Grit and Grace begin to sing, competing for the melody. The verse begins with I will survive. God has a plan and it includes me. Grace’s voice rises above the grit to offer prayer, kindness, and compassion for hopes not yet realized. Grit rises again with confident strides: the declaration of Never-Give-Up, I can Do it Myself and “You Can’t stop me.” Grace is offered by God’s voice and says: “Let me help you, heal you, and release you to fly free, with guidance by My compass. Grit sings again in its seasoned voice: “I, by Your faith, presence and providence will conform to Your image and persevere to the end. The beautiful, crowning phrase of this duet: “Well done thou good and faithful servant” is offered by the ultimate author of Grace.
The hymn writer sings the song of the farmer. He looks out over the crop. Waiting for harvest, working the land, praying for the right conditions, and trusting the process. Does he own the process or is he guided by One who owns the outcome?
The hymn writer looks at God’s harvest and sympathizes with you. Have you prayed for your friend, your husband, your coworker? Perhaps you have wept over their salvation for years and nothing seems to be happening. Like the farmer who trusts he’s given it all he has, you think that you’ve done everything you can to win that soul to Christ. Holding onto the outcome in which you have no ownership is like the farmer thinking he owns God’s creation. The outcome is God’s. We are workers who plow, plant, water, and fertilize. But, God gives life to the harvest and nourishes that soul. If the one we are praying for yields and comes to Him, the spiritual harvest is complete.
We cannot own the outcome if we do not own the process. Trust God to work in the life of the one you are praying for and leave the results to Him. Then, we can sing with assurance: Little is much when God is in it.”
What do you live by? Convictions? A moral compass? A motto or a mindset? The hymn writer notes that living by faith keeps us safe from being alarmed and distressed. It is a shelter rather than an escape. If faith protects and provides, why is it so hard to live by faith?
Living by faith does not come naturally. The toddler says: “I do it myself!“ even though it is well beyond her abilities. The teenager says: “I’ll do what feels good in the moment.“ The harried middle-aged executive says:“Make as much as you can and work as hard as you can. You never know what’s around the corner.“ The silver-haired senior says: “the more I hold onto things, the less I am really in control. I discovered that clinging to the well-worn rock of faith releases me from fear and doubt. Only when I hold things loosely does God pour out his abundance, releasing me from the weariness of the what-if‘s. In the presence of faith, doubt cowers, shudders and quietly slinks away.
Lord, please teach me to live by faith, in faith, and through faith in Your son. You see the beginning to the end. Let faith be Your words I live bye, Your compass that guides me, and Your peace that surrounds me. In Your name, amen.
Is there anything that is for sure? Yes, as the young girl sings, “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Is there anything we can count on? Jobs are not forever. Friends come and go. Commitments and promises can fall by the wayside. In an age of uncertainty, what is really sure?
The Savior says: “I will be with you, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19.) We are challenged not to allow the love of money to take over our lives; Jesus will always be with us, (Heb. 13:5.) Though He doesn’t promises us vibrant health, a plush bank account, or a life without trials, He does promise to be with us. All those who have accepted Him as Savior are assured of His presence, providence, and guidance. He sees all that has happened, is happening, and all that will happen. Not seeing the big picture, we can walk hand-in-hand with the one who does. We have the blessed assurance of His love and that He will never leave us. To have the constant friendship of the maker of the universe, to be held in His hand…that is blessed assurance indeed!
Mark 6:38 (NIV): “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”
Are you facing an insurmountable problem? Are you being asked to use meager resources to do the impossible? If so, you can relate to the disciples. Jesus told them to provide food for 5,000 men, not counting women and children. They struggled to do the math and count the cost. They even suggested sending the people away to eliminate the problem altogether. Jesus didn’t explain how He would work this out because heaven’s supply was the answer. He simply challenged them to give what they already had. Five loaves and two fish became the starting point for a miracle meal. These resources, blessed by Jesus, satisfied their hunger and even provided leftovers. If what we have is enough, we do not need to call on Jesus.
Figuring out how God will multiply what we have keeps us from trusting Him. The things that don’t make earthly sense find perfect solutions in heaven’s economy. Why? He uses what we already have, blesses it and then multiplies it. The more we depend on Him, the less we own the outcome. He is looking for us to give what we have—to commit those “loaves and fish” to Him.
Give Him what you have. Release ownership of the solution. Give thanks for the answer.
1 Kings 19:9 (NIV): And the word of the Lord came to Him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah was paralyzed by exhaustion but propelled by a whisper from God. Elijah had been hearing from God for a long time. Listening to God compelled him to pray for rain in a drought and it rained. Listening to God challenged him to show the prophets of Baal that they were no match for God. Exhausted by conflict, he found himself in a cave.
When you’re discouraged, all you can see are circumstances. Past victories are a distant memory. In the stillness of the cave, God asks a question: Elijah what are you doing here? God cares about what brings us to where we are. Elijah puts forth his resume and pours out his discouragement. Then, God shows His power. Elijah is allowed to experience a wind, fire and earthquake, but God is nowhere to be found. Then, the same question, same answer, same discouragement. Finally, Elijah hears God in a whisper. The God-whisper is where we find the One who asks the question: “What are you doing here?” It is a change in focus from where we think we are, to where He wants us to be.
The God whisper prompts us to act. Recognize what brought you to where you are, listen to the whisper of God and act on what He says for your life.
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
I started watching a new series on Netflix a while back and it wasn’t long before I got bored with it and started to look for something else to watch. It was such a good show I can’t even remember what the name of it was! Has that ever happened to you? You start reading a book or watching a show and you find yourself bored or frustrated with it and you never finish it – you look for something different, something new? I feel like life gets like that, we find ourselves living in this story that is not going the way we want. We might even find ourselves wishing for a new story. Do you want a new story?
That’s one of the things Jesus Christ offers us in salvation. He offers us a new story. Isaiah tells Judah that our of the old root will come a new branch. Consider that old root your life, our tired world. Out of that old will come something new. Out of that tired will come something exciting. Out of that old root will come a new branch and with that new branch will come fresh fruit. It’s time for a new story! Jesus has brought that story for us and invited us to be a part of it.
Read Isaiah 11 carefully and check out the story we are invited to be a part of. It is a story with all kinds of characters – lions, lambs, children, wolves, bears, ox, and even snakes. All of them living together in peace and safety. All of them being welcomed despite the reputations they bring. This story Jesus brings with him is one of inclusive diversity. You don’t have to become someone you are not to join this story. The lion can still be a lion and the lamb can still be a lamb. You get to be you in this story!
Things in this story are different though. While the lion can still be a lion and the lamb can still be a lamb – their relationship has changed. The lion is no longer trying to kill and eat the lamb, they are living together. The lion, instead, is eating grass like the cow. Somewhere along the way the lion was changed. This story is one of transformation. In this story God makes us fully us, the us we were intended to be – the good us. The kind of us that can live in a story of peace and safety. It is a pretty amazing story – I really hope you will join.
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.
Peace is a wonderful and much needed thing. A lack of peace can often keep us from seeing the good (and the hope) God has for us. When we live our lives without much peace we will grow tried and weary. The more tired we get, the less peace we experience, the more hopeless we become. Isaiah was talking to a pretty tired Judah when he spoke these words. This message was to instill in them hope and to help them see the good God had for them. The best is yet to come!
We are living in a time when many people find themselves absolutely exhausted and longing for peace. We need just a moment of fresh air, just a minute to get our heads above water so we can catch our breath and find hope. It is good to hope for a peaceful eternity but we cannot forget that Jesus has also made it possible for us to have a peaceful present and live in a peaceful community. He challenges us all throughout His teachings to be a people of peace, to seek reconciliation, to love, and to forgive. This peace He is talking about isn’t just for individuals, it is for all of society.
John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” In those moments when you are feeling tired and weary we need to look to Christ and rest in His peace. Peace is something we will experience perfectly in eternity, but it can also be something we rest in presently, thanks to Christ. Do not let yourself be swept away in despair – accept the peace Jesus is offering and live in it. By doing so we might just change our world!
In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
I read an article on Forbes the other day that was titled, “Death of a City, The Portland Story?” It was about how near “death” Portland is because of bad policies, violence, crime, homelessness, and drugs. It painted a pretty bleak picture of our city. It got me thinking, is it really that hopeless? Is it really that bad? Sure, there are problems, but our entire country has problems. What can we do? What is the Church supposed to do? We hope, that is what the Church always does.
Isaiah was tasked with a very difficult mission – to go and prophecy to a very stubborn people and tell them to repent and turn back to God. In his message to them he tells them one day Jesus will come, peace will arrive, and the land will be a glorious place. This, of course, was a “not yet” word to them. It was something they could look forward to and reassurance that God had not forgotten them.
When we read this same word, we generally take it to mean “not yet” as well, even though we know Jesus has come. I want to argue that this prophetic word from Isaiah, for us, is not just a “not yet” word but also an “already” word. Jesus has already come. He has already brought His Kingdom. He has already set His plan of redemption in motion. Jesus has already given us hope for today and hope for tomorrow. He will, one day, complete it and we will experience His peace to the full. But, in the meantime we can experience His peace right now.
While we live in a world that has it’s fair share of darkness, pain, and brokenness we don’t have to settle for that. We can hope for more. We should hope for better. Why? Because Jesus is here and Isaiah said where Jesus is the land will be a glorious place. We need to have hope in the present and the future. The Good News of Jesus is that He came to heal us now, free us now, and assure us of a better future that starts today.
If you are a follower of Jesus you have a responsibility – not to run from the darkness but to take hope there. We, as the Church, are supposed to be the ones living in (and being an example of) God’s Kingdom today. But, maybe before we can do that, we should ask God to renew our hope too.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.