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Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here - not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip - I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles - a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time - knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Dealing with Difficulties, burnout, encouragement , , ,

Remaining in His Love

February 22nd, 2017

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11 ESV)

Christ loved His disciples purely. His love was not the “love” of convenience, of reputation, of selfish feelings, or of lustful obsession. Christ knew love purely and completely - the love that was part of the eternal nature of the Father and Son.

Can love exist apart from sacrifice? God’s certainly does not exist in a vacuum. He has acted in Christ to save us from our sins, to reconcile us to Him, and to plant His character in our lives. His love compelled Him to send the Christ. It is this true and sacrificial love that comes only from God that we are to abide in.

In the last few days I heard some details about someone’s life that are disappointing. It is not unusual for this to happen in the life of any person, especially not for a pastor. The details were shared as a matter of genuine concern by someone else. The individual, in his immaturity, has said and done things that had hurt others, and the individuals he hurt had reciprocated and hurt him as well. And now the man is isolated and alone and in pain. But rather than repenting and looking in his own heart, he has continued to blindly follow the deception of Satan and criticize others.  Even church leaders have been objects of his criticisms.

How are we to treat someone like this? How are we to think of someone like this? The old sinful nature will lead us to attack him in anger, or to condemn him in self-righteousness. We will say, “Well, he just got what he deserved,” which in this case, as in most, would not be entirely inaccurate. But the love of God, if this is the chief reality of our spiritual life, will lead us to respond very differently. We will love him and pray for him, and we will seek to find ways to help him.*

By remaining in the love of God, by considering how greatly He loves us, by communing with His Spirit, by regular confession of sins and receiving the cleansing grace and forgiveness of God in Christ, we protect the joy of the Lord in our hearts. There is a time and a place for righteous indignation, for rebuking others, and for calling for others to repent and return to Christ, but none of these are to be the attitude or thought that we “abide” in.

To “abide”  in love means to settle down into love and let this be the foundational reality of our lives. Just as our home becomes not just a place where we eat and sleep, but the place where we learn values, where we find our identity. And wherever we go in life, whatever we put our hands to, every conversation we have in life will reveal something about the nature of our home. So, in the same way, God’s love is to shape us in such a way that whatever we do reveals this fact - that we have settled down into God’s love.

The foundational fact of our lives, the fact that establishes who we are, the fact that reveals our future and our hopes, is the love of God for us. If we will abide in His love, we will see that He will remove the pain of rejection, the pain of insecurity, even the pain of our failures, and will establish us in the confidence that God is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. We will experience a new freedom in dealing with others.

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*There is a case for church discipline when someone has hurt others and is unwilling to repent. But church discipline should rise to a high standard of true divisiveness. This situation, to my knowledge, has not risen to that level yet.

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties , , ,