Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rising to Our Highest Potential in Christ; From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Last week, I spoke to you about our need to recognize our true potential as God created humans. God has created each of us with special attributes and the potential to do the things that need to be done in our life and for the Kingdom of God. Indeed, there isn’t a person on earth who does not have the ability to rise to heights beyond their greatest imagination, because God gave each person the ability to serve Him and others in some capacity or another. Moreover, God created us ordinary mortals to fulfill our God “created” potentials and to serve Him. In fact, no matter how ordinary we feel or how handicapped that we are, God created each of us with specific attributes along with the goals that we can each reach. As I said last time, “we just have to be willing to serve the Lord and rise to our highest potential for Him.”  

Every life has worth. But, to really discover our particular worth, we need to acknowledge the One and Only God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who died and arose for our sins, so that someday we can spend eternity with God and Christ in Heaven. Through our salvation, we can discover what we can do for the Kingdom of God and His people. Obviously, there are good people of worth who do great things throughout their lives such as inventors, economists, builders, etc. But, to have great worth in the eyes of God, we have to first recognize His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior. Then, the things that we do for others and to represent Christ here on earth has even greater meaning for our eternal lives, because we are representing Christ in all the we do and we are helping others to find salvation too.

Even when a terribly handicapped person seems to just be existing, there is great potential for their life to touch and affect another’s life and to make a difference in someone’s life journey. The other person sees the strength and determination it takes for this handicapped person to just exist, i.e., in order for this person to just live. In such cases, that handicapped person’s life becomes a motivation, an influence, or an example of the human strength and resolution to just be who they were created to be.  Moreover, as I said before, sometimes it is just by a person existing or by sharing their life with another that they can give another human hope, insight, strength, joy, love, etc. that they would not have ever received had it not been for that one individual created by God who crossed their path. So, no matter how ordinary you feel that you are, you have the potential for greatness! For in some manner or another, God created all humans to be great.

The Bible is full of seemingly ordinary humans that God created who rose to their potential of greatness. Sure, many made mistakes, but they rose above those mistakes to become what God created them to be. God told us their stories within the pages of the Bible so that we could learn from them. So, let’s take a look at a few of the ordinary individuals that are listed in the Bible. Their stories and their lives touched not only the people around them long ago, but even though they are long gone, their lives are still touching us today. As we look at these different individuals, try to discover what they did to contribute to the Gospel message. What were they able to accomplish by believing in and obeying God? What did each individual person do, to contribute to the Kingdom of God? How did they rise above their weaknesses to become more than they ever thought they could become. Then, think about what you can do to contribute to God’s Kingdom. The first ordinary person that we will look at is a man named Gideon.

(As usual, I have written a long blog. But, I have also divided the blog into sections so that you can read one section at a time at your convenience. I hope that you won't give up on reading this blog, because it is important for each of us to understand just how extraordinary our lives can be if we will just choose to live for the Lord.)

Gideon, an Ordinary Man

The Bible is full of true stories about ordinary individuals who became more than they ever thought they could become simply by listening to and then doing for the Lord. One of those interesting, but ordinary individuals was Gideon. For the full and very interesting story of this man, you will need to turn to the book of Judges and look at chapters 11-16. Although I will try to give you a quick synopsis of this story, I encourage you to read all about Gideon on your own in the Bible. However, before I tell you about Gideon’s story, I need to give you a little background about the Israelites and Gideon so you will understand why the Lord asked Gideon to rise up to his created potential. (Remember, in the last blog we learned that God created each of us with great potential, if we will just choose to live up to our potential).

For a little background, I need to tell you how the Israelites and Gideon got to where they are at this moment in time. After the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt by God and Moses, whom God chose to lead the Israelite people out of Egypt, the Israelites then disobeyed God. Out of fear they refused to enter into the Promised Land. As a result, they ended up wandering 40 years in the desert until all of that first generation of people had died. Then their children, or the next generation of the Israelites, finally entered into and settled in The Promised Land.

As the Israelites came into and settled into the Promised Land, God told the Israelites to run out all the evil tribes that believed in false gods, because God did not want these ungodly tribes to influence the Israelites in any way. But instead of running off all the ungodly tribes, the Israelites allowed some of the tribes to stay in the Promised Land with them. Consequently, the Israelites were constantly being influenced by all the ungodly people living among them; the people whom they had failed to run out of the land. Eventually, the influence of these ungodly people completely took the Israelites’ attention or focus off of God so much so that later generations of the people living in the Promised Land now started living for themselves, i.e. “doing what was right in their own eyes”, and worshipping their neighbor’s idols or false gods. When this happened, God became angry with the Israelites and decided to discipline them by allowing one or the other of the neighboring and warring ungodly tribes to invade their land and capture them. When this happened, the Israelites were then oppressed or became the slaves of the invading tribe.

Eventually, after much persecution, the Israelites recognized their sinfulness, repented, and then called out to God for help. Obviously, they were desperate for help, so they promised to again worship only God, if He would just rescue them from this slavery or oppression. Of course, God heard their cries and then raised up a judge to save them from their oppressors. In this case, a judge was more than just a judge to adjudicate civil matters. He/she was also a warrior or could lead and help the Israelite men to rout out the oppressors.

After God raised up a deliverer who saved them from the oppressor, the Israelites would finally have their freedom again. For a several years, the Israelites would again live up to their promise to worship only God. But then several years later and after several new generations of Israelites came along living for themselves again, there would gradually be a forgetfulness by the newer generations about their ancestors promise to live for God. They would also gradually see no problem with intermarrying within the ungodly tribes who were living amongst them. Moreover, these later generations would again start living only for themselves and “doing what was right in their own eyes”.  Just as importantly, these later generations of Israelites also couldn’t remember or simply chose to ignore what God had done for their grandparents and great-grandparents, so it was easy for them to begin to live for themselves and in the process, fail to worship God. Of course, they were influenced, too, by the ungodly tribes living among them. Consequently, some of the Israelites would again begin to marry into these ungodly tribes, thus weakening even more their devotion to God. So, the cycle of disobedience and then falling away from God would start all over again.

As a parent, we should be able to understand how saddened and angry God would become with His children. God had done great things for them. He even brought them out of their slavery in Egypt and now this is the way they treated Him. Where was their appreciation and their honor of God?  To make God’s disappointment even worse, God had given them chance after chance to correct themselves, but then the time would come again when God had to discipline the Israelites for their disobedience. Discipline comes in many forms as all parents know. We know that the discipline of our children should fit the situation so that our child or our children will not do the same thing again. We hope that the discipline will keep our children from doing the same thing again. They are supposed to learn from their mistakes.

Certainly, the Israelites should have understood what slavery and economic oppression was all about, especially since word of mouth was the way that they kept their history and told stories relating the events of their families and previous generations. In other words, each generation would have told the next generation of the story of their escape from Egypt with God’s help. Eventually, those who could read and write would record the incidents for their posterity. Because the Israelites repeated this story and other rescue stories over and over again, they should have been able to understand that God used discipline that incorporated more slavery or economic oppression to get their attention. Obviously, God hoped that this type of discipline would get their attention and cause them to do that which is right and true. Sadly, within a few generations, the people would lose interest in worshipping God and start to follow the false gods of their neighbors. When they started “to do what was right in their own eyes,” God would again allow the Israelites to be captured by a foreign foe and oppressed for a period of time until they repented and called out for Him to help them.

After several years of oppression, and in some cases it took many years before a new generation of people would finally realize that they needed God’s help, the people would finally repent and call out for God’s help. God was always waiting for them to recognize His power and support. So, when they called out to Him with sincere true repentance in their hearts, God would again raise up a judge warrior to get them out of the mess they were in.

Over a period of 410 years, the Israelites received help from at least 15 judges, i.e. ordinary men, who rose to their highest potential to save the Israelites from their oppressors. Gideon’s time came about the fifth time that this cycle of falling away from God had occurred, for the Bible tells us that yet again “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, (so) the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.”  -- (Judges 6: 1. NASB).

The Midianites

The Midianites were economic oppressors. They would allow the Israelites to plant their food, but when it came harvest time, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east swarmed in to take their harvest. In order to avoid these scavengers the Israelites would make dens to hide in and find caves in which they could hide and store their produce. But, sometimes the Midianites would come suddenly and strip the land. In fact, the Bible says that the Midianites and their comrades would “… camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locust for number, both they and their camels were innumerable, and came into the land to devastate it.

So, Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord. Now it came about that when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel and he said to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.’”

 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out the wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.’”  -- (Judges 6: 12. NASB).

Obviously, Gideon was no valiant warrior. In fact, he was hiding in the wine press and beating the wheat there so that the Midianites did not see him or take the wheat. But the Lord did see Gideon as a valiant warrior, because the Lord knew that this ordinary man was going to accomplish great things for Him and his people. Gideon, though, did not see himself the same way that the Lord saw him. Instead, Gideon saw himself as weak and scared. That is because like so many of us do, his focus was on the present moment and the circumstances that he and his people found themselves in. How could such a lowly ordinary man be or become a valiant warrior when in his own eyes he believed that he was little and weak?  So, Gideon said to the Angel, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us over to Midian.
The Lord looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”  -- (Judges 6: 13,14. NASB).

Gideon, though, was not convinced that he could accomplish anything, let alone rescue or deliver Israel from the Midianites. So, Gideon said to the LORD, “O LORD, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manassah, and I am the youngest in my father’s house. But the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”  -- (Judges 6: 15, 16. NASB).

Gideon believed that not only was he not capable of rescuing the people, but he wondered how the LORD could choose someone from one of the least people groups within his tribe of Manassah. Gideon then pointed out to God that he was also the youngest in his father’s house, meaning; why didn’t the LORD ask one of his older brothers to do this task instead of Gideon. But the LORD had prepared Gideon to do this job ages ago when God created Gideon. God knew that Gideon would be able to rescue his people even though Gideon did not know that he was capable of doing so. In fact, God is the secret to all people’s success throughout the Bible as well as the source of all the success in our daily lives. If God is for us, then we will succeed. Indeed, God will never ask us to do something that we can’t do.

There is much more to Gideon’s story, but let’s jump to the conclusion of this miraculous event. Gideon finally accepted God’s call for him to rescue his people. Then the first thing Gideon did was to prepare the men of Israel and himself by tearing down the town’s altar to the false god of Baal. He wanted all the people to realize that there was only one God and that they were no longer going to worship a false god.

Then the Midianites and their cohorts arrived as they had for the past several years; the Midianites, Amalekites and sons of the east assembled themselves together camping in the valley of Jezreel so they could swarm in like locusts and grab all the harvest from the Israelites. The Bible tells us that “… the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him, and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Napthtali, and they came up to meet them….” – (Judges 6: 34, 35. NASB).

Then Jerubbaal (that is another name for Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’” (So, the Lord told Gideon that he had too many troops or people with him. If they used all the men that had come to help Gideon, Israel would think that it was through their own power that they had overcome the Midianites, et al. So, God did not want Gideon to take all the men with him that he had assembled. Eventually, through some unusual techniques, God winnowed down the 32,000 men or troops to just 300 men who would go with Gideon into battle.)

So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands, and Gideon sent all the other men of Israel each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. Now that same night it came about that the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Arise, go down against the camp (of the Midianites), for I have given it into your hands.’” – (Judges 7: 1-11. NASB).

Now, this ordinary man had to be afraid. Gideon wasn’t a skilled warrior and he didn’t really understand how he could defeat all the men that were camping in the valley of Jezreel. But God could read the heart of Gideon and God knew that Gideon needed reassurance, so he told Gideon to take his servant and sneak up outside the Midianites camp and just listen. God told Gideon, “… you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” – (verse 11).  So, that is exactly what Gideon did. What he overheard was one man relating a dream to another man. In this dream the man said that “a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned upside down so that the tent lay flat. His friend replied, ‘That is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.– (Judges 7:13, 14. NASB).

When Gideon heard this, he worshiped the Lord and returned to his camp. There he divided the 300 men into three companies that could then surround the Midianite’s camp. Gideon then gave each man a trumpet and an empty pitcher with a torch inside the pitcher. Finally, Gideon said to the men, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’ … When the three companies blew their trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their rights hands for blowing, and Gideon cried, a sword for the Lord and for Gideon.’– (verses 18, 20. NASB).

The Midianites and their cohorts were completely confused and this entire group of scavengers or raiders ran from their camp even as the Midianite and Amalekite men set their swords against each other. Gideon’s men captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and killed them. Everyone knew that it was Gideon with only 300 men who had with the power and strength of God, succeeded in doing what it should have taken at least 32,000 or more men to be able to do. But with God, anything is possible, even for an ordinary person like Gideon!

What God Expects From Us

Just like Gideon, we have the ability to do the work of the Lord even if we don’t think that we are capable. God only asks us to do that which He knows that we can do. Remember that God created each of us to be more than we ever think that we can be. For, just as God asked Gideon to be a valiant warrior, we, too, can be that super empowered person to work for the Lord through Active Relational Christian Mentoring, through our church work, through Bible studies, through missionary services, and throughout many other areas of service that we were created to perform. We just have to step up and ask God what He wants us to do, then do it.

In many cases, like with Gideon’s army, God may first reduce our physical resources, so that we have to rely entirely on Him, rather than relying on ourselves or others. But whatever our needs are, God will provide. Even our personal handicaps can seem to be a reduction in our ability to do something, yet if we trust in the Lord and let Him lead us, that handicap my actually be the beginning of something great that we can do for the Lord and others. Life is not so much about what is or is not possible, but is about what is actually possible through the Lord.

Even those children who are born not being able to talk or move, have been given something special by the Lord. For, just in existing, they will bring love, perseverance, joy, insight, discernment, and many other things into the lives that they touch. Yes, there can be pain for them and their family, but it is often pain that creates strength and humility as well as caring and love within a family. This strength, humility, love, and even moments of joy can spread over into the lives of the friends and acquaintances that know them. So, whatever perception you have of yourself or others, take the time to look at yourself through the eyes of God. He loves you and wants you to live up to the potential that He created within you. 

Other Ordinary individuals who have done Extraordinary Things for the Lord and Others.

The Bible is full of true stories about ordinary individuals who became more than they ever thought they could become on their own, just from listening to the Lord, obeying Him, and actually doing what they were created to do. In fact, throughout history, there are stories of men and women who have risen above their ordinariness to do things that have made a great difference in the world and in the lives of others. I often think about all the true Christians in World War II who risked their lives to hide and smuggle Jews out of Germany and certain death. These were just ordinary individuals who listened to God through the reading of their Bible, through prayer, and from listening for the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to them. There are many other people, though, who have risen to their potential from trying to fill their need or the need of someone else at a particular time. Such was the case of those that God listed within the Bible. The stories of these ordinary individuals are within the pages of the Bible to show us how to live and to show us what not to do in life, as well as to tell us what we can do when we depend upon God for our strength.

Below is a fairly short abbreviated list of just a few men and women who obeyed God and were able to achieve what God created them to do for others and for the Kingdom of God and His people. They rose to their highest potential for the Lord.

1.     I will start with Adam and Eve. Although they ended up sinning and being kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve populated the earth and taught their son Seth about God. They taught their son Cain too, but he chose to ignore God and to do things his own way, which led him to kill his brother Abel and to then be sent far away from his family. Although, they had many weaknesses, Adam and Eve did what they were created to do. They were created to populate the world so they and their children and grandchildren did that. They were also created to love God and to tell their children of the wondrous God who loved them. Unfortunately, they failed to do that in so many different ways. However, at least one son, Seth, got the message of the importance of God.

2.     Who could forget Noah. Because Noah was a godly man, God called Noah seemingly out of the blue to build an ark that would hold his family and many animals when the earth was flooded.  For 120 years, Noah preached to the people to change their ways and to believe in God, but the people were evil and refused to believe. At the same time, it took Noah 120 years to build an ark large enough to hold his family and all the animals that God wanted him to put on the ark. You can read about this ordinary man who became extraordinary, within the book of Genesis, in chapters 6-9. Noah rose to heights of greatness by listening to God and doing what he had been created to do.

3.     Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, recognized that there was only one true God even though the rest of the world worshipped many different false gods. Abram not only recognized God, but he also fellowshipped with Him and listened to God’s direction for his life. For, when God told Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel to the Promised Land, Abram unquestionably arose and over several years made his way to the Promised Land. Abram, however, was just an ordinary man, though probably comfortably wealthy. However, he gave up his prestige and his city life to listen to and serve the Lord. So, Abram along with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot and their servants and livestock left to follow God’s direction for Abram’s life. Instead of ignoring God, Abram heeded God’s call. You can read about this ordinary man who was created for exceptionalism. His story is located in the Bible within the book of Genesis, chapters 11- 25.

4.     Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was the younger son of Abraham’s son, Isaac. Jacob was certainly an ordinary young man, but with some deceitful ways. One day Jacob decided to steal his twin brother’s birthright in order to get what he wanted in life. Yet, Jacob also heard from God (See Genesis, chapters 25-35), and in listening to God, he eventually turned to God and gave up his deceitful ways. In fact, this ordinary man finally decided to devote himself to the Lord. Along the way, Jacob was blessed with twelve sons who also were all just ordinary men, who along with their goodness, were also filled with selfishness, meanness, and deceitful ways. Still they, too, were used by God, who used both their strengths and weaknesses to advance the position of their younger brother Joseph within the land of Egypt. This allowed time for Hebrew people to grow in numbers.

Although Joseph’s brothers did not know that their negative attributes such as jealousy and sibling rivalry would lead to the forming of a great group of Hebrew people, their evil intentions were turned into good. In fact, God used these ordinary young men along with their weaknesses of jealousy, hate, and sibling rivalry, to put into motion events that would lead to their and their family’s lives being saved years later.

5.     The ten older brothers plotted to do away with Joseph, who was the next to youngest son of Jacob’s. Nine of Joseph’s eleven brothers plotted to kill Joseph. Yet, the strength and wisdom of one of these ten older brothers, finally led the other nine brothers to instead agree to just sell Joseph to some Ishmaelite traders. This would get rid of Joseph without actually killing him. So after buying Joseph, the Ishmaelite traders took him to Egypt where they sold Joseph to one of Pharaoh’s Egyptian officers. Joseph worked hard for the officer trying to always do what God wanted him to do. But, through no fault of his own, he ended up in prison to die there. However, God had other plans for Joseph. Joseph was given a chance to help the Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt when Joseph was allowed to explain a disconcerting dream that Pharaoh had. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s ability to explain his dream when no one else could that he released Joseph from prison. Furthermore, because of Joseph’s wisdom and mathematical abilities the Pharaoh appointed him second in command to only him.

During all this time, Joseph had great fellowship and communication with the Lord, and as a result, this ordinary man was able to rise to greatness and save his entire Hebrew family, including the brothers that had tried to kill him and their servants and workers from a worldwide famine. For, it was through Joseph’s godly knowledge and personal love for God that Joseph and his insight as well as his obtaining the position of the second in command was able to help Egypt become the only country that would have enough grain stored up when the famine came. Then, when the famine finally came and his brothers came begging for food, Joseph not only gave them food for their entire clan, but he forgave them. He was also given permission by the Pharaoh to bring his entire family and their servants into Egypt, giving them the best farming land in Egypt. So, for nearly 400 years the Hebrews prospered in Egypt and their numbers grew. They actually became large enough in number to become a nation at some point in time.

Unfortunately, a new Pharaoh, one who wasn’t there when the Hebrew people initially came to Egypt and settled, became afraid of the ever-increasing or ever growing numbers of the Hebrew people. This new Pharaoh was afraid that the Hebrews would rise up and try to overthrow the Egyptians. So, the Pharaoh decided to oppress the Hebrews and make slaves out of them so he would have control over them. This Pharaoh even tried to kill the babies that were born to the Hebrews. Perhaps this is the first example of full-blown anti-Semitic bigotry and hatred stemming from the fear of these people and the difference in their life-style.

6.     Moses: Then God again provided away to save the Hebrew people through another ordinary person. This time it was through a child who grew up to live to his fullest potential. This child, who would be named Moses by a princess, would save the Hebrew people from destruction. By following God’s direction, Moses would lead the people while God protected the Jewish people from a deranged Pharaoh. First, though, Moses would have to be kept alive to grow up to be that leader. In order to keep him from being killed by the Pharaoh who had ordered the deaths of all the Hebrew baby boys, his mother hid Moses in the bulrushes where he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She rescued him, named him, and then raised Moses in the palace with many privileges. But, Moses still came to know that his people were really the Hebrews.

One day when Moses was out in the area where the Hebrews were working as slaves making bricks for the Pharaoh, Moses saw a Hebrew man being abused by an Egyptian overseer. Suddenly, Moses became angry and killed the man. Then Moses had to flee for his life, or he himself would have been killed. He made it to the land of Midian, married and lived there for 40 years as a farmer and shepherd of a flock of sheep. But one day God chose to address and use this ordinary man, with his murderous background and perhaps even a vocal stutter, to rescue the Hebrew people from Egypt and the Pharaoh. Those forty years in Midian were used by God to prepare Moses to become a leader. More importantly, he had to learn to follow God’s precise directions in order to save the Hebrew people.

Moses became devoted to God and followed His directions which highlighted the power and greatness of God. He was able to get the Hebrew people safely across the Red Sea and to Mount Sinai where God again used Moses to give the people His commandments and laws. Then Moses brought them to the entrance of the Promised Land. But the people were afraid and refused to enter into the Promised Land. They would end up wondering for 40 years in the desert before their children, but not them, would get to enter into the Promised Land. (Read the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers to learn more about Moses).

7.     During the trek from Egypt to Mount Sinai and while wandering in the desert, God provided Moses with another ordinary man, in the man Joshua, who became Moses’ right hand man and warrior. Along their journey, Joshua helped defeat the warring tribes that wanted to destroy the Hebrew people, i.e. the Israelites. Later, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and helped them to rout out most of the evil ungodly tribes that had settled in Canaan.

Relying on God, and once inside the Promised Land, Joshua divided up the land giving a portion to each of the different Israelite tribes. He then set before them the standards that they were to use to worship God and live righteously. Unfortunately, successive new generations of Israelites did not always heed the ways that God wanted them to live. In many instances, they lived for themselves and did what was right in their own eyes. To help the Israelites and to give the successive new generations another chance to do what was right in the eyes of God, God used 15 ordinary Hebrew men over the next 410 years to judge and guide Israel. These judges were leaders and warriors who were able to save and bring the Israelites back to worshipping God. Joshua’s story can be found within the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua.

8.     One of these judges, as I mentioned before, was a man named Gideon. But like all the other judges, Gideon was just an ordinary man. In fact, all the judges were just ordinary people who stepped up and provided godly service to the LORD while saving the Israelites from themselves and their enemies. It would be through these judges that the Israelites would return to serving and worshiping the one true God for period of time before they again forsook the LORD.

9.     Without going into great detail, the Older Testament is filled with ordinary people just like you and me who rose out of their ordinariness to achieve or accomplish great things for the LORD. For example, there was Jephthah, who was the son of a prostitute. He delivered Israel from the Ammonites in Judges 11. God gave him the inner strength and ability to lead the Israelites and save them from their oppressors.

10. Then there were the ordinary women who did great and mighty things for the LORD, like Deborah, who was a judge who saved the Israelites from King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The death blow to Sisera, who was the King Jabin’s commander, though, came from another ordinary woman named, Jael. She had the courage to use a tent peg and drive it into the head of the sleeping Sisera, instantly killing him. (See Judges 4).  Jael was just a housewife who knew that the Israelites were being pursued by the Canaanite king and his commander. She was willing to stop Sisera for the Israelites.

11. There was also Hannah, a simple wife and homemaker who wanted to have children but was barren. After prayers and a heartfelt promise to give her weened child over to the priest to be used for God’s purposes if God would just give her a son, God gave Hannah a son. Indeed, Hannah kept her promise and gave her son, Samuel, into the hands of Eli the priest to be used by God as a judge and prophet for the Israelites for many years. (See I and II Samuel for the story of the entire life of Samuel, who grew up to be a great man of God).

12.  Among all the ordinary people of the Older Testament were the two women, Naomi and Ruth. It was through the Active Relational Mentoring done through Naomi for Ruth that Ruth, a Moabite woman, became a believer in the one and only God. In fact, little did either woman know, but Ruth would become the great-great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus. Ruth’s faithful trust in Naomi and her obedience to her, meant that this ordinary woman would come to know God personally and would leave a legacy that has had far reaching results on the world. If each Christian were to live their life for God, our ordinary lives would have even greater significance than they do now. Are you listening to and living for God?

13.  Of course, we cannot forget the simple shepherd boy who came forward and used his slingshot to kill the giant Philistine, Goliath. David was just an ordinary young man or teenager who rose to the occasion to do the job that God had created him to do. He was there to kill Goliath and to become the king of the Israelites after Saul died. To read about David’s inspiring, but very human life, read I and II Samuel and I Kings, as well as I Chronicles. David also wrote many of the Psalms.

14. Although we cannot name every ordinary person within the Bible who became significant, we cannot forget two other women. The first woman is Esther, who was a just a simple slave girl. Yet, she was chosen to be the Queen of King Xerxes and ended up saving the lives of all the Jewish people throughout the nation. She and her uncle, Mordecai, were able to stop a planned Anti-Semitic massacre that did not take place, all because this one woman, Esther, chose to stand up and do that which God had asked her to do. (The entire exciting story is found in the book of Esther.).

15.  In the Newer Testament, we cannot forget Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary was just an ordinary young girl, whom God chose to be the mother of His Son, Jesus Christ, who would be the Savior of the world.  Mary would be the mother of Christ. Little did Mary know that she would be given such a honor and responsibility, but she gladly accepted her responsibility even though it meant that many people would not believe her and would simply think that she and Joseph did not wait until they were officially married to get pregnant. Instead of bemoaning her lot in life; that of having her friends and neighbors think that she had become pregnant before the completion of her marriage to Joseph, Mary stepped up and praised God. Moreover, Mary gladly did what the Lord asked her to do. Mary even praised the Lord and sang a song now called the Magnificat in which she glorified God in song for what He was going to do for the world through Christ, His Son, the child that she was carrying in her womb. (See Luke 1: 48-55). Mary had been created for an amazing position in life.

16.  Certainly, we cannot forget to mention Joseph, the earthly father of the Son of God. He accepted Mary and took on the responsibility of raising a son that wasn’t even his. But, Joseph knew that he had been given a special honor in raising Jesus. He knew that this boy was God’s Son.

17.  Finally, we cannot forget to mention the disciples. Each disciple was an ordinary man. Each one had baggage and each one had strengths along with his weaknesses. But, they had each been created for the role that they were going to play in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Take a few minutes to read the Gospels in the Newer Covenant/ Testament to get to know these ordinary men better. From the fishermen, to the tax collector, and Simon the Zealot, as well as all the others in between, God chose these particular ordinary humans to be the voice for Jesus Christ once he went back to Heaven after He arose from the grave. These men were just like men today, but they recognized the Savior. They believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as the living Son of God. Then they were willing to do the work of telling the world about Him even if it meant that they would die for the truth.

        People today rarely die for telling the truth, especially not in America, yet we are still afraid to reach out and tell the truth about Christ being the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But no matter what stage you are in life and no matter where you live in the world, you can be more than you ever thought you could be by simply reaching out to share the Gospel and all God’s truth with those around you. Please remember that you were created to be exceptional long before you were born. In fact, David said of God, “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”  -- (Psalm 139: 13-16. NASB). Are you living out those days for the Lord?

Obedience to God

None of us know how many days we have to live on this earth. But, if we know Christ as our Savior, we know that we will one day live with Him forever. If you have asked Christ to come into your heart and to save you, you now have an obligation to tell as many people about Christ as you possibly can and to be of service to the Kingdom of God. Moreover, there are many ways to tell others of Christ just as there are many ways you can reach out and help others or to be of service to God. You were created to be more than you may have ever thought you could become. For God created you to be more than ordinary. You can be extraordinary simply by loving others as you love yourself and by doing the work that God has created you to do.

Take some time to pray about your attributes and what God would like you to do with those attributes. Perhaps you are to mentor others. Perhaps you were created to be a nurse to the sick while your actions show them the love of God. Perhaps you were created to be an office worker who lets others see the face of Christ in your behaviors and actions. No matter what job you have, or what lot in life you are holding, you have opportunities to be a light in your small part of the world for Christ. You can think outside the box and then rise to your highest potential as you live out your created abilities for the Lord each day.

Obedience to the Lord, is the most important thing that we can do while here on this earth. Being obedient can be expressed in many different ways, but it all boils down to asking the Lord what He wants us to do and then doing it. Remember too, that no matter what God asks you to do, He has prepared you to do it and He will be there to help you accomplish the task that you were created to do. And if you are afraid to do what God asks you to do, think upon some of the ordinary people, like Gideon and Hannah within the pages of the Bible who stepped forward and did what they were supposed to do. You can do it! You can be obedient to the Lord. You can even actively mentor another for the Lord.

Don’t forget about the greatest example of obedience, which was the obedience of the Son of God. Jesus Christ came to earth in human form to accomplish the goal of saving our eternal lives. He did not give up when the task seemed more than He could stand. No, Christ did not give up! He was obedient to the Father. Jesus went to the cross so that we could have eternal life. Although we will probably never be asked to give up our life, the least that we can do is to live our life in such a way that others can see Christ in us and want Him in their lives too. Remember that you are more than ordinary. You are a creation of God’s that can do great things for the Kingdom of God. You can do it! You can live your life for God through service and love shown to others.

Blessings of the Cross  Day 9
by Billy Graham

He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5: 8

The main reason Jesus died on the cross was
to save us from our sins. But the New Testament also
stresses the importance of His suffering as an example for us.
The Greek word for example comes from ancient
school life, and refers to something written down by the
teacher, so it could be followed and copied exactly by a
child learning to write. Christ is our copybook. We look
to Him as our teacher, and by His suffering He gave us
an example to follow, so we can learn how suffering is to be borne.
How did He bear it? By not giving in to despair or
doubt. By looking beyond it and seeing the glory that
was to come. By knowing the Father was with Him and
would use His suffering for good. The same can be true for us.
The author of Hebrews writes, “Consider him who
endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3, NIV).

Yes, consider Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment