“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” – Warren Wiersbe
“Marty, I have enjoyed this series, but as much as I have tried, the small changes don’t seem to be making much of a difference in my habits or in my words. I just don’t see much change.”
I understand. We often look around and things seem static. The task seems too large and the journey too long. The preliminary steps we take in that direction don’t seem to make a difference. We feel like we make little to no progress. It is easy to get discouraged and begin asking yourself “why bother?”
Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Isaiah is reminding us that God is at work. Wherever the people of God go, change happens. Sometimes it is slow. I heard a quote that said basically, “We don’t wait well. We’re into microwaving. God, on the other hand, is usually into marinating.” Change is not always so slow, although it can seem that way.
In Sunday’s message, I talked about the analogy of life to a race. You can train hard and thoroughly prepare for a race, but when the gun goes off, you never know how you’re going to feel or what will happen. Chances are you might get to a point when the “race” isn’t going the way you thought it would and you wonder why you would ever do something like this. The Bible uses the specific metaphor of a long distance race. The nature of the Christian life is not run in a sprint, but it is run with a steady and strategic pace over a lifetime of endurance. Running requires faith that holds onto God’s promises despite life’s circumstances. Though circumstances can be bleak and seem fruitless, with this metaphor believers are encouraged to press on with an anticipation that there is a finish line with rewards.
Many of you have been running the race since the beginning, some of you have just joined, some of you are going at an incredible pace. And some think your not really prepared for the race ahead. We are here for a reason; to be committed to being the people that God wants us to be. This is where faith and trust comes in. T.F. Tenney once said, “Lets keep the main thing… as the main thing.” The main thing is to lean on and to trust God. Regardless of where we are or what we may think at the moment, God is working. The Spirit is moving. Change will happen if you stay the course you have started.
I find it helpful to capture my “focus for the year” in a word, so that I can stay focused on one main thing all year. This year, my word was “small” based on Matthew 25:21 which says: ”The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (NLT)
After praying and seeking the Lord, this was the word that kept sticking out in my mind. So I went with it. It really helps me to keep me focused me on doing the small things well. When things get a little busy or overwhelming it is the word I can return to and find clarity and direction. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. It’s not the size of the ability, but the faithfulness of the servant that is most important.
1. Do we have a hard time accepting God’s timing? Does it seem too slow or too fast?
2. What can we do to accept God’s timing?
3. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” What are some of the impediments that cause us to take our eyes off of Christ and entangle us while running the race? Can habits distract you? What about a lack of discipline?
4. Is there anything from this series you would like to talk more about? Anything you didn’t understand?
5. How can we as a Northstar group strive to persevere in this race together? How can we be praying for you specifically?.