The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1 (NIV)
Why does change always have to cost so much? Why must it always be so invasive? Why does it seem like God wants to just push in—uninvited, unexpected, unannounced— and force me to let go of things that I hold so comfortable? Why is change so fast, so final, so complete? Does God understand the pain He is causing by the changes He is demanding?
Change is challenging—and it's even more challenging when it imposes on my life suddenly, without warning or approval. In many instances, change doesn't even let me resist. I can't form a rebuttal. I dare not retreat because I know that I don't want to live with any regrets, but the thought of moving forward is difficult.
Abraham's change involved leaving familiar country to go occupy a foreign land. He was called to go live in a different culture that speaks a different language and practices different traditions. God essentially told Abraham, “Leave all your relatives, walk away from all of your friends, vacate your home, and oh, in case I didn't mention it before, it's going to be forever.”
God tells him to leave a place of security and familiarity and embrace the unknown. He in essence says to Abraham, “I want you to know that it's all because I want to do something in and through you. It's not about your wants or wishes, but about My will. The only justification you have for responding immediately and obediently is that I am God. You must trust My sovereignty and believe that I always have a purpose. I want you to obediently and radically follow Me because you know that My plans are always best for you.”
Change is hard, but when God's providence is the filter through which you process it, you can accept it. As uncomfortable as you know it will be, and as unfamiliar as the terrain in front of you may appear, you know the One who guides you, and He will walk every step of the way with you.
Are the promises of a future that God has for you enough for you to let go of what you know and step forward into something new, uncertain, and uncomfortable?
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
Luke 15:8 (NIV)
There are no acceptable losses in God’s kingdom. You can reject God’s invitation, but God will never stop pursuing you.
The woman in the parable of Luke 15 had ten coins and one became lost. It is believed to have fallen from her headdress, where all ten would have been located. When she discovered that it was lost, she lit a lamp—not because it was nighttime, but because her house, as was typical for a peasant’s home, had no windows, only a low door that let in but a little light.
She then swept the house to make the coin sound on the floor. She hoped that it was under the straw that had been spread out over the floor since the domestic animals would have been constantly in and out.
Jesus shares this parable for one reason: to highlight the fact that the care, the energy, the passion, and the detail this woman gives to finding that one coin is the same as the care, the energy, the passion, and the detail that Jesus gives to bringing lost people back to right relationship with a loving God.
It’s also the care that the Lord wants us to extend in forgiving others, walking out our faith, extending compassion, helping others come to know Jesus, and seeking for justice in the earth.
I think, particularly in these times we find ourselves living, when so much has been lost, Jesus teaches us that you don’t ever have to settle for loss on any level. If it’s valuable, then it’s worth the effort to retrieve it. That includes emotions, experiences, health, and human connections. Loss doesn’t have to be an acceptable embrace for you. This also applies to your joy, and it stretches all the way to human acceptance, despite race or gender.
It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t tell us how this woman lost the coin, because it really doesn’t matter. Jesus doesn’t put conditions on His willingness to go to the farthest lengths to retrieve someone.
If you have experienced loss on any level, to whatever degree, with whatever pain and whatever guilt, you don’t have to just live accepting loss like you have no options. No loss is considered reasonable, nor should it be acceptable, when it comes to the purposes of Christ at work in your life.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
There really is no competition between the light Jesus brings to your life and the darkness that is trying to negatively impact it. This means you can accept the fact that as you walk by faith, everything doesn’t have to be perfectly in alignment. Everything doesn’t have to be structurally ordered. Everything doesn’t have to be totally peaceful.
You can be juggling stress on one side and managing the beauty of God’s presence on the other. You can be coping with feelings of uncertainty. You can be trying to fight back embedded fears. You can be trying to run from negative emotions, but still get up in the morning and say, “This joy I have… the world did not give it, and the world cannot take it away!”
You don’t have to let darkness dominate your time, your attention, your devotion, because the light of Jesus is there. His light is there to brighten your perspective that things not being perfectly fit together doesn’t mean your life has to be disjointed. His light reminds you that pressures and struggles don’t have to take you down dark paths.
Not having clear answers doesn’t mean that youare hopelessly lost. Being tired and fatigued doesn’t mean you’re living faithless. Asking tough questions theologicallydoesn’t mean you don’t love Jesus.Struggling to give up contradictions doesn’t mean you’re not trying to develop your intimate relationship with Him. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust Him. You may have dark passions, but Jesus is a light shining on them.
You’re human. And your faith gives you the option to not let those dark passions and emotions dominateyour life. So when they try to lead the conversation, choose to listen to the report of the Lord over the report of your dark passions. Accept grace where you don’t have strength. Tell yourself the spiritual truth when you want to keep believing the lie. Step out in faith when you are vulnerable and prone to rely on yourown understanding.
Instead of walking by sight, make the choice to walk by faith.
I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26–27 (NIV)
When the apostle Paul talks about running the race of life in order to win the prize, he is saying to us, first and foremost, that there’s really only one competitor in the race. That competitor in your life is not another person. If you are comparing yourself to and competing with the runners around you, your pace will become erratic and your run will become difficult. No, in order to win the race of life, you must beat the only true competition you have. That competition is the other runner inside of you, and it is what we refer to as “the flesh.”
Your spirit needs to outrun your flesh. Your transformed mind needs to outrun your old mind.God’s will in you needs to run faster than your will in you.
You aren’t running a race against your friends, your family, the person in the pew next to you on Sundays, or even against your enemies. You are running against you. We all have our fastest time to chase and it’s different for every one of us.
You’re not in this race to run at the pace of your doubts, uncertainties, fears, and hesitations. You’re trying to run at the pace of your faith,your hope,and your confidence in God.You’re not in this race to run at the speed of your impulses and inclinations and emotionality. You’re in this race to run at the pace of your belief in Jesus and your partnership with the Holy Spirit as
the Spirit prompts you to live in obedience to God’s will.
You can’t let the you that doesn’t want what God thinks is best for you, to outpace theyou that wants to live in obedience to God’s will.
We’re not in the race of life to beat those who are running in the next lane, because they’re not our competition. Our competition is the foolish part of who we are. So stop looking around to size up the other runners on the track.Instead, look within and focus your efforts on beating your true competition.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
In 1812, a devastating fire destroyed twelve years’ worth of Bible translation work for William Carey. Bibles, manuscripts, dictionaries, grammars, and printing presses—all gone. Legend has it that upon learning of the news, instead of despairing, he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work over again. Before his death, he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements.
Poet Annie Johnson Flint captures the spirit that infuses the soul of people like William Carey. She reminds us:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun with out rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way;
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Is there something you are facing today that is tempting you to despair? Something overwhelming and staggering? Focus not on the immense problems before you, but on the Lord’s presence in your life. His grace is sufficient. He will give you strength for the day, and that is enough.