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

Enough

Some friends and I are reading through the Old Testament, one chapter a day. We are digesting it slowly to discover the treasure in each chapter. This slow pace allowed me to consider Noah from a new perspective.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8, ESV)

Imagine your immediate family is the only one on earth following God. Everyone else is saying, thinking, and doing what God considers evil. No one cares what God thinks or has any desire to honor Him. The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts and feelings, but I imagine he felt alone. No one else shared his values and interests. Noah found far more life in following God, even though he followed alone.

Then God comes to Noah and tells him to build a boat. A very big boat: 150 yards (135 meters) long, 25 yards (22.5 meters) wide, and 15 yards (13.5 meters) high. God gave very specific instructions for the design and construction of this boat, as well as who and what would go inside. The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts or feelings. How would you feel if God told you He was going to “end all flesh” except you and your family (Genesis 6:13, 18; 7:1)? What would you think if God told you He was going to send a male and female of every kind of bird, animal, and “crawling thing of the ground” and it was your job to keep them alive (Genesis 6:20)? What if he told you to take some of “every food that is edible” for your family and the animals into the ark (Genesis 6:21)? I would have asked a LOT of questions! I would have found the task daunting and doubted my ability to complete it. But the Bible simply records:

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 ESV)

Noah found far more life in obeying God.

The Bible records that once Noah was in the ark, the “fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened” at the beginning of the 40 days and nights of rain (Genesis 7:11). I am certain the ground beneath the ark shook as it never had before. It probably groaned and roared, creating new and unique sounds. There may have been people banging on the door or trying to claw or climb their way into the ark. Try to imagine yourself inside the ark as all this happens. Perhaps they were on the third deck looking out the window. Perhaps they were huddled in the center, like we would take cover during a tornado or hurricane. The Bible does not record Noah’s actions during that time, but I believe he clung to God and far more life as he faced the unknown.

After the 40 days and nights of rain, the Bible tells us the water prevailed on the earth for 150 days (Genesis 7:17, 24, 8:3). Scripture does not record if Noah knew they would spend over a year in the ark (Genesis 7:11, 8:13-14). Would you have been antsy on day 41, ready to get off the boat? How would you have felt if all you could see out the window for 150 days was water (Genesis 7:18-20)? Would you have worried whether you loaded enough food? I would have!

Eventually the water receded and the ark came to rest on some mountains (Genesis 8:4). But it was still several months before God told them to leave the ark. Would you have feared that God forgot you? How would you have spent that time? Would it have fostered far more life? The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts or feelings, so we do not know if his faith wavered or remained strong every moment of that year.

Finally God called Noah and his family out of the ark (Genesis 8:15). What is the first thing you would have done when your feet returned to dry ground?

So Noah went out…then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took some of every kind of clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:18, 20, NASB)

Noah built an altar and worshiped God. There is no record of God commanding this; I believe it reflected Noah’s heart. This was not a small sacrifice, something Noah did quickly before heading out to explore Earth 2.0. First Noah gathered materials and built an altar. Then he invested time and energy preparing and offering every acceptable animal sacrifice. I believe Noah was expressing his love, gratitude, and reverence for God. As he walked out of the ark into a world that was entirely unfamiliar to him, Noah walked in far more life. He knew he would walk with God each step of the way to repopulate and rebuild the earth.

No human — except possibly Adam and Eve — have witnessed as dramatic a change to the world as Noah and his family did. Everything they had known before was gone. Everything but God. Yet God was enough for Noah and his family. Far more life was enough through the preparation, flood, and aftermath. Far more life is also enough for us through all of life’s changes.

Sisters,
What is the biggest change you have faced in life? How did you react to it?
What would you have thought and felt if you had been with Noah?
Will you trust God through the changes ahead in your life? Is He enough for you?
Thank God for seeing us through it all; thank Him for far more life.
Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Yield

“The best part is being right on the edge of losing control.”

Hearing this statement from a friend clarified why I do not enjoy downhill skiing. Some personality types thrive at the brink of losing control, not just on the slopes but in other aspects of life. Others prefer the safety of the predictable. Many of us — including me — are somewhere in the middle. But we all desire a measure of control in our lives: control of our circumstances, our comfort, and our destiny. When it is threatened, we go into fight or flight mode to regain control.

But sometimes we must yield control. How we respond depends, in part, on our perception of the new controlling force. Do we perceive it as good? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Capable? This is not just true of yielding control to humans, it also impacts our willingness to surrender to God. We grow concerned when we read verses like this:

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

While God is not accountable to humans or any other entity, He is not a tyrant. Understanding His heart, intentions, and character are all essential factors in our willingness to yield control. Does adding these verses to the discussion increase your willingness to yield control to God?

The Lord remembers us and will bless us… (Psalm 115:12, NIV)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12, NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13, NIV)

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isaiah 46:10, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16, NIV)

It is easier to yield to God when we believe He is good, generous, all-seeing, powerful, wise, eternal, trustworthy, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing, and completely righteous. Despite our doubts, there is no risk in giving Him control. He is already in control of our existence, whether or not we acknowledge it. We can only experience far more life in areas where we yield control to God. I appreciate this reminder from Solomon:

I am confident it will go better for those who worship the one True God and stand in awe before Him. (Ecclesiastes 8:12, VOICE)

Yielding does not make us powerless puppets who cannot think or act on their own. It does not make us weak and helpless. Rather it frees us to focus on what is truly within our power to control: our own responses. Far more life recognizes what to take on and what to yield to God.

The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. (Micah 6:8, NCV)

It is within our power to treat others right, to love showing kindness, to obey God humbly. We find far more life living out these three tasks! It produces peace rather than anxiety, instills hope rather than fear, and raises joy rather than weighing us down with heavy burdens. What does this look like in daily life?

  • Treating others right means treating them as we would like to be treated, in both big and small matters. Like taking only the supplies we need rather than hoarding them. Or standing up for those being treated wrong.
  • Being kind to others means forgiving them because we choose to, not because they ask for it or deserve it. And sacrificing our “rights” to protect those who are vulnerable.
  • Humbly obeying God means using our conscience and discernment to determine what is best but letting Him serve as judge over others’ hearts. And being genuinely thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we do not.

This verse caught my attention:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)

God considers adding one hour to our lives a very little thing. But for us, that is impossible! What are we trying to do that is impossible? Where are we wasting our efforts? How are we missing far more life by trying to do God’s job instead of our own? A friend who thought she was dying says this about her experience:

I realized when it is our time, whether it is soon or yet distant, we will see the Face of God that we have longed for since we began our journey with Him on this earth. But if it is not our time we will live another day with the privilege of glorifying Jesus who gave everything for us. It is in His hands and His control. Either way it is a win-win, so we have absolutely nothing to fear, no matter what happens around us.

Yield control to God and experience the blessing of far more life. This is an on-going process throughout our days on earth. But as you yield, I guarantee you will find exactly what you need, whether that is excitement and thrill, safety and comfort, or a bit of both. And you will definitely find far more life!

Sisters,
In what areas is it hard for you to yield control to God?
What concerns do you have about giving God control?
How would you grade yourself on controlling your thoughts and actions?
Treat others right. Lovingly show kindness. Humbly obey God. Which is easiest? Hardest?
Choose an area today where you have been resisting and yield it to God. Experience the joy and freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso