Life is a journey. Over the years, I learned that a journey isn’t the same during each part of the journey. There are highs and lows, good times and bad times. There are moments of rejoicing, and moments of sorrow and tears. When one sets out on a journey, so often the sojourner thinks the steps have been set, the days are fixed, and there is a great picture of what will result at the end of the journey. Consider a trip to an amusement park. You know stops along the way for refreshments and bathroom visits are likely. You know that fun will be had with rides and games. You may even have an itinerary in place. In the end, you know you will leave with a collection of photos, overly hyper children overcome by sugar and fast food, and perhaps a slight case of dehydration from the heat of a sunny day.
Life isn’t like that though. No matter how much you plan, how much you think that the steps have been set in place, that the days are fixed, life does not come all beautifully packaged. Yes, each of your days is written in the Book. Yes, all of your tears are caught in His bottle. Yes, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Yes, there is a narrow path that few will choose. Yes, there is an end to the journey which culminates with the New Heaven and New Earth as we worship our King. But the journey—the journey is a journey of faith. And when you step forth in faith, you can only cling to the promises of God, lay everything down before Him, and trust that when the journey gets difficult, when the road gets hard, when people turn their backs, when eyes are opened, when jobs are lost, when health deteriorates, when the puzzle isn’t coming together like the picture on the box—that God is Sovereign, that God has everything beautifully orchestrated, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand.
As I sit here today, in the middle of turbulent part of my journey in life, I can certainly say that my mom never warned me of these days. There are days no one can prepare you for except for a life long journey filled with experiences—a journey filled with triumph and loss, pain and suffering, truth and lies. The scars of life, they sometimes feel as if they cover us completely—as if they will have the last say. But it is in the ashes, that we are reminded of God’s love for His children. We are reminded of the price that was paid. We are reminded that we will rise—that even when the days of this journey can be hard, and dark, and painful—that even when these days come—that God, in His infinite wisdom and His unfailing love, has victory. He has overcome. Now in Him, in Him we are washed. In Him, we find peace. In Him, we are made new. Over and over again. And one day, one day when our Lord returns, all will bow and confess, all will see His glory, and all things will be new.
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23 [ESV]
“Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24 [CSB]
Life is not always easy. In fact life is usually not easy. Difficulty seems to find me. There’s always a challenge. There’s always a trial. There’s always something going on in a person’s life. That’s why there’s a quote that tells us to treat everyone nice because we don’t know what they are going through.
I’ve heard many times the question, “Where is YOUR God?” Where is God now? Why are things not easy for you since you accepted Christ? Why are you having these troubles—doesn’t your God care?
We are promised that the narrow road is difficult. It’s a difficult road and it does not make everything instantly smooth. Things don’t suddenly come easy. Mark 10 even tells us that yes, we will receive a hundred times as much as what we leave behind, but that comes “along with persecutions” (v. 30 NIV). The road is difficult but we are not alone. Christ is with us each step of the way. Keep moving forward on this difficult road. He is faithful.
“But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” – Matthew 7:14 [NLT]
Almost a year ago I sat down to write about Daniel 3:18. When I write, there are two different ways that I begin. First, there are moments when I am walking my dog Max and the Lord leads me to something. Second, there are moments when I am reading my Bible (many times during my lunch break), when He leads me to something and I will scrawl down some notes for later. Nonetheless, this week I was again reading Daniel 3:18 and was led to write about it. But it felt very familiar.
I considered that perhaps I had written about it before. After writing devotionals, other books, papers, sermons, lessons, etc., it was a possibility. I felt this overwhelming need to search, and then I found it, “But Even If.” Does someone need to hear it again? Yes, and God knew—it was me!
Life has been very difficult lately. Life in general is difficult, but lately I have been feeling exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. Everything is a battle. I have followed the narrow path. But when we are on the journey God has placed before us, our expectations of the outcome might be very different from where God takes us. Hence the exhaustion. For some of us it’s frustration or even worse. But God reminds each of us that He is with us and He has a great plan for our lives. No matter where we are at on the journey, no matter what our expectations for a situation, our lips should say, “But even if he doesn’t” we will still press forward and live each day firmly rooted in Him. I’m pressing forward. He is my hope and my confidence.
“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NLT]
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [NIV]
When I was recently reading about Joseph, Genesis 37:4 stuck out to me: “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (NIV). The verse states that the brothers of Joseph could not speak a kind word to him. I considered that inability the brothers had and could not imagine not being able to say something kind to a person, even someone I am not very fond of or on good speaking terms. Even with someone who rubs me the wrong way, I am able to find something kind to say to that person.
The Bible says that the brothers of Joseph hated him. They were jealous that their father loved him more. Joseph was given a robe that would be something worn by royalty. We can see the damage favoritism can cause in our lives. Plus Joseph was also a bit of a tattle tale as well, and this surely caused more hatred to brew.
You may know some people who aren’t easy to love. Though it may be a challenge, we need to show these people love. As Jesus said, what is it to show love to someone who is easy to love? It is so much more to show love to those who can be a challenge—those who make us sacrifice—those who don’t make it so easy. If there is someone who rubs you the wrong way, go out of your way today to say something kind to that person. You might be surprised at how God will use your kind words.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:31-35 [NIV]
As I drove down the street, I noticed that the sidewalk that was recently redone to allow pedestrians safer travel was being changed. It made no sense to me why there was any need to do more work to the area. When I peered closer, I noticed that the sidewalk was constructed to purposely block people from easy access to the church that was located in the same area. There was a barrier making it more difficult for someone to enter the church.
I thought to myself about this barrier and how it reminded me of the barriers that are all around us when it comes to church. There are some people who are kept from going to church. There are others who are turned away from the church. There are others who do not feel welcomed at church. Of course, there are others who want nothing to do with church or with God. From my vantage point, so many people are unable to pass one of these barriers.
During the Christmas season, more people walk through the church doors; some people have not entered since last year and for others it is their first time in a church. I encourage you to be welcoming to all as Christ was loving and caring for the needs of all people. The church is not a building. We are the church. We are called to be a holy people, set apart for God. Let us remember this special calling and act upon it. Let us reach out and hold the door open to all who wish to enter, and even go the extra mile to invite those who have never entered and who aren’t very interested in coming. Shine the Light.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
– Romans 15:7 [ESV]
On September 13, Australia had celebrated a day that is known as R U Ok?Day. RU Ok?Day is actually a national day there, and it’s held the second Thursday of September. This day is focused on building awareness of people– asking people if they are okay and being genuinely supportive. Too often we overlook our fellow man and neglect to see the struggles they are going through in life. Sadly, some people are hurting so badly and would feel so much better if someone would ask the simple question, are you okay? My family has personally been affected by depression and suicide. It is the sad, but all to real truth.
I remember so many times in life when I was going through a tough period and did not feel like I could talk to anyone. There is the fear of judgment, the fear of rejection, the feeling of hopelessness and lack of support, and a sad road to depression. Sometimes a person simply needs to have support– but it seems like support is hard to come by and then there is the feeling of being alone in the world. I know; I have been there. People need people. God made us to need community.
As Christians, we are never alone. God is always with us. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit so no matter if we are in our car driving along the highway, in the middle of a park, or at home all alone, we are never truly alone. Even so, there are times when it seems as if the world is crushing down upon us and we do not feel like we can handle it. It is at these moments, we really need a hand to reach out to us. The Bible says we are to be there to support others. We are to help the poor, to encourage our fellow Christians, to teach, to share, etc.
Today might be a good day for you and you may be feeling just fine. At the same time, the person next to you might not be doing so well. R U Ok?Day was created to encourage people to ask other people if they are okay. Perhaps you are not from Australia or it is not even the 13th of September where you are located. Even so, when you come upon the next person wherever you may be, ask them if they are okay. Not simply to ask and pass by quickly. Invite them to answer. Be the support that you wish to have on your worst day. That person may need it more than you will ever know.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25 [NASB]