There are moments when an opportunity pops up and it is not necessarily best for us to jump on board. When Paul was in Ephesus there was a position that was open. They wanted Paul to stay there to spend more time ministering.
He declined – someone else then filled the position at Ephesus. Is it possible we say yes to things because no one else is saying yes, but if we would just say no, a person would stand up? Some people hesitate. Some people don’t think they can do it. Some people are battling things in their minds with God’s calling.
Paul ended up going to Galatia and spent time helping to strengthen the disciples. A man named Apollos went to Ephesus and he filled the open position. “He spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately” and he spoke “boldly in the synagogue.” (v. 25-26 NIV). Because Paul said “no,” it made room for Apollos to step up and say “yes,” and that acceptance helped Apollos to grow and to even minister elsewhere. We aren’t always meant to say “yes.” Pray about it. Each person has a role to play in the Kingdom. You can’t do it all.
“When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined.” – Acts 18:29 [NIV]
I do not like the taste of grapefruit; however, I read many articles claiming that it would be beneficial for my health so I decided to start drinking grapefruit juice daily. The problem is that I cannot stand the taste. The first time I had some of the juice, I could not even force it down; it made me sick just tasting a sip of the juice. But I knew that it would be beneficial to me so I continued to drink it daily and still have a glass every morning.
Something that leaves a bitter taste in most mouths is discipline. People don’t generally like to be disciplined. Who wants to get a write-up at work for being late? What child wants to be grounded? Yet discipline can help us to grow as well as to correct our behavior. Discipline is for a reason. Discipline is for our best. Yet we have become a society against discipline. People are able to buy themselves out of a punishment. Children are un-grounded thirty minutes later because a parent “feels bad,” doesn’t want the child to get a complex or doesn’t feel like taking the time to enforce the punishment.
It is no different when it comes to the Lord’s discipline. We do not like discipline. We complain about our circumstances. There are situations we go through that are to help us to be holy as God has called us to be as His children, and we don’t recognize the discipline or don’t wish to accept the discipline. Proverbs 3:11-12 states: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (NIV). God loves you so much that He doesn’t want you to be living in sin. He set you apart for a reason. You can choose to ignore or you can choose to submit. Submission will lead you toward the goodness, to holiness, to life.
Read Psalm 39 and see how David reacts to discipline.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
– Hebrews 12: 7-11 [NIV]
As I prepared for the next lesson I would be teaching, I peered onto my bookshelf in search of other resources to help me study more in depth. I noticed a “tablet” that I was given months ago, almost five months to be exact. My best friend’s mother handed me this “tablet” that said “Holy Bible” on the front, suggesting that I could possibly make good use of it by filling it with notes. When I received the tablet, I paged through it and noted that it was unused. When I was packing my suitcase to leave, I slipped a photograph inside of my son that was taken weeks ago at a tourist attraction so that it would not get bent. Months later, I saw that I had carefully placed this “tablet” on my bookshelf beside the book “The Story of Jesus.”
I pulled this “tablet” off the shelf and contemplated what I would put inside. Maybe I could fill it with some notes. For some reason I paged through the “tablet” this time, and I realized something was different about this “tablet.” It wasn’t a tablet at all. It was a book—a special book that is used by pastors, teachers and speakers. This “tablet” I wanted to fill with notes was already filled with a useful teaching tool. It was not empty, though I had intended to fill it. The way it works is simple. Flip through the booklet holding the bottom, and the pages are blank. Flip through holding the top of the booklet, and the pages look like a brand-new coloring book. Flip through holding the middle and the eyes will meet fully colored pages.
This booklet shows the different stages we can be located at in life. If we see the Bible as meaningless, the pages as good as blank, we haven’t accepted Jesus and may even declare that God does not exist. Our life, as such, is very empty because the void that only God can fill is vacant and we try our hardest to fill it with things that can never work. Then there are the pages without color, but showing us a nice outline. We can choose to color in as we wish. We understand that there is a God. We go to church. We accepted Jesus, but yet there is part of our lives that we are holding back. We truly haven’t given Him our heart. We are on the borderline, wanting to walk forward but not wanting to give up control. Finally, there is the beautifully, colored pages that are full of life and symbolize what God brings to our lives when we accept Jesus into our lives and we walk with Christ.
Here I wanted to fill this “tablet” with notes. Here my friend’s mother did not realize what she was giving me. Sometimes we try to fill the Bible with what we think it says. We use it as a tool for our own good. Sometimes we try to fill the void in our lives with something other than God. And sometimes, we have something right in front of us and we do not realize what it is because we do not take the time.
Today I encourage you to spend time with God and His Word. It is never too late to open your Bible and to pray for the Holy Spirit to help you glean what you personally need to hear at this moment. Whether you know it or not, there is this amazing, sovereign God of the universe who loves you. The thought of that alone colors every one of the pages of my life.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
– 1 John 4:9-12
I was reading Zechariah yesterday and when I came upon a verse, I noticed a word that jumped out. In Zechariah 8:13, the verse says to “fear not” or “do not be afraid” Then it continues with “but LET your hands be strong” [ESV, NASB, KJV, ASV]. Let my hands be strong? How can I let my hands be strong? I was reading from the NASB translation so I decided to look at other translations to see if there was a difference. God’s Word says, “let your hands work hard.” The NLT says “get on with rebuilding the Temple.” The Message translation says to “keep a firm grip on what I’m doing.”
At this time, they were rebuilding the Temple but they were facing some problems. God was telling them to stay focused and press forward with His work. He provides all we need to get His work accomplished. I love the Douay-Rheims translation which says “let your hands be strengthened.” We are weak alone, but if we allow God to work with us, we are strong. We are not to work alone; we cannot do it alone. The word “let” is used, because we need to openly accept the help from God. He loves us and does not force Himself upon us.
The Message says that we are to “keep a firm grip” on God’s work through the situation. We are to focus on God and what He can do instead of looking at what we can do alone. The people who were rebuilding the Temple were being told they couldn’t do it. They were facing hardships. They were having the devil whisper in their ears.
God says we are to focus on what He can do through us. We still need to press forward. We still need to be building whatever God called us to build; however, we need to focus on what He is doing with the building process. When things look like they won’t work, when people are telling you that they won’t work, we are not to get deterred from doing what God called us to do in life. We are to keep a strong grip on God’s Truth. Whatever is not God’s Truth is not truth at all. If there is something going on in your life and you are feeling deterred from doing what God has called you to do, “let your hands be strong.” God can do anything! Keep a firm grip on Him and His promises for your life.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
– Philippians 4:13 [NLT]