Noah and his family were able to survive what others did not survive.  All because the life God showed him, he built by faith!  All of us are building a life of one kind or another.  Noah teaches us, among other things, that building a life by faith in God’s word prepares us for things yet unseen.  But what we cannot see, God can!  And if we trust God enough to follow God’s word, the life we build will help us survive what others are not prepared for.  In fact, it may not just save us, but it may save our own families, and even those with faith enough to believe God’s word. Do you trust God enough to build the life God’s word calls us to build, even when it looks foolish to others?  Not only will that life get you through the many floods in this life, but when you build your life in Christ, it will carry you through the flood waters of death to eternal life, from earth to heaven, from this world to the world to come!

  • Day 36- Strength Through Subtraction.

The Lord said to Gideon “You have too many men…” Judges 7:2a

The bible is filled with instances where God calls us to action, but God’s action plan defies all reason. God has recruited a man named Gideon to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of the Midianites. Like many of the leaders called of God, Gideon suffered from a severe case of poor self-esteem and was initially very hesitant to respond to God’s call on his life. He confessed in 6:15, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  But Gideon had to learn that God does not call the equipped, God equips the called.  Even more importantly, God assured him that God would be with him.  Now Gideon is actually preparing for battle.  He has amassed a group of 32,000 men to fight and even though they are outnumbered, he is confident that with the right strategy they could be victorious.  But the Lord interrupts his plans with a shocking word.  God tells Gideon that he has too many men!  And he does not tell him that once, but twice.  God leads Gideon to engage in severe troop reduction before Gideon goes to battle and the numbers drop from 32,000 soldiers to a mere 300!  Then God tells Gideon that he is ready for battle. This makes no sense whatsoever.  Everyone knows the more troops you have, the greater your chances of victory.   But God is teaching Gideon to walk by faith.  And in doing so, he reveals a powerful truth.  Sometimes less is better.  Oddly enough, sometimes God has to subtract in order to add.  God gives us strength through subtraction.  Gideon discovered that what is most important is not how many troops you have, but what kind of troops.  It’s not always quantity that matters but quality that matters the most.  Gideon found out that most of his men were either too afraid, or too inclined to follow their passions than their purpose, to qualify as good soldiers.  So, God, through a series of tests, revealed that to Gideon. Those two groups were eliminated, and Gideon is left with just a mere 300 soldiers. Still, while the number of troops was smaller, they were men of the highest order.  God was about to show Gideon that he could do more with a few who are dedicated, than he could with many who are not. Following the Lord by faith is necessary because sometimes, in order for you to get victory, God will have to take from your life in order to add to your life.  God may call on you to make some decision that look like things are getting worse, when in fact they are getting better.  It is really preparation for victory and next level living.  So, losing some friends may be difficult, but it may be preparation for the next level.  Losing a job may be scary, but it may be just what you need to start that business you have always wanted to start.  Being removed from one thing, can set you up to finally embrace the new future that has always been your destiny.  Although God may not have caused it, God can even use the loss of loved ones you have always depended on, to help you learn to stand on your own, so that you can develop the kind of faith, courage and skills needed to become all that God has called you to become.  Sometimes it’s the loss of comfort, convenience and predictability in your life, that moves you to finally take the risk needed to pursue your divine destiny.  Sometimes God has to use subtraction to move you out of your comfort zone, so that you can accomplish greater things.  Gideon ended up with only 300 soldiers, but against overwhelming odds, he won the victory.  Loss may be scary and even painful at times.  But do not despair.  Gideon will tell you that God gives strength through subtraction.

  • Day 37- Faith Before the Fight!

“Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites.  No one went out and not one came in.  Then The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” Joshua 6:1-2

The devotional text for today introduces Israel and their preparation to take the city of Jericho.  Taking the city of Jericho would be the first military campaign Israel would engage in, in order to claim the land of promise.  But it is a city that is “tightly shut up”, meaning that it is a city that is protected by high, intimidating, impenetrable walls. It is clear that it will be extremely difficult to take the city.  To many of the Israelites, taking Jericho may have even seemed impossible.  Before they make a move, Joshua is wise enough to consult with God about how to proceed. I will begin to deal with the details of the plan that God gave Joshua tomorrow.  But today I want to focus on one thing. Notice the first thing that God tells Joshua in preparation to take Jericho: “I have delivered Jericho into your hands…” God did not say I will deliver Jericho.  God said I have delivered Jericho! This is important if we are to learn to walk by faith in claiming the promises of God. In order to prepare Joshua and the people to win the victory God does not start by sharing a plan but by influencing a mindset. God wants them to go into the fight knowing that the victory was already theirs.  God had already given them the city, all they had to do was claim what God had promised!  If they believed it was already theirs by divine decree and God’s guarantee, then they would bring a victorious mindset to the battle.  You fight differently when you are convinced that the victory is a sure thing. God did not share God’s plan until God communicated that the victory was already theirs. Why? Well, what good is a plan if you do not believe you can or will win!  In a real sense, the victory was won in their heads and hearts before it was won on the field. This is the power of faith!  When God makes a promise, God wants us to proceed as if it is as good as ours.  We still have to fight.  We still have to plan, execute and persevere. But we should go into the fight with a faith that behaves as if it is already won!  It’s hard to defeat someone who is absolutely certain that they will win.  The bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. God’s word is powerful.  But the key to tapping into the power of God’s word is to walk in it by faith!  If God said it, then it is as good as done.  We have to have faith enough to walk it out, believing that we have the victory.  When you believe the victory is already yours, then you do not fight for victory, you fight from a position of victory!  What has God called you to walk in?  What promise is God calling you to fulfill?  What is God challenging you to do?  Whatever it is I urge you to walk in it with faith.  The challenges that lay before you may be as high and intimidating as the walls of Jericho.  But stand on the promises of God and claim the victory that is already yours. It’s not just faith in the fight that gives the victory, its faith before the fight!

  • Day 38- A Strange Strategy!

“When the trumpets sounded the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so, everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” Joshua 6:20

In last week’s devotion we saw how, in preparation for conquering the promised land, God gives Joshua a Word to encourage their faith.  God says, “I have given you the promised land.”  God speaks in the present tenseI have – and not the future tenseI will.  In other words, God speaks as if it’s a sure then, a done deal. God does this to prepare their faith. God wants them to go into the fight knowing that the battle is already won! Still, even though God has promised them that the battle is already won, it’s a battle they still have to fight. So, in addition to a Word, God gives them a plan.  But it is an odd military plan that makes no sense.  Remember that Jericho is protected by high impenetrable walls, yet God does not give them any standard military approach.  God does not tell them to cut down a huge tree and use it as a battering ram to knock in the door to enter in.  God does not instruct them to take arrows, dip them in pitch, light them on fire and shoot them over the wall to set the city aflame to force the inhabitants out. God does not command them to make tall ladders, lean them against the heightening walls and scale them to enter the city.  Instead, God says that they should walk in formation around the walls of the city once, each day for six days.  Seven priests with trumpets should lead the procession followed by other priests carrying the ark of the covenant.  As they walked around the walls, the priests in front of the ark were to blow the trumpets, but the people were not to say a word.  Then on the seventh day, they were to walk around the walls seven times and on the seventh time, the priests would blow the trumpets, the people were to shout a shout of victory, and the walls will come tumbling down.  The plan made no sense at all. But Joshua and the people followed the plan.  Joshua and the Israelites teach us that if we are going to follow God in faith, there will be times when we will be given a plan from the Lord that will not make any sense.  In fact, it may even make you look foolish. Imagine how Israel looked to the inhabitants of Jericho each day as they executed their divine plan. The first couple of days the people on top of the wall must have been nervous, preparing for attack.  But by the fifth or sixth day they were probably looking down and laughing at the Israelites.  But God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts not our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9.  But if we trust God and follow the plan, victory will be ours!  The Israelites did what God commanded.  And on the seventh day, on the seventh time around, they shouted the shout of victory, and in response to their faith, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down!  What God commands may seem strange, but follow the plan and God will give you the victory!

  • Day 39- A Strange Strategy! (Part 2)

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud should, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.” Joshua 6:20

Today we continue our look at Israel and their victory over the city of Jericho.  What is immediately obvious about Israel’s battle against Jericho is that the plan God gave them was strange and unconventional, to say the least.  To simply march around the fortifying walls of a city once a day for six days, blowing trumpets, and then on the seventh day, on the seventh time around, shout a shout of victory and expect the walls to fall miraculously is strange.  Why would God prescribe a plan that was so unconventional and seemed to make no sense at all?  One reason why God gives us strange strategies for winning is so that when the victory comes, we will not be able to take credit.  The victory will come in such a way that we will know that it was nobody but the Lord! It is a reminder that in order for us to live a life of abundance and victory we cannot do it without the participation of the divine.  The truth is, Israel would never have been able to defeat Jericho without the help of God.  And there are some things in our lives that we can never accomplish without divine participation.  This is important because we have a tendency to think that we do not need God.  That we can do it on our own.  Or, we have a tendency to achieve greatly and think that it was only us – our ingenuity, creativity, determination, socio-economic network, expertise, education and hard work alone that brought about the positive outcomes in our lives.  But the truth is, you cannot explain the great things that happen in our lives without including God.  And sometimes God gives us a plan that makes no sense so that we can be reminded to at least give credit where credit is due!  Notice also that the strategy may have been strange, but the ark of the covenant was with them all along. The ark symbolized the presence of God.  This is a reminder to us that through it all, whether it makes sense or not, and even though we may look foolish to others around us, we are never alone. The Lord is with us.  God is not an absentee landlord.  God has not left us in the world to fend for ourselves.  God has not wound up the world like a watch and flung it into the cosmos to tick itself away in isolation.  God has promised us God’s constant cosmic companionship!  No matter how things look and no matter how we may feel at any given time, God is still with us.  God will never leave us nor forsake us.  Finally, notice that the strange strategy required that Israel shout a shout of victory before the victory was actually won! The walls were still up when they shouted victory.  Not until they shouted did the walls fall. There’s a lesson about faith in this.  They were instructed to behave as if victory was won before it had actually been won.  If you really believe that God will do what God promised, then why are you waiting to shout and celebrate?  The song writer was right:  “Don’t wait ’til the battle is over to shout…you know in the end you’re gonna win.” You’re already a winner.  Shout now!

  • Day 40- “I have faith in God.”

22 “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.  23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.  You must stand before trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  25 So keep your courage, men for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Acts 27:22-25

Paul is in a ship on his way to Rome.  He has always wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel. But he never imagined that he would end going to Rome as a prisoner.  But God moves in mysterious ways! While on the ship they end up in the midst of a terrible, life threatening storm.  Paul had previously tried to warn those in charge not to set sail, but instead, to stay in a place called Fair Havens.  But the captain of the ship and the Centurion in charge of Paul decided to ignore his advice and set sail anyway.  The storm was so tumultuous that they “…finally gave up hope of being saved.” (27:20). It was then that Paul the prisoner, became Paul the captain.  In the midst of their despair Paul stands to share a word of encouragement in the midst of the storm. Fear paralyzed the hearts and minds of the passengers of the ship because there was no sign that they would make it at all.  But when Paul speaks, Paul tells them not to be afraid. While they were panicking apparently Paul had been praying.  And he had a visitation from an angelic emissary who brought a word from God.  God assures Paul that he must stand trial before Caesar. (v. 24). This encouraged Paul because it was God’s way of saying to Paul that while he may be in the midst of a storm, God did not intend for him to die in that storm.  God made a promise to Paul that he would have to opportunity to stand before Caesar and share the gospel.  So regardless of the way things looked, God was telling Paul that it would happen as God had promised!  So, Paul’s response in the stormy situation was “I have faith in God”.  One thing that can give you courage to get through a storm or two is to believe that God has not brought you there to leave you.  If God has made you a promise by his Word or by God’s Spirit, then you can count on the fact that God will make good on his promise.  For the moment, things may not look like what God promised.  But ignore what you see and trust what God said.  Have faith in God!  Often when I fly to various churches across the country to preach, when I arrive and someone picks me up at the airport, they almost inevitably ask “How was your flight?”  My answer is always the same, “It landed!”  I’m not trying to be funny, I’m trying to make a point.  What’s most important to me about a flight is that it gets to its intended destination.  What happens in the air between the moment I take off and the moment I land is ultimately immaterial.  I may experience turbulence and the flight may be scary at any given time.  But as long as I land, that is what matters most.  There are times in our lives when we are on our way to where God has destined and designed for us to end up.  If you’re not careful, you will spend so much time focusing on the turbulence you experience on the way, that you let it make you forget about where God intends for you to end up. The flight may be tough, it might even be scary at times, but if God has determined that you are supposed to end up somewhere, take courage in the midst of the trouble.  Regardless of how things feel or seem, do not trust either.  Instead, say like Paul, in the midst of it all, “I have faith in God.”

  • Day 41- “I have faith in God.” ( Part 2)

22 “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.  23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.  You must stand before trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  25 So keep your courage, men for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Acts 27:22-25

Yesterday we saw how Paul is confident that he will make it to his destination even though the ship is in the midst of a storm.  He is confident because God, by way of an angel, has promised that he must stand before Caesar.  For Paul that meant that even though the storm was dangerous, it was not his destiny.  Rome was his destiny. So, he was able to have courage in the midst of the storm because he had faith in what God said.  But I think there is something else worth noticing. It has to do what is included in what the angel said to Paul.  The angel not only tells Paul that he would make it through the storm to Rome, but the angel also said,  God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you…” The fact that the message to Paul was that God has graciously given you the lives… sounds like Paul was praying for those who were on the ship with him. Paul prayed for the others even though many of the others were responsible for Paul being in the storm! Remember, Paul told them not to sail.  But they ignored Paul’s advice. So, Paul ends up in a storm because of someone else’s decision.  Sometimes we end up in trouble not because of decisions we make, but because we are connected to people who make bad decisions. That is because of what M. L. King refers to as the interrelated structure of reality.  We are all caught together, King declares, in an inescapable mutuality and tied in a single garment of destiny.  There is a sense in which what affects others affects you and vis versa.  So, we must be prepared to pray for the ship and not just ourselves.  Paul prayed for himself and he prayed for the ship! Jesse Jackson once said about America that we have all arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now! If you are on the ship, it makes sense to pray for yourself and the ship!  Paul prayed in faith and because he did, others would be spared. One of the reasons why it is important that you operate in faith is because the lives of others may depend upon your faith. The truth is, many of the blessings we received while growing up came to us, not so much because we had faith, but because we were in a household with parents with faith, or connected to a church where leadership operated in faith, or were in a relationship where your spouse had faith.  It was not our faith that blessed us, it was the faith of others we were connected to. And just like we were often the beneficiaries of blessings because of other people’s faith, someone’s blessing is waiting on you to operate in faith! The destiny of others might be tied up with yours.  So have faith in God, not only for your sake, but also for the sake of others!

  • Day 42- Through the Eyes of Faith! (Part 1)

15 “When the servant of the man of God got up and went on early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city, “Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?” The servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid, “ the prophet answered.  “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  17 And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15

Some have suggested that faith is blind.  I disagree.  Faith is not blind. Faith is just a different kind of sight.  Faith is not physical eyesight it’s a kind of spiritual insight. And prayers have a way of helping us see by faith what we cannot see without faith. In the text chosen for our devotional the prophet Elisha has been found by his enemies.  The King of Syria has sent an army to go to the city of Dothan to capture him. They traveled to the city that night and surrounded it.  Early the next morning when the servant of Elisha got up, he noticed the city was surrounded by the army of the enemy. He went to the Elisha in fear and panic asking “…what shall we do?”  But Elisha was not the least bit afraid.  He was not afraid because by faith he could see what his servant could not see. Elisha sought to calm the fears of his servant by telling him what gave him such calm in the midst of an apparent crisis.  Elisha said to his servant not to be afraid because, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Notice that Elisha did not seek to calm his servant’s fears by claiming that the enemy was not there.  Both Elisha and his servant could clearly see the presence of the enemy.  They saw and admitted that there were forces arrayed against them.  Elisha’s source of confidence was not the denial of the presence of the enemy, but rather the reality of the presence of the army of the Lord.  The bible never insists that we find comfort, confidence and peace by denying what is real.  We do not have to deny the reality of sickness, obstacles, challenges, racism, sexism and a host of other challenges that can be intimidating and threatening. We do not have to deny that problems are not real in order to overcome our fears.  Faith is not about denial of weapons formed against. Faith is realizing that even though there are weapons “No weapons formed against you shall prosper.” Isaiah 54:17  Faith is realizing that no matter what you have to face, if God be for you , God is more than the world against you.  God is able to supply whatever you need to face, endure and overcome life’s very real challenges.  God is always greater than any challenge you have to face. Faith always believes that no matter what comes your way, God is greater!  Faith is convinced that what God can provide is greater than the negative, intimidating forces that may be against you.  You cannot see it if you do not believe it. But if you walk by faith, trusting in God, God will show you that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

  • Day 43- Through the Eyes of Faith! (Part 2)

15 “When the servant of the man of God got up and went on early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city, “Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?” The servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid, “ the prophet answered.  “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  17 And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full off rose and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15

Today we return to the story of Elisha, his servant and the enemy.  When last we left Elisha and his servant, Elisha had to calm the fears of his servant. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the enemy and though the servant panicked, Elisha shared with him that there was no need to panic in fear because through eyes of faith, Elisha could see that “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  But up until this point the servant still has not seen the army of God.  So far, he can only see the enemy.  He could not see those who were “for them” because he was too busy focusing on the enemy. In times of crisis be careful what you choose to focus on. We learned yesterday that we do not have to pretend that we do not see the enemy, but the key to facing the enemy, obstacle, problem, challenge, trouble, or test with courage, is not to focus on it but rather focus on God.  Whatever you focus on gets bigger.  It has a tendency to fill your entire view until you can see nothing but it.  So, if what you focus on gets bigger, then do not focus on the trouble, focus on the trouble shooter.  Do not focus on the problem, focus on the problem solver.  Do not focus on the fact that you cannot see a way, focus by faith on the God who can make a way out of no way.  Do not focus on what you do not have, but focus on what you do have, and on what you believe God can provide.  It’s all in what you choose to focus on. Sometimes we cannot see God because we are too busy focusing on the enemy.  The prophet Elisha was a man of great faith, so he was prone to see God in most every situation. But what is touching about this story is how Elisha treats his servant who cannot yet see.  He does not scold him for his blind spot.  Nor does he berate him because of the fear he has due to his blind spot.  Instead, he assures him that there are “more with us than there are with them.”  He uses the fact that he can see, to encourage his servant.  Those of us who have faith are not called upon to look down on and scold those who cannot see what we can see.  Use your faith advantage to speak peace and encouragement to others.  The insight that comes to you by virtue of your faith is not just for you.  It’s also for you to help encourage someone else who may be struggling with their faith when faced with hardship and hard times.  Be their eyes until they are mature enough where they too can see – see through bankruptcy, divorce, sickness, bereavement, unemployment, heartache or loss!  God gives you sight so that you can guide and encourage others until their faith grows and they too can see the presence and power of God in their situation!

  • Day 44- Through the Eyes of Faith! (Part 3)

15 “When the servant of the man of God got up and went on early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city, “Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?” The servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid, “ the prophet answered.  “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  17 And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15

Again, we return to the story of Elisha and his servant who are surrounded by enemy forces.  We saw yesterday that Elisha’s servant could not see the forces of good because he was too busy focusing on the forces of evil.  All he could see was the enemy.  But that’s the wrong focus!  Instead, focus on God and good.  We also recognized that Elisha is an example of how our faith is meant to help others. Elisha’s servant could not see the forces for good.  But Elijah could and used his faith to see for his servant until as such time the servant could see.  We have faith so that we can be a blessing to those who do not!  In fact, today I submit that in times of crisis those of us who have faith can be an example to others.  Our example can teach others the power of faith. Our behavior may even serve as a stimulus for someone else’s faith development.  You would probably be surprised as to how your faith can wet the appetite and increase someone else’s  hunger for greater faith. But the young servant of Elisha did eventually see the forces of good, the army of God surrounding the enemy.  Notice how his eyes were opened.  The bible says that Elisha prayed “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.”  And the Lord answered Elisha’s prayer!  It’s amazing how often we forget about the place and power of prayer in our lives and the lives of others.  How often do you pray that your spouse, children or coworkers develop stronger faith?  Too often we are so impatient with people who just cannot see it yet.  We fuss and complain because God has given us a vision, but people close to us just do not see it.  Well, perhaps their eyes could be opened if you would stop complaining and start praying! This is for every Pastor and ministry leader whom God has given a vision for ministry to, stop being so negative because the people you serve, and lead cannot see the vision – PRAY!  Parents, your children just do not seem to see that what you have shared with them about their lives is in their best interest.  You do not have to fret or give up on them.  Have you prayed yet?  And even if you  have prayed, if they still cannot see, keep on praying! Business owner, are the people employed by you having trouble seeing the business vision?  Pray and watch God open their eyes!  Elijah prayed and when his servant looked again, he saw the hillside filled with chariots of fire surrounding their enemy!  If only we would trust God and walk by faith.  God would show us that we have nothing to fear!  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

  • Day 45- A Word for Parents

By faith Moses parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Hebrews 11:23

Moses was born during a time when the king had decreed that all Hebrew boy babies be thrown into the Nile River.  It was a dangerous time for Hebrew boy babies.  It’s a dangerous time for babies even now, especially if your skin has been kissed by natures’ sun.  Black and brown babies are having to navigate dangerous times.  Many powers conspire against them like prison to pipeline policies designed to sentence boys to a permanent place in the prison industrial complex. They are in danger of becoming victims of police brutality.  They are at risk of falling through the cracks of a public school system that is not designed for them.  Black boys are born into an environment that threatens to take them out before they even really start living.  But there is at least one thing that can help black boys and that’s parents.  Moses’ parents were critical in both the birth and survival of their child Moses.  They had faith enough to believe that they could find a way to save him and that he would find a way as an adult to live on.  They also had faith in God!  Notice that their faith was informed by what they saw about Moses.  The text says that they saw that he was no ordinary child.  They saw something special in their child, something worth investing whatever was necessary to make sure he survived.  To them, he was no ordinary child.  Truth is, no child is ordinary. All children are born with a purpose, a divine purpose.  It is up to parents to see their worth even if no one else does!  Our children are depending on us to see them even when the surrounding society does not.  And we have to believe in them enough to give them a fighting chance.  That’s why Moses’ parents hid him.  There is time in the life of our children when we have to hide them from things designed to take them out.  We have to hide them until they are able to fight on their own.  We have to hide them when they first arrive because they need us to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.  They must be isolated from those things that you know they are not yet prepared to contend with.  Notice also that Moses’ parents were not afraid of the king’s edict.  The law said that he did not deserve to live.  But they were clear that the law was wrong.  They refused to accept what society had mandated for their child.  There are times in our society when laws are passed that we know are unjust and morally wrong when it comes to our children.  We have to be wise enough to know when policies and legislation are not in the interest of us or our children.  Then we must be bold enough, fearless enough and faith-filled enough to defy those laws for the sake of our children. Finally, I am certain that all the while, they were hiding Moses they were teaching Moses about who he was, who his people were and who his God is.  It would be that kind of teaching that would prepare him for the struggles he would encounter once he became an adult.  The proper education of our children is ultimately our responsibility.  And as much as the school is prepared to teach them, we must remember that there are some things that the school cannot or will not teach our children.  We have to be prepared to teach them ourselves.  That means that we have to keep growing in knowledge.  You cannot teach what you do not know.  Moses’ parents believed in him and his future even when the surrounding social environment did not believe that he was even worthy to survive.  Our children are depending on us to have faith enough to believe in them, to protect them and prepare them to survive and thrive in an often hostile environment.  And with faith in God, we can do it!

  • Day 46- Guilty as Charged!

“But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:12

The people of God have been taken into Babylonian captivity under King Nebuchadnezzar.  The king has employed the use of some of those who are being held captive to assist him in the running of government affairs.  They were so impressive that he has ordered that they to serve at some of the highest offices in his kingdom.  Their names are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These names are actually not their Hebrew names.  Their Hebrew names are Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael.  It was a common practice of countries who took other nations captives to change their names as a part of re-eduction process.  To rename someone is to redefine them, and to redefine them is to control them.  It was identical to the reason why Africans who were brought to America as slaves were forced to have their names changed.  It was a form of control designed to force conformity to the ways of the dominant culture.  These three, because of their giftedness, were placed in positions of authority, though they were among an oppressed people.   They served faithfully and with distinction until the king decided to pass legislation that required that all the nations, races and tongues who were in his kingdom bow down and worship a golden image he had made.  The three Hebrews were law abiding citizens until the laws of the land contradicted their faithfulness to God.  Their highest allegiance was to the God they served and not the king or country who employed them. According to the scriptures in Daniel 3, there were some who served as subordinates under these impressive Hebrews who proved to be their enemies.  They were jealous of the power, position and prestige that these three young men enjoyed because of the king’s favor.  So, when they learned of these men’s loyalty to their God above all else, they decided to use it against them.  They reported to king Nebuchadnezzar that these three would not bow down and worship the god created by the king.  Usually when we consider what our enemies say about us, we think of having to defend ourselves.  People who do not care for us are often in the habit of spreading lies and rumors to assault our character and cause others to question our integrity.   But what is interesting about the report of the enemies of these three Hebrew boys is that what their enemies said about them is the truth.  They did refuse to compromise their loyalty to God by deciding not to bow down to worship the golden image. Some things your enemies say about you should be true.  And even if they are saying them to create problems for you, if it’s the truth, you should simply say “Guilty as charged!”  People even use the truth to try to make fun of you – “There goes the church girl.”  When they say that, do not be upset.  Say “Guilty as charged!” When people report that there is no use doing business with you because you refuse to engage in unethical business practices say – “Guilty as charged!”  When folks spread the word about you and say, “Do not ask them out on a date because they will not sleep with you because they trying to live holy.”  Do not be offended.  Say, “Guilty as charged!” When they say, “If you hang around them long enough, no matter what you are talking about sooner or later they are going to end up talking about Jesus.”  Why would you be upset about that? Just say, “Guilty as charged!”  When people try to make you look bad, or deny you promotions on the job, or undermine your chances at potential relationships with people by reporting that you refuse to compromise, or lower your standards just to get a promotion or to be included in some click, club or group – agree with the report and say, “Guilty as charged!”  Your enemies will say all types of things about you.  But there ought to be some things they say about you that are true. And when they do tell the truth about you, own it and say, “Guilty as charged!”

  • Day 47- “…even if he does not…”

17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

Yesterday we looked at how the enemies of the Hebrews boys reported to the king of Babylon that the Hebrews were not following the king’s policy of bowing down to worship the golden image he had created. This, no doubt, was especially expected of the Hebrew boys because they were given positions of prestige and privilege in the Babylonian kingdom. Once the word got back to the king, he called the Hebrew boys front and center and gave them another chance to conform to the expectations of the culture and the demands of the law.  At the sound of the music the Hebrew boys were to bow down and worship the golden image made by the king.  It is at this moment of crisis that the Hebrew boys put their faithfulness to God on display.  It’s one thing to claim that you are faithful to the Lord.  But life has a way of testing you to see just how faithful you are really are.  Anyone can be faithful when the weather is fare.  But when the storms of life come, will your faithfulness stand the test?  When the king gave the Hebrew boys instructions that they should bow down, he let them know that if they did not, he would have them put in a burning fiery furnace.  Their response is inspirational.  First, they affirmed their faith in God’s ability to deliver them from the blazing furnace. They were faithful to a God who they were certain had greater power than the king of Babylon.  As far as they were concerned, there was nothing the king could do that God could not protect them from.  There is a powerful sense of peace and courage that comes over one’s life when one knows that the power of God is able to handle anything that is trying to handle you.  No matter what is going on in your life, no matter how intimidating and threatening, remember that God is able to deliver you!  What is infinitely more exciting is the second part of their response to the king.  They affirm their belief that their God is not only able but is willing. They said we believe that he will deliver us.  It is one thing to say you know God can deliver you, it is another thing to declare that you believe that God will deliver you!  God is both an able God, and a willing God.  It would be one thing if God was able but unwilling.  God would have power, but no desire. And it’s another thing if God was willing but unable.  God would have desire but no power.  But our God is both able and willing!  And that is something to shout about.  But the Hebrews take their faith one leap further.  They declared to the king, “even if he does not” we still will not bow down!  That is the kind of faithfulness God is calling us to live.  We are called to be faithful to God no matter what the outcome or consequences.  That is a radical faith.  It’s the kind that Jesus had when he went to the cross to die for the sins of the world.  God was able to deliver Jesus.  But Jesus faithfully surrender to God’s plan. This kind of faithfulness is not predicated on God keeping you from trouble or getting you out of trouble.  It is faithfulness that believes that God has our best interest at heart. A faithfulness rooted in a desire that God get glory out of our lives, even if it costs!  God changes the world with followers who have faithfulness like that!

  • Day 48- Provoked!

6 And because the Lord had closed her womb her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7a This went on year after year. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon you servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but fiver her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life and no razor will ever be used on his head.   So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.  She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” I Samuel 1:6-7a, 11, 20

Faith sometimes has to wait.  Hannah was praying for child for years but could not conceive.  She prayed, believed and tried to have a child, but year after year, nothing.  Sometimes a heart of faith has to wait for the fulfillment of what a believing heart desires. Just because you are believing God for something does not mean that it will come quickly.  Nor does it mean that it will come easy either.   The bible says that with God all things are possible not all things are easy. Sometimes we have to wait.  But the waiting period is the testing period.  Warren Wiersby says that a faith that is not tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.  Perhaps the fact that you have had to wait so long is only a test.  Can you keep believing God while you wait?  Can you keep trusting God even when there is no evidence that the answer is on the way? Hannah waited and waited.  I suspect that there were times when she wanted to give up on what she was praying and believing God for. It is only normal for faith to wane when faith has to wait.  Waiting can take its toll. Waiting makes you wonder if your dream will ever come to pass.  Waiting makes you wonder if God wants you to have it even though God has not said ‘No’.  Waiting can sometimes just make you tired.  And fatigue will make you want to quit. I suspect that Hannah wanted to give up on what she was believing God for.  Oddly enough, she got some help from an unexpected source.  I am convinced that one of the things that kept her praying and hoping was Peninnah.  Peninnah was the other wife of Elkanah their husband.  While Hannah had not had children, it seems like every time she turned around Peninnah was pregnant!  And it’s seems that Peninnah would parade her pregnancy in front of Hannah every time she got pregnant. The bible says she provoked her.  This was painful for Hannah.  It often brought her to tears.  But I want to suggest that there was great benefit for Hannah in the long run.  Being provoked by Peninnah may have caused her pain, but it also made her pray.  In fact, it made her pray harder and have to trust God more!  Isn’t it interesting that Hannah is being provoked in the very area of unanswered prayer?  I am convinced that God has a way of placing people in our lives to provoke us when we want to give up on what God wants to produce in our lives.  Something meaningful, productive and full of life.  And even though the thing we are believing God for is good, godly and something that we believe God wants to do in our lives, when it takes a long time to bring to pass, we lose heart and want to quit.  But God is so good that God will put someone in our lives that is doing the very thing that we want to do.  And, like Peninnah, they will be very productive at it!  But God may be using them to provoke your faith!  God may be using them to push, prod and persuade you during the season in your life when it looks like your dream will never come to pass.  Just when you want to quit, God will place right in front of you just what you are believing God for.  Hannah finally ended up with what she prayed for.  She prayed and believed for a long time, but her dream finally came to pass.  But maybe it would never have happened had it not been provoked!

  • Day 49

“He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know.  One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.’” John 9:25

These words are the testimony of a blind man who had a life changing encounter with Jesus. He was sitting by the roadside begging, and when Jesus came by Jesus spit on the ground, mixed it with clay, put it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam.  Exercising faith in Jesus, he went, washed and came back seeing!  When the religious leaders of that day heard about what had happened to him, they interrogated him about the identity of Jesus, asking if Jesus was a sinner.  The man replies with the words of today’s selected text: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know.  One thing I do know.  I was blind but now I see.”  This man has gone from faith in Jesus to certainty about Jesus.  And it was all rooted in the concrete difference that Jesus made in his life.  Notice that it started with faith.  When he met Jesus, he put his faith in Jesus and as a consequence his life was changed in a meaningful way.  From that experience he testifies of what he knows to be true in his life having met Jesus for himself.  All who have trusted Jesus by faith have a testimony of how their faith in Christ has led to the concrete difference that Christ has made in their lives.  We who follow Jesus know what difference he has made in our lives.  We are committed to him now for the rest of our lives because of the unmistakable, irrefutable difference he has made, and for that matter, keeps on making, in our lives. It is still true that the best argument for Christianity is a Christian, who lives like one!  The man in the text was confronted about who Jesus was.  He did not know everything there was to know about Jesus.  And he did not know everything he was going to learn about Jesus at the moment he was confronted. But what he did know he just could not deny.  And regardless as to what anyone said or claimed, one thing he did know, he was blind but now he could see.  In other words, one thing he did know was the very real difference that Jesus had made in his life.  That is ultimately the testimony of all who meet Jesus and follow him by faith. We may not know everything there is to know about him.  And we may not know now what we will learn about him in the future.  But there are so many things that we know about Jesus and the difference he has made in our lives, that we are determined to testify of his goodness and follow him wherever he leads.  Today, as you meditate on your walk with Jesus, take time to thank him for the difference he has made in your life.  Sometimes we can be so preoccupied with the negative things in our lives or the things we want to happen that have not happened yet, that we forget to take time to thank the Lord for the difference he has already made in our lives.  Differences that mean everything us!  And when we stop and remember what the Lord has done, not only does it fill us with gratitude, but it also reminds us that this same Jesus is not finished blessing us.  Today, thank the Lord for what he’s done. And when you have the opportunity, like the man in the text, testify to others of the difference Jesus has made in your life!  For those who may be reading this devotional who have not given their lives to Jesus Christ, let me invite you to give your life to him.  It may begin with an act of faith, but Jesus will prove himself by making a concrete difference in your life!

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