Don’t be Ungrateful

This week, I was convicted…for being ungrateful.

Here’s the deal.

During the Lenten season, God birthed very specific dreams and prayers in my spirit.  I prayed those prayers – circled them, as my Pastor has taught me – for weeks upon weeks and month after month.

I moved from a place of cautiously accepting that these were God-inspired thoughts, to faithfully expecting these prayers to come to fruition.

To answer my prayers and further His plan for my life, God had to create an opportunity.  Just. For. Me.

The plan that He unfurled before me checked each of the specifications of my prayers to the letter.  It was both exciting and humbling.  Overwhelming and perfect.

Just as His plan was coming to fruition though, I began to question whether it was indeed the path I was supposed to take.

(Despite the fact that He confirmed and reconfirmed that that was indeed my path in many a subsequent prayer.)

Well, I guess He finally got fed up with my double-mindedness.

One morning this week during my prayer and quiet time He said, “I created this opportunity just for you.  It is exactly what you asked for to accomplish exactly what I need for your life.”

And just like that I got the revelation that I was being ungrateful.

Not in the strictly traditional sense of not appreciating a gift given to me, but in a new way of not rejoicing fully in an answered prayer – a gift custom-made for me.

Somehow, this brand felt like a deeper, different kind of ungratefulness and I quickly repented, overjoyed to return to the peace of knowing that I was walking in God’s will and plan for my life.

But man, the memory of knowing that I was ungrateful, that I’d allowed my worldly eyes to discolor the truth of what God said I could do and have.  That still stings.

Here’s what I know now friends: it can be hard to see this flavor of ungratefulness because it doesn’t present itself as the sour-mouthed, plain face one usually recognizes when the gift you’ve just received isn’t quite what you expected.

No this kind of ungratefulness presents itself as, “I just want to be sure it’s you God.”  “Hmm, is it really God’s will or mine?”  Or even, “This is too good to be true; it can’t be for me.”

So, let me share these three quick tips with you so you can avoid being ungrateful when God answers your prayers so well you just can’t believe the blessing is for you:

1. Don’t doubt the power of your own prayers.  Often we ask for and look for and seek prayers from others thinking that if Sister So and So and Brother So and So pray for your situation then surely God will move.  The reality is that yes, there is power in numbers, but each of us has our own individual relationship with God and can go to Him for ourselves thanks to Christ.  I prayed a prayer birthed in my Spirit months ago.  God heard it and immediately began working on my behalf.  Faith in God is critical.  Belief in the power of YOUR prayers is too.  Combined, these things will be the confirmation we need when God shows up and shows out on our behalf.

2. Don’t resent the down time.  I wanted God to answer my prayer when I wanted it; much sooner than God’s timeline.  I became so married to seeing God move according to my schedule that when it didn’t happen I started to question if I was going in the right direction, if the path I was on was in fact where He wanted me to go.  But, I learned early on in this season that promotion before preparation results in poor performance — and sometimes failure.  So I’m contently waiting for God to align things EXACTLY how they need to be for me to succeed and for Him to get ALL the glory.  In the meantime, opportunity after opportunity is being thrown my and my family’s way.  I’ve realized that they aren’t all for us to move on them now — they’re a foretelling of what’s to come and a reminder to soak up this down time.  New seasons often mean increased demand on us (spiritually and in the world) so rest up now because promotion soon comes.

3.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams.  For me it was a number.  A number that I felt like came out of nowhere, was too high, and I didn’t deserve.  It was a dream.  A dream that at different times along this journey other paths seemed to promise me.  But it was in those times that I knew I had to stay focused on God’s will, God’s plan, and His path.  Sometimes what looks like “options” are actually just distractions to keep you from getting where God wants you to go.  God knows us, but most importantly, He knows what He’s put in us.  Don’t let viewing your God-given dreams through the lenses of this world cause you to doubt the very things God has said He wants to give to you.  He’ll do it…He never fails.

You know, the word says in Proverbs 3:5-6:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

If we really, truly, deep down believe this scripture then there is no way that we should ever be surprised, overcome/overwhelmed, anxious or fearful to the point of freezing in place when God answers our prayers directly.

I think somewhere along the way religion made us believe that the only way we could ever really get anything good in our lives was to go through hell.  But, I would argue that that is contrary to the word of God which tells us that He orders our steps and makes our paths straight.

So the next time you see the manifestation of some audacious prayer that you’ve prayed, don’t be ungrateful.

Our God is a God of right now, suddenly, and exceedingly and abundantly.  And He loves you enough – SO MUCH in fact – that He delights in blessing you.

So, whoever you are reading this.  I believe God led you here because you’ve been asking Him for confirmation.  You’ve been asking Him to give you a sign that this huge blessing, this too-good-to-be-true blessing is really for you.

Pray once more asking God if this is the sign.  And if afterwards you feel peace about accepting your blessing, know that it was God answering your prayers and believe that He tailor-made that blessing just for you.

And please, don’t be ungrateful.

I’ll leave you with this classic hymn that serves as a reminder to not just be grateful, but that our God is a God of balance.  So no matter how tough your trials have been, know that your blessings will be just that big!

Favor Ain’t Fair

*Today I share a mini-sermon from two of my Mothers-in-Christ.  This is just to encourage that person who is looking at someone else’s life and wondering, “Why is He doing all that for her/him? What about me?” I hope this blesses you!

I’ve often heard people quote Acts 10:34-35 that God is no respecter of persons. But I think we have been mis-educated about its meaning. My understanding of it had been whatever God does for one person He will do the same for any person. I beg to differ with that interpretation.

Here are the verses:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

The back story on that verse is this is the first time Peter was preaching to Gentiles and he wanted them to know that God saw them the same as the Jewish people with the same entitlements.

So, the question to me then is does God have favorites?

Well, having read about His relationship with Abraham, whom he visited and ate with; Moses, whom He saved to use to free his people; David, who was a king of His heart; Solomon, the re-builder of His temple; Job, whom He knew trusted Him even if He killed him; Peter, James, and John who formed His inner circle while on this earth; and John who we know He just loved the most, I think YES God does have favorites.

I would then ask can anyone be his favorite?  And I believe that answer would also be YES.

And finally, HOW?

God has given us ALL a measure of faith.  Many of us work on a ‘mustard seed’ sample of faith but is that the measure?  No; faith can grow.  We know that faith needs works.  We know that God loves praise and worship.  We know that God wants us to trust Him and not be of a double mind.  God always searches our hearts.  It is our faith that moves the heart and hand of God. And oh, don’t forget predestination.  We can’t leave that out.

So, yes, God is a respecter of person. Be clear though: God is not a respecter of person from outward appearances, but He definitely is based on the condition of the heart.

Bottom line, God may not do to and through you what He is doing for someone else; but, He definitely has plans for you. Plans to prosper you, in your own special way according to His purpose and condition of your heart, and to give you a future (Jer 29:11).

No, favor ain’t fair, but we all thank God for the measure of faith and favor He’s given us each…and for the ability to grow in both!

 

Guilty As Charged

My apologies for the radio silence, folks.  My family and I are in a season of transition and I’ve been all-hands-on-deck there.

The thing about transition is that change – all change – is uncomfortable in some way.

And what I’ve learned is that transition to new seasons of increase often feel like you’re Alice in wonderland: growing scarily fast in a box that isn’t growing with you.  The sides of that box – your circumstances, your situations – they all seem to grow smaller as you get closer to God’s “next” for you.

That is uncomfortable.  It can be scary and intimidating.  And sometimes, that unknown of how it’ll all work out can cause us to retreat – to turn from the promised land that’s just within our grasp.

I’ve thought often about this dichotomy – the fear that accompanies promotion and increase – and God has told me over and over again why that period feels so bad.  How is it that moving towards something so great can feel so bad?

The answer lies in where we cast our eyes.

When God’s leading us through stillness, peaceful increase we have no problem looking to Him: trusting Him, believing Him, walking in faith through this beautiful unknown full of hope.

It’s usually when God shows us the destination (or even just the path to where He’s leading us) that we take our eyes off of Him and put them on the road ahead of us/world around us.

The problem with that is that our circumstances, situations and surroundings are constantly changing, for the better and worse.  It’s difficult to feel solidly footed on a topsy turvy course.  Much like it’s difficult to keep your balance in the fun house at a carnival.  A distorted, dynamic atmosphere affects your vision.  Small things become magnified to scary proportions.  And big things appear insignificant.  The road ahead looks treacherous and lonely and dark.

We become so consumed with these temporary things that we stop looking at God, we stop looking to God.  We mistakenly think that somehow He’s left us to fend for ourselves or has stopped hearing our prayers.

The truth is that life looking to God isn’t easy, but because He’s constant and unchanging and faithful, the storms we go through with Him often fail to register on our radar at all.  When we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in Him that He surrounds us, we can’t even see the circumstances and situations around us.  We don’t even know we’re “going through.”

But when we take our eyes off of Him, much like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, our reality it colored by the wordly things around us and we begin to panic, to sink.

You may have been saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost-filled your whole life, so maybe you can’t relate, but I stand here today saying: Guilty As Charged.

But there’s good news, we don’t have to stay in this vicious cycle of peace battling panic.  There’s a fix.

So here’s my little dose of hard truth – hard to swallow (because it’s a lesson I keep relearning at different intervals in my life) and hard to hear (because no one wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong): don’t stop looking at God.

When you’re on the path to a promotion and all of sudden your money gets funny, don’t stop looking at God.

When you’ve almost reached that hard-fought, hard-earned goal of weight loss, quitting smoking, quitting drinking, quitting cursing or whatever, and all of sudden you relapse, don’t panic and don’t stop looking at God.

When it feels like all of your friends either can’t be found or are throwing more shade than support, don’t look for new ones, keep looking at God.

When it feels like your life is closing in on you – job, relationship, everything – don’t start looking at your problems, look to God!

You know I read somewhere that we should stop telling God how big our problems are and begin telling our problems how big our God is.  That is so true.  Think about it, what is your measly paycheck or even your bills to the God that owns everything?

I’ll close with a devotional from Sarah Young’s book “Jesus Today” that really brings this all home.  Your victory lies in your vision:

From “Jesus Today”:

Gaze at Me; glance at problems – this is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world. However, I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. The Holy Spirit, who lives in all My followers, enables you to live beyond yourself – to transcend your natural tendencies.

Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite Him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also counter-cultural. Moreover, the evil one and his demons seek to distract you from My Presence. All these influences working together put massive pressure on you to pay attention to your problems – or else! So you need the assistance of My Spirit continually. Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me – your constant Companion.

Hebrews 12:2John 14:16-172 Corinthians 4:18

Amen.

Devotional: Dark Times

A friend of mine sent this to me today.  It’s an excerpt from Sarah Young’s “Jesus Today:”

When you are going through a dark time – a hard time – its easy to project that darkness into the future. The longer you struggle with adverse circumstances, the darker the way before you appears – and the harder it is to imagine yourself walking along bright paths again. The temptation is to just give up and let misery become your companion. So it is crucial at such times to remember that I am your constant Companion. Moreover, because I am Sovereign God, I am able to turn your darkness into Light.

When you feel on the verge of sinking in despair, turn to Me for help. Cling to My hand, and walk by faith through the darkness. Do not focus on the circumstances that are weighing you down. Instead, through eyes of faith, look ahead to brighter times, and praise Me for them. While you worship Me in midst of darkness, I enable you to see the first gleam of dawn on the path before you. Continue walking worshipfully with Me – a walk of faith. As you persevere along this path, the dim light will gradually shine brighter and brighter till the full light of day.

Isaiah 61:1 – 2 Samuel 22:29 – 2 Corinthians 5:7 – Proverbs 4:18

***

We all go through dark times.  Whether it’s the darkness of loss, pain, grief or sadness, or it’s the darkness of not knowing what to do, where to go, or what “the plan” is, I’m sure we’ve all been there.

It can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind at these times.  While folks tell you that the storm won’t last always, all you see around you is darkness, loneliness, and despair.  People tell you that this season is almost over, but you can’t even find the strength to hope for what’s next.

It is in these times that I’ve found it most helpful not to challenge myself or my friends to dig deep or keep trying.  No, in these times all we must – truly, all we CAN do – is look to God.  That’s it: nothing more, nothing less.

When you’re feeling your lowest, call to him.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy, sophisticated prayer.  In fact, if all you do is say the name “Jesus,” while tears fall down your face, you’ve done enough.  He hears you, He feels your pain, and He’s there.

The truth is, no matter how difficult to understand or see, that this dark time will end.  But my prayer for you as you go through is to remember the one who is with you, leading you and protecting you.

Remember, the Word never says you won’t go through the valley of the shadow of death (whatever that looks like for you), all it says is that God is with you through it all, giving you the strength you need to see His plan for you through to the end.

This too shall pass my Brother and my Sister.

Feel free to leave your prayer requests below or at my email address (safiya.simmons@me.com) if you’d like to know that someone is praying with and for your victory.  I’m pleased to do so.