Waiting room

Sometimes life, for all it’s hurry, seems like a long stint in a waiting room. When you’re a kid, you wait to grow up. When you grow up, you wait to find the right person to spend the rest of your life with. When you’ve found that person, you wait to start a family. And those are just the big things. We wait for bedtime. We wait for the alarm clock to ring. We wait to start work and we wait to finish work. We wait at lights and stop signs, checkouts and check-ins. And in all that waiting, what are we really doing?

Israel had waited a long time to obtain their promise. When God sent Moses to get them out of Egypt, it should have just been a few weeks at most before their arrival in the land of milk and honey. Instead, it was over forty years. And that was just to get across the river! There was a lot more waiting involved once they crossed over. By this time Joshua, a young man when he was first sent to scout out the land, was old. He’d seen a lot in his day. He’d led Israel into their promise and fought with them to take hold of it. And after all that waiting, Israel still waited.

So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

Joshua 18:3 (NIV)

Here Israel stood, in their promise. And they stood around waiting to take hold of it. They got exactly what God told them He would give them and still they waited.

This week, Major League Baseball begins a new season. My team is the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve followed the team all through the off season and have watched as many spring training games as have been aired on television. I know that there were some pretty major trades since the fall. I know some players got healthy, while others will begin the season on the disabled list. I also know that, through the spring, the coaches and trainers have worked with all of the players to make sure that they’re in the best shape they can be, that they know their roles on the team, and know the plan for the team in the season ahead. They’re prepared.

Let’s say that opening day arrives and the Blue Jays take the field at Rogers Centre. Pitcher J. Happ takes the mound and the first Yankee in the lineup steps up to the plate. The Jays stand in the middle of the field as though they have no idea what’s going on.

Joshua must have felt like the manager of such a team. All that time, preparation, and waiting led them to where they were and then they waited while all that time, they could have been taking possession of a fruitful land!

I bet God feels that way with us sometimes. He’s given us everything we need to succeed. We have what we need to see His many promises come to pass. But most of us sit waiting for something to magically happen.

I understand that some people may be waiting for a word from the Lord regarding a specific situation, but that’s no excuse to put everything else on hold. The Bible is our rulebook, playbook, and instruction manual all in one. It has guidelines on how we should live, methods on how we can do it, and practical examples of how others were able to accomplish it.

We can add to all of the waiting we must already endure or we can take Jesus’ lead and go out and take hold of God’s promises for us. The Blue Jays are going to do everything they can to win the World Series this year. They’re not going to wait for it to come to them, because it won’t. It takes hard work, endurance, and determination. The same went for Israel as they took the Promised Land. And the same goes for us if we want to see God move on our behalf.

Read: Joshua 116-18, Luke 5:1-16

Let it grow

If you’ve never heard the song Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few years. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you can probably belt out a line or two of the chorus. And anything that sounds remotely like “let it go” can (and probably has been) turned into a parody. Our verse today lands us in this boat.

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

James 1:2-4 (NLT)
emphasis added

Immediately, images of the blonde princess blasting ice everywhere came to mind and I wondered how this could possibly apply to the Bible. But if you think hard enough, you can apply just about anything—even a cartoon.

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

In the film, Else—a princess with magical wintery powers, runs away and embraces her struggle. She no longer has to hide her abilities and, once she accepts that, she becomes stronger for it.

Now, we don’t have the ability to make an ice castle from nothing or bring on an eternal winter in the middle of a beautiful summer, but we do encounter struggles. Inside us all is a strong, confident person trying to get out and prove something. But the storms life throws at us push that confidence deep down inside. We get down, maybe depressed, because the storms never seem to end.

But what if, like the princess, we embraced the storm? Instead of seeing a setback, we saw opportunity? Naturally speaking, storms can be beneficial. They bring rain to promote plant growth. They bring cool air to moderate the climate. Lightening actually improves soil quality by converting nitrogen gas into nitrogen compounds which help soil fertility. Storms also help diminish pollution.

If natural storms can do all this, don’t you think that spiritual storms can do the same? Sometimes we need a little rain to stir us up. If we never struggled at all, how would we ever become stronger? What if your current struggle is meant to take some pollution—some unnecessary and poisonous things—out of your life?

Don’t fight the storm. Allow your faith to be tested, tried, and strengthened. Then let it grow.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 20-21, James 1

Let’s strip

You don’t have to be an Olympian to know that, if you’re running a race, any extra weight you carry is to your detriment. One might train with resistance, but when you step up to the starting line, you want to approach it with as little on you as possible. Every ounce can make a difference. When you have a crowd of people cheering you on, you want to do your very best. Keep your eyes on the prize and run for all you’re worth.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.

Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)

The term strip here means more than just taking off some clothing. It means to pull or tear off, to cast off, to separate from something connected. It means to sever yourself from anything that might hold you back. The implication is that, once that hindrance has been taken off, you don’t look back. You don’t think twice about picking it up again. You take it off and you run away from it as fast as you can.

When was the last time you saw a runner say, “Oops, I dropped something!” and go back to pick something off the track before continuing the race? Once you start running, the finish line needs to become your only focus. No matter what other distractions may pop up, your eyes need to stay fixed on the prize—Jesus.

Our race may be a sprint or it may be a marathon. Either way, we cannot afford to carry extra weight, nor can we afford to be distracted. That great crowd of witnesses—other believers past and present—are there to cheer us on offering guidance and encouragement. You are not the first to run this race of faith, nor will you be the last. But if any of us are to finish, it will be because we’ve kept our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.

So let’s strip off everything and anything that may slow us down. Let’s help each other and cheer each other on. We’re all in this race together.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 16, Hebrews 12

The reason and reward

LOVE: In a general sense to be please with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification.

ENDURANCE:  Continuance; a state of lasting or duration; lastingness. A bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without sinking or yielding to the pressure; sufferance; patience.

What do love and endurance have to do with each other? Paul takes these two seemingly unrelated words and puts them together in a single statement.

May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

Why would we need to have a deeper understanding of God’s love as well as endurance? Could it be that the two are not as unrelated as they would seem? As far as Paul is concerned, they go hand in hand.

As Christians, we should always be striving to have a deeper understanding of the love of God. After all, it’s the reason we’re Christians in the first place. Without God’s love, we are nothing.

So where does this endurance come into play?

In his letters to various churches, Paul has made it pretty clear that we can expect pressure in our walk with Christ. (If you never experience pressure because of your faith, you should probably rethink your faith.) Because of this pressure, we will require endurance, continuance, the ability to go through pain distress without sinking or yielding. Anyone who has no reason to endure pain or distress will most likely give up easily. Why bother if there is no reason or reward? But we have both reason and a reward to endure.

When we have that ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we have a reason to endure. We know what we have been rescued from and we know whom it was who rescued us. It is because of the love of God that we can endure. He is our reason. And, as we endure whatever trials the world may throw at us, we become stronger in God’s love and gain an even deeper understanding of who He is and all He has done for us. His love makes us stronger. His love is our reward.

Without a revelation God’s love, endurance is pointless. But as we are brought into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we understand why we must also know the endurance that comes from Christ.

He is our reason. He is our reward.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 3

Confidence

Let’s keep going with some word study. Confidence is a word we use with a certain amount of regularity, but do we use it with it’s full meaning behind it?

CON’FIDENCE, noun. A trusting, or reliance; an assurance of mind or firm belief in the integrity, stability or veracity of another, or in the truth and reality of a fact.

In how many situations do you have an assurance of mind? How often does that apply to the stability of another? How often does this really apply to you and your confidence in your salvation?

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Hebrews 10:35 (ESV)

This confidence that is being referred to is in the promise of the covenant Jesus made for and with us. It is complete trust that, in any and every situation, our covenant with Jesus stands firm and that we will receive what has been promised to us. But it may not be easy.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

Be encouraged, though.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10:39 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 7-9, Hebrews 10:24-39

One Voice

I live in what is considered to be the most churched city in Canada. As in, we have more churches per capita than any other city in the country. There are those who say, “That’s great!” In a way it is, but in other’s it’s a testament to the selfishness of the church.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV)

One voice. The church should have but one voice. I don’t believe that there should be only one church in each city because different styles appeal to different people. And that’s fine. Some prefer a traditional hymn service over a contemporary worship service. You may like one pastor’s style over another. That’s okay.

What bothers me about seeing so many churches is that, in a city of just 80,000 people, there are many churches of the same denomination. Where some may have been extensions of the original plant, others are new plants entirely. What was so wrong with the original that a new one had to be planted? Why could the church no longer glorify God in a single voice, but instead had to lift a new one?

What would happen if the Church – the global Church – would glorify God in a single voice rather than each individual church trying to make it’s unique voice heard? We are not called to be many, but one.

It is my prayer that the day will soon arrive where the Church will stand up and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-20

Hope

Yesterday we talked about trials and the fact that, as Christians, we can expect to have to endure them as David did. All the time. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Check out the first few verses in today’s reading in Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access, by faith into this grace in which we stand , and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

Suffering produces hope. Sounds counter intuitive if you ask me. But that’s skipping out the middle part. Suffering to endurance to character to hope. It makes sense. Look at David. His trials caused him to lean more heavily on God. Each time he came against a wall, he laid his worries, his complaints, his pain at God’s feet. Each time he made it through, it became easier to make it through the next storm. He endured. And, because he weathered the storms upright, he became a man of greater faith and greater character. When he came out the other side, he had more hope in the One who brought him through.

It becomes easy to see how people can become discouraged and downhearted. If you have no faith how can you ever have any hope that things can be different? How can you ever grow in endurance and character if you’re always parked in the middle of a storm without anyone near who can stand and command the wind to cease?

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 73-74; Romans 5