God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Life opens up, options beg for attention, vision catches its second wind, energy is restored, and emotions experience a lift when you push past what you are experiencing and let God remind you of what you can expect.
And what exactly can you expect? God says you can expect that you will have what you need when you need it. Where will it come from? It will come out of the total sufficiency of Christ, who is able to give abundant grace out of that sufficiency to you. He is able to let that kind of grace flow in your life because He lives in a sufficiency that is eternal. He lives with such generosity of grace that you can trust Him when He makes this promise to you: whatever you are about to experience, regardless of the size or demand or threat, He will extend favor to your life to make sure that you have what you need, when you need it, in order to get things done.
Does that promise change how you think concerning what you're being required to face or motivated to walk towards? Does that infuse you with the will to fight through tough times and to face the demons that are raising their ugly heads? I'm sure, like me, you feel emotionally drained by toxic news about so many different things that it's hard to catch your breath. Listening to the divisiveness and corruption and absence of decency all around us can make you believe that there's nothing to feel hopeful about. But we must let God take us across the bridge and walk us up to the peak of the mountain to get a wider angle.
On the summit of that mountain, you can see things not only through the lens of your experience, but through the lens of what you can expect. You can filter all of the trouble and chaos through these words: “God will make all grace abound towards you so that you have everything you need to accomplish every good work.”
This one reality—God’s sufficiency of grace—gets far too little attention, but I'll tell you what it does: it sparks our faith and infuses us with the energy and the motivation to move forward.
For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
Isaiah 42:14 (NIV)
In Isaiah 42, God is about to deliver His people from exile and usher them into newness—into a future of grace possibilities. In revealing this message to Isaiah, God uses a metaphor to help the people understand the coming change. What picture does He give them to help them grasp the magnitude of His divine intentions? The image of a mighty army? An animal protecting its young? A rushing river? A shepherd leading sheep? Or a potter working with the clay?
No. Of all the images God could have inspired the prophet to offer the people, He chooses a woman in labor, crying and panting and gasping.
God’s images and parables and metaphors always have spiritual meaning, so we know that God has a specific intent for giving us this image.
Exile is about to be over; deliverance is surely coming. And to prepare them, God wants Israel to have in their minds the idea of a woman in labor, groaning to deliver. What is this image God inspires seeking to evoke? What is God telling the people through this picture? Perhaps God is saying, “What you've been through has been really difficult, and what's ahead of you is going to be so powerful, but the newness that is coming will not be pain free.”
The same is true for you and me. Progress and change and conversion and maturity and awareness and elevation and progression are not pain-free realities in life. There are costly things that you have to pay in order to grab what God has in store for you.
The newness that is coming in your life will not be pain free—but like childbirth, it will be worth it.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Matthew 28:6 (NIV)
The resurrection of Jesus is of highest importance.
Every decision in your life is influenced by the resurrection. Every emotion is shaped by the resurrection. Every thought is filtered through the resurrection. The definition of your very life is impacted by the resurrection.
It's the verification of your redemption. It's the license you have to chase a good life. It's why you'll never bend or buckle under the weight of bad news or enormous threats. It's why, standing in the middle of one of the toughest seasons in your life, you can still believe that things are going to work out for your good.
Don't make another step in your life by only examining the details and circumstances that surround you. Make that step only after you have defined it by your relationship to a resurrected Christ. Why? Because His resurrection changes everything about everything in your life.
What limitations hold you in bondage? What do you think you cannot accomplish? What do you think you don't deserve? What mistake do you think God can't let you live past?
Cross over the details of all these things and then look back on them from an empty tomb and tell me if it doesn’t change your perspective.
What high mountain has you intimidated? What dark valley has you walking through it feeling fragile? What bad news makes you think it might be your turn next for something terrible to happen? What adversary is flexing muscles and has you comparing it to your apparent weakness?
Do not look at these things from the detail, but look at them from the mouth of an empty tomb and tell me then if you aren’t inclined to quote the words of scripture that say, “Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.”
Yes, the resurrection changes everything—in both your life and mine.
The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” …
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:37-40 (NIV)
A relationship with Jesus makes your life better. Plain and simple. That fact alone should make us want to praise Him and thank Him and worship Him.
es, Jesus makes life better. I almost just want to keep saying it until the current crises in our lives are over: Jesus makes life better. I almost want to say it until those reading this who are clothed in anxiety can cast off those heavy garments and exclaim, “I know that if God be for me, who can be against me? No weapon formed against me can prosper!”
I'll say it again: Jesus makes life better.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV). Are you giving Him glory?
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power” (Jude 1:24-25 KJV). Are you ascribing to him glory and majesty, dominion and power?
I don't care whether you're in your living room, in your automobile, or stuck at work—wherever you are, you ought to rise from the sofa, get up from the kitchen table, or stand up in your cubicle and praise the name of Jesus—because He is worthy of your praise.
I'm going to say it one more time: Jesus is in our lives to make our lives better.
Because of that, we can say to Him, “Unto You be all the glory and all the praise and all the worship, to every generation.” Wherever you are, cast your head back and find a praise inside of you. Jesus is worthy!
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2 (NIV)
David was the celebrated giant-slayer. He was sung about in the streets and admired for being so valiant and brave. David was the composer of songs that are both praise-lofty and gut-wrenchingly transparent. Yet, 1 Samuel 22 opens with David in a cave, in a place called Adullam, which means in the original Hebrew, “hiding place.” David is literally hiding
He is hiding from King Saul, who, in a jealous rage, will not rest until David is dead. And there David sits…in a cave.
It's amazing to me what following the path to destiny can sometimes entail. It is interesting to me some of the places and spaces in life that God will put us in. No one would ever think that David, in attempting to obediently follow God, would have to live out this part of the story. David was called from the least in his father’s house and anointed by the prophet to be the next king of the nation of Israel—yet God takes him on an unexpected detour in that journey.
Why? Because David must be taken on the route that best shapes his personality. The route that best conforms him into the image of his Creator. The route that sharpens his gifts and deepens his convictions.
God allows that which will make David confront his deepest fears and release his crippling arrogance. Through his journey, David will know both happy praise and deep pain. He’ll know both victory and painful defeat. David will see the best and the worst of people—and he will have to come to grips with the best and the worst of himself. David must take the route that makes him the best servant for God he can be. And whether we like it or not, that route includes this necessary stop in a cave.
You and I will also have unexpected detours and unwanted stops in our spiritual journey—because God’s endgame for our lives is to shape us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.