Joyce Meyer - Colour Conference 2015
What do we do when someone else has what we have? Can we keep a good attitude? Does this mean God loves them more than us?
Firstly, we need to understand that 'before God does anything for us, he needs to do something in us' (Joyce) - be it strengthen, mature us or develop our faith. And 'if we don't get the lesson God is teaching us then he touches our circumstances' (Joyce) which happen through either successes or challenges. Typically 'we live life forwards, but we only understand it backwards' (Joyce) - in hindsight. I hope this post sheds some light on your past experiences and gives you hope that God does love you very much and has a plan for your life. Everything is on track as long as you keep believing, even if your immediate circumstances may not reflect what you want, or what you have believed looks like a 'godly life'. Let's compare two examples of people loved by God but who experienced the signs of His promises in very different ways:
1) Noah builds an ark
- After God cleansed the World in the flood, God sent Noah a rainbow (Genesis 9:12-16), as the sign of a covenant that this would never happen again. This was the first rainbow ever, so Noah was pretty lucky to receive such a beautiful symbol in nature
- It must have taken great faith and obedience to do this; to leave behind your 'normal life' and start building an ark when there was no rain, and no one else is doing it (Genesis 5).
- This was also an incredibly lengthy task, it took c.100 years for Noah to complete (compare Genesis 5:32 and 7:6).
Are we willing to wait through the long-haul? Do we trust God enough?
If Noah had held on to everything he had, he wouldn't have built the Ark and he would have been washed away in the flood just like everyone else. If we truly believe God is who he says he is, and he loves us like he says he does then anything he asks us to do is infinitely better than what he's asked us to leave behind, even if we can't see clearly what the future holds. Sometimes why we haven't experienced our 'rainbow' season is because we're not willing to let go of what we have now, we're not willing to subvert the status quo and prepare for something something 'crazy' that God is calling us to do. Other times, we don't experience the rainbow because we aren't as willing to put the time and effort in for it.
Following God's teachings will never leave us swept up in a sea of opinions and competitors, He will keep us afloat no matter what the rest of the world is going through - just as He kept Noah's family safe and secure.
Navigating this gap between leaving the known and stepping into the unknown is made easier by our faith and so, we need to 'level-up' faith to access the next stage of God's plan for our lives.
2) Now we fast forward to the life of Abraham
Abraham is hailed throughout the Bible as a great man of faith, who loved God and was ultimately the father of Israel. Just like Noah, God cut a covenant with Abraham as well, God told him that he would become the father of many nations, he would be exceedingly fruitful and be given land for himself (Genesis 17:6-9). And as a sign of this great promise Abraham was required to have a circumcision (Genesis 17:10-11).
Let's consider the facts for a moment - Abraham loved God, and God had told him all these great things. I'm sure Abraham would have heard about Noah's story and the rainbow which was passed down through generations. If I was Abraham, I would have been getting ready to turn to the sky and look for some other beautiful symbol of God's promise. instead, it turns out, that all Abraham got was a circumcision. How anti-climatic.
If I was Abraham or his family, I would have been incredibly confused, I would have said - wait, aren't you God's favourite? Why are you being cut in an intimate place and having to experience pain when Noah got a rainbow? Are you sure you're serving the same God?
When we compare Abraham and Noah's stories we see that God operates in our lives in different ways. As Joyce said, 'everyone gets something and everyone doesn't get something else'. By the end of our lives we would have experienced a wide range of both 'circumcisions' and 'rainbows' - ups and downs but the fact is that all of it is part of God's wider plan for us individually. Regardless of how we expect a 'godly' and 'blessed' life to look, He will give us the type of situation that will mature us for the next stage in life. Therefore it is pointless to compare a snapshot of your life with someone else's because we are all on our own separate journey. We know that in the end, Abraham did become the father of many nations, he had a child at age 100 and he and finally, his family were so wealthy, the land could not contain it (Genesis 13:2). Abraham's life was littered with rainbow-moments, but if he had given up on God during his circumcision and compared himself to Noah he would have never given himself the chance to experience everything else God had to offer
Sometimes, this is why we give up
We give up on relationships, families, businesses and ultimately our walk with God. Because we look around us and see rainbows, which are beautiful and visible to everyone who can see. By contrast circumcisions are painful, intimate and not seen by the general public. Therefore, don't be disheartened when you see other people's 'rainbows' because 'circumcisions' are happening all over the place as well, we just can't see them. Both rainbows and circumcisions are from God, and our experience of 'good' and 'bad' situations doesn't change the fact that God is using it all for our benefit. Difficult situations where we feel at rock bottom, can drive us to lean on God and increase our faith in Him. As the Message translation puts it so eloquently:
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule" - Matthew 5:3
Tough situations can also be a sign of maturity in your walk with God; before the rainbow sometimes we need a circumcision, a removal of an old layers in our lives or our character, that might be limiting us from going to the next level of knowing God.
This is reflected through Jesus' teaching to Peter
In John 21:18, Jesus tells Peter that when he is young in the faith, he did whatever he wanted, but as he matures God will bring him to situations that don't look as conventionally attractive. Of course, this was a difficult truth for Peter to accept, and he asked, whether the same thing would happen to John who was close behind (verse 21). Jesus' simply replied "what's it to you?" (verse 22). Sometimes we like to see someone else experiencing challenges as well in order to console ourselves but what Jesus is saying here is: focus on yourself. Our eyes should be fixed on who God is and developing our relationship with Him because when we use other people's experiences as a barometer for our 'progress' in life we will end up being either:
1) Self-inflated and feeling better than, (which is always short-lived);
2) Jealous, demotivated and/or outside of God's love
Finally, let's consider another 'hero' of the Bible as a further example
King David. Arguably one of the most important and praised King's in the Bible, he also wrote many of the Psalms and was an excellent leader. As a young man he was selected out of all of his brothers to be King over Israel - that's a huge rainbow moment, however he did not actually assume kingship until 20 years later. During those 20 years:
- The King who first mentored David, Saul became jealous and spent countless times chasing him across the Middle East trying to kill him
- His son Amnon raped his daughter, Tamar (Amnon's half sister)
- Tamar's brother Absalom killed Amnon in revenge then tried to steal the throne from his father David
- One of his children died as a baby (due to David's own sin) despite David pleading, praying and fasting to God to save the child's life
These are all incredibly difficult circumcision-like moments. But when we hear about King David, the first thing that springs to mind are all his rainbow moments, all the glamorous parts. Again, we only hear of the rainbows, not the circumcisions - however it is during these tough situations where David developed his leadership skills, won the loyalty of key people and learned how to be merciful to his enemies (for example, on multiple occasions he had to opportunity to kill Saul and he never did). During these challenges, David could have abandoned God or given up on the fact he would ever become King, but his "slow burn" faith and confidence in who God is sustained him. All of his experiences contributed to what made him the great leader that we hear of today, and they shouldn't be overlooked.
What we can learn from the lives of Abraham, Noah, David and many others in the Bible is to embrace the ups and downs of life. Embrace your rainbows and your circumcisions because, ultimately we can have confidence in the fact that:
"In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" - Romans 8:28
© Noterie, 2015