Ultimate Strength

 Ultimate Strength

by Pat Knight

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“I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I’ll admit it; I’m a pushover for statuesque oriental lily plants. From each underground bulb, a gallant plant emerges. Growing to heights of four feet, the lily boasts a sturdy but invisibly reinforced stalk whose purpose is to support and nurture the entire plant, as well as showcase the lily flowers it produces.

Though the lily plant is tall and grandiose, it seldom requires external support for stability. Even during summer windstorms, it will skillfully withstand thrashing wind without bending or breaking the stem. The lily is built for endurance. Even a plant rimmed with pendulous flowers remains stable under pressure.

It is apparent that the balanced lily stalk must possess intrinsic features that prevent it from breaking under intense environmental conditions, specialized fibers comprising the stalk that offer reinforcement. God, the Creator, designed the majestic lily plant for beauty and dependability, giving it equilibrium by strengthening its internal composition.

What augmented inner support do we depend upon when adverse conditions assail us? With personal tragedy, every fiber of our being revolts, thrashing our hearts, twisting and churning our minds, and interrupting our intrinsic ability to remain calm and composed. We may groan and bend under the emotional or physical weight of the hardship.

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Whether we break or rebound depends upon the strength within us. Our tenacity alone is insufficient to fight our personal battles, to provide confidence and composure amidst life’s entanglements. When the winds of adversity blow through our fragile lives, does our resolve wither and snap? Reacting to trauma, we may feel as if all of our energy is sapped. Physical weakness may cause us to tremble or shake, but there is a solid Source of immeasurable reinforcement available to us. God converts our trembling to peace; our weakness to strength.

Unlike the lily plant, our Lord designed His children with a renewable Source of strength. The Creator implanted our psyche with innate fortitude, but when that limited resource of inner strength wanes, our Lord is delighted to buttress our supply with his own infinite strength. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (2 Samuel 22: 23-24).

Believing in God’s absolute authority and power is much more straightforward when our days are peaceful and predictable. But, how do we respond in an emergency?

It must have been a traumatic jolt the day King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed that a coalition of enemy armies was poised at his country’s borders threatening to attack. Vulnerable without a militia or armaments, where would the King find strength of opposition against such a formidable foe? “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. The people of Judah came together to seek from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town of Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

The people prayed continuously as they stood firm to wait for the deliverance they knew the Lord would provide. The frightened, but trusting inhabitants, prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Delighted with their faith, God informed King Jehoshaphat and the people that they need not fight the battle. God further instructed them to stand firm in their faith “and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (vs. 19).

God developed unique war strategy, creating an ambush between that caused the two foreign armies to destroy each other in the confusion of battle. Not an Israelite was harmed. God’s strength was magnified and the people learned a significant lesson about faith and trust at a time when their personal supply was impoverished.

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Scripture reminds us to plunge our roots into fertile, watered ground, accessing the Lord, our sovereign Source of all strength. God has created each of us with a natural desire to seek Him and His provisions, to help with both minor and major calamities.  Then on the occasion when we are confronted with an unsolvable adversity, it will be our first response to call on God for His expertise in fighting our battle, for lavishing His gifts of peace and love, and for His intervention to deliver an extra boost of strength.

The lily plant is strong, but not impervious to destruction. Drought, insect infestations, and flooding will defoliate the plant, eliminating its source of nutrition. The plant is given one chance to perform majestically with the nutrition stored within its bulb. If the stress is too great, the plant will collapse.

Our Lord is the God of second chances, over and over again. With the renewable Source of strength God provides, we are able to grow in faith, combat stress, and to submit to the will of the Father. Whatever we lack for life and fellowship with God, He will graciously provide. Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret to contentment and the Source of abiding strength.

When I’m dealing with disappointment…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared one of my devotionals that was published in Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional is included in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.”

When I’m dealing with disappointment . . .

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, 
but a sudden good break can turn life around. 
—Proverbs 13:12 MSG

 

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:
but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. 

—Proverbs 15:22 KJV

 

You heard their cries for help and saved them; 
they were never disappointed when they sought your aid. 
—Psalm 22:5 TLB

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who 
love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
—Romans 8:28 NRSV

 

Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad?
Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again 

praise him for his help. 
—Psalm 42:5 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

My Loving Father,

If only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, but I did—and now I feel so disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes I wonder if anything will ever work out for me. Everybody keeps telling me it’s just a little bump in the road, but it doesn’t feel like a bump to me. It feels as I’ve gone off the road completely.

I know I’m probably overreacting, and I also know that I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way right now if I had taken time to talk to You about this situation in the beginning. Would You have steered me in another direction? Or allowed me to move ahead for some higher purpose in my life? I’ll probably never have an answer to that. The point is that I didn’t give You a chance to help me see things from Your perspective.

Lord, take this disappointment I’m feeling and transform it into something positive—a reminder to seek Your guidance; a renewed sense of Your presence with me when things work out and when they don’t; and compassion for others when they feel hopeless and disappointed.

Thank You for being the God of second chances.

Amen.

There is no disappointment to those whose wills are 
buried in the will of God. 
—Frederick Faber


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC

The Secret of Being #Content

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

—Philippians 4:12-13

Are we really content or do we pine away for what we don’t have but think we need? How can we find true contentment? I believe the answer lies in our perspective, our priorities, and our source of power.

Perspective

We are a tiny speck in God’s grand design, but He can see the bigger picture and knows everything that is going to happen to us before we ever do!

I know of a writer who suddenly became quite ill. It took some time for the doctors to diagnose her illness and then she suffered through a long recovery period. During all of this, she never gave up. She firmly believed God would carry her through. In fact, she found contentment in her situation and praised God for granting her that period of rest and recuperation. She could have bemoaned her circumstances and blamed God for it, but instead she chose to use the time to get closer to Him.

Afterward she said she could not wait to get back to her writing because she really had some great things to put down on paper based on what God had revealed to her while she was ill. What a good example of how we can turn something bad into something positive! She exhibited a peace and contentment that transcends all earthly understanding.

Priorities

Is God at the very top of our list of priorities? If we believe that God created all things, why can’t we remember that He can also guide us in all things?

God wants only the best for His children and He reveals this to us in many ways. His love and care for us are evident as He works in us through the people in our lives, and through the Bible, prayer, the church, and the circumstances of our lives.

How many times have we heard (and perhaps even said ourselves), “Why is God letting this happen? Why didn’t He do anything to stop it?” Suppose your child is fighting the ravaging effects of leukemia, or you go into work one day only to find you’ve been laid off. Where is God and how can we find contentment in situations such as these?

As so often happens, the Lord wants to see where our priorities lie. Have we just been giving lip service to our faith and trust in God to provide for our needs, or do we really believe this? It is sometimes difficult, but that trust is another kind of contentment—knowing God will take care of us and resting in that knowledge without worrying about the outcome.

Power

What is the source of our power? Do we turn first to God for help or do we try to solve the problem ourselves? We can do nothing on our own. It is only through the strength of Jesus Christ that we can find any kind of strength at all!

If you’re anything like me, you have struggled with an unruly shopping cart more times than you can remember The first inclination is to fight the rebellious cart, trying to “bend” it to your will—in other words, trying to make it move straight ahead instead of sideways. Usually we finally give up and exchange the stubborn cart for another one, hoping the second one will be easier to steer.

Isn’t this similar to how we oftentimes react to God’s power in our lives? When He tries to show us the error of our ways in a particular situation, we dig in our heels and pretend there’s no problem. We might even turn away from God’s guidance. But when we finally allow God to do His work in our lives, there is a contented and peaceful heart after that struggle with what we know is right.

The more we seek the Lord, the more faithful He is to grant us the emotional means to deal with our lives. True contentment is when we are in stressful situation but remain calm and at peace because we know He is with us no matter what.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

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The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

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Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

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Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.

When We Are Neediest

When We are Neediest 

When you are the neediest, He is the most sufficient.

When you are completely helpless, He is the most helpful.

When you feel totally dependent, He is absolutely dependable.

When you are the weakest, He is the most able.

When you are the most alone, He is intimately present.

When you feel you are the least, He is the greatest.

When you feel the most useless, He is preparing you.

When it is the darkest, He is the only Light you need.

When you feel the least secure, He is your Rock and Fortress.

When you are the most humble, He is most gracious.

When you can’t, He can.

—Source unknown

Storms of Life

Storms of Life

By Patricia Knight

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared.
—Proverbs 3:25-26

The sky was camouflaged by black blankets of menacing storm clouds, warning of impending turmoil over coastal waters. So defeated were the roiling, crashing ocean waves that even the raucous calls of the seabirds were subdued. The wind hushed. Shoreline trees stood at focused attention, awaiting a signal. Undeniable calm and quiet prevailed. Surely a gargantuan storm was threatening to eviscerate the tightly sutured clouds with scintillating bolts of lightning.

Then mysteriously, tiny holes of blue light peeped through the grotesque yellow-black storm clouds. The potential pandemonium lessened with every tiny slice of light. Without a crack of lightning or a drop of rain, fissures of blue sky opened among the disturbances. It took little time for the entire sky to transform. Soon puffy white clouds bounced around on a cerulean blue trampoline.

“Caw, Caw,” rejoiced avian life. Gradually all appearances and activities normalized as if no threats once loomed. The clouds rolled back as a scroll, quickly revealing the beautifully clear firmament beneath. The dark, menacing clouds would hover over the deep ocean waters again, but not today.

There are times when similar gloomy, black clouds stall over our lives, transforming our positive demeanor into negative attitudes. Fear and anxiety rule our decision-making. Frustration and anger take precedent. Like so many times when we’ve been inconvenienced by a situation beyond our control, the approaching storm paralyzes our mental reactions, convincing us of the worst possible outcome. When ineptness overwhelms us, failure often ensues, forcing us to merely hunker down until the threat has passed. We are assured, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25-26).

Joseph was born in Jacob’s old age and was greatly loved and favored over his other siblings. His brothers were insanely jealous of Joseph because of Jacob’s favoritism, accentuated by their father’s gift of a richly ornamental robe. When Joseph’s dreams revealed that his brothers would eventually bow down to worship him, animosity grew more extreme.

Joseph was seventeen years old when his brothers plotted to kill him (Genesis 37:19). Instead, they stripped him of his multi-colored coat and threw him into an empty well. When Midianite traders passed by, the brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Potiphar, the captain of the guard for the Egyptian king, purchased him for palace duty for twenty shekels of silver. “From the time he {Potiphar} put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:5).

One day Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Into prison Joseph went for two long years, seemingly forgotten. Even while in prison, God protected His faithful servant, putting him in a position of leadership over his fellow prisoners.

Such tragedies as Joseph experienced in his young life might tend to destroy a weaker man’s faith, but Joseph’s strength grew as he learned to depend upon God for all of his needs. Jesus taught, “ ‘Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered’” (Matthew 10:30). Surely, if our Lord makes it a point to know such intimate details about His children, we are assured that He loves us, cares for us, and that He is constantly moving in our lives to accomplish His purpose. “‘Because he loves me’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in times of trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation’” (Psalms 91:14-15).

Joseph was put in charge of collecting grain supplies during the seven years of plenty when Egypt had carefully stockpiled their rich harvests. Joseph then approved the sale of grain to their starving neighbors as famine ravaged the known world during the following seven years, leading to a reunion and reconciliation with his siblings, who had planned his demise twenty years earlier. Though Joseph had suffered injustice and humiliation, he didn’t harbor bitterness toward his brothers. His faith was firmly planted in a God who guided his entire life.

“Shout for joy, O earth; burst into song, O mountain!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (Isaiah 49:13).

Joseph forgave his brothers when he revealed his identity to them through tears of joy. “ ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold to Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me here to preserve a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance’” (Genesis 45: 4-5, 7). God’s ultimate mission for sending Joseph to a foreign country was to establish the nation of Israel in Egypt and to use the famine to reunite Joseph’s family.

Does adversity create mental chaos and meltdowns in your life?  Suffering affliction can either turn our thoughts upward toward God or inward toward self-pity. We are assured by God, “ ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13: 5-6). Joseph’s life demonstrates God’s faithfulness.

Like Joseph, let us depend upon God, the faithful One, who has kept every promise from the beginning of time. Faith is not based on ragged emotions borne on desperation, but on trust and confidence. God loves us so unconditionally, He sent His only Son to die for our sins, granting forgiveness for our many temporary lapses in faith over a lifetime. Joseph forgave his brothers for an inhumane act that surely would have led to a slow, agonizing death until God converted the injustice to His sovereign purposes. 

The initial clamor of the atmospheric storm over the ocean initially created fear and havoc, but gradually the development of a full-fledged storm system was replaced with a tranquil sky. How many storms in our lives begin with boisterous, threatening circumstances, but as we pray and trust, God works out the details, calming our spirits.  When we give our fears to Jesus, we routinely experience blue skies of peace lingering on the horizon of our emotions. Our perspective is modified as we view life through the lens of Almighty God, who is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Take Jesus on every excursion of life. He is the only one in whom to solidly place your trust for all of the big and little problems that assail. “He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him” (Proverbs 2:8, NLT)