“Then the LORD said to him,
‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said,
‘I will give it to your descendants.’
I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’”
– Deuteronomy 34:4
I have read this passage about God speaking to Moses multiple times. Every time, all I have ever seen was the love of God as He let Moses actually see the Promised Land even though he wouldn’t be able to enter into it (Numbers 20:12). Blame it on my optimism or my view of God, but I have never looked beyond that sweet act of mercy. It was almost as if God had told Moses:
“I made a promise years ago and you have always trusted in that promise.
You may not have understood where I was leading you, but you always followed.
I led you into a land of unknown for forty years and you never stopped seeking Me.
It is because of this that I will show you what I said was true.
I want you to know, my son, that I always have been and always will be faithful to my people.”
How could you not be overwhelmed with the grace and love of God in that moment? He is so good to us even though we don’t deserve it. Because of this great truth, I looked at the passage differently last week when I read it. I could not help but look beyond God’s blessing and look at God Himself, as Moses did. Even though he knew he would not inherit the blessing of the Promised Land, he continued to trust and serve the Lord. Just knowing God was enough reason for Moses to obey all those years spent wandering in the wilderness. It didn’t matter where he was going or what God would give him in the end. If God said “Go,” Moses started walking.
Of course, God, in all his perfect timing, placed this truth on my heart in a season where there are many unknowns and uncertainties of what lies ahead. In a season like this, doubt and fear can easily infiltrate my heart if I do not hold on to God’s promises. Friend, if you find yourself in the same season of life, my hope and prayer is that these words the Lord placed on my heart would also encourage you…
“I made a promise years ago and I need you to trust in that promise.
You may not understand where I am leading you, but I need you to follow.
While I lead you into a land of the great unknown, never stop seeking Me.
I will show you what I said was true.
I want you to know, my daughter, that I always have been and always will be faithful to my people.”
So what do you say, beloved?
“Now the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
It’s there, in the scriptures.
From the very beginning we are told that it’s not good for us to be alone and that we need help. But here we are, living in a world of self-help books, self-made millionaires, and selfie sticks. Friends, what makes us think that doing life alone is better than God’s plan of unity and community? Why do we think that being independent in our own strength is better than being dependent on His strength?
I’ll be the first to say that I am guilty of falling for the lie that says we need to be completely independent in order to be strong and successful, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness or vulnerability. In fact, for most of my life, I prided myself on the ability to learn and accomplish things without the help of others, whether it be in school, work, or sports. That pride was rooted so deep in me that it drove me to do things on my own rather than ask or accept help from those around me–even if I needed it. Sure, I was able to achieve goals and even feel accomplished and successful at times, but what was missing from my life was far greater than I realized.
Fooled into Thinking I Was Independent
When I left for out-of-state college right after high school, I was fooled into thinking that I was completely independent and free to make any choices I wanted, without needing the direction of anyone…including the Holy Spirit. I felt as though I was wise and strong enough to stand on my own and that there was no real immediate need for church, discipleship, and/or even community with strong believers. After all, up to this point I hadn’t faced much adversity, really only joy and fulfillment. My thought process was essentially, “I got this. I know who I am. I’ll make the right decisions for me.” But in reality, the only thing I had was a false sense of security, confidence, and a lack of true identity.
“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Psalm 10:4
“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 26:12
The result of my disastrous decision making and my “independence” led me to a place where Isaiah 23:9 became a reality in my life…
“The LORD Almighty planned it, to bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble…”
The Truth of My Success
God had to aggressively, yet lovingly, break off this lie and pride I was walking under by allowing me to make my own poor choices which led to some pretty hard consequences and a lot of pain. Unfortunately, the season of growing and sifting took several years, millions of tears, and a few broken hearts. But He had to remind me that apart from Him, I was nothing. That all those years of blessing, protection, and grace from my parents and others were indeed His doing, not my own. That while I was thinking my “success” was because of my skill and drive, it was really because He was gracious in filling all the gaps I missed and patching up the holes I made.
You see, I was never doing it on my own. I might have not seen it because I was so focused on myself, but I was being helped daily, regardless if I wanted it or not. That’s the amazing thing about a loving God, He doesn’t just leave us to take life on by ourselves…even if that’s what we think we want.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
“…He will never leave you nor forsake you…”
“My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth”
Depend on God for True Joy
Friends, whether we like to admit it or not, we need God’s help in everything we say and do. We need to depend on Him and His strength, not our own. Otherwise, we will lead a life of false contentment and at best, temporary delight. True fulfillment and everlasting joy can only come from complete humility, obedience and dependence on the Lord.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
So what do you say? Are you willing to…
…humble yourself and admit you are nothing apart from Him?
…accept His help, whether in the form of correction or the simple support of a friend?
…be found weak in your own strength, so that you may be found strong in His?
I’m a People Person
When I say that I love people, I mean that…I LOVE PEOPLE. Just being around new people or in a group setting gets me excited. Does anyone out there feel the same way? There is just something so fun and refreshing about seeing new faces, hearing everyone’s stories, and growing relationships. It’s truly the main reason why I love hosting large parties or get-togethers. I will invite a good chunk of my phone book, for no other reason than I genuinely want to share life with others. Sure, it may increase the budget for the party, but if there is something to celebrate, I want others to share in it with us! Why not, right?
I have always sincerely believed that the more people you surround yourself with, the more encouragement and joy there will be in your life. Truly a “the more, the merrier” mentality.
For over thirty years I have never seen a problem with being wired that way…that is, until lately. As I started to think about planning birthday parties for my kids and summer BBQs and began looking at our list of “friends” to invite, I realized that while they may be on our guest list, we may not be on theirs.
** Now, before you think that this is turning into a big ol’ pity party, I can assure you it’s not. So please don’t give up on me yet! **
Believing Lies Based on Missed Expectations
The truth is, I am a sinful human being and am guilty of reacting in my flesh frequently, so I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t initially feel hurt, betrayed, and bitter at one person’s “oversight” of my feelings. This weird encounter (which truly did nothing more than leave me feeling awkward), completely opened the floodgates of undealt with emotion from over the years. It’s as though I had a flip book of memories and times where I was hurt by a friend flipping rapidly through my mind, taking my thoughts to extremes and probably exaggerating what really happened by 1000%.
Y’all, my mind was out of control. I truly was walking with some nasty lies. Thankfully, my wonderful mentor (mom), was there to listen to me ramble as I talked myself in circles until the truth punched me in the face: IT WAS MY FAULT.
You heard (or rather, read) that right: The pain I felt was actually my fault. Why? MISSED EXPECTATIONS. Here is the hard truth I had to receive:
Any expectation I placed on another was a setup for relationship failure from the beginning.
The moment I decided what type of friend they should be to me was the moment I became less of a true friend myself. I focused on how they treated me, rather than on their heart and how I should treat them.
A Godly, yet Complicated Friendship
Of course, as with everything, the Holy Spirit oh-so-graciously reminded how I was wrong and pointed me to the Word and the friendship between Jonathan and David. You guys, talk about a complicated relationship. You can read all about it in 1 and 2 Samuel, but this passage about this one selfless act essentially sums up how Jonathan was a true friend, despite all the circumstances and trials that the two faced.
“… Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself… And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt.”
1 Samuel 18:1-4
I love how Beth Moore puts this into perspective…
“Clearly Saul intended for Jonathan to become the second king of Israel (1 Sam 20:30-31), but this son had other plans. In David, Jonathan saw character fit for a king. He was so determined that the throne be occupied by God’s chosen instrument that he offered everything he had…Jonathan sacrificed himself. He removed his royal regalia…and placed it on David.”
Jonathan literally gave up everything to help encourage and support his friend David in all that God had called him to be. Nowhere does it say that David ever reciprocated that love and sacrificed as Jonathan had, yet Jonathan remained loyal to his friend. Better yet, Jonathan remained loyal to God.
You see, it shouldn’t matter how others treat us.
If God has placed on our hearts to love, support, and walk with someone as a friend (Amos 3:3), we need to be faithful to that calling, not only in the good seasons, but also in the hard ones. This isn’t about how they make us feel, but rather about being who God has called each one of us to be and how we are to make others feel.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging one another…”
I still love people and will continue to throw huge celebrations. The difference is, when I call someone friend, it holds no expectation of them. It simply acknowledges that regardless of their choices or how they may treat me, I will continue to welcome, love, and encourage them as Christ does me.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
So what do you say, friend?
Are you willing to take the road less traveled and pursue a life of obedience to the Lord in seeking out the welfare and accomplishments of others over yourself, even if that means giving while never receiving? To be that selfless, abiding friend like Jonathan, full of love and encouragement so that he/she may pursue who God has called them to be?
I remember the exact moment when I felt as though my prayers were just these wasted monologues vanishing into thin air. I was convinced that after months and months, hundreds and hundreds of prayers for my daughter Jaelyn, the Lord wasn’t going to answer them and heal her. Every morning I walked into her room hoping that it was the day she could breathe on her own. But every night I put her down with her oxygen and plead the same thing I did the night before: “Please take this from her. I can’t do this anymore.”
Did David Feel the Same Way?
I can’t help but wonder if David felt like I did while he was fleeing for his life (1 Samuel 19-30) and when he penned Psalm 13:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
On the Run and yet Still Praying
David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), lived on the run and in hiding from Saul for up to four years, despite God’s promise to give him the throne (1 Samuel 16). Some of us look at his situation and wonder how he ever got through such a hard season of trials and tribulations without losing faith. After all, four years is a long time! More importantly, why would David go on praying when there seemed to be no answer to the cries of his heart?
Coincidentally–or better–in such godly fashion, we find the answer at the end of this same psalm of lament. Beginning in Psalm 13:5, it says:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
For he has been good to me.
Never Cease to Pray…and Praise
While the answer is probably simpler said than done, it does not diminish it from being truth. David was able to pray without ceasing because he was able to praise without ceasing. We see his heart clearly in Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
David’s focus on God, His kingdom, and steadfast love outweighed the turmoil he personally faced. His life exemplified what Philippians 4:6 speaks of: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” He did not stop at praying and petitioning, but continued pouring out unrelenting thanksgiving to God.
David ultimately would see the prophetic word from Samuel come to fruition as he took the throne and became king. Even if he never had become king, I believe he still would have praised the Most High until his very last breath…
God Used My Prayers to Sift Me
Speaking of breath, remember my daughter Jaelyn? Finally, after fifteen months of testing, monitoring, and oxygen, she was miraculously healed one night while a friend in India prayed over her. After the excitement of her healing settled, I wondered why his prayer had been answered right away, but not mine? It didn’t take long for me to realize that God did hear my prayers. The timing of Jae’s healing had nothing to do with me. He used that season to teach and sift me so that I could see past myself into His heart. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says,
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Did you catch that?
The revelation of Jesus Christ through trials results in praise in this life and throughout eternity. To put it simply:
When we set our eyes upon Him, our hearts and prayers become Christ-centered.
When our lives become Christ-centered, we never cease to pray and seek more of Him.
When we seek Him, we will always find Him.
When we find Him, we will never cease to praise Him.
A Reason to Honor MLK
With strong faith, leadership skills, and an unprecedented power of speech, he became one of the most influential individuals in the history of this country. As a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, it comes to no surprise that every third Monday in January our nation recognizes the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Through his powerful speeches, demonstrations, and writings, King led the masses in an examination of the heart. He challenged individuals to evaluate their perception and treatment of others. He preached on having a spirit of service, peace, and love rather than that of entitlement, anger, and bitterness. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man with a great message, but most importantly, he served a great God.
If we examined all of King’s accomplishments as well as all his trials, it would amaze us, but I’m afraid we would then lose the heart and focus of what he was trying to convey: “We must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all our actions.” Make no mistake, God had His hand upon Martin Luther King, Jr. God used MLK in a mighty way because he was willing to serve the Lord. King’s actions were a result of having a heart of a servant and the power of an almighty God.
“… Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
A Challenge for Us
Can you imagine the transformation throughout the world if each one of us was willing to serve and love God and one another as Martin Luther King Jr. did? Let this challenge us: that today and every day we will stand strong in faith and in truth, spreading the Gospel throughout the nations and leaving God’s mark on this world just as King did. Whether God calls you to serve a people locally or internationally, God is ready to use you in a mighty way. You just have to say “yes.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
“Everybody can be great. Because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” –Martin Luther King Jr.