He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. (II Chronicles 20: 15)
I’ve known I needed to write this e-votional for some time, but I’ve been putting it off. (Groan, ha ha.)
I admit it! With the best of intentions, I can be a procrastinator. I mean to get around to it, really I do. But I want to find the perfect block of time. I search for all the right pieces to come together and make it clear. I’m just too busy right now, but as soon as….
Does this sound familiar?
It’s true. We do have a lot on our plates. Like So maybe what we need to is de-clutter, prioritize, and act now!
- De-clutter. I admit it. I can tend to hang onto things. So much stuff that I’ve held for years – papers, objects, all manner of “might-need-this-someday” stuff! I challenge you to think about the possibility that the material things are symptomatic of our life things. In the past I’ve held on to too many good-to-do’s, which clutter up and choke God’s best-to-do’s. In my “stuff” and in my “life stuff,” I’m working on de-cluttering. Is that goal resonating with you at all?
- Prioritize. De-cluttering makes it possible to prioritize, an essential habit of the people who are most productive in fulfilling their purpose. Prioritizing de-clutters some more. Some time back, I read an important book on setting and working on priorities, The One Thing, by Gary Keller. A chronic multi-tasker, I’ve been wrestling with the God-messages in that book ever since. Too often, I’m guilty of trying to get all the little things done and out of the way so that I can “really focus” on the most important priority. By the time I’m done with the less important, I’m bushed, and – you guessed it – I’ll get to that priority thing tomorrow, this weekend, when I get a big block of time – etc., etc., etc.
3. Act now! The cure for procrastination? Do it now! Take a small step on the most important thing. NOW! Doing that brings light for another step, and another, and another. That’s how the right things get accomplished.
No time is going to be perfect. Something else will be screaming for your attention then. De-clutter and prioritize, then ACT NOW!
What priority have you been putting off? What will you do about that TODAY?
Lord, You know that at times procrastination can be a destructive habit in my life. I need Your power to change that! Point me relentlessly to Your priorities, and give me the courage to take bold small or large steps of action
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of their killing him. (Acts 7: 54-60, Acts 8: 1)
I’m preparing to teach in our Sunday class the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Coming from a very religious background, steeped in the law, and prideful in his learning, Saul became obsessed with destroying the believers in that “false messiah” who had been crucified. He cheered on and even “held the coats” of those who murdered Stephen, probably being close enough to be spattered with the first martyr’s blood. Then he set about on a campaign to arrest, torture, and kill all of the disciples of Jesus. To make matters worse, Saul believed he was doing all of this in the name of God! Saul was a hot mess.
BUT GOD…as is so often the case in “hopeless” situations!
But God got Saul’s attention! The one who was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians was arrested by the living Christ! The one who was struck blind was born into phenomenal vision about the gospel of Jesus that would propel him to take the good news into his known world. This man, learned in the law, would lay out a significant portion of the New Testament in ways that would help millions to learn a different, life-changing Truth.
I write this today as an encouragement to two groups of readers.
First, I want to talk to those who believe they’ve gone too far, stayed too long, and fallen back one time too many. No, no, and no again! You have not gone so far that God’s grace can’t reach you. When God willed your creation, He already knew it all. Yet He has called you, He continues to nudge you, and He has big plans for you. If God can transform the likes of Saul, you’re no challenge for Him. Clearly, there’s hope for you! Just say yes to Him, and watch Him work!
A second group of folks can also take heart when they look at the power and willingness of God to transform and use Paul (ex-Saul) mightily. You have loved ones that you’ve prayed for a long time. You’re not seeing evidence that any change is occurring. They still look cold and/or hard – as Saul did moments before God closed the deal He’d been offering. The scripture says that if you ask anything according to His will, it shall be done. When you pray for someone to come to know the Lord, you know that you’re asking in the will of God. From the moment you pray (and before), the Holy Spirit is working to prepare and invite that person to a relationship with Christ. He doesn’t let up on it. When the person finally chooses to say “yes,” it may look sudden. However, those seeds you and others have planted will have been germinating underground for a long time. Be encouraged. God is at work on the soul of your loved one. He loves that beloved and wants the change even more than you do.
So consider the Apostle Paul, and know that there’s no such thing as a hopeless case!
Dear God, our hope is only in You. I praise You that Your grace and Your convicting power are always at work on behalf of Your beloveds – every single one of us. I thank You for the confidence that my prayers are being answered.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2: 6)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4: 1)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6: 10-11)
Monday I mentioned a classic little book by Watchman Nee entitled, “Sit, Walk, Stand.” Nee’s deeply spiritual and profoundly practical treatment of the process of Christian maturation described in Ephesians is a game-changer for anyone who will grasp and implement it. I will give you a preview of the concepts here in hopes of inspiring you to go to your favorite resource, get this little book, and devour it.
When it comes to growing as a Christian, you and I typically think about all the things we do and don’t do. Live right. Read your Bible. Pray. Treat people well. (All good things.) But those are not the beginning.
The process begins with sitting! The book of Ephesians refers to the fact that Christ has been seated in heavenly realms, far above all principalities and powers. The priests in the Old Testament could never sit down due to the fact that their work was temporary and would have to be repeated. But Christ’s work is complete, so He sat down. Thus, the verb “sit” is not used casually; it has amazing spiritual significance. Even better, every believer was raised with Him and was seated with Him! We are in Him, He is in us, and we are sitting with Him. Everything is under His feet, the scripture says. He is the Head, and we are the body. If everything is under His feet, then it’s under ours! The first step is to “get it,” to understand our position in Christ. If you don’t recognize the power and position you have, you’ll live beneath what God intended for you.
Nee then describes Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians for walking. We are challenged to display the attitudes, words, and actions that reflect God’s Love and God’s high calling on our lives. What’s in the heart comes out. Our lifestyles will influence those God has placed in our paths. They will be drawn to the gospel or repelled by it, based on what they see in believers. Walking worthy of our calling is a big deal.
Third, standing. We talked about that in more depth earlier this week. Standing, according to Nee, refers to acting in the triumph already won by Jesus in that you defend yourself from demonic attack and offensively go against the enemy of your soul. Putting on the full armor that God has provided, you and I can stand! Don’t leave home without it. Don’t even go get your morning cup of coffee without it!
So now, put all of that together into a trio of actions that envelope the believer in God’s plan for growth and launch the disciple of Christ into a life of victory. Sit, walk, stand!
Lord, I never want to stop stretching, stop learning, or stop maturing. I desire to rest in Who You are and the seated position You’ve earned. I long to walk among people in ways that point them to Your Love. I crave the continual experience of victory over the one who would like nothing more than to destroy me and the rest of Your children. Help me, O God!
Yes, I am a real live human being, imperfect, sometimes exhausted. Thank God He uses humans, of which I am the chief on the imperfect side. A bout with insomnia last night resulted in my oversleeping, then scrambling out of the bed to make it to a 7:30 Bible study. I have come to accept that I often falter, but I get up (literally) and keep moving. Please forgive me for not writing this morning. See you tomorrow!
Love to you all,
Dr. Bev Smallwood
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6: 10-13)
Stand, stand, stand! Got it?
But what does it mean to stand?
First of all, stand means don’t sit down! Don’t quit. I believe that someone reading this has been asking, “Is it really worth it? Is it every going to work out? Will I ever see results?” Certainly, pray and ask God what you are to do in your specific situation. However, don’t quit from discouragement! If God called you to it, He’ll sustain you through it. If God has not released you, on’t throw in the towel; wipe the sweat with it and keep going! Stand!
Another meaning of that focus word is to “stand against,” put up protection, resist attack. Every individual, especially every Christ-follower, has a Satanic enemy who has many demonic helpers. They want nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy you. (John 10: 10) They are individually strategic, they are organized, and they are patient. If they can get a toe hold in your life, they’ll just keep working at it until they get a foot hold. I’ve heard it said (and I believe it) that the enemy bides his time, letting you believe all is well when it’s not. He waits until you have developed maximum influence to close in and bring you down. He wants to hurt as many people as possible. Jesus has conquered these foes, and He has given believers the authority of His Name. Use that Name boldly. Stand!
A third way we’re called to stand is “having done all, stand.” When you’ve done all that you know to do, when you’ve followed God’s principles and the Spirit’s leading, but you still aren’t seeing results – stand in trust. God is working behind the scenes, putting you and all the pieces in order. He’s taking care of what’s needed so that when the harvest comes, it will be healthy and bountiful. Rest in Him. Stand!
The renowned Christian writer, Watchman Nee, wrote a book called, “Sit, Walk, Stand.” I highly recommend his explanation of successful Christian living. Maybe I’ll share more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, as you go out the door – some of you into the messiness of a lingering tropical storm and others into the messiness of a life gone awry – STAND!
Dear Lord, I cannot stand on my own. I need Your power to persevere. I also need to know when I’m standing in the wrong space! Your wisdom, O Lord. Your wisdom!
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one doesn’t have. (II Corinthians 8: 11-12)
I don’t know about you, but I’m a great starter. I have a creative idea a minute, and each seems more intriguing than the last. I’m a little better about this as I have gotten ol…well, as I have “matured.” I’m not quite as likely to go chasing something new while diverting attention from another important project that needs my attention. (My office staff might question this.) But I definitely am more focused on “God’s projects” rather than just “good projects.” However, I can still be vulnerable to that temptation. How about you? So ponder this again.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (II Corinthians 8: 11)
In other words, do all you can with what you have now, and get it done. Complete it. You can always refine it later as more info becomes available. Don’t wait around for it. Match your initial eagerness with diligent execution!
When I read that scripture passage recently, it hit me squarely between the eyes. I invite you to think with me about our own lives – about the things begun with great intentions and enthusiasm, goals which are now languishing for lack of attention. We mean to get around to them, really we do. But time passes, and the awareness of them fades further into the background of our minds. Oh, they’re there all right, and every now and then they nudge us with a dose of guilt or a reminder of why we started them in the first place. And we’ll get around to them, for sure…when things settle down…
Perhaps we put off working on them because we are waiting for the perfect block of time when we can “really concentrate.” (When would that be exactly?) Or we think that if we just had the support of this or that person, or more information to add to the mix – THEN we’d be able to get it all done.
Listen, conditions are never ideal. Magical chunks of available time or money are not going to fall from the sky. So after asking yourself 3 questions, you can decide how to proceed.
1. Is this just one of your hair-brained “good ideas,” or is it a God idea? (If it’s a God idea, ya gotta get moving.)
2. Has your life changed so that this “thing” is no longer really important to you? Careful here; don’t write it off just because you’re procrastinating on doing it. (If it is important, get moving on it.)
3. Is your time being eaten up by much less important things? (If that’s true, get going on the most important things.)
I can’t help noticing that the first word in our focus scripture is NOW.
Maybe you need a reminder as I sometimes do –
Done is better than perfect!
God, I want to be a finisher and not just a starter. I know that if You have called me to it, You’ve provided the time and the way to do it. Grow me in self-management and self-discipline, Lord. I want to fulfill every calling with which You have entrusted me.