Ten long years

“So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me! I gave my servant into your embrace, but when she realized that she was pregnant, she despised me. May the Lord judge between you and me!” Genesis 16: 3-5

Ten years can seem like forever when you are waiting for something you desperately want, waiting to be healed, waiting for a husband, or like Sarai, waiting for a child. I imagine that desperation, grief, and frustration motivated her to take matters into her own hands and give Hagar to her husband. But when Hagar becomes pregnant, the situation goes from bad to worse. No one is happy, not Abram, not Hagar, and certainly not Sarai. She lashes out, as we all often do, at the person closest to her, blaming her husband for a decision she made.

Like Sarai, it often seems like our deepest desire remains unfulfilled. We read in Psalm 37 that if we “delight” ourselves in the Lord, He will “give us the desires of our heart.” And like Sarai, we wonder when that will happen. We fret, we scheme, we worry, we fuss and fight, and we often create conflict and strife to fulfill that need. We want what we want now. Instead, God often wants us to be patient and wait. Why? If I knew the answer to that, I would be God. But if He truly is Lord of my life, wouldn’t He know best? Aren’t His ways better than mine? Isn’t His plan perfect? Do I trust and believe in Him or not? If, like me, you are waiting for God’s provision, be patient. Don’t fret, it leads only to evil. Don’t create conflict. Instead, trust in God’s timing and in His plan.

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The waiting is the hardest part

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, but she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from having children, please sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” Abram did what Sarai told him.” Genesis 16:1-2

In Genesis 15, God promises Abram that he will have heirs as “numerous as the stars in the sky.” Abram believes God’s promise, but time passes and Sarai remains childless. In this ancient culture, the inability to produce an heir caused shame and humiliation for the woman. Sarai, tired of waiting, takes matters into her own hands and offers her servant Hagar to Abram. This solution seems strange, but during this time, it would have been an acceptable way for Abram’s lineage to continue. It is Sarai’s last ditch effort to have a family, and Abram “did what Sarai told him.” This phrase mirrors the episode in Genesis when Adam ate the fruit that Eve gave him. Both men listen to their wives instead of the voice of God, and both men (and women) sin.

Often, we take matters into our own hands as well. Instead of having faith in God’s promises and timing, we grow impatient, and we doubt. We begin to question if we really heard God’s voice at all. When we listen to the voice of others, like Abram and Adam, instead of the voice of God, it inevitably leads to trouble. Many times, the most difficult part of walking by faith is waiting and not doing.

Closed hearts

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3: 17-18

Mothers know that actions speak louder than words. We spend a good portion of our time demonstrating our love through our actions. We make lunches, wash clothes, wipe noses, change diapers, read bedtime stories, pay tuition, all because we love our families. Love is more than warm, fuzzy feelings, and it is more than empty words. True love will always be made manifest in what we do, not in what we say.

1 John reminds us that without actions, love is meaningless. When we “close our heart” to those in need around us, we demonstrate apathy and hate. Often, we are so concerned with our own troubles and desires that we fail to see our brother or sister’s need. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to those we meet today. Let’s put our love of God into action by loving others, not just with what we say, but with what we do.

Bird on a wire

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13: 12

When we were living at our old house in Red Oak, I loved to sit on the front porch in the morning. Each day, I noticed a bird sitting on a telephone wire. That little bird was there every morning, rain or shine. One morning, Michael came and sat with me, and I pointed that bird out, telling him that the it was in the same place every day. Mike paused for a moment, and then said, “That’s not a bird Carrath. It’s just a clump of wires.” Thus, the “bird on the wire” is still something Mike and the boys tease me about to this day.

That story reminds me of this verse in 1 Corinthians. Our spiritual vision is often blurred or darkened by our circumstances and problems. We don’t fully “see” or understand God’s plan for our life. On this side of eternity, our vision is not fully complete. But Paul reminds us that one day we will see the Lord “face to face.” Now we know or understand a little, but one day we will fully know. For now, we must walk by faith and not sight.

All things

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

A dear member of our church is currently suffering from an aggressive brain cancer. Another member is recovering from a heart attack that occurred on Monday. An old high school friend has learned that his sickness is incurable, and he has been placed in hospice care. My mom is undergoing chemo for breast cancer; my dad is still paralyzed and unable to fully communicate due to the stroke he suffered last year. Michael will meet with the doctors in June for more scans and blood work. I will confess that, at times, things seem hopeless. There are days when I wonder where God is in the midst of this sickness and suffering. I struggle with what to say and how to offer comfort and encouragement. But this verse reminds me that no matter what we face, God causes all of it to work together for good. I have faith that He loves us. I have faith that He has a plan for us. I have faith that He will work it out for good and not evil. This is the definition of walking by faith and not by sight. Often what I see is dark and hopeless, but it is precisely during those times that I must turn my gaze to the One who heals, saves, loves, and delivers.

It is not up to me to figure out how or when He will do what He promised. It is up to me to trust Him.

Exercise

“Train yourself for godliness. For physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Whether we do it or not, we all recognize the necessity of exercise. Studies have proven that it has both physical and mental benefits. We all realize that we should incorporate a little into our daily routine. Yet, most of us pay little attention to our spiritual health. Paul reminds Timothy, a young church leader, that spiritual training is every bit as important as physical. The use of the word “train” indicates that it requires some work on our part. Regular reading of the Bible, prayer, and church attendance are all ways that we can train. Just as physical exercise makes our bodies stronger, spiritual work outs strengthen us as well. When we are spiritually strong, we are able to handle the troubles of life that come our way. We develop the ability to “stand firm in our faith.” We develop the ability to encourage and love others. Our faith increases and our fear decreases.

Physical exercise is definitely important, but let’s remember to engage in some spiritual exercise as well.

Choices

“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 14-15

Joshua speaks these words at the end of his life. He has led a successful military campaign in the Promised Land. He has seen the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. He was witness to God’s provision of manna, quail, and water in the desert wasteland. He watched the walls of Jericho come crashing to the ground. He had seen the mighty hand of God displayed in a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. And because of this, he is unwavering in his faith and desire to serve God. Ironically, the Israelites had seen these same miracles, and yet they had chosen to worship false gods. God had provided a land of plenty; He had given them vineyards and homes and had delivered them from slavery. How could they be so quick to turn from Him?

We are often guilty of the same forgetfulness. When things are going well, we have a tendency to neglect prayer, church, and reading the Bible. We may not serve false gods as the people of Israel did, but we do serve ourselves. We choose what we want over what God has commanded. We let our feelings and emotions determine our day and attitude. We put our needs above others. Joshua’s words still ring true for us today. We each have a choice to make. Will I serve myself or will I serve God?