It’s about that time of year when we pause to take stock and reflect on our lives. I may have started a bit earlier than most since 2020 was an unprecedented year in terms of all the unexpected things it gave to us. It’s been a good year, a tough year but a good year. Possibly a year with more downs than ups but I still call it a good year.
Why is this a good year?
Because this has been the year I have truly understood that a difficult situation does not necessarily mean that things are all bad. I may experience hurt and pain in the moment, but the entire experience, once I am through it, actually grows and humbles me. And growth and humility is a good thing, because when we are humble, God lifts us up.
One of my all time favorite Bible verses:
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
The year 2020 has thrown multiple curveballs, humbled us in many ways and pushed us to redefine many things. However, the year is not over yet. While our first impulse is to want to be done with 2020 and usher in a hopefully better 2021, I think that this is the time to shift to a higher gear in the last few weeks of 2020.
I want to truly look back at 2020, once the year is over and say I gave it my best shot. I did what God had placed in front of me to do, to the best of my ability. I worked towards being a better version of me every day. I remained hopeful and continued to pursue purpose all the way to the end. I can finish strong. You can finish strong. We can all finish strong because we are not in this thing called life alone.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
God is our helper. He will help us to finish strong. And so I say, let the rest of 2020 come! We are going to look back at this year and somehow, find a reason to smile knowing that in our own big and small ways, we finished strong.
I came across a very interesting verse during my quiet time today in the book of Matthew:
“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed”
For some reason, this verse struck me. I have always loved Jesus’ words two verses before this one, where he says that the stone that the builders had rejected has now become the cornerstone by the Lord’s doing, and it was a marvelous thing (Matthew 21:42). Here, Jesus was talking about himself. As the cornerstone, Jesus is the base and the foundation of our faith, and without him, there is no salvation.
Across most of Matthew 21, Jesus was addressing the chief priests, scribes and pharisees, the religious leaders of the time. In the various parables he told, he highlighted the fact that these religious leaders, by rejecting him, were rejecting truth and salvation. What is quite fascinating to me is that while Jesus spoke in parables, the religious leaders understood that Jesus was speaking about them and their inability to believe the truth.
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them”
This tells me that when God has a message for you, even when it is hidden from others, he will give you revelation. For the religious leaders, he spoke to their pride and stubbornness. I like to think that it was with the hope that they would come to a place of repentance. It is not God’s will that anyone perishes as we see in 2 Peter 3:9 which says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. Unfortunately, the religious leaders chose a different path, to stay in their pride and stubbornness. God, in his usual divine, unfathomable ways, used this for our benefit. The religious leaders orchestrated Jesus’ death, and his resurrection created a way for us to be saved and return to God. It truly all works together for good to them that love God, and are called according to his purpose :).
Anyway, back to the verse today. Reading it for the first time, I thought it was quite harsh, and perhaps understandably so, as Jesus was speaking to very stubborn and prideful people. But reading it again made me realize there are are two sides to this verse. This (corner)stone works in two ways; if one falls on it, they are broken to pieces. If the stone falls on a person, they are crushed. But what exactly does that mean?
Analyzing this verse, I see that being broken to pieces and being crushed are two different things. Being crushed seems to be an ultimate end for those who do not believe. On the other hand, we who run to Christ, we who fall on him will indeed be broken, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. My bible tells me that a broken spirit is a sacrifice that God will not despise.
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
Psalms 51:17, New Living Translation
God needs to break us to mold us. He needs to break our thoughts, beliefs and habits. While this speaks to wrong thoughts, beliefs and habits we might have that are leading us away from the Lord, it also speaks to all the wrong ideas about who we are and what our purpose is on earth. For us to see ourselves as God sees us, all the wrong words and ideas planted in us have to be removed.
Everything that we learnt from our circumstances that is contrary to God’s will must be erased to create room for new, God given ideas and vision. Every child of God is precious and loved, and there is a specific, very unique plan God has for their lives. If we never break away from the mold the world tries to put us in, we live our lives without true meaning, and our potential ends up buried in the grave when we exit this life. This was never God’s plan. There is so much more! There is always more that God wants to do through us, and in us! But there is a breaking process to shift our minds and ways into alignment with God’s will and ways.
And this is what Jesus, our cornerstone does for us. He breaks us and molds us into something better. He shows us the path we are supposed to be on, and equips us for the journey. If I want to press in to what God has called me to be in this life, I must be willing to be broken. It is difficult to ask for brokenness in the natural, but my prayer today is that by his grace, I may allow God to break me in every area that needs to be broken, for his ultimate glory. Are you willing to be broken today and be remolded into the person that God pre-destined you to be in this life?
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
One of the main things 2020 has forced us to do is spend more time with ourselves that we potentially ever had before. With the limited ability to move around, we have found alternatives to pass time. Some have been positive and productive. We have taken up hobbies we had shelved for a less busy time, found clever ways to connect with others and learnt new skills. Others, not so much. Now more that ever we are hearing about increasing rates of depression, stress, anxiety and even suicide. It has been one of the most trying years our generation has faced. We seem unable to cope.
We are comfortable when we can stick to what we know as humans. Change, even positive change, unsettles us because we have to learn new habits, create new patterns, see things differently, think differently, execute differently. I know I am generally very resistant to change, even change that is beneficial to me for instance eating better or exercising more. How much more difficult is it then to adjust to all the changes happening that seem to add nothing positive to our lives? Extremely difficult, I would say. Sometimes it seems almost impossible to cope with this ‘new normal’.
Something inside me says no. Something inside me says there is more. It is not all for nothing. The pain, the stress, the uncertainty is not just present to break you.
No, we shall not break. The strong winds might bend us, but we shall not break. Not while we have a father in heaven who loves us and sends his angels to watch over us.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
Even when times are tough and uncertain, the Holy Spirit reminds me that when I do not know and understand, there is one who knows and understands. At the end of the night, darkness must give way to the light. When the dawn of a new morning comes, darkness has to flee. And a new morning must come. No situation in life is permanent. It may be tough now, but it will not be tough forever.
And the best part is….
During those tough, unbearable moments, God is right there with us. He comes personally to join us and help us through those trying times.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze”
And this is how I know we will make it through. We will make it through because God will see us through. He will give us strength for today, and a bright hope for tomorrow.
What does winning look like? When I think about winning, this is what comes to mind for me:
Getting to the finish line. The praise and congratulations that comes along with finishing something, particularly if one finishes first.
But what about the process? How do we know we are still winning, or even have a chance at winning while we are still in the middle of the race? If one is running a race in competition with others, this would be quite easy. One would just need to look around and if they are in the lead, then that would be a sure sign that victory was on its way. Most things in life are unfortunately not that easy to gauge.
I like to look into my Bible when I need direction on things. The first thing I see reading the book of Hebrews is that we each have our race marked out for us. And so, I cannot gauge whether I am winning or losing by comparing my life with those of others around me.
“……And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12: 1 – 2
The second thing this verse tells me is as I run my race, I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. One of the wonderful things about how our vision works is that we can only really focus on one thing at a time. There will be other things in the periphery of our eyesight, but the main message transmitted to our brain through our eyes is what we have in our main line of sight.
I believe that this is why we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus. Jesus is knowledge, truth and wisdom. I find that when I fix my eyes on Jesus I am able to pace myself. He reveals to me where I am in my lifelong race. Be it on a mountain or in a valley, he reminds me that I should not get too caught up in the moment. Whether I am in a trial or a season of rest, he shows me that all these moments add up to my ultimate victory, completion of the race he has set out for me. I do not do it perfectly, and he often has to guide me back to my race, but thank God, he truly works all things for good. I’m sure sometimes I am like the Israelites, taking 40 years on a journey that would have been completed in a few weeks but God never gives up on me. God never gives up on any of his children. He will never give up on any of us.
And so, unlike how the world sees it sometimes, I am not only winning when everyone around me is applauding me. I am winning when I let Jesus lead. I am winning when I let him show me the way to work out all the plans he has for my life. Whether that plan is accompanied by earthly accolades is irrelevant. The heavenly trophies are more than enough. The peace, comfort and certainty that comes with doing what God has asked us to do is so much more than what the world can give. Victory is sure when we walk with our God.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:57
This to me is what it takes to win. Keeping at our race with our focus on Jesus. Whether or not we can see a finish line in sight. He knows what the plan for our lives is, and slowly but surely, he will unveil it as we continue to trust and walk with him. He is faithful and will bring us to victory.
The apostle Paul, when writing to the church in Philippi had a very interesting take on peace. He said:
“… and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
This is a common verse that many of us know. Having grown up in church and having had many up and down experiences in my Christian walk ( a story for another day), this is one of the verses I learned early and could recite from memory. My ability to remember and recite it always gave me a sense of comfort, an idea that I understood this peace of God that transcends all understanding.
But did I really, truly know what I thought I knew?
As it often happens with the things of God, many times there are layers to be discovered. Even when we know, as we go deeper and press in, we discover that what we know is not even a fraction of what there is to know.
This is what happened to me and this great verse on peace.
Previously, this verse taught me that God’s peace is so great, that we cannot understand it. It is the kind of peace that is unnatural. This peace manifests even when looking at the circumstances and situations we are in, one would not expect to find peace. Nice, right? That is one amazing gift God gives us, his divine peace.
Recently, I have started to understand there is a second piece within this verse. The piece about guarding our hearts and our minds. Paul said that God’s peace would guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, and savior. I had never paid real attention to this part. In many circles, there is often talk about finding peace, which is often a nice way of saying one has found a coping mechanism in tough times. But what if divine peace is actually provided to us not only to help us survive tough times but to enable us to thrive in those moments?
I looked up the meaning of the word ‘guard’. What immediately springs up is the idea of ‘watching over’, ‘protecting’, and ‘keeping safe from harm’. It is mind-blowing for me to imagine that God’s divine peace is watching over our hearts and minds, and keeping them safe from harm. This teaches me that when I have God’s peace, I have a sober mind. I can see and think straight. I have vision, wisdom, and strategy even when there is chaos all around me. When I have God’s peace, my heart is at rest. My emotions are in control and I can see things as they really are, from God’s perspective, and I can objectively process what is happening around me. God’s divine peace guards our inner man, enabling us to thrive, regardless of the situation.
The best part about this revelation is that divine peace is only one prayer away. God in his goodness is eagerly waiting for us to ask for divine peace.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”
My prayer today is that God may grant us all Divine Peace. Stay blessed!
I read a very interesting quote from the Forbes magazine yesterday, that difficulties build up our mental muscle the same way physical exercise builds up our bodies.
It is a very interesting concept, to think that we need tough times to strengthen and equip us. Often, my first thought when difficulties arise is to step away, or avoid the situation until somehow, magically, it resolves. We often think of difficulties as something we just need to get through, but what if we changed our perspective? What if we viewed tough times as the places in which we grow the most? Where we become stronger and better equipped for the future? Where we can actually shine the light of God’s love the most?
This concept is not new. In the book of James, in one of my favorite bible verses that I often quote, we are told to consider it all joy when tough times come:
“ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I am reminded today that difficult situations, if we choose to let God lead us through them, polish and refine us. I cannot claim to be patient if I have never faced a situation where I could have reacted impatiently. I cannot claim to have faith if I have never faced a humanly impossible situation that only God could intervene and resolve. The list is endless. I am learning that if we never have an opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscle through difficult situations, we don’t grow and become mature Christians.
And so today I am thankful for difficult situations. I am grateful for the opportunity to flex my spiritual muscle. It is in those difficult situations, those tough times where the Holy Spirit shows us how to react differently. Instead of hate, we respond with love. Instead of spreading hurt and anger, our presence delivers peace and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the difference the world needs to see.
I thank God that I have the privilege of making that difference by responding differently during tough situations.
Today I will look at difficult situations differently. I will embrace them as opportunities to become better and a way to spread the love of God in this world. Will you join me?
There are some experiences that God allows us to go through that do not make sense in the moment. Sometimes opportunities pass us by. What we thought was meant for us, a gift God was giving to us, does not materialize.
What do we do in such moments then? When the very answer to that prayer seems to be just beyond our reach?
I find comfort in reminding myself that while I see a moment, God sees eternity. I might be seeing a rejection after a job interview, but God can see that the rejection is what he will use to reignite my passion and creativity to launch a new business. I may be seeing a rejection from a friend or a loved one, but God sees a separation that will increase my capacity to focus on him, and build better relationships.
Many difficult moments turn into something beautiful, given time and a godly perspective
Seeing beyond a moment is hard with human eyes. But thank God! He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals to us what our difficult moment could become in the long run, if we let him show us how to respond to that difficult moment.
Our difficult moments can make us bitter, trapped in the hurt and the pain, or our difficult moment can become the stepping stones to our next. They can be tools that God uses to make us wiser and stronger. They can remind us that he is the answer to all of life’s questions, and in him we lack nothing.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Teach us Lord to find you in our difficult moments, that we may keep growing and maturing.
My summary of what I have learned from the story of Jacob would not be complete without touching on the eternal perspectives that this story demonstrates to me.
It took Jacob many years, and many ups and downs, for him to get to that place where he could find peace in God, and see all his children growing and multiplying. As I’ve shared in part 1, part 2, and part 3, there were many instances where Jacob did not know if or how God would come through for him, or how his life and those of his children would be saved. However, even where Jacob’s vision was limited, God still had a grand, eternal plan that he was working out. From the twelve sons of Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel), the entire nation of Israel was formed. God used Jacob, and his sons to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham. Even more significant for us today, Jesus, our savior and redeemer had his earthly lineage from one of the sons of Jacob.
God can raise us from dust to glory because he has a plan and purpose that is bigger than our selves
God worked through the life of Jacob, molding him from a cheat and a liar into the patriarch that one of the most famous nations in the world would be known by. Despite all the mistakes and errors made, Jesus, the son of God came to earth through Jacob and his descendants. This teaches me that God is looking to do more than to just bless, heal, and restore us. Indeed, God cares deeply for us at an individual level, but beyond individual needs, there is always something that God is working out. For his bride the church, and for this world at large. I find it exciting to think that I am part of a grand plan and purpose that will not only affect me, but those around me, and even those that will come after me. Truly God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord
God operates beyond the natural and the things we see. While Jacob only saw what was happening around him, God had the bigger picture in mind. God saw from the very beginning, the redemption of Jacob and his family from hunger through his son, Joseph. And even beyond that, God had already planned for the redemption of the world through Jesus, who would be born into the tribe of Judah that came from Jacob’s second son.
Depending on the season we are currently in, sometimes it is difficult to see how God will work it out or even how he can use what we are going through to help or bless someone else. But Jacob’s story encourages me today. I don’t need to clearly see or understand what I am going through, but I can find rest in God. I can lay it in his hands and know that it will all make sense in the end. If I allow him to, he will not only work it out, but he will mold it into something that manifests his glory beyond me, to every other life that he wills, over all the earth.
That’s how great our God is. He is the God of eternal promise. And yet, even as he sees eternity, he sees each tear that falls. He remains our comforter and friend, an ever present help in times of need.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
As God takes care of us and leads us through every season, he also works through our circumstances to bring his eternal promises to pass. My prayer today is that I, like Jacob, may learn to fully yield to him, and be one of the many that he uses to manifest his plans on this earth.
May God continue to use us to manifest all the plans he has for this earth!
Last week and this week, I have been sharing what I have been learning from Jacob’s story in the Bible. I just love how God makes his word come alive and speak to us in every season. This story gives me hope and encouragement. It reminds me that no matter how things seem in the natural, we are precious and valued in God’s eyes. He is working it out, even when we cannot see it with our physical eyes.
The first two parts of the story can be found here and here.
In this post, we pick up the Jacob story in Genesis 42:36, at the moment when it seems that everything against him.
Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”
In the natural, Jacob had come to his end. There was no way he could provide for his family during the great famine that was across the land without sending his sons back to Egypt and risking the life of his youngest son. There was no additional plan or scheme he could put together as an alternative to going down to Egypt. This was a new place, a new level where only God could walk him through.
Jacob has now learned that he needs to involve God in his plans. Earlier on, he wrestled with God and saw him face to face, and yet his life was spared (Genesis 32: 24–30). To prepare for the journey back to Egypt, he now asks his 10 remaining sons to pack the best produce of the land, and double portions of the silver they had initially gone to Egypt with. Most importantly, as he makes these plans, he asks God to lead. He prays that God may cause the ‘Lord of Egypt’ to have mercy on his sons so that they can all come back unharmed.
“May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother along with Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”
One lesson I learn here is the need to fully trust God, without having other back-up plans. Jacob was ready to lose his sons if God did not come through for him. That, for me, is another faith level. It is a higher level of faith that I can only compare to stepping off a cliff, and trusting that God will either catch you or give you wings to fly.
I pray that I may truly learn to trust and keep moving forward to fulfill God’s plan, even when moving forward feels like jumping off a cliff.
The other lesson I learn here is that often what seems to be the most difficult path is the one that leads to true prosperity.
After being released by their father, Jacob’s son went back to Egypt. After a very interesting dinner with the ‘Lord of Egypt’ and a staged theft (Genesis 43:15 – Genesis 44:33), they discover that this ‘Lord’ was their long-lost and presumed dead brother Joseph. Joseph then sent them back to their father with provisions, and instructions to come and live in Egypt where there was more than enough food.
I like to imagine the look on Jacob’s face when his sons came back with the good news that Joseph, the 12th son who was presumed dead, was not only alive but was second only to Pharaoh in the most prosperous nation at the time. The Bible says that he was stunned, and did not believe them, but when he saw everything that Joseph sent, his spirit was revived.
They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.
When what God has in store for us is revealed, it revives our spirits. A revived spirit is a sign of prosperity. A revived spirit is a testament that our hope in God is not in vain. It renews our strength and we soar like Eagles.
God crafted a divine plan to prosper Jacob and his family, saving them from famine by sending Joseph to Egypt ahead of them. As Jacob was on his way to Egypt, God appeared to him and shared the grand plan that was now unfolding:
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
When we enter the season of prosperity, God reveals a bigger portion of the plan
God revealed to Jacob that through his descendants, a great nation would be formed, and this nation would come back to the promised land.
This is how great God’s love is for us. When we learn to fully trust and walk with him, he starts to reveal his plans to us. When we know his plans, we start to rise in Christ, and our lives start demonstrating true riches. Riches like peace of mind, wisdom, and divine foresight. We become a blessing and a beacon of hope to those around us while experiencing a calm, stillness, and clarity of purpose within us that can only be divine. God gifts us with strategies and plans that can positively influence this world, and draw more people to him.
I find it amazing that God wants to confide in me and make his plans known to me. He wants us to know what he knows, that we may have that quiet confidence and assurance in him.
The Lord confides in those who fear [respect] him; he makes is covenant known to them.
Like Jacob at this stage of the story, may I be found fully trusting and walking with God. When we seek God first, all other things are added to us. Jacob trusted God to keep his sons safe as they went to find food in Egypt. This ultimately resulted in him and his entire family moving to Egypt and becoming exceedingly prosperous. Not only did God give Jacob material wealth, but his descendants also multiplied and became the great nation we know, the Israelites.
God wants us to prosper above and beyond what we can think or imagine. He came that we may have life, and have it in abundance. If we walk with him, he will enable us to grow and bear fruit in the season of prosperity, as he did for Jacob.
In the last part of this story, coming at the end of the week, I will share my learnings from this story on how this season of prosperity is linked to God’s eternal plan for mankind.
In the meantime, stay blessed and always remember that God loves you 😊