God provides for us what He requires from us

Ever feel like you’re in over your head? Golly, I’ve been there more than once in my life, with the majority of those times happening within the last 10 months. Without fail, most of the times when I feel overwhelmed is when I’m doing something I know God has told me to do.

Something I’ve learned following God all these years? He asks me to do things I can’t do, and He does it all the time. Talk to strangers. Do math. Run a business. I don’t know how to do any of that. But those are specific things He’s told me to do. Well, not the “do math” part, but it’s implied with the “run a business” part.

When God tells you to do something impossible, you’ve got two choices. Either you tell Him no, or you ask Him for help. Because, yes, God asks us to do impossible things, but He knows we can’t do the impossible. That’s why we have Him. And if we know nothing else about God, we know that God has always, always provided for us what He requires from us.

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian's Wall in Northern England

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England

Today’s verses are Genesis 22:6-8, 13-14.

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and Abraham was willing to do it. The writer of Hebrews states in chapter 11 that Abraham had faith that God would resurrect Isaac if need be, and he didn’t even hesitate. God told Abraham what He wanted, and Abraham went to do it. And God provided the sacrifice for him.

Over and over and over, throughout Scripture and even throughout the lives of Christ-followers in history, God has always provided. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s faith. Maybe it’s clothing or shelter or safety or status. Whatever a Christ-follower needs, he or she gets exactly when they need it. The trick is you probably don’t have it to start out with.

You have to be willing. Abraham was willing to give up his son because God asked him to, trusting that God knew what was best. And when God asks us to do something, we should be willing to obey even if what He’s asking doesn’t make sense right away.

God won’t contradict His Word, though. So be sure you always weigh what you think He’s telling you to do against Scripture. But once you determine the path He wants you on, get on it, whether you think you’re equipped for it or not.

So what’s keeping you in place today? Are you scared because you don’t know the future? Well, nobody does, so don’t let that stop you. God knows what’s coming, and He can be trusted. Do you lack money and finances? Do you lack independence? Do you lack courage? What about education or experience?

Don’t listen to the fear that’s holding you down. If your reason for telling God no is because you’re afraid, you’re listening to the wrong voice. God doesn’t operate through fear. And if He is asking you to do something for Him, He will provide you with everything you need to make it happen. Maybe you think it’s impossible. It probably is, but with God, all things are possible.

Give God a chance. Be willing to take that first step. God has always provided what He requires, and He won’t stop now.

Advertisements

You’re worth so much because God paid so much

Everybody knows that if you’re looking to buy something that you can’t find anywhere for sale, check Ebay. Ebay has everything. Books and movies, clothes and cosmetics, cars and even entire towns! Ebay is the revolutionary one-stop shop for anything and everything you could ever want to buy, including grilled cheese sandwiches with Jesus’ face on them.

What I find fascinating about Ebay is what people will pay for things. Sure there are lots of outrageously priced items, but just because the price is outrageous doesn’t mean people will pay that much for it. But in some cases, people decide what’s for sale is worth the price it’s being offered for.

Example? In 2010, Warren Buffett, a world-renown economist and expert investor, put up an Ebay auction to have lunch with him. Granted all proceeds from the auction would benefit a charity. But how much would you pay to talk money matters with Warren Buffett? Well, someone paid $2.63 million.

That’s $2,630,000.00. Check the decimal places on that bad boy. Yikes!

We evaluate worth or value by how much people are willing to pay for it. In our capitalistic American society, that’s not a foreign concept, but how do you judge the worth or value of a person’s life? How do you judge the value of their time or experience? Those things aren’t as easy to pin a number on, but the concept is actually exactly the same.

money-finance-bills-bank-notesToday’s verses are Ephesians 2:4-7.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

Everyone struggles with the concept of self-worth. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve met very many people who have it figured out. I don’t. With Christ-followers, there’s something in our brain that cautions us not to think too highly of ourselves, and that’s absolutely a valid thought to have. It is possible to get puffed up, to look at yourself and your life and believe you haven’t got any problems and that you’ve got life figured out. That’s a dangerous place to be.

But we take it a step further. Because we don’t want to think to highly of ourselves, instead we get into the habit of thinking too meanly about ourselves. We downplay our achievements and talents. We deflect compliments because we don’t think we deserve them and we don’t want people to think we’re being proud.

God commands us to be humble, but is false modesty the same as humility? No. In the same way, pride and self-worth don’t go hand in hand.

I was talking about worth and value with a one of my awesome Forever Sisters last night, and I started wondering how you can even judge the value of another human being? What we have to remember is that we aren’t the ones who assign value to people. God does that. God says what people are worth. God says that the price of a human soul can’t be measured.

Even so, in God’s eyes, our lives were worth enough to Him that He sent Jesus to die for us.

You can recognize and accept what you’re worth without being prideful. Regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been or where you’re going, this fact is still true: God gave His Son for you. God chose to shed His Only Son’s blood to pay the price for your soul. That’s how much you mean to God. Think about that the next time you start beating yourself up or listening to naysayers or picking yourself apart in the mirror.

Your worth as a person can’t be judged by another person, because another person doesn’t have the power or authority to purchase you. God’s the only one who can do that, because He created You. He made you exactly the way you are, with all your funny quirks and strange eccentricities. God doesn’t make mistakes, and there are no such things as accidents.

Maybe the people around you don’t see your worth. Maybe you can’t see the worth of the people around you. That’s okay. You’re not supposed to be able to see it, but just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So stop basing your value to the world and the people around you on your ability to perform, your talents, your looks, your brains. Stop looking for worth based on what you can do or what you know. Instead, understand that you’re worth so much because God paid so much for you. And if God thinks so highly of you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

You can’t regift when it comes to sacrifice

I’m not above regifting. I’ll admit that. I’m sure that everyone has regifted at some point. Someone gives you a gift and you’re thankful for it, but you have no idea what to do with it. Or you’d never use it anyway. And you happen to know someone who would like it. So what do you do? Hold on to something you’d never use when you could give it to someone who would enjoy it?

That’s a no-brainer for me. It’s making good use of your resources. But you can’t turn around and say that it cost you anything. You can’t regift an item and claim that you did anything to earn it.

RegiftToday’s verses are 2 Samuel 24:19-25.

So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

“Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

There’s not time in this brief little devotional to go into the background of this story. Suffice it to say, David had screwed up royally. This was during the later part of his reign when just about every decision he made was the wrong one. But God had given him instructions on how to make things right.

Part of making things right required that he go to a specific place and offer a sacrifice to God, but when David arrived and tried to purchase the piece of land God had identified, the owner didn’t want to sell it. The guy was more than happy to give it away, but David refused and insisted on buying it because David was required to sacrifice. And if it didn’t cost him something personally, it didn’t mean anything.

I think we forget that sometimes. We talk about sacrifice, but when was the last time any of us actually sacrificed something? And I don’t mean like a burnt offering. I mean giving up something or paying the price for something personally that will benefit someone else. Sacrifice means making yourself uncomfortable for other people. It means doing things you wouldn’t normally do in order to help someone else.

Hey, husbands, when was the last time you gave up a night out with your buddies to help your wife with laundry? Wives, when was the last time you agreed to watch the kid so your husband could have a night off? What about your coworkers? When was the last time you accepted an extra project in order to help someone you work with?

You see what I’m saying. Sacrifice isn’t like regifting. You can regift and regift until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean you’ve sacrificed anything. Until it’s cost you something personally, it doesn’t matter. Until you’ve given up something you wanted, you haven’t sacrificed.

And that’s fine. You don’t have to sacrifice anything. That’s what’s great (or maybe not so great) about America. We live in a culture that never has to sacrifice at all. The typical American doesn’t even know the meaning of the word. Our culture is all about only doing what you want, and if it makes you uncomfortable it’s better to just ignore it or sue it. But as Christ-followers, are we really supposed to live that way?

Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could live comfortably. Jesus died for us so that we could have eternal life, and that life isn’t on Earth. So why do we think we need to be comfortable anyway?

David screwed up a lot in his later years, but one thing he got right. He understood that you can’t regift when it comes to sacrifice. You can’t bring someone else’s hard work before God and claim that it’s yours. It doesn’t work that way. So don’t try it.

What’s awesome about sacrificing for God, though, is that it doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice. Maybe it seems like you’re giving something up, but in reality you’re only letting something inferior go so God can replace it with something superior. Maybe you sacrifice, but God blesses.

So don’t be afraid to give something up for God. Maybe it’s your pride. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s your perceptions about yourself or others. Just let it go. Maybe it will cost you something personally, but if it’s a sacrifice it’s supposed to.

Sacrificing for the right reasons doesn’t feel like a sacrifice

I’ve heard it said that the best definition of love is sacrifice. If you love someone, you’ll sacrifice for them. But what does it mean to sacrifice?

In American culture, the concept of sacrifice has such a negative connotation. If you sacrifice something, that means you’re giving something up, and everybody knows giving something up stinks. But I have a problem with that definition, especially when it comes to the concept of sacrificing for God.

When you sacrifice for God, is it really a sacrifice? Have you ever thought about it that way? Because when I sacrifice something–my time, my energy, my focus, my finances, etc.–for God, I always get back more than I’ve given.

See we think of sacrifice as giving something up and never getting anything in return, but that’s not the case. Well, maybe it’s the case if you’re sacrificing for selfish reasons. Nothing done with selfish motivation ever pays a return–not really.

But turn that around. When you sacrifice for selfless reasons, you’ll be hard-pressed to see your choice as a sacrifice. I know tons of people who sacrifice every day. They sacrifice their time and their emotions and their money. They sacrifice possessions and privacy and personal desires. They sacrifice all kinds of things, but because they’ve got their perspective straight, they don’t see it as a sacrifice at all. They see it as an opportunity to do something kind for someone else.

desertToday’s verse is Hebrews 11:24-27.

It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

Just about everybody knows the story of Moses, whether it’s The Ten Commandments version of his life or the Prince of Egypt version. And we all like to focus on the fact that Moses talked to God and went before Pharaoh and said things like “Let my people go!” and brought the plaques on Egypt, etc. etc. etc. (no, wrong Yul Brenner quote…. so let it be written, so let it be done).

But how often do we focus on the fact that Moses had every right to stay in Egypt and claim a position of lordship? Moses might not have been born Egyptian, but he’d been raised in the palace. He could have stayed. He could have claimed title and land and riches and status. But he didn’t. He chose to walk away from it, and he ended his life doing what God had called him to do.

Talk about sacrifice, right? Walking away from a life of privilege to herd sheep at the hind end of the desert? Releasing his rightful claim to comfort and security in exchange for a barefoot conversation with a burning bush? But if we could talk to Moses today, regardless of all the crap he had to go through leading the Children of Israel, I don’t think he’d say that he sacrificed anything. On the contrary, he had a front row seat for some of the greatest miracles in recorded history.

Perspective is everything.

Are you in situation right now where you feel like you’re sacrificing and no one is recognizing it? Well, I hate to be the rain on your parade, friend, but sacrifice has absolutely nothing to do with recognition. If you sacrifice, you aren’t necessarily going to get to see your name up in lights. If you sacrifice for someone you love, they may not even notice. But if you’re sacrificing for the right reason, it won’t matter.

If you give up something you want expecting something in return, that’s not sacrifice. That’s bartering.

If you keep seeing your sacrifice as something you “had to do” for whatever reason, you’ll never move past it. If you keep bringing it up, you haven’t sacrificed anything. You’re still holding on to it. And you can’t walk that line. You can’t say you’ve sacrificed something if you’re still clinging to it.

But if you let go of what you want, especially if you’re letting it go for God’s sake, and you don’t pine after what could have been, you’ll be surprised at the turn your life will take. Maybe at the beginning, it’ll feel like you’re walking away from the best dream you’ve ever had, but when it’s over, you’ll be standing on a mountaintop talking to God like He’s your closest friend.

Just because you give up something you want doesn’t mean your life is going to be unhappy. It doesn’t even mean that you’ll end up losing out. In fact, you might even end up with more than you had to start.

Don’t let free grace cheapen the cost of sin

Last night in my Bible study we were talking about blood and blood sacrifices, mainly because the reading for the past week has been in Leviticus. (Ever want to be really thankful for salvation by grace through faith? Read Leviticus. Just saying.)

In our modern world, we cringe at the thought of sacrificing animals, but in the ancient Israelite culture, it was part of their culture. It was the system that God set up as a picture for them of the seriousness of sin and what it costs Humanity.

lambofsacrificeToday’s verses are Hebrews 9:22-26.

In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

From the beginning, the shedding of blood has always been a picture of forgiveness. Starting in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden because of their sin, God made clothes for them out of animal skins (Gen. 3:21). The animals weren’t still alive after God used their skins for clothes. No, those animals had to die so Adam and Eve could have clothing to wear. Blood had to be shed.

And blood doesn’t wash away easily. It sort of hangs around. Whether you’re talking about human blood or animal blood, it’s all pretty much the same.

Every culture (nearly) grasps the importance of blood on some level. Even people living far back in the jungles understand the concept that if wrong is done, atonement is required–and it’s usually an atonement that has something to do with blood. What they don’t grasp is Who atonement should be made to–and that the most precious blood has already been shed.

See, that’s the point of the Book of Hebrews. The writer is comparing the Old Covenant God made with Israel to the New Covenant God made through Jesus Christ, stating that the New Covenant is better. It doesn’t make the Old Covenant obsolete by any stretch of the imagination, but faith in Jesus Christ’s blood for the payment of sins is better. Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all.

It makes us cringe to talk about blood sacrifices. It did in our Bible study last night, especially the people who haven’t grown up in rural or agricultural areas. The concept of slaughtering an animal turns people’s stomachs. But I truly believe that’s something we need to get over, frankly.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Sin requires a sacrifice of atonement, and before Jesus came, the people who followed God were instructed to sacrifice bulls and goats. But the blood of bulls and goats only covers sin, like the clothing God made for Adam and Eve. It didn’t take sin away (Heb 10:4).

That’s why Jesus had to die. He became the sacrifice for us, shed His blood for us, so that we could be free of our sin forever.

Maybe it’s not comfortable to discuss sacrifices anymore. Maybe it makes us squirm to think about slaughtering a lamb or a bull or a goat. But I really think that’s because we’ve grown accustomed to sin. We don’t grasp what sin really costs. We take advantage of God’s grace because we don’t have to sacrifice anymore, so in our view the price of Jesus’ blood is cheapened.

Sorry to be somewhat morbid this morning, but I think it’s important to talk about the roots of what a Christ-follower believes. We’re so fortunate to live in this era where Jesus’ sacrifice has given us free access to God, especially with Easter approaching.

Don’t let our comfortable modern era and our comfortable New Covenant faith make you forget what our sin actually costs. The price is the same today as it was 10,000 years ago.

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Living life like a sheep

My brother and I raised 4-H market lambs for two years, and during that process, I learned a lot about sheep. And I learned why the Bible compares people to them. Sheep are pretty stupid, even though they think they’re awfully smart. They fall prey to the herd mentality. They will gorge themselves if allowed. They always think they know where they’re going, and they’re very, very stubborn about changing their minds.

Sound like anyone you know? I think every person needs to have experience raising sheep, especially if you’re a Christ-follower. It will open your eyes.

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are John 10:11-18.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

I never had opportunity to sacrifice my life for any of my sheep. I can’t say that I would have, honestly, because their purpose was to go to market. They existed in my life for experience and education and hopefully a decent premium at auction that would jumpstart my puny savings account. In that context, my sheep weren’t worth my life.

But shepherding in Jesus’ day was different than it is today. Around here, my neighbors “shepherd” with four-wheelers and a lot of shouting. In Jesus’ time, shepherds led their sheep. Sheep were their livelihood, and you didn’t need to raise sheep for the experience of it. It was a full-time occupation. So if anything ever threatened the sheep, it was worth it to the shepherd to intervene. Why? Because they were his sheep. They were his life.

To a sheep, a shepherd is everything: guide, provider, protector, friend. The shepherd is the one who knows where the best grazing is. The shepherd is the one who knows the safe paths to travel. The shepherd is the one who leads. The shepherd is the one who makes the plan. It’s up to the sheep to follow. The sheep don’t have to do anything else. They just have to keep up, and even if they can’t keep up, the shepherd won’t leave them behind.

Thinking about our relationship with Jesus in that context leaves me speechless. I am very much like a sheep in my life. I really think I know what’s best for me. I think I know where I can find the best prospects for my life, and I am certain I know how to handle the opportunities that come at me without help. I convince myself I know when I push myself too hard, and I’m incredibly too stubborn about everything, especially the things I don’t actually know.

Jesus is patient with me anyway. He gently corrects, carefully guides, consistently provides, and always protects me no matter where I go and no matter how often I bite off more than I can actually chew.

A shepherd who’s in it for the money can always find another opportunity for cash if the sheep are in danger. There’s no need to risk life and limb. But the shepherd who’s in it for the sheep will do crazy things to keep them safe, and that’s what Jesus did for us. No one compelled Him to sacrifice His life for us. Yes, God the Father sent Him, but Jesus didn’t have to do what He did.

So what does all this mean for our lives today? It means a lot, honestly. It means that we don’t really know best, even though we think we do. It means God has a plan, and it means our job is to follow and not worry about things we can’t control. Yes, do your best. Use your gifts to their fullest extent. But Jesus wouldn’t lead you down a path without a reason. Just like a good shepherd wouldn’t lead his sheep to an area without good grazing.

Maybe your life hasn’t turned out the way you expected. That’s okay. God still has a plan, Jesus is still the Shepherd, and you’re still the sheep. The roles haven’t changed, even if your location has. So rest. Find some nice grass to munch on. Live. Enjoy the view. And take it easy until Jesus calls you again. Then follow. If He’s willing to lay His life down for you, He’s not going to lead you wrong.

Wheat field at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living when you know trouble is coming

I heard it said once that the anticipation of pain is much worse than the actual pain itself. I’m not sure who first noticed this fact, but it’s true. The anticipation of pain can create so much fear in us that we procrastinate. We’re so afraid of what might hurt we aren’t even willing to try it. People avoid doctors for this reason, even if they need to go.

I watched a movie recently, Ben Affleck’s Argo, about the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 1970s, and there was one scene where a bunch of the hostages were lined up and their captors were getting ready to shoot them. And just as they had been prepared to die, the shooters pulled the triggers, and there were no bullets in the guns. It had all been to scare them, but it was enough to drive some of them to their knees. They had anticipated pain and death; they got neither. But either way, it was incapacitating.

How do you handle the anticipation of pain and difficulty? Many times, we know it’s coming. We know things may be quiet now but trouble is just over the horizon, and we have no choice but to walk toward it and tackle it as it comes. But even if we make that choice, how do you live in the interim?

Wheat field at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat field at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Mark 10:32-34.

They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

Knowing that Jesus is God is a funny thing because even though I believe it, I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how a man can be God and how God can be man, both at the same time. But that’s what the Bible says, so that’s what I believe. And, to put it frankly, if I understood it, I could put Jesus in a box, and I don’t want Jesus in a box; I want Jesus on a throne.

But as God, Jesus could look forward or look backward even while He was alive as a human on Earth. Had had all the power of God but He was 100% man at the same time. And He knew why He was here. He was born for a reason – to suffer and die for the sins men and women had committed since Adam and Eve failed. Can you imagine growing up with that kind of knowledge? Can you imagine going to school knowing that you wouldn’t ever have your own children? Can you imagine living your life knowing that it was going to end and not just end but end brutally.

He knew everything that was going to happen. He knew He would be betrayed by the people He loved. He knew He would be brutalized. He knew it all, and He chose it anyway. And it’s not like He found out the week before He died; He knew all along. So if you look at Christ’s life, what do you see? Do you see someone who was bitter and resentful? Do you see someone who was resigned to die and who had given up on living?

Not so much.

So what does that tell us about how we’re supposed to live when we know that hard times are coming?

The first few months of 2013 have been nice for me as far as my stress level and obligations go, but it’s getting ready to change in the next few weeks. Life is getting ready to take off, and to be honest about it, I’m kind of dreading it. I’m standing here and watching the tidal wave of stress and responsibility coming toward me at unstoppable speed, and it’s getting ready to crash over me. There’s no point in running from it because I can’t run that fast. And there’s a part of me that wishes it would just hurry up and get here because the span of a few weeks that separates it from me are overwhelming. The waiting is more stressful than the actual events that are approaching.

But what I’m reminded of this morning is that I don’t have to dread it. Jesus knew what was coming for Him, and He didn’t face it with resignation or defeat. He faced it, yes, and He was sure about it. And while I would exactly say He was cheerful about those impending things, He certainly didn’t let it affect His relationships or the life He had left. He knew God was going to use it and that He would make it through.

So if you know difficult times are just over the horizon and there’s nothing you can do about it, don’t spend the time you have left dreading what’s coming. Don’t focus on the anticipation of discomfort, otherwise it will color everything you do. Instead, think about what those difficult times will bring. Think about how you’ll grow. Think about how you’ll help others. Think about what you will be able to do for God.

God will give you the strength to face whatever circumstances come your way. And when it’s over, you’ll be able to look back and see why it needed to be difficult, but what’s more, the results will be so amazing that the difficulty will hardly seem important anymore.