Sept. 18 – Oct. 30
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In our community group last week, one of our members made the honest confession: “When I was younger, I thought, ‘When I get into college, I’ll focus on my relationship with God.’ And then, ‘When I get out of school, I’ll get serious about my walk with God.’ And then, ‘When I get married —’ I was always looking toward some point in the future when I would finally get serious about God.”
Most of us can relate. It seems like life’s demands and our own plans and desires often get in the way of making our relationship with God a priority. If we’re not careful, knowing and doing God’s will can take a backseat to fulfilling our own. And that most elusive of days, called someday, continues to retreat before us, never allowing us to fully grasp the purpose and plan for which we were created.
Our lives were never meant to be about someday. And our faith was never meant to be put on hold. Jesus came to bring us abundant life, not just then and there, but here and now.
The author of Hebrews focuses on a different day instead:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
— Hebrews 3:12-14
The writer paints a stark picture of why living a life of faith is so urgent and time-sensitive. Lack of faith in God can draw us away from him and harden us through sin’s deception. For this reason, the author encourages us to exhort (that is, to challenge and motivate) one another so that we can keep our eyes fixed on God and our faith firmly rooted in him. He reminds us to do this as long as it is called “today”.
The irony, of course, is that every day is today. No one ever lived a yesterday. Or a tomorrow. Or even a someday. Understanding the importance of today should shake us awake from the stupor of someday and call us to a deeper walk with him, starting now.
Are you ready for today? God is welcoming you to it. And he created you for it. He calls you to him with more grace and mercy than you can possibly fathom. He is ready and waiting. Are you?
And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity.
— 2 Corinthians 9:8 (AMP)
Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
— Psalms 107:8-9 (NLT)
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could learn and apply life lessons in just one try? Sadly, this has been a struggle for me on more than one occasion. I am totally confident in my relationship with Christ. I know he is my Lord and Savior, but there are times — more than there should be — that I coast on autopilot, relying on my instinctive reactions and failing to trust the Lord to be my everything.
As children, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up, and the big dreams begin. As we continue to grow up, we set goals for ourselves. We seem to always have a plan. This is all very normal, and it enables us reach and surpass our potential. I think the place where it goes off course is when our dreams and plans become what we live for. No achievement, status or salary — or anything those things afford — will ever be enough to sustain us. That’s not the way it works.
In our relationship with God, he longs for us to seek him. We can never have too much of him, but he alone is more than enough. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aspire to do well in life, but I do know that when I am truly living for Jesus, that is going to be the end result. Allowing God to be what satisfies my soul empowers me with him. My perspective changes. I no longer depend on the world’s temporal view of success and the things that go with it that only lead me to want. Instead, when I pursue Christ, my relationship with him grows. My desires become the same as his. Only then can I be confident in the plans he has for me as he places my steps. Only then can I be content with the fullness of Christ. Only then can I have peace and true joy.
The words of an old hymn that my dad used to sing have continually played over in my head throughout this week. I've included some of the lyrics here. May they resonate with you as well.
There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!
[Fill My Cup Lord by Richard Blanchard, © 1959]
The title of our current sermon series is Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It is, for many, about looking for love in all the wrong places, and how we don’t really have to look in all those places because God is looking for us. I struggled a little to figure out how this related to me. Then I remembered when I learned this truth for myself.
I was in college. I went there believing I was called to be a pastor, and I was, by any measure, a good girl. I had great grades, good friends, and I was never in trouble. That was the trouble. Everything about me was so good. I wasn’t even looking for what I was looking for. I thought I already had earned it.
Today, as I reread John’s gospel passage about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:3-29), I laughed out loud. Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink, and she asked how he, a Jewish man, could ask her for a drink. The passage goes on:
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
— John 4:10-11
You might not find that particularly funny. I laughed, though, because I so related to her. Jesus was offering her something she desperately needed — living water, real life, forgiveness and love. Her response to him demonstrated that she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It’s like they were conversing in two different languages. They kind of were.
The Samaritan woman was speaking the language of the world — of physical need and our own activities aimed at getting what we need. Jesus was speaking the language of the Father — the language of grace, unmerited favor, the language of real life. It's what he offered her then, and it's what he offers us now.
My real abundant life started the day that my mentor asked me if I knew why I was valuable. As I listed off my accomplishments, he gently smiled and said, “No, it’s just because you are.” I wasn’t looking for God, for his love, for his grace, because I thought I had already earned them. (And I never ceased frantically trying to keep them; it was exhausting.)
That day, I realized that God had sought me, just as I was, scared and feeling I’d be inadequate without my accomplishments. He sought me. I didn’t need to keep trying to convince him that I deserved his love. I didn’t deserve it. That’s the whole point. He loves because he is love. Period.
If you are trying to be good enough for God, stop working so hard. He loves you just because you are. Because he made you. He is seeking you as you are, and wants to give you love and rest and life.
In John 4, Jesus meets an outcast of a woman at a well in Samaria. In those days, Jews typically avoided Samaria because they didn’t associate with Samaritans. Yet Jesus, himself a Jew, traveled into Samaria and stopped during the middle of the day. I just know, deep down in my heart, that Jesus went to Samaria for eternal purposes. I know he went to that well to meet that woman. During that time, when people wanted to encounter God, they went to specific locations, such as mountain tops or other sacred places. Jesus tells this woman:
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
— John 4:23-24
He not only tells this woman that God is seeking people, but he makes it known that they don’t have to be in a particular place — that true worshipers will worship him in spirit and truth. This means that true worship can happen anywhere, and that worship doesn’t have to do with external factors anymore.
Jesus did everything with purpose. Jesus reveals this new truth about worship and encountering God to a Samaritan woman with a crazy past and sinful lifestyle. What does this mean for us? God wants you. Right where you are. You don’t have to position yourself in a church or some other “perfect” setting, because he is ready for you now. Satan fills us with confusion and fear, causing us to doubt that Jesus wants us, but Jesus does! And the coolest thing is, like with the woman at the well, Jesus might encounter you when you are in the worst setting possible.
No matter what you’re filling your life with to satisfy you, whether you’re redeemed already or not, Jesus wants to fill that place. No marriage, no job, no child, no drug could ever fill you like the Living Water can. Jesus wants to give you abundant life and wants you to know you don’t have to be in the right place to meet him. He’s waiting patiently, right where you are. Invite him in.
As I was sitting on a bench at a camp in Oklahoma, I begin to feel a stirring in my heart and, before I knew it, I was in tears. I knew God was leading me to leave the church where I was serving. I knew I didn’t want to leave, and the more I prayed and asked God to make it clear that I was supposed to leave, the more confident I was that he was calling me away. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t even know about any churches hiring. All I knew was that God told me to go.
Not long after that, my wife asked if she could put in some applications to teach in the Dallas area. I was fine with it but, after only two days, she had an offer from Forney ISD to teach math. At that point, I was still asking God, “Are you sure?” And yet again God made it even clearer that we were to leave and go to Forney. That was one of the hardest times for me, personally. I was leaving students that I loved, I had no job, which made me feel like a failure of a husband, and I had no ministry. I felt as if I may have been missing out on my calling.
I was fearful, worried, prideful and not trusting God, but — as God always does — he came through in a way that far exceeded anything I could have dreamed. During that time, I learned to lean on God more instead of leaning on my own plans. I began to pray more for his will to be done, because going through that time helped me take on other parts of my life, simply knowing his provisions had surpassed my expectations completely.
I’m not sure what causes you to fear or worry, but what I do know is that you have a loving Father who wants to bless you and, even in your fear, he wants to teach you to lean into him. Why do we fear the unknown as believers? (I ask myself this all the time.) If we truly believe what the scripture says about God, then we have nothing to fear.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
— Matthew 6:25-26
I had a lot of fears and worries, but God had a plan the whole time for me. He brought me here to a church that I love and a staff that I love to serve beside. I have seen God do so much through this body of believers and have seen so many lives changed. I know that the plans that I had for my life in Oklahoma fell very short in comparison to how God has blessed me here!