Charles Swindoll, in his book The Finishing Touch, recalled starting his ministry in California.
After many years of pastoring in a small town, he suddenly faced a city teeming with people. As he thought about the enormity of the task ahead, God reminded him that it was impossible to reach everyone. His responsibility was to make a difference in the lives of those he came in contact with.
In his words, “I stopped paying attention to the enormity of the impossible and started pouring my time and energy into the possible.” This made all the difference for him.
I don’t know about you, but I relate to this story. Often I have been faced with seemingly impossible tasks. Something big becomes overwhelming and I don’t know how to cope. That’s when I need to focus on the next possible step. God will direct me to achieve what is needed.
Another quote I like is by Lysa Terkeurst, from her book Embraced. “Even if you don’t know all the details of your calling quite yet, thank God for making you perfectly equipped for your assignment ahead. And when insecurities start to make you doubt, flip it around and say, “God, I may doubt myself, But I will not doubt You. So, I will let Your perfection override my feelings of imperfection and do what You instruct me.”
The lesson for me is to trust God and not to rely on my own strength. Each morning He provides me with what I need in order to accomplish his plan for that day. The perfection of God will always override my imperfection and turn the enormity of the impossible into something possible.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:23 NLT)
When I registered for a writer’s conference I also requested someone to share the hotel room with me.
I was relieved to receive a message saying a roommate had been found so my budget didn’t have to stretch to cover the entire hotel cost.
The first day of the conference my roommate didn’t arrive. Later I was informed she wasn’t able to make it at all. My worst fears had been realized. I was solely responsible for the hotel charges.
Instead of worrying, I prayed. God must have a reason for this and I needed to trust in his plan.
When the conference ended someone came up and gave me twenty dollars, saying it wasn’t much but she wanted to help me out with my unexpected expense. My pride wanted to refuse the money. I felt God’s nudge and with tears in my eyes thanked her for her generosity.
That night I went to the home of a friend to do a book reading and discussion. The readings were well received and the discussion deep and satisfying. Several guests asked to buy copies of my books.
Later I counted the money I’d received and saw that it was almost half of my total hotel bill. God reminded of the twenty dollar gift and I realized the unexpected portion of the room had just been covered for me.
This was a reminder of God’s provision. God knows my needs and will take care of me. All I have to do is to pray and trust him. He doesn’t always answer in the way I would imagine but I have learned that when I walk by faith I am always rewarded.
So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. (Isaiah 30:18 NLT)
The young child in the seat behind us was getting bored on the airplane. She wanted to see out of the window but the blind was closed. “Open the window,” she said. When her wish wasn’t granted, she raised her voice and said, “Daddy, open the window. I want the window opened.” The insistent demand grew louder and louder. Her parents tried unsuccessfully to shush her. She knew what she wanted and was going to keep asking until she got it.
We had a few hours between flights and I watched as a child ran from her mother. When the mom called her to come back, the child stopped, looked directly at her parent and said, “No.” She then carried on in the opposite direction. She was heading where she wanted regardless of what her parent said.
After witnessing a few episodes like this, I was reminded of the times I’ve acted like a travel weary child. My heavenly Father does not grant my every request. Usually I accept this but other times I’ve been known to repeat my desires over and over, getting louder and more insistent each time. Maybe he just didn’t hear or realize how important this was to me.
Then there are the times God asks me to wait and not run ahead. For my own safety, he wants me to stay close. Thinking I know what’s best for me, I don’t always listen.
Maybe God allowed me to witness the childish outbursts that day to remind me to rely on and trust in him. Not only when I feel like it, but in all circumstances.
Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. (Psalm 37:3 NLT)
When people don’t want to admit to or confront a problem it’s said they are burying their head in the sand. The idea behind this is that if you don’t see the problem, it doesn’t really exist.
I’m sure this is something most of us have done at least once in our lives. I know I have.
This saying came to mind but in a slightly different context recently. We had grandchildren playing in our yard and when I looked out, one had her head buried. It wasn’t in the sand but in the snow.
For her, it wasn’t an avoidance issue. Curiosity was a major factor. Instead of escaping from an unpleasant situation, she was embracing the unknown.
Oh, for the curiosity of a child! No matter what my first impulse may be, I‘d have thought the situation through before making a decision. The snow is cold and wet. Therefore it would probably be uncomfortable. It may even be difficult to breathe. No thank you, I think I’ll pass on putting my head in the snow.
I wonder how many experiences I’ve missed out on because I chose to hide rather than to trust God enough to move into the unknown. If I had the answers to all of my questions before I took a step forward, there would be no need to trust him. Rather than burying my head, I need to look up to God and let him direct me.
A person’s fear sets a trap for him, but one who trusts the LORD is safe. (Proverbs 29:25 GWT)
“Why would anyone do that?” my friend said. We were at the local swimming pool and she had been watching a scene unfold.
A child was being given a private swimming lesson. The little boy was happy and paying attention to his teacher. Then his mother appeared on the pool deck and the situation changed. She leaned over and made suggestions to the child, effectively taking control away from the instructor.
The result was quite predictable. The more the mother interfered, the more insecure the child became. Soon the boy was upset and wanted out of the water. His mother reached to help him out of the water.
The parallel of this scene to my life was obvious to me. I have put my trust in Jesus. He knows what is best for me and is able to teach me what I need to learn. This is where my focus must remain.
Why then do I get confused when well meaning friends give me contradictory advice? I know they care about me. The information they have to share may be valid to my situation. Should I be listening to them instead?
At times like this I need to remember that Jesus knows me better than I know myself. He is patient and kind even when I question him. He has the answers to questions I haven’t even thought of yet.
At times Jesus uses others to reinforce his message to me but never to contradict it. For me the choice is clear. I will pray to Jesus for guidance and trust him to guide my life.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4 NLT)
“It must be the middle of the night” I thought. Our bedroom faces east and the early morning sun often wakes me earlier than I’d like. What I heard didn’t make sense in the darkness that surrounded me.
The sound of birds in the back yard was unmistakable. It was normal to hear their cheerful chirping n the daylight but not during pre-dawn hours.
The memory of their song danced around the edges of my mind when I arose in the morning light. I realized the sounds in the night had a message for me.
It’s easy to sing and be happy when the sun is shining and all is bright in my little world. The test comes in the blackness of the night. When all is dark around me, how do I react? Am I sure the darkness that seems to consume me will never retreat? Or, do I trust in the Lord?
God’s Word says not to be afraid in the dark times because he is close beside me for comfort and protection. He causes all things to work together for my good. I know from past experience that God has birthed incredible blessings from some of the darkest points of my life. My faith tells me to sing praises and to watch in anticipation for the dawning of a bright new day.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NLT)
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV )
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:23 NLT)
One minute I was walking beside my husband and the next I was on the ground. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize I was falling until I hit the ground.
Loose gravel on a slight slope had been the cause of my tumble. We’d walked this area several times over the previous days and I’d never noticed the gravel. I hadn’t noticed it this time either until it was the cause of my fall.
Fortunately I landed on the grass beside the paved path. This cushioned my fall somewhat. Things could have been far worse.
I had instinctively put my arm out to brace myself as I collapsed to the ground. Initially I thought that my sore wrist was the only injury sustained. Over the next few hours an ache started in my shoulders and continued down my spine. This little fall had a bigger impact on me that I’d realized.
If only I’d been watching my steps this accident may have been prevented.
In my everyday life I also need to watch my step.
When I don’t have a firm foundation to stand on there is a good chance I’ll slip and fall. It may not be physical but the consequences will be suffered just the same. Poor decisions can cause a unpleasant reaction that I don’t see coming. Seldom will I be the only one affected.
My firm foundation is built on a close and personal relationship with Jesus. When my focus is on him my steps are secure. The danger comes when I cease to rely on him.
The times that I am not looking to Jesus are the ones when I still stumble. Through his love and grace he provides a safe landing place and protects me from the fall.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)
There are many interesting sculptures along the waterfront walkway in Puerto Vallarta. One in particular captured my attention.
It was in two parts. One was a large figure with outstretched arms. In front of this was a ladder with two other figures climbing it. There were each holding onto the ladder with one hand reaching out with the other.
Upon speaking to a local, I found out that this statue was called Looking for Reason. It is also known as Looking for the Answers.
This was a vivid portrayal of something most of us spend our lives doing. I know that I have often looked for the reason behind events in life. It would be nice to have the answers and not speculate at the outcome.
As in the figures on the ladder, I have held onto what is secure with one hand while reaching for the unknown with the other.
In hindsight I’m grateful that I didn’t know ahead of time what was in store for me. Many experiences would have been lost by my not wanting to face what preceded them.
This is where faith comes into play. My faith in Jesus allows me to trust in him for the outcome. I don’t need to know the answers when I’m holding on to him. Jesus knows my life from beginning to end. Every event I encounter will bring me closer to the purpose he has for me. That’s all the reason I need.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Sometimes it takes an unusual situation to show me that I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. A recent experience pointed this out.
I had arrived at work one morning to find it unusually cold inside. I put the heat on and waited. Hours later it was only a degree or two warmer.
I called my employer to let her know of the problem. She gave me suggestions on dealing with our sometimes finicky heating system.
Nothing seemed to make a difference. Periodically through the day I tried again and was always frustrated at the lack of heat.
The next day I received a message from my employer saying that the reason the heat didn’t work was because the switch on the thermostat had been turned to “off”. It seems that the problem was with the operator and not the equipment.
Wanting to create value in this situation, I looked for the lesson. It wasn’t as difficult to find as the off switch had been!
There have been times when the discomfort I was experiencing was something I had control over. When my focus was solely on the problem that was all I could see. It was the solution I needed to focus on.
Often I forget where my solution lies. My knowledge and resources are limited. It’s God that sees the whole picture and is able to direct me. He cares about every aspect of my life. I need to continually focus on him and trust that he will provide what I need.
Those who know your name trust you, O Lord, because you have never deserted those who seek your help. (Psalm 9:10 GWT)
I was driving home from an out of province speaking engagement. On my own for the eight hour drive, I had plenty of time to listen to my favourite music and reflect on life.
When I started out the sky was a brilliant blue with few clouds. After a couple of hours I saw a dark cloud with wispy tendrils reaching to the earth. As I approached, a faint image of fluffy white clouds could be seen behind it. Intrigued, I pulled over to take a picture.
No sooner had I returned to the highway when there was a flash of lightening, followed quickly by torrential rain. In moments the temperature dropped 11 degrees. I kept driving and soon passed through the storm. The dark cloud was behind me and the sunshine and warmth had reappeared.
This sudden and unexpected weather system made me think of life. I have no idea when my sunny life is going to be hit by a sudden storm of troubles. What I do know is that these storms are inevitable.
One of the songs I listened to as I drove had the words, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them?” This is yet another reason I choose to walk with God. I trust him and know that he allows the storms for a reason. When I stay close to God I will be led safely through the darkness to a bright future waiting on the other side.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2 NIV)