Answers to Prayer

When you’re hurting, when you’re in need, when you’re losing hope, when you’re totally confused, when you see no way out…how do you pray?

I pray desperately during those times…crying out to God for answers…begging Him for help.

I suspect you do as well.

And sometimes I’ll read something in His word that encourages me and gives me hope. But more often, an answer comes through a person.

In Exodus 25, God is giving Moses instructions for building the tabernacle. Verse 1 says: The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering.”

God then goes into great detail about what the people are to bring and how everything is to be constructed. Of course, if He wanted to, God could have just spoken and zapped everything into existence. But that’s not how He does it. He hasn’t worked that way since He created human beings.

Instead, God chooses to use people to bring offerings, meet needs, accomplish His purposes, give encouragement, advance His Kingdom, etc.

There’s someone near you today who’s desperate. They feel stuck. Hope is slipping away. They may be crying out to God. Or maybe they don’t even know they can. Either way, they need help.

It could be a family member. Or a neighbor. Maybe a co-worker. Or the cashier you’ll meet today.

They might need money. Will you give it?

They may need a word of encouragement. Will you speak it?

Maybe they just need to know someone cares. Will you?

Ask God to use you today and then keep your eyes and ears open to see who needs you.

If you’re the one who’s needing help today, choose to also give it. Maybe being the answer to someone’s prayer today will be the exact thing that you need.

Dreams, Desires and Divine Delays

Eight years at this time, I was asking God for something very specific. When it didn’t happen, I gave up praying about it. In the last eight years, I’ve rarely even thought about what I was so fervently praying for.

And then this morning, I asked again.

It didn’t take long to begin talking myself out of it though. After all, God just doesn’t work like that, I reminded myself.

But what if the desire I have really is from God? And what if it’s not my job to decide how or when God might choose to answer?

I started reading through the Bible chronologically a few weeks ago, so I’ve been in Genesis and Job. So far, no one gets what they desire right away. There’s always a delay. Sometimes, a very long one. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when she finally gave birth to the son God had promised them 25 years earlier.

Yeah, I don’t like delays any more than you do. When I want something, I mean really want something, I want it now. Not next year. Not in eight years. Certainly not in 25 years.

I don’t know what delayed dream or desire you have. Maybe it’s to get married. Or for your spouse to finally wake up.

Maybe you’ve been longing for a baby.

You might be looking for a job or a better job or a job that feels meaningful. Maybe your current job is fine, but you need a raise or more responsibility or some encouragement from your boss.

Maybe you’ve dreamed of seeing your family whole again, but your child continues in rebellion.

Or healing. You’ve endured 40 rounds of chemo or multiple surgeries or have seen more doctors than you can count…and yet there’s no end in sight.

I wish I knew when or if the answer to my prayer will come. I wish I could tell you that your answer is right around the corner. God usually doesn’t let us in on those things though.

So what are we to do? How do we keep believing? How do we keep pursuing our dreams and desires in the face of divine delays?

Let me suggest three things.

First, choose to believe God is good. Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.

Because our circumstances, our feelings and a thousand negative voices scream out that God is not good or loving, let me encourage you to meditate on that verse. Read it over and over and over. Think about it. Talk to God about it. Consider all the ways it’s true. And actually do it. Thank Him. Give thanks to Him for what you already have. Give thanks to Him for His goodness and love toward you.

Write that verse on a note card. Stick it on your mirror. Put a note in your phone and set a reminder to look at it. Do whatever you have to do to let it sink deep into your heart and mind. When difficult or confusing circumstances come, and they will, go back to that verse. It’s more true than anything you will experience or feel.

Second, during this season of divine delay, choose to delight yourself in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

To delight in someone is to find your pleasure and enjoyment in that person. I delight in Robyn and my children and grandchildren. God wants me to delight in Him even more.

It won’t be easy, but try to focus on your relationship with Him, not the thing you’re desiring. A wife would naturally feel hurt if her husband only found enjoyment in sex, but not in the relationship with her. A father would be hurt if his children only wanted money from him and never cared about his feelings.

God is a person. He has feelings. He has desires. And His greatest desire is you and your relationship with Him.

Finally, trust God’s timing is best. Psalm 37:7a says, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

Being still. Imagine your mind being still. No anxious thoughts running around getting you worked up into an emotional frenzy. No freaking out when bad news comes…or another disappointing delay.

Imagine your soul being still. Feeling content. Knowing you have no power to make this thing happen on your own…and being okay with it.

We might not think so, but God’s timing is always perfect. We may be desiring one thing, but God has a better thing in mind He’s bringing about. Maybe God needs to work on our character before the fulfillment of our desire. Or maybe we’re ready, but others involved in the answer to our prayer aren’t. We cannot possibly imagine all the factors that go into God’s good plans for us.

Of course, there is an alternative to believing He is good, delighting in Him and trusting His timing. We can get angry, disillusioned and bitter.

But since I’ve already tried that, learn from me and don’t make that mistake.

How to Never Be Disappointed

Would you like to never feel disappointed again? To never feel the sadness that comes with unmet expectations? It’s simple.

Do nothing. Ask for nothing. And expect nothing.

Give up on your dreams. Take no risks. Make only small attempts.

Have no expectations of yourself. Set no goals. Make no plans.

Never express your needs to your spouse. Definitely not your wants.

Never pray. If you do, don’t ask for anything specific.

Don’t talk to strangers. Or ask a friend for help.

Learn to tolerate the job you hate.

Don’t think you have what it takes to start a business, form a non-profit or write a book.

Never seek adventure. Or try to make a difference.

Listen to anyone who tells you “it can’t be done” or “you’re not good enough.” Especially the negative voice in your head.

Fear failure. It guarantees you’ll attempt nothing great.

Just settle. For the life you have now. For the marriage you have now. For the influence you have now. For the financial situation you have now.

Get completely comfortable with the status quo.

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing God’s Will

Have you ever wanted to know God’s will beyond any shadow of a doubt? I mean no wondering, no second guessing, no trying to figure things out? Well, keep reading…but let me start with a few more questions…

Would you describe yourself as “grateful?” Are you thankful for what you have? Or do you feel entitled to not only what you have, but what you don’t have?

Until recently, I would have told you I’m grateful and that I do not have an entitlement mentality. In fact, the way so many people expect the government to provide for them really, really bothers me.

But I’m afraid I’m not quite as grateful as I thought. And while I don’t expect the government to give me things, I do expect God to.

Now I realize God makes wonderful promises regarding our provision. Matthew 6:31-34 says:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

We were not made to run after the things we need. Jesus said that’s what those who don’t even know God do. Instead, we were made to run after God. To seek Him. To desire Him.

But have you noticed that God’s timing and His ways aren’t usually like ours? I expect things to happen right away. Seek first His kingdom? Check! Now where’s my stuff, God?

It doesn’t work that way, does it?

There’s almost always a delay. There’s a season of waiting before we see God work. And in the waiting, we must trust, which God enjoys. Hebrews 11:6 says:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Faith pleases God. In other words, He likes to be trusted. I believe He gets pleasure when I choose to not panic, but instead believe that He will come through for me.

So let’s get back to the issue of gratitude.

When we experience an unmet need or desire, it’s very easy to feel discontent. And without even realizing it, we can become ungrateful. And if you’re like me, it’s also easy to become resentful.

Rather than trusting that God is good and faithful and rather than seeing my current circumstances as an opportunity to know Him better and be conformed to His likeness, I become angry or discouraged. I become tempted to give up. I begin to doubt God is really all that good. I can feel like He’s treating me unfairly.

Of course, when my kids were younger, I never let them get away with saying things like, “That’s not fair!” Why? Because life isn’t fair, so there’s no sense in whining or complaining about it. And when it comes to God, you and I really don’t want Him to be fair. Fair would be we all get to pay for our own sins. Unfair is Jesus dying in my place. Let’s be glad God isn’t fair.

So here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. Am I willing to be grateful for whatever circumstances I’m facing? And are you?

Whether we’re dealing with a health issue, a broken relationship, problems at work or a financial crisis…we have a choice to make. We can thank God for whatever it is we’re going through or we can complain and whine and grumble about it. Like me, the Israelites were grumblers and it never turned out well for them. You can read about one of those times HERE. So why in the world would I think my grumbling and complaining about my hardships would turn out any better?

Think about this way…if God wanted to change our current circumstances, He could. He could do it in an instant if He wanted to. But if He hasn’t done that, then just maybe He’s up to something much greater. Something that takes more time. And something that takes our cooperation rather than our complaining.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So there it is. As clear as it can be.

God’s will for us is to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Even the ones we don’t like.

Maybe once we start doing that, we’ll start to see things change in the direction we’ve been hoping for.


If you want to grow in your faith and believe God, not your circumstances, then check out my 40-day devotional by CLICKING HERE.

Thankful

20 Days of Believing God (Day 18)

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is ungrateful.

But then I realized that I often focus on what I don’t have. What I’m lacking. What I still want.

And so I feel discontent. Disappointed. Sometimes like I’m failing.

So today I thought I’d turn it around…for once…and focus on what I do have to be thankful for. Both big and small. Here’s just a partial list…

Jesus. He loves me. He’s forgiven me. He’s for me. He’s committed to me. He died in my place.

Robyn. She’s amazing. An off-the-charts blessing. I hope I get to be married to her for another 30 years.

Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. My kids are such a blessing to me. They’re walking with God and making good choices.

Richard and Ross. My sons-in-law serve their country and my daughters well.

Wes and Tyler. My two grandsons are a great joy.

My health. Other than an occasional cold or headache, I’ve rarely been sick.

My friends. The ones I grew up with, the ones I have now, the ones I rarely see…

My sister. Who doesn’t think like me or vote like me!

The ministry of Young Life.

A house to live in and cars to drive.

Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

A pocket-sized computer I carry around that also functions as a phone, a camera and video-recorder.

Football. The opportunity I had to play it and now only watch it. What a great game!

The opportunity to write books and create courses.

Parents who loved me, supported me and encouraged me.

Readers who like my books and ask for more.

The Bible, through which God speaks, leads, convicts and encourages.

My MacBook Pro.

Snow. I love it.

The beach.

Hawaii.

The opportunity to have visited 49 of the 50 states so far. I’m coming for you one day, Nevada.

Pie. Oh, I love pie. Pecan. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Coconut Cream.

Ice Cream. Especially when it’s really hard and has some crunch to it.

Naps.

Couples who’ve entrusted me with their pre-marital counseling.

Books.

Did I mention my wife? And kids?

God’s faithfulness. Even when I doubt.

And His patience. Boy, do I need that!

The backyard swimming pool we had when I was a kid.

Getting to go to the Razorback basketball game tonight with Robyn and Rob.

God’s provision for me and my family.

Beautiful sunsets.

The aroma of fresh, hot cinnamon rolls.

Music.

Hearing my grandsons laugh.

Sex.

The anticipation of heaven.

Meaningful work to do.

So many wonderful memories.

Young Life camps.

A fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

Cold water after a run on a hot day.

The smell of freshly cut grass, which always reminds me of football.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could add. So thank you, Lord, for Your love and faithfulness and kindness toward me. You’ve been way better to me than I deserve.

So what are a few things on your list?