See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
In Isaiah 43, Israel has been through a tough, dry season of exile. In fact, this dry season was so depleting, it is pictured as a pathless progress through a hot, waterless desert. It was waking up every day to dry-mouthed dehydration, to constant struggle, to difficult movement that goes nowhere. Every day felt like an endless press, no advancement, no inner feeling of satisfaction.
Dry seasons feel like that, don't they?
These seasons are experienced in all facets of life. When we pursue our dreams that seem to stay perpetually distant, for example. Or in our relationships with one another, where relating to certain people is a constant uphill journey. Even in our own emotionality—where you're almost scared to massage a positive thought because every other time you've attempted to do so, that thought has been hijacked by an onslaught of negative thinking. These things are like going through a wilderness where there are no pathways, and they leave us emotionally dehydrated.
You don’t choose dry seasons; they choose you. They're like wildernesses with no water, journeys with no inner sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. And this text teaches us (some of us won't like it) that God, in fact, purposes dry seasons in our lives for spiritual development.
He does so because He knows the struggle has a contribution to make. He allows dry seasons to purge and to prune and to perfect and to progress and to grow and to mature us in areas that constant provision and easy access would’ve never been able to produce. In fact, had the road been too easy, had the foliage been cleared, had there been water along the pathway, our attention would have been distracted. Being dry-mouthed and thirsty causes us to center our devotion, and doing so causes us to then divorce distraction so that we can make the necessary pivots in areas of our lives that help us to shake hands with spiritual growth.
Many of us would not be where we are today if we had not had to navigate some dry seasons through rough wilderness. God strings these dry seasons along the journey of our lives to shape us, to mold us, and to conform us into the image of His Son.
Are you in a dry season of life right now? If so, rejoice in knowing that God is using it to work in your life!
Leave It All on the Track
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)
I believe that we must take advantage of every opportunity God gives us. In every hour, every minute, every second of my life, I want everything He has for me! Do you?
Don’t you waste the intellect God has given you. Despite all of the educational obstacles and setbacks that may be in place right now, don’t bury your brain. God gave it to you, so seek every opportunity to maximize it and stretch it. Allow it to be challenged and tested. The same goes for your body, spirit, heart, and soul. Don’t bury them. Use them to full capacity.
I know that God has a future for you, but the path you take is contingent upon whether or not you take advantage of the opportunities you find along the way.
My brother, my sister, I don’t know what the Lord is nudging and prodding you to do, to become, to morph into, to sacrifice, to absorb, to consider, or to become convicted of. I simply don’t know that about your life. But I know this: don’t you bury the opportunities in this season you find yourself in. Don’t avoid them because you’re scared or because it’s going to necessitate change or because it will alter your human exchanges and relationships.
No, don’t you suppress any gift or talent or open door that God provides, because they are all a grace extended to you to become everything that God has creatively, eternally imagined for you.
You want to be able to come to the end of your life and say what Paul said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.”
You know what Paul is saying? He is saying, “I left it all on the track. All my energy, all my zeal, all my effort and strength and resources and fervor. I ran that race with patience, looking unto Jesus, knowing He is the author and the finisher of my faith.”
That’s what I want you to be able to say: “I left it all on the track.” When you stand before God, I want you to be able to confess that you attempted to seize every opportunity that God blessed your life with.”
God Will Get You Through It
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
You can’t live with the mindset that you must prevent any and all failure in your life. You can’t live to prevent hurt. You can’t live to avoid hardship. You can’t live to avert disappointment. Why? Because that failure and that hurt and that disappointment might just be the way the Lord wants to grow you and bless you.
No amount of disappointment should make you doubt that God’s work and God’s plan and God’s purpose is being fulfilled in your life. No disappointment should make your relationship with the Lord negotiable. Abraham waited for years and years for the arrival of Isaac to be the fulfillment of his hopes and the answer to God’s promises. Perhaps you are awaiting the arrival of your Isaac, so to speak. If so, let me tell you this: the long stretches of time waiting to see it come to pass should not make you consider abandoning your faith or lessening your trust or doubting your God.
God is going to complete whatever God starts in your life. God is going to deliver whatever God promised He’s going to deliver. God is going to answer whatever prayer you articulate. God will shape you however He has creatively imagined. God will accomplish everything He intends for your life!
If you anchor your faith in Him, you can confidently take advantage of opportunities He puts before you. And whether you sink or swim, whether you fly or free fall, whether you succeed or fail—none of that matters as long as He is with you.
You’re not trying to prevent loss, hurt, disappointment, or failure. That is not your goal. You’re trying to multiply, and advance, and progress, and risk, and explore, because eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, and minds have not conceived what great things the Lord has in store for you. So if you try to take advantage of God-given opportunities, and you trip along the way, it doesn’t matter as long as God picks you up and plants your feet on solid ground again.
Shift your focus from avoiding the difficulties of life to looking at Jesus as He walks you through them.
God Believes in You
For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
Matthew 25:14-18 (NKJV)
In the parable of the talents, the owner entrusted money to his servants while he went away. It was clear that the owner wanted to have his money used profitably while he was absent, but he didn’t weigh them down with unnecessary instructions. He was interested in seeing how each one of them would seize opportunities given to them, “each according to his own ability.” This text brings to us an important revelation, which is this: God has a whole lot of confidence in you!
We read of no instructions, no restrictions, no express wishes, no shared desires. When the owner gives up his wealth to his servants, they knew what he expected. They knew that they were to take advantage of what had been given to them and go and make something happen with it.
The same is true for every one of us in our journey with Jesus. He gives us opportunities because He knows our faith can handle it. He knows that our faith will stir up creativity, imagination, and ingenuity in wanting to do what pleases Him.
I can tell you that I'm excited, infused, and inspired about my salvation. I’m motivated that every day I open my eyes, I am in a relationship with a God who believes in me. He believes in me so much that He gives me blessings, and He places His gifts within me. He’s got so much confidence in me that He gives me increased territory, endless options, human connections, open doors, miracles, favor, anointing, and opportunity!
The incentive I have to move forward and use my talents for the Lord is not an absence of fear or an ignorance of my faults and frailties, doubts and suspicions. I am instead fueled by His confidence and motivated by His belief in me. The more God believes in me, the more I want to live up to his belief in me.
Friend, God believes in you. Will you allow that fact to shape your thoughts and actions today?
For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
Matthew 25:29 (NKJV)
Jesus shared a parable to describe the grace and blessing of opportunities that are given to each one of us. It’s the parable of a wealthy man who went away, entrusting talents, or sums of money, to three servants. One is given five talents, another is given two, and a third is given one. The man gives them no instructions, no suggestions, no leads, no expectations. He just departs. We are told nothing regarding the man’s journey. We are simply told he entrusts talents to them and goes his way.
The servant with five talents becomes industrious. He is wise, he is shrewd, and he is creative. Whatever he does, he doubles the five talents into ten. The same happens with the servant given two: he turns it into four. The third servant, who is given one talent, digs a hole in the ground and buries it. He does this because when he weighs his fear of the owner against the potential for opportunity, his fear is greater.
The owner returns unannounced, and he asks for an accounting. Both servants who doubled what was given to them are rewarded. But the one who buried what was given to him is reprimanded and condemned.
The focus of this parable is certainly on the one who decided not to take advantage of the opportunity given to him. Jesus shares this with us to teach that we should not bury the gifts and graces and blessings and redemption given to us. The kingdom of God is for those who take advantage of kingdom-extended opportunities.
This story serves as a reminder that faith is intended to push us to reach for things that are beyond our reach, but not beyond our trust. In trusting Jesus, we become creative and courageous in the stewardship of the blessings He has given.
What will you do with the opportunities He has entrusted you with?