Opportunities / Obstacles

June 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 14 Comments
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Opportunities

Opportunities are a great comfort. Many of us would like to get get a call from someone who says, “Hey, I’ve a got this great opportunity for you!” (Unless it turns out to be Amway.) Advertisers use the enticement, “Stayed tuned for an exciting opportunity!” America has even been called “the land of opportunity.” Opportunities are openings or events where, if you take advantage of a situation, you can really benefit.

God comforts us by giving opportunities. He gave you the opportunity to trust Him and be saved; the opportunity to obey Him in baptism; the opportunity to join a great church; the opportunity for free Bible instruction on Sunday mornings (we call it Sunday School at my church). Life is full of wonderful opportunities given to us by God.

The Bible says that no temptation has taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful in that – with every temptation – He has made a way to escape – an opportunity to do what’s right – so that you may be able to bear it and to get the victory over the temptation. That’s very comforting!

But there is a flip side to opportunity:

Obstacles

You’ve probably been there: You get stuck in a traffic jam. You’ve got three choices. You can turn around and go back. You can cheat and drive on the shoulder to the next exit. Or you can wait. I don’t have any advice for you when it comes to traffic jams (the older I get, the more I just decide to stay home), but I do have some advice concerning spiritual obstacles: Wait on the Lord.

The good [man] is perished out of the earth: and [there is] none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.

Micah 7:2

Micah prophesied in a time when nobody was doing what was right. It seemed like everything was working against God’s people. Everywhere they turned, there were obstacles.

That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge [asketh] for a reward; and the great [man], he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.

Micah 7:3

Sometimes this is how it seems to us. We look to the government for help, but we meet an obstacle. We don’t qualify or we’re left waiting on hold. We go to court, but we find out the law isn’t just. We appeal to wealthy or influential individuals, but they are unwilling to help.

The best of them [is] as a brier: the most upright [is sharper] than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen [and] thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.

Micah 7:4

We remind ourselves that God will make sure the wicked get what they deserve, and we turn to our close friends.

Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.

Micah 7:5

But even they are no help.

For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies [are] the men of his own house.

Micah 7:6

Even your family tuns out to be unreliable! So what do you do? Do you say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Do you cheat? Go around the obstacles unlawfully? Do you go back? Give up? Do you say, “This can’t be the opportunity I thought God was giving me, because it has turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle?” No.

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Instead, you wait on the Lord to turn your obstacle into an opportunity. If we are willing to wait upon the Lord, obstacles make great opportunities. When you are prosperous and healthy and well-loved by men, people in general don’t give God glory for that. They think you’re lucky or smart or strong. So, how are we going to give God glory? We are going to praise Him in our obstacles, and treat them like opportunities.

“I know God will deliver me when I’m poor, when I’m sick, when I’ve been betrayed.” That’s what we tell people when they ask us why or how we can be so happy just waiting. Then:

Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me.

Micah 7:8

New lights don’t shine bright in already-existing light. New lights shine bright in the darkness. Now when you are delivered, the heathen and the pagans will know Who gets the credit.

Delaying Dutifully During Deliverance

August 14, 2013 at 10:42 am | Posted in Exodus | 12 Comments
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God’s people cried and sighed and groaned. Then they were delivered, and it did not really have anything to do with their own strength, merits, or attributes. We call them “God’s chosen people” because God did the choosing. Like Christians today, they could not boast of themselves, when basically all they did was: “get chosen.” The Lord does not choose His people in the same way that a captain picks teams for volleyball. God doesn’t always pick the best players based on past performance. He often picks the puny and rejected so that He gets the glory.

When the prayers of the Israelites were answered, they must have cheered. “We’ve been delivered!” But then they paused before the Red Sea and they heard the distant hoofbeats, the churning chariot wheels, the trumpets, the war cries… coming from just beyond the horizon. “What if,” they wondered, “God delivered us only for this! For a slaughter?”

Waiting on God is sometimes harder than working for God. Sometimes it’s easier to cry out to God in a faithless panic than to wait faithfully with God-honoring calm assurance for Him to do what’s best. Our battles are supposed to be the Lord’s battles. Our deliverance is really God’s deliverance. If you were chosen by God to be saved, remember that He did the saving. And now that the flesh, the world, and the devil have a bull’s eye on your forehead, and they want to kill you, how are you going to fight? Will you compromise? You can’t compromise with the devil or any of God’s enemies. Will you scheme and manipulate? Will you fight the battle with carnal weapons: gossip, hypocrisy, backbiting, self-help books, common sense? Or will you wait to see the Lord fight the battle. Obey Him and get into the Red Sea, as crazy as that sounds, and just go where He leads.

And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

Exodus 14:10-14

Moses basically told them, “God’s got this under control – shut your mouths.”

And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:

Exodus 14:15

“Shut your mouths and go forward.” What if, as Christians, we just shut our mouths from complaining and grumbling and slyly airing our complaints about God? What if we just went where He told us? Just forgave everybody who cheated us and lied to us and played dirty tricks on us? Just gave it to God even though it seems like we can’t afford not to fight back? Just loved everybody we met – especially the seemingly unlovable?

When Jesus rescued me, He brought me out of a condition much worse spiritually than bondage in Egypt. What in the world makes me think He can’t get me across the Red Sea and into Canaan?

Waiting and Training

December 27, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 9 Comments
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Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.

Psalm 112:6-8

In difficult circumstances, you may have heard the somewhat cliched Christian advice to “wait upon the Lord.” It’s not bad advice, but, remember, when we are waiting on the Lord we are not just waiting on Him to change our circumstances. We are also asking Him to grant us the right response to our circumstances. In trying circumstances we are not just waiting on deliverance. We are building strength into our faith while we wait.

Think of times of difficulty as times of training. Athletes and soldiers train, but they do not train just to kill time before the big game or the big battle. They are working to make sure they perform well when the time comes.

He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

Psalm 112:9 (emphasis added)

(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

II Corinthians 9:9

The word translated as “horn” in Psalm 112:9 carries the idea of “power” or “personal influence.” Whenever God blesses you with money, power, influence, or favor, beware of falling into pride. Beware of the temptation to begin subtly looking for ways to receive worship. Look instead for ways to pour out your influence with one hand and point to God with the other.

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pointing-up

In fact, the hands we hold open to God to receive blessings from Him ought to be the quickest hands to point back to Him in the sight of others so that He is glorified.

The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Psalm 112:10

When the wicked see God blessing the righteous, they will be filled with hatred, but they will ultimately have only themselves to blame. God desires to grant the gift of righteousness to all who will humble themselves and come to Him by faith.


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