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Life Happens

March 11th, 2011

“You will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:4 NLT

“Absolute trust is not learned in shallow living, but is learned in the severest of trials.”

My thoughts today are that “life happens.”

Life comes at you pretty fast, rarely with adequate warning to prepare. As a young teen, I was a Boy Scout, and every Scout remembers the motto, “Be prepared.” That was good instruction for young boys and remains wise counsel for those of any age, any gender. However, the reality is you won’t always be ready for what comes your way, unless you prepare. Life provides you with experience; experience prepares you for life. Life is full of surprises, not all of them good. But when you respond wisely, any experience can build something good in you that you could otherwise lack.

James wrote, “You will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:4 NLT.  Ready for anything; now that sounds great. But “anything” covers a wide variety of life experiences, doesn’t it? Life happens whether you are ready or not! Life happens but not by happenstance. How can you be ready for the unforeseen? Well, the Bible also tells you what prepares you for the unexpected; Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4 NLT.

Trouble, though unwelcome, can bring moral and emotional strength, and resilience of character, that may come no other way. Endurance in troubling times teaches you things about yourself you may not have realized before. You can learn that you are stronger and tougher than you thought. You might also discover vulnerabilities in your beliefs or faith that need to be addressed and reinforced. Trouble teaches the value of friendship; none of us are as strong alone as we are together.

Mostly, you learn so much more about God – His character, His nature, His wisdom, His love, His faithfulness, His truth, and His power. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word. You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees . . it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your (commands).” Psalm 119:68/71 NIV. You know you have met God face to face when you can see that any trouble that brings you to Him is a blessing in disguise.

Read about Paul’s experience. “. . burdened beyond measure, above strength, despaired even of life . . that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us, in Whom we trust He will still deliver us.” Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 NKJV. Absolute trust is not learned in shallow living; it is learned in the severest of trials. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10 NKJV.

Yes, life will teach you the accurate, practical truth of today’s verse, “When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:4 NLT. Until you have gone through the circumstance, you won’t know the way through, but God does. Knowing and trusting Him personally is the way that you prepare for life  – strong and ready for anything.

My prayer for you today is that you grow stronger in God’s strength.

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A Little More

March 2nd, 2010

“I will draw water for your camels also.” Genesis 24:19 NKJV

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

My thoughts today are about “a little more.”

There are more people who want to have a little more and get a little more than are eager to give a little more, do a little more. The latter is where success happens. Today’s verse is tucked into a wonderful love story of a simple and sacrificial kindness bringing two lives together. I think there are a lot more everyday events that hold grander promise than you might imagine while you are just busy living. It could be said that, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” John Lennon, Beatles.

Let me set the scene. After his long journey, Abraham’s servant stopped beside a well and asked a young girl for water. Rebekah responded graciously by giving him water – simply a cultural courtesy to strangers (Hebrews 13:2) – but then generously ”did a little more and gave a little more.” Rebekah volunteered to water his camels also! Ten thirsty camels! That’s well beyond a little more. Read Genesis 24. You never know whose camels you are watering, or where they will take you.

She did not foresee her generous gesture to this stranger resulting in her marriage to a wealthy man’s only son, Isaac, and her inclusion into the lineage from which the promised Messiah would ultimately come. See Genesis 24:35-36. What she did without thought of reward crowned her lifetime with unexpected blessing and well beyond that, settled her destiny. See Matthew 1:2.  Imagine if Rebekah had not graciously offered her help to that stranger, and his camels.

I think that one of the profound lessons of life is that no unselfish deed goes unrewarded, even when at the moment it may appear to have. Your blessing may not come from the same one who received your kindness, but kindness will be returned. God will see to that. My maternal grandfather was a pastor, and I remember his saying to me, “Allen Ray, remember that God will be no man’s debtor.” I understood him to mean that you can count on God to honor anything that is done for anyone in His name. “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work, and the labor of love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10 NIV.

Plainly stated, the Bible establishes a principle God set forth at creation, ”If you sow good, you will reap good; if you sow evil, you will reap evil.” The Lord of the harvest promises that and is the Source, whatever point of supply He may choose to use. Sometimes you are the supply God uses; other times you are the recipient God blesses. Always, God is the Source!

One of our grandsons, Chase, excitedly told Gayle and me his story of driving through Wendy’s a night or so ago. Having only five dollars, he ordered carefully not exceeding what he had. At the window, he was surprised to be told that the car before him had left six dollars for whoever followed them. They had been helped, and just wanted to randomly help someone else. Chase was the unsuspecting recipient, one blessed in receiving, the other in giving. Both blessed! “The Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 NIV.

My prayer for you is: never count the cost of giving apart from the blessing of receiving.

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