Naomi lost her two sons in Moab and decided to return to her home country alone. Naomi’s daughter in law Ruth refused to part ways with her and was determined to follow her home. Ruth’s resolve was that Naomi’s people would be her people and she would serve the same God who Naomi served. We can surmise that perhaps Naomi was a good mother in law to Ruth. This would have meant that she had grown attached to her and did not want to leave her alone. Another possible suggestion could be that Ruth did not like her own family of origin. She may have felt that staying with Naomi was a better choice because she felt safe with her.
Whatever the driving force behind Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi, we know that their meeting was one of destiny. Ruth may have felt a connection to Naomi that she could not explain. God saw ahead of time the plans that he had in store for Ruth and the part that she would play in the redemption story. “Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons” (Ruth 1:12). Ruth had two daughter in laws who wanted to return with her. She managed to convince one of them to return to her family but Ruth was adamant that she would stay with her.
“But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11). Ruth soon caught the attention of Boaz who was a relative to Naomi. As the story unfolds, Boaz later decided to make Ruth his wife. I don’t imagine that Ruth had the faintest idea that she would find another husband when she decided to follow Naomi.
Ruth must have felt an inner conviction that her time was not up with Naomi. Her God given destiny compelled her to stay connected to her mother in law. God will strategically position us with people who are assigned to assist our destiny. There are people who we can tell have been ordained and orchestrated to be in our lives. We have to be sensitive to the move of God to know the people who we need to be connected to. The people in our lives have a major part to play in the fulfilment of our destiny. May we move in alignment with the will of God and stay in right relationships.
The children of Israel crossing the Red Sea is one of my favourite bible stories. I love the climax of the story where the Israelites were at the edge of the sea with nowhere to go. Pharaoh and his army were in pursuit behind them and they seemed cornered. “For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in’” (Exodus 14:3). I am tickled when someone speaks with authority concerning matters that are completely outside of their control. Have you ever had a Manager, a Teacher or someone in authority make a pronouncement over your life, which you know that they do not have the authority to determine?
The reality is that we live in a realm where there are spheres of human authority that oversee organisations. As children of God, we are connected to a system of government and authority which transcends this world system. Anything that a person in authority on this earth speaks about a child of God which is contrary to the word, can be cancelled. We don’t have to challenge them verbally or get into a debate or argument. All we have to do is to go to God in prayer and renounce and cancel anything spoken which is contrary to what God says.
We have the authority to cancel what a medical professional says and declare what the word says about our bodies. A parent can cancel the negative declaration from a Teacher over their child. Anyone can cancel a Manager’s pronouncement that they will loose their job. If you know that you have been sent to that company for a specific time and season, then no person in authority can end your contract before time. With all due respect, listen to what those in authority have to say. Thank them for their feedback and opinions and if appropriate, let them know that you are a child of God and your destiny is in the hands of God.
Make sure that you know what the word says concerning your situation. Then pray the word and declare what God says. God’s word cannot go back to him void and shall accomplish what it has purposed. Speak the word and let the word light your darkness.
The book of Galatians was Paul’s letter to the Gentile church in the region of Galatia. Paul had been called to minister to those who were non Jews about the salvation of Jesus Christ. Paul’s message was one of freedom through the spirit and salvation by grace through faith. “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God” (Acts 15:19). Paul did not see the need to burden the Gentiles with the religious doctrines of the law including practices such as circumcision. There were some Jewish Christians however, who demanded that the Gentiles needed to earn their place in Christianity.
Some of the Jews demanded that the Gentiles needed to practice circumcision and other Jewish laws in order to be saved. Paul was angry when he learned about the contradictions that was being spread among the churches. Imagine Paul’s frustration when he realised that the churches that he had established were being disturbed by legalistic teachings. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Paul knew firsthand what it was like to be bound by religion and legalism. In fact, Paul was the chief prosecutor of the church until he was arrested by God and converted to a disciple of Jesus Christ. As such, Paul was passionate about the freedom which comes from serving Christ. He wanted the Gentiles to experience the freedom of salvation which came from a relationship with Jesus Christ. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Let us walk in the freedom of God and do not be pressured to adhere to legalism rather than to personal faith in God. Legalism dictates that we excessively adhere to rules and formulas at the expense of a relationship with Jesus Christ. This creates unnecessary burdens and takes away the freedom which comes with serving God. Do not stay in environments that emphasise religion over a relationship with God. Examine if what you are being asked to do lines up with the grace that is preached in the word of God and do not submit yourself to bondage.
We serve a great and mighty God who is full of love and mercy. God is a dreadful God who is powerful and he loves justice. I think that one of the most significant characteristics of God is his love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). God is himself love and created us out of his love for us and his desire to be in relationship with us. Even when we drift away from God, he is patiently waiting for us to return to his presence and to be in fellowship with him.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God would go to the ends of the universe to demonstrate how much he loves us. He continues to extend his mercy and grace despite our weaknesses and failures. God is kind and longs to do great things for us. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). We often experience hurt when we stray away from the presence of God and the devil is good at trying to convince us that it is because God does not love us.
God does not move away from us, but there are seasons when we feel far from God because we have strayed away from his presence. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:12). It does not matter how far you have strayed away from the presence of God. It does not matter how long it has been since you prayed and spent time in his presence. He is waiting for you to return to him and he is waiting to answer when you call out to him.
It is our sin that makes us feel far away from God but he is patiently waiting for us to return to him. God is faithful and full of mercy and he wants us to be close to him. God is ready to forgive us when we confess to him and he is ready to restore our relationship with him. He is not like people and we don’t have to work to earn his trust because he knows everything there is to know about us. God is not surprised when we mess up and he loves us just the same.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I once heard about a treatment called forgiveness therapy, for people who have unexplained illnesses and some doctors have confirmed that unforgiveness is linked to some diseases. It is amazing when science confirms what was written in scripture years ago. Although most scientists will not affirm scripture, we see traces of the truth in psychology and other medical disciplines. God revealed this to Daniel in the Old Testament and we see this manifesting today. “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).
God asks us to bear with one another because we recognise it is likely that we will offend others. We appreciate that we also have weaknesses and the capacity to make mistakes. We have to acknowledge that despite our mistakes and failures that God has forgiven us. So as God forgives us, we extend that forgiveness to others. “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
The requirement for us to receive forgiveness from God is to forgive others and God warns us that our prayers will not be heard unless we forgive. Hurting people hurt people and most people who are nasty have their own share of troubles. I suppose some people need our sympathy and insight into what is causing them to hurt. Jesus commands us to love our enemies and to also pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
God knows that the task of forgiveness is not an easy one which is why his advice to Peter was seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). I cannot say that I always score great marks on the forgiveness test and it is a constant struggle to ensure that I stay in grace. We pray for those who persecute us because it is the only way to ensure that we do not harbour hate. If we hate and do not forgive then we are no better than the person who did wrong to us. Bitterness, hurt and hate are contagious and the only way to keep these poisons from getting inside of us and staying free is to forgive.
Yesterday we explored the grave mistake that David made which led to a married woman becoming pregnant and the death of her husband. For most people, murder is one of the most depraved crimes that a person could commit. Within the context of bible history, people died quite frequently and soldiers anticipated that death was a possible consequence of battle. In the New Testament, Paul was a zealous Roman soldier who fiercely persecuted the church and sanctioned the murder of disciples.
On his way to Damascus with an order to arrest and persecute anyone who believed and proclaimed Jesus Christ, Paul was struck down by a light. “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me” (Acts 9:4)? Saul lost his sight and was led to a disciple to lay hands on him for his sight to be restored. Soon after Paul’s conversation, he went to the synagogues to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul joined the disciples who he once prosecuted in advancing the kingdom of God. Paul was a very instrumental disciple who wrote much of the the New Testament which we read today.
I have used two extreme examples of men who committed grave crimes against others and against God. Yet God forgave them once they confessed their sins and turned from their wrongs. David has been referred to as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14). If God can forgive murder, adultery and persecution, please tell me what you have done that is too terrible for God to forgive? Guilt and shame are weapons that the enemy uses to keep us from a relationship with God.
The Devil is good at convincing us that our sins are too many or our mistakes too great for God to use them for his glory. God can use even our mistakes and turn them around for good. David eventually had another son with Uriah’s wife who succeeded him as King. Although the marriage was initially founded on a bad foundation, God used it for his glory. Paul who was zealous about persecuting the church became a powerful apostle and evangelist. God used his zeal to advance the kingdom and to reach souls. Even our biggest mistakes, surrendered to God, can be transformed into a miracle.
Stop allowing the devil to torment you about your mistakes and do not allow it to make you stay away from God. Confess your faults to God, ask for his forgiveness and stop punishing yourself for the mistake that you made. God has removed your sins far away into the depths of the sea and he calls you his righteousness.
There is a really sad story in 2 Samuel 11 of David who slept with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. When she became pregnant and David could not succeed in convincing Uriah to sleep with her to cover it up, he had him killed in battle. David then married Bathsheba and he perceived that no one knew what he had done. God revealed David’s sin to the prophet Nathan who confronted him about it. The consequence of David’s sin was that the son that Bathsheba bore to him died. David lamented in prayer and fasting before God to ask him to save the child. After the child died, David washed and anointed himself and went to the house of the Lord to worship.
David’s actions confused his servants as they did not understand how he could spend time in worship after losing his son. David did not blame God because he knew that his son’s death was the consequence of his sin. Nevertheless, David did not allow his mistake to separate him from the presence of God. He sought God to see if he would spare the child and even after the child died, he worshipped God. This showed that David understood the need for repentance and restitution. David knew enough to know that once he repented, that God would restore him in right standing.
This is why David said in Psalm 51, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). God sees our heart and he knows when we are truly sorry for our sins. We don’t need to wallow in self pity, guilt and shame any longer than necessary. Once we have acknowledged our sin, we make restitution where possible, confess our sins to God and rest in his forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If you feel weighed down by guilt and shame due to making a mistake, confess to God your faults and failures. Repent of your sins and accept Gods forgiveness because God says that you are forgiven. “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverbs 24:16).
Paul recommended that those of us who are strong and mature in faith are to have patience with those who are weak. I imagine that this also relates to persons who are experiencing difficulties or who are going through a hard time. The reality is that even a strong person has moments of weakness. A strong person under trial can become vulnerable and need the patience of others around them. Grace says that we are willing to overlook a person’s irrational behaviours when we know that they are hurting deeply. Most of us are not at our best when we are wounded and exhausted.
“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). Paul spoke again in his letter to the Colossians about the need to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient. He spoke about the need for us to forgive others and to exercise tolerance. We find it easier to tolerate and accept people who are similar to us. Our impatience is increased towards people who are the exact opposites of our personality types. If someone offends you at a time when you know that they are hurting, are you willing to make allowances?
Empathy requires us to imagine what it would feel like to walk in another person’s shoe. The fact that a thing is not a major issue or concern for you, does not mean that it is not a major difficulty for someone else. Being empathetic means that we ask people to tell us about their experiences and make the time to listen. We don’t have to agree to understand and show compassion. Being argumentative is extremely insensitive when people try to explain how they feel. Being open to listen allows us to enter into another person’s experience. We listen without judgement and demonstrate respect for how people interpret and communicate their experiences.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
Some items when purchased are shipped with a ‘handle with care’ label on the box. This is generally to warn anyone handling the parcel that the items inside are items that can be broken easily. The person delivering or receiving the items will be responsible for using a gentle approach when handling the items. There are people who need this kind of careful handling, but unfortunately people don’t come with these labels. How then do we discern those people who we encounter who need careful handling?
Jesus’s instructions to his disciples to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves is quite an oxymoron. The two animals could not be any different in character. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). This is the story that most Christians think of when we consider the serpent. There are also many biblical references to the serpent being the Devil himself. The dove has historically been used as a symbol of peace and has been used to represent the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. How then do we balance being as shrewd as serpents, yet gentle and as calm as doves?
The balance comes from having the wisdom of God to discern how to approach and respond to people. James was able to sum this up in one verse. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). James is saying here that we need to be wise in a manner which makes us peaceful, having good reasoning ability, merciful and impartial. A wise person does not need to show off how much they know to others. But they use their gift of wisdom to build others up and to draw people closer to God.
Although people do not come with labels, God instructs us to be wise and loving in our engagements. Nevertheless our main priority should be to do no harm. We commit our relationships to God and listen for his wisdom as to how to proceed. It is useful to commit all of our relationships to Him and ask Him to show us the purpose for our involvement in the lives of people. Our primary objective is to lead people to God through our example. We lead without compromise as our life is a much louder testimony for people than our words.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Isaiah prophesied concerning the death of Jesus Christ and his prophecy was accurate even of the disposition of Jesus during his prosecution. Jesus had only a few words while he endured the persecution and criticism of the religious leaders. “And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king”” (Luke 23:2).
Jesus did not respond to the criticism and accusations levelled against him. He already told his disciples that he had the power to summon a host of angels to come to his defence. His focus was on the purpose which was ahead of him. To die to save mankind from their sins. As such he needed to preserve his energy and it did not make sense to stop to address his critics. “So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer” (Luke 23:9).
It takes a lot of energy to stop to address every criticism or accusation spoken against us. The knee jerk reaction is to try to explain ourselves, correct a wrong assumption or try to set people straight. The reality is that trying to do this can be emotionally exhausting and time consuming. More so feeling the need to constantly react to defend ourselves is counter productive. The Devil can use this as a strategy to wear us out and keep us distracted from what God is actually doing in our lives.
Don’t waste precious time trying to explain yourself to people who are not interested in knowing the truth about you. The negative version of you sits more comfortably with some people and it says more about them than it does about you. Remember that people often try to project their negative self image unto other people. A person who is extremely critical of others is a often very critical of themselves. It is one of the symptoms of a hurting person who does not feel very good about themselves.
Ignoring criticism takes a lot of emotional maturity and the grace of God to help us to keep the flesh under subjection. It is the fruit of the spirit that is self control, which will help us to resist the urge to bite back at critics. Being assured of who we are in God, what he has called you to do and the assurance that we are walking in his purpose, will keep us focused. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).