I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.
When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.
In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]
Have you ever been called a “nobody”? In this world we spend many hours trying to show people that we are somebody, that we are important, that we mean something. There are books written about how to turn your life around and go from a nobody to a somebody. There are lectures and programs built around this idea of turning your life around from being nothing to being something.
God sees things differently. Yes, we all are nobodies traveling the earth, but we each have a purpose. We each are valuable. No one is more valuable than another. We are all important. We can all be somebodies. We simply need to find our way back to God and follow our purpose, God’s awesome plan. Trust me, it is an awesome plan, a plan we cannot even fathom.
Now being a somebody does not mean you will be a millionaire or a celebrity or even find great earthly success. But it is so much better. You are a child of the King. You will have eternity to enjoy. You are forgiven. You are redeemed. You are restored. These things make you a Somebody. Without Christ, we are all forever and always nobodies, no matter how hard you work and how much time and effort is put into changing your status. In Christ alone we are Somebody.
“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!” – Hosea 1:10-11 [MSG]
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” – Colossians 3:23 [HCSB]
As I was doing my grocery shopping, I walked pass a young man stocking shelves. One of his co-workers passed by and asked, “You’re still doing that?” The response of the young man was one I’ve heard time and time again—“I’m here for eight hours either way.”
Yes, he will be there for eight hours. He will get paid the same no matter how much effort he puts forth with stocking the shelves. But this thought that it does not matter—that I do not need put forth a good effort—is something very negative and it greatly impacts our society.
We are told to do everything as if it was for the Lord. Today look at the effort you put forth, the attitude you have at your workplace, in your home, at church, in your relationship with God, etc. Do you give God your best effort or are you going through the motions till the time is up? Does it really matter? How would an onlooker see you stocking shelves—with joy serving the Lord or just passing time?
This morning I continued preparations for Saturday when my family will gather together for the annual Christmas party. I gave the dog a bath, washed the floors, got Christmas cards organized, and made a list of what needs done before Saturday morning. We always prepare for something that means a lot to us, and it is this preparation that I see in the Bible when we look at the Old Testament and the mentions again and again of Jesus.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:20 that God, before the foundation of the world, had already began preparations for the greatest Christmas gift we would ever receive—Jesus. We can see as we page through the Old Testament so many different ways that God prepared the way for what would happen the day Jesus would be born, and for what would happen afterward. In Luke 24:44, Jesus notes that the Old Testament books (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms) were making reference to Him and must be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). As so many people this month are celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is important to take a look at how much preparation went on beforehand to grasp a better understanding of the love God has for each one of us.
When we organize a party, build a house, start a business, work on a project, etc., we spend a lot of time on preparatory work. With something of such great value to us, we invest a great deal of effort and consideration to get it just right, as perfect as possible. God cares so very much for you. He is very big on details and has beautifully orchestrated everything from the foundation of the world to the plan He has for your life. He loves you so much that He has each hair on your head numbered (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). As you prepare for your Christmas gatherings this season, please do not lose sight of the love of God and His perfect plan that He has been working on since the foundation of the world. You fit into that plan. He has a purpose for your life and He wants to be a part of your life. Today is as good a day as any to accept what He has to offer—the greatest Christmas gift you’ll ever get.