Sunday

I’m glad it’s Sunday. Because sometimes you just need a brand new week.

This past one would never get on my “Best Weeks of All Time” list. What was the name of that children’s book? Oh yes, it was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. Insert “week” instead of “day”, and there you have it.

Oh, I’ll survive. It wasn’t anything that was all that dire in the scheme of things. And someday I’ll look back and think it how silly it was to get all twisted up by it. But I sure am glad God came up with Sundays. The first day of the week. Another chance to start over.

And I will get that chance to start over because of one particular “first day of the week” a few centuries ago that followed a very bad one.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb”. John 20:1

Amen!

No discouragement or disappointment or “no good very bad week” can have power over me because of that first day of that week. The empty tomb doesn’t mean we won’t have difficult weeks. But it does mean that we won’t go through them alone. And it does mean that we can keep them in the right perspective.

Sometimes you just need a brand new week. And I’m thankful for the reminder of the “first day of the week” that changed everything.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:22,23

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Seven

What if the answer to your prayer was going to come the seventh time you asked God, but you gave up on the sixth?

I’ve been reading about Elijah lately.  I’m not sure how I wound up in 1 Kings, but I’ve been amazed at his story.  Or maybe I should say his stories.  Over and over, he was in really bad situations.  And over and over God did some really incredible things.

But the story I kept coming back to this week was the one about his prayer for rain.  God had told him that there wouldn’t be any rain for 3 years. The land would be in a severe drought.  So when that time was up, one would think that the skies would simply open up and God would make it pour.  But it wasn’t that simple.

Elijah knew it was going to rain, and even put his faith in the matter into words.  He said to Ahab, “The rain is on its way.  I can hear it!”.   So Elijah goes up on a mountain and starts to pray for the rain that has been promised.  He tells his servant to go look for the clouds that should be coming in from the sea.

Nothing.

No rain. No clouds.  Nothing.  But didn’t God promise the rain?  Aren’t the three years up?  Elijah goes through this routine six times.  Six!  The servant probably got tired of looking.  But fortunately, Elijah didn’t get tired of praying.  On the seventh attempt, the servant sees a tiny little cloud the size of a man’s hand.  And then the sky got black and it started to pour.

Just like God promised.

Sometimes God promises things to us that in His wisdom He delays in providing.  Sometimes God wants us to put our faith into words, and then put our faith to work.  Sometimes it takes seven times of praying the same thing.  Sometimes it takes more than that.  But it doesn’t change the promise.

I’m going to keep praying.  Because it just may be that the next time I do, God is going to open up the skies and there will not only be the sound of rain, but it’s going to pour all over me.

Just like God promised.

(The story of Elijah and the rain is in 1 Kings 18:41-46)

Men ought always to pray and not to lose heart.  Luke 18:1

“I won’t let you go until You bless me.”  Genesis 32:26

Shall not God avenge His own elect, who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  Luke 18:7

For you have need of patience, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.  Hebrews 10:36-37

Trials

The Olympic Trials.

Like much of the rest of the world, my evenings over the past two weeks have been spent watching the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Of course I’ve been participating from the comfort of my couch, but that’s a whole other issue.

Beside the actual competitions and events, we’ve all been gripped by the behind-the-scenes stories of perseverance and struggle and tenacity. And those stories provide so many illustrations about life. But for some reason, a single word made me stop and think.

Trials.

I kept hearing about the “gymnastics trials”and the “swimming trials” and the “diving trials”, referencing, of course, the preliminary competitions that got the athletes to where they are today. In London. At THE OLYMPICS.

And I realized that the athletes have an understanding about trials that we don’t. They understand that doing well in the preliminary trials moves them closer to the big prize. They look forward to the trials because that’s where their strength and their ability is proven.

They train for those trials.

Sometimes we can feel like we are in Olympic-sized trials. But how much differently would the outcome be if we viewed them like the athletes? What if we viewed them as necessary to prove the strength and ability we are given from God? What if, instead of dreading them and whining about them and doing everything we could to avoid them, we embraced them? What if we trained for them?

What if we saw our trials as the things that move us closer to the prize?

I’ll never be standing on an Olympic platform with a medal around my neck. But there will be a crown. So I’m going to do all I can to win in these trials.

 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 NIV)

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:14 NLT)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work in you, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)

Two

Two different options. Fight, or stand still.

Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe is right. And sometimes you have to stand still and see what God is going to do with a situation. But is one better than the other?

When you must make a choice, how do you know which is the best way to respond?

The young shepherd David faced down the giant Goliath, hit his mark and saved the day. But on the other hand, the Spirit of the Lord once told Jehosaphat , “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17)

Sometimes either scenario could seem good. Sometimes we’re faced with situations where we could come out with swords drawn and banners held high knowing we’re in God’s will and accomplish something amazing that brings God glory and honor and praise. And sometimes we could just as easily take a deep breath, stand back, and let God do His thing. In His way and timing.

Seems God has different ways to deal with different situations. It’s not up to us. It’s up to Him.

And the only way we’ll know which way He wants us to go is to stand still and listen first. It’s always better to choose the stand still option when you don’t know what to do. If God says, “Choose 5 small stones and wind ‘er up”, then we’re in the right position for battle. And if He says, “Stay right where you are and watch Me work”, then it’s easier to just keep doing what we’re already doing.

I wish there was an easy test, a checklist for knowing what to do. But since there isn’t, we must rely on that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, the One who will tell us what to do, the One who will direct our thoughts and our actions and our hearts.

If we listen first.

Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. Exodus 14:13

Fight the good fight of faith. 1 Timothy 6:12

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Psalm 25:4

Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. Psalm 143:8