Work in the Wait

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31, KJV

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV

Several years ago, I delivered a sermon entitled “Work While You Wait” using today’s Scripture as the focus point. Back then the main message was allowing God to change our perspective on waiting. In 2020, this still stands. Whether we are doing okay during this Corona season or we feel like we are about to go stir-crazy in our homes, we need to wait on the Lord. From Genesis to Revelation, the word “wait” and its variations are mentioned at least 41 times, a clear sign of how important this is. This process doesn’t look like what some may envision: sitting at home or at work, twiddling out thumbs, tapping our feet, or checking our watches.

No, no, no – There is work in the wait.

Doesn’t quite sound right, does it? This perspective isn’t so far-fetched, though when we look at several steps that make it possible:

  1. Pray
  2. Trust
  3. Act

This week’s verses come from two eras of struggle and uncertainty. In the second half of the book of Isaiah, this was the 50 years of captivity in Babylon, while the temple and walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins. This was 50 years of wondering what would become of the promises of God, of how they- God’s chosen people- would survive. In the first letter to the church at Corinth, almost 600 years later, the struggle was two-fold: Judea under Roman rule, and the early Christian church against Jewish religious leadership. On both fronts, people wondered how long until God would restore Israel, how long until the Son of God would return. Wondering and worrying certainly have not changed, especially for us in 2020. Still, we must pray.

“Duh, what do you think we’ve been doing, Ms. Blogger?” That may be what you’re thinking, right? But lest we be tempted to stress when things beyond our control seem to grow and grow, we’ve got to pray like Big Mama and Paw-Paw. We need this constant, two-way communication to keep us in alignment with God, to understand what He expects us to do when we are going through. But that consistent, intentional prayer helps keep us on the same page as the Lord, because our minds are focused on Him. Prayer begins that shift in our perspective, from when our difficult season will end, to what we do until it does.

The second step is that “T” word, Trust, which is directly tied to prayer. We can’t effectively do one without the other. At all times, our Enemy looks for ways to inject just enough doubt that will make us turn away from the Lord. At all times, he looks for that weak link. Such demonic, ungodly negativity that can come from people we thought were close to us has the power to stretch or break that link in our trust in God. It has the power to shift our perspective inward, come to a complete stop, and dwell on what isn’t happening. It has the power to tempt us to quit on the promises of God, and even to quit on God, period.

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Matthew Henry noted how Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to “…be steadfast…firm, fixed in the faith of the gospel, that gospel which he had preached and they had received, namely ‘That Christ died for our sins, and arose again the third day, according to the scriptures (vs 3-4).” Holding fast to what we believe means trusting God. It means refreshing our memory and recalling all the previous rough spots and situations from which God delivered us. It means encouraging ourselves and each other that if God did it then, He will do it again. It means reminding the Enemy about the truth in the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God:

  1. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)
  2. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
  3. “…If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

As we demonstrate and live that trust in God, I guarantee the Enemy will get somewhere and sit down, because he’ll have to go back to his drawing board and try to find another way to tear us down, and tear us away from our Heavenly Father.

The last step is to act. Further in his commentary, Matthew Henry stated that Paul exhorted the Corinthian church “to abound in the work of the Lord, and that always, in the Lord’s service, in obeying the Lord’s commands. They should be diligent and persevering herein and going on towards perfection; they should be continually making advances in true piety, and ready and apt for every good work. The most cheerful duty, the greatest diligence, the most constant perseverance, become those who have such glorious hopes.”

The work of the Lord is demonstrated in various ways, so please note these are not the only ones:

  1. Obeying His commands, which Jesus condensed to: “37…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40) ‘Nuff said. 😊
  2. Realizing and using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11: Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miraculous Powers, Prophecy, Spiritual Discernment, the Speaking and Interpretation of Languages. These gifts are meant to be used, not worn as accessories. For example, if Faith is your spiritual gift, it is manifested through the encouragement of other struggling people to trust God anyhow, to see what the end will be. By doing this, we open ourselves to receive the encouragement that we need to keep working for the Lord.
  3. Engaging with people from all walks of life and sharing our story about the Good News. A long time ago, my oldest niece attended what had to be the best daycare in West Texas. The owner made sure those kids knew not only readin’, writin’, and even the Preamble to the Constitution, but also something about the Lord. My niece learned a song that she sang all the time: “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody, about Somebody, who can save anybody.” Can you imagine a four-year-old kid singing this over and over, with enthusiasm and passion?

Even in our struggles, as we wait for that answer or that breakthrough, we are still charged to tell anybody about that Somebody named Jesus Christ. We are still called to testify about the goodness and mercy of the Lord which follow us all the days of our lives. We are still commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. Why, fam? Because we are the only Bible that some people will ever read. We must tell it, meet others where they are and tell our story of how Jesus Christ saved us, and how He’s able to save them, too.

Pray, trust, act, repeat. Pray, trust, act, repeat. We keep doing this because ‘our labor in the Lord is not in vain’. Our work in the wait is not for nothing. Contrary to what anyone else may say, we’re not spinning our wheels for God. Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” He can’t forget the work, because just as He was with the exiles in Babylon and with the Christians in Corinth, He is with us here and now, right in the middle of our trying situations.

And as we keep praying, trusting, and acting in faith, as we refresh His promises in our minds, our perspective on the situation is changed and we press forward. The more we press, God sends us that energy boost to keep us from running on “E”. He gives us that fresh anointing so we can stand up straighter with the confidence of a child of God. Our spirits will soar as if on wings like an eagle, as we keep moving towards the end of our hard season, praising and shouting on purpose. We will come out of this victorious, fam. Keep practicing “P.T.A.” – pray, trust, act – and watch God work.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for keeping us thus far in this trying season. Give us the courage, confidence, and anointing to pray, trust, and act wherever we are so that this world will know the God we love and serve is with us, and will bring us through. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

He Got Up

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” – Matthew 28:18

Many people found themselves celebrating this Resurrection Sunday in ways they never thought they would.  From parking lot services to social media livestreams, to Zoom video calls, even, believers around the world got creative to avoid the “bedside Baptist”, i.e., not doing anything.  (I grew up Baptist so I feel I can make that little joke.  😉)  Yes, we got creative, and have been since shelter-in-place orders were issued.  And to be truthful, church services have been AMAZING every week.  The Holy Spirit has been showing up and showing out in households, reminding God’s people that there is no distancing from Him.  He is everywhere and makes His presence known when we need it most, to encourage us that this too will pass, to provide for our needs when it looks like we’re running out.

Now it is easy to remember this when you are experiencing the joy and elation of remembering what Jesus Christ did over 2000 years ago.  The challenge, though, is to remember this after the joy, after the elation.  Because in case you haven’t noticed, the Enemy seems to work harder with introducing — or reintroducing– things, people, or situations to shift our mindset and heart set away from the fact presented in Matthew chapter 28, verse 18.  We must keep in mind that praising and worshipping God and sharing the good news of his truth is what the Enemy detests. He would rather our focus be on any and everything but the One who has already defeated him. And through the years he has gotten really good at these disruptions and distractions.

But, Jesus got up.

This is the one fact that the devil can never change, never erase.  After all this time one would think he would have learned the lesson.  He is determined to steal, kill, and destroy all who choose a relationship with God over him.  I’ve heard him described as that jealous ex-boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t want you to move on to something better if it’s not with him or her.  He may not key our cars or slash our tires, but he can sure raise “h-e-double hockey sticks”.  Sounds about right, huh?

But, Jesus got up.   And He did so with all authority in heaven and earth, given to Him by God the Father.  That means life, death, health, hunger, sickness, every part of the physical and spiritual realms – things which the Son of God had demonstrated in His 3-year ministry:

  • Bringing people back to life (Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 7:11-18; John 11:1-46)
  • Healing people of leprosy (Mark 1:40-45; Luke 17:11-19)
  • Healing the sick (John 4:46-47; Luke 8:43-48)
  • Feeding multitudes of people (Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-39)
  • Delivering people from demon possession (Matthew 8:28-34; 12:22; 17:14-21)
  • Controlling nature (Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 5:1-11)

There is no aspect of the universe that is not covered by the authority of Jesus Christ, regardless of what we see, hear, or experience.  We who are part of the family of God, who claim Jesus as our Elder Brother, should stand tall and firm against the disruptions and attempts to throw us out of focus with God and confidently declare: “But He got up.”

We are not defeated by this pandemic and its ramifications, because Jesus Christ got up. 

Pay or hour reductions at our jobs will not stop us from praising, worshipping, and serving the Lord, because Jesus our Savior got up.

Extended quarantine orders will not stop us from praying, fasting, and studying God’s Word to become better people, because Jesus our Messiah got up.

Extended quarantine orders will not stop us from using safe, alternate means of worship and fellowship, because Jesus our Lord got up.

I know this is repetitive, but it’s true.  Because Jesus Christ rose from what was a certain end, Fam please believe that we will, too.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the Gift that took on the sins of the entire world, so that we may be reconciled to You.  Thank You for the Gift that rose with all power of heaven and earth in His hands.  Let us never forget this, never let us fall into despair or disarray.  Remind us daily that Jesus got up, and we can, too.  Amen.

A Great Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16-17

For the past two weeks our church has been fasting, praying, and meditating on the book of John, going all the way to the last chapter on Easter Sunday.  Through technology we have shared and discussed some of the prevalent themes in this gospel, particularly the arrival of the Messiah and the personal relationship that God desires with His creation.  Today’s focus was on chapter 14, but since the devotional on chapter three my imagination has been painting the picture of the One who was both 100% human and 100% divine at the same time.  I’ve wondered, “What was Jesus feeling in these moments?  What was He thinking?” more times than I can count.  Why I’m wondering this now, I honestly cannot say.  What has become clear through this devotional is just how much God loved –and still loves—this world. 

John 3:16 is hitting me differently, causing tears to well up even as I write this.  For the Lord to develop His plan of salvation that would require the ultimate sacrifice so that many may be saved, that they would be passed over, is seriously blowing my mind.  Because let’s be honest, fam: we aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea.  If there is a nerve to get on, we have that uncanny ability to find and park on it.  If there is a foul attitude to catch, or cross words to sling at someone, or foul thoughts that would smell if they could, we can be about all that.  We can grieve the Holy Spirit with our “…bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:29). 

We human beings demonstrate far too easily how much we don’t deserve the grace, mercy, and love of an all-powerful God, our heavenly Father.

And yet despite all this, despite us, God loves us anywayHe loves us so much that He did what none of us would do, if we’re completely honest with ourselves.  He gave His Son so that everyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, will have eternal life.  He gave His one and only Son so that the world could be saved from eternal damnation, so that we could be part of God’s family.  Of the countless ways to demonstrate His love the Lord’s plan involved this one-time supreme, ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of every single person through the whole of human history.  By believing in His Son, by accepting Him as THE way, THE truth, and THE life, the effects of our sins no longer separate us from God. 

That personal relationship that the Lord has always wanted with you, me, and everyone is real and active.

…And then this amazing sacrifice rose from the dead after three days, with all power in His hands.  Death, hell, and the grave were conquered by Jesus Christ.  The Accuser who’s working even now against us is being thwarted and overruled in the heavenly places, because the Son is there saying, “No, my blood covered that” with every charge he can lobby against us.  The blood of Jesus covers a multitude of faults.  The power in His blood protects us during this season of pandemic and global uncertainty and reminds us that there is nothing too hard for the Lord to handle.  That includes COVID-19.

This is why I tear up, why my heart feels so awed and humbled right now.  I know I have been loved and am loved now by family and friends.  But to experience a great love like this, to really process it and what it means…fam, there really aren’t any words to adequately describe it. 

I am so humbled.

I am so grateful.

All I can say is, “I love You, Lord.  Thank You so much for loving me, for seeing the best in me, for saving me, for blessing me.  Thank You for staying by my side, for healing me when I was sick, for comforting me when I was feeling broken.  Thank You for teaching me to be better, and for being patient with me when I wasn’t.  Thank You for the joy and hope that You bring to my life every moment.  Just…wow, thank You, thank You, thank You.”

Prayer of thanksgiving: Lord God, I just want to thank You and tell You how much Your love means to me.  I love You, Lord.  I truly, truly do.  Amen.