Oh I think this; Oh I feel that! Just because we think it does not make it the truth, and just because we feel it does not make it real. And just because a friend agrees with it does not confirm it. Since what we feel stems from how we think, it stands to reason that we can change how we feel by changing how we think. The scripture gives credence to this by letting us now that ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he’ (Proverbs 3:27). So what kind of men or women are we? Does what we think line up with the Word? If whatever we are thinking does not line up with truth (the Word), then it is a lie! This lie in turn creates fantasy (untrue) emotions that lead us to speak lie-based words and take lie-based actions. We start living a lie-based life that keeps us in bondage – for only the truth brings freedom.
Since words create worlds and words come from thoughts, it is best to create a world of life and truth by inclining our ears to God’s word instead of creating a world of lies and death by acting on our own thoughts and feelings, even if they are supported by the world – which they most likely will be.
Yes, we all have our own thoughts and feeling and we will always have opinions. Yet, we must scrutinize them against the perfect law of liberty (the Word) when they come. If they do not jive with the Word, we must surrender them to God in humility for they are fear-based lies from the father of lies (Satan) who is most likely plaguing on our past experiences, fears, and insecurities.
Should we find that our thoughts never jive with the Word, it’s a sure sign to us to surrender our hearts, spend more time with Him in Word and prayer, and give up our control for His control. When we do this, our thoughts will begin to reflect more of his thoughts.
Remember, His thoughts towards us are good; always to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope (see Jeremiah 29:11).
While our thoughts tend to be motivated by a mixture of good (love, hope) and evil (fear, pride, selfishness) and leads to foolishness at best, God’s thoughts are motivated by agape love and always lead to life.
Just as the duty of every servant is to attend to the duty of his master, the duty of every believer is to attend to the purpose for which we were born, and do the will of God to which we are called. Being the just God that He is, He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who equips us with the ability and wherewithal to accomplish His purpose. Yes, we have all been granted a measure of gifts and talents to accomplish the purpose to which we are called. To those of us that decide to use those gifts and talents to do His will, He grants more grace (in the form on power, capability and ability) and magnifies what He has purposed for us.
“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents” – Matthew 25:28
In contrast, God does not too much fancy those of us that choose not to channel and use our given gifts and talents. He does not take too kindly to us using fear as an excuse for not carrying out His will nor is He impressed with us when we do absolutely nothing of value with our lives. He does not want us to simply bury our talents in the ground but to use them. Why? It is for the purpose of good works that He created us in His image in the first place (see Ephesians 2:10). It is for the aim of accomplishing His purpose and will that He grant us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be courageous and so to overcome the fear that comes from the enemy.
When the servant told his master he hid his talent out of fear, the master responded with ‘you wicked and lazy servant’ (see Matthew 25:26)! While this may seem harsh, it is exactly how God feels when we squander our gifts and talents out of fear or whatever reason.
Light-bulb moment: When we do not use our gifts and talents, God says to us: You know my will and yet you choose not to take any action and use what I have given you. You are wicked and lazy!
God calls us lazy because the only reason we fall into inaction out of fear is due to our choice not to spend time in His Word. For surely when we spend time with Him, we are transformed into His image – the image or courage, love, boldness, strength, and power. We no longer allow fear to stop us from doing the good He wants of us but we overcome the evil of fear with the love of good. But when we choose to be lazy and fail to build ourselves up, we become like the man who refuses to go out into the street from his house for he says there is a lion out there to devour him (see Proverbs 22:13). Poverty is the end of such a man for he will lose what he has – just as the talent was taken away from the servant.
Light-bulb moment: When we spend time with love, it casts our all the fear that causes inaction.
God calls us wicked because we have chosen not to advance the kingdom of God by choosing not to use our gifts and talents. See, the desire of God is that we sow the talents He has given us so that is yields up to a 100-fold. He wants us to bless the work of our hands so that we can be a blessing to other people. Here is how the Word puts it:
“…It is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His Covenant…” – Deuteronomy 8:18
Thus, being wealthy is all things helps God establish the Covenant He made with Abraham and that is now made available to all nations or all people of the world through the sacrifice of Jesus. But if we do not use the power (gifts, talents, favor, courage, etc.) that comes from the Holy Spirit to become wealthy in all things, then how are people attracted to us? If people do not see us exhibiting the gift of hope and encouragement in a dire situation, then why would they come to us to inquire of how we can be so joyful? What I am saying is this: God wants to be wealthy is all things so that we can be light to this world; so that people are attracted to the light; so that we can be more effective has His ministers in this world. By burying our gifts and talents, we have hidden our light and we have not loved our lost family members in essence. We hinder the work of God in having those who do not know Him from entering into His Covenant.
Light-bulb moment: We do not allow our lives to minister to other people when we fail to use the gifts and talents He has given us.
Food For Thought: We miss the mark (sin) when we fail to use our gifts and talents – it shows a love deficiency
“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” – Habakkuk 2:2-3
In ‘How vision is critical to success’, we examined the importance of vision in navigating us through the travails of life and propelling us towards the good life that God intends for us. When we receive a vision of the plans that God has for us – plans to prosper us and to give us a future – the natural response is to begin running towards it with gusto and vigor, knowing that we shall inherit the promises if we do not grow faint and weary. The snag is that Satan also knows this and so tries to get us to become faint-hearted over time as we run. He understands that we inherit the promises through faith and diligence; hence that is what he attacks. He will try to get us to doubt the vision that God has given us. If he cannot stop us from seeing the vision, he will try to convince us that we are not worthy of the vision; that the vision is impossible for us to attain. He will stop at nothing to prevent us from reaching the high calling of God on our life. He knows our race only continues for as long as we live, and so he does everything in his power to dissuade us and to stall our progress. Of the many weapons in his arsenal, the one he likes to use often is discouragement – the bullets of which include comparison and time.
Light-bulb moment: One of the biggest pitfalls to achieving success is discouragement
If our goal is to chop down a tree, we may begin to compare ourselves to others whose task is also to cut trees down. If we see others felling their trees in record time and obtaining their prize, we may start to wonder whether something is wrong with us. How can others do it in a short time while we are taking so much longer we ask ourselves? Instead of focusing our on attention on what God would have us do, we try to carbon-copy what others are doing and so fail miserably – because we fail to understand that just as each person is unique, each tree (although still being a tree) is unique in its characteristics. At first, seeing the success of others may galvanize us to work harder on our task, but then we get discouraged when we seem to be making little progress.
Light-bulb moment: Ungodly comparison stalls our progress by causing us to take our eyes off our own vision but rather to focus it on others visions.
The mind-set of copying exactly what others are doing leads us to be task-oriented versus being goal-oriented. It leads us to try to fit a circular key into a square lock! But when we keep our eyes on our vision; we are more likely to see the obstacles to success. Many times, we realize that although we started cutting the tree at the same time as our friend, his/her dagger was already sharp while our dagger was blunt to begin with. Perhaps our friends took the time to sharpen their dagger while we did not! The truth is this: In all things, we must sharpen the tool of our mind with the Word of God, for it is the double-edged Sword of the Word of God (see Hebrews 4:12) – whether read, watched, listened to, or spoken to us – that helps us achieve our vision, when we allow its iron to sharpen our iron.
Light-bulb moment: Just as we have to sharpen our dagger if we are to fell a tree, our first task upon seeing a vision is to correct what is wrong (the bluntness of our mind) so that we may achieve the joy that is set before us.
Once we have sharpened our dagger, the second bullet Satan unleashes against us is time. He will say to us: ‘You and your friend started at the same time with a sharpened dagger and yet you have been at it for ages. This God of yours has given you an impossible task. See, you are sweating like a pig over there and getting nowhere fast. This tree is too big! Why don’t you just stop and relax yourself. I have provided you with a shaded tree, so why don’t you just come and rest a bit!’
If Satan has ever said this to you, rebuke him immediately! He does not want you clearing the path to your Father’s house but wants you to stay in the hot and sticky wilderness of your circumstance. He is lying to you about the shaded tree, for the leaves fall off as soon as you lay underneath it and it dries up. Hold on to God’s word and persevere. God cannot lie; whatever He has spoken becomes truth.
Light-bulb moment: Time is simply a tool God uses to help us build the muscle of our character before Him so that we do not waste our inheritance once He gives is to us.
Food for Thought: While God always encourages us to never give up on Him; Satan always discourages us so that we give up on God.
Humility is a must if we want our prayers not just to be heard BUT accepted by God (see ‘The Link between Humility and Answered Prayer’). When we humble ourselves and pray to the Father, for many of us, the first thing that He shows us is the reason why He has not been able to say yes to us. When we go to God in humility, He shows us the true condition of our hearts – those portions of our heart that have not been broken up and so cannot bear the good fruit we have requested. The truth is that when we go to our watchtower – that quiet place where we cannot be reached or disturbed; that place of solitude where we can humbly set our sight on God in prayer – our vision becomes clear and we can through His help see the true and full layout of our land (our heart). I love the way this truth is written in the book of Habakkuk. There, the word of God says:
I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me,
and what I will answer when I am corrected – Habakkuk 2:1 – 2
It is through fasting and praying that we stand our watch and set ourselves on the rampart. When we do this, God reveals to us what we truly look like and corrects our prideful and flawed attitudes and image. If we are at all smart and want to shorten ourwilderness experience, we will not try to argue with God when He corrects us but instead will apologetically fall on our face, say sorry, and agree to what He tells us to do.
Light-bulb moment: Prayer is a key ingredient in discovering what is keeping us from God best!
After we have sought the Lord and He has corrected us, the right response is to break up our fallow ground. If we do not, anything we do is simply a waste of time – just as a farmer who plants on soil that has not been prepared is simply wasting his seed. The house of Jacob did not understand this during the time of Prophet Isaiah. They did not understand why God was not responding to their fasting, praying, and reading His Word. They asked God ‘Why have we fasted and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls and You have not taken notice?’ To this, God in essence replies ‘You have sin. You keep on doing the ‘right’ things but you have not corrected your erroneous ways’. The 58th chapter of Isaiah describes this very well – one excerpt from the chapter is given below:
“Tell my people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God…they take delight in approaching God – Isaiah 58:2
Our refusal to be corrected by God is the biggest impediment to us progressing in life. No amount of fasting, prayer, seeking or any other magic formula will do. We can ask, but His response will always be ‘Clean house in this area I have shown you first’.
Just as a piece of jewelry is just another lost item in a very junky house, the seed of the word of God gets lost and quickly losses its value if not sown into a receptive heart. The word of God tells us that the pre-requisite to seeking the face of God (seeking the word of God) is breaking up our fallow ground. Once prayer has revealed the location and depth of the ground we must break up, we must actively begin the digging with the help of God by exercising forgiveness, letting go of past baggage, journeying through our childhood to rid ourselves of past hurts, and laying all of what we are at His feet.
Light-bulb moment: After prayer has revealed the junk in us, we must begin the process of ‘cleaning house’ if we are to find the face of God!
Glory to God that we do not grow weary in seeking His face but persevere, we will find it and He will shower us with the riches of His inheritance. Hallelujah!
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you – Hosea 10:12
So, why is important to pray and seek the face of God? It is the only way we can experience the flood of His goodness (righteousness) in our lives.
Here are the practical steps we have seen so far to set ourselves up to experience the flood of His goodness:
What are you doing with God’s favor? (listen here)
God’s grace is multifaceted! His grace saves us from eternal separation (through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ), covers us in a myriad of situations and covers our sins when we confess, and empowers us (through the Holy Spirit) to live righteously and to attain all the covenant blessings or promises (favor, healing, prosperity, wisdom, might, and much more) that has been won for us.
Since we receive grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8), as we grow our faith (belief and trust) in the Lord through the study of His Word (see Romans 10:17), we ensure we experience more grace (power, gifting) in our lives. Thus, a life of faith is an empowered life that leads to the manifestation of the fullness of His covenant blessings in our life.
Yet, many of us receive the grace of God in vain when we fail to realize that God lavishes His grace on us not just to proper us but for us to be His hands and feet and to fulfill the requirements of love through His gifts – to walk in His purpose for us, to reveal Christ to others, and to be a blessing to others. Paul puts it this way:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me – 1 Corinthians 5:10
Light-bulb moment: We receive grace in vain when we stop laboring to fulfill the requirements of love by walk in His purpose for us, revealing Christ to others, and being a blessing to others. When we think it is just for us and we become lazy
Favor Gone Berserk
Favor goes berserk when we receive favor in vain. I started thinking of how favor goes berserk when I was asked this question: What would you rather have – favor or blessing? I found the question puzzling, not because it is difficult to answer, but because it makes a fundamentally flawed assumption. The question assumes that favor and blessing are mutually exclusive.
The will of God is to pour out his blessing on us and doth on us as a loving Father. He longs to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others – not to hog all our blessings in selfishness. By blessing others, we show God’s heart and walk in obedience. We open the door to God’s blessing when we obediently follow the path the He has for us. Favor is something that God grants us as we continue on the path of obedience. It is God’s favor that propels and catapults us towards the blessings that He has in store for us. So the relationship between favor and blessing is simply this:
Light-bulb moment: Favors are simply doors that God opens to accomplish His purpose through us
The mindset that favor and blessing are exclusive keeps us from reaching our destiny! People who chase after favor rather than blessings can be compared to those that base their performance on effort rather than results. They congratulate themselves on effort without ever achieving much. Hence, favor minded people often find themselves stuck in the same situation in life.
Light-bulb moment: Favor is the means to an end, and not the end in itself.
The story of Mark lays out the peril of being solely favor minded
Mark Receives Grace in Vain (listen here)
Mark is a favor-monger! He loves favor. Mark does not have much but he does very well on favor. He is favored everywhere he goes – he gets free parking in places others need to pay; he gets the closest parking at sporting events, and a friend usually picks up his tab at dinner. Mark enjoys so much favor that he has come to expect it. It has come to the point where he can just about budget favor into his monthly financial plan. For this, He is very thankful to God and prays to God for even more favor. From the outside looking in, it would be nice to be Mark right? Wrong!
Here are some things that being solely favor minded has done to Mark
He Cannot Bless Others: Mark is never able to pick up the tab for any of his friends. He is never able to help or bless anyone as he is the one that is always in need of a blessing. He needs others to continue favoring him and so is unable to be God’s hands and feet.
He has Become Lazy: By being solely favor minded he has imbibed a poverty mentality where he is satisfied with barely scraping by. He has the ability to achieve more, but laziness has crept into him. He has become the servant that the master admonished in the parable of the talents for being lazy (see Matthew 14:26). Mark has buried his potential under the seductive soil of favor!
He is Dissatisfied: Mark is never fully satisfied with any particular blessing his friends bestow upon him as he is always looking for more! His friends have noticed that while he always smiles and thanks them for blessing him, Mark becomes very sad, withdrawn, and even cold when he does not obtain their favor. They secretly wonder if Mark is only friends with them because of what they do for him. They wonder if their friendship with Mark is built on being his cash cow, and they wonder why he does not do more with the talent he possesses. On the other hand, Mark wonders why his friends have not picked up the tab especially when they are able and he is unable! He rationalizes it as his friends being cheap and not really loving him. He judges them for not following the biblical injunction of caring for the “needy” – as he is one who is in need! He conveniently forgets about all the other times they pick up his tab……. Mark has truly become a burden. And since he is never truly satisfied, he is never truly content. As such, he always nags. He has become a person that bible calls quarrelsome and nagging (see Proverbs 21:19).
He Cannot Keep a Relationship: Mark cannot maintain relationships because he is always the “taker” in them. He never gives because he rationalizes that he has nothing to give – but a whole lot of condemnation which he considers advice. He sees nothing wrong with always being a taker. In fact, He thanks God for blessing him and for putting people in his life he can take from. They are such a blessing! But in time, his partner realizes that Mark loves favor more than her and leaves him. Mark is stunned! He cannot see his own selfishness. He prays that God sends him another partner – another partner to drain!
Mark has forgotten that the bible says we should give and it shall be given unto us. It does not say to take so that we can get more.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38
Mark’s Heart Condition(listen here)
The story of Mark illuminates what can happen when favor goes berserk – when we make favor the goal and not a means. It may lead to laziness, ingratitude, inability to fulfill our potential and broken relationships. As heirs to the throne, Jesus has unlocked for us covenant blessings; not just covenant favor for our selfish gain. We must not allow the enemy to twist favor in such a way as to keep us from God’s best. If this is happening, we have to examine our hearts. If we truly have a heart for God (a heart of love), then we will have a heart to be a blessing to others. We will have a heart to be givers.
So to answers the originally levied question of whether I would rather have favor or blessing, I say give me bless me so that I can be a blessing to others.
Food for Thought: The path to God’s blessing is paved with favor
Elisha was undoubtedly one of the greatest biblical prophets. He had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and thus performed twice as many miracles; he did not fall prey to fear like Elijah (when he hid in a cave from Jezebel and asked God to take his life); and the final miracle performed through him was after his death. In the fanfare of Elisha’s greatness, it is easy for us to overlook the truth that God had to grow him up at the start of his tenure as prophet of Israel. The proof of Elisha’s growth (as evidenced by a change in his thinking and behavior) is this: Elisha went from killing forty-two kids because they ridiculed him about his baldness (2 Kings 2:23 – 24), to sparing and treating to a feast an army that was sent specifically to kill him (2 Kings 6:14 – 22). Something happened to Elisha to change him from his old way of thinking (old school) to a new way of thinking (new skool).
We can infer that old school Elisha was intolerant, quick to anger, swift to pronounce judgment, and hence meted out harsh (if not criminal) justice. Power in the hands of such a man as old school Elisha is dangerous as the kids who survived the mauling by the two bears can attest. I mean, Elisha was out of control! He did not pause to think to himself that kids sometimes will behave like kids. Yes the kids were wrong for what they did, but they were not “dead” wrong – they did not deserve death. Even if he was upset, a sensible fellow would have chastised the children and moved on. But no, to him the ‘sin’ of ridicule was punishable by death. Old school Elisha was a child himself who was not grown up in the Lord. He simply focused on “what” the kids were doing (mocking him) rather than “why” the kids were doing what they were doing (possibly to have some fun).
Light-bulb moment: When we simply focus only on what was done to us (from a selfish point of view) rather than try to understand why it was done; we tend to over-react and throw the baby out with the bath water.
Note: Taking our eyes off Elisha for a moment, the story of what happened to the youths teaches us that we have to be careful who we mess with for we can never be sure how they will react. It is better to avoid trouble by not messing with anyone in the first place.
When we look for parallels between old school Elisha and other people in the bible, we find something interesting. We find that the Pharisees were the ones that concentrated on the “what” (action) rather than the “why” (heart). They chose to focus on what Jesus was doing only from their own selfish point of view and so acted solely based on that point of view. They could not see beyond themselves and so made a decision that is even crazier than the decision Elisha made. They decided to crucify a man who did nothing morally reprehensible but was healing, teaching, feeding , and caring for people and instead released a man who was a violent thief.
Light-bulb moment: Old school Elisha was similar to the Pharisees (self-focused) and so acted like them; much like we are and do before we truly come to know Jesus (God).
New skool Elisha on the other hand was a different man. He not only showed mercy to the men that were sent to kill him but threw them a party. What new skool Elisha did can be paralleled with what Jesus did. Jesus was merciful to us by paying the price for all our sins and then threw us a party by making available to us all the covenant blessing of God through the Holy Spirit with whom He sealed us.
Light-bulb moment: New skool Elisha morphed into a man who behaved like Jesus; much like we do when we are conformed to the image of Christ after we come to know Him.
So what changed Elisha? Simply put……God. As he continued walking with God, his heart started to resemble the heart of God. And the heart of God is this: that people do not perish but come to repentance.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” – Ezekiel 18:32
While old school Elisha would probably have called down lightning to set the Syrian army ablaze, new skool Elisha simply blinded them temporarily and escorted them to the King so they may be thrown a party. He did not destroy the men but showed them mercy. As a result, the men sent to kill Elisha turned back from their old ways of raiding Israel for the bible says that the raiders no longer entered Israel (see 2 Kings 6:23) – they did not perish but repented.
Just as God remains long-suffering towards us and extends His loving kindness to us through Jesus (who sacrificed Himself for us), we are to extend the same courtesy to others.
Light-bulb moment: As new skooler’s, we no longer live for ourselves but rather throw parties for our enemies in love so that they may be changed and live!
God wants us to be transformed from old school to new skool by dumping the ruler of this world (Satan) and allowing Jesus to live within us and walk with Him. He wants us to truly know Him by studying His Word. As we do this, we build our knowledge of Him and build our faith in Him. In time, we are able to act out of a heart of love rather than act out of our own selfishness. When we do this, we find that we are no longer instruments of calamity in our own lives and other people’s lives but rather become bridge builders and vessels of positive change in the world.
Light-bulb moment: When saved, we become Elisha’s as we become empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet, our old school must be transformed to a new skool. When we choose to grow in God by renewing our minds (see Romans 12:2), the impact of our life grows.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” – Galatians 5:25