Obedience   Smooth Sailing!

Excuses | Devotion 5: Obedience ≠ Smooth Sailing!
Holly Boston

Have you ever stepped out in obedience to God only to have your situation get worse? In Exodus 5:1-14, the Israelites experience exactly this. Moses, Aaron, and the people went before Pharaoh to deliver a message from God. They requested three days off of work to go into the wilderness to worship God. Certainly, a vacation to spend time with God would have been approved. However, not only did Pharaoh deny their request but he ordered additional work expectations, making it impossible to meet their quotas which led to harsh punishment. Where was God? Where was the God who saw their affliction and promised deliverance? Obedience led to suffering.

In April 1995, I came to a place where life was so overwhelming, and I needed someone to carry my burdens. In brokenness and need, I received Christ as my Savior. Over the next three years of my life, I was bombarded with trials: a cancer scare, two surgeries, job change, job loss, three major moves, and a child diagnosed with Autism. Where in the world was God? Life with Christ was not what I expected, and I was asking the same questions. However, by the grace of God, this is when my walk actually began. Over the last 25 years, God has taught me three truths about why trials follow obedience.

The first truth is the reality of persecution. In John 15:18, Jesus says: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites experienced hatred and rejection when they spoke out of obedience. As believers, we need to remember God’s warning when we experience persecution and not be surprised. We need to allow it to remind us that God’s Word is truth and cling to His promises of blessing and reward. Luke 6:22-23 adds, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”          

The second truth is that we have a real enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Have you ever noticed that when you commit to serving or growing in Christ, you are bombarded with roadblocks? My daughter and I were involved in the Passion Play for a number of years. Every year we were stunned at the illness, injury, or circumstances that would threaten our participation in the play. I watch the same thing happen when people commit to attending a Bible study. Believer, the last thing your enemy wants is for you to grow in your faith or be used by God to build His kingdom! We must be determined and go to battle. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

The third truth is that God allows bad things to happen to His people. Job is the most vivid illustration of this truth. God describes Job as blameless and upright (1:1) and yet He offers up Job to Satan for torment (1:8). Job suffered in ways we can not comprehend. A look at Job’s story gives us three reasons God allows His people to suffer. The first is to test our faith. Job’s determination to cling to his faith is noted in his statement, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (13:15). The second reason is to grow our faith. In 42:5, Job makes an amazing statement, “I had heard you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Most of what I know and believe about the Lord is from being in the pit and clinging to Him. The third reason God allows suffering is for the benefit of others. Job’s friends had a front row seat to Job’s suffering. They witnessed both his struggle and his faith. For unbelievers to only see the smooth sailing is to give them a false impression of living for Christ. Be willing to show your pain.

At the end of the book of Job, we see God restore Job and all that he had lost. Free commercial: Restoration to God does not always look the way we expect. Though the Bible does not say, I imagine Job was given plenty of opportunities to share his story to others in similar situations. Do not allow your pain to be in vain. Use it to comfort and encourage others. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Take away: All the trials and suffering of this life are sifted through the loving hands of the Sovereign God of the universe. There is a purpose for our pain. May we glorify Him as walk the rough roads.

All In 

Excuses | Devotion 4: All In
Pastor Ryan Story

I graduated high school the year a revolution was beginning. The summer of 2003, Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker’s main event. What is so revolutionary about this is that Chris won his spot in the $10,000 buy-in tournament by winning an online poker contest. This sparked a phenomenon where any “average Joe” dreamed of winning it all, and I was included. A group of my buddies started getting together every Friday, and we all got “really good” at Texas Hold’em. We would play for hours each week, and once a month we would go to larger tournaments in hopes to make some extra money. In poker, there is a “move” that a person can do that is the ultimate gamble, the “all in.” Going “all in” means you risk all of your chips, assuming you have fewer chips than the other opponents. This move can be extremely risky to use flippantly because it can cause you to go broke or give your opponent a lot more chips. So when you say you are going to go “all in,” you better be ready to go “all in” with the potential consequences.

In Exodus chapter nine, Pharaoh finally is seemingly willing to go “all in” and give Moses the freedom for the Israelites. Each one of the plagues that God sent finally caused Pharaoh to say, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer” (Exodus

At that moment Pharaoh’s “all in” did not work. The king of Egypt thought he could go “all in” with some fake repentance and lip service to God and Moses, but he got caught. The hardest part about an “all in” move in poker is that there is no backup plan. You either win big or lose big. Pharaoh was trying to win big by getting Moses to stop the hail, but Pharaoh was not truly crying out for repentance. He knew that he could still have wheat for food after the storm stopped. Sadly, this is our spiritual lives. We call out to God in extreme hardships, knowing full well we have a backup plan. We have something to which we can fall back. I ask you when you pray and cry out to God for help or rescue, are you going “all in” by only relying on Him, or are you counting on something other than God to help?

As Christ followers, we should be able to go “all in” with our trust in any struggle, situation, or storm that comes. There is never a moment where God is not in control. Even the moment we think “we lost,” God is already working that out to better shape us for our future. Sadly, we struggle to have the kind of “all in” faith that we should to live with God. Imagine what God could do with a church that was not holding onto the wheat of our lives and trusted God in every area? How amazing would it be to be part of a church that gave with absolute trust that God was going to use it to rescue local families? Imagine if we served with the unwavering trust that by our efforts of going “all in” with the passion we would get to see people loved and cared for and eventually give their lives to Jesus. As Christians, we should have only the plan that God has for us, and when we trust that His plan is perfect, that is when we can confidently slide our chips across the table and declare, “I am all in.”

Excuses, Excuses

Excuses | Devotion 3: Excuses, Excuses
Richie Henson 

As a kid, I hated doing my homework. I felt that if I spent the whole day at school, there was no good reason for me to keep working on school work once I got home. I mean, think about it, when my parents came home from work, they did not work another two hours. I think my logic was sound, but my parents always got on me about doing my homework. So, to combat this, I began to make excuses at every turn as to why I was unable to do my homework. It even got to the point where I was flat out lying that I did not have any homework. When I think about the feelings of avoidance at any cost, I am reminded of Moses in Exodus 4:10, “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’”

Moses is standing before God in a burning bush, and he has the audacity to make an excuse about not being able to speak to Pharaoh. If anyone was capable, it was Moses. As we find out in the book of Acts, Moses spent the first 40 years of his life living in Pharaoh’s court. He knew all the rules and regulations for interacting with Pharaoh. However, Moses was all about the excuses, I believe, because he was afraid of the enormity of God’s call.

It is easy to judge Moses at this moment. We can easily assume that if God appeared to us in a burning bush, we would stand at attention and take our marching orders without blinking an eye. However, I think on my own life, and I must admit, there have been many times where God has called me to something, and I have made excuses rather than heeded the call.

Quite a few years ago, I felt God calling my family to Michigan. We were living in California at the time, and I was terrified of moving. I made an excuse after excuse to God. I told Him I had a good job and friends I could not leave. I asked God to give me some time to get things in order. However, much like God did with Moses, He continued to pursue me with the call to Michigan. Eventually, I ran from God so fervently on this matter, and I began to experience God’s discipline. It was at this point, I had to stop making excuses and fulfill God’s calling.

The last few years in Michigan have not been perfect, but I know this is exactly where God wants me. I can see why He brought my family here, and I am excited for all that He will do.

God calls each of us to action in our lives. He has set aside good works for us and desires for us to fulfill them to His glory and the salvation of the world. However, this call is often scary or uncomfortable. We feel unprepared or unworthy. We must continually remember that we do not have to be prepared or worthy because a great God goes before us preparing a way for victory. My prayer for us this week is that we would run after God’s calling on our lives with the assurance that we need not be perfect to do God’s will, we must simply trust in the plan of God.

Moses, Moses, Moses

Excuses | Devotion 2: Moses, Moses, Moses
LaRae Wing

So often Moses is criticized for his hesitance to serve as God’s spokesman to Pharaoh. God had spoken to him from the burning bush. We think, “Wow, Moses! How can you hesitate to do everything He tells you to do? You have heard God’s voice. He has spoken to you from a dry desert bush that is on fire, but was never consumed. Are you kidding me?” Not only that but God had given him signs (rod to a snake – Exodus 4:4-5, leprous hand healed – Exodus 4:6-8); yet Moses was still hesitant to believe that God could equip him to be His representative.

We wonder, “Why?” How could Moses be uncertain? Maybe his faith was weak. Maybe he was afraid because of his past (Exodus 2:11-15). Maybe he liked his life the way it was. Whatever the reason, we criticize him for just not doing what God had told him to do. Is that just like us? Are we critical despite our own weaknesses?

I specifically recall a time several years ago that God impressed me to plan a special activity for the senior women in my church, and what were my first thoughts? “I cannot do this. It is too much. I am too busy. Why me, Lord? I have never done anything like this before. I need help, a lot of help.” I then immediately thought, “I cannot do this without Sherry” (my best friend and whiz at organization and timelines). How could I be critical of Moses? I was behaving just as he did.

Have you ever had doubts when you felt God’s leading? Have you struggled with feeling inadequate or following through? Please remember that Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  We often feel this only pertains to material necessities, but when God says “every need” He means all needs – material, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

If you continue to read in Exodus, you will see that Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron, did acquiesce to his calling from God. God’s faithfulness to the mission He assigned to Moses is accomplished over and over again. Also in other biblical accounts, we can see that when God’s child follows His lead, there is victory and blessing (Abraham, Joseph, Gideon, David, and Elijah). If God leads you, you can rest assured that He has and will equip you.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I Thessalonian 5:23-24   

“I Have the Power”

Excuses | Devotion 1: “I Have the Power”
Pastor Jayson Combs

I am an eighties kid. I would turn on the TV and watch “StarSerach.” I would watch shows like “Double Dare” and “You Can’t Do That On Television.” Girls wore banana clips in their hair, and I had one of those cool wrist bands that you could slap on your wrist (that was until some kid cut himself with it and we lost them all). My favorite show though was “He-man.” If you come into my office today, you will see my childhood He-man figures on a shelf. He-man would transform from a cowardly man when he would say the words “I have the power,” while holding up his sword.  He would change into the great superhero that I loved.

At the beginning of Exodus, Moses has been told by God to go save the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. Moses basically turned to God and said I do not have the power to do that. In verse 1 of chapter 4, Moses says, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Moses felt powerless.

Through the next few verses, we see God showing Moses who actually has the power.  I know in my walk with Christ there are times I have been scared and felt powerless. However, it is in those times where we can really come to understand who has the power. God has called all believers to go into the world and preach the Gospel. There have been times when I have felt so powerless when giving the Gospel. God clearly tells in His words that it is not through the words that we have but through His power that people are saved. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (NIV) it says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Salvation was not because Paul was an amazing man with words. Salvation was and is because God moves with power. In 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV), it says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

I am so glad that God reaches down and through His power and uses me. I only have that power because of Jesus. Today when you feel powerless, remember to tune to Christ and ask Him for the power to live the life that He has called you to live.

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