Dave and I recently did a short Daniel fast. As we generally do when we are fasting, we had some specific situations and questions that we were putting before God - but rather than answers, we got an attitude. More often than not, I find this to be the fruit of fasting. Yes, over the years we have seen answers released and experienced breakthrough on the heels of a fast, but the most common occurrence is that God changes something within us. He gives us a new mindset, a posture of faith to stand in that causes us to approach our circumstances with a different spirit.
Caleb was a man who had a different spirit - and it's not just me saying that, God Himself said of him,
...My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows after me wholeheartedly...
Forty-five years after Caleb had entered the promised land as a spy, he stood as an old man in front of the land that God had specifically promised to him, Hebron, and declared that he was just as ready now as he was back then as a young man, to possess what had been promised (Joshua 14). Decades of waiting did not deter him; did not make him lose sight of what God had declared. Just as the Israelite community had been unable to make him conform to their negative expectation for the future - even when they talked of stoning him, Caleb did not relent from professing that God was able to give them the land.
Caleb had been one of the 12 spies that Moses sent out to scout out the promised land. He had seen first-hand both its bounty and its obstacles, and along with Joshua, believed that they should and could, go and take possession of it. The other ten spies saw the very same land that Joshua and Caleb had. They acknowledged that the land was fruitful and blessed - that it was everything that God had promised them, but in their minds there were too many obstacles for them to be able to receive what He had promised. In other words, they doubted God's ability to deliver on His word.
The naysayers won out that day, convincing the Israelites that the land they had seen was not one of promise, but of impossibility.
"We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are... The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size... We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
The more they talked, the more the obstacles became bigger to them than God was. And as they focused on the obstacles, the truth became distorted. The land was no longer a land of milk and honey (13:27), but a land that would devour them; they were no longer God's people, but grasshoppers - small and insignificant.
When the spies spread their bad report, discouragement set in and the people wept thinking they would be better off to return to Egypt. They not only lost the ability to see what God wanted to do for them, they lost sight of what He had already done for them in setting them free from Egypt, and consequently a whole generation was disempowered and robbed of their inheritance.
Caleb and Joshua did not deny the obstacles, but they also didn't allow them to obscure their vision of God.
...do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.
For Caleb, the presence of God with them was greater than any problem he could face; he elevated who God is and what he had said above the obstacles This God-focus enabled him to see what was really happening - to see the 'real' facts, that those living in the land, intimidating as they might be, had no protection, but the Israelites did. They had God on their side. And because Caleb let God be his 'but' instead of his circumstances, he eventually possessed what God had promised him, in spite of much opposition and delay - this is the power of a different spirit.
It enables us to stand firm in God's promises
To see His perspective in the midst of our problems
To bless those who have wounded us
To praise instead of complain
A different spirit changes outcomes
When we choose to partner with God; to believe His Word above our circumstances, we invite His power, His light to break through the darkness. Our faith changes the atmosphere from one of despair, to one of hope and of expectation. Caleb's hope - his confident expectation of God's goodness and faithfulness - sustained him and kept him strong and vigorous until the day came for him to claim his land.
As Dave and I spent those days in prayer, rather than petitioning for answers, we found ourselves declaring blessing, prophesying God's Word over situations that had felt bleak and heavy to us in the preceding weeks. Heaven's possibilities became real to us and not just our attitudes, but the atmosphere that we were carrying into those situations shifted. God reminded us afresh of not just the importance, but the power of living with a different spirit.
Where in your life do you need to cultivate a 'different spirit'? To refuse to be dissuaded by circumstances that God is able to do what He has promised?
Don't allow your obstacles to distort the truth - let your expectation be one of 'but God...'
Live today with purpose,
Some days (ok, maybe most days), I just wish that my kids would stop asking for more - more clothes; more technology; more after-school activities; more food. Just more everything! When I match their 'more' against my resources, their desires feel overwhelming. I find myself lecturing them about being grateful, about being content - to just be satisfied with all that we do do; all that they do have.
But my internal struggle is this - I want them to be content, but not complacent. I want them to be grateful but I also want them to keep dreaming - I don't want them to lose their child-like expectation that there is always something more for them. I want them to firmly believe that with God all things are possible; that He is the God of above and beyond what they've asked and imagined - that He is the God of more!
Paul understood the power of contentment - in fact he tells us in Philippians 4:11 that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Whether he faced suffering or triumph; whether he was experiencing lack or abundance, he could do it all contentedly because God was with him - giving him His strength.
But Paul didn't allow his ability to be content to cause him to settle. His revelation of Christ and the power of His resurrection was like a beacon, calling him forward. He knew that no matter how much he had already experienced; no matter how much he had already been transformed, that there was still more to come.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
We might think of pressing on as chin up and get on with it, but when Paul said he pressed on it had the connotation of running swiftly in order to catch a person or thing; running a race with speed in order to reach the goal. It was a pressing on driven by passion, by desire. Paul did not believe in passively waiting to receive what God had for him, but in determinedly and diligently taking hold of it.
If I'm honest, there have been seasons where my desire, my passion to keep pressing on has waned. Sometimes in all the waiting; in all the responsibilities and disappointments of life, I have lowered my expectations of what is possible; of what God might want to do in me and through me. I couldn't honestly call it contentment. I must call it what it truly was - I became complacent. And the problem with complacency is that it causes us to become passive; to so accept the current status quo that we are blind to what could be. Complacency makes us lower our expectations to be in-line with our resources and not His.
Paul's ability to press on was not based on circumstances - quite the opposite. In fact, he penned Philippians from a prison cell! Yet he refused to be discouraged; he refused to settle because his focus was always on God's strength; on God's riches; on God's power and ability and not his own. He knew that Christ had made all these blessings his (Ephesians 1), and this revelation, this focus propelled him onwards and brought the reality of heaven into every aspect of his life.
Paul urges us all to have this same passion; to pursue Christ without wavering, because this expectation, this hunger for more was not intended to just belong to the young, the naive or the untested - it is meant to be the fruit of maturity. It is also the territory of those who have weathered storms, walked through valleys and seen God's faithfulness time and time again.
So let all who are fully mature have this same passion, and if anyone is not yet gripped by these desires, God will reveal it to them.
Where in your life have you settled? Stopped pressing in for what God has promised?
I encourage you today to follow Paul's example and to look towards the future with your thoughts firmly fixed on Christ; fastened on every glorious work of God, praising Him always (Phil. 4:8 TPT). Because as we allow our revelation of Christ and the cross to be greater than our circumstances we will recover our desire for more.
Live today with purpose,
I still remember the moment. Only weeks after my 30th birthday I found myself sobbing on a girlfriend’s couch, broken that this new decade had not ushered in the change I had hoped for, prayed for, ached for. I had spent the latter years of my twenties holding out for 30 – it was after all, the year that in my mind, it all began for Jesus!
But 30 was not a magic number - significant yes, but a magic-wand erasing my heartache, no. And that day as I sobbed, something in me broke; something in me felt like I could no longer keep persevering through my pain. I wanted a different life; I wanted to run.
Hagar must have felt similarly. Given by her mistress to Abraham for the sole purpose of producing an heir, when she conceived, the rivalry between her and Sarai could not be contained. Hagar despised Sarai and Sarai resented her for carrying the child she herself had longed for. And so she mistreated her and Hagar fled. Hagar ran from her pain to the desert.
But she could not run from God. As she sat alone in the desert Genesis 16 tells us that the angel of the Lord found her and asked her:
Hagar... where have you come from, and where are you going?
God did not leave her alone in her pain - He sought her out. And He seeks us out too; finding us in our desert places. And just like He inquired of Hagar, He asks us: What are you running from? Where are you going - what are you hoping for my child?
Hagar could only answer the first question - "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she replied. So wounded was she that she couldn't see past her pain; past the problem. But God could, and He spoke His truth into her situation:
Go back to your mistress and submit to her. I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count... You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishamel (which means God hears) for the Lord has heard of your misery.
And this is the hard truth - sometimes the promise is found in our pain. Not in running from it, but in facing it; living through it. The blessing is found in submitting - in entrusting ourselves to the One who sees all. In taking up our cross and following Him.
Hagar found the strength to go back - to have her child in Abraham's household - because she encountered God in the midst of her suffering. She discovered the truth that she was seen; her pain was seen - and it mattered.
"You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."
Hagar called God el roi. This name had a double meaning: God of seeing and also God of my seeing. She was not only seen by God, but she saw Him. And seeing Him changed everything for her and her son - it made room for His promises in her pain. While Ishmael was not the son that God had intended for Abraham, in returning and allowing Abraham to name him, she secured legitimacy and blessing for his future (Gen. 17:20).
The year that I turned 30, I faced unimaginable decisions; decisions filled with so much heartache. But God found me - He saw me. And being seen by Him changed the way I saw my life; changed the way I saw my pain. It caused me to stop running and opened my eyes to see Him and His truth in the midst of it all.
Today, you matter - your pain matters. God sees it and He will not leave you alone in it. No matter where or how far you might run, He seeks you out; He considers your grief and takes it in hand (Ps. 10). Commit yourself to Him; entrust your pain to Him and let Him bring forth great promise from it.
Live today with purpose,
I had a conversation recently that left me unsettled - not because of anything that was said, but because of what was unsaid. What was hiding, tucked away in the recesses of my heart. You see, even though the conversation on the surface was innocent, my motives were mixed.
I was hiding disappointment
I was nursing hurt
I was wanting to fix something for someone that was not my thing to fix
And all these emotions that were swirling beneath the surface of this conversation changed the spirit of the conversation. And it left me heavy.
As I wrestled with the heaviness that I felt, I was reminded of David's words in Psalm 51 - that God desires truth in our innermost being. Psalm 51 was written after David had been confronted about his sin with Bathsheba by the prophet Nathan - it is the acknowledgment of his wrongdoing and his cry of repentance; it is his request for mercy and restoration. But this statement that God wants us to be truthful from within, is not just about embracing our own truth - it is not solely about being honest about where we are at, what we are wrestling with; what we've done and what our motives are. It's also about embracing God's truth in our broken and hidden places so that we can experience true freedom from the heaviness of sin.
The Passion Translation phrases it this way:
I know that You delight to set Your truth deep in my spirit. So come into the hidden places of my heart and teach me wisdom.
Two days after that conversation, as I stood washing my dishes and staring out the window, I whispered what I had really wanted to say. And as I did, I heard Him whisper back, "I know. And trust me, I've got this." His presence in that moment of baring my soul was tangible and with it came comfort and strength.
You see the heaviness had entered not so much because I was hurt and disappointed, but because I had lost sight of His truth in the situation. Despair had entered as I partnered with a lie, but hope returned when I let Him speak truth; when I invited Him to teach me wisdom.
We are invited to live a life of freedom, a life anchored by hope - but it starts with the willingness to be honest with God and with ourselves. It starts with the willingness to examine our lives and be teachable. It starts with letting Him know our hearts.
The examined life requires us to embrace vulnerability. To stop trying to have all the answers - to have it all together - and to acknowledge our weaknesses, our failings, our pain. David could do this because He trusted not only the heart of God towards him, but also His power to restore. He declared with the utmost confidence:
Cleanse me...and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
David was utterly convinced that God could deal with his sin completely. And we must be too, because there is no sin, no pain, no disappointment - nothing about our human condition - that God's Spirit, God's truth cannot reach into if we will allow Him to.
In the past, fear has kept me from being truly honest with God. But time and time again He has shown me that His heart is not to expose me but to heal me. There is no condemnation in His searching gaze, only love.
What truth do you need to hear in your innermost being today?
Let Him speak His wisdom into the hidden places of your heart.
Live today 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 both myself and guest contributors 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.