In the previous post, we see that Joshua relied on God’s strength to step into a huge task that seemed so overwhelming. In today’s post, we will learn to affirm God’s presence in our lives.
Lesson 2: Affirm God’s presence in your circumstances
Joshua was terrified. But God reminded him that he was not alone. God reassured him of His presence (Joshua 1:3-5).
It is in our darkest moments that we will feel God’s presence. It is in our weakest moments that we will feel His strength. When God gives you an impossible task, He will carry you through, for the sake of His plan and purpose.
We affirm God’s presence by stepping into what He is calling us to do—by faith. We need to take action. As James wrote, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).
God told Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:3, NIV). This is the promise God gave for people who are willing to take action. Unless Joshua and the Israelites move in obedience, they would not be able to accomplish what God was calling them to do.
Faith is more than knowing it in our heart. Faith is action. Joshua had to step out in faith to see God work. How is this true for your life? What are some of the ways that you are paralyzed in fear? Do you make excuses when you know God is calling you to do something?
Joshua took action despite knowing there would be dangers ahead of him. As a result, he experienced God’s blessings. When we step out in faith, we will experience God’s blessings too.
What are some of the things that you know God is calling you to take personal action? May be it is to strengthen your marriage, or to make a commitment to study the Bible consistently, serving in a church ministry or taking care of your health, let us take it a step at a time, knowing that God is with us.
The moment I stepped into the office this morning, I was overwhelmed by the mountain of tasks I needed to tackle: reports to write, forms to fill in and submit, sermons to write, prayer points to prepare, preparation for Sunday worship, people to minister to, appointments to keep and those unexpected things that popped up which needed to be taken care of. This will be a packed week and I am only at the beginning of the week.
As I reflect on my ministry, whenever I was overwhelmed and overworked, I remember that I had experienced the goodness of God. God had been there to guide me through an extremely busy week. And I am certain that He will guide me through this one.
Here are three basic steps to take when we are tired and overwhelmed in life:
1.Spend Time in Worship and Prayer
Throughout the years, I realized that if I do not start the day with God in worship (reading the Bible and prayers), then I would not have time for God until bed time. I would be spinning from one task to another and do everything without joy and love. I would be easily frustrated too.
Spending time seeking the Lord in the morning and asking Him for wisdom in time management and to do my tasks effectively give me the peace that He is with me. Time with God quiets my mind too. It is true that God is our refuge. We can come to Him regardless of what condition we are in and we can rest in Him.
2. Say “No”
When we are overwhelmed, one of the possible reasons is that we do not know how to say “no” to people or things especially if they take up more time than we can give. Someone once said that when we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to other things. When my friends asked for help, I was hesitant to say “no” although I had my own tasks to complete. As a result of saying “yes” to them, I had to say “no” to my own responsibilities. In the end, I had to sacrifice my sleep that night and burn midnight oil just so I could complete my own work on top of helping them. When we do not learn to say “no”, we will stretch ourselves too thin.
Being overwhelmed during most of our waking moments is not God’s plan for us. He wants us to enjoy Him, enjoy His creation and enjoy the people in our lives. If you look at your calendar, what appointments can you say “no” to? There will always be someone needing help or someone wanting to meet up. Everything can seem important. But let’s learn from Jesus. He did not spend all His time ministering and healing everyone who needed Him. Instead, He focused on what God had called Him to do. While it was still dark in the morning every day, Jesus would get up and would spend time in prayer. His time with God set the direction for His day and life. He only needed to respond to what God was calling Him to do. We don’t have to be everything for everyone. We only need to take a step back and see what are the things God has set for us to do.
After creating the universe in 6 days, God rested on the seventh day. Rest is a part of our natural make-up as created beings. God the Creator rested, so should we.
(I had written a post on self-care. Do take a look if you have not read it.) Take time to unplug. Take a break from our phones. Create time in your calendar to do something you enjoy: reading, watching a favourite TV show, playing with your pets, doing gardening, cooking, meeting a friend and so on. When we take care of ourselves, we will be more able to take care of the needs of our family as well as being more efficient in doing the tasks we need to do.
Our generation is busier and more stressed out compared to the previous generation. Don’t let our work overwhelmed us to the point of making us grumpy, tired and emotional. Take time to ask God for wisdom, plan our calendar wisely, say “no” when our plates are already full and remember to slot in pockets of time for us to relax and recharge.
I had my birthday last week. Family, close friends and church members sent their birthday greetings, and they spoiled me with yummy homemade cakes (the best!). I was deeply touched by their love and thoughtfulness.
As I am reflecting on my faith journey, there were times when I was overwhelmed and afraid. There were times when I was afraid to step into the place God has called me because I was worried that I was not good enough. What are we supposed to do when God had called us into something we think we are not ready for? Would you trust and obey and step out in faith and trust that He will lead you?
After the death of Moses, Joshua must have felt terrified too. Moses was the great leader, mightily used by God to deliver God’s people from the slavery in Egypt and to lead them on their journey towards the Promised Land. Now that Moses had passed on, Joshua certainly had big shoes to fill. It was not easy to be living under the shadow of a powerful leader. It also seemed an impossible task to lead more than 2 million people into a foreign land, to conquer it and claim it as their own.
The book of Joshua was written to continue the history of the Israelites and to reassure them that God is with them. There will be times when we are not ready for the assignment God is giving to us. With this in mind, I would like to have this mini-series on the book of Joshua. Let us learn from Joshua and follow his example of courage and faithfulness.
There are many lessons we can learn from this book.
Lesson 1: Depending on God’s strength
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites (Joshua 1:1-2).
May be Joshua was comparing himself with Moses, or he was not sure what he should do next. So, God said to him that Moses had already passed on and he needed to step up as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua had been assisting Moses for 40 years. During these 40 years, God must have been preparing him for this tremendous leadership task. Moses certainly was a great mentor to show him the ropes. Though Joshua was terrified, God reassured him that He was with Joshua. Our God is with us today too. When He calls you into something, He will certainly go with you. He gives you power to overcome your fears and courage to move forward.
What is your biggest fear that is stopping you from doing what God is calling you to do? Will you respond in faith as Joshua did?
Lean on His strength, not yours. And you will see what He will do for His glory.
The title of this Psalm is: A Psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day. This psalm was the only one that was titled as such. Perhaps it was meant for the Israelite community to meditate and sing on the Sabbath day. In Old Testament times, the Sabbath was a day of rest. Not only that, it was also a day of corporate worship.
Today, we worship the Lord corporately on Sundays but we can use this psalm in our private prayers and meditation. The pandemic may create mixed emotions in us, but let us find hope and rest in God. There are still so many reasons to give thanks to God.
Give Thanks to the Lord because of Who He is (vv 1-3)
1It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, 2 proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, 3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
It is good to give thanks to God. These verses tell us:
Because He is the Lord Most High. He is the supreme Being. He was not created. He is the Creator, the Maker of this universe. There is none above Him. As created beings, it is right and appropriate to give thanks to our Creator.
We give thanks to God because of His lovingkindness and faithfulness. The psalmist urges us to declare the Lord’s lovingkindness in the morning, and His faithfulness every night.
Day and night, God is right there with us. He does not forget us. He showers us in the morning with His lovingkindness. And at night, He remains faithful. The night time is the best time to recall how He has been with us and helped us throughout the day.
Declaring God’s love and faithfulness is one of the ways to give thanks to God.
Give thanks to the Lord because of His Work (vv4-5)
4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
The psalmist is rejoicing because of what God has done. It is never about us, but it is about God. The Bible frequently talks about the right hand of God. When the Bible talks about God’s right hand, it is referring to His strength. It also refers to these things: protection of God (Psalm 44:3, Psalm 17:7, Psalm 18:35; Psalm 20:6-7), the promise of God (Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:32-33), God’s provision (Psalm 16:11, Isaiah 41:10).
We can rejoice at the works of the Lord: His purpose, His protection, His promise, His provision and His wisdom.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
Give thanks to the Lord because He delivers us (vv 10-11)
9 For surely your enemies, Lord,
surely your enemies will perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
10 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
fine oils have been poured on me.
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
The Lord is great. There are no powers greater than His. And His love for us is so great. We give thanks to the Lord because He delivers us. It always seems that evil people are flourishing and can escape their punishments. But they can not escape God’s punishments. As verse 11 says, the evil and the wicked will be defeated. God’s enemies will perish. Evil people will not be able to escape from God’s punishments.
And, we give thanks to God because of the salvation we have through Jesus Christ. 2,000 years ago, God sent His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ into this world. He lived a perfect life—He was without sin. Because of His great love for us, Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself. The punishment that was supposed to be ours was upon Him. Jesus was crucified on the Cross for us, died and rose again on the 3rd day to give us eternal life. Whoever believes in Him will be with Him in Heaven. Because Jesus died and rose again, He has the final victory.
In Old Testament times, the horn was a symbol of strength and might. When the psalmist says that that his horn will be exalted (verse 10), that means he will be strengthened. Evil people will perish but the righteous will be exalted.
Fine oil refers to anointing. We need God’s anointing to serve Him. If not, we will lose our joy or get burned out very quickly. Ask for God’s anointing daily.
Not only does God give us strength, he gives us stability too.
Give thanks to the Lord because He will cause the righteous to flourish (vv 12-15)
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree (verse 12). The palm tree here is the date palm. The tree grows up to 120 feet and the branches extend out to a circumference of 30 feet. These were tall and majestic trees! These trees produce fruits and the leaves were used to make fence and roofs. This is the description for the righteous! They will be strong, stable and fruitful.
The cedar trees of Lebanon were known for their size, beauty, stability, usefulness and they last long. The blessings for the righteous will be like that too: strong, stable, useful, and last for a long time.
For the righteous, they will still bear fruit in old age. Age is not a factor that stops us from serving God. As the psalmist says, the righteous will still be fruitful in their old age. They will stay fresh and green. The righteous will be so connected to God that they are always fresh and will not dry up. I would like to think that their spirit is vibrant, active and alive although physically, they may be wasting away due to old age.
The righteous are always flourishing and fruitful. Their roots are deep in the ground and yet, like the branches of the tree, they branch out to bless others.
What will the righteous do? They will proclaim the goodness of God (verse 15).
May each one of us not cease to give thanks to God. May you be like the palm trees, sinking our roots into God’s Word and reaching out to bless those around us. May you be like the palm trees, flourishing, growing strong, bearing good fruits, blessed so that God will be magnified in your lives.
I don’t quarrel with my parents much. But I do often prick their hearts by grumbling about the country and how much I long to leave it to a “better place” somewhere. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Lately, it seems more obvious that my dad is ageing. We are all growing older day by day but it seems that his physical appearance is changing quite a bit: he seems to be losing muscles on his limbs. Just a few days ago, he needed cushion to make him more comfortable when seated on the sofa. He now needs a walking stick too.
While enjoying our afternoon tea just this afternoon, he choked on a “sunflower biscuit” (the name of the biscuit). The filling is too gooey for him. A mental note to self to pay more attention when bringing snacks or goodies home.
God has commanded us to honour our parents. It is the 5th out of the 10 Commandments, and the first that talks about our relationships with others (while the first to the fourth commandments talk about our relationship with God). “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12, NIV)
We are to honour our parents regardless how old we are.
These incidents of noticing my father ageing make me realise that seeing your parents growing old can be a bittersweet experience: seeing them getting older, slower in movement, getting forgetful, weakening of eyesight or hearing and so on.
Nonetheless, it is also a privilege and a blessing. I am glad I did not leave the country and choose to remain by their side and accompany them in their old age.
As human beings, it is in our nature to complain rather than to give thanks. It is so much easier to see what we don’t have and to grumble than to see what we have and count our blessings.
The God whom we worshipped is the Almighty and everlasting, sovereign God, and we are His creation, made from dust but created with so much love and thoughts. As James, the brother of Jesus Christ, says, we are like a morning mist, only here for a short while (James 4:14). As God has said to Adam, the first created human, to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19). And we shall eagerly await the day when God will establish His Kingdom that never ends.
In the ancient Jewish context, Psalm 118 was most probably an entrance liturgy to the Temple, used at the Passover festival. This psalm proclaimed God’s deliverance from Egypt and then from the Babylonian Exile.
The psalmist then ended this psalm by praising God for His mercy. God had helped His people in the past, and God will help them in the future.
In this psalm, we can find many reasons to give thanks to the Lord.
Give Thanks to the Lord because He is with us (VV5-7)
“5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.”
When you are hard pressed from every side, from the attacks of the enemy, from the pressures of life, when we cry out to God, He hears us because His love for us endures forever. His love endures forever because of the covenant He has made with His people. God will not leave us or forsake us. We can thank God because we know He hears our every word to Him and He is with us.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
There is this peaceful reassurance that God is with us. Our enemies may try to harm us. They may trick us with their schemes but if we make our Lord our refuge, He will lead us and protect us. Our God watches over us, His people.
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies. (v 7)
In our anguish and helplessness, God gave us confidence that He is with us. Think back to a time in your life when you were in a desperate situation. Did God deliver you and give you victory? Do you think that He will do that again?
Give Thanks to the Lord: because He is trustworthy (vv8-9)
We give thanks to God because we can trust Him. We can trust Him because He is a covenant-keeping God.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (vv 8-9).
When we face a problem, usually we will take it to social media to vent and get people on our side to support us. Oftentimes, God is our very last resort when we have failed to find help. We have gone through so much trouble and may even had got deeper into trouble before we finally consulted God. This verse reminds us that God is so trustworthy. He helps us. He is our refuge in difficult times.
I am not minimising the need for having a community who love us, pray for us and care for us, because God use people to encourage us. With all of their love, support and encouragement, we can carry on. My point is: bring your matters before God first and seek for His guidance. Find refuge in God first. Hear from Him first.
Give thanks to the Lord: because of His powerful Name (vv 10-12)
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
The psalmist was in trouble and distressed. But God was with him. He called upon God, and God delivered him.
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NIV).
There is power in God’s holy Name. Don’t take it lightly or make fun of it. There is power in God’s Name.
Give thanks to the Lord because He is our strength (vv13-16)
This is a Hallel (praise) Psalm. Hallel means praise, and yah means (Yahweh or God or the Lord). When combined, it means “hallelujah”, praise the Lord.
This psalm is also one of six Egyptian Hallel Psalms that were recited during the Passover and other major Jewish festivals. It commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery.
Verse 14 is directly taken from Exodus 15, where Moses celebrated the crossing of the Red Sea when God saved His people from the Egyptians pursuing them in chariots.
“The Lord is my strength and defense; he has become my salvation”.
According to the psalmist, the Lord who saved the Israelites from the Pharaoh was the same God who helped him. It is also the same God who is with us and helps us today. When you feel hopeless, and even defeated, look back at your life. How did God lead and guide? He was there with you through the darkest moments. He is still with you today.
Give thanks to the Lord, because He has been your strength and He is your strength. There is a difference between God giving you strength and God is your strength. The psalmist said, God is my strength. It is much more than He giving you strength. He has become your strength.
Give thanks to the Lord because of His purpose for us (vv 17-18)
“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (v 17)
The psalmist realised that the length of his days was in God’s hands. He knew that God had delivered him from his enemies and he should not be wasting his days away. Rather, he would proclaim what God had done for him.
Our lives are not just for our own enjoyment. It is our duty is to proclaim the goodness, faithfulness and love of God. When you proclaimed what God has done, you could be encouraging and blessing others.
We don’t know how long we will be on earth, but trust that God has His own plan and purpose for each of us to accomplish.
In Psalm 90, Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (verse 12). May God give us wisdom, so that we will live wisely.
“The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (verse 18).
God chastens or disciplines us because He loves us and wants us to walk on the right path: the path of righteousness and justice, which are His attributes. As the psalmist had noted, our lives are in God’s hands. He does what is best for us. Even when the circumstances around you were not what you have imagined, trust in God.
The main theme of this psalm is that God’s love endures forever. It appears four times in the first four verses (one time in each verse) and in the last verse of this psalm. The message of God’s love is not just only in this psalm, but it is the theme of the whole Bible: from the very first word of Genesis to the last words in Revelation. His love endures forever.
The psalmist is calling the Israelites to remember God’s loving kindness. Time and time again the Israelites were unfaithful to God and yet, His love for them remained unchanged.
This is a reminder for us today. Our God loves us. Time and time again we took God for granted and thought we deserved more. We grumble and complain. Let us come back to God with repentance.
There are so many reasons to give thanks to God. And some of the reasons are expressed by the psalmist. We give thanks to the Lord because:
He answers my prayer (VV5-7)
He is trustworthy (vv8-9)
He is our strength (vv13-16)
His has a wonderful purpose for us (vv 17-18)
Let us give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.
Time with my 2-year-old taught me new things about life.
My niece, Ariel, lives in Australia with her parents. Apart from video calls, I only get to see her physically once a year. She is now 2 and a half years old and she is such a bundle of joy!
I am single, never married and do not have children of my own. When Ariel and her parents were visiting, they stayed with me. Just spending time with her, playing and talking (she could not really talk yet as she had not turned two when I last saw her in person) made me reflect about life and relationships. She has taught me so much.
Love others as we love ourselves: Love without condition
Ariel loves without condition. She gave hugs and kisses to us so generously.
As time passes, we pick and choose whom we want to love. We are afraid to love freely without conditions. We may be worried we might get hurt or be taken advantage of. We are generous with our good friends, we are only friendly to those who love us but we could not care less when it comes to people we do not really know.
Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31, John 13:34). When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of all commandments, the person who asked it did not really want to know because he considered himself to be an expert in the law and the prophets and he only wanted to test Jesus.
Jesus answered His question with wisdom and grace. Loving and taking care of ourselves is something that we can do. We do not need trainings or to go for courses. By nature, we want what is the best for us. Jesus said, the way you love yourself is the way you should love others: we don’t love others more than ourselves. Nor do we love others less than ourselves.
What are the acts of kindness you can do for someone today?
We are living in this world. We are citizens of a country. But, as believers of Jesus, we are more than this. We are not of this world but of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Jesus says in John 18:36 that His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore, our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), which is beyond our time on this earth. Our lives on earth are just like a vapour (James 4:14). We should have eternity in mind (1 Peter 5:10).
Moments before Jesus would be arrested and then nailed to the Cross, He prays to His Father in Heaven, “14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[a] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:14-19, NIV)
Jesus brings His disciples before His Father, saying that they are “not of the world” (verse 14), “even as I am not of it” (verse 16).
We are not of this world, but we are being sent into the world (verse 18). Jesus prays that God will protect us from the evil one (verse 15) and that the truth will sanctify us.
We live in the world but we are not of it. We don’t swim with the currents of the world culture and ways of living. As in the prayer of Jesus, we have been sent into this world. We are to be God’s vessels to bring the message of His love, joy, hope and peace. Our lives should reflect that we are the children of the Almighty God.
It may seem overwhelming but God is with us, He empowers us (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). He has sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily livings so that we will make decisions that please His heart.
Let us live in purity and holiness. Let us also act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Live in the moment: full of wonder and curiosity
The older I get, the more self-conscious I became. I used to care a lot what people thought of me. But that is the little prison I had locked myself in. I don’t think this is the way God wants me to live—in a prison that only exists in my mind.
We can be so critical of ourselves when nobody is actually bothered about it.
My niece, Ariel is full of wonder and curiosity. She finds joy in the things around her. She sings when she felt like singing. She sang when she was bursting with joy. She danced when she was happy. She laughed when something funny caught her eye. She didn’t care what we think. She was living in joy and she showed it. She didn’t know her singing and laughter brought joy to us too.
Chris Tomlin wrote a song, “The Way I Was Made”. A part of the lyrics go like this:
I want to live like there’s no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one’s around
I want to sing like nobody’s listening
Before I lay my body down
I want to give like I have plenty
I want to love like I’m not afraid
I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made
When was the last time I looked at something with joy, wonder and awe?
Ariel reminded me to live in the moment. Be filled with love and wonder at your surroundings. Cherish the people around you. Enjoy the gifts God has given you. Honour the way that you were made so wonderfully by Your Father in Heaven (Psalm 139:14).
Trust in God: Everything will be all right
There were times when I would toss and turn in my bed and could not sleep because the problem I was facing seemed too big for me and I couldn’t seem to see the way out.
When her parents were with her (they were always with her), Ariel felt safe and secure. That was why she could laugh, sing and dance. She knew her parents loved her and that she was safe. She trusts her parents.
Do we trust our Heavenly Father? Our Father in Heaven takes care of us. Time and time again in the Bible, God reminds us of His unfailing love. Psalm 121 talks about a God who will not fall asleep and who watches over our lives.
The psalmist also prayed, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4, ESV).
In the New Testament, Jesus reassured His disciples that God’s children would not be in lack. Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27, NIV)
Apostle Peter also urges us, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV). We can rest in the Lord, knowing that He is with us and He watches over us.
Jesus Christ teaches His disciples to have childlike faith. Childlike faith is to:
Love others as we love ourselves
Remain pure in this world
Live in the moment, be filled with wonders and curiosity
Put our trust in God
I have had my experiences in disappointments, hurts and so on. But, I have also experienced so much joy, wonders and blessings in life! It is amazing that a 2 year old can help me to rethink about my life and to treasure each day with God and cherish the people in my life.
Our friend Helen is a certified midwife. She told us that when she was in the training school, she had a classmate who was afraid of blood to the extent that she would faint at the sight of blood. But it was her dream to be a midwife. She worked hard to find ways to train herself to overcome her fear. With her hard work and dedication to succeed, she graduated and became a successful midwife.
Each of us has dreams inside us which we want to achieve but sometimes fear gets in the way. We may have big fears that make us freeze in our steps instead of moving us forward. In other times, we have fears so small we do not even realize they exist inside us.
Fear is a part of our human experience in this fallen world. Fear warns us of danger: we have fear if there is a car tailing us and it is moving in high speed, I am fearful if I am on a roller coaster, others are fearful if there is a strange noise in the middle of the night. It is not wrong to feel afraid. It is a part of our survival skills in-built inside each of us. Our ancestors needed this to survive, and so do we today.
But then, there are the unhealthy fears that rob us of joy and give us sleepless nights. Such fears may arise because we are afraid to try, or we allow the evil one to stop us from doing what God is calling us to do. There are people who do not fully exercising the gifts and talents God has given them because of fear.
The devil uses unhealthy fear to try to crumple us from reaching what God has for us. He uses fear to put anxiety and worries in us and separate us from the love of God. Fear haunts us for thinking we are not worthy to be loved and not worthy to be used by God.
When fear comes surging in, acknowledge it. Brushing it aside will not make it go away. Running from it will not be a good solution. We may spend a lifetime fearing something but have you considered bringing this matter before God? Tell Him what is holding you back. Ask Him for courage to overcome it. Share with some close friends and ask for prayers. They can also encourage us and keep us accountable.
God does not want us to live defeated lives. We are people of hope, not fear. The devil may want to trap us in the prison of fear. So, let us not let fear destroy us, and eat us up on the inside. You are a child of God, there will not be problems too big that God can not do anything about!
I remembered vividly the time when I had to preach for the first time in front of a congregation of about 250 people, I was so nervous and afraid that I wanted to give up and go home! But God has called me to be a pastor. His grace is sufficient for me; His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NIV).Our fears can be stepping stone for us to experience God’s presence, power, strength and faithfulness!
May this verse be an encouragement to you. “ 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). God has created us with great love and every part of us was made lovingly and with much thoughts by God. He has redeemed us from sins through the death of Jesus on the Cross. God has blessed us with gifts and talents to serve Him and others. Break out of the fear and start to use these gifts. It can be overwhelming at first but take it a step at a time. Trust in Him as you go. He will lead you and guide you.
We can live a fulfilling life in Christ Jesus, one that is filled with joy, peace and hope.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)
In life, we have to be wise and sensible so that our wellbeings as well as those we love will be taken care of. However, there are dreams that God has planted in you for His glory. Step out! Do not fear! God is with you. He will strengthen you when you are weary and afraid. He will lead you through when unexpected circumstances come your way. He upholds you with His mighty and righteous hand! He will provide you with resources and link you with people so that you can implement the dreams that He has placed within you. In His infinite wisdom, God works for the good of His people. All that He wants from us is to trust Him and obey Him.
After all, it is not about you. It is about Him. May the Lord be glorified through you.
How can we have hope when our circumstances are unpredictable and seemingly hopeless? How can we have hope when we are in the midst of the pandemic?
Hope is one of the greatest virtues, together with love and faith (1 Corinthians 13:13). As Raniero Cantalamessa writes, ‘They are like three sisters. Two of them are grown and the other is a small child. They go forward together hand in hand with the child hope in the middle. Looking at them it would seem that the bigger ones are pulling the child, but it is the other way around; it is the little girl who is pulling the two bigger ones. It is hope that pulls faith and love. Without hope everything would stop.’
Hope helps us to move forward. Hope helps us to face impossible challenges. Hope is like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. We can move forward even in the darkness because of the hope we have.
During this pandemic, we often heard preachers and pastors telling us not to “waste this pandemic”, meaning that we are to use this time of the lockdown to reflect about our lives, be intentional about spending time with God and letting God shape us and transform us from the inside out so that we will be better people than before. In order to do so, we need to know the hope that we have in God.
Let’s look at Psalm 89, a maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite and let us learn to put our hope in Him.
Hope in God in our sufferings and despair
The psalmist cries out to the Lord “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (verse 46, NIV).When the psalmist was writing this, he had his own challenges to deal with. His circumstances were different. But this verse expresses what we are feeling now. We feel that God is hiding Himself as the peoples of this world are suffering.
God is always there. We can not see Him with our eyes but He is with us. He is faithful. He loves us with a great love. The psalmist says,“1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself” (verses 1-2).
There is hope in our sufferings because of who God is. He is love. He is faithful. He will carry us through.
Hope in spite of our short life span and the inevitability of death
Life is short—“your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14. NLT).The psalmist also prays to God,“47 Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity! Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?” (verse 24, NIV)
The psalmist says despite our life being short and that we will face death someday, yet, he holds on to the promise of God’s love. He prays, “Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?” (verse 49). We will pass away; it is inevitable. But, as the story unfolds in the New Testament, believers will have eternal life through Jesus Christ, who took our sins upon Himself and died on the Cross for us. We have eternal life through Jesus Christ. Our life is more than life on earth. We have hope that we will have eternal life with God in Heaven forever.
Hope in God’s righteousness and justness
The world is unjust. The evil and power-hungry people seem to be crushing the innocent. But the psalmist puts his hope in God who is righteous and just. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” (verse 14-15, NIV)
Even when what is going on does not make sense to you, trust in God’s righteousness, love and faithfulness.
Hope in the presence of God
Those who walk with God (following His ways and commandments) will be blessed. They are walking in the light of the presence of God (verse 15). They will rejoice in God and celebrate God’s righteousness because God is their glory and strength (verses 16-17).
When all else fail, by walking with God, we will taste His presence and we even rejoice in the midst of difficulties because God is with us.
We have hope because God is with us.
Hope in God’s purpose
It seems funny and even a little rude for me to tell you about finding the good in our present situation. I don’t know what you are going through. You may be grieving over the loss of a loved one, you may be facing stressful times at home, you may be out of a job or you may be struggling financially. But let us lift up our eyes from the current situations to God.
This psalm reminds us that God is faithful. He loves us with a faithful love (verse 24). There is no powers or authority higher than that of God’s (vv 5-13). He alone is in control. He created the heavens and the earth (v 11) and everything belongs to Him. There is a purpose for everything He does. We can trust in His timing to work things out for the best according to His infinite love and wisdom.
Ezra, the psalmist, ends this psalm by asking God to remember him. The psalmist clings onto the hope he has in God. Ezra then praises God, “praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!” (verse 52, NIV).There are always reasons to praise Him. He is sovereign, He is in control, His wisdom is beyond our comprehension and He loves us with a faithful love.
With the increase of the Covid-19 cases around the world (some countries are facing the third-wave), we may be going through mixed emotions. We may be feeling discouraged, fearful and even a sense of hopelessness. We may even have asked, why isn’t God doing anything about this pandemic?
From the Bible, especially the psalms, we learn that we can tell God what is on our minds and He also permits us to cry out to Him during moments of doubt, discouragement, sadness, grief, anxiety, pain and sufferings.We live in a fallen world where there is pain, injustice, suffering and tragedy. And God allows us to cry out to Him in these situations. God hears every single word of our prayers. He cares. He loves us. We can pray to God telling Him about our real feelings, thoughts and emotions.
The pandemic has brought changes to all of us. We are now living in the “new normal”. Practicing social distancing, wearing our masks when we are outdoors, sanitising our hands are a part of our daily routine now.
In the midst of the pandemic, we echo the words of David in Psalm 13,
“1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? “
How long will God forget us? We feel that there is no end to the pandemic.
But remember, as believers, we are people of hope. When we cry out to God, we don’t do it thinking that the end result will be hopeless. We are certain that there is hope: our God is sovereign, almighty, all wise and powerful. There is nothing that is above Him. He is the one that is ultimately in control of the events of this world.
David ended his psalm with praise, because he remembered Who God is.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
David chose to trust in God when he was discouraged and afraid because he knew God would save him (verse 5). God had loved him and had been good to him (verses5- 6)
The pandemic may stir fear and anxiety in us but let us wait and hope upon God. Let us continue to encourage one another with psalms, Bible verses, spiritual songs and prayers. Let us not forget to do good to others especially to those in need. Let us worship God in new creative ways. Let us share of God’s unfailing love.
May the witness, love, faith and hope of believers be an encouragement to those around us!