The process of promise

Read: Exodus 22-24, Matthew 20:17-34

Many of us, when we pray, would like to see our entire prayer answered right when we pray it. We’re used to instant gratification. Drive-thrus. On demand. Our prayers have become a reflection of that. Like Veruca Salt, we want it and we want it now!

But what happens when we get everything we want when we want it whether we’re ready for it or not? Did you know some studies show that up to 70% of people who unexpectedly come into large sums of money end up broke within five years? Getting rich quick isn’t always the best thing for us.

Exodus 23:29-30

I’m sure Israel would have loved nothing more than to walk out of Egypt and right into the Promised Land. God could have gone ahead and cleaned house, sweeping out the land and preparing it for His people. But He didn’t. He chose not to for a couple of reasons.

  1. Israel wasn’t ready. Here was an entire nation who had been enslaved for four centuries. While their physical captivity had ended, anyone who has been held against their will can tell you that it takes longer for the mind to adapt to freedom. God had a lot of things to teach His people before they were ready to take the land. He needed to renew their minds to His plans and purposes before they could move ahead.
  2. The land was ready. Israel had some learning to do, but the land was move-in ready. It was inhabited. It was already being farmed. Cities had already been built. There was a population that was tending to it, keeping it profitable. Had God scattered those people, the land would have reverted back to its original state. Fields would go fallow and fill with weeds. The cities would begin to crumble and wild animals would once again take over. The Israelites would have had to start from scratch.

Our land, our promise, may be ready for us, but we may not yet be ready for it. There may be lessons we need to learn along the way. We may need to build up endurance and strength. We may need to renew our minds, changing our old way of thinking. We may need to be broken down so that we can be rebuilt. And while all of that is happening, God has made sure that our promise will be ready for us when we are ready for it. The process is just as, if not more, important than the promise.

Ready and willing

Ready and willing. If you haven’t said that you are, you’d probably like to think you are when it comes to obeying God. Here am I, Lord, send me! We think we really mean it. But most of us probably haven’t taken the time to think through all of the consequences of what it means to be ready and willing.

But as for me, I am filled with power and the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and might…

Micah 3:8a (NLT)

Filled with power, justice and might! Yes! I want all of those things!

…fearlessly pointing out Israel’s sin and rebellion.

Micah 3:8b (NLT)

Now, wait a minute, I’m not so sure I want to be the one to have to make that point.

The point is this: being ready and willing includes far more than just the good news and the blessings. Micah stood alone in his time. He was just a peasant from a town on the outskirts of the territory. He was a nobody telling the priests and prophets that they were a bunch of lying scoundrels. That’s not a very comfortable conversation to have with anyone. To be ready and willing means to be ready to have the uncomfortable conversations.

And on the other side of the same coin, as ready as we must be to initiate those difficult encounters, we must also be ready and willing to be on the receiving end.

Ready and willing is not a physical place, but a spiritual posture. If we want to proclaim the Good News, we may also have to give a hard word. If we want to be blessed, we must also be able to be a blessing. To be ready and willing means to be prepared for whatever God has for us—the good, the hard, and the uncomfortable.

Those who act honestly, may act boldly. And those who come to hear the word of God, must be willing to be told of their faults, must take it kindly, and be thankful.

Matthew Henry

Like Micah, when our true strength comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can willingly give and receive the truth no matter what package it comes in.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 1-3, Revelation 10

Snatch

There are times when our focus as the Church can be so outward as we try to seek out and save the lost, that those within our own numbers can be lost. We may not notice that one person who keeps moving further and further to the back of the auditorium, disengaging themselves from the daily life of the church. We cannot assume that, because a person attends church most Sundays, that all is well. It is our responsibility to go out into the world and increase our numbers, but it is also our responsibility to maintain the numbers within our own body. We must be watchful so that our own family members are not lost while still ensuring that we ourselves to do not fall away.

Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins.

Jude 21-23 (NLT)

Like throwing a lifeline to someone who has gone overboard from a ship at sea, the rope is only so long and you can only go so far before you begin to risk your own safety. That is why it is important to remain watchful so that we can rescue people before they drift too far.

It is the reason why relationships within the family of God are so vitally important—no matter how big or small a church is. If a personal has made no personal connections within the local church, they are far more likely to be set adrift and lost. We must be secure in our faith and secure in our place within the local body.

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit.

Jude 20 (NLT)

If we do not fight to maintain our faith, the battle will be forfeit and we will find ourselves in a place we never planned to be. Jude writes that we must contend for the faith (verse 3). If you find yourself in a place where you are not fighting to keep the faith, you have most likely already drifted away. It takes time and effort to keep faith. Maintaining it takes effort and determination on our part. Anything less and we allow ourselves to be drawn away to places where there are no longer brothers and sisters in the faith ready to snatch us from the flames of judgement.

It’s better to be the one who does the snatching than the one who needs to be snatched.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 1-4, Jude

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

Stay Dressed

I work from home. Most days, I roll out of bed and change out of my pyjamas into sweatpants and a t-shirt. I’m not ready for much of anything. If someone were to call me up and ask me out, I’d have to take some time to get myself ready to leave the house.

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home…

Luke 12:35-36a (ESV)

Physically speaking, I’m not ready for action. How then do we stay ready for action spiritually?

My child, pay attention to my words;
    listen closely to what I say.
Don’t ever forget my words;
    keep them always in mind.
 They are the key to life for those who find them;
    they bring health to the whole body.

Proverbs 4:20-22 (NCV)

Our preparation is in our readiness in the Word of God. The more we know His word and hide it in our hearts, the more ready we are for anything that comes our way.

On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong.

Ephesians 6:15 (NCV)

The New King James Version talks about the preparation of the gospel of peace. Stand ready. Prepare yourself with the Word of the Lord so that, when the time comes, you are ready to serve your Master.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 12:35-59