Life gives us the option of two paths—the right path and the wrong path. The path we take says a lot about our journey in life. In today’s verse, we read that the people who fear the LORD take the right path. The people who despise God take the wrong path.
To fear God means to recognize Who He is and thereby honor Him. When our eyes open to our Creator, when our eyes fix on Him, we begin to see a glimpse of His greatness. We cannot describe His greatness. We cannot understand His thoughts. We stand amazed at His unfailing love, at the sacrifice of His One and only Son. We fear the LORD and press onward along the right path.
For others, another path is taken. A hardened heart leads some down a very different path, a path that is opposite the one the children of God travel. This is a path God wishes no one to travel. It is a path that leads to death and destruction. It is a path those who despise the LORD desire to travel, not grasping the way, the truth, or the life. Today, consider the path you are taking? Are you on the right path?
“Those who follow the right path fear the LORD; those who take the wrong path despise Him.” – Proverbs 14:2 [NLT]
The Lord tells Moses to gather some men together to scout the Promised Land, the land He was giving them. When He makes the request, He even restates that He is giving this land to the Israelites. They were to simply walk through the land and bring back their report with some fruit. When the men came back, ten of the twelve men were not eager to enter the land.
Though God already stated numerous times that He was giving the land to them, the men didn’t want to pursue the promise. Caleb and Joshua were the only ones who spoke of what this great land boasted. It was described as a land that was flowing with milk and honey. The fruit was so large, two men had to carry it back. Yet instead of focusing on the promise of God, ten of the men focused on the people who were strong, much stronger than the Israelites. They even spoke of giants. Beside these giants they “felt like grasshoppers.”
How often do you feel like a grasshopper when God calls you forward? How many times do you look at the giants, and turn in the other direction? How many times do you allow the lies of this world to keep you from embracing the promises of God? Whatever He promises, He will be deliver. We can choose to be grasshoppers, or we can choose to rise up and be the sons and daughters of God. He has called YOU forward. Rise up my friend.
“We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” – Numbers 13:33 [NLT]
As I was reading about Lot and his journey from sinful Sodom, I couldn’t help but note the interesting plea Lot made to his escorts who led him away from the area. God was destroying Sodom. Because of Abraham, Lot was saved. As he and his family were exiting, Lot’s wife looked back and lost her life. The group traveling onward included Lot and his two daughters.
As they continue onward, rather than go where he was being led, Lot begs to go to Zoar. He sees this small village. It’s nearby. It seems like an easier place to stop and find shelter. Instead of going onward, separating himself further from Sodom, he asks to remain in this “small village nearby.” But then what happens? Not so much further along in the text, we read that he “left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there.” He begged to be somewhere and yet had to leave in fear.
Imagine where he may have been led. Imagine if he would have not begged to stay in this small nearby village. We often think our plans are best. When we get an idea in our head, that’s what we want. God has something better. Perhaps we want the small village but He wants to bless us with a larger one. Perhaps we want a small thing, but He has something much bigger in mind. Today, look at the nearby villages you continue to beg for God to provide. Consider He might have something else for you. Consider the moments you drag your feet to stay near where you already are, and the possibility that God wants to move you further then you ever imagined.
“’See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved’… Afterward Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters. – Genesis 19:20, 30 [NLT]
My dog Max frightens at times. I often tell him he is a big baby despite his 85-pound Labrador body. When my little Shih-Tzu Marci has an episode due to tracheal collapse, Max runs upstairs to hide. He doesn’t like the sound. I’ll admit the sound is a bit disturbing.
The tracheal collapse is a known issue with the breed. It doesn’t happen often and it has not caused Marci any problems. Even so, Max is fearful of the noise and possibly the body language of his best friend. Perhaps, just like us humans, he’s fearful of the unknown.
The unknown can be scary. Truth be told, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It is unknown. There are some possible things that likely will happen tomorrow. But we don’t know for sure. Even more frightening is when we are to walk out of our comfort zone. When God calls us out of the comfort area, the fear level rises. There’s no need to run. Tomorrow may be unknown, but our God is known and He is faithful. Put your trust in Him. He will see you through.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4 [ESV]
I am very particular about things. Some say I have OCD, but the doctor said it is only OCD tendencies. When it comes to scents, I like to stick with vanilla and honey or like ocean mists. Typically, the flowery scents attack my nose. Today I asked my daughter to pick out two hand soaps. I did not realize what I was getting myself into by giving her control of the hand soap selection. When I saw what she picked, after we were already home, I cringed at the one bottle. It was a flowery scent.
When I asked her why she selected the flowery hand soap, she said she didn’t look at the scents for the hand soaps. She did not consider scent at all. She selected the hand soap by picking up what was “pretty.” She thought the soap she selected—which she also noted was “special edition” – looked nice. Sadly, the smell leaves more to be desired.
In life, we often make decisions by the looks of things, including our decisions on the people with which we engage. We pass judgment. We turn our noses. We engage with people who look like us. We sometimes avoid people who look a certain way, whether it be due to lack of knowledge, a fear issue, or something else. We read what happened when God’s people wanted a king. They were given a king—King Saul. This man was the one who looked like a king. We later find out that though Saul looked like a king, he certainly was not someone who would lead his people in the right way. But then comes along David. He was a man after God’s own heart. He did not look like a king, but he sure had a heart for God. King David allowed God to do awesome things through him. He continued to keep His eyes fixed on the Lord. Today, be open to how God wants to use you. Be ready to receive anyone God sends your way!
“And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” – Acts 13:22 [ESV]
Every morning, there is the usual routine. After our daily walk (weather permitting), the dogs sit inside the kitchen awaiting their food. Typically, I’ll grab their bowls and get them water, followed by their food. There are moments when I need to do something quickly before feeding them. They still stand in their places, patiently waiting for their food. They know that their master will feed them. They trust it is coming. In time, the food comes.
The Bible references many promises of God. In Matthew 6, we read about how God cares for the birds—He makes sure they are fed. This illustration is shared to show us the importance of leaning into God and not succumbing to anxiety. Too often, we allow fear, anxiety, worry, and doubt to keep us from stepping into what God has ready for us. Rather than following His will and patiently trusting Him, we try to do things on our own and life becomes frazzled. We were never meant to do life alone on our strength.
Worry will get you nowhere. It cannot add a single hour to your life span. It cannot make the problem go away. It cannot change your circumstances. It cannot help in any way. Like my dogs stand patiently waiting to be fed, trusting in their master, we are to stand before our Master, trusting in Him. Even when nothing seems to go well—even when the circumstances look bad—cling to Him and His promises. Even when things are falling apart around you, stand firm in your faith. Wait obediently. He is faithful!
““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:25-27 [ESV]
My dog Max often has intense dreams that get his paws moving. Early this morning, I woke up when I heard him whimpering. I did what I always do; I said, “It’s okay Max. It’s okay.” That is usually enough to calm him down. My voice. It is a voice he knows well – the voice of his master. It is a phrase I say to him a lot on our walks as I try to encourage him during his anxious, stressful moments.
This week, I am preparing a message about what Jesus said about anxiety and fear. After I told Max it would be “okay,” and he quickly calmed down, I considered how our Lord tells us in His Word that it will be “okay.” Sadly, we do not often take the time to listen to His voice or read His Word. Instead of resting in Him, instead of enjoying the peace only He offers, we allow ourselves to worry our days away.
I have seen anxiety rob friends and family of peace. I have seen the struggles of loved ones cause health problems, hospital visits, depression, and more. Worry, anxiety, fear—we all feel these things. Thankfully, we have a Father Who calls out to us. We have a Father Who still speaks to us. We have a Father Who embraces us, Who cares for us, Who knows our needs better than even we know them. He tells us to cast everything on Him. He promises He hears. He ensures His great purpose. Whatever you may be struggling with today, listen for His still small voice. Listen as He speaks to you. It’s going to be okay, my friends. Maybe it doesn’t look like it right now—but it will be okay.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 [NASB]
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:7 [NLT]
JOY is all about JESUS and the gift of salvation He offers. Because of JESUS, we wanderers can come back home to our Heavenly Father. This relationship was always God’s plan for us. It is only possible through CHRIST JESUS. Only through faith in JESUS are we children of God. Salvation is a gift from God. JESUS, our greatest gift – this is the cause of our “Overwhelming Joy.”
When you live with the Overwhelming JOY of JESUS, this JOY will become Overflowing JOY.
Luke 2:10-11 – But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. [NIV]
What JOY isn’t:
- Positive thinking
- Happiness because things are going your way
- A glass half-full attitude
NO ONE WILL ROB YOU OF YOUR JOY – John 16:22 says “So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.” No one can rob you of your JOY because it is founded in JESUS, in your salvation.
What is JOY?
1 Peter 1:8 – “You love (Jesus) even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” [NLT]
- Glorious joy – ascribing weight by recognizing real substance/value – personally acknowledge God in His true character – JOY [POINTS TO GOD]
- Inexpressible joy – unable to fully describe, impossible to adequately convey with words, unspeakable – JOY [WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE]
Definition of JOY:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” – Kay Warren
The JOY OF JESUS
The JOY of JESUS was His absolute surrender and sacrifice of self to His Father. He had JOY in doing what His father sent Him to accomplish. Hebrews 12:2b says, “Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Why did this all happen….
- God loves you – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” JESUS WAS BORN TO COMPLETE A MISSION – A SINLESS LIFE, A SACRIFICE, SALVATION FROM THE WAGES OF SIN.
- God is for you – Romans 8:31b “If God is for us, who can be against us;” John 3:17 “God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him” (NLT). JESUS CAME TO SAVE YOU
- God is with you – Joshua 1:9 “wherever you go;” Deuteronomy 31:6 “He will not leave you or forsake you;” Isaiah “(He) is with you;” Matthew 28:20b “I am with you always, to the end of the age;” Immanuel means “God with us” – prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, mentioned in Matthew 1:23. THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS SENT TO US.
IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS AND RELATIONSHIP
What Jesus say about JOY:
- All of heaven celebrates those who repent. Luke 15:7 – Parable of Lost Sheep – “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” [JOY OVER REPENTANCE]
- Jesus celebrates faithfulness with you. Matthew 25:21 – “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” [JOY OVER FAITHFULNESS]
REPENTANCE IS THE FIRST STEP
FAITHFULNESS IS ALL OF THE STEPS AFTER
JOY is grounded upon God Himself:
- Joy is glorious gladness & deep delight in the person of Jesus
- Joy is greater and stronger than any trouble in life
- Jesus is the source of all JOY (Psalm 43:4)
- In His Presence is fullness of JOY (Psalm 16:11)
- His Word is a JOY & delight of heart (Jeremiah 15:1-6)
- Faith in Him causes us to brim with JOY (Psalm 33:20-22)
JOY is Good News – Entire Gospel is full of JOY at every turn:
- Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:10) – Good news of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL the people.
- Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:9, Luke 19:37) – Whole multitude of disciples began to PRAISE GOD.
- After the Resurrection (Matthew 28:7-8) – So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled WITH JOY, and ran to tell his disciples.
- The Promise Yet to Come (Isaiah 51:11) – Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
How does the JOY fade?
- Sin – going against God – Pastor Miles spoke the first week about Repentance
- Past – focusing on past mistakes – I spoke about the past – about how we should only look back when we are remembering what God has done.
- Fear & Doubt – not believing/trusting God, doubting God – Pastor Ryan spoke about trusting God
- Selfishness – pride tries to control rather than rest in Him. Pastor Matt spoke about our need to surrender control and admit we need Jesus.
- Lack of prayer – JOY is fruit of the believer. (Galatians 5:22). Every believer is to share in the JOY of CHRIST by walking with Him daily. Prayer & Bible reading. JESUS said in John 15 that it is MY JOY IN YOU – JESUS’ JOY in you – if you abide in HIM. You cannot produce this JOY alone. It needs to be cultivated. It’s linked to your relationship with JESUS.
Great Example of JOY in the Bible
Churches of Macedonia – 2 Corinthians 8:2 – “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
This doesn’t make sense if you define JOY using the world’s definition. But it certainly makes sense when you have encountered JESUS and you walk with Him.
If you haven’t taken that first step to JESUS, do it now! Enter into His JOY!
If you already have taken that first step, where are you at with the steps that follow? If you are walking with JESUS, where is your joy?
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He did this so we could do life with JESUS, so that we could be in the presence of God. JOY is wrapped up in His presence.
Romans 14:17 – the Kingdom of God is RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE, & JOY in the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace & joy—and it’s all from the Spirit of God. No one can take the Spirit of God from you. No one can take the joy & peace & righteousness.
Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the way of life, granting me the JOY of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.”
May this be your prayer.
My dog Max has some issues with other dogs due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is fine when dogs enter our home. He is fine when he goes to someone’s house and they have a dog. The issue is when we are walking. As a result, I am mindful of when we walk and where we walk because I do not want Max to get fearful and agitated.
It does not matter how prepared I am, nor how many alternative routes I can travel. At times, it does not matter and something will happen that is out of my control. This morning was one of those moments. A lady was driving down the road above the speed limit. She quickly veered over to the wrong side of the road, parking illegally right in front of us. She was holding a small dog and had the window wide open with the dog hanging out and actively barking. Right before Max was his biggest fear. He started to react. He was all frazzled.
There is no guarantee that you will have smooth travels throughout your day. There could be an interruption. Something could happen that would pull you off course. You may have spent time in preparation but you are knocked off of your feet. What then? Stop. Breathe. Remind yourself of the promises of God. Remember you are not alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He is with you (Psalm 46:1). It may feel like everything is caving in, but in fact, God is preparing the way using all of the good and bad in your life to position you for something great. You were made for great things (John 14:12). You were made to give God glory (Isaiah 43:7). Change your focus and move forward (Philippians 4:8-9). You were made for so much more!