We’re Not God, We Don’t Have Answers

Sunday night I was stunned and saddened to find out, via Twitter, that Dr. Myles Munroe, a renowned pastor and leader from the Bahamas, died in a plane crash along with his wife and seven others. I loved listening to Dr. Munroe speak. His teaching was so profound, insightful, and inspiring. And he always had a smile on his face when he preached, so he felt welcoming.We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

Though I haven’t heard Dr. Munroe in a while, and haven’t read any of his books (he’s written or co-authored about 100), his tragic death hit home for me.

When untimely tragedies like this happen, we are forced to contemplate difficult questions of life and faith. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper answers to the questions.

I read several post on social media following news of Dr. Munroe’s death Sunday, with some people saying the pastor had finished his assignment and that his work on earth was complete. Those words are often used to help the mourning come to terms with their loss, but I question the accuracy of it.

How do we know Dr. Munroe’s assignment was complete and his purpose fulfilled? It might have been, but it might not have been either. Surely he has done more than most to advance the Kingdom of God in his lifetime, and he lived a full life. But just 60 years old and en route to a leadership conference, Dr. Munroe could have still done plenty more and impacted more lives.

I don’t know if Dr. Munroe’s time was up and he was just ordained to die on that day. But neither does anyone else on earth.

We like to have answers. Maybe we think it will help us sleep better at night or deal with difficulties in life. Maybe it’s just part of our culture, or just human arrogance that we need to know why. But I’ve found God rarely gives us answers despite our myriad questions. And He does it for a reason…faith.

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him when He tells us to do something that makes no sense. Trust Him when we experience an inexplicable tragedy. Trust Him in life, and trust Him in death. We don’t need answers, we just need Him. And though He never promised us answers, He has promised His presence.

Our theology — no matter how profound, historical, researched, spiritual and biblical — is inadequate to provide reasons and answers to difficult things of life. We do more harm than good when we try to give an explanation for everything.

God has the answers, not us. In our immaturity, we probe Him for answers. But in our maturity, we realize He is the answer. And that is enough.

Death is always a hard thing to process. And I don’t fault people seeking answers in pain. There are two great perspectives on death and mourning I highly recommend. First, my friend Jordan Rice, who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, has written beautifully on this topic. Check out his blog post: Trapped in the Grip of Grace. Second, to go deeper on death and the hope after it, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is an excellent and profound read.

 

 

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God has a Role for Rejects

Have you ever tried out for a team or auditioned for a role and been rejected? It kinda sucks, right? Or how about applying for an organization or job and getting that kindly worded rejection email? We’ve all been there.

courtesy of compfight

courtesy of compfight

I was reminded of my times of rejection while reading about Gideon in the Bible recently. I’ve always been fascinated with the story Gideon, one of the judges of Israel, because of his journey from being fearful to a mighty warrior leading a pack of 300 men to defeat the Midianites (sort of like Leonidas, but more successful).

In Judges 7, God devises one of the most preposterous battle plans in history, which couldn’t have done much to ease Gideon’s fears. Gideon started with an army of 32,000-strong to take on the Midianites, but God told him that he had too many people and instructed Gideon to tell all those who are afraid to go home — 22,000 departed… 22,000 rejected.

Down to 10,000 men, God said there were still too many, so he devised a test where all the men who didn’t drink water a certain way (whatever that means) were sent home. That left 300 men.

9,700 rejected.

So with 300 men, Gideon went to the Midianite camp in the middle of the night, they played their trumpets, broke some glass, and shouted and that was enough to cause the Midianites to run for their lives. But the intriguing part for me is Judges 7:23, which says:

“And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.

Though just 300 were set apart for the first battle with Gideon, God used other men to complete the work. And I believe the same men who were sent home because they were afraid or because they were deemed inadequate for the mission by God’s test at the water, were the same ones who gathered together to pursue the Midianites.

God used the rejected.

Despite their original fears, deficiencies, or maybe just not being destined to be among the 300, God still used them. Despite their initial rejection, they still had a role in God’s purpose and plan to deliver Israel.

That should be encouraging to us because despite our weaknesses, fears, and deficiencies, Jesus still has use for us. We still have a role in His plan, and our role is just as important as the 300.

The 31,700 rejected didn’t abandon the cause. They didn’t stop serving God. Sure, they had no clue what Gideon or God was up to. And that journey home was probably frustrating and confusing. They may have questioned God, they may have cursed Gideon, they may have doubted their own abilities. But when the time came to act, when their number was called, they didn’t hesitate. They knew it was their turn. (Heck, they even had the fun part. They didn’t just play trumpets and shout, they actually got to fight).

So even if it appears that you didn’t make the cut and you were initially rejected — whether in ministry, career, business, personal, or professional life — don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, don’t let your dreams die. Your time is coming. God is still calling you to a key role in His plan. Stay ready. You’re not rejected, you’re just reserved for a particular purpose.

 

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Is Your Life Remarkable?

“I don’t know why, still I try to wrap my mind around You, Your thoughts are higher, Your ways are better and I’m in awe, So bring me up to where You are.” – “Lofty” by Propaganda

As Easter approaches, I like to study the life of Jesus, so I’ve been diving into the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel is a Is Your Life Remarkablebit more concise than the other accounts of the Savior’s life, but still quite telling and profound.

In Mark 6, Jesus performs the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, multiplying the portion in order to feed about 5,000 people. Immediately after that, He sends His disciples across the sea ahead of Him. Later, as they’re struggling to row in windy conditions, Jesus comes walking on the water — totally freaking them out — gets in the boat and the wind and waves calm down. The disciples’ response was interesting:

And they were astonished exceedingly [beyond measure], For they failed to consider [or understand the meaning of the miracle of] the loaves; their hearts had grown callous [had become dull]. Mark 6:51-52

 

There aren’t many times when we see the disciples being “astonished” or in awe of what they see. At this point they had been hanging with Jesus a while and had seen Him heal plenty of people, and even they had went out and healed the sick and cast out demons themselves, so not too much came as a surprise to them. But seeing Jesus walk on water blew them away. It was a different level of miracle for them. But the Bible says it shouldn’t have been because hours before they saw 5,000 fed with just five loaves of bread and two fish. That miracle was just as incredible as Jesus walking on water. But Mark writes that “they failed to consider” the miracle of the loaves because their hearts had become dull or callous.

I wonder if our hearts have become dull to the things God has done and is doing in our lives because they aren’t as “grand” as we expect. Because we haven’t miraculously received a huge pay raise, a surprise check in the mail, a debt canceled, the man/woman of our dreams dropped at our doorstep, or a family member instantly saved, we feel nothing spectacular is happening in our lives.

But maybe something spectacular is happening. Maybe, just like the disciples, we experience supernatural things daily but we never consider or value them. To consider means to “think carefully about, regard, believe, take into account, or remember.”

I’m not sure what things God is doing in your life that are awe-inspiring, but I know they are happening. That’s how God operates. Think about it: Does the most renowned chef in the world ever cook an average meal? Does the world’s best artist ever make a mundane piece of art? So if we are God’s workmanship, crafted in His image and in whom He continues to work, how is He not doing something spectacular in our lives regularly?

He is. Our hearts have just become dull.

I challenge you to take time during your busy day, to interrupt your routine to consider (recall the definition) what God is doing in your life. It may be something spiritual or it may involve your career or family, whatever it is, recognize God’s fingerprint in your life and regard it.

In meditating on that scripture, I consider how far God has brought me in my career and the doors He’s opened for me. I’m also in awe that, through His Spirit, I hear from Him every day. And even each week, when I sit in front of this computer with absolutely nothing to say, He deposits inspiration, ideas, and thoughts in my mind to share with you. I’m in awe.

Take a few minutes to listen to this song “Lofty” by Propaganda, it expresses why we need to be in awe of our Creator:

 

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Your Greatest Weakness is Your Strength

One thing I love about the Bible is the honesty in which it displays historic figures. No one’s flaws are hidden. Everyone’s life is pretty much laid bare — the good and the bad. And in certain places, the writer shares his own weaknessflaws, like the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.

“I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor. 3-5

Paul admitted he was in weakness, fear, and much trembling when it came to speaking to the church of Corinth. Essentially, Paul feared public speaking. There are other instances in his letters where he admitted he wasn’t an eloquent orator. It’s odd because I always perceived Paul as a great theologian and preacher who commanded attention and respect when he spoke, but that wasn’t the case.

Public speaking ranks as one of the greatest fears for people. Most of us have suffered from it to some extent, which makes us much like Paul in that sense. Yet God knew Paul was weak in this area and He still called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, an assignment that regularly put him in front of complete strangers to share a radical message none of them had heard before. Way to set up a guy for failure, God.

But God did this regularly, on purpose. Think back to Moses. He tried to explain to God that he couldn’t speak for Him to Pharaoh because he stuttered. It’s not like God was like: “Oh, my bad, I forgot you stuttered, let me find someone else.” He knew speaking was Moses’ weakness and He called him anyway.

Today, we do so much to hide our weaknesses. We focus on what we’re good at and pursue interests in those areas and hone skills pertaining to our strengths. We are caught up in a culture that only displays its best — we retake photos on our phones until we have our best-looking selfie; we search through pics to use our best-looking one as our profile image; we use Instagram to make our sucky photos look professional, all in an attempt to display an image of strength, beauty, and competence to the world. But none of it is true.

I admit, only God and I know my weaknesses. I’m the king of playing it cool, faking it til I make it, and if need be, just plain frontin’. But God, throughout history, takes the opposite approach with us. He doesn’t want any of those weaknesses, blemishes, fears, or things that make us tremble hidden. He calls us into those areas. He pushes us into those areas. He uses us in those areas.

Why?

Paul said it in his letter to the Corinthians: So that anything we accomplish and any life we impact won’t be because of our wisdom or skill, but solely by the power of the Spirit so our faith (and subsequently others’ as well) will be in the power of God, not in our own ability.

Have you been concealing or shying away from a weak area in your life God is nudging you toward? Have you shut your ears to what He’s been saying because of fear? Have you been worrying about what others will think? Fearing failure? God knows what He’s doing. He’s calling you there for a reason — to display His power and glory.

Like Paul, embrace your weakness. It’s the only way to see what the power of the Spirit can do in your life.

 

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How God Gives Surprise Gifts

By Kevin Howell

photo by Shereen M via compfight creative commons

photo by Shereen M via compfight creative commons

There’s nothing like Christmas time. It’s truly the biggest spectacle in our society. As much as I like the commercialism of it, I stay balanced by reflecting of the story of the birth of Christ in Luke. It’s one of the most dramatic, miraculous accounts in history. And though Jesus is the center of the story, there are so many other characters that teach us inspiring lessons just in the first two chapters of the book.

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, for example. He and his wife Elizabeth were quite old at the time, and they couldn’t have children. We are told this couple lived honorably before God, kept the commandments, and “enjoyed a clear conscience before God.” They were faithful, devout Jews.

It’s interesting that despite the couple being devout and pleasing to God, they still couldn’t have children. One of their desires remained unfulfilled. There have been times when I felt like I was doing the right things, pleasing God, serving, yet stuff was missing in my life. What I was believing for, what I felt I should have had, I lacked. Does it make sense? No. That’s where Zachariah and Elizabeth were.

Yet, despite the fact the time for bearing children had passed in their lives, they weren’t bitter. They still lived honorably before God. And Zachariah went about his business, serving God.

Zachariah was a priest, and one day he was going about his regular priestly duties when an angel appeared to him, scared the crap out of him, then said:

“Don’t freak out bro. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife is going to have a son by you (which must’ve been a relief, because no man wants to hear his wife will have a son from some other dude), and you’ll name him John. He’s going to be awesome. He’ll be filled with the Spirit and he’ll turn people of Israel back to God and prepare the messiah’s arrival.” Luke 1:13-17 (NKV – New Kevin Version).

Zachariah, still clearly freaked out by all of this, didn’t believe it because he and Elizabeth were too old. Because he doubted, the angel said Zachariah wouldn’t be able to speak (became mute) until his son was born. (Read Luke 1 for all the details).

The day Zachariah went to the Temple was just another day at work. He wasn’t expecting an angel to show up, that’s why he was freaked out. And he sure as heck wasn’t expecting to hear what he heard, that’s why he doubted.

I believe God operates the same way in our lives. I’m not saying you will be visited by an angel (and honestly, I don’t know if I could handle that), but as you are going about your normal business, staying faithful and doing the mundane things, God will surprise you.

He’ll surprise you because He loves you. He’ll surprise you because He’s never forgotten about you. As with Zachariah, He’s heard your prayer. Even if it was months ago…even if it was years ago….even if you feel your time has passed.

It’s clear Zachariah’s faith wavered. He was old; he didn’t think being a father was possible any longer. Chances are, if you’ve been waiting on a prayer to be answered for a while, your faith has wavered too. But God’s faithfulness isn’t based on our faith. He’s faithful, plain and simple, in spite of us.

At the time of the first Christmas, Israel was going about its normal business, not expecting the messiah to arrive. But God was faithful to His promise, and the Lord arrived. This Christmas, even if you’ve forgotten about a dream, or if you feel forgotten, God hasn’t forgotten. He’s bound to surprise you, just like Zachariah.

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Living in Faith Every Day

The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “The Past is in the Past So Let It Pass: For Women” by Nadia Atkinson. It’s a compilation of testimonies by 16 women about their journeys in finding Christ.  

“…For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD.’ ”

Jeremiah 39:18 NKJV

Tell me what was your life like before Christ? nadia's book

Before Christ, I lived a life with no direction. I believed that the only person that guided my life was me and those around me. I hung around people who lived a negative lifestyle, and even had those people around my child. I lived a promiscuous and dangerous lifestyle, and at the time, it was fun. I didn’t do drugs, but I allowed myself to be around them and allowed them in my home. I was 19 years old with my own apartment thinking I could do whatever I wanted, never thinking about consequences, or the danger I was putting my daughter in.

What drew you to Christ?

There had come a time when I had hit rock bottom. I was about to be evicted from my home and I needed help and none of the so-called friends that I had around me every day could help me, nor could any of my family members. Everyone had an excuse as to why they couldn’t help me. It was then that I realized that I could only depend on Christ. I don’t remember exactly how it was resolved, but it was from then on I decided I would never put my faith in man again.

What made you decide, the day you were saved, that that was the day to dedicate your life to God?

I became saved when I was young. I attended church on a regular basis due to my mother and stepfather making it a requirement. I said the words and I prayed the prayer, but I never really took it seriously. In my mid-twenties, I was dating a gangbanger who I thought was a great guy but had the bad boy thing going for him that I loved. I never thought that I would ever see that bad boy side of him. One day I decided I was going to check his voicemail on his cell phone, and I did. It was easy because men never use passwords that can’t be guessed. Well I told him I did, and I don’t know what he thought I heard, but there was something on there that he didn’t want me to hear. I confronted him about a girl’s message that was on there, but he didn’t care about her message, he was just angry that I checked his messages. He threatened to kill me, and knowing that he was capable of doing just that, I was scared. He knew where I lived with my daughter and he knew where my family lived. I left my home for about a week. I was staying at my best friend’s house who just so happened to live across the street from a church.

The following Sunday I attended one of the services at that church. I prayed and I cried like I had never prayed and cried before. I promised God that I would change my life if my life was spared in this situation. I dedicated my life to Christ that day and I meant it with my whole heart.  When the service was over, I felt a weight lifted off me, but I wasn’t going home just yet. I went back to my friend’s house and she told me that while I was gone a lady knocked on her door to get help because she was having car trouble. Now my friend lived in an apartment complex, so the lady could have knocked on 10 others doors that were around my friend’s house. My friend welcomed the lady in to make a phone call. Before the lady left, she told my friend I don’t know what’s going on, but know everything is going to be fine, and then she left. Till this day, my friend has never seen the lady ever again. When she told me what happened, I felt like it was confirmation from God that He heard my prayer and my cries. I went home that night and never worried about the situation again.

If you could save someone by telling them one thing God has done for you in your life, what would it be?

God has spared my life in many ways. There are so many things that could have happened in my life due to the lifestyle I was living such as diseases, homelessness, incarceration, and the list goes on. I am disease free, never have been without a roof over my head, and never been incarcerated. Only by the grace of God was I spared, so I take every chance I get to tell someone to go to God and He will see you through.

 

Nadia is a small business owner in NJ who is God-fearing, trustworthy, and a student of the Word of God. She loves reading, writing, praise and worship, food, the beach, learning about our universe, spending time with family, giving advice, and being in love. You can order her book here.

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The Blessing of Hope

By Kevin Howell

photo by Michael Yan via compfight creative commons

photo by Michael Yan via compfight creative commons

There’s a misconception of what it means to be blessed.

Blessed is a common word used in church, and we often invoke it when things work in our favor:

“I was blessed with a job.”

“I was blessed with a car.”

“God blessed me with a house.”

“God blessed me with a spouse.”

“God blessed me with ____,” (you can fill in the blank).

Though those things can be considered blessings, they are not the primary example of blessing according to scripture. To be blessed means to be fortunate, well off, or happy. And though the aforementioned things certainly make us happy, we can create a culture within the faith that ties the idea of being blessed solely to receiving some sort of gift from God (or someone else).

So, if you don’t have a job, a car, a house, a spouse, or other things you desire and see others with, then you’re not blessed? Maybe according to modern-day church culture, but not according to Jesus.

I’m no theologian, but when I read the words of Jesus, I see a much different definition of blessed, none clearer than in Matthew 5.

Those whom Jesus described as blessed aren’t people we would considered blessed in our culture: poor in spirit, meek, those mourning, and the persecuted. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t call people blessed based on what they had or received, He called them blessed because of what they will receive.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt. 5:3-10)

The blessed shall be comforted, shall inherit the earth, shall be filled, shall obtain mercy. Being blessed is based on a hope. Not on something you possess, but on the hope of Christ and His promise. It is a matter of faith in Him, realizing Jesus Himself is the blessing. It’s not the gift, it’s the One who gives. Therefore, being blessed is independent of what you receive.

Even if we look at our forefathers (men and women) in the faith, we see blessing isn’t based on what they had. I think we’d agree the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus were blessed — they walked with Jesus after all. But Paul nor Peter never said they were blessed because of what they had. They were blessed because they were in Christ, children of God. Even during persecution, even during lack, even during trials, they were blessed because their blessing was based on hope, not their current circumstances.

The hope they had was in Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. It’s the same hope we have today. The hope of peace, provision, and all the kingdom of heaven is composed of. As singer David Crowder put it, “It is the hope in a rescue that has come, the hope in a rescue that has found us, and the relentless hope in a greater rescue that is still coming.”

So regardless of whether you’ve been given the things you’ve been believing for yet or not, you’re blessed if you’re in Christ. And you have a hope and bright future in Him.

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What to Do When Your Faith is Weary

By Kevin Howell

photo by Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Creative Commons

photo by Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Creative Commons

I can’t front, 2013 has been a pretty good year. Real good in fact. By no means has everything gone right, nor have I received everything I’ve prayed for (and honestly, I can’t say I’ve prayed as much as I should have this year either), but I’ve been blessed tremendously and unexpectedly.

Life is good, not perfect, but good, as I like to say.

But I understand that’s not the case for everyone. For some of you, 2013 has been trying. There have been unexpected challenges, not blessings. You may have lost a job, a loved one, income, a relationship, a business, a dream, or suffered a setback in your health. Or, 2013 might be the continuation of years of struggle.

We have all been there at some point in our lives. In those times, it’s not easy to believe. It’s not easy to trust God. Not because you lack faith, but because your faith has grown weary. Weary of believing but not seeing results. Weary of waking up to the same circumstances morning after morning. Weary of barely holding on to hope.

Getting weary in your faith is not a sin. Pretty much every patriarch of the faith became weary in believing at some point. God expects it, which is why He said even the young grow weary (Isaiah 40:30). Weariness is actually a part of the faith process. If something is worth believing for, we’ll get exasperated with it at some point.

I can’t say a breakthrough is around the corner for you because I don’t know. What I do know is God is faithful. He was faithful before you experienced the setback, and faithful the moment you took the hit. He is unchanging. Our circumstances change; He doesn’t. He keeps His promise (His Word). So if He promised you good things, to give you the desires of your heart, health, peace, and a bright future, He hasn’t abandoned those things. Even if there’s no light in the tunnel. Even if you’ve become weary.

Like I said, He expects us to get weary at some point. Our faith, no matter how strong it is, is imperfect. Abraham is considered the father of faith because he believed God’s promise and was declared righteous. But Abraham’s faith wasn’t unshakeable. He experienced doubt and weariness. God didn’t hold it against him though because the promise was based on God’s faithfulness, not Abraham’s (Romans 4:13-15).

Abraham waited a while to see the promise fulfilled, but it was fulfilled. There will be ups and downs and seemingly endless valleys in life that test our faith. But in each circumstance, we’re never alone. Thankfully, we have someone on our side we’re on the side of someone who “neither faints nor is weary… gives power to the weak and those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 4028-29).

Sometimes we can’t see our circumstances getting better. Our minds and our spirits don’t have the strength to envision it. Weariness does that to you. But even when you can’t believe in your vision, your dream, or the outcome you want, just believe in Him. Believe in His goodness and hold on to the fact that His promises are unbreakable. And soon, He’ll renew your strength and revive your faith.

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples.” Romans 4:18

 

Kevin is the founder and editor of Transparency, follow him for random tweets about faith, life, old school music, sports, and observations from Starbucks @kevbhowell.

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There’s No Fear in Love

By Kevin Howellno fear in love

Fear has been a common thread in my writing lately. It’s not been on purpose, it’s just what comes out when I sit down in front of the computer.

I guess that says something about what’s deep inside. It’s something my soul is trying to convey to myself and to you. We don’t have time for fear.

No time to dwell on it.

No energy to waste fighting it.

We all know fear can holds us back from doing great things in life. And, what we fear most points to our greatest dreams and desires.

Our focus should be love. Love may not seem as the proper way to combat all your fears, but it can dissolve most.

When we’re focused on love, and living in love, we don’t give thought to fears. We don’t hesitate to do what our soul is stirring us to do. Whether it’s inviting a friend to church, making time for your irritable co-worker, starting a business, buying a house, moving out of the state or country, or simply saying “no” when you always say “yes.”

We fear these things because of our insecurity. It’s not necessarily because the tasks are too great, it’s because our faith is too small.

I don’t mean our belief has to be great in order to overcome fears. Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed can accomplish great things. The faith I’m talking about has more to do with trust. The more trust we have in someone, the more secure we are around him or her.

I realized most of my fears were rooted in insecurity. They were internal. I was afraid to do things because I was afraid to fail and fall flat on my face, so in order to save face, I stayed safe.

But the more secure I became in God’s love, the less I thought about failure. The less I cared about failure. I felt free. Doubts and concerns became minimal.

It’s weird, but something I would consider solely spiritual or theological was so practical, it permeated my entire life.

The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins. It covers a multitude of fears as well. 

Love provides security, ensuring that no matter what you venture to do, someone trustworthy is always there. Love doesn’t minimize the risk associated with fear; it just changes the perspective of it. When we live within God’s love, we see everything through the lens of His loving security.

What people think no longer matters. Our weaknesses no longer matter. Who’s with us and for us means everything.

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.” 1 John 4:18

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Why Your Destiny Doesn’t Matter

By Kevin Howell

photo via Creative Commons

photo via Creative Commons

I was reading the book of Jonah recently, and my eyes were opened to just how meaningful of a story it is. For the most part, Jonah is taught in children’s church, seen in Bible cartoons and whatnot. But there are powerful, relevant lessons in this Old Testament prophet’s life.

Many times when we hear a message based on the book of Jonah, a minister will point out that no matter how much you run, God will get you to your destiny. Or that nothing can stop God from seeing you fulfill the plan He has for your life.

Those messages are encouraging and inspiring, but that’s not the theme of Jonah.

The book of Jonah is not actually about Jonah. Sure, he’s the central character and involved in every scene, but the book is about the people of Nineveh.

It’s not about Jonah’s calling to preach. It’s not about him running from God. It’s not about him eventually fulfilling his destiny. Jonah is a love story. A story about God’s love for a city of people. A love so strong that God had a big fish swallow and spare a prophet so the people could be saved.

The people of Nineveh were wicked. They probably deserved judgment. But God was so slow to anger, merciful, and rich in love — yes, even in the Old Testament — He not only sent a prophet to preach to them, but He ensured that they’d hear the message.

We know Jonah was quite resistant to going to Nineveh. In chapter 1, he’d rather die than obey what God said. When he was swallowed by the fish, he then thanked God for rescuing him. Then he finally obeyed God, preached the message in chapter 3, and the people of Nineveh listened and repented.

Jonah’s attitude is quite similar to ours. Well, at least mine. Sometimes I resist obeying God and sharing the faith because of how people will respond. I think this person is so far from God, there’s no way he/she would receive the gospel. The truth is, just like the people of Nineveh, people we encounter today will listen and respond to the grace and love of God. People desperately need the grace and love of God.

The last verse of the book of Jonah, the conclusion so to speak, sums up what the story is about. God calls the people of Nineveh “more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong.” That’s the heart of the Father. That’s how He sees the lost.

Jonah didn’t get it. Even at the end, he still didn’t get it. It’s not about punishing wickedness. It’s not us against them; saints vs. sinners; the church vs. the world. It’s not about our fears or our abilities or our knowledge. It’s about having the heart of our gracious, merciful Father. The same way He described Nineveh is the same way He sees the lost today: childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong.

The principle of the story of Jonah applies to your story and my story. Your story is not about your destiny or call. It’s about those people around you. The hundreds of childlike people you encounter who don’t yet know right from wrong. Your life is about their destiny more than yours.

Kevin is the editor of Transparency Magazine. You can connect with him on Twitter @kevbhowell or email kevin(at)transparencymag.com

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