You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.
Deuteronomy 3:22 (NKJV)
You have fight in you.
You have more fight in you.
You have enough fight in you.
How do I know? Because the Lord is in the battle with you.
I don't care how tired you are. I don't care how many knockdowns are on the record for you. I don't care how many times you've already had to suffer defeat. I am certain that you have more fight in you because you're not fighting by yourself. Jesus stands with you in the battle.
One of the ways the Lord teaches us to engage in battle is by trusting our faith, even when it takes us down irrational paths. What kind of irrational paths am I talking about?
Loving enemies. Using prayer as a weapon and a shield. Waiting or remaining still when other credible options are right in front of us. Remaining silent when we know our words are strong. Staying sacrificial when we thought it would be our time to live showered in blessings.
Irrational paths include building arks, wielding slings, stretching rods, walking on water, climbing Sycamore trees, and so much more.
It's the surrender to the irrational that releases discernment. You know you are progressing and maturing spiritually when your faith makes you trust the irrational. You're fighting to live better when faith starts creating options that require belief more than strength, trust more than facts, spirit more than flesh, promises more than people.
I'm not sure what irrational task the Lord has given to you, but whatever it is, obey it—because it is your path back from brokenness.
This fight you are in—this comeback from brokenness—may not look like what you imagine. It may not come when you imagine. It may not be much like you have envisioned, but you are nonetheless coming back from brokenness. You'll know it when you ask to step out of the boat. You'll know it when you stretch that rod over an expansive body of water. You'll know it when you stand in front of Pharaoh and relay God’s message.
The Lord may lead you down some irrational paths, but He is with you in the fight. So keep on fighting.
“He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)
I don't care how much money you have. I don't care what kind of car you park in the driveway. I don't care where you work or what your salary is. I don't care how many friends you have. I don't care where you take your vacations. I don't care how superlative your health is. I don't care how you matriculate in the marketplace. I don’t care what kind of delicacies you eat on a daily basis.
None of that is stronger in your life than this: You get to live every single day in the extension of God’s forgiveness.
Understanding the depth of your forgiveness gives you permission to accept all of who you are. In other words, I can accept the me that God forgives and accepts. As a result, I don't need to restrict my movement. I don't need to suppress my dreams. I don't need to apologize for my ambitions. I don't have to disqualify myself from active participation in the pursuit of godly things. And neither do you.
I don't have to hold back on what I ask God for. I don't have to read His Word and not see myself in every promise or receive for myself every expression of love. I don't have to hide my thanksgiving or my gratitude or my gifts. And neither do you.
Because God has forgiven and accepted me, I’m moving, I'm chasing, I'm progressing, I'm elevating, and I am working to make things happen. That is the freedom that comes from forgiveness.
This freedom qualifies you to chase the vision framed for you by the revelation God has given you about your life. So go for it. Show up. Present your offering. Offer your worship. Pour out your gifts like perfume on the Master’s feet. Present your body as a living sacrifice.
You don’t stand before Him on the basis of a spotless life. You are there because no matter how spotted your past may have been, you have been forgiven. Forgiveness is worth everything. It's the permission to try everything that God extends. It is what allows you to claim every one of God's promises and to chase every one of God’s blessings.
Because of forgiveness, God accepts you. Accept yourself, and live for Him.
Faith and Ambiguity
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”
Mark 11:4-5 (NIV)
Famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud said that neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity. I suspect Freud is hinting at the stress and panic and pressure and pain that we often invite into our lives. It is the result of living closed to additional meanings in life's circumstances—closed to additional lenses with which to view our human encounters.
Often, when we live closed to our circumstances and encounters, that’s when the stress and the discomfort arise in our lives. We must learn to live with ambiguity. I think we might expand that idea to say that, from Jesus’ perspective, ambiguity is necessary to cultivate a growing faith.
To love Him and to walk “open” is the way faith matures. Faith obeys on the strength of trust rather than proof. Faith follows because of trust rather than facts. Faith only needs to know that the Lord is asking or that the Lord is allowing or that the Lord is present, and then ambiguity is to be nurtured and not feared.
In Mark 11, Jesus calls two of His disciples and tells them to go into a village, and upon entering it they would see a colt. He tells them to untie the colt, and should anyone ask them why they are taking it, their response is to essentially be, “The Master has need of it.”
For these two disciples, the mission is clear, but the way it might unfold leaves a lot of room for ambiguity. How exactly would this scenario play out? What will be the reaction of those who confront the disciples about the colt?
Yet the disciples obeyed, regardless of the ambiguities.
There's a lesson there for you and me. Despite our ambiguities, despite the inexactness that we are living with, despite the vagueness of it all, let’s just obey. Let's trust Jesus’ authority.
What the disciples believed about Jesus’ identity and the faith they'd put in His eternality was sufficient enough to answer all of their plaguing ambiguities. The question that I think is being asked of us in this story is this: Is Jesus a big enough answer for the ambiguities that surround your decisions, your movements, and your interactions?
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Luke 7:47 (NKJV)
Jesus is invited to have lunch at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. While He is there, an immoral woman comes and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with perfumed oil. When Simon the Pharisee saw this, he essentially said, “Jesus, if You really were a prophet, You would know what kind of woman that is, and You would not allow her to touch You.”
Jesus then tells the story of two men, one of whom owed 500 silver coins, the other 50. Both of them lacked the resources to pay their creditor on time. And when collection time came, the creditor forgave both of the debts. The one who owed 500 silver coins didn't have to pay anything, and neither did the one who owed 50.
Jesus raises the question, “Which of the two men loved the creditor more?” Simon says, as we all would logically conclude, “Well, I suppose it's the one who was forgiven the greater debt.” And Jesus says, “There you go; you’ve got it.”
Jesus then points His finger at the woman, but he looks Simon square in the eyes and reminds Simon, “When I came to your house, nobody washed my feet, but this woman washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. When I came to your house, not one person greeted me with a kiss. However, this woman could not stop kissing my feet. Simon, you put no oil on my head as a sign of respect, but this woman anointed my feet with perfume. Her sins have accumulated such a spiritual debt that for God to forgive her of all of it makes her love on Me attentively, purposefully, and unashamedly. It seems, Simon, that you are living life like you assume you don't need to be forgiven of much.”
And Jesus’ lesson is that he or she who is forgiven little loves little, and he or she who is forgiven a lot, loves a lot. Jesus teaches that the depth of our faith includes the depth of our understanding of just how forgiven we really are.
The woman unashamedly worshipped Jesus with her whole heart and without regard for the opinions of those around her. I’m telling you that faith lives and acts and breathes and responds differently when it's driven by a deep understanding of forgiveness.
How deep is your understanding of forgiveness? How bold is your worship of the One who has forgiven you?
The Danger of Unbelief
Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief…”
Matthew 17:18-20 (NKJV)
The enemy of your pursuits is your unbelief.
Jesus’s disciples tried to cast out a demon from a boy unsuccessfully, and later they asked Jesus why they could not do it. But the boy’s condition remaining the same was not the result of the disciples’ inability. They had the ability. They had the opportunity. They had the desire.
According to Jesus, they lacked belief.
Jesus, when He cast the demon out, paid no attention to the strength of the demon. He paid no attention to the destruction the demon caused, nor the damage the demon created. Jesus didn’t focus on the demon. He focused on the unbelief of the disciples. That’s where the real danger lay.
I don't care the strength of what is attacking you. I don't care the magnitude of what is trying to keep you down. I don't care the size of your obstacle nor the severity of the mistakes you have made. I don't care how far behind you are or how late it appears for you. I don't care how many times life has thrown you hurt and pain and sacrifice and inconvenience. I don't care how taken advantage of you are. I don't care the slope of the incline in front of you nor the distance you need to travel. I don't care the venom that is spewed out in your life by others. I don't care how heavy the load is that you are made to carry or the pressure that's being put on your life.
None of that is the true threat against you. The only thing that is the real threat in your life is if you are living with too small of a belief in Jesus. The enemy is not after your strength, your stuff, or your station. He's after your belief.
What should take top priority in your life is the depth and the height and the length and the width of your belief. It's your belief that drives your power. It releases your faith. It puts power behind your words and strength behind your actions. Your belief is what you stand with in front of spiritual opposition. It's your belief that helps to release what you command and demand and declare and release.
So what are you going to do about the level of your belief?