There are a couple of main roads near us where you know from the moment you hit your first red light that it's going to be slow progress - because if you hit one red, you'll hit them all! Every time you start to pick up speed you have to slow down, brake and then wait - and depending on the time of day, the queue of commuters coming from other directions can mean that even when the lights turn green, you still can't move! Life can feel like this sometimes, can't it? We just begin to gain momentum and then 'stuff' happens, we hit some red lights and at times it can feel like people in our world are holding us back from fulfilling our God-given destiny.
Last week I blogged about Jesus as the Word of Life - that means He comes as the fulfillment and physical embodiment of everything God has promised; He is our yes! But here's the thing I've learnt along the way, while sitting at plenty of red lights of my own - there is a 'proper time' for that yes to become our reality. God's Word is both His creative power - His ability to bring that yes in to being - and His purposes - that means His wisdom and timing to release that yes into our lives. So how do we navigate the stretches of road when we have no doubt that He is able, but we're just not sure how much longer we can take sitting at the lights, waiting to get moving?
Firstly, understand God has a plan and that plan often has a timetable. Throughout Scripture there are references to the 'proper time', the 'appointed time', the 'fullness of time' or the 'set time'. What these phrases tell me is that God not only has a plan, but that that plan has a timetable. You see, we often think about where we're going only in terms of how it affects us, but God's plans are Kingdom plans. He is not just outworking His plans for me, but for you and countless others - and He's weaving all our individual stories together to accomplish His plans for this point in History.
Sometimes we are delayed because of what God needs to do in us, other times it may be related to what He is doing elsewhere. We are part of a VERY big picture, one that for now we only see in part - so don't try and run the red light! God sees the complete picture and we can trust in His wisdom to get us moving at just the right time; the 'proper time'.
Secondly - write it down. In Habakkuk 2, God instructed the prophet saying:
"Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."
There it is again - the appointed time!
Writing it down is important because if you're anything like me, we have a tendency to forget! The more red lights that we sit at, the more what God has promised can fade into obscurity and we can think that perhaps we misheard or just imagined it. But for His Word to produce life in us, we must be unwavering in our willingness to hear, to see and keep holding on to what He has promised.
That's where writing it down helps. I have key Scriptures and prophetic words that I have recorded in my journals and periodically - especially when I feel discouraged or anxious - I return to those verses and words and I declare them. This not only stirs faith in my spirit, but it gives me renewed clarity about what I am contending for and partnering with God to see come about.
I encourage you - record your prayers, key Scriptures and words that God has spoken into your life so that you can read them and be spurred on to keep running towards what God has for you.
And finally wait with hope. In Micah 7:7 we read this:
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.
I don't know about you but I can get impatient sitting at the lights for too long. In fact I could think of a number of words like frustrated, uptight, hot, tired, agitated and depending on how much of a hurry I'm in - stressed and anxious. None of this is how God wants us to wait! He wants us to wait and watch with hope - with eyes that are wide open confidently expecting to see His goodness in our lives.
Hope is not something that we conjure up - it is not wishful thinking. It is an attribute of God Himself and a gift of His Spirit. It is released as we keep close to Him and keep trusting ourselves and our circumstances to Him.
Wait with hope because you know the wisdom of His plans and His timing; wait with hope because you know the certainty of what He has promised; wait with hope because you know the truth of who He is - a Saviour who hears and who answers.
And know this - when the lights do change, it will be at just the 'proper time!'
Live today with purpose
Last winter we purchased our girls 'The Game of Life.' I must confess to being pretty excited about this - we had never owned this particular game when I was growing up and I had fond memories of playing it at my cousins' place, so owning one made the kid inside me very happy! We've had some fun nights playing it with our girls but it turns out that playing the 'Game of Life' as an adult is not quite as appealing as when you're young. Spinning the wheel, going through the motions of study, work, collect the paycheck, buy a house if the game goes your way, pay the bank and see how many babies you can fit in the car (our girls produced so many grandbabies for us that they had them stacked on their car roofs!) - well, the now-known reality of these grown-up responsibilities can feel more exhausting than exhilirating!
Recently I was reading through 1 John and got stuck in the opening verses:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The Life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the Eternal Life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
Three times in just two verses, John gave Jesus a name that included the word 'life' - he called Him the Word of Life, THE Life and the Eternal Life. The Greek word for life is 'zoe', which in addition to meaning that we are alive and breathing, also means the absolute fullness of life which belongs to God. These three names tell me that God never intended for our lives to resemble a board game where we go through the motions, rolling the dice and leaving things to chance - no, He intended that there would be a fullness, an abundance to our lives as we enjoy the benefits of living in relationship with Him and come to understand the power of His Name.
The first name - The Word of Life - is what initially arrested me and had me digging deeper. What did it mean practically for Jesus to be a Word of Life for me?
In our western culture we can use words quite flippantly - speak now and apologise later. But for the Jewish people this ‘word,’ this logos, was something much more than a mere sound. It was something that actually did things – one writer describes it as ‘fearfully alive… a unit of energy charged with power.’ Another said, ‘a word is not merely a sound, it is a power which does things.’ Logos also meant ‘reason’ -the thought of God stamped upon the Universe. This 'word' was not just power, it also contained the wisdom and the purposes of God.
So John is saying to us – Jesus is both the creative power and the wisdom of God come together and that Word – that power and that wisdom brings about life and life in abundance!
In every situation that I face, Jesus is God's Word to me
As I sat in my armchair, looking up cross-references, I realised that I needed a fresh revelation of what Paul said in 2 Cor 1:20 - that Jesus is God’s ‘yes’ to every promise God has made. You and I need to have an agreement in our spirits with the Word of Life. We need to be confident that His Word to us will not return void, it will come to pass in His time and it will produce life in us.
It is the same with My Word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Sometimes we ‘know’ something, but then God by His Spirit takes us to a place where we know something. At the time that I was meditating on and studying this passage, Lucas was just a few weeks old and some old fears were rearing their head. When I had my girls we had been heavily in debt, with my husband alternating between self-employment and unemployment, which impacted on our confidence and mental health as individuals and as a family. In the midst of it all, God had called us to foster our young nephew who required much care and attention - I felt like so much rested on me in that season; like I was the glue of my family and our provider.
That season of fostering had also required me to lay down my desire for another child, so when God began to reawaken that dream some years later, I had to deal with my fear that having another baby would look the same as it had in the past; that we would be limited by lack and it would all fall on my shoulders.
As I meditated on the names of Christ - that He is both the Word of Life and the Word of God (Revelation 19) - and as I reflected on the truth in Isaiah 55 - that God's word cannot return void to Him - faith began to arise in me in a new capacity that God was my provider. I sat down and took communion privately, and with the revelation that Jesus is the physical embodiment of all that God has spoken in His Word and that as I receive Jesus, I receive all that God has promised, I praised God in advance for His answers of provision in my life.
In the next few days there were 3 specific answers of provision and over the past 6 months God has continued to astound me with His faithfulness - meeting both big and seemingly insignificant needs as He has fulfilled His Word to me.
There is a word that God wants to speak over your life through Jesus. He doesn't just want you to hear it, He wants you to be able to say that you have seen it, you have touched it - that it is your experience and your reality. He wants you to hold on to that Word of Life even when circumstances suggest otherwise; to trust that it will produce fruit in you and through you.
Let's not settle for going through the motions and racing to the finish line - let's receive the fullness of His life that is promised to us as we stand on His Word.
What is the word from God that you need to receive through Jesus today?
Live today with purpose
P.S. You can listen to my message 'The Power of a Name' which unpacks these three names and their invitation to experience the abundant life of Jesus, here.
One of our kids can struggle to get to sleep - when she climbs into bed at night it's as though a switch gets flicked on in her brain and all the things that she hasn't had time to really think about during the day come rushing to the forefront of her mind. Sometimes this is a gift - like me, she can get some of her most inspired ideas lying awake in her bed. But more often than not as the frustration of sleeplessness kicks in, her mind turns to worry. Events that have happened in the day get stuck on replay - each time becoming a little bigger, a little harder, a little scarier in her mind. And as a result, well tomorrow, tomorrow becomes unimaginable - full of impossibilities.
Jesus knew that we can all have this tendency to project beyond where we are into what is yet to come. And while some of us envisage tomorrow as dreamers and visionaries, for most we tend to amplify our challenges and look forward armed with our worst-case scenarios. And without intending to, as Corrie Ten Boom once said, we rob today of its strength. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us:
What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know God... steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions... Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Now both this passage and its parallel in Luke's gospel are set in the context of Jesus addressing not just the love of money and things, but the spirit of striving to get, to accumulate and to be self-sufficient. When we believe that everything depends on us and on our finite resources and abilities, worry is the inevitable result. But our experience is meant to be different because we know God.
Three times in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus commands us 'do not worry' - He is literally telling us to not be anxious or troubled with cares. And each of these commands is followed with a truth that will set us free from the burden of worry.
The first truth is this - we are valuable to our Father.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
I love my kids so much - they are beyond precious to me and I go to great lengths to make sure they are cared for. It's no accident that in this passage Jesus constantly refers to God as your Father. There were so many names He could have chosen - He could have even said my Father - but He wanted us to remember that the relationship is a personal one, and that we're not just valuable as His creation - we're valuable because we're part of His family! Just like my kids know they can rely on me, we can relax knowing our Father loves us deeply and wants the best for us.
Then Jesus reminds us that our Father knows what we need.
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Luke's account of this conversation adds that the Father has been pleased to give us the Kingdom. It is the Father's pleasure to provide what we need, to make His Kingdom resources available to us. When I find myself filled with worry and anxiety I know that I have allowed myself to lose sight of the Father's heart.
I love how the amplified Bible often translates faith in God - it describes it as the leaning of your whole personality on Him in complete trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness. If life has taught me anything it is this - I can have absolute confidence in my Heavenly Father. I may not always have enough or feel adequate for the tasks before me, but He is always enough. His resources are not limited; His heart is never stingy towards me and in His perfect wisdom He knows just what I need and when I need it.
My recent maternity leave has been an adventure in trusting the Father - in the natural we did not have the resources for me to be off work for as long as I have been. But I have been set free from the burden of worry in this season as I have learnt the secret of what Jesus is teaching in this passage - pursue the Father first, look to the Father first, trust the Father first, because then you don't just get what you need, you get the treasures of His Kingdom too - you get righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Rom 14:17).
And finally, in case we hadn't grasped the importance of this command, Jesus tells us one more time - do not worry, live in the present where I am.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
God is with us in the present and He will be with us in our tomorrow so we don't need to worry about it in advance. He will provide and give us the grace we need along the way as we need it.
So if you must hit the replay button late at night, let it get stuck on what God is doing right now -celebrate it, give thanks for it and rest in His goodness. As you do, He will become bigger and tomorrow will be filled with His possibilities.
Live today with purpose,
Some years ago now, my work supervisor gave me the unusual assignment of going home to watch the Adam Sandler movie 'Click.' If you've never seen the movie, Sandler plays an overworked architect trying to juggle his family and burgeoning career, who stumbles upon a remote that enables him to pause, skip and fast forward through life (I can definitely think of times that one of those would have been most welcome!). Without divulging too much of the plotline, let's just say that he gets to a point where he realises with regret that he has used this power to 'click' his life away.
Perhaps you're wondering what prompted my supervisor to assign me such a task? I was in a difficult season of my life - we had just moved back in with my parents after 5 years of marriage and our first baby. Suffice to say life was most certainly not going to plan! My supervisor had asked me a question that I thought I had the right answer to. She had asked where was God for me right now? I had replied, "in His promises." Now I have to be honest, I not only thought that it was the right answer, I thought it was a very good answer! But nearly ten years on, I still remember her shaking her head as she told me that my answer was a problem because it meant I had God waiting in my future, not present with me in my right now.
She was not saying that promises were not a good thing; that I should not have a hope for my future that I was pressing in for. What she was encouraging me to understand was that God had things for me right now; that He wanted to be alongside me no matter how painful, messy or ordinary that 'now' might be. But I was in danger of 'clicking' my life away.
We do it all the time don't we?
We wish our lives away
We 'if only' and 'one day when' our lives away
And in doing so we rob ourselves and others, because living 'for such a time as this' means that now matters. Now matters - not just because it is leading you towards the future, but because in and of itself it is valuable. Now can be a time of purpose if we will choose to embrace where we are on the way to where we're going.
In Colossians 3, Paul is giving instructions for Christian households and he addresses those who find themselves as slaves within a household saying:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
I want you to pause and consider the context of this verse. Paul was not talking to people who were experiencing success, he was not encouraging people who found themselves in their dream job or with power and influence. He was talking to people who were slaves and servants in a household, addressing the attitude they were to adopt as they served their masters. He was telling them not just to do what was asked of them, but to do it willingly, heartily - some translations even say enthusiastically.
It was not an easy thing to ask of them but Paul let them in on a secret - they weren't really working for their masters, they were working for Christ Himself!
You know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
This perspective changing truth turned even the most menial role into a privilege. If we too can grasp this truth, then right now, whatever season we find ourselves in, whatever tasks are before us, can become an opportunity to serve God willingly and enthusiastically. Even if the task seems lowly, even if the season is a humbling one there is still God-given purpose and blessings for us in them as we keep our eyes firmly fixed on the one we are truly serving.
Every time I serve my family; every time I show kindness to a stranger; every time I perform the unseen tasks that keep my home, the ministries I oversee running; every time I just keep going is an opportunity to bring glory to Jesus. And you have the same opportunity - not tomorrow, but right now.
God has so much in store for each of us but He doesn't want us to 'click' our lives away in search of it. He wants us to unearth it one step at a time as we put our hand willingly to what is in front of us - doing it with Him and for Him.
Now matters. How you navigate it determines your inheritance; your heart attitude determines your reward. But more than that, now is a powerful opportunity to experience God and to serve Jesus right where you are; right as you are.
Live with purpose
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
If you want to get blog posts direct to your inbox pop here.