It’s Always Best To First Ask God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

You can be a believer and forget God in your daily life. It is possible to love him but leave him out of the picture when it comes to planning your career or running your business or pursuing your goals. When you do that, in effect, you become a practical atheist. Rather, a first principle for you ought to be, “is this the Lord’s will?” Learn to ask that early and often—then wait until you have a solid answer.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 22:1-5

For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. Then during the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit King Ahab of Israel. During the visit, the king of Israel said to his officials, “Do you realize that the town of Ramoth-gilead belongs to us? And yet we’ve done nothing to recapture it from the king of Aram!” Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and asked, “Will you join me in battle to recover Ramoth-gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “Why, of course! You and I are as one. My troops are your troops, and my horses are your horses.” Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah was a very good and godly king. Ahab, the king of Israel, was a very awful and evil king—the most immoral in Israel’s history. The king of Judah had no business entering into an alliance with the King of Israel—even a politically expedient one.

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:114-16)

Jehoshaphat agreed to help Ahab militarily in a land dispute with Israel’s archenemy, Aram. Without thinking it through, without counting the cost, without looking at the motives behind Ahab’s request, without asking God first, Jehoshaphat agreed to go to war alongside an evil monarch that God had publically and roundly condemned—and it almost cost him his life.

A good and godly king made a foolish and deadly error. In fact, it is quite likely that not only was he a fool, he was a tool—Ahab was using Jehoshaphat to do his dirty work for him. How do I get that? Look at Ahab’s suggestion with how they should approach the battle: Hey, Jehoshaphat, while don’t you go out in kingly robes, ride in the golden chariot, lead the charge and take credit for the victory. I’ll sacrifice the moment, go in disguise, and hold off while you score the touchdown. I’ll back you up, man—like I’ll be way in the back.” Of course, that is my paraphrase, but read the text for yourself. That is essential what King Ahab said to the momentarily clueless King Jehoshaphat in 1 kings 22:29-33)

Jehoshaphat should have smelled a rat right away. But for whatever reason, his discernment was down and he got lured into Ahab’s scheme. Ahab buttered him up for help, and Jehoshaphat said, sure, “let’s do it.” It was only after he committed to it that he said, “by the way, shouldn’t we asked the Lord?” And when Ahab reluctantly brought in a true prophet of Yahweh, who again predicted divine judgment against the evil king, Jehoshaphat still didn’t catch on.

“Ready, fire, aim.” That was what King Jehoshaphat was guilty of, spiritually speaking. We are often guilty of that too, and that ought not to be—not ever. The first and continual response of our lives to the opportunities and challenges we face in life must be, “what does God think of this? What is the Lord’s will?” The second response ought to be to wait, until a clear indication comes. Third, when we understand the will of the Lord, then and only then should we pursue a course of action—an agreement, an open door, a partnership—with urgency and passion.

In the New Testament, James, the brother of our Lord, said it this way, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:16) He is saying that one of the big mistakes we can make in life is to do our planning without God. He describes this kind of person in verse 13: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’” Did you notice there is not a single mention of God in this person’s planning? This guy knew what he wanted and how to get there, but he didn’t bother to check it out with God first.

That’s a pretty common sin. You can be a believer and forget God in your daily life. It is possible to love him but leave him out of the picture when it comes to planning your career or running your business or pursuing your goals. And when you do that, in effect, you become a practical atheist.

Rather, James insists, “you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15) What a practical and powerful approach to living: put everything through the “if” filter:: “If” it is the Lord’s will.

These early Christians in James’ day began to order their lives by seeking the Lord’s will first. They came up with a Latin watchword to remind each other of the importance of actively putting all of life into God’s hand—of asking God first. It was Deo Volente, which meant, “if God wills.” In fact, in many periods of history, the believers would end their letters with “D.V.”, short for Deo Volente. Then they would respond to, “If God wills” with another phrase, “Carpe Diem,” which translated is, “seize the day.”

What a great way to live: “If the Lord wills, I will seize the day!” In hindsight, my guess is Jehoshaphat wishes he would have followed that principle of first order.

Going Deeper With God: I would suggest that you include this prayer in your daily supplications: Lord, your will—no more, no less. That’s what I desire!

Mercy!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

How fortunate are we that as much, if not more, than any other attribute of God, his longsuffering heart and willingness to forgive is what defines our relationship with him. Not only is he willing to put up with our waywardness, but amazingly, he actually goes out of his way to show us his love. As Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 21:27-29

But when Ahab heard Elijah’s message of impending judgment, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime…”

No one deserved judgment more than King Ahab. He raised the bar on wickedness: “No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.” (1 Kings 21:25-26).

King Ahab’s list of evil deeds was long, and growing by the day. Among the evil things we know about, we are told that he followed the evil advice of his nefarious wife, Jezebel—a foreign woman who raised the bar on bad. We also know that he threw a tantrum over a piece of property he wanted, and he murdered the property owner to get it. And if that weren’t bad enough, we know that he personally raised idolatry to an art form in Israel! God’s chosen people were worshiping idols—and doing despicable things as a part of their worship. Ahab was one bad king!

Yet when Elijah pronounced judgment on him, Ahab humbled himself to the point that God relented and withheld much deserved punishment. Now make no mistake, we should not take God’s patience with Ahab to mean that he winks at sin. As someone has said, “there is a payday, someday” for wickedness. And Ahab will get his!

But what is most interesting about this story is what it reveals about God. What a patient and merciful God we serve! And the same God who would delay much deserved judgment for evil Ahab in order to give him time to change his ways will also be patient and merciful with you and me—hallelujah—and also with a sinful world that God doesn’t want to perish. Now again, let’s not equate God’s longsuffering with tolerance for sin. There is a payday, someday—and we need to take that most seriously. This reality of a day of reckoning ought to be one of the things that prods us to a life of purity and motivates us to share the Good News with those who are bound for a Christless eternity.

Likewise, the fact that we have obtained a “redemptive pass” on Judgment Day through Christ’s substitutionary death ought to inspire us to greater gratitude to God for his grace and mercy. How fortunate are we that as much, if not more, than any other attribute of God, his longsuffering heart and willingness to forgive is what defines our relationship with him. Not only is he willing to put up with our waywardness, but amazingly, he actually goes out of his way to show us his love. Think about these words from Micah 7:18,

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

Let me suggest that you reframe this Ahab story. Try reading yourself into Ahab’s character, because in truth, you and I are the ones to whom God has extended such amazing and undeserved grace. As you do that, it would then be appropriate to take some time today to offer heartfelt thanks to God for what he has done for you…and for what he has not done to you.

And by the way, don’t make Ahab’s mistake: He didn’t recognize that God’s patience and mercy was meant to transform his character. So offer God your heart, then allow him to remold it.

Going Deeper With God: Here is a prayer you might want to join me in offering to our merciful God today: Holy Father, you are a gracious and merciful God. You have extended your patience to me well beyond what I deserve. I deserve punishment, but you offer forgiveness. I don’t deserve heaven, but you’ve given me eternal life. How I thank you for who you are—a God of grace and mercy; how I praise you for what you’ve done—you’ve pardoned all of my sins and granted salvation. I stand in awe of you, and throughout time and all the way through eternity, I will proclaim your greatness to all creation. I owe you an un-payable debt of love, and as just a small token of what I will give to you for the rest of my existence, I offer you this prayer of praise and thanksgiving. It is in your gracious and merciful name I pray, amen!

Why Does God Bless Bad Leaders?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Why does God put up with bad leaders? The same reason he puts up with you and me day by day: His mercy! The Puritan preacher Tomas Watson said, “God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature.” Thank God for that!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 20:13

Then a certain prophet came to see King Ahab of Israel and told him, “This is what the Lord says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

Ahab was a wicked king—the most evil in a long line of evil kings in Israel. As we have previously noted in 1 Kings 16:30, “Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” So awful was Ahab that the Lord had already pronounced judgment upon him through the prophet Elijah. Not only was Ahab evil, so was Israel. From the time these ten northern tribes had broken away from King Rehoboam to form their own nation, they had been in rebellion against the Lord God. Likewise, the prophets had called Israel out for judgment.

Yet they were still God’s people. Ahab was still the king over a nation for which God cared deeply. And throughout their stubborn waywardness, the Lord continued to woo them back through these dire prophetic warnings. Yet neither king nor people listened to the prophets and turned from their wicked ways. As a result, they were ultimately destroyed and sent into exile. (2 Kings 24)

Incredibly, on several occasions the Lord had mercy on Israel’s wicked king, Ahab, when by all rights he should have been destroyed, beyond recovery. As Proverbs 29:1 reminds us, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” That would prove to be true for Ahab, yet this stiff-necked ruler was given chance after chance to recognize the Lord God as Israel’s rightful and sovereign ruler.

Such is the case in this particular story. Ahab is facing destruction at the hands of the Aramean army and their allies—a force much larger, stronger and better equipped than Israel’s army. In reality, this was a fight that Israel could not win. But on two occasions, the Lord sent prophets to Ahab to proclaim that Israel would indeed be victorious because God would be fighting on their behalf. And the reason for this divine intervention for am evil people? So that Israel and Ahab would know that their help was from the Lord:

Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord. (1 Kings 20:13,20)

Unfortunately, neither Ahab nor Israel recognized the merciful hand of God and thus turned in repentance to follow him. They continued on in their sinfulness until they were indeed destroyed without remedy.

Do you ever wonder why God’s blessing seems to rest upon ungodly leaders in our day? Why does God favor godless presidents, give grace to governors who give him no regard, and move on behalf of mayors when they clearly give no thought to him, and in fact, implement policies that are in direct opposition to the Law of God? Why does the Lord withhold judgment on wayward leaders in America today?

Only God knows for sure, and he doesn’t always give us the details of his plan. And make no mistake, judgment is coming—someday. But in the meantime, the kindness of God in delaying judgment and in granting success to those who give no thought to his ways is meant to grab their attention. Like Ahab, the Lord helps in order that they, too, “will know that I am the Lord.” The Apostle Paul offered this profound truth in Romans 2:4,

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

How patient, kind and merciful is our God! And while you may be frustrated that he doesn’t step in to call presidents and politicians to account, aren’t you glad he doesn’t, since if he did that with them, he would have to do that with you. The same mercy that he extends to rebellious sinners is the same mercy that falls on you and me day by day.

Why does God bless bad leaders? Mercy!

Going Deeper With God: If you are frustrated with your political leaders, step back and consider the kindness, tolerance and patience of God toward them. Then while you are asking God to help your leaders, ask him to help you see them through his eyes.

God In A Box

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

What are you fearing today? Where are you doubting God? How are your expectations forcing God into your little theology box? God is God, and he will not be confined to our expectations, so reject fear and follow faith—and remember, faith makes things possible, not easy! Get your eyes off of circumstances and back onto God! Consider that God may have some creative alternatives to accomplish his plan through you, but he will need to blow your God-box to smithereens to accomplish it. Let him!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 19:11-12

The Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

Elijah was depressed—and who could blame him. He had just come off a spiritual high where fire had rained down from heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice in his contest with the prophets of Baal. God had answered Elijah so dramatically that even wicked King Ahab was impressed, and it seemed, ready to repent and turn to God. All Israel was abuzz with the God of Elijah, and Elijah assumed that a spiritual awakening was about to sweep the wayward nation back to faith in Yahweh.

But Queen Jezebel put a damper on Elijah’s momentum. She threatened to kill him, and the guy who had just called down fire from heaven, who just executed 850 false prophets, who had single-handedly led the nation to the brink of revival, let one mean, nasty, notorious woman ruin his day. Word came to Elijah that the queen had ordered him killed, and now, the prophet’s faith gave way to fear.

Just a momentary sidebar here: Fear is the greatest enemy to your faith. You cannot be a fearful faithful person. The battle in your life will always boil down to fear and faith. Faith calls you to trust God for provision and protection; fear tempts you to look at your circumstances—which will always overwhelm you and call you to trust in your own ability to overcome them. Fear is one of Satan’s chief weapons to get your eyes off God and onto circumstances. That’s why the number one command in Scripture is to “fear not.” Someone has pointed out that there are 365 “Fear Not’s” in the Bible—one for every day of the year—and you will need each one to follow faith instead of fear!

Back to Elijah—this prophet of fire fled. He got depressed. He even contemplated ending his life—“I have had enough, Lord, take my life…” (1 Kings 19:4). His perspective was so messed up and he was so disappointed with God that he sunk to an all-time low. But as the story progresses in 1 Kings 19, God does several things for Elijah that will pull him out of the pit and put him back onto his prophetic path.

  1. God gave Elijah physical renewal. He allowed him to rest—“then he lay down and slept…” (1 Kings 19:5) Sometimes taking a nap is a very spiritual thing. You don’t always need revival, sometimes you simply need rest. And God allowed him to eat—”Get up and eat!” (1 Kings 19:6) There are times when faith is not the issue, it is food. Perhaps our emotional depletion could be the result of the improper care of our physical lives.
  2. God led Elijah to a quiet place where he allowed him to pour out his heart—“Elijah came to a cave…the Lord said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9-10) Now keep in mind, God knew why Elijah was there—so God is not in the dark as to why Elijah is physically standing there. Rather, what God is doing is giving Elijah the opportunity to get some things off his chest. This is God’s invitation for Elijah to pour out his heart. Likewise, we will find holy therapy whenever we pour our heart out to God openly and honestly.
  3. God focused Elijah back on the mission—“Go back…and anoint Hazael to be king of Aram…Jehu to be king of Israel…and Elisha to replace you as prophet…” (1 Kings 19:15-16). Rather than allowing him to stew in his juice, God gave Elijah a new assignment—a purpose that would energize him for the next phase of his ministry. God wants Elijah, and by extension, you and me, to be mission-driven rather than emotion-driven.
    What is God doing in this story with Elijah? He is graciously showing this faithful prophet who had made the mistake of putting God in his little “prophet box” that he, the Sovereign Lord, is, has been, and always will be in control. He has a plan, and he is working it out, even if it isn’t according to Elijah’s expectations. He is the God who doesn’t answer by fire each time—as you would expect, and prefer. He doesn’t always make a grand entrance with an earthquake; the mountains don’t rattle and the wind doesn’t always rip the roof off when God acts—sometimes the Almighty answers in a gentle whisper.

God is God, and he will not be confined to our expectations. That’s the bottom line to this story. God has a plan, and he’s sticking to it. We don’t always know all the details of that plan, and we don’t need to. All we need is to trust and obey, and God will take care of the rest. So take the lid off your box!

What are you fearing today? Where are you doubting God? How are your expectations forcing God into your little box? Reject fear and follow faith—and remember, faith makes things possible, not easy! Get your eyes off of circumstances and back onto God! Consider that God may have some creative alternatives to accomplish his plan through you, so let him blow your little spiritual box to smithereens!

And don’t be surprised, God may call to you in a gentle whisper today!

Fear is faith in Satan;
Faith is fearing God.
Ever see it that way?
Does seem rather odd.
Fear says, “God may fail me!”
Faith knows He keeps His word.
Hitherto the Lord hath helped us;
Doubting now would be absurd.
He careth for the sparrows;
Are you not more than these?
Why are you then so fearful?
Stay longer on your knees.
Dismiss your doubts and feeling,
Stand still, and see it through.
The God who fed Elijah
Will do the same for you!
—Author Unknown

Going Deeper With God: How about offing this prayer today: Dear Father, how many times have I been guilty of trying to force you into my little box? Forgive me, and give me a fresh dose of believing faith today. Blow my box to smithereens. Open my eyes to the unlimited possibilities in you. God, you can come to me in a spiritual earthquake or a gentle whisper—it doesn’t matter as long as you are there. So I open my heart to your creative ways and I renew my commitment to trust you and obey your perfect plan for my life. May your will be done, may your kingdom come this day. Amen.

Power Praying

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Power praying is simply obtaining what God has already provided. Elijah’s story is there to remind us that this is what we should experience in prayer. In fact, we are told in James 5:17-18 that the drought began because Elijah prayed and the rains returned after three and a half years because he prayed. Then James adds that Elijah was someone no different than us—he just happened to pray earnestly. So when you pray today, link your prayers to God’s promises and watch what happens.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 18:41-42

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

Someone once made a study of all the promises that God has made in the Bible, and came up with a total of 7,474. That’s a lot of promises! Now some of those promises are general in nature. Others are specific; ones that we can appropriate in response to specific needs. Whatever the case, one thing we know about God: He makes promises—and he fulfills them!

Yet we have a part to play in securing God’s promises for our lives, because even though his promises are sure, they are not automatic. Often, there is a gap between God’s promise and its fulfillment, and that gap can be closed only through our prayers.

That’s the truth we observe with Elijah in 1 Kings 18:41-46. God had sent Elijah to pronounce drought against King Ahab and Israel because of the sin—a severe drought of three and a half years. Then in 1 Kings 18:1, God is ready to call off the drought, so he commands Elijah to go present himself to the king. So Elijah announces to Ahab that the time has come for God to end Israel’s punishment by sending rain: “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41) “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” (1 Kings 18:44)

Now here is a powerful point to this story that might be easy to overlook: Not only did Elijah proclaim God’s promise concerning rain, he then obtained God’s promise of rain in prayer. Elijah did some major power praying to procure God’s promise. Notice seven actions:

  1. Elijah separated himself to pray. “So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel.” (1 Kings 18:42)
  2. Elijah took a posture of humility. “He bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.” (1 Kings 18:42)
  3. Elijah expected results. “Go and look toward the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43, compare James 1:6-7)
  4. Elijah persisted. “Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back’” and look for rain. (1 Kings 18:43)
  5. Elijah acted upon his prayer in faith. “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’ So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” (1 Kings 18:44)
  6. Elijah’s praying produced results. “And there was a great rain.” (1 Kings 18:45, compare with James 5:16.)
  7. Elijah’s praying produced empowerment. “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:46)

Could it be that Elijah’s story is there to remind us that this is what we should experience in prayer? No doubt about it! In fact, we are told in James 5:17-18 that the drought began because Elijah prayed and the rains returned after three and a half years of drought because he prayed. Then James adds that Elijah was a man just like us, who just happened to pray earnestly.

The implication from this is that we too can become powerful people for God—if we pray. And if we are to pray those Elijah-like prayers that are “powerful and effective” (James 5:16), we must understand how to link our prayers with God’s promises, and then start doing some major power praying to procure those promises.

Think about it: Power praying is simply obtaining what God has already provided.

Going Deeper With God: Before you pray today, take a moment to reflect on 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

More Than Enough

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Charles Spurgeon wrote that a thirsty little fish doesn’t need to worry about drinking the mighty river dry. All he needs to do is drink away. Likewise, God’s children need to realize that they are standing on the shore of the ocean of his all-sufficient grace—and the invitation is plunge in and drink away. Whatever you are going through, whatever you are facing, whatever your need is, God will supply it—he is more than enough for you! Will you trust him and drink from his all-sufficient supply?

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 17:5-7

So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

I have no doubt that the reason some of you are reading this devotional today is to be reminded of this powerful truth: God is more than enough.

God is committed to teaching you that he is sufficient for all your needs. And his sufficiency is your greatest strength! He is sufficient for your eternal life, of course, but if he is sufficient for something as great as that, he is also sufficient for the smaller things as well, including the daily provisions you need for earthly life. God is more than enough.

Now to prove that to you, sometimes God will allow your current source of provision to dry up—even if brought that source into your life. Like Elijah, the Lord may have led you to the brook, fed you with ravens, sustaining you by his hand through these very sources, then by that same hand cause the brook to run dry and the ravens to take flight.

Tough lesson, but God is committed to keeping your eyes on him. He is your source, and he alone. Not the brook, not the ravens, but he is more than enough for you. Not the bank, not the boss, not your belongings, but God is sufficient for all your needs. He wants you to be grateful for what he has given—which includes everything—but to know that he is the all-sufficient God, you need to hold all those things loosely.

If you are facing a situation right now where you don’t have enough—enough wisdom, power, influence, money, energy or will-power to do anything about it—and in all honesty, you are on the brink of disaster—you are in a good place for God to show up and remind you that he is in control, and that he is more than enough, and that he will supply what you need. If you are not sure what your next move is, spiritually, emotionally, financially, maybe even physically, just know this: the Holy Spirit has caused your life to intersect this moment in time to have you relearn the Christian’s most important treasure: Your God is more than enough for you.

The Bible has revealed God as the more than enough God. The Holy Spirit inspired a writer to pen an entire letter, the book of Hebrews, to teach us that this Jesus we love and serve is superior to any force, power, religious system on the face of the planet; he is the all-sufficient One. The Apostle Paul, who knew something about utter dependence on God, wrote in Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all you needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” There were times when even Paul needed to be reminded of that. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, after a long run of very difficult ministry, where Paul even despaired of life, that God spoke these words to the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

You might say, “That sounds great, but you don’t understand my situation.” You’re right, I don’t, but God does, and he says to you, “Trust me, I am more than enough for you!” And his track record is that he is more than enough:

He came through for Abraham when he was asked to give up his only son Isaac, and God said, “I’ll provide.”

When Moses stood with the Egyptian army behind him and the Red Sea in front of him, God said trust me and I’ll open up a way. When Elijah asked the widow of Zarepath to give her last meal, God provided an unlimited supply for her family during a time of famine.

Jesus asked the little boy for his lunch, and look what God did…he provided more than enough. That’s just the way God is…and that’s what he wants you to know this morning. He’ll meet your need out of his supply…his grace is sufficient for you.

Charles Spurgeon wrote that a thirsty little fish doesn’t need to worry about drinking the mighty river dry. All he needs to do is drink away. Likewise, God’s children need to realize they are standing on the shore of the ocean of his all-sufficient grace—and the invitation is plunge in and drink away.

God will bring you through it—he is more than enough for you! Will you trust him and drink from his all-sufficient supply of grace?

Going Deeper With God:Whatever your need is today, declare this truth to yourself, your situation, and to the powers in the unseen realm: My God is more than enough for me. Now keep praying, obeying and watching expectantly for God’s provision.

God Is Still Watching

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

“He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” The book of 1 Kings repeats that phrase in describing every king who ruled in the northern kingdom of Israel. In the Lord’s sight—God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch what presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Perhaps today we should tremble before God in repentant prayer for our country.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 16:30

But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.

1 Kings 16 is not a fun chapter to read, unless you are a history addict. Otherwise, it paints a pretty bleak picture of what is going on in Israel during the run of kings described in this chronological narrative. While Israel’s cousin to the south, Judah, was concurrently enjoying forty-one years of godly reign under good King Asa, the northern nation had a succession of five very nasty kings that covered a span of sixty years. To make matters worse, there were evil kings before this chapter, and evil kings after—in fact, the northern kingdom did not have one single righteous ruler. But at the top of the heap of evil was King Ahab, the final king described in this chapter.

Each of the kings—Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab are each described with the same exact phrase: But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” For Ahab, the writer adds, the evil was “even more than any of the kings before him.” Literally, things were going from bad to worse for Israel—with both king and people willingly participating in increasingly blatant, unspeakable sinful practices that caught the eye of God.

And therein lies the operative phrase in this chapter: “in the Lord’s sight.” The persistent, in-your-face-sinfulness against God could not be ignored, and divine judgment was building in the counsel of the righteous Godhead. Judgment would come to each of these wicked kings, who would all die an ignominious death; and a day of reckoning like no other was building that would ultimately take the nation of Israel into exile from the land of promise God had given their ancestors, a homeland to which they would not return.

God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch over the earth today like he did back then? Does he not watch what kings and presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! And while it took two hundred years for devastating judgment to come to sinful Israel, it came. It will come to nations today, as well. It may take similar lengths of time, but there will a payday someday. Perhaps the next day of reckoning will be the final payday, the Day of the Lord, but judgment comes to nations that deliberately rebel against the rightful ruler of all the earth.

What is true for nations is true for persistently sinful people, too. While modern people do not want to hear of it, God is a just and holy God. He never winks at sin. He will not withhold judgment, for to do so would impugn the very character that makes him God. It is a sobering reality, but it is reality. And those who embrace the reality of judgment are the ones who will escape it.

But what is equally true about this just and holy God is that he also longs to forgive the sins of people. He lives to offer reprieve for our sin. And he has made a way for total forgiveness through our acceptance of the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son, who died on the cross to take away our sins. And the thing that he has built into our existence to continually and powerful remind us of this is his patient delay in executing judgment and his daily kindness in providing us with life. Romans 2:4 says,

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Every time you read a harsh chapter like 1 Kings 16, I hope you will remember that. God is “being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9) It is true: God’s certain judgment reminds us of God’s patient kindness.

So remember, God is watching. That is what a loving God does!

Going Deeper With God: Make sure you offer your life to God for cleansing today. And pray for your nation, that God’s patience will lead it to repentance!