Stay the Course

Years ago a New Zealand friend, Bill Tindal, told me about an experience he had as a missionary in Africa. He was in a mud hut trying to sleep in the middle of the day, in intense heat. While lying there, unable to sleep, he noticed a long ant trail crossing the wall. The mud wall had timber uprights to support the roof. The timber had recently been painted with creosote, a smelly substance that protects timber against borers and the like. The ant trail crossed the freshly painted timber, causing the ants to lose the scent of their trail.

Bill noticed that many ants lost their trail because they would wander off trying to find the scent again. Other ants, however, simply kept on the same path they were on and picked up the trail further along, once past the smelly creosote.

That spoke to Bill about following the Lord. At times we have clear leading and follow with confidence. At other times we might feel we have lost the scent and aren’t sure if we are on the right track. The best thing to do under those circumstances is stay on the same course we were on when we last sensed God’s leading.

We will tend to stay on course if we have a faithful and trusting spirit. If we can follow orders and survive without constant affirmation we can keep doing whatever God has set for us to do.

If, however, we are insecure, fearful, untrusting and needing constant affirmation, we are likely to wander about looking for something to make us feel better.

Jesus asked the question about whether the Son of Man would find faith on the earth when He returns.

“When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

In the New Testament ‘faithfulness’ is built from the same word as ‘faith’. We can be faithful when we have faith. If we have faith we will be faithful. If you don’t trust your leaders you may be tempted to be slack in your faithfulness to them.

The ants Bill saw walking in a straight line were the faithful ones. Those that wandered about and got themselves completely lost were those who were not faithful, not trusting the direction they were already on.

God is big enough to speak to you and direct you. If you are in a place where you are not hearing any clear direction then go back and recall the things God has spoken to you in the past.

Then ask yourself if you are being faithful to those things or not. Maybe you have already wandered away from the obvious things you are supposed to do.

In your home do you have a godly attitude to parents, spouse and children? Do you have the right attitude toward sin in your life? Have you forgiven those who offend you? Have you kept up sweet fellowship with fellow believers? Do you talk often and freely with God? Are you feeding your spirit on the Word of God? Have you cast your cares on the Lord? Do you yield yourself to the leading of the Holy Spirit? Is there something God has prompted you to do which you pulled back from? Have you repented to God for anything you have done that offends Him?

If there are no blockages that you are aware of, then recall what God has had you doing and keep being faithful in doing it. Stay the course, be not weary in well doing, endure to the end, and you will receive your reward.

“Do not grow weary of doing the right thing, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

God can be trusted, and He cares for you. So trust Him, even when you wonder if you are on the right track. Trust God to lead you as you Stay the Course for Him.

New Things

The Lord’s promise is that He will do new things.

“Behold I will do a new thing; now it will spring forth; will you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

The Bible also says that all things become new.

“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2Corinthians 5:17

This is a wonderful aspect of our new life in Christ. We are not stuck with our old life or our old limitations. We don’t have to renovate our old life and try to clean it up. God makes us new, completely new. And God continues to do new things in and through us as we yield to Him in faith.

Apostle Paul talks about the ongoing transforming work that takes place in us as we continue to see Christ. We become more like Christ as we look to Him.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2Corinthians 3:18

God gives us a new heart.

“I will also give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Human experience testifies to people who have been completely transformed in attitude, speech, action, relationships, morals, character, responsibility, godliness and so on.

These transformations aren’t achieved by people making an effort to be good, but by God at work inside them, making them new from the inside out.

As a youth I recall seeing someone giving a lecture to a new convert, saying, “Now that you’re a Christian you can’t swear or smoke, and you’ll have to change the way you dress.”

At the time it struck me how draconian it seemed to be converted and have all these obligations thrust onto you. Making those demands of someone reflects a religious idea of working to achieve our own holiness, rather than being completely changed by the grace of God.

Years later I had the privilege of leading a young man to faith in Christ. We had little time to discuss his decision and its implications so I simply committed him to God. I met him a week later and he asked, “Is it wrong to take drugs?” I asked him why he asked that question and he told me that for the past week, each time he took drugs he felt as if God was not happy.

God was personally leading this young man into the life God had for him, without me having to ‘lay down the law’. The young man’s awakened conscience also revealed that there had been a real change inside him, not based on a guilt-trip from religious people, but from a real personal encounter with the Living God.

Going back to the verse quoted earlier from 2Corinthians 3:18, note Paul’s reference to us being change from one degree of glory to another.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2Corinthians 3:18

Paul isn’t just talking about our salvation experience, when we turn from degradation and sin to experience God’s glory, but he refers to us continually changing from ‘glory to glory’.

Note too that the change is made ‘by the Spirit of the Lord’, not by our personal disciplines.

Life with Christ at its best is an adventure of discovery, as new things take place in us and emerge around us as we walk with Him. 

We find that there are pathways presented to us in places where others get completely lost – like a way in the wilderness.

“Behold I will do a new thing; now it will spring forth; will you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

We find our desert transformed into a garden.

“The wilderness and the solitary place will be glad for them; and the desert will rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah 35:1

We find new responses within us because we have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).

We have all the resources of God, for both our natural and spiritual lives, so we can be and do things that were never possible.

Here’s a thought. Imagine what it would be like to know that in an hour’s time your life would change radically, for the better. Fears would be defeated. Guilt, shame, accusation and failure would be gone forever. Your past defeats will become areas of victory. Your current limits will melt away and you will be able to go beyond all the things that currently hold you back. You will have confidence, peace, assurance, boldness, God’s presence, the power of the Holy Spirit, divine wisdom, authority over the devil, victory over sin, joy unspeakable and abundant fruitfulness.

How much would you look forward to arriving at that moment?

Well, that moment is coming to you all the time. You are being changed from one degree of glory to another. God continues to work in you, and all things are becoming new. God has given you everything you could possibly need.

I repeat what I said earlier, God makes us new, completely new. And God continues to do new things in and through us as we yield to Him in faith.

Isn’t it time for you to step into another breakthrough? Isn’t it time for you to call on God to do something new in your family, relationships, heart, faith, finances, health and ministry?

God is God of new things and He purposes for you to live in newness, through Him. Take another step into the new things God has for you right now.

True Value

We can become quite distracted by our desire for certain things we hold dear for one reason or another. Different cultures and families tend to value certain things at different times.

Think about growing up. As a child you desired food or toys or ability to feel important or valued. In youth you may have focused on competing with others, your appearance, getting ahead in life or achieving academically or romantically. 

Once married your desires may focus on getting ahead in life, or family, plus the new car, house, gadgets and pleasures of young adult life. With a growing family your desires may focus more on family needs, solving problems among children, and so on.

With each new season there are new things to be distracted with.

In the West we can have materialistic desires and first world problems, unknown in places where the road is a goat track and the hut holds no luxuries at all.

Each of us finds value in the things we are currently distracted with, based on our age, culture, upbringing, and so on.

With that as background, let’s ask what is ‘true value’. 

Is the new car really a matter of true value? Is getting a higher test score than others really true value?

Is true value in the food you eat and the home you live in? Is true value in buying the latest technology? Is true value in diagnosing the physical ailment you struggle with in old age?

Does your family need more gadgets or more time with you, or better education, or a bigger house, or ??

I had a quick impression many years ago of two images that contrasted each other. The first fleeting impression was of a beggar boy standing in rags on a pile of rubbish. The boy’s bare feet and legs were spattered with dry mud.

I understood that this lad, having nothing of this world’s goods, had faith in Christ, probably through some Christian outreach to slum dwellers.

The image was immediately replaced by the face of a man I knew from Australian history. He was a strong political figure, highly educated, enjoying high office in the international arena, and he mocked God.

As soon as these impressions flashed through my mind I felt a question inside me. “Which of these do you want your children and grand-children to be?”

Obviously none of us wants our children to be paupers and live with empty stomachs and a miserable human existence, but of the two options I had no hesitation choosing my descendants to live impoverished lives on earth then enjoying eternal blessings in God’s presence, than to be hailed and applauded on earth, living a high life, then spending eternity in hell.

“What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? What can a man give to buy back his soul?” Matthew 16:26

God has no problem seeing people blessed. He gives rain and sunshine on everyone, including evil people. God is generous and pours out an abundance over and over again. I am not in any way suggesting that being blessed is evil.

My question goes to where you place your sense of value. Are you pursuing true value?

Jesus promised that if we seek His Kingdom we will be provided with all the other things we need anyway.

“Take no thought for what you will eat or drink of how you’ll be clothed, for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be provided to you.” Matthew 6:31-33

Realise that chasing the wrong things doesn’t lead to good outcomes. Be warned by what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness.

“They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tempted God in the desert. And God gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:14,15

They got what they were hankering for, but they lost out on the deal.

Here’s another unhappy example. King Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah he was going to die. Hezekiah pleaded with God to have his life spared. Isaiah was told by God to go back and tell the king he would have an additional 15 years of life.

Happy outcome? Maybe not. Three years later Hezekiah had a son, Manassah who turned out to be the wickedest king in Israel’s history. See Isaiah 38 and 2Kings 20,21.

It could be argued that Hezekiah and Israel would have been better off if Hezekiah had accepted his lot and died when God said he would.

God wants you to have true value in your life and all you turn your hand to.

Don’t spend your life on that which is of no true value.

“Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your labour for things that don’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in good things.” Isaiah 55:2

I urge you to keep before the Lord the question of what is true value in your life and situation, for yourself, your family and the Kingdom of God.

Claiming Blessings

Most people come to Christ something like this.
They recognise they are sinners in need of forgiveness and they learn that God provides forgiveness when we put our faith in Christ. So they pray and ask for the salvation that is available to them through Christ.

By that simple process they have claimed a blessing from God. God has already provided the blessing, through Christ’s death. So it already exists. But sinners don’t have it, despite its existence, because they have not asked for it. They have not ‘claimed’ it.

So it should not be hard for Christians to understand the process of Claiming Blessings.

First we discover that the blessing is available to us from God. We might read about it in the Bible or have it explained to us such as in a sermon or by a testimony from someone.

Then we simply ask for it, believing God will give it to us.

It’s not particularly complicated.

The Bible explains this process in various ways. Jesus told us to ‘ask and keep on asking’.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8

Greek students tell us that the tense used in these verses means to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.

The idea of being persistent in prayer was also explained by Jesus, in a story about a widow who persisted in asking for justice.

“There was a judge who did not fear God or regard man. A widow came to him saying, Give me justice. At first he refused, but afterward said to himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow pesters me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out with her persistence.” Luke 18:2-5

Another key is that of asking in faith. God’s gifts to us are grace, undeserved, and we receive God’s grace by having faith in God.

“By grace you have been saved through faith” Ephesians 2:8

So Jesus explained that we are to ask in faith.

“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22.

Believing is having faith. Being confident that God is listening and will answer.

So the process is to ask God for things in faith, believing God will answer.

The next question might be, “What are we allowed to ask for?”

Jesus gave us clues to this when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), including “give us today’s needs – our daily bread”, “forgive our sins”, “lead us not into trouble but deliver us from evil”.

We could also look at prayers others prayed that God happily answered, such as the Prayer of Jabez. 

“Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and cause your hand to be with me, and keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted his request.” 1Chronicles 4:10

Some Christians think it is wrong to pray for things we want, but we see in both the Lord’s Prayer and Jabez’s prayer that we are to ask for things for ourselves.

However, we also see that it is wrong to ask for things so we just satisfy our greed and lusts.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, for things to indulge your selfish interests.” James 4:3

You can safely ask for anything God provided for you through the sacrifice of Jesus. That means forgiveness, peace, rescue, salvation, protection, health and blessing.

Jesus died for our sins and his physical wounds bring us healing.

Jesus “bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by his whipping (stripes) you were healed.” 1Peter 2:24

When Jesus died God created a huge store of Grace for us. These are miraculous things we don’t deserve which come from the victory of Christ over sin, death and the devil.

The Apostle Paul, who had been taken to heaven, described a virtual storehouse of God’s grace that is so full it will take all of eternity to show us what God has achieved for us in Christ’s death and resurrection.

“God raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: So that in the ages to come he might display the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6,7

The way I understand Paul’s statement is that in heaven we will have a constant revelation of the abundant things God provided for us through Christ. Those things are already in God’s storehouse.

Let me give you some background to what Paul is saying, firstly from the words of King David

“You show me the path of life; in your presence there is complete joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures – pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Note that these pleasures, or delights, are at God’s right hand. Link that to what Paul says about Jesus.

“If you have been raised with Christ, seek things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1

This is just one of many verses describing Jesus as God’s right hand.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 1:3

Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Acts 7:55,56. See also Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1Peter 3:22; Matthew 22:44; Acts 2:33.

So there are eternal blessings for us at God’s right hand. Jesus achieved eternal blessings for us through His death and resurrection. Jesus is seated at God’s right hand. God has abundant grace for us achieved through Christ. God’s blessings for us are ‘in Christ’.

So I like the picture of God having a storehouse of grace at His right hand, grace of amazing and miraculous things achieved for us through Christ, which we access by having faith and asking God for those things.

“By grace (out of God’s storehouse of grace) you are saved (blessed with all of God’s blessings) through faith”.

What is included in that storehouse of grace? Apostle Peter gives us an insight.

“According as God’s divine power gave us all things relating to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to glory and virtue: By whom we are given exceedingly great and precious promises: by which you might partake of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2Peter 1:3,4

All things pertaining to life – means all the things you need in normal human existence, while all things pertaining to godliness – means all the things you need to be a Son of God for eternity.

That summarises a huge raft of things God has for you in His storehouse of grace, at His right hand, that is ‘in Christ’, achieved for you already. You can access those things by asking in faith. For you receive grace by faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Think again about claiming God’s blessings.

By God’s Grace

Paul testified that he had become an Apostle of Jesus Christ despite being unworthy, having persecuted the Church before his conversion. He declared that he really should be the ‘least of the apostles’.

“I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1Corinthians 15:9

Yet, Paul goes on to explain that he was able to become an apostle despite his past and his disqualification “by the grace of God”.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am” 1Corinthians 15:10.

It is only by God’s grace that we become anything other than a sinner bound for eternal judgement. We can take Paul’s words “by the grace of God” and apply them widely.

Only by the grace of God have you been saved. 

“For by grace you are saved, through faith” Ephesians 2:8. 

You did not deserve it nor were you even close to God’s salvation. It took the death of Christ to make you right with God. That is pure grace.

Only by the grace of God can you live with God’s blessings today. 

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

“God’s divine power has given us all things relating to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to glory and virtue: By which we are given exceeding great and precious promises: by which you can be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2Peter 1:3,4

Do you have peace? It is by God’s grace.

Do you have purpose? It is by God’s grace.

Do you have fruitfulness? It is by God’s grace.

Are you respected? It is by God’s grace.

Has God used you to bless others? It is by God’s grace.

Since it is “by the grace of God” that you enjoy all the things you do, you can’t pretend that you deserve them, or are more worthy of them than others. There is no room for you to take the glory.

“For who makes you different from others? And what do you have that you didn’t receive? If you received it, why do you boast as if you didn’t receive it?” 1Corinthians 4:7

God offers us grace all the time. He calls us to respond in humility and to allow Him to work in and through us. It is up to us to respond to that opportunity.

Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple and was immediately humbled by seeing himself as he truly is, unworthy. 

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. … Then I said, Woe is me! I am undone; because I am unclean, and I dwell among unclean people: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1,5

That response of humble repentance opened the way for Isaiah to offer himself to service for God and become one of the greatest Old Testament prophets.

God calls each of us to faith in Christ, obedience, humble submission, service of God, holiness, power in the Holy Spirit and much more. Each time God prompts us He is offering us His grace. We need to respond and allow God to move in and through us, then we receive the grace of God that empowers us to be what we have not been before.

By the grace of God you are who and what you are.

So there is no room for you to boast and put yourself over others. Instead you could help them receive God’s grace and become who God wants them to be.

And you are perfectly placed to keep receiving God’s grace, as you respond to the promptings of God in your life, stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing God to call you to new things, such as new freedom inside you and new capacity to help those around you.

But in all that, it is “by God’s grace”.