The Israelites – God’s people living in slavery in the land of Egypt under the iron rule of Pharaoh. Until God speaks to Moses, an Israelite who grew up as an Egyptian Prince, and asks him to lead the campaign for Israel’s freedom. Moses asks Pharaoh to let his people go and when Pharaoh refuses God sends 10 plagues to sweep through the land.

  1. TURNING THE NILE INTO BLOOD.
  2. THE PLAGUE OF FROGS
  3. THE PLAGUE OF GNATS
  4. SWARMS OF FLIES
  5. DEATH OF LIVESTOCK
  6. THE PLAGUE OF BOILS
  7. THE PLAGUE OF HAIL
  8. THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS
  9. THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS
  10. THE DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN

Now, I have learnt something interesting about these plagues: For every plague that was inflicted upon the people, Pharaoh and the land, there was an Egyptian god associated with it.

  1. there were Egyptian gods known as the guardian of the river source, the spirit of the Nile and for the god of Oasis the Nile was believed to be in his blood stream
  2. there was a frog goddess of Egypt and a god of fertility
  3. there was a god of the earth
  4. the fly god of Egypt
  5. gods associated with bulls and cows
  6. goddess of epidemic and healing
  7. the sky goddess, agricultural goddess and a god of the atmosphere
  8. a deity protector from locusts
  9. sun gods
  10. and lastly, Pharaoh himself.

For every plague Almighty God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Israelites – was showing that He is the God above all other gods.

“I execute judgements against all the gods of Egypt”. Exodus 12:12 (CSB)

When God led the Israelites out of slavery He was giving them more than just their physical freedom. He was setting them free from every power and authority of oppression and slavery – both from things that they could see with their physical eyes and from things that they didn’t even know they needed to be set free from.

I want to remind you today that you serve a God who wants to set you completely free.

And he wants to set you free from things you know you need freedom from and from things you are not even aware are holding you captive. His freedom for you goes so much deeper than just the promise of eternal life and salvation. He came to set you completely free.

“For freedom, Christ sets us free.” Galatians 5: 1 (CSB)

The Israelites didn’t realise their complete freedom. Once they had escaped Pharaoh they went on to develop a habit of continually grumbling and complaining. At every hurdle and every obstacle we see that their response is usually the same.

On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!” Exodus 16: 1 – 3 (MSG)

The Israelites were physically free but they were still bound by their slave mentality. They were physically free from captivity and yet they were still held captive in their thinking. They were no longer slaves and yet they still thought like they were slaves instead of like they were beloved children of the Most High God.

The Israelites were like a bird whose wings had been clipped and caged. They had been freed from the cage but were still not free enough to fly.

I think many of us live like the Israelites, we are free, but only to a certain extent. We can be physically free from a past relationship but still plagued by bitterness and resentment. We can be free from our old life of sin but still held captive by shame or condemnation. We can be physically free from any danger and yet we can still be imprisoned and paralysed in our minds by fear, worry and anxiety.

We might be free but are we completely free?

What is it in your life that still holds you captive? What mindsets are you allowing to play ruler in your life that Christ has actually already set you free from?

“For freedom, Christ sets us free. Stand firm and don’t submit again to the yolk of slavery”. Galatians 5:1

What is Paul, the writer of this letter to the Galatian church saying? In chapters four and five we read as he urges them to not get caught back up in the slavery mindset that God has already freed them from. Don’t get caught up in the religious thinking and in the law that once bound you. He’s saying: You are free! Don’t enslave yourselves again!

So how do you live completely free?

 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be  in the likeness of his resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin  might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:4-7 (CSB)

How do we have complete freedom? We walk in the newness of life. We can do that in a few ways. I want to give you three of them today.

Keys to complete freedom:

1. Establish a new way of thinking.

A little later on in Exodus 32 we read the account of when Moses was on Mount Sinai and God was communing with Moses and inscribing with his very finger the two tablets. Meanwhile Israel was building a golden calf to worship. Listen to what they say:

They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 32:8 (CSB)

When you don’t understand your complete freedom, your past will try and tell you that your prison was actually your place of freedom. The enemy will speak lies to you about the brokenness that was in that place, Oh it wasn’t so bad was it…Isn’t it better than where you are now?

For every prison still holding you captive there is a lie you have believed that has kept you thinking like a slave instead of a Child of God.

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (CSB)

Establishing a new way of thinking allows us to discern the barrage of thoughts that assault us daily. Have a renewed mind, Romans says, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

The NIV translation says, when you renew your mind you can test and approve. You don’t have to allow every thought access to your life. In fact, this passage states clearly that we are to test and approve anything trying to gain access to our thinking.

I love airports and I love travel. I even love watching those airport shows, you know the customs ones? It always astounds me what people try and bring into the country.

I must admit though, I am thankful. I am thankful that we live in a nation that wants to protect us from nasty bugs, drugs and baddies. I am thankful for airport security and our shipping ports that test and approve anything and anyone entering our country. I’m thankful that they don’t just let anything and anyone in.

I wonder what might change if we were to use the same strategy with our thinking? When a thought enters could we begin asking questions? Do you have anything to declare? What is your purpose here and how long do you intend to stay?

Is there a lie I am believing? Is this thought here to bring me down or lift me up? Is this thought contrary to the word of God?

Test it. Discern it’s purpose before you give it approval to enter your mind.

Being completely free means you have to train yourself to think a new way.

Your freedom begins in your mind before it can take place anywhere else.

2. Teach yourself a new language.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken. ”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 2 Corinthians 4:13 (NIV)

Complete freedom requires a language of faith.

When we are born again, as a child of God, when we enter Gods family we actually have to learn a new language. A language of faith says, while I may not see it, I am going to speak it. It is a language of hope and expectation.

We have all experienced the power that words can have over our lives. Words spoken by others over us, but just as important are the words you speak over yourself. What words are you saying about your marriage? About your family? About your business? About your financial situation? About yourself?

Your words have the power to frame your world.

3. Begin making different decisions.

You can change your thinking, and you can change your language but if you are still making the same debilitating decisions then you are still not free.

Making different decisions begins by changing your first response. Much of our lives are actually built on the patterns of behaviour that we begin developing from a very young age. These patterns of behaviour are what will end up guiding our decisions as we grow into adulthood.

Where the Israelites’ first response was to grumble and complain they needed to change their pattern of behaviour and instead of grumble and complain, turn to God for help, for provision and for the fulfilment of their need.

There is a quote that says,

Live less out of habit and more out of intent.

If your habits lead you toward decisions that continue to imprison you, can I encourage you to begin living your life with intent. Nothing left to chance. Mindful of your actions, your decisions, your responses and the habits that are out to trip you up.

If you want to begin making different decisions you need to begin creating some different intentional habits in your life.

I am going to remind you of the very thought I started this post with; we serve a God who wants to set you completely free. Not partial freedom or once in a while freedom – complete freedom!

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

I can remember the days of visiting open homes every weekend when we were looking at buying a house. I can remember this one house we looked at and we both immediately loved it. It was the perfect home for what we were looking for. It was in a great area, had a great back yard. We had it all planned out. We fasted, we prayed, we heard from God and we had started making plans. But come auction day, we didn’t get the house.

We prayed for it, we had faith for it. We fasted. We even got scriptures about it. And still, we didn’t get the house.

Ever been there? Ever been in a place where the outcome you thought was coming, didn’t come? Ever been in the place where the answer you thought was coming, didn’t come? The miracle you thought was coming, didn’t come? The healing you thought was coming, didn’t come. The provision you thought was coming, didn’t come?

What does our faith look like in that place?

You see, many of us were presented with the concept of God when we were very young, at the same time as we were presented with the concept of Santa Claus. As we grew up we matured around our beliefs about Santa Claus but our beliefs about God never evolved. So then when things happen in our world that shake our faith we begin asking adult questions of our childhood God.

For many of us it is really hard to reconcile our current life circumstances with the God that we have been told about growing up. The God we begin believing about in Sunday School is a God who will protect us from bad things, the God who will respond to the fair and selfless requests of those He loves, and the God whose presence will always be felt.

But what happens when bad things actually do happen to good people and when God doesn’t answer our prayer and it feels like He is very far away?

I can remember sitting down the next morning talking to God about the house we missed out on. Feeling disappointed and discouraged. He lead me to this story in Daniel chapter 3. Let me give you a little bit of background before we start reading.

King Nebuchadnezzar had a nine foot golden statue of himself built and placed right in the middle of the land. 90 feet tall, 9 feet wide. He then called all of the officials and leaders and judges and magistrates, and governors and treasurers together. Nebuchadnezzar then made this announcement: Whenever anyone in the land hears the sound of a harp, and horn – any musical instrument they are to bow down to the golden statue. If they refused to bow down they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. At the time of this decree, there were three Jews – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – they loved God and God had shown favour on them and they had been placed in charge of all of the affairs of Babylon. When it came time, at the sound of the music, everyone in the land stopped and bowed down and worshipped the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. All except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Some of the astrologers came and reported this to the King.

We pick up our reading in verse 12:

“…there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up?  I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[f] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3: 12-18

But even if he doesn’t.

They are saying, our God is able to save us! They are also saying that our God will save us. He is both able and willing.

But then there is this famous line, and this is where a lot of people get lost in their faith journey.

God is able, God is willing, but what happens when God doesn’t?

Whats happens when rubber hits the road and your expectation doesn’t line up with your experience?

Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego said, “Even if he doesn’t we will not bow down”. We will not give in, we will not give up!

Even if the answer doesn’t come. Even if God doesn’t do what I want him to do. Even if the miracle doesn’t come as I think it should. Even if the Drs’ report isn’t what I was believing for. Even if my marriage is never restored. Even if my finances still aren’t adding up… I will continue to trust in my God. I will not give in and I will not give up!

Sometimes life requires an Even If faith.

Even If faith. Faith that stands regardless of the outcome. Faith that believes that even if the result wasn’t what you hoped, the best result is still coming.

I don’t know about you but I want some Even If faith today.

Now faith is being sure we will get what we hope for. It is being sure of what we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 (NLV)

What are you believing for that you can’t see yet? Even If faith is living by the assurance that even if I can’t see Him, He is there. Even if I can’t feel Him, He is there. Even If faith is living by the assurance that despite my circumstances, my surroundings and my emotions, I can still trust in Him.

Even If faith says:

1.My circumstances do not alter His character.

We need to know today that the nature of our circumstances do not change who God is.

The nature of your circumstance does not change the nature of God.

It can be so much easier to acknowledge God’s goodness, mercy, love, power, faithfulness and patience in the good times; when the prayers are being answered how you want them to, when there is a miracle around every corner.

What we need to remember during our more difficult seasons is that our circumstances do not change any of those characteristics about God – He is still good, He is still loving, He is still faithful and He is still able!

Even If faith trusts in His character and not in your circumstance.

His character and his nature is not determined by your circumstances – it remains despite it!

2. My worries do not supersede His Word.

In seasons where, for whatever reason, I am neglecting the word of God, I find I worry more, I fear more and my mind is not at rest from trouble.

Philippians 4 tells us to allow Christ to displace worry from the centre of your life.

We can only do this through the Word of God. Even If faith allows the word of God to be our firm foundation.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7: 24- 27 (NLT) 

The word of God lays a foundation – a foundation for moments in life when your house is threatened. Moments where you know that if it weren’t for the solid ROCK beneath your feet, you would be in sinking sand right now.

Don’t build on worry – build on the Word. Don’t build on fear – build on faith!

3. My thoughts do not overthrow His throne.

Sometimes we allow our thinking to rule our response. We allow our thoughts to dictate and have authority over how we live out our circumstances rather than recognising the one who really sits on the throne.

One of our fellow Lead Pastors has the best outlook on life. The motto he lives by, for any difficult season or frustrating moment, regardless of how big or small is, “but Jesus is still on the throne”.

What that statement does is recognise that I may not understand this, I may not like this, I may not know why it is happening – but what I do know is that God is still in charge, He is still sovereign and He is still in control. He still sits on the throne.

When rubber hits the road, when the fire is roaring, what is going to be your response? Will you have a faith that says: Even if I go through the fire I will not bow down, I will not give in, and I will not give up.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo still went into the furnace, they still had to go through the fire. I think if I was God I would have stopped it all before it came to that. But no, in fact, the bible says that Nebuchadnezzar was so furious that he turned the furnace up seven times hotter!

I’d love to be able to tell you that obedience and trust in God will make all of your problems go away but the truth is that when we make a stand for God, it may mean things get hotter!

Let’s find out how this story ends.

Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?” “That’s right, O king,” they said. “But look!” he said. “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!” Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire. All the important people, the government leaders and king’s counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn’t so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them! Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king’s orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own. “Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3: 24 – 30 (The Message)

Jesus was with them. How do we know that?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name; you are mine.
I will be with you
when you pass through the waters,
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not overwhelm you.
You will not be scorched
when you walk through the fire,
and the flame will not burn you.
Isaiah 43: 1-2 (CSB)

We will journey through difficult circumstances but Even If faith trusts in the God who walks with you, who promises to never leave you.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

Do me a favour and watch this before you begin reading this post.

PLINKO!!!!! In a game of Plinko it doesn’t matter where you start the disk. You could start to the left, you could start to the right. You could start in the middle. It doesn’t matter what pathway the disk takes. It always ends up in the same place; at the bottom. Why? Because it is operating under a law of nature: gravity.

Gravity: The force that attracts a person or object toward the center of the earth.

Simply because the law of gravity is at play, the disk that starts up high must end up down low. It can bounce from peg to peg, it can go left and then right, but it will always end up at the bottom.

There is a truth today that I want each of you to take a hold of and understand about the promises of God.  In a similar way to the way the Plinko disk must operate under the laws of nature (gravity). God’s promises must operate under the law of God’s nature.

Check this out:

God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind.
Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19 (CSB)

One of the things we need to know about God’s nature is that he is immutable. Which is a fancy way of saying he is unchanging. Which means that we can trust that when He says something He is not later going to change his mind and not do it.

So, that means that if God has given you a promise, he has set you on a pathway toward His purposes for your life. It doesn’t matter where you start or what circumstances you were born into. It doesn’t matter if the journey doesn’t seem to go the straightforward way. He will, in time, get you to the promise. Because that’s the nature of God.

What is happening right now may not be part of your plan. You may be in a place that seems far off from the promise. You may have hit something along the way; broken marriage, addiction, betrayal, tragedy, discouragement, burnout.

Can I tell you,

If it’s not the promise then it’s not the end.

Joseph was a man with a delayed predestined promise. He was a man with a God given dream. God gave Joseph a dream in which he saw his brothers bowing down to him. It was a promise of leadership and Godly authority.

But while the promise was still in its most infant form he was taken by his brothers and, out of jealousy, he was thrown into a pit and then sold as a slave.

Now Joseph had been taken to Egypt. An Egyptian named Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there.  The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor with his master and became his personal attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under his authority. From the time that he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house because of Joseph. The Lord’s blessing was on all that he owned, in his house and in his fields. He left all that he owned under Joseph’s authority; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Genesis 39: 1 – 6 (CSB)

Here are a few things I have learnt from Joseph:

1. If God puts something on your life, it’s hard to keep it down.

Have you ever spoken to someone who is so passionate about something that it doesn’t matter what conversation you are having, they will find a way of bringing in the topic they are passionate about? I remember watching a dating show once and there was a young man on the show who was very passionate about cheese. It didn’t matter what the conversation was, he would always steer it toward cheese. He just couldn’t help himself!

It’s like that when it comes to the promise of God over your life. It will always have a way of turning up.

The call on Joseph’s life was leadership and it didn’t matter where he was, it didn’t matter what circumstances surrounded him, it didn’t matter how hopeless it all looked, what God put in him He caused to come out of him.

That is why you will find that out of your biggest mess can come your greatest message. It’s not just that the mess draws it out of us (although it does), it is that He predestined it in us and so even in the mess it will outwork itself through us.

Leadership was a promise over Joseph’s life and so it didn’t matter where life took him, leadership would be where he would end up.

There is a promise over your life – it doesn’t matter where life takes you, the promise is where you will end up.

When God speaks a promise over you, He can use any circumstance to fulfil what He predestined for you.

2. It is God who will.

Our story continues and we see Joseph falsely accused and thrown into prison. While Joseph is in prison he is asked by Pharaoh to interpret a dream.

Joseph answers Pharaoh’s request like this: “I am not able to, it is God who will…”

Now consider this moment with me.  Joseph has been given a dream, a promise, but at every turn his situation is going from bad to worse. He was probably wondering if he would ever see the day when all that God had showed him would come to pass. It’s really easy, in a moment when opportunity seems to strike, to try and push or strive to make it happen yourself. He was probably thinking, “this is my moment, this could be my day, I can’t mess it up, I have to make sure I get this right.”

But I love that Joseph acknowledges that if he succeeds, it’s not because of anything he has done, it has to be God who will do it. It has to be God who will open the door. It has to be God who will promote.

Joseph doesn’t push any doors he isn’t supposed to push, he doesn’t strive to grasp hold of something that isn’t his or isn’t in the right timing. He simply trusts that it is God who will.

I don’t know if you have ever felt like you have no idea how you are going to get yourself out of the mess your life is in. Let me remind you, it is not on you, it is God who will.

Don’t try and push for, manufacture, manipulate or strive for what God has already predestined you for, is preparing you for and has paid for.

3. God is with you on the way.

Joseph ends up, with God’s help, interpreting the dream for Pharaoh which lands him the job as Prime-Minister over Egypt. Joseph set up a plan that would see Egypt through a famine.

We are now at the point in the story where we see the return of Joseph’s family (remember the brothers that sold him and faked his death?). During the famine they fell upon hard times and came to Joseph for help, although they did not know it was him. After some time he revealed himself to his brothers.

 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt.  And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting.  God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:4-8 (CSB)

A number of years ago Steve and I were in England. One day we went on an adventure to find Stone Henge. On the way back from our day out, we stopped at a petrol station, but when we went to get back on the motorway we had to enter it via a complicated roundabout and we ended up getting on the motorway heading in the direction we had just come from. The most annoying thing was that it was 30 minutes until we got to another exit where we could turn around and get back on going the right way. That’s an hour of travelling and making no ground. Now, I was navigating and Steve was driving and look, lets be honest, we still blame each other today for getting it wrong. We were both shouting, both panicking and both adamant that the other was to blame!

Often when we find ourselves in unexpected places we try and find someone or something to blame for us being there. We blame the devil, our family, spouse, boss, parents or the person who hurt us. We even blame ourselves.

But Joseph realised something we all need to realise:

It’s not about who put you there, it’s about who’s with you there.

God is with you on the way; through every twist, through every turn, through every detour and reroute, He is with you on the way. Some of us are so busy blaming everyone for where we are in our lives that we have forgotten that God is with us.

At every stage in Joseph’s journey, whether he was in a pit, in shackles or in a prison, one thing was clear : The Lord was with Joseph.

Whether you are going through a divorce, through burnout or through a betrayal; the Lord is with you!!!

 For all of God’s promises find their “yes” of fulfillment in him. And as his “yes” and our “amen” ascend to God, we bring him glory! 2 Corinthians 1:20 (TPT)

If it’s not the promise, it’s not the end.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas.  On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion  because the Lord had given her no children.  So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children.  Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. 1 Samuel 1:1-2 (NLT)

I think it’s safe to say that Hannah had problems right? To be honest I think Elkanah had a problem or two of his own with those two wives but that’s another conversation.

Hannah had problems. She was childless, which in her culture was a big problem to have because children were a sign of God’s blessings toward you. She also had a rival who continually reminded her of everything she didn’t have. She was taunted, provoked and reduced to tears. And just to rub it in, in our very introduction to Hannah, she is defined by her problems. She was not defined by what she had or could do, or by the kind of person she was. She was defined by what she didn’t have and couldn’t do – she was defined by her lack.

Have you ever had a problem? A taunting, provoking problem?

I think we would all agree that on a daily basis we face problems. Rich or poor, good looking or not, short or tall, single or married, qualified or unqualified, employed or unemployed. None of us can escape problems. Even the person who causes you problems has problems. The person who you look at and think “I’d love their life”, guess what? They have problems too. Everybody has problems.

The question I want to ask today is, where do we go with our problems?

What I love in our story is that Elkanah built a particular habit into his family’s way of life. He was the habit of going to Shiloh a certain number of times a year. Shiloh means “place of rest”. Elkanah built such a habit in his family that in Hannah’s time of striving, pain, conflict and turmoil she had somewhere to go – she had somewhere to take her pain, her problems, her turmoil and her brokenness and receive rest and peace.

It is so important that we build the right habits into our lives. Because when our problems threaten us, taunt us and provoke us we will have somewhere to go and take our problems. What habits are you building now that will be your place of peace in the midst of your problems?

Are you building a habit in the Word? Are you building a habit of prayer? Are you building a habit of worship? Are you building a habit of getting to church – even when you don’t feel like it? Are you building a habit of offering? Giving? Sacrifice? Elkanah built a habit.

So what did Hannah do with her problem?

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.  And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” 1 Samuel 1: 9-11 (NLT)

1. Hannah gave her problem purpose.

In fact, Hannah turned her problem into her purpose. Hannah came to God saying, “Lord – I have a problem but I don’t want it to simply remain a problem, I want purpose to be born out of this problem”. From a position of brokenness and desperation Hannah was determined to give birth to purpose in a way that would glorify God!

Your problem serves a purpose.

Often when we have a problem we try and pray it away and we try and get God to take it away instead of realising that perhaps there is a greater purpose at work amidst the problem. Perhaps through the problem God might be trying to produce something in you that would, in time, give glory to him.

What is God trying to birth in you through the problem? What character is he trying to build? What story does he want you to tell? What does he want to teach you about himself?

“Give me a son, and I will give him back to you”. I have a problem, but may it have purpose.

2. Hannah took her problem into the presence.

While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence… 1 Samuel 1: 12 (CSB)

Let’s be honest, we love to talk about our problems right? We talk to our friends, our husbands or partner, our work colleague. We talk to the pastor, the doctor, the naturopath and the receptionist. We talk to our neighbour, the dog, we even tell the Uber driver about the problem but we fail to go to the one who can actually bring peace, rest, purpose and promise to our problem.

We too often take our problems to enablers – because it feels good to have our problems confirmed and justified.

We go to the enablers instead of going to the God who is able.

Hannah didn’t lash back at Peninnah and she didn’t whine to Elkanah. She took her problem and she went into the presence of God and she prayed.

Steven Furtick: “The presence of God will not fix your problems but it will clarify your perspective”.

While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her mouth.  Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk  and said to her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!” “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord.  Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”  Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request you’ve made of him.” “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent. The next morning Elkanah and Hannah got up early to worship before the Lord. Afterward, they returned home to Ramah. Then Elkanah was intimate with his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her.  After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, “I requested him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:12-20 (CSB)

I love that Samuel’s name means “Asked of God”. Designed to continually act as a reminder of God’s favour to her in answering her prayers. Upon every mention of his name – it gives God the glory!

The story goes on to tell us that Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned from her (we can’t be sure at what age but commentaries place him to be at about pre-school age somewhere between two and five). She then takes Samuel back to the place of her desperation and she dedicates him back to the Lord. She gave him back!

 “Please, my lord,” she said, “as surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked him for,  I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he worshiped the Lord there. 1 Samuel 1:26 – 28 (CSB)

It’s one thing to have faith and believe for an answer and receive it. It is another thing to receive what you have been believing for and then let it go again, giving it back to God.

Luke Brough: “The true test of faith is not in the praying, believing and receiving of what you are asking for. The true test of faith is, can you give it back to God?”

You might be asking for a job, but are you willing to tithe? You might be asking for a home, but would you be willing to make a commitment to build God’s house? You might be asking for purpose but will you go wherever God sends you?

So often we make promises in our desperation that we forget about once we have our answer. The question is, when God delivers on his side of the bargain can we honour our commitment? Can we give it all back to God and still have faith and believe that God is good?

The beautiful part about this story is that we know from 1 Samuel 2:21 that God gave Hannah five more children after Samuel. Because you can’t out-give the God of Heaven’s Armies.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

Relationships are hard! 

Wherever and whenever you find yourself, you have to work with, get on with, live with, do church with or co-exist with other people. It is inevitable that you are going to run into some kind of relational conflict.  It’s bound to happen! I have noticed that when it comes to conflict, different people respond and react to it in different ways.  

Here are a few types of people I’ve come across along the way:

Bulldozer Barry – He loves to smash into conflict and will leave a trail of rubble behind him.

Avoider Anne – She will sidestep the problem and avoid engaging in the conflict at all costs. Avoider Ann pretends it never happened or simply just ignores the issue entirely.

Revenger Rosie – Watch out, any conflict is highly personal and will come with pay back.

Passive Aggressive Pete – Snarky comments and bitter undertones are his favourite, he’ll tell you it’s fine, but believe me, it’s not.

Apologetic Ange – Always takes the blame, says sorry over and over, wants to make it all better but doesn’t address the real issues.

Blame Shifter Beth – Puts all the blame on others, it is never her fault. Be careful, if there’s a bus coming, you’re likely to be thrown under it.

Emotional EmmaCries, gets over emotional and any sign of conflict equals a melt down.

The truth is that no matter who you are, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, you will have relational conflict. The challenge is resolving it and dealing with it in a healthy way.

In the book of Proverbs 23:23 Solomon gives us this advice: “Buy truth and do not sell it, buy wisdom, instruction and understanding.”

In all our dealings, these four things are what we should pursue. Truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding.

Truth

In any conflict the goal is to attain truth.  What has happened? Why has it happened? How can we see this for what it is and be better for it? TRUTH. Truth is what we want to get a hold of. We have to buy it, it will cost us something if we want to possess the truth. Go after it and do not let go of it.

In order to get to truth we need to also pursue the other three things mentioned in this scripture.

Wisdom

You’ve probably noticed that young people are prone to doing dumb stuff.  To be honest, I’m surprised that I lived to see my 25th birthday.  I did so many dumb things when I was younger. Things that I would never do now that I’m a little older and a little wiser.

The reason young people do dumb things is because they haven’t gained wisdom yet, because gaining wisdom takes time! In order to resolve conflict, you are going to have to be willing to invest time to figure out what’s going on.

Wisdom is about trying to remove the emotion.  Wisdom doesn’t have emotion. Wisdom speaks slow. It is not in a rush.

In the book of James, he instructs us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.  That’s wisdom.

There has never been a moment where I have sent a quick email in a moment of frustration or anger and it worked out well.  Never.  It always goes badly. I regret it every time and it doesn’t achieve anything. 

Slow down, take time to process.

In our marriage, Becs and I have spent countless late nights sitting up talking until two and three in the morning trying to sort out an issue or a conflict.  Why? Because wisdom takes time.  It’s not often resolved quickly, sometimes you have to invest the time to gain wisdom.

Wisdom is also about going to the right place for advice.  For many of us our default place of advice and processing are places of gossip, not wisdom.

The bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom!  Wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord.  If I want wisdom on a situation, I need to go to someone who fears God!

Instruction

I hate following instructions.  I hate it with a passion.  I don’t like flat pack furniture, there are too many instructions.  I don’t like following recipes to make dinner, again…instructions. Let me be free from the tyranny of your rules Mr Instruction Manual!

Dealing with conflict requires a lot of grace and even more humility. Many conflicts don’t get resolved because we can’t take instruction.  We believe that all the blame lies with the other person and none with us.

Seeking instruction involves a willingness to put your need to be right aside and accept that in every relational conflict, you had a part to play in it.  Even if you don’t see it or agree with it!

If you want to be able to deal with conflict then you will need to be ok with correction.

Always be teachable, always be correctable, always seek instruction. Own your bit. Say sorry. 

Understanding

Don’t insist on being right.  You don’t have to be right.  In fact, if you need to be right then, relationally, something will always be wrong. The goal is not necessarily to discover who is right or wrong, the goal is understanding.

If there is a winner and a loser then there will be two losers. 

When facing a conflict, here is my advice: Seek first to understand, then to be understood!

I hope that something of what I have shared gives you some tools to grow and further develop healthy relationships – even in the more difficult seasons!

Steve.

The stretch zone. A place we so often find ourselves. Stretched to the max and yet called to stretch some more. In Part One we looked at a story in 1 Kings about a widow who had nothing left to give and was asked of God to keep on giving. Her act of giving despite her limitations saw a miracle in her life she never expected. God supernaturally supplied her every need.

Today we will look at the second woman who found herself not just in the stretch zone but inviting the stretch in. We find our story in 2 Kings 4.

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat. She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God.  Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.” One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest.  He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared,  Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’” “No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”  Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?” Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.” “Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!” “No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.” But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said. 2 Kings 4: 8-17

What strikes me about this women is that she went after the stretch. She invited it into her world. She knew that she needed to make some room for God to move. She knew that the man of God, would bring something of God into her life so she literally made a room for him – she stretched to allow God room to do whatever He needed to do.

What did this woman know that we need to know today?

There is enlargement in the stretch.

“Don’t get comfortable in the space you are in, the space you are in does not have enough room to do what God wants to do”. Christine Caine

Sometimes we are believing for God to do something in our lives. We want Him to bring breakthrough. We want to see miracles. We want Him to change us and be active in our lives. Yet we haven’t got space for Him to come and if He were to come we wouldn’t have space for Him to bring the growth He has for us.

You see, whenever God is present and working and moving He will bring change and growth to us. Not only does the stretch make room for Him to come and bring the supply but it is also about making room for the growth that it will bring.

We need to make some room, we need to grow something on the inside of us, enlarge ourselves, so that there is room for God to bring the miracle, breakthrough and growth that He has for each one of us.

This woman made room for God and she made room for growth.

God can’t bring growth to your gifting and talent, when your character is too small to house it.

God can’t bring growth to character when the vessel is too small to contain it.

It is in the stretch zone that God is building in you the capacity to hold all that He has for you.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

It is in the stretch that we are tested. Through the testing we build the character that is needed for the growth that God wants to bring to you.

I said this in the first post:

The stretch zone will build character in you that the comfort zone never could.

I can tell you now that if we had been asked to lead our church 8 years ago we would not have been able to do it. We would not have had the experience, the character building, the growth, the tough lessons, the tests that we have faced throughout our journey. Those experiences have given us what we now need to do what God is asking us to do, to carry what He is asking us to carry. As I have grown in my faith I have become more and more thankful that God’s timing is not aligned with mine. I am so grateful that He did not answer all of my prayers when I asked him to. If He had, I definitely wouldn’t have been ready.

God first needs to send us from our comfort zone into the stretch zone, where we can grow and become bigger on the inside. A God enlargement that prepares us for a future assignment.

Both of the women in our stories stretched, both received growth, both saw a miracle (one of supply/provision, one of multiplication/a son) but that wasn’t the end of the stretch.

Both had no idea that God was actually enlarging them, stretching them and preparing them for an even greater miracle. A miracle that would require an even bigger stretch. This is the bit I’ve been bursting to tell you!!!

You see, both of these women had sons who suddenly became very ill and died. Both sons were taken to an upstairs room and both were prayed for by a man of God. Elijah in our first story, and Elisha in our second. Both boys were raised to life.

You see so often we limit God to what He does in our immediate circumstance, and if we don’t see results immediately we write Him off as an absent, detached God. But God is more interested in the process than the problem. He is more invested in your character than your comfort.

Where are you feeling stretched? Remember, the stretch that you are experiencing right now will not just bring supply and enlargement for your today, it is growing and developing an even greater miracle in your tomorrow.

God is building in you a capacity to hold all that He has for you.

Now go out there and live like you believe it.

I have never really enjoyed being pregnant. I think God might have missed me when he sprinkled that pregnancy glow on at the three month mark. I’ve heard about it but didn’t experience it.

The problem with pregnancy is that you get fatter (we are going to new levels of revelation today). You grow. Your stomach grows and grows. You get to a stage about four weeks out from your due date where you are feeling as big as a house and you actually feel like you could not get any bigger. You are sure that if you got any bigger you would burst. Your skin feels so thin that the little alien baby inside you is sure to break through that skin. Then there are all of those lovely, well meaning people who tell you that your baby will do nothing but grow in these last few weeks and he is only going to get bigger and bigger. Great! That is just what I want to hear. Surely my skin can’t stretch any further. But miraculously, it does!!!

It will stretch and more growth will come.

Many of us can relate to that feeling in our lives I am sure. That feeling of being stretched to capacity – you feel like you couldn’t do anymore, take anymore, give anymore, reach anymore, stretch anymore!

Maybe you are facing an opportunity that seems scary or daunting – it’s going to take some stretch. Perhaps you are praying for something and it’s not happening as quickly or as easily as you had hoped – its going to take some stretch in your prayer life.

What you are facing could be causing a testing of your faith – it’s going to require some stretch. There are times when an area of our character is being tested; patience, endurance, trust. It is demanding more stretch from you.

Whether you are mid-stretch, full stretch or you are avoiding the stretch altogether, know this; it is uncomfortable, it’s not easy, it will be difficult, it might be painful and it will require more stretch from you. But here is what we need to keep in mind:

In the stretch zone you learn things that the comfort zone can’t teach you.

For the next two posts I am going to take a look at two women in the old testament whose stories run parallel and find common ground along the way.

We will start with the first woman in 1 Kings 17.

To set up our story, we need to know that at this time God had spoken to the prophet Elijah. Elijah prophecies that for the next few years there will be no rain and no crops will grow.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.” But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. 1 Kings 17: 8-16

Here is a woman who is stretched. She is stretched to her limit and then this man of God comes along and asks her to stretch some more. She is stretched with her provisions, she is saying “I have nothing left, this is all I have to give and you are asking me to give more? I can’t do what you are asking me to do”.

One thing we need to know in the stretching seasons:

There is supply in the stretch.

Her moment of stretch, a difficult and uncomfortable time, became an opportunity for God to bring a miracle into her world.

Her miracle came when she stretched. God supplied her need.

When you choose to allow God to stretch you, when you choose to step out of your comfort zone and start living in the stretch zone, it brings opportunity for God’s miracle working power to be present in your life.

In the comfort zone it’s easy. You know what to do in the comfort zone. You know how to respond in the comfort zone. You have all you need in the comfort zone.

The stretch zone however, requires more from us than we feel we have to give. The stretch zone brings us to a place of realising we can’t do it on our own. The stretch zone is where our competencies end and God’s provision begins.

It is when we step into the stretch zone that we need His strength, His power, His authority and His presence in our lives. There is supply in the stretch.

In the stretch he supplies not just for our needs, He also supplies strength when we think we can’t keep going. He supplies his power when we feel like we are facing the impossible. He supplies his presence when we feel alone, hopeless and fearful.

When Steve and I were pastoring the church in Whangarei we were living in the stretch zone. We were leading the church through a difficult season. There were issues that were bigger than us. Let’s be honest, we had no idea what we were doing. There were so many meetings that Steve and I would go into and before going we would pray, “God, you had better turn up because if you don’t we are all in trouble!” I can honestly say that in every meeting God provided. He provided wisdom, he provided words, he provided strategy. I remember sitting in awe so many times as I listened to the words coming out of my husband’s mouth. I would often say to him after the meeting, “Where did you get that? How did you know to say that?” The answer was always the same, “I have no idea, the words just came, it was as if I was listening to someone else’s words coming out of my mouth.” In our stretch He supplied just what we needed for just the right moment.

What stretching season are you facing today? Are you feeling completely out of your comfort zone? What is it that you need from God? Maybe it is time to let go, and let God provide.

Stop striving to achieve in your own strength what God has already secured for you through His Son.

Rest, comfort, peace, provision, love, wisdom, grace, freedom, acceptance. These are already yours through Christ.

Now go out there and live like you believe it.

Next week I will be introducing you to the second woman. This woman didn’t just experience the stretch, she invited it! I am also going to throw in a killer conclusion – it’s the best ending, I promise.

I have just joined a gym. For those of you who know me, I will just give you a moment to overcome the shock of that announcement. I know! I can’t believe it myself. The gym is not usually where you would find me and it certainly isn’t where I am most comfortable.

I have joined one of those gyms with a gazillion classes. At the moment I am trying them all. So far every class I have been to has been my first time attending. There is something incredibly daunting about walking into a gym class for the first time. Your mind races with questions; am I wearing the right thing? Did I bring the right equipment? Am I in the right class? Will I be able to keep up? Will I look like a complete idiot? And most importantly, where can I hide?

I have been in more than one class that has made me question my presence in the room. I have laid on a yoga mat trying to flex and bend and twist like the lady on the stage and wondered if I should just cut and run now before they notice I even turned up. I look around at some of the others in the room, they look like they know exactly what they are doing. I wonder if anyone else can tell I am completely out of my depth?

It’s that feeling of inadequacy right? Like you don’t belong in the room. That feeling of “I don’t think I have the thing that I think I am supposed to have and that it looks like everyone else has”.

There is someone in the bible that I want us to look at who I think felt that same pang of inadequacy at the task he faced. His name is Moses.

Moses was born into a Jewish family at a time in history when all the Jewish baby boys were being wiped out. So, to protect him, his mother hid him in some reeds along the river and he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised in Pharaoh’s household as an Egyptian Prince. But God would have it that his real Mother would be his nursemaid. So you could say that his life started out a little complicated.

As an adult, he ends up murdering a man – his way of getting justice for a wrong he witnessed. He then flees to Midian where he settles, marries and becomes a shepherd. At this point I would imagine that he was thinking he had left his complicated and dysfunctional past behind…that is until a talking burning bush shows up!

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not come closer,” he said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.  So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3: 4 – 11 (CSB)

“Who am I?” I would put money on it that in that moment, Moses turned around to see if there was someone else standing behind him. Like surely that bush is talking to someone else!

Moses is having the same feeling I have every time I have to get up on a stage to speak. That same feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and have to stumble your way through another day raising your kids. That same feeling you have when you look at the situation at work that seems impossible to fix.

Ever felt like Moses?

When you are standing in front of the burning bush hoping that God is speaking to someone else, there are a few things I think you need to know!

1. God is not like us.

Moses says: “But who am I?” God’s reply? “I AM.”

God goes on to tell Moses that he will be with him. He tells him about the promise and the land flowing with milk and honey and the miracles and how he is going to set them free. God is saying to Moses, “I know you don’t have what it takes, but I do, because I am not like you”.

When we see inadequacies, God only sees opportunities for miracles.

God is not like us. He sees, thinks and behaves differently. We have limited perspective but He sees the beginning from the end.

We are limited to the here and the now but He holds eternity in His hands.

2. God is for us.

God’s promise to Moses when He says, “ I will certainly be with you”, is the very same promise He has for you and me.

Even after the snake trick, Moses still goes back to God and says, “But I don’t speak well, I am not eloquent in my speech and I stutter my words”. So, God allows Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece and speak on his behalf.

I think that Moses could have done what God was asking of him with or without Aaron. I don’t think Moses needed Aaron like he thought he did. God was big enough to overcome any speech impediment. But it was by God’s grace and mercy that he gave Aaron to Moses. God knew Moses didn’t need Aaron, but he allowed him to have him anyway.

Because that’s the kind of God he is. He is gracious and loving. He is filled with mercy and he is for us. He is constantly at work behind the scenes setting things up and working for us to get us to where he knows we need to be.

Eight years ago Steve and I moved to Whangarei. When we first moved we didn’t know anybody. In the first few months I went through a pretty lonely season. I missed my friends. The friends that knew me before I became their Pastor. Well about a month after we moved Steve got a call from an old friend to say they were moving up to Whangarei. I don’t know what I would have done without them during that time.

Now I know that God knew that we would have and could have done it, with or without friends. But at the time, friendship was what I desperately wanted. I think it was his grace and mercy over us that he gave us just what we thought we needed to help us through.

God knows what you need, but he also knows your heart’s desire. He is so for you that He will work behind the scenes to graciously set you up for a win.

3. God works progressively and incrementally.

Steve and I traveled to the United States last year. We started our trip in Alabama and then we needed to head to New York as we were speaking at a friend’s church on the Sunday. So, we arrive at the airport in Alabama for our 11am flight out to NY only to be told that we had missed our flight. Our flight time had been changed and we were not notified. The airline re-booked us on a flight through Dallas to NY. We get on the flight and land in Dallas only to find that our flight to New York has been cancelled. Stuck in a crowed airport surrounded by hundreds of angry New Yorkers trying to get home, we stand in line for hours to re-book our flight for the following day, which now has to go through Colorado to finally have us land in NY 24 hours behind schedule!

In every city with every flight I sat there thinking to myself – “I don’t want to be in Dallas, I don’t want to be in Colorado. Where I want to be is in New York.”

The thing about travel and about getting to a destination is that it doesn’t matter how much I want to be in NY. The only way I can get there is by going through Colorado. I may not want to be in Colorado but if I want to get to NY – then to Colorado I must go.

Listen, there are some things that seem hard or frustrating, and we may not want to go through the hard and the frustrating. But the problem with a God who works progressively and incrementally is that he doesn’t care where you want to be, He takes you where He needs to take you to get you where you need to be.

At each step and stage God incrementally and progressively grows us, tests us, refines us, draws things out of us.

Leading the Israelites out of Egypt was only the beginning for Moses. But it was the first step on a journey of growth that would see him become one of Israel’s greatest leaders.

God has the ability and the willingness to take something ordinary and use it for the extraordinary.

Even if all you have is a stick.

When Moses returned to Egypt to follow God’s will, Exodus 4:20 says this:

“So Moses took his wife and Sons; put them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took God’s staff in his hand. Exodus 4:20 (CSB)

I love that what was Moses’ became God’s when he finally surrendered it to the will of God. And that right there is the secret to it all.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

Have you noticed that when you go to a theme park they have conditions to some of the rides? There are certain qualities or lack there of, that you must ‘possess’ in order to be able to get on that ride. For example, pregnant women can’t go on most rides, people with heart problems or severe back issues can’t go on the rides. The major one you will be most familiar with though is height. For all major rides and rollercoasters you need to be a certain height in order to qualify to ride. The measuring stick stands at the entrance of every ride and if you don’t measure up, you don’t go in – no questions asked!!!

Some of you won’t know what it feels like to be on the shorter side of life, but if you do know then you will also know that Rainbows End (New Zealand’s only theme park) is not a place ‘Where The Fun Never Ends’ – because you don’t get to go on the rides of endless fun when you just don’t measure up. Disneyland is not ‘The Happiest Place on Earth‘ or the place where dreams come true because your dreams are crushed when you step up to that measuring stick and you don’t quite meet the mark!

For most of us the truth is that we spend a lot of our time wandering, not through a theme park, but through our very own lives, feeling like we don’t quite measure up. There can be this constant feeling that we are not quite hitting the mark, we are not achieving the standard, not meeting others or our own expectations. Ever felt like that?

There is a man in the bible named Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was a man full of inadequacy. His story is found in 2 Samuel 9 where King David is looking for someone from the family of his good friend Jonathan that he can show kindness to. He finds Mephibosheth who was left crippled in his feet after being dropped by his nursemaid as a baby.D

We know that Mephibosheth was living in the house of Machir, son of Ammiel. He didn’t have a house of his own. In fact, the man whose house he was living in wasn’t even a relative, he was the chief of a tribe in service to both Saul and David. From this we can learn that he has a low station in life, much lower than you would think for a man whose grandfather used to be the king.

Then King David sent word and had him brought from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David and fell face down and lay himself down [in respect]. David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he answered, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not be afraid, for I will certainly show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall always eat at my table.” Again Mephibosheth lay himself face down and said, “What is your servant, that you would be concerned for a dead dog like me?” 2 Samuel 9:5-8 (AMP)

Mephibosheth believed himself to be so low in station that he describes himself as a dead dog. He gets low, face down to the ground and begins to reveal by his own confession his feelings of worthlessness and insignificance.

What is he saying? He’s saying, “I don’t measure up, I don’t hit the mark, I’m inadequate to be standing in front of you, let alone eating at your table”. He took out his measuring stick and he said, I don’t measure up, I can’t possibly sit there, I can’t possible partake in that meal. I am not good enough, I come with limitations, I have got frailties and inadequacies.

But I love the King’s response;

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and to all his house (family). You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce, so that your master’s grandson may have food to eat; but Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do according to everything that my lord the king commands.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house were servants to Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he always ate at the king’s table. And he was lame in both feet. 2 Samuel 9:9-13 (AMP)

This story paints for us a beautiful picture of the power of the King’s table to cover our inadequacies. Beneath the table he was still lame. These verses make that very clear – he always ate at the King’s table and he was lame in both feet (verse 13). He was inadequate, he missed the mark. But as he sat at the King’s table, the table covered all of that and he could sit there looking just like everyone else. Just as David’s kingly table covered Mephibosheth’s inequities, so God’s grace covers yours.

I believe that if we would allow ourselves to reposition where we do life, parenting and just plain ‘human-ing’ from, we could go from the measuring stick to the King’s Table.

Your limitation does not disqualify you, it simply qualifies you for His grace.

It gives you a seat at His table.

3 Things you need to know:

1. His Grace crowns us.

By His grace we are daughters of the King. He crowns us – and our identity (who we are) is found in that crown.

We don’t need to measure up, we simply need to crown up!

“It is only when you know whose you are, that you know who you are”. Lisa Bevere

“We must answer our inadequacy from our place of identity.” Charlotte Gambill

So when your inadequacy, your mistakes or your weaknesses try to tell you, “you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, or worthy enough”, answer them from your place of identity in Christ; “I am the daughter of a king, adopted into his family through Christ, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am worth far more than rubies.”

Some of you need to hear this today: Don’t let your limitations define you. Let your limitless God define you.

2. His grace calls us.

I get the feeling Mephibosheth would have had pretty low expectations for his future before that powerful invitation. His disability would have, by culture’s standards, sat him out of the race. He was of no standing in society that benefited him enough to live in his own home – he lived off the charity of someone else. He was the last of his family and his family land and inheritances were, at that time, all taken from him. These set backs all meant something pretty significant in the day and culture of his time.

Some commentaries even say that prior to this invitation he would have been hiding from David, afraid that David would come after him perceiving him a threat to his throne because of his claim through his Father (Jonathan) and Grandfather (Saul).

Culture hid him but grace called him. 

The funny thing is that the very reason he hid was the very reason his was called. His family connection was the reason he was called upon to sit at the royal table.

He wasn’t called because of anything he did or didn’t do. He wasn’t called because he had done something to earn his place at the table. He certainly didn’t work his way into that position of honour.

Some of you need to understand today that you are not called by worth you are called by birth.

His grace doesn’t call you because you have it all together and you are fully competent and can do all of the right things. God simply calls you because of the family name you receive when you are born again in him.

3. His grace carries us.

The beautiful thing about grace is that if grace calls you, it will carry you.

Remember the passage of scripture that underpins More Than?

but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My loving kindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (AMP)

In your situation, parenting, job, marriage, health, finance…

His grace is sufficient – it’s enough – it’s all you need. It will carry you!

If He has called you to it, He will carry you through it.

I did an interesting exercise a few weeks ago when I was doing my research for this piece of writing. I looked up the word inadequate in the Thesaurus. I looked up the antonyms and the synonyms. And what I found was just beautiful – who knew that God could speak His word through a thesaurus!

When I looked at the list of antonyms (those are the words that carry the opposite meaning to the word – in our case – the word ‘inadequate’). This was the very list I found:

ABLE

ABUNDANT

ENOUGH

FINISHED

FULL

PERFECT

STRONG

SUFFICIENT

Every one of those words has been made possible for you through Christ.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it!

You are doing a great job!

That is all good in theory isn’t it? It’s easy for me to say right? It’s easy for me to say when I don’t know what really goes on behind the closed doors of your house. It’s easy for me to say when your head hits the pillow every night wondering if what you did or didn’t do today has messed your kid up.

I can’t help but think that maybe all of us feel that way. Maybe every mother doubts herself. Maybe every mother has no idea what she is doing and is just trying to get through each day without screwing it up too badly! I know I often feel like that.

I also can’t help but recognise that that kind of life is tiring. It’s tiring to continually doubt, continually question and continually strive.

Do you know the biggest lesson I think every mother needs to learn?

Rest.

That word feels like a bit of a swear word at times but let me explain how I came to discover the principle of rest.

It was a lesson I didn’t want and I certainly didn’t think I needed. I went into this lesson kicking and screaming.

You see, I am one of those people who thrives on pressure. I like having a full schedule and running from one thing to the next. I learnt how to multitask and have lots of plates spinning at the same time – it was my normal. I didn’t need rest.

When I had my two babies I didn’t even really stop to take maternity leave. I had my 12 weeks at home but while I was at home, I kept working. I ran a women’s conference when my youngest, Rocky, was 6 weeks old (I look back now and think I must have been crazy!!!) But it didn’t bother me. I just did what I knew, what I had always done.

Mentally I was charging, but my physical body told a different story.

My body had simply never recovered from pregnancy and child birth. As a result I ended up with a chronic infection that I couldn’t get rid of for five years. I went to a naturopath, doctors, specialists. I was on medication, supplements and diet restrictions.

I got to the point where I was tired. Really tired. All the time, eyes burning, brain foggy, can’t-sleep-it-off kind of tired.

My “high-capacity” thinking was telling me I was coping but my body was screaming at me for rest.

I didn’t need more medication or a magic pill. I didn’t need a new fad diet or a different supplement – I needed REST.

I’m not sure if you have ever reached the point of exhaustion before. But to me it felt like I was pouring water into a bucket filled with holes. I was busy working hard to fill my bucket but whenever the time came to give out to those around me I came up empty. I simply had nothing left to give.

And so I began my season of forced rest. Here is what I came to understand:

From a Sabbath Day to a Sabbath Life

In Leviticus God spends lots of time teaching Moses and the Israelites what type of people they will be. He wants to set them apart and make them into a new nation. So he sets them up with some particular instructions about how they are to live. One of the things he considered to be of utmost importance was what they called Holy Days. These were the days they were to keep sacred.

“This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month you are to practice self-denial and do no work, both the native and the alien who resides among you. Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial; it is a permanent statute. The priest who is anointed and ordained[e to serve as high priest in place of his father will make atonement. He will put on the linen garments, the holy garments, and make atonement for the most holy place. He will make atonement for the tent of meeting and the altar and will make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly. This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement for the Israelites once a year because of all their sins.” Leviticus 16: 29 – 34 (CSB)

So let’s take a note of what is happening here. On the day when a Priest has to bring atonement for the sins of the people, God is saying to Israel – you need to stop working. It’s important that we recognise here the relationship between resting from work and atonement.

Let’s now head across to the new testament where Hebrews speaks about the idea that Jesus is now our High Priest.

 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but[bto bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9: 24-28 (CSB)

Let’s just recap for a second, because if you are going to truly get rest you need to understand this truth.

Jesus is now our high priest – he makes atonement for us. And his atonement did what the day of atonement could not do. Jesus made a permanent atonement – ONCE, FOR ALL.

Which means that the permanent statute God instituted for his people about resting from their own work on that day of atonement has been replaced by a new permanent statute.

Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. Hebrews 4: 9-10 (CSB)

Are you getting this? We go from a sabbath day (resting from all work on a day of atonement), to a sabbath life (resting from all striving to receive the great gift of atonement).

Rest means to cease from our own work and celebrate his finished work.

Soul Living to Spirit Leading

In Leviticus it also tells us that rest/Sabbath looks like a “practice of self-denial”. When I looked that up I found that in other translations it includes the phrase: “Afflict your soul”. Well what on earth does that mean?

When we are speaking about your soul we are speaking about your mind, will, and emotions. It’s the “self” part of you. Your appetites and your passions.

Now the problem with our soul is that it causes us to be driven by these very things – we can too often be driven by our own emotions, ambitions, our will and our appetite. And that will always lead us to a place of striving. Driven by appetite and ambition.

But a true rest (or honouring of the sabbath) means to afflict you soul. Which means to oppress, deny, fast or humble those parts of your being. It means that we are no longer soul driven. We are not driven by our own desires and appetites.

True rest means allowing ourselves to be led by the spirit, not driven by the soul.

It means we transition from soul living to spirit living.

Soul living is led by me and it never achieves what the appetite of the soul wants it to achieve. Soul living is exhausting and weary.

Spirit living is led by the spirit and it is at rest from working, achieving, striving. It doesn’t attempt to achieve anything through it’s own strength and it’s own might.

Spirit living severs the connection between what I do and who I am.

Spirit living knows that who I am is connected more with who He is and His finished work on the cross.

Here is what I have discovered: If we want to be Spirit led we need more time in his word and more time in his presence. Our spirit needs to be given a louder voice than our soul.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

Before you go! Let’s talk practicalities.

Here are some questions I think would benefit you to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have a Sabbath? A day when I don’t do anything that feels like work. (By the way, you need one of these weekly. )
  2. What am I doing currently that is draining me? (Putting holes in my bucket). It could be things outside of my gifting or just something/someone asking more of me that I have to give.
  3. What am I not currently doing that fills me?
  4. Do I have margin – room to breathe, room for the unexpected? Or am I living so close to the edge that anything could send me over?
  5. What do I need to ensure I am doing regularly to keep my margin plentiful?
    • set an earlier bedtime?
    • limit screen time, especially before bed?
    • Time alone/time for you?
    • Time having fun/relaxing/laughing/enjoying?
    • Time with God?
    • Time in the fresh air?
  6. Here is a big one: What am I currently saying yes to that I should be saying no to? Remember every time I say yes to one thing I am saying no to something else.

Come with me as I tell you a somewhat cautionary tale of wars and battles, victories and defeats, love and loss. This is the tale of a once-great king named Saul.

Saul was anointed as the first ever King over Israel. Prior to this Israel was led by a leader, a priest or a judge who would hear from God and then speak to the people – God was their King. But Israel complained to God and asked Him for an earthly King and so Saul was chosen and anointed to be Israel’s very first King.

What a call!!! What a purpose. This is huge. And by all appearances he was the best man for the job.

There was a prominent man of Benjamin named Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, son of a Benjaminite.  He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man. There was no one more impressive among the Israelites than he. He stood a head taller than anyone else. 1 Samuel 9:1-2 (CSB)

Sounds like the perfect choice for a King right?

Saul’s legacy could have been that of a great King!

But it wasn’t, he isn’t remembered that way. Instead, Saul is remembered for his anger, jealousy, irrational thinking, paranoia and overreaction.

After Saul became King he won battle after battle. He fought bravely and lead armies to victories. Then in walks David, who as a young boy has been anointed as the next King of Israel. God’s choice to lead his people. Saul likes David so he invites him into his household. David became successful in everything he put his hand to.

David marched out with the army and was successful in everything Saul sent him to do. Saul put him in command of the fighting men, which pleased all the people and Saul’s servants as well. As the troops were coming back, when David was returning from killing the Philistine, the women came out from all the cities of Israel to meet King Saul, singing and dancing with tambourines, with shouts of joy, and with three-stringed instruments. As they danced, the women sang: Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands. Saul was furious and resented this song. “They credited tens of thousands to David,” he complained, “but they only credited me with thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul watched David jealously from that day forward.1 Samuel 18: 5 -9 (CSB)

So this begins Saul’s downward spiral. Jealousy and paranoia lead him on a chase for David’s blood. Saul attempts to take David’s life numerous times. He is consumed by it and it becomes his undoing.

Saul looked all together on the outside but on the inside, he was broken.

So, what was Saul’s brokenness? Lets go back to when we first met Saul in 1 Samuel 9.

We first meet Saul not long before the prophet Samuel anoints him as Israel’s King. When Samuel tells him what is about to happen listen to Saul’s response.

 Saul responded, “Am I not a Benjaminite from the smallest of Israel’s tribes and isn’t my clan the least important of all the clans of the Benjaminite tribe? So why have you said something like this to me?”1 Samuel 9: 21 (CSB)

The next day Samuel anoints him as King.

Right here in Saul’s own words we see the root of all the jealousy, all the anger, all the pride, all the ambition.

We see that Saul is riddled with insecurity.

“Am I not…” “But I’m only…” “The smallest tribe…” “The least important.”

God saw something in Saul that Saul didn’t see in himself.

And so, Saul answered the call of God with inadequacy – he did not think he was capable of doing what God was asking him to do.

How often do you feel like that? I know I have. Let’s be honest – I still do!

I have learnt that the issues that we struggle with in our early days often present themselves when we step into leadership.

I recently watched some YouTube clips of an hydraulic press squashing a bunch of different items (don’t ask me how I found myself down that YouTube rabbit-hole!). From vaseline, and coke bottles, to toys, perfume, and fruit. It didn’t matter what it was, the outcome was the same. When squashed, what was inside, came out.

The same principle is true for you and I, if you come under pressure, what is in you will come out of you. When placed under pressure Saul’s insecurity and inadequacy began to show.

Saul was riddled with insecurity. Not unlike many of us.

So, what does insecurity look like?

1.  Insecurity is threatened by others’ success.

Saul was not able to celebrate in David’s successes because he was not secure in his own call.

I remember after I finished my teaching degree and was applying for jobs. I sent out and applied for about 15 different positions and got declined every single time. Just as I was giving up hope, my good friend who had gone through the whole of uni with me, called me to tell me the good news – she had received a job offer! So you can imagine my response? “Congratulations! I’m sooooo happy for you. Whaaahooo.” Can you detect there may have been some jealousy and sarcasm in my tone that day? Come on, we all do it. Right?!?

You are waiting for your miracle, your promotion, your answer. In the mean time everyone else is getting theirs.

Insecurity will always try to tell you that someone else’s promotion equals a subtraction from yours.

The truth (that Saul missed) is that David’s military success only added strength to Saul’s position in the kingdom.

2. Insecurity struggles to trust.

There is this crazy moment in 1 Samuel 24 where David and his men are on the run from Saul and they are hiding in a cave. Saul just happens to come into the cave to go to the bathroom without realising that his self-made enemy is hiding in the recesses of that very same cave. While sparing his life, David sneaks up and cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe. Saul had no idea that David was even there. Later David goes to Saul and shows him the fabric and says, “I had the opportunity to kill you but I didn’t because I am still loyal to you.” (Paraphrased)

Even after David’s show of loyalty, Saul still doesn’t trust him and pursues David once again.

Insecurity struggles to trust because it sees everyone as rivals and adversaries.

3. Insecurity fights for position.

Insecurity says, I have to fight to get my place and I have fight to keep my place. Insecurity says, I have to look out for me because no one else is going to. Insecurity says, it’s me against the world.

Insecurity fails to see that you aren’t in your spot because of anything you have done – you are there but by the grace of God. And if it is by the grace of God then you don’t need to fight for it because nothing you do can get it in the first place.

Just like God called and anointed Saul – God has called you and anointed you!

For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (AMP)

We need to understand this truth:

The key to seeing that purpose and promise play out is not in your potential, it’s not in your gifting, it isn’t in your ability, or your talent – it is your wholeness.

We have to understand that the enemy will do everything to keep our brokenness dormant so that he can avoid us becoming delivered from it.

God’s plan for your life is too important for you to get trapped in insecurity. Lets be people who are willing to fight this battle well.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

I have separated this post into two parts as there is just too much to talk about. Part two coming very soon, including some tips on overcoming insecurity.

Before there was Sunday, there was Friday.

Do you remember what it was like growing up as a child in those pre and early school years? For most children life starts out pretty optimistic. They have a positive view of the world. Kids are full of hope and big dreams. They are going to be a princess or a superhero, a professional football player or a policeman! They walk around most of the time, believing that “everyone loves me and anything is possible!”. And why wouldn’t they?

Our eldest son, Judah, has always been super optimistic about the world around him. He sees the best in everything and everyone. He lived, for most of his early years, in his imagination. He believed he had laser eyes and could fly – like he really believed he could!

With that in mind, Judah loved the Narnia movies. After watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe we had to have many sword fights where the loser would be brought back to life by using the “Healing Cordial” that Lucy gets given by Father Christmas. Just a little drop and away we go! The fight continues.

Well, one day, when I was hugely pregnant with our second boy, Rocky, we discovered a mouse in our house. Now this mouse used to give me nightmares and Steve was instructed to get rid of it any which way he could. But we just could not catch this mouse. So we had to resort to the tried and true snap and trap, old school mouse trap. Well it only took a day or two and Steve entered the garage to see poor little mousy was no more. However, before he could close the garage door and discretely dispose of him, Judah walks in behind him to see the mouse.

You should have seen the look on his face. Then with child-like faith he says, “But we will just give him healing cordial aye?” And there it was, the conversation we knew we would one day have to have. The one where we explain to him that healing cordial wasn’t going to work this time.

Let’s be honest, we all face moments like this.

It’s as though we have gone round the back of Disneyland and seen Mickey with his head off, having an argument with Donald.

It’s the moments in life that threatened to rock our faith. It’s the moments when our childhood faith is tested by real life adult happenings. It’s the moments when we begin to question things, when we no longer have all the answers and uncertainty creeps in.

It’s those moments where we feel like giving up, like we are just not sure how we are going to get through. We don’t see the light at the end and right now the pain we feel seems like too much to bear.

Have you ever had those kinds of moments? When you literally shake your fist at the heavens and scream “WHY? WHY GOD WHY?”

On Good Friday I am often drawn to think about the disciples. Because I think that Friday would have been one of those moments for them.

I think that even though he told them this would happen and even though they knew the prophesies, I don’t think anything could have prepared them for their loss.

He was their Saviour, He was their Healer, their Redeemer, their Leader, their Teacher. He was their friend. And on that Friday their pain, discouragement, disappointment and grief would have been overwhelming.

And then they faced Saturday, where I am sure all of their doubts and all of their questions and all of their uncertainties would have been surfacing and wrestling for attention.

On that Saturday, they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight that we have today. We have read the end of the story, we know the punchline, we know that in two days, Sunday is coming.

But sometimes, the Fridays and the Saturdays in our lives can become so all consuming and so overwhelming that Sunday just seems too far off.

And so the question is, where is God in my Friday or my Saturday?

Three things I hope will be helpful to you:

1. God is at work in you.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

It is in the most difficult seasons of my life that I have built the most strength, patience, character and resilience.

God is always more interested in your character than your comfort because he knows that the Fridays and the Saturdays in our lives build character in you that the comfort-zone never could.

Your BEING will always trump your DOING because God is more interested in the process than the progress.

2. God is at work for you.

We recently bumped into a lady that my husband’s family knew many years ago. She began asking Steve what he was up to now and he went on to tell her that he was now leading a large and growing church in our area. She was absolutely blown away, and said: “I can’t believe that you were one of the little baby twins that I used to pray over every week”.

You see, Steve is a twin, and one day his mum was at the supermarket and was having a really tough day. A lady, also just at the supermarket, approached her and said, “Excuse me, but you look like you could do with some help”. She introduced herself and offered her time. So from that day on she would come over every week and just help. She would do laundry and groceries and cooking and nappy changing. And she would pray…over the two little boys who lay sleeping in their cots. Little did she know the journey that would take them on.

After our recent encounter with her I said to Steve that what amazes me about his story was that even though he found faith at 18 years old, God was never absent from his life. From the time he was a baby through his primary and high school years, there were moments like this one where you can clearly see God at work in the background. Strategically orchestrating moments and encounters which have all culminated in making him who he is today.

I don’t know how absent you feel God is in your circumstance but can I reassure you, He is working in the background, behind the scenes to orchestrate moments and encounters that will one day be revealed to you.

3. God is at work through you.

It is your biggest mess that becomes your greatest message.

When the trial becomes the triumph it is less about the circumstance and more about the God who overcame in the circumstance.

There is a passage about another dead man in the bible, named Lazarus. When Lazarus first became ill, his sisters Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus – “the one you love is sick”. But Jesus didn’t come, Lazarus died, and it wasn’t until four days later that Jesus showed up. (Ever felt like Jesus is a little slow on the uptake?)

Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[c] and he was deeply troubled. 3“Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 3But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 4And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11: 30-44

What I have learnt about going through difficult journeys is that God doesn’t want us to travel them alone. He actually wants us to take others on the journey, that they too may see the miracle.

Sometimes, God asks that we just wait a little longer for our miracle, for our answer, for our resolution. That we might share the journey with someone else. That someone else might see the miracle. That others would see his power working through you.

You can be assured that no matter the circumstance, God is always at work.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it!

The Gap.

I read the other day that insecurity is “the gap between who i am and who I want to be”. But I think that statement simply describes life’s natural journey.

I would, instead, say, “Insecurity is the chasm between who I think I am and who I think I ought to be”.

The battle of insecurity. Something I have had to journey on more than one occasion.

The Promise

In order to understand what I am going to say next we first must understand that God gave a major promise to a man in the Bible named Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). He gave him the promise of a nation. Of many, many descendants. But what we learn about Abram’s story is that it doesn’t happen right away. Abram, at this point, doesn’t even have one descendant, let alone many. But God’s promise still stands. God continues to promise Abram descendants that will outnumber the stars!

Ok, so we are familiar with the promise?

Now I want to introduce you to Abram’s wife Sarai. Sarai is beautiful and Abram loves Sarai. But the thing that Sarai becomes most famous for is the fact that right into her old age Sarai is barren.

We need to understand that in the culture that Sarai was born into her barrenness would have affected her immensely – and not just on the inside. It would have affected her security and significance. It would have brought into question her social status. To bear a child (and more importantly, a son), a legitimate child to be the heir to all of your family inheritance, to carry on the family legacy, history and name – this would have been her primary call, her primary purpose.

But for many years Sarai walked around with the knowledge that she could not do what she knew she needed to do. The shame that would have brought her would have been tremendous.

Sarai knew what it was to feel insecure. Sarai knew that gap between who she thought she was and who she thought she ought to be.

So we pick up our story again in Genesis 16 – where we are about to meet our next character.

Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne any children for him, but she owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.[ So Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife for him. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years. Genesis 16: 1-4 (CSB)

In walks Hagar. Here is what we know about Hagar: She is a servant, an Egyptian servant. She has an incredibly low social status. She is pretty much invisible to the world. In fact throughout the story Abram and Sarai both call her “slave girl” – she doesn’t even have a name! By all accounts she is a nobody.

And here in this passage we see she is being used as a surrogate for Sarai. This was a common practise in those days. Near Eastern laws had provisions in them for dealing with issues such as barrenness by using maidservants in this way.

Hagar also knew what it was to have the gap of insecurity work its way into her life. The gap between her perceived reality and what she thought was the dream.

 He slept with  Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became contemptible to her.  Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms,[and when she saw that she was pregnant, I became contemptible to her. May the Lord judge between me and you.” Abram replied to Sarai, “Here, your slave is in your hands; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai mistreated her so much that she ran away from her.
Genesis 16:5-6 (CSB)

Here is the first moment where we see both Sarai and Hagar’s insecurity open the door for competition and comparison to begin making appearances in their lives.

The Lie

Isn’t it so true that, at any wedding, when the bouquet toss happens all of the friends in the room suddenly become rivals. All of the single girls step up and a fierce competition begins to see who will get that bouquet. Normal social etiquette goes out the window for these few moments and pushing, shoving and hair-pulling become acceptable.

Listen, life deals out its’ fair share of bouquet tosses. I’ve seen it!

Those who were once our friends all of a sudden become our rivals. Those who were once our supporters, providers and our security (like Sarai to Hagar). Those who were once our helpers, partners, our wingmen (like Hagar would have been to Sarai), all of a sudden become our rivals and our competition.

Today, I want to expose the lie that we believe when we enter a bouquet toss. The battle over the bouquet carries with it the lie that we must all battle over the same promise (in this case, marriage). And if she gets it, I miss out.

Sarai and Hagar believed the lie that there was only one promise for one of them.

Competition, comparison and insecurity all believe the lie that there is only one promise for one of us and she gets it then I miss out.

Competition will tell you that it is you against the world – that there isn’t enough sun for everyone, and that others are a threat to your sun!

The Truth

Supporting another’s success won’t ever dampen your own.

What Sarai and Hagar needed to understand was that God had an individual promise for Sarai and an individual promise for Hagar. The promise made to Abram and Sarai was not the only promise God made to this mixed up, dysfunctional family.

Take a look at Genesis 16:9-13. Hagar has run away to the wilderness and as she sits by a spring an Angel of the Lord appears to her (did you get that? An ANGEL).

The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.”  The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”  The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.” So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,”[f]for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” Genesis 16:9-13 (CSB).

Let me tell you what makes this passage very significant and what makes Hagar more significant than she will ever know.

She is in the wilderness. Remember, she is by all accounts, a nobody. She is single, young, female and a slave. And yet – she is visited by an ANGEL OF THE LORD!!!! Do you know how outrageous that is?

Let me emphasise it a little more. Check this out:

This moment made Hagar the first woman EVER to be visited by a divine messenger. This moment made Hagar the first woman to be given a promise of inheritance. This moment made Hagar the first woman to have a conversation with God! And get this…this moment made Hagar the only person in ALL SCRIPTURE to use the name “El-Roi” to describe God. Which means “the God who SEES me”.

God hasn’t just got a dream, promise, call or purpose for one of us. He has got a promise for all of us.

The God of Sarai and Abram is also the God of Hagar and Ishmael.

And don’t even get me started on Sarai.

Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no
longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.[a]And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.” Genesis 17: 15-16 (NLT)

God changed Sarai’s name.

She went from Sarai – which is derived from the same root meaning as Israel, meaning: “She that strives”, to being called Sarah – meaning Princess, Noble woman and royal standing!

When you go from striving in your comparison and competition to simply standing in your royal nobility you kick insecurity right out the door.

Where insecurity strives, identity simply stands!

Sarah viewed Hagar and her son as a threat to her own son’s inheritance. And Hagar saw Sarah as the reminder of the promise she thought she was owed but could never have.

What they didn’t realise is that God had given Hagar and Ishmael a promise too.

But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac,  and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.  As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. Genesis 17: 19-20 (NLT)

Neither realised how significant they were because they were too busy looking at someone else’s promise. They both had a promise! And neither one took away from the other.

If I was Oprah Winfrey, I’d say it like this:

You get a promise! And you get a promise! And you get a promise! And you get a promise!!! Everybody gets a promise!!!!

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.