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Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul, devotionals to help you in your busy life, written by NEWIM board members and staff. 

Filtering by Tag: faith

Be Careful What You Ask For

Kim Johnson

Go and tell Hezekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father:‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears;
surely I will add to your days fifteen years.’”
                                                                                                                       Isaiah 38:5 (NIV)

It is an essential principle of our Christian faith that God knows what is better for us than we do. When we pray, we verbalize that belief by asking God to bless according to His will. Yet there is no doubt we have a definite agenda in our hearts when we come to our Father. If we are praying about sickness, we ask for healing. If we are praying for a good outcome for an event, we pray for success. For any number of circumstances, when we take them to God in prayer, we pray specifically. And we should. However, holding on too tightly to our own desires can be costly.

In Chapter 38 of Isaiah, King Hezekiah was gravely ill. In mercy, God sent Isaiah to advise the king that he would not recover, giving Hezekiah an opportunity to “get his house in order.” This is news no one wants to hear and it was no different for Hezekiah. So he prayed, reminding God of his faithfulness and begged for more time. With compassion, God heard Hezekiah’s prayer, sending Isaiah to tell the king He would honor the request with an additional fifteen years of life.

What a gift! Yet as we now know, Hezekiah had no idea there would be extreme consequences for those extra fifteen years. Manasseh was born to Hezekiah and then succeeded his father as king. Manasseh reigned for fifty-five years, the most evil king ever to rule over Judah. He encouraged idol worship, using his own son in the practice. He shed much innocent blood, exhibiting an extreme wickedness that provoked God’s anger. God continued to warn him but Manasseh ignored God’s admonitions. The nation of Judah significantly suffered and was ultimately defeated by the Babylonians. This from a man who would never have been born if Hezekiah had accepted God’s will for his life.

Accepting God’s will in our lives is no problem when the journey is easy. It is where the going gets tough we might find ourselves questioning Him, getting angry with Him or begging Him for our will to be done no matter what. The issue isn’t about openly sharing our deepest desires with the Lord; it is about compelling our compassionate Father to answer according to our will, not His.  He alone knows the future and we can trust Him. It is never wrong to ask but always right to be ready to accept His answer, even when it is no.

In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times
 that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not.
                                                                                                           C. S. Lewis

Spiritual Confidence

Kim Johnson

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands . . .” 1 Samuel 17:45-46a (NIV).

If anyone in the Old Testament was confident, it was David. As a young man, he saw everything as God’s doing, no matter what was happening around him. Someone else might take a negative view of the same situation, only focusing on the problem and the reasons why it could not be resolved. David, however, would focus on the positive and view it from the perspective of his trust in God.

In the verse quoted above, David was a young man when he faced Goliath, who was most certainly intimidating. Even the bravest Israelite soldier was afraid of him. There is no doubt David saw Goliath’s strength, his huge weapons and his enormous size. He no doubt heard Goliath boast and shout obscenities against God and His people. Yet as David prepared to battle this giant, he stood tall, claiming the victory for the Lord even before he hurled his first stone. David was confident, not because he was oblivious to the difficult task but because he was convinced of God’s presence.

This account of David and Goliath is a vivid example of the kind of faith we need as leaders. We cannot count on the size of our volunteer group, our own strength or our resources, no matter how extensive they may be. Depending on anything but God can cause us to focus on all the wrong things. We’ll see problems not solutions, be anxious without reassurance or suffer opposition instead of support. Our efforts can become so overwhelming that we quickly lose perspective. Instead, this example of David can be a great reminder that it is the power of our almighty God which enables us to accomplish His will. We are more than conquerors—only through Him.

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable,
And receives the impossible.

                                                —Corrie Ten Boom

Expectation

Kim Johnson

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
                                                                                                                         
—Jeremiah 33:3

In the midst of a difficult situation, we may find ourselves qualifying our hope in the Lord and begin to lower our expectations of exactly what He will do. While we believe He can do anything, we fear or question what He can do through us. Moses' situation is a good example of this kind of doubt. When God revealed how He would orchestrate the greatest exodus in the history of the world using Moses as the facilitator, Scripture tells us Moses—incredibly—argued with God. He made excuses. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe God could do the miraculous work but Moses doubted God could do it through him. Unfortunately, this ultimately limited Moses’ ministry for the rest of his life.

 Fear is human but it can keep us from experiencing God’s work in unexpected ways. While the context of the verse above in Jeremiah is about the Jews, we can also apply the importance of its implication to ease any doubts we may be feeling. Just “call to Him” and He will answer. No magic words or complicated process.  We can always expect Him to do what He says. 

When it comes to God’s objectives for our lives, fear has no place. We are not alone because God is with us. We are not inadequate because God is our sufficiency. We are not useless because God has a purpose for us. He is trustworthy. Believe and anticipate as you follow His leading. His grace will be sufficient, His strength will be generous, His provision will be perfect, His peace will be steadfast and His presence will be plenty.

  “Feed your fears and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will.”
                                                                                                                                —Max Lucado

Love without Limits

Kim Johnson

“. . . and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”
                                                                                    1 Corinthians 13:2b (NIV).

Many years ago, a friend and I took a day trip to Beverly Hills. Famous for its lavish boutiques and wealthy residents, we just wanted to have a nice lunch and do some window shopping. As we made our way along one particular street, we couldn’t resist stepping into a women’s clothing store that looked inviting. As we browsed, I noticed the sales person greet a gal who was just entering. She whisked her to a brunch table full of goodies and then immediately took her to the fitting room. At first I didn’t think too much about it. There were absolutely no price tags on anything so I was confident nothing was in my price range. But after the same scenario a couple more times, I realized the sales people had not even said hello when my friend and I walked in. To be honest, the fact we were ignored still makes me smile even now. Since then however, that experience has gotten a lot of mileage in my life from the Holy Spirit.

Being in leadership can sometimes create a cocoon for us. With our team and/or our friends securely around us, it is not difficult to become insulated. Whether or not it is on purpose, we may ignore someone who is new or who appears to fit somewhere outside our comfy bubble. At times I’ve not been immune to this. Not my finest hour, but one which the Holy Spirit makes sure doesn’t go unnoticed. The memory of my Beverly Hills experience continues to be a good reminder that love is not optional.

We are human and there are times love is not an instinctive response. That does not mean we can allow our fallen nature to get the best of us, however. God’s Word tells us: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6, NIV). The choice is not in how we love but in how we obey.

“God teaches us to love by putting unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and lovely to you.”
                                                                                                Rick Warren