The Land Is Good

When surveying life, there can be a variety of perspectives — or lenses — through which we view it. Some of us are optimistic while others are pessimistic. Some see the glass as half-full while others see it as half-empty. Some claim things will look better tomorrow while others believe every day brings trouble.

These lenses have been in use since the Garden of Eden. The Bible does not record that Eve felt discontent in paradise until Satan shared a pessimistic viewpoint: your life is lacking unless you eat from the one tree God placed off limits. I believe Eve had not paid much attention to that tree before — she was content with the rest of the land — but after Satan’s assertion, it became her focus:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:6, NIV)

Eve chose to view her surroundings through the lens that portrayed them as not good. Or at least not good enough. She turned away from far more life to pursue a land that looked better. But it was an empty promise from Satan.

About 2500 years later, the Israelites were standing outside the Promised Land. This was the place God chose for them and described as “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7). Although they had faced slavery in Egypt, God intended to bless them with far more life in this land.

But when the Israelite scouts entered the land, they brought a mixed report to Moses and Aaron:

…We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey…Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us…The land…devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size…and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33, NASB)

The land is good, but…

How often do we, like the scouts, discount the good and dwell on the problems? God had already promised to make the land theirs, but, rather than trusting in God’s character and promises, the Israelites assessed the situation based on their own strength. They saw their weaknesses and declared the land not good.

However, two of the scouts viewed the land through a different lens:

Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh…spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:6-9, NASB)

The land is exceedingly good. The Lord is with us. Obey Him and have confidence in His protection and provision. Joshua and Caleb were not blind to the challenges ahead, but they saw the land as God intended. They urged the people to pursue far more life, to put their hope and trust in God and follow His commands. They recognized this would allow them to experience the best of the land.

Today we do not need to get to a certain location on planet earth to find exceedingly good land. Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ is indwelled with the Holy Spirit. The exceedingly good land is your heart, which was renewed when you accepted Christ as your Savior. The Lord is pleased with you and always with you. You have nothing to fear. You have power to live within His will. Far more life is available every moment of every day.

We are tempted to think of our circumstances as the land. We may see it as not good. Perhaps we view our family and friends as messy and inconvenient. Perhaps we believe our own weaknesses are insurmountable. We may dwell on our sin and feelings of worthlessness. We may expect to find peace and joy from external sources. Far more life recognizes this is not God’s viewpoint.

He purified their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9, NIV)

A heart purified by faith in Christ is good land.

 God…set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, NIV)

A heart where the Holy Spirit lives is good land.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

A heart that is growing in Christlikeness is good land.

When we view our heart as good land, we experience far more life. We understand the land is good because of what God has done and is doing in us, not because of what is happening around us. The land is good because it is God’s home, not because of our life circumstances. Look with eyes of faith beyond the challenges, beyond sin, beyond human frailty and embrace the good land of far more life!

Sisters,
Does your perspective tend to be more positive or more negative?
When have you turned away from far more life to pursue something that looked better?
What are the “buts” in your life that keep you from viewing it as exceedingly good?
How does thinking of your heart as God’s land help you see the good?
Embrace the good land of far more life today!
-Shari

At The Lord’s Command

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped…Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. (Numbers 9:17-23, NIV)

When I read this passage recently, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Israelites. When they prayed to God for rescue from slavery, did they expect to leave the only homes they had ever known for a nomadic life in the desert? How would I respond to having no idea how long we would be in each place and no notice before being told to pack up and move? How would I feel about having no information about where we were going or how long it was going to take to get there? And then there is the change in food; the familiar foods were gone and replaced with an unfamiliar wafer called manna. I concluded that I would not have done well as an Israelite living this way! In fact, I would have joined them in complaining and criticizing Moses and God.

Like many of you, I like to think I am in control of my life — at least SOME aspects. But my attempts to be in control do not lead to the peace and satisfaction I desire. In fact, they often lead to worry, fear, doubt, or regret. Instead of seeking control, acknowledging God’s ultimate control and embracing His purpose and plan are where we find far more life.

What makes us hesitant to give God control? Because we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.

Why do we trust ourselves more? Because we do not have an accurate understanding of God or ourselves. We underestimate God and overestimate ourselves. But recognizing where our vision is skewed and adjusting it to His perspective brings far more life.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NIV)

God created humans. He designed each of our parts and put them together. Doctors and scientists have some understanding and ideas of how our bodies work, but God knows everything about us. Yet we trust our knowledge and understanding of what is best for us more than we trust His. Why? Maybe because we are used to people taking credit for His design. Maybe because we cannot have coffee with Him and hear His knowledge face-to-face. Maybe because others have let us down, reinforcing the belief that no one else is trustworthy. Far more life trusts God’s knowledge and understanding more than your own.

To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen (I Timothy 1:17, GNT)

Humans have a birth date and a death date; even the lifespan of the longest-living human is just a dot in the scope of eternity. We are mortal and will succumb to physical death unless Christ returns in the next few decades. Yet we trust our own experiences and wisdom more than His. Why? Maybe because we cannot grasp what it means to have no birth or beginning. Maybe because we expect God to be bound by the same limits as everyone we have ever known. Maybe because we are so focused on the details that we miss the overarching principles that God has provided in His Word. Far more life trusts God’s experiences and wisdom more than your own.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:17-18, NIV)

The Trinity alone — God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are morally good and pure. Humans are not. We are susceptible to sin and evil, to being deceived and having a distorted view. We do not always make the right choices or believe what is true. Yet we trust our own judgments and perceptions more than God’s. Why? Maybe we do not believe He has our best interests at heart. Maybe it is hard for us to believe He is truly pure because we have never met anyone like that. Maybe our understanding of goodness and purity have been polluted and we do not even recognize it. Far more life trusts God’s judgements and perceptions more than your own.

I find it interesting that the passage above says twice that the camp moved and settled “at the Lord’s command…” But His command was not a booming voice or a trumpet call. It was the position of a cloud! Sometimes it would be nice if we, too, had a cloud that led us through life. We may think that would make it easier to trust God, but I believe we would still be tempted to trust ourselves more, just like the Israelites did. In those moments of distrust, may we be ready to examine our hearts to reveal why we trust ourselves more than God.

Sisters,
How do you feel about letting others — even God — be in control?
In what areas do your thoughts and actions show you trust yourself more than God?
Embrace far more life by opening your heart to Him when you realize you are resisting His commands.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

With You

Many of us are striving to be more, to be better. We believe we do not measure up in many — perhaps any — areas of life. We believe we must be independent, competent, and pulled together. There is little, if any, room in our lives for error, lack of knowledge, or inability to get the job done well. We may be familiar with the adage, “No man is an island,” but do not think it applies to us.

God does not expect us to be independent, competent, and pulled together. He allows errors, lack of knowledge, and inability to get the job done. He never intended for us to take on life’s tasks and challenges alone. He has been involved with His children from the beginning and will remain involved with them until the end. Far more life is being connected to and involved with God in all areas of life.

I will be with you.

I count at least 29 times in the Bible when God or Jesus tells an individual or group that He will be with them. I count at least 5 more where a Biblical writer reminds others that God has promised to be with them. The situations these people faced are similar to those we face. We can rest assured that God is still with His children, offering them far more life.

God promised to be with His children when they were facing a new challenge.

  • This includes Moses, who was called to lead the Israelites out of the control of a powerful man he was hiding from (Exodus 3:12).
  • God reassured Joshua with the promise as he prepared to take leadership from Moses and move the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:23).
  • God restated His promise twice in one pep talk to Joshua after Moses’ death (Joshua 1:5 & 1:8).
  • When Jesus was preparing the disciples to advance His kingdom, He promised the Holy Spirit would be with them forever (John 14:16-17).

God promised to be with His children who were in a difficult situation.

  • He made this promise to Isaac when He told him to remain in an area plagued with famine (Genesis 26:3).
  • Isaac heard this promise again when his neighbors became jealous of his success (Genesis 26:24).
  • At least 3 times when God instructed Jeremiah to speak His truth to the rebellious Israelites, He promised to be with him (Jeremiah 1:8, 1:19, 46:28).

God promised to be with His children as they faced the consequences of their sin.

  • When Jacob was on the run after deceiving his father to steal his brother’s blessing, God appeared to him in a dream and promised to be with him (Genesis 28:15).
  • After God allowed the rebellious Israelites to be oppressed by the Midianites, He ordered Gideon to cut down the enemy army and promised to be with him (Judges 6:12 & 6:16).
  • Centuries later the Israelites rebelled again and God proclaimed He was with them through more oppression (Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, 43:5)

God reminded David of His presence when reining in his plans. The story is told twice of David’s desire to build a temple to provide God an earthly dwelling. God told David “no” then reminded him that He had always been with him, wherever he was (2 Samuel 7:9 & I Chronicles 17:8).

God promised to be with His chosen people as they obeyed and followed Him.

  • When telling Jeroboam of His plans to make him king, God promised to be with him on the condition that he obeyed His commands and decrees (I Kings 11:38).
  • Later God spoke through multiple prophets to remind the Israelites that He would be with them when they turned back to obedience (Isaiah 58:9; Jeremiah 15:20, Amos 5:14).
  • When the people were restored to their land, God said He would be with them as they rebuilt His temple (Haggai 1:13).
  • When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He promised to be with His followers always (Matthew 28:20).
  • In the gospel of John, Jesus promised He and God will be with those who love Him (John 14:23).

God promised to be with His chosen people when they chose His plans over their own logic.

  • After a group of Israelite men went on a killing spree, others who feared for their lives wanted to move away; but God said He would be with them if they stayed put (Jeremiah 42:11).
  • When Paul encountered controversy in Corinth, the Lord appeared to Him in a dream, instructing him to remain there and promising to be with him and protect him (Acts 18:10).

One benefit of living after Christ is that the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer who has accepted Him as Savior. We have no reason to question God’s presence in our lives, but we are tempted to take it for granted. We forget to tap into His power, knowledge, and wisdom. We forsake far more life by trying to do life on our own.

Far more life is dependent on God. Period. We are dependent on Him for our existence, for salvation from our sin, for everything in this life and the life to come. We have nothing to prove and nothing to gain from trying to be independent from Him. We are not competent. We are not pulled together. We make errors. We lack knowledge. We are unable to complete His jobs on our own. We will never outgrow our need for Him. Fortunately, we can trust the words spoken by King David’s advisor, Nathan:

The Lord is with you. (2 Samuel 7:3, NIV)

Sisters,
How are you tempted to live independently?
Which category of God’s promise to be with us is most meaningful to you? Why?
Do you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you? If not, what is stopping you from accepting Christ? If so, are you willing to depend on Him — not yourself — for everything?
Thank God that far more life depends on Him — and He offers it to us freely!
-Shari

Moving Through

A couple of my friends are going through challenging health situations. Both suffer from chronic pain and are not finding relief. They have prayed many times that their suffering would be eased or stop, but it seems God keeps answering, “No.” Now they are battling discouragement on top of the pain and other physical difficulties they face daily. In talking with one of them this week, we dug a bit deeper into this verse:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10, ESV)

On first reading, it seems this verse promises that God will rescue us from ongoing suffering. But could the verse be saying something different? Could it be telling us what to expect as we continue to suffer? Let’s look at what God promises to do: restore, confirm, strengthen and establish.

After you have suffered a little while, God will restore you. We want this to mean He will restore us to our pre-suffering state. We want anything we have lost to be returned to us. We want it to be as if our suffering had never happened. But let’s consider another interpretation. Pretend the suffering is a hurricane-strength wind. When it first hit, you may have stumbled, staggered, been knocked around, or even fallen. You were caught off-guard and became overwhelmed by the force pushing against you. But after a while, you adjust to the pressure. Rather than being pushed further away, you are able to maintain your position. Perhaps that is the restoration God describes here. Situations that bring suffering may catch us by surprise and cause our faith to stumble. At first, we may forget about God, question Him, or doubt Him. But after a little while, we remember Him, we stop asking “why”, and we believe He is present and aware. We are restored to a place where we can connect with Him, where our faith is engaged and active. This is where we experience far more life.

Early in Jesus’ ministry His disciples were caught off-guard when many followers left Jesus after hearing a hard teaching. I believe an example of restoration is recorded in Simon Peter’s response when Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave, too:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will confirm you. The Greek word translated “confirm” means to make firm, to render constant. After you are restored — able to maintain your position — you realize how much force you must exert against the wind — or the struggle you face — to maintain your balance and footing. In a spiritual sense, standing firm comes from remembering God’s truth about yourself, Him and your relationship. Truth gives us power to go through our struggles hand-in-hand with Jesus. Far more life is not the absence of struggle, but standing firm with Jesus in our struggles.

The rest of Simon Peter’s response to Jesus in the encounter described above shows he is confirmed, grounded in truth:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:69, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will strengthen you. This is the only place the Greek word translated “strengthen” appears in the New Testament. It means that something is made strong but mobile, able to move to achieve something in the most effective way. Hanging onto something strong allows us to stay upright against the gale-force winds of suffering. But Jesus offers us more than an immobile pillar; He offers a strength that allows us to move through our suffering effectively to achieve His purpose. Far more life is not stagnant, it is continuing with Christ through our struggles.

This plea and encouragement Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth describes the result of being strengthened during adversity:

…Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will establish you. The word establish means to make the soul stable, to lay a solid foundation. Suffering serves an important role in our spiritual growth and prepares us for future service and growth. This is one aspect of good that God works through our suffering; our faith becomes more solid and stable, resting more firmly on Christ. We believe God’s promises more fully because we have experienced them in action. Far more life is unshakeable because it is stable and solid.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV)

Our foundation of faith allows us to move with Christ through our suffering. And that experience prepares us for the next challenge we will face. Throughout our lives, we have the opportunity to keep establishing our connection to Christ with every hardship. If we turn to God in our suffering, he will continue to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will keep finding far more life in our suffering.

Sisters,
Are you currently suffering? If so, how has not being rescued impacted your faith?
How has God restored you during this or previous suffering?
How have you experienced God confirming you?
How has He strengthened you to continue doing His will?
How have you been established through suffering?
Thank God for giving you far more life in the midst of suffering. (And thank Him that one day all suffering will end for His children — what a glorious day that will be!)
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso