Try, Try Again

Faith urges us to keep doing the right thing and leave the results up to God while doubt causes us to wonder What’s the use?.png

I told you a few days ago the Lord had been dealing with my heart about the topic of giving up. The lessons haven’t stopped. In fact, at a missions conference this weekend, I saw a Bible story in a whole new light, and the message has stuck with me. I’d like to share a portion of it with you today.

Second Kings 4 tells the story of a couple who loved the prophet, Elisha so much they built a room for him within their home. He was welcomed any time, and they saw to his needs on more than one occasion. In thanks for their faithfulness and hospitality, Elisha promised them a son, for the woman was barren. And it came to pass, the couple had a boy just as the prophet had said, but one day, the child went out with his father into the field and became ill, crying about a pain in his head. The Bible doesn’t specify what the illness was, but it caused the child to die. The Shunammite woman, heartbroken, went out in search of the man of God, and when she found him, she explained what happened. Distraught by the news, Elisha resolved to set things right.

And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
— II Kings 4:32-35

The first thing Elisha did was to pray, which is an excellent reminder to us that the first thing we should do in a crisis is call upon the Lord. But look at what he did next. He lay face down upon the child. It’s strange, I know, but the action had a positive response—the child grew warm. However, the child still wasn’t awake. The situation was still dire.

Elisha paced the house, and I have no doubt in my mind, he was still praying. But I have to wonder, too, if he was beginning to question. Did I do the right thing? Did I do it the right way? Am I missing something? Why didn’t it work? Could it be this is not God’s will?

Oh, how I can relate to the flurry of questions! When I’ve done what I know to do and things don’t work out the way they should (or I think they should), I find myself in a tug-of-war between praying and questioning. Typically, the struggle ends with a final question: what do I do now? Faith urges me to keep doing the right thing and leave the results up to God while doubt cause me to wonder, What’s the use?

I can’t say for sure Elisha faced that same tug-of-war, but I can tell you he acted in faith. After pacing a while, he repeated his previous action, stretching out upon the child, and his faith paid off. The child awoke. The family was reunited. And the prophet was reminded that persistence is golden. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but they were following Scriptural advice.

Even when what we’re doing doesn’t seem to be working, if we’re following God’s will for our lives, we can trust our persistence will pay off. Keep working even when the rewards are few. Keep witnessing even when the message seems to fall on deaf ears. Keep training your children even when it seems they’re not interested. Keep fighting even when you feel you don’t have the strength to stand. Keep on keeping on, and God will reward your faith.

When You're Tempted to Quit

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word read in fact as well as faith.-2.png

There has been a common thread running through my quiet times with the Lord. From sermons, songs, devotions, Bible verses and more, God has been reminding me to keep on keeping on. Don’t quit when things don’t look the way I imagine they should. Don’t give up when I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Don’t give in when the road is long and hard.

Just this morning, I was reminded of the children of Israel as they marched around the walls of Jericho. Day after day, they followed God’s command, yet to the eyes of Israel, nothing was happening, other than the fact that the inhabitants of Jericho were probably laughing their heads off at the ridiculous “antics” of God’s chosen people. What if the people had given up on the fifth day? What if Joshua—discouraged by a lack of progress and results—decided he had had enough and he would fight the battle his way? Would Jericho have been destroyed?  

I think, too, of Naaman, the leper who sought healing from God’s prophet, Elisha. Despite Naaman’s lousy attitude and resentment over Elisha’s prescribed remedy, the nobleman followed through and began dipping himself in the waters of the Jordan. What if he had stopped after the fourth dunk or even the sixth? What if he had examined his leprous skin each time after immersing himself in the water and determined the process didn't work? What if he stopped obeying because he didn’t see immediate results?

With these thoughts on my mind, I prayed about what the Lord would have me share with you today, and He directed me to this quote I scribbled in my journal several weeks ago. It went so beautifully with everything else God was speaking to my heart I knew I had my topic for today’s devotion.

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.
— A.B. Simpson

Wow! Think about it. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. If we see results, that’s not faith. It’s sight. But the Bible tells us the just shall live by faith. God is working in our lives to help us trust Him whether or not we see results. He encourages us to be faithful even when we don’t understand. It is His will that we keep going despite our progress or lack thereof.  

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve prayed, “God, I would do much better if I knew this was actually working. Let me see something. Shew me some results, some fruit from my labor. Help me to know I’m on the right track here.” Now, I realize how small-minded that prayer is. God sees the bigger picture and has a higher plan in place. Instead of fueling my obedience with visible results, He’s teaching me to trust Him without them. He is increasing my faith (which, ironically, has been near the top of my prayer list for quite some time).

I don’t know what you’re facing today or how weary you are with the journey, but I know this—God has a plan for you. Don’t give up. Keep marching around those walls. Keep dipping in those waters. Or as Dory says, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Whatever God has called you to do, please don’t let the lack of progress or results keep you from continuing in obedience. God is working even when we can’t see. Trust in that and keep on keeping on!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
— Galatians 6:9

The Demands of Discipline

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In my devotion time this morning, I came across an excellent definition of the word "discipline."  According to Charles Swindoll, discipline is "doing what we don't want to do so we can accomplish what we've always wanted."  Sounds about right to me.  After all, it seems that I've had to discipline myself in many areas lately.

One must have discipline to work from home.  Otherwise, nothing would get done.  There are always distractions and other obligations.  There are always excuses for not getting to a particular task.  And while I love to write, there are specific areas (like marketing, formatting, and editing) that are a necessary part of my ministry, yet ones I despise doing.  But if I want to accomplish what I've always wanted, I have to be willing to do some of the things I don't want to do.

I've also called upon discipline in my journey toward better health.  The road has been long and hard and involves many things that I would rather not do.  I don't like to exercise.  I don't enjoy making myself get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning so I can do my three-and-a-half-mile walk.  I don't want to eat a salad instead of a plate of fajita nachos from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  I don't want to drink water instead of soda.  I don't want to do stretches and Pilates and strength training.  But each of these things is necessary if I am ever to accomplish what I've always wanted--optimal health.

Then there's the housework.  Scrubbing bathrooms is no fun at all.  Having to give up some of my precious writing or reading time to do the dishes is misery.  Folding laundry.  Running errands.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  These tasks hold no joy for me at all, yet I know that if I don't discipline myself to do them (and do them regularly), I will never achieve a relaxing and peaceful abode.

Now, we've added into the mix the many tasks involved in getting ready for deputation.  I had no idea how much time and effort were involved before even booking our first meeting.  It's crazy!  The process has required discipline and time management, having to choose what needs to be done over what I want to do.

I guess, in the end, it all boils down to this question:  How badly do I want it?  How badly do you want it?  Whatever it is that you're trying to achieve, do you want it badly enough to implement discipline into your daily routine?  Is your goal desirable enough that you're willing to do the things you don't enjoy to obtain the thing you've always wanted?  It won't be easy, and you may find your discipline wavers from day to day.  But hang tough and be strong.  And imagine the joy that is awaiting you when you finally reach the thing for which you have strived.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
— Proverbs 25:28