A Declaration of Dependence

“God is looking for imperfect men and women who have learned to walk in moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. Christians who have come to terms with their inadequacies, fears, and failures. Believers who have become discontent with ‘surviving’ and have taken the time to investigate everything God has to offer in this life.” –  Charles Stanley.

It amazes me how quickly children move from the infantile state of total dependence to relative independence. Each step along that continuum, they start to develop the, “I can do it myself” mindset. This attitude is reinforced by a culture that prides itself on its own resourcefulness and self-reliance. But self-reliance can shut out God. 

We can find ourselves in circumstances that are unfixable and unbearable. Unforeseen trials, huge life changes, medical crises and shattered relationships can leave us lost and powerless.

Yet it goes against our nature to be in a place we can’t fix. We want to be able to handle things. God, however is looking for us to be completely dependent on Him. Often that complete dependence on God results from situations or circumstances completely out of our control. 

Maybe you are in that position right now. You feel powerless. And vulnerable. You need God. Fortunately over and over again God calls Himself “our helper.”

  1. “…God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble..” (Psalm 46:1)
  2. “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” (Psalm 54:4)
  3. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:20)
  4. “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

We depend on God all the time, and there are times we can do nothing else. The Lord gives us the faith we need to make it through those times. But it is not all about bad times. We need and are dependent on God in good times as well.

I love these words from Hudson Taylor:

“I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where he places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you worry about most? When do you replace your faith in God with worry? What is the most generous gift you have ever received? How did it make you feel?
  2. Why would you want to depend on God’s unfailing faithfulness rather than your well intentioned efforts?
  3. Have there been times when you felt that God disregarded your pain and your struggles? How did you feel? How did you respond?
  4. What changes could you make so you will be totally dependent on God in all things?

Unshakeable Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.” – 1 Timothy 6:6.

A man was upset that his friends had houses that were larger and more luxurious. That had to change. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to upgrade to a bigger house once his sold. A few weeks passed and he was looking through the real estate section of the newspaper. An ad for a house caught his eye. It seemed ideal from the description. He promptly called the realtor and said, “a house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go through it as soon as possible!” The agent asked him several questions about it and then replied, “but sir, that’s your house you’re describing.”

We live in a culture where we’re taught to believe that more is never enough and our success is based on how we’re doing in comparison to others. Basically, we have created a culture of discontent. We have closets full of clothes, but complain that we have nothing to wear. We run out of storage space for all our stuff that we don’t use and probably never will. We protect our homes with sophisticated security systems and still fear for our safety. We have 200 channels on our television and complain that there’s nothing worth watching.

We have become short-sighted, plagued with short-attention spans and shorter tempers. We are constantly seeking the secret to happiness and often that search translates into more, bigger, or better. But that doesn’t bring us happiness. Most of us possess so much, yet we enjoy what we have so little.

God wants us to be content because He knows that contentment produces peace, joy and love. 

So how do we find contentment? Let me take a moment and give some additional thoughts from what I talked about on Sunday. One way is to keep from falling into the comparison trap, that is comparing ourselves to others. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” Comparing what we have with what others have means, according to the Bible, we are without understanding. 

Then be content and give thanks in what you do have. “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Instead of focusing on your circumstances or what you don’t have, think about what you do have, and be grateful and thank God for it. 

Finally, share what you have to help others. “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) Don’t put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain. Put your hope in God because He provides for you. Do good with what God has given you and be willing to share it and watch Him multiply and bless you. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. This series is about putting God first. Sometimes our lives get cluttered with things that distract us.  If you could eliminate one thing from your life, what you would eliminate?
  2. Would you define yourself as content or anxious?
  3. What’s the secret to being content in all circumstances?
  4. What are some steps we can take to be more content?

Assembly Required

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV).

You buy something and drive it home with high expectations. But there on the box are those three dreaded words “some assembly required.” Uh oh.

Well, maybe, just maybe, this time the instructions will be thorough. You open the box and let out a sigh. They are not. Just a few sketches that look nothing like the final product. OK, maybe I don’t need instructions.  I can figure this out. Four hours and five bottles of Gatorade later, you realize that you did it all wrong?  You sigh, sigh again and find the instructions to begin again.

Most of us have done this in our spiritual life as well. We try to do things our way, only to realize it doesn’t work all that well. We need to do things God’s way. Fortunately God has given us instructions on how to do things God’s way. We can start with the word of Jesus. “…for apart from me you can do nothing..” (John 15:5) But, Paul gives us the positive side of that coin. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

There are people who believe everyone’s way is equally valid. So why would I abandon my way of doing things and hand it over to God? Let me give you two reasons.

First of all, God’s way is better—“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). As Proverbs 14:12 tells us “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” But God’s way is life. God’s way is better than ours. As hard as it is to let go of what is natural and comfortable to us, we really need to because there is a better way.

Second of all, God’s way works. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s Word accomplishes what God sends it out to accomplish. We  have fallen on our face more often than not when we do things our way.  We thought what we were doing was going to provide lasting happiness, long-term fulfillment, or significant meaning to our lives. Instead, we had a moment of escape and pleasure followed by an empty feeling. Then we look for the next things to add meaning to our lives. This is not God’s way.

God’s way works. When we pursue His way, we will find peace and joy regardless of our circumstances. Even though we have experienced trials in our lives, His way is the best way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe God’s way is always better than our way? Why or why not?
  2. What can you do to grow more in your knowledge of God’s Word?
  3. How does the knowledge that God’s way is better shape our expectations of God? Our generosity?
  4. How easy is it for you to be generous when confronted with a specific need? Why?
  5. What can we do this week to make God’s way our way?

Is God Getting a Return On His Investment?

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1

Have you ever watched the TV program Shark Tank? It is a show about five human sharks, the kind that are very good at negotiating deals to their advantage and others in creating great personal wealth. The premise of the show is that an individual brings a particular idea for a business, such as a new invention or a new way of performing a service, etc. into the shark tank, and then they try to negotiate a deal which will be beneficial for the growth of his or her company.

The shark tank is made up of five very successful people who have made millions and billions of dollars for themselves and for others by skillfully negotiating themselves into advantageous positions of partial or complete control of companies that they have determined were viable operations that showed considerable growth potential. They made deals with people who they see as good partners who will work hard 24/7 to make both them, and the shares, money. 

The sharks rarely negotiate a deal if they detected unreasonable pride, poor preparation, or half hearted commitment, or all three of them. This is a very profound lesson for all of us. Is God going to entrust us with His wealth, His investment, if we are not going to submit to His expertise, and be a 24/7 partner in living as He lives.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” – that is, where your money cannot be destroyed, where the things that you buy or the things you invest in cannot become ineffective. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) where you know that your investment is certain and where you know the dividends are going to be paid right on time. God’s investment program offers each of us a deal no shark could ever hope to match. There are no times of low sales or low revenue or profit. With God it is always a bull market. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)   

Getting a grip on God’s great and loving investment in us should motivate us to gladly consider making His sacrifice rich in dividends of our money, time and talents.  God doesn’t want your faith to be tied to the Shark Tank. Or to the S&P 500. Or even to a local bank. God wants you to trust deeply in Him. He will provide for all of your needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). I know that’s true. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 says, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

God makes an incredible investment in His time and energies over our lives  How much do we consider the investment in us that God has made? Are we willing to work 24/7 to protect God’s investment and make His purpose a reality in us?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can we realistically make a return on God’s investment in our lives?
  2. Are you a cheerful giver? Or do you find yourself reluctant to be generous? 
  3. Do you struggle with needing to see the immediate impact of your gift? If so, how do we become cheerful givers who don’t need to see the impact?
  4. Hebrews 13:5 tells us:”Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Are you content with what you have?

Great Generosity

“In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.” – Charles Spurgeon

In order to be a generous giver, we need to answer an important question. The question is not “where should I give” or “how much,” but “why do I give.” The answer is pretty straight forward. 

God gave us Jesus. Jesus gave us life. God and Jesus gave us the Holy Spirt. The Holy Spirit gives us direction, comfort, understanding of the Scriptures, and an understanding of God.

We should be overwhelmed when we take a moment to reflect on the incredible generosity of God towards us. God is not reluctant to be generous, he’s not tight-fisted with his generosity, but rather Scripture tells us that he’s extravagant in his generosity. Ephesians 1:8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.“  Randy Alcorn said, “The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you out give Him. Go ahead and try. See what happens.”

Christians should be generous. If Christians are not generous, it is probably because they don’t understand how generous God has been to them and how generous God has been to others. God didn’t give a few dollars here and there. He didn’t just spare a couple dollars here and there. He didn’t just add a few percent on a tip. He gave His Son. 

Let’s look at the basics of being generous. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” What Paul is basically saying is that, you have to identify yourself with Christians in need. In other words, we make the needs of other Christians our own needs by asking ourselves some questions:  How are they coping? What would I need if I were in their shoes? What would I do?”

“Is there anything I can do for you,” you ask, and the answer generally is, “Just pray for us at this time.” You don’t have to send them anything; you don’t have to call them every day; they don’t want you to visit their home, but they are glad that you do remember them and intercede. You are there for them. Then there come other degrees of involvement; weekly visiting or weekly shopping to name two. Or they live in Kenya and they are in financial need and you can help them a little bit with the the ongoing fresh water project.

The Philippian church took Paul’s needs to their hearts, and he wrote to them; “it was kind of you to share my trouble. . . . Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again . . . I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:14, 16, 18). Paul saw their practical kindness to him as glorifying God. It was an offering that was fragrant to the Lord. Galatians 6:10 adds, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

The simple definition of gnerosrsfty is: using your God-given ability to help those in need and where your time, money, and talents come together to meet the needs of others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the most generous gift you have ever received? How did it make you feel?
  2. Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world, but do you think Americans are generous with their wealth? Why or why not?
  3. Acts 4:33-37 describes the generosity of some within the Jerusalem church who sold personal property to help others in need. What do you think is going on here? How does it strike you?
  4. What excuses do people sometimes make for not being more generous with their resources (time, money, and energy) toward others? What excuses have you made?
  5. Identify one practical way you will live out the generosity exemplified in Acts as a response to God’s grace in the coming weeks.

Elijah, the Widow and Son.

“For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.” – 1 Kings 17:14-16.

First Kings 18 includes a story that you have probably heard many times. It is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. In this story, God reveals his divine power by engulfing Elijah’s water-soaked, burnt sacrifice with a pillar of fire. In this story, the prophets of Baal were comically and single-handedly shamed on Mount Carmel. But in chapter 17, there is a less famous story that demonstrates God’s provision and the principle of multiplication.

Let me set this up of you. Elijah approaches the king of Israel and exclaims that he is leaving and until he comes back there will be drought and famine. For over three years, the land is ravaged by lack of water and food. Things were drying up fast in Israel. The ground was cracked and the plants were withered. The storehouses of grain were becoming empty and there was no new grain to eat. 

God tells Elijah to hide by the brook of Cherith, where God will supply him with the sustenance he needs to survive. No matter how many times I hear this story, I can’t get over how amazing this miracle is. God actually commands a raven to deliver Elijah bread and meat two times a day. As the drought continued, Elijah’s brook dried up. A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, “Go right away to Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. Stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” And that begins the story found in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

So Elijah went to Zarephath. He came to the town gate. A widow was there gathering sticks. He called out to her. He asked, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” She went to get the water. Then he called out to her, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.

As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son”

Elijah continues: “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

God kept His promise. God promised to provide for Elijah, the widow, and her son. Every time, the widow went to her cupboard to get her flour and oil to make bread. No matter how many times the widow went to get oil and flour, it never ran out. The next day she went to make some more bread and it was full of oil and flour again. As often as she needed it, the oil and flour multiplied. She could never use up what God provided. Nor can we. Genesis 22: 14 tells us, “So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”  We can never use up what He provides when we offer God our firstfruits, and our talents and time.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What lessons can be learned from this story?
  2. After the brook dried up, Elijah trusted God and moved on to Zarephath. Is there a “dry brook” in your life God is using to “motivate” you to move on to what He has next for you?
  3. What kind of faith is required for living with just enough for each day and no more?
  4. Describe a time in your life when things felt very desperate but you saw God meet your needs. What did you learn from the experience?
  5. Do you ever judge or measure God’s provision by what you can see? Why or why not?

Blessed Multiplication

“He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.” – Deuteronomy 7:13

In May of 2005 a 1999 Volkswagen Golf was sold on eBay for the price of $244,000. No, it was not gold plated or one of a kind.  There was nothing truly unique about the car, except for who owned it. The car was owned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict. The fact that the Pope owned the car caused the value of the car to multiply many times over its true value.

Jesus blessed and added value to everything. He was given a coin and made it into a lesson of our responsibilities both to God and government. He was given a boat and turned it into a pulpit on which he could teach the multitudes. He was given a donkey and made it an image of servant leadership. He was given a bowl and a towel and gave us a model of humility. He was given a cross, and made it a symbol of salvation.

I always stand in awe when I think about the way that God multiplied life through the life, the death, and the resurrection of His Son. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, there are literally millions and millions and millions of Christians around the world. All the people who found eternal life over thousands of years did so because Jesus Christ gave His one life. Now that is multiplication.

The feeding the 5,000 story should remind those of us who are followers of Jesus that our problems are never too large for God to handle. I’m sure the disciples were a little confused, and wondering what could they accomplish with only five loaves and two fish. 

As believers, we should know, at least theoretically, that God can do anything. He is God so He can feed as many people as He wants. The problem comes when we are faced with a practical application of the theory/belief in our lives, we wonder whether God will meet our need.  So we take things in our own hands. 

The feeding of the 5,000 is proof that no matter how insignificant we may think our gifts or talents are,  we can expect God to do far beyond what can be imagined. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). We simply need to step out in faith.

2 Peter 1:2 says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” And Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

The message of the feed the 5,000 is the miracle, and the miracle is, we are not alone. Jesus is with us, working the impossible. We simply need to let go of our lunches, so countless others can be satisfied—with bread, but also with more than bread. Because Jesus will multiply what we give to Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What ideas of images come to mind when you hear words like multiply or firstfruits?
  2. Does fear play a role in your multiplication thinking? What about debt?
  3. What areas of your life do you believe God is calling you to pursue more returns on His investment?
  4. If you start giving generously, where would you start? How do you think your life would change? 
  5. In your thinking, does giving generously mean money, or time and talents as well? Why?

Basic Multiplication

“…saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” – Hebrews 6:14

Early in my education, I had to memorize the multiplication tables. It wasn’t all that hard and more importantly it was a necessity as you progressed in school. By learning multiplication and memorizing the times tables you provide yourself with essential building blocks to do higher learning math, like division, fractions and even algebra. Through multiplication, you can start with a small number and be at a big number pretty rapidly. One example is someone willing to pay you a penny for the first day’s work and double the amount every day for 30 days. On Day 30 you will receive $5,368,709.12 and have a cumulative total of $10,737,418.23.

Another compelling multiplication story is the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish into enough food to feed a multitude. And the number of 5,000 doesn’t give us the complete picture. In Jewish culture, the way they counted crowds is they counted men. There were about 5,000 families. So there were probably somewhere in between 15,000 to 20,000 people fed that day.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5-6)  In a multiplication formula, the two items being multiplied are called factors and the result of their multiplication is called the product. When one of the factors is zero, the product will always be zero. Zero multiplied by one is zero. Zero multiplied by a million equals zero.

The disciples thought they had nothing or next to nothing. But in this story and others we learn what Jesus can do with something small.  Many of us feel like we don’t have much. But the  truth is, we have something. We have financial blessings, material blessing, talents, time, abilities, and gifts. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

God has blessed us with something with which He can start. And He does not ask for what you do not have. But He will ask for what you do have. In the story, bread and fish are multiplied into bread and fish. Granted, as creator, Jesus can change anything into anything He wants, like He did when he turned water into wine. But it is more common that things multiply after themselves.

If you exercise the muscles you have, the result is greater muscles. If you pour yourself into your studies, the result will be greater knowledge. If you exercise your voice in song, in time you will be a better singer. If you teach, your teachings skills will improve. There are many other examples. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ( Luke 6:38)

Circle the word “it”. What is “it” in your life. What in your life can God multiply if you give it to Him? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can God’s multiplication manifest itself in our lives today?
  2. Jesus asked them another question, “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.” (Mark 6:38) What do we have? Are we willing to bring our resources, gifts, talents, and time to Him?
  3. The disciples might not have understood, what He was going to do? But they followed His orders nonetheless. Do you believe that God wants us to act in faith, even when we do not understand it.
  4. Jesus’ final assignment for His disciples was to, “gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12) Can we trust that God’s provision is more than adequate in our lives?
  5. Pray and ask God to bless and multiply what you have?

Hezekiah And The Way Out

“The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? – 2 Kings 18:19-22

The Bible is one continuous story, and yet a story made up of smaller, pivotal stories. Many of the stories involves God providing a way out of the difficulties of His people. One of those is the story of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who was constantly aware of God’s acts in the past and His involvement in the events of every day. The Bible describes Hezekiah as a king who had a close relationship with God, one who did “…what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 31:20).

Because King Hezekiah put God first in everything he did, God prospered him. “Hezekiah held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:6–7).

But Hezekiah and all of Judah had a big problem. The Assyrians, the world power at the time, invaded Judah and marched against Jerusalem. The Assyrians had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and many other nations, and now they threatened Judah (2 Kings 18:13). In their threats against the city of Jerusalem, the Assyrians openly defied the God of Judah, likening Him to the powerless gods of the nations they had conquered. (2 Kings 18:28–35; 19:10–12)

God through the prophet Isaiah, reassured the king that Assyria would never enter Jerusalem. Rather, the invaders would be sent home, and the city of Jerusalem would be spared (2 Kings 19:32–34).

God kept His promise to protect Jerusalem. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35). The remaining Assyrians quickly broke camp and withdrew in abject defeat. “So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. . . . He took care of them on every side” (2 Chronicles 32:22).

There are many such stories in the Bible where God is the way out of the situations people find themselves in. In truth, Jesus is the only way. John 14:6 tells us, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”  As the way, Jesus create a path for us, a way out. The truth is we can never make it, do enough spiritual, moral or social good to impress God. We can’t make it up the path. We all fail to love and serve God to some degree. 

Jesus hikes down into our sin, our rebellion and our failures, and He heaps them all on His back and climbs on a cross, where He is punished for our crime, a bloody gruesome death. The innocent punished for the guilty. This is what it means for Jesus to be the way. He is the redemptive way. He takes our place. There is no other way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways do we still try to find a solution or a way out in times of trouble?
  2. Hezekiah was said to have trusted God like no other man. What does his life tell us about what it looks like to trust God?
  3. Read Isaiah 37:14-20. From this prayer, what would you say are Hezekiah’s motives and desires?
  4. What does the story of  Hezekiah tell us about finding a way out? 

Just Do It

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do..” – James 1:23-25. 

In the message this week one of the steps I suggested as a means of finding your way out is to have a plan and to implement that plan today. I would like to expand on that point in this devotional.

When we become followers of Jesus, we quickly learn that our God is a very big God, and has all things under His control. That includes both the big things we need to find a way out of, as well as the little things. You have probably heard the phrase “let go and let God.” Some people think that this is the way we as Christians ought to understand the Christian life – we give up ourselves and let God control it all. While this makes sense on many levels it can be a bit simplistic. 

Romans 12:2 is helpful in this area: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” True worship is to give up our lives for God, that is to live for Him alone. That doesn’t mean we go in hibernation, but rather letting God’s plans and purposes shape the things we do. Our minds aren’t switched off, but rather transformed and renewed by God, and so we become aware of the new way God wants us to live. This takes self control and it takes us doing something. Because far too often, we allow good thoughts and good words and good intentions to stop short of good actions.

Finding our way out is not wandering through life aimlessly and seeing where God would have us drift. Instead finding our way out is seeing the path God wants us to take, with its ups and own, trials, and failures, and deciding to take the steps to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s Word has so much to say about taking action. If you need a jumpstart, consider these verses.  for your “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “ says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

In the end, finding your way out is about changing your focus – rather than expensing your energies to achieve the things you desire, use all your energies to achieve the things God wants for our lives. And that means taking action to move us from where we are to where we need to be.   

Now that’s not to say it’s not a struggle. It is easy to stop and wonder “how did I get here.” But if we set our sights on God and start taking the steps we need to take, we can find our way out.    

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s one of the biggest obstacles to finding a way out?
  2. What has God burdened you to change in your life? What’s keeping you from taking action? What do you need to do to remove these barriers?
  3. What impact on others do you think you could make if you decided to take action?
  4. What is your next step?