Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5 BSB)
Visiting the sunflower fields around this time of year has become a favorite tradition of mine. Besides the beautiful bright fields, which I love to capture, I’m always in awe of how the sunflowers face the direction of the rising sun. In fact, it is to their benefit to look towards the sun. After all, that’s where they derive their name! The sunflowers inspire us to do the same as Christians: look to the Son from whom we derive our name.
In today’s scripture, David reminds us, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces shall never be ashamed.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in desperate need of light this year. And the only way to get through the darkness has been to look to the Son. It’s only when I’ve kept my eyes fixed on Him that I’ve been able to keep my joy, and His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! Even though the natural light reveals hidden flaws, His Light draws us closer and doesn’t condemn us. Let’s take a leaf from the sunflower and look to the Son! We’ll never be disappointed!
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). (John 10:10 AMPC)
Isn’t it interesting how whenever we’re in the middle of a celebration, something “suddenly” happens that tries to steal our joy? I’ve noticed that whenever there’s a joyous occasion in my life or in the life of someone I know, something (or someone) always tries to ruin that happy moment. I use the word “try” because it doesn’t have to be that way, if we don’t let it.
See, the devil is a joy thief. He really doesn’t want us to enjoy life. He will do anything to steal, kill and destroy our joy in life. But just like you would do whatever it takes to keep a thief away, you can keep the devil from stealing your joy. Our best defense is Jesus. He has the power to keep us safe and happy. He came and paid the price so we “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” Guard that joy with all you’ve got and don’t let the devil take it away!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2 NIV)
We live in a social media world where we’re quick to share almost anything to the point that we’ve forgotten about the importance of patience and silence. So often we start doing something but rarely carry through with it. No wonder we’ve grown so impatient with God! Although He may be silent, He is still working. It’s only a matter of time before He unveils what He’s been working on. Just read the creation account in the book of Genesis and you’ll see. The world wasn’t made in an instant! We’re called to trust God. Because more often than not, He does come through for us in some mighty way. Think of His silence as a sign of His awesome work about to be revealed. I’m a firm believer in His promise that we will see greater things when we trust Him enough to wait for His perfect timing.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2 NIV)
“I will bless you…and you will be a blessing,” God promised Abram and really, all of his descendants, because there’s no such thing as selfishness or greed in God’s economy. When God blesses us, He expects us to bless others. We’re not meant to be like the rich fool in Jesus’ parable who thought that blessings should be stored rather than shared (see Luke 12:13-21). The rich fool missed the point. There was no room to store the abundance because it was meant to go around. Instead of building more storage that couldn’t contain his blessings, he was supposed to share it with others.
I think about the countless people who have been blessed but don’t feel the need to share their blessings with others. Someone once told me that although they enjoy writing, they don’t like to put their ideas out there because they don’t want people to read them. That’s when I told them that as writers, we share our stories to inspire and uplift. As hard as it can be sometimes, God wants to bless someone else through our gifts and talents. There’s a reason why you were blessed with something and it’s not so you can keep it all to yourself. God blessed you to be a blessing. If your cup is running over, it’s because it wasn’t meant to hold the blessing, but to spill over to others (Psalm 23:5).
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)
We’re all blessed in different ways. But what amazes me the most is that the people we consider to be more blessed than others are usually the ones who don’t see themselves that way. In fact, they’re the ones who often want what someone else has been blessed with and even when they do get it they’re still miserable. It’s sad, isn’t it? You look at them and think, Why would you possibly want that when you’ve been blessed with something better, and Why are you still unhappy? That’s when you realize that they’re simply not counting their blessings. So they compete with others who have learned to be thankful for what they already have.
I once heard someone say that if we’re not thankful for what we have, God isn’t going to bless us with what we don’t have. And isn’t that the truth? Getting more is just going to make us more ungrateful. The problem is not that we’re not blessed because we are all blessed. The real problem is that we have stopped counting our own blessings and started counting someone else’s. A few years ago, I was gifted a blessings jar which motivated me to count my blessings. At the end of each year, I would open it and look back with gratitude at the things God had blessed me with that year. Being thankful for what you have not only makes you more blessed, it also makes you a happier person. So count your blessings.
God, your God, will restore everything you lost. (Deuteronomy 30:3 MSG)
God is a restorer. From restoring people who have wondered far away from Him to restoring our peace, hope and joy and right down to trivial matters, nothing is a lost cause for Him. Restoration is what He specializes in. He is a giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) and it grieves Him when the enemy tries to steal what He has so graciously given us. Most, if not all, of us would agree that a lot has been lost, especially over the past few years. This year has been a year of loss in many ways, but also the year I’ve seen God come through in mighty ways and restore what’s been lost. I’ve seen God restore even the little things in my life that at times, I’m left in awe of how good and gracious He is! But the key to having everything restored to us is to turn to God. In today’s passage, the nation of Israel was reminded that restoration would only come after the people returned to the Lord (see Deuteronomy 30:1-10). And in that Scripture, God promises to restore everything to His people! God not only gives us back what we’ve lost, but gives us something even better in its place. What you think is lost, God can restore. Ask Him to do so today.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5 NIV)
God always rewards His servants in public, and I believe that He does it even more so for their enemies to see. By enemies, I mean people who do the devil’s bidding (News flash: yes, they exist!). In today’s passage, David gives us a glimpse of what it is that God wanted his enemies to see: David being the honored guest at God’s banquet where he is not only protected and provided for but also blessed! Imagine being invited to dine with the Queen of England! You would be the envy and the talk of the town. This is the picture I get when I think of Psalm 23:5. David is having a meal with Israel’s true King while his enemies look on with envy and jealousy.
I don’t know who or what the devil has used against you, but let me just encourage you today that God always makes wrong things right. And He always does so in a way that everyone can see it, even the people who hurt you. God’s favor and blessing is on your life and it’s only a matter of time before others see it too. Just as God reminded David of his position in God’s kingdom, He wants to remind you of yours, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7). And as someone who is seated with the King of kings, don’t you ever stoop low to the enemy who is trying to drag you down. After all, he always wanted that seat of honor. So keep calm and stay royal.
Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:2-3 NIV)
There’s a reason why we don’t do basic in God’s kingdom. When Jesus chose Peter as His disciple, Jesus told him that instead of a fisherman, he would become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). When Peter chose to go back to the trade he had known all his life and failed, he was once again reminded of his real purpose. He had to fail again as a fisherman in order to be reinstated as a fisher of men. Peter was meant to be the “rock” on which Jesus would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Thankfully, he eventually understood his purpose and cast the fishing gear away.
There will always come a time when you’ll feel like going back to what you’ve known all your life because you’re not certain of Jesus’ calling on you life anymore. Peter did. After Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial, Peter took the old road because it seemed safe and familiar. But like Peter, God has called us to something greater. Just because you don’t understand His plan, it doesn’t mean that you’re not serving your purpose. Don’t lose sight of your calling. Believe that you are where you’re meant to be and soon enough, you’ll be who you are meant to be.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)
Some people don’t want to go through the difficult things you’ve had to go, but they do want the glory that is revealed in you through those sufferings, such as endurance, which in turn, produces character, which generates hope. It’s like trying to win an award you haven’t earned; to be recognized for something you haven’t accomplished. The Bible is clear that as Christians we will continue to face hardships as a result of living in a broken world. And while most Christians embrace their sufferings as part of their calling and allow God to bring good out of their unfortunate circumstances, others try to evade the suffering but still expect to have a great impact in the world. They want a share in your success, but not your struggles.
One of my all-time favourite Bible stories is found in the book of Nehemiah. While the Jews were trying to rebuild their shattered city, they were mocked and threatened. Their enemies didn’t think that they could rebuild it. I love Nehemiah’s response, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Nehemiah 2:20). Once those city walls started to go up, their enemies were afraid. But they had no share in the city’s success because they didn’t contribute to its growth. We simply can’t expect to get a crown when we refuse to carry a cross.
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. (Psalm 25:1-2 NIV)
The more we get to know people, the more we begin to realize that they can’t be trusted. Even the best of people are going to disappoint us at some point in our lives because they’re human and therefore, imperfect. But while people are constantly changing, God remains constant. We can truly trust Him! The Psalmist in today’s passage sure did. Troubled by enemies, David knew that he could only turn to God who was worthy of his trust and who wouldn’t let him down. After all, only God could meet – and exceed – David’s expectations. The United States got their motto right: “In God We Trust.” Put your full trust in God alone. Because sooner or later, you will discover that He is the only one who can be trusted.