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.
How many times do we recite Philippians 4:6? How many times do we pray and believe God and then he works things out for us? This often does not stop us from worrying again about the next challenge that arises. Every challenge is new and we sometimes have short term memories. It is human nature to worry and we need to daily reinforce ourselves with the word in order to stay in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:7).
Most of us know a good bit of scripture but the strategy of the enemy is the constant bombardment of our minds with guilt, doubt and fear. We have to constantly renew our minds and be led by the spirit to keep out the negative thoughts of the enemy. We continue to declare that we have the mind of Christ and wear the helmet of salvation to protect our heads (1 Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 6:17).
We do not realise how many subtle messages of fear, doubt and self defeat are transmitted to us daily. From the minute we wake up there are news articles promoting fear, articles that spread self doubt and television programs that keep us in a state of horror. I think the news report should be called “Bad News.” Most of us will not miss an episode because we think we need to stay informed. We have to balance our need to stay informed with our need to be at peace. We have to maintain our peace and prevent the spirit of fear and anxiety from taking root in our lives.
Stay in the word, pray and cover your mind. Keep your mind on Jesus and tell him what you worry about when you pray. We cannot fix it either way, so I am not sure why we spend so much time worrying about it. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). And that friends is my ultimate ambition. To have the peace of God which no one can understand. Peace among chaos, peace in trials, tribulations and distress. Do not be anxious but rely on God’s faithfulness.
As we pray and make our requests known to God, we stay in faith and trust God while we wait. God is able to give us double or much more than what we can ask for. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly far more than we could ever ask, think or imagine (Exodus 3:20). Abraham waited many years for a son. God not only gave him a son but an entire generation of God’s people descended from Abraham.
Elizabeth and Zachariah waited many years before having a child and they produced a son that prepared the way for Jesus. We still speak of John the Baptist today who cried in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3). Hannah waited before God opened her womb and blessed her with a son. Hannah not only produced a son but the great prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1).
I cannot say that I take pleasure in waiting but I have relentless faith and hope that God will do what he said. God will keep his promise to us and even though we have to wait, it will come to pass. The wait is our test and Abraham wavered not through unbelief at the promise although his body was nearly dead, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Romans 4:10).
Some prayers are answered straightaway. Some requests take a week, a month and maybe even years. Are we able to glorify God while we wait? Are we able to trust in him that he has a good and perfect plan for us? He does not love us any less when we wait and he does not regard others better than us. God has a plan which will come to pass at the appointed time.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).
There is a cost to everything that we do and our lifestyle choices produce results and consequences. Human ambitions often bring about success and accomplishments. We have to determine the cost to our family life, health and our relationship with God. Contrary to popular belief we cannot have it all and some areas of our lives tend to be affected by our choices. At times our family life can suffer at the cost of economic success and career development for example. Other times it is our spirituality and relationship with God that is affected by other choices made for success.
Jesus spoke to the multitude about the cost of being a disciple in Luke 14. Jesus spoke of every person being willing to take up their cross and following after him. He said in verse 28, For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Jesus continues that if the man starts the tower and then is unable to finish it, others may mock his attempt to start something he could not finish. Jesus used the parable to show that the decision to follow Christ and to live by his example comes at a cost (Luke 14:28-30).
Living a life for Christ determines the choices that we make daily. We cannot make the same choices that everyone else makes. We have to constantly deny those desires that do not come in alignment with the will of God. We have to consult God about our plans and decisions and be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Choices made for God can at times appear on the surface to be unpopular and not as enticing. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Living for God is the best way to live. He leads, he guides and protects. He leads us besides still waters and prepares provision for us. He teaches us to win and to profit and trusting in him guarantees that our plans will prevail. There is a cost to living for God, but the benefits outweigh the cost.
We are not perfect and are unlikely to reach perfection while on earth. That being said, when we become children of God, we are being transformed into the image and likeness of God. We don’t always relish the idea of change and many modern philosophies encourage us to be our ‘true selves.’ There is deposited within each of us a unique set of traits to be used to fulfil our purpose and destiny. We also have faults and failures that God will strip away from us to make us into who he created us to be. It is our relationship with God, while beholding his glory, which transforms us into his image and likeness.
Change can be a very painful process and our old selves want to remain the way we are because it seems easier. There are seasons when we reach a crossroads and it is either we change or we will stagnate. There are some habits, hang ups and old ways of thinking and living that requires change for us to transition into a new season. There maybe old relationship patterns, career lifestyles for example that makes us unwell and cause us to remain stuck at the same level year after year.
Many times we ask God for more and we ask that he takes us into a new season and new dimensions. We also ask God for increase in blessing and favour. God oftentimes requires us to change and be transformed. We cannot take the same mindset into a new level. Having a different life from the one we have now will require us to make different decisions. God created us in his own image (Genesis 1:27). It is sin that distorts us from God’s image. We have to surrender to God’s will and allow him to remove the layers that sin has created to transform us into his image.
There are times when God will pull us away to himself to strip off some old layers. Some layers represent things that we need to change and we have to allow God to complete the work in us. When God starts to show us those areas where we need to change, let us surrender and allow him to transform us into a new person.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I once watched an animated movie called Kung fu Panda with a Panda who was a skilled martial artist. When Panda was a baby, his parents were killed by a peacock who’s desire was to take over China. The Peacock was told that he would one day be defeated by a Panda. Panda’s struggle was to find inner peace in order to fulfill his destiny and defeat the Peacock. In the end Panda learnt how to control his anger and found inner peace. Once Panda found inner peace, no weapon thrown at him by the enemy could take him out. Panda found peace and fulfilled the prophecy of defeating the Peacock.
Like Panda, we need the peace of God to block the attacks from the enemy and to fulfill our purpose. Jesus promised his disciples that we would have peace, not in and of this world, but a peace which comes from God. He encouraged us not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:27). The nightly news can cause us so much fear. There is so much happening around us to rob us of our inner peace and joy. We have to limit how much of the bad news we take in and remain in tuned with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus taught his disciples of troubled times to come in this world and his teachings are to help us find peace in him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We will not find peace in our bank account, in the government or scientists, in our jobs or earthly possessions because material things can be taken away. But the peace which God gives cannot be taken away by the challenges around us. Peace be unto you.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
The description of Psalm 34, is of David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech who drove him out and he departed. In 1 Samuel 21, David fled from Saul who sought to take his life. He sought refuge among a foreign King and the King’s servant recognized him as one who fought with Saul and was hailed for killing ten thousands. David became afraid and pretended to be insane so the King Achish threw him out.
After David’s narrow escape he went to a cave of Adullam and everyone who was distressed, who was in debt, who was bitter in soul gathered to him. And he became commander over them (1 Samuel 22:2). David was anointed to lead and even in the midst of his adversity, there were people who were willing to follow him.
There are seasons when it feels as though we are being pursued by the enemy. God has made a way of escape and when you have escaped, people will be gathered unto you and you help them. Jesus prayed for Peter when he experienced temptation. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter’s ability to overcome adversity equipped him to help others.
God will save you out of this trouble. Your ability to endure this test and to overcome will give you the wisdom to help others overcome. You will help others in distress, who are experiencing trouble. Our assignment often determines the magnitude of our test.
Prepare a song of praise to God because you will overcome. The enemy will be confused by your praise. God has already provided the escape. Greater things are yet to come when we praise him through the storm. “My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad” (Psalm 34:2).
The most recent lockdown has felt quite onerous and trips to the supermarket feel like a day out. There is an end in sight as there is news that restrictions are about to be lifted. I am also looking forward to spring and an improvement in the weather. As I hope for a turnaround in the physical and environmental conditions, I am also hopeful that things are turning around for our good. As long as we are alive, we have hope of the promise of the goodness of the Lord.
I learnt recently that there are over eight thousand promises in the bible. Over seven thousand are promises that God made to mankind. Imagine that God has written in his word, over seven thousand opportunities for us to gain a blessing. Eight thousand promises means eight thousand opportunities to share in the inheritance of God’s goodness. God is not like people who make promises that they cannot keep. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it” (Numbers 23:19)?
What does the bible promise and how do we access these promises? God has promised to bless us with long life. “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:16). In fact Psalm 91 is loaded with promises related to God’s protection from sickness and plagues. There are many other places in the bible where God promised us good health. “You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you” (Exodus 23:25).
Time would not allow me to attempt to discuss all eight thousand promises in the bible. If we read about them in scripture and believe what it says, then declare those promises and they will manifest. Once we develop a deeper understanding of what God has promised in his word, then it is time for us to ask and receive. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
We have a role to play in activating the promises of God. First we have to study to understand what has been promised to us, then we believe and declare those promises and watch them manifest. The word of God is active and requires our engagement in claiming what belongs to us. And as we grow in the knowledge and understanding of what God has promised, then things are going to get better.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).
Wisdom will help us to discern when to push forward and when to tread water (effort that maintains current status but no progress). It takes faith and trust in God to believe that God has us exactly where he wants us to be. When our will is surrendered to him, when our trust is in him and he directs our going, then we know that our plans will succeed. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
Discontent, zeal, drive and passion will make us want to do better than we did yesterday. It is absolutely necessary to be ambitious and to keep reaching forward. There are seasons when it is ok to be still and wait before we pushing ahead. There are also times when we have to weigh the cost to ourselves, our health, our peace of mind, our family and our relationships. We have to remember that it is God who gives us the ability to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). God will enable us to make progress no matter the obstacles or circumstances that we face. We have to trust that he will keep his promise to bless us and wait for his leading.
We surrender to God, to his will, his purpose, his plan and wait for his perfect timing. Timing is important and a great thing done in the wrong season can do more harm than good. Harvesters know the danger and futility of reaping a crop too early. With the best of intentions, we can force a situation to happen prematurely. Babies do best when they are carried to full term and a child born premature needs additional support.
Stay connected to God and you will sense his leading and he will give you clear instructions for the next season. Seek the Lord and trust him while you listen for his instructions.
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
We tend to regularly make plans for our lives, in terms of where we see ourselves at different stages. There are times however when God will say, ‘I have an even better plan.’
Disappointments are hard to process and it is hard for us to see at the time how a closed door is for our good. Often times its long after the event that it makes sense. It is then that we are able to see why God closed a door or diverted us from a perceived opportunity. The truth is that we can only see half of the picture or a glimpse into the future. God however knows the full story and he sees the beginning, middle and end. He sees the big picture.
With this understanding we surrender to his will and his leading. We surrender our need to be in control and acknowledge that he is God of our lives. Seeking God first can save us a lot of heartache and there are times when we have to wait. There is an appointed time for everything on earth. There are seasons when all of our trying does not seem to amount to much. Sometimes we have to be still and see the salvation of the Lord. Most battles are not won in our own strength but by the power and strength of the Lord.
Trust him. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). After all, he is God and it is obvious that he knows best.