Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them; directing them through unknown country. I‘ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into a ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”
The Message Bible
“Faith can sit down before mysteries and say, ‘The Lord is good.’”
Stop planning for thyself tonight,
When darkness seems to hide the light,
For He who holds the universe
Has planned it all aright."
Florence M. Schmidt
Today’s Study Text:
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘See here, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. I am asking you to have intercourse with my maid; it may be that I can obtain children by her. And Abram listened to and heeded what Sarai said.’”
Genesis 16: 1,2
“The Fraud We Call Fear” Part 5
“The Move, The Monarch, The Mammon, The Mistress and the Mountain”
“It demands persistence when common sense says ‘give up.’ It says ‘believe’ when there is no present evidence to back it up. Faith is forged in delay. Character is forged in delay…Part of what the forge does in the purification and shaping of our character is to help us begin to see time from God’s perspective.”
Has there been a time in my own life when I’ve waited so long for God to act that I came to the conclusion He had forgotten about me and my problems?
When I’ve had to wait for God to act, have I seen my faith grow?
"I pray to God - my life a prayer
and wait for what He'll say
and do. My life's on the
line before God, my Lord, waiting
and watching till morning, waiting
and watching till morning."
Psalm 130: 5, 6
The Message Bible
“We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait.”
Frederick William Faber
Of all of the quotations I’ve read over the past ten years as I’ve done research for each daily devotional, none has burrowed into my heart quite as deeply as the words above from the pen of Frederick Faber.
Many times over the past few years, I’ve gone back to these words because they are like eating a healthy meal when your energy level has plummeted. I can’t begin to tell you what hope I personally find in the last sentence, “He never comes to those who do not wait.” Frankly, I used to think these words sounded harsh – almost as though I was being put to the test by my Father in heaven. But as I’ve lived with this quotation for a number of years, I’ve come to realize that just the way a long-distance runner trains, so it is with a spiritual runner.
When I was in high school, I trained for the “440” and the “880”. The shorter sprints were not what my long legs liked. So early in the morning, I’d get up and jog over to the school track and start running. Day after day I practiced. While I ended up coming in second in the annual competition, beaten by my best friend who told me she never practiced once, I’m still glad for the lessons I learned strengthening my muscles every day as I repeatedly charged down the dirt track. Little did I know that the endurance and perseverance I learned so long ago would be the foundation on which I would begin to rebuild my broken legs and crushed feet 25 years later.
Just like physical exercise which helps our bodies get stronger, so too does spiritual exercise which builds spiritual endurance, as the Apostle Paul tells us. This is why it is vital for us to dig deeper into the lives of Biblical characters whose resolute spirit leaves a testimony for all of us down through time.
Abraham is one of those individuals whose life record is peppered with teachable moments where there are lessons for you and me. First, when God called him, he fearlessly packed up his family with the final destination of Canaan in their minds. But, we found out that the famine they encountered along the way caused a diversion to Egypt where Abram exhibited his fearfulness when he lied to Pharaoh to save his own neck. After God stepped in to protect His daughter Sarai, the family got on track, only to be side-railed by their possessions. All the stuff they had got in their way. In the end, Lot went his own way, down into the valley where fertile fields and city life called out to his longing for more of this world’s possessions.
By this point in time, the generosity of a God-fearing Abram was evident for all to see. You would think that both Abram and Sarai would have seen how God had worked so effectively in their lives. Thus it was best to keep their hands off and let God’s leadership map out any upcoming events in the future. If this is what you might be thinking, then you would be flat out wrong.
If we go back to the beginning of Abram’s journey, God had promised Abram that he would become a great nation. There was only one problem with this scenario. Sarai’s biological clock was ticking away. Neither Abram or Sarai were young. And they began to wonder, “How can God make a great nation out of a couple with “zero” children.” I must admit they had been waiting a very long time for God to fulfill His promise. In fact, in Genesis 15: 2, we find Abram having a heart-to-heart with God about their family fertility problem: “And Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on from this world childless…Look You have given me no child.’”(Genesis 15: 2,3, Amplified Bible). What was God’s response? Here’s what we are told: “And (God) brought Abram outside his tent into the starlight and said, ‘Look now toward the heavens and count the stars – if you are able to number them…So shall your descendants be’”
How do you think Abram responded to this revelation? The Bible states that, “he believed in, trusted in, relied on, and remained steadfast to the Lord” (Genesis 15: 6, Amplified Bible). If you will take time to read the entire chapter of Genesis 15, you’ll see that it ends with God making a “covenant” with Abram. In Bible times, a covenant was a serious matter. The Hebrew word “briyth” references a compact between two people. But here’s an even more descriptive definition of what “briyth” means. It is in a sense, a cutting made by passing pieces of flesh. I’ll give you an example that comes to my mind. And hopefully you weren’t quite as goofy as I was when young. We would, in our little girls club, prick our fingers and then we would rub our bleeding fingers together to signify that we were “blood sisters.” It meant we were lifetime buddies, never to be separated because we had touched each others blood.
Interestingly, God’s covenant with His children means we are family, we have the same bloodline. This is what God told Abram – you are of my bloodline. I don’t know what more God could have done to reassure Abram and Sarai that no matter what a ticking clock might say about Sarai’s chance of having a baby, He had the problem covered because they would have ancestors – a whole bunch of them. A starry sky full of them.
It is at this point in time that we would expect Abram and Sarai to say, ‘Thank You Lord for Your promise. We will wait patiently for You to work in Your time and in Your way.” But sad to say, this isn’t what happened.
After finishing Genesis 15 with a covenant, Genesis 16 begins with fear. This time it’s Sarai who is worried to pieces. She’s so anxious she won’t be able to have a baby that she concocts the kooky idea to have her maid serve as a “womb for hire.” I happen to appreciate the bluntness of the Amplified Bible which puts Sarai’s request to Abram in this way: “I’m asking you to have intercourse with my maid” (Genesis 16: 2, Amplified Bible). Direct and to the point. And here’s where I want to use a technique that is unique to Transformation Garden. ‘STOP!” Yes, it is a Garden “stop” sign for here’s a vital lesson for all of God’s daughters – and we find it in Genesis 16: 2. (To all the men-folk who come to the Garden each day, you can read this too, but for a moment I want to address all of God’s Garden daughters). As women, we have a distinct ability to influence those around us for good or evil. Especially the men in our lives, as well as our children. As we read, Sarai allowed her fear of being infertile to blind her to God’s promises, and yes, His covenant with this pair as well. She felt God couldn’t take care of what He had promised. At least not without her help. Author Ben Patterson, writing about this debacle in his book Waiting, calls Abram and Sarai – “God’s Little Helpers!” I want to share what Patterson says regarding this disastrous event. “(Abram and Sarai) decide to take up some of the slack God has apparently left in His plan. ‘Is it a son God wants us to have? Well, that can be arranged, no problem. There are ways, Abram, meet Hagar’…At the beginning, such plans always look so well intentioned – and they often are – but in the end they always result in chaos…When God is taken out of the center of our lives and our plans, our relationships with people also begin to break down…So much for (Abram and Sarai’s) little plan to help God out. So much for all of our little plans. When God makes a promise, He means it exactly as He says it. He doesn’t want our help; He wants our trust. To wait for God is to bow before His superior wisdom and timing when it comes to the things we want. It is to confess that He, not we, is the one in charge.”
So daughters of God, may we never let fear drive us to do something we know in our hearts is not in God’s will. May we trust our Father to fulfill our dreams and to do what He has promised.
And to all God’s sons here in Transformation Garden, I encourage you to be men of courage and Godly love with the women and children in your life. What an opportunity both Abram and Sarai had to take their fears to God…to communicate with each other putting God at the center of their conversations and if this had happened, there would have been generations of trouble which could have been prevented.
Having studied this situation through a magnifying glass for several weeks, it is interesting to see how often fear lurks around so many of our decisions, waiting for the right moment of hurt or sorrow or disappointment to shoot a toxic venom into our lives as we tremble with worry that God won’t do what He says. Believe me when I say, our God is capable – more than capable.
There have been several times in my own life when due to illness or the challenge of overcoming the physical disabilities I faced, that it seemed to me to be impossible to overcome these challenges. It was during these “down times” when I decided to memorize Isaiah 40: 28 -31. I love the part “He gives strength to the weary…they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” When I chose to commit this passage to memory I was in a wheelchair and my faith was at a low ebb. Me walking? Running? Not tired? Seemed like a fantasy! While I don’t have the energy I used to have, I have enough to meet the needs of each day. To do what God has assigned to me in His plan for my day. I’ve just had to learn some hard lessons. Little “Meddle Maggie” Dorothy has had to recognize that in the past, I’ve pulled a Sarai way too many times. I’ve inserted myself into situations where God’s help was all that was needed. Indeed, I have to admit that fear has driven me, too frequently to think I have to “make things work.” I want to do what the prophet Isaiah invites us to do: “Wait for the Lord, expect Him, look for Him, and hope in Him” He won’t let us down!
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint or grow weary; there is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the faint and weary, and to (you, who) has no might He increases strength, causing it to multiply and making it to abound. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted. But those who wait for the Lord, who expect, look for, and hope in Him, shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.”
Isaiah 40: 28-31
“As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, as the clouds veil the blue of the sky, so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of Your face from me. Yet, if I may hold Your hand in the darkness, it is enough. Since I know that, though I may stumble in my going, You do not fall.”
“In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.”
Psalm 56: 11
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Saviour friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.”
Louisa M.R. Stead
Missionary to Rhodesia in 1901
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
By Casting Crowns
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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