Seize new opportunities!

As I drove to work one day, a billboard caught my attention.  It said, “And on the 10,000 try, there was light.”  This billboard was a promotion for perseverance – pressing on in spite of the obstacles.  Thomas Edison, the “star” of the billboard, didn’t let failure stifle his determination.  Instead, he seized 9,999 new opportunities to invent light.

Joshua and the Israelites also seized a new opportunity.  Although they had angered the Lord in Ai (Tuesday’s recharge), He gave them another chance.  He told Joshua, “Don’t dwell on what happened in Ai, for I’m giving you another chance.”  And, the Israelites seized the moment.  They didn’t win by a split decision; they delivered a KO.  They destroyed all the people of Ai and burned their city to the ground.

You may veer off track from time to time, but when given the opportunity, get back on track.  Failure is not what stops us; our response to failure does.  Each new opportunity is your chance to get it right, so make sure you seize the moment!

God bless …

Stick to the plan!

A commercial for the 50 Million Pound Challenge inspired this email.  A woman who signed up for the challenge went to the cafeteria on her lunch break, and apparently, she had a craving for something sweet.  Instead of choosing an apple or another healthy alternative, the woman bolts for the ice cream dispenser and makes the largest sundae ever.  The sundae looked like a wedding cake in her bowl!  As she attempted to exit the cafeteria, Dr. Ian Smith, the spokesperson for the 50 Million Pound Challenge, shows up, unexpectedly, with his arms folded and frowning.  Immediately, the woman dropped the sundae and chose a healthier snack.  As the commercial suggests, “Stick to the plan, and there won’t be any problems.”

Sometimes, you can get so anxious to get through a tough situation that you abandon the logical escape route.  Impatience and irrational thinking can be disastrous, especially if you abandon a plan that God provided.  Prior to the verses cited above, God gave the Israelites a plan: destroy Jericho, but don’t take anything, because it all belongs to Me.  Achan didn’t follow the plan, and his disobedience angered God.  In their next battle at Ai, the Israelites lost 36 soldiers, after being undefeated, without casualties, in the previous battles.  Worse, because of his disobedience, the Israelites stoned Achan to death.  Again, if you stick to the plan, then there won’t be any problems!

This recharge is just encouragement to those who may be on the verge of abandoning God’s plan.  God’s plans never fail, so even if it takes a while to get the victory, stick to the plan!  If you keep your hand in God’s hand, then He will bring you out.

Let God lead

During a presentation I gave on customer service, I asked this question: “When you get lost, do you pull over and ask for directions or keep driving?”  Without hesitation, most of the audience said they keep driving.  Their response made me think – most of us would rather find our own way out of a tough situation than ask for help.  Maybe it’s determination.  Maybe it’s pride.  Often however, it’s foolish, for we’re usually the reason we’re in the difficult situation in the first place.

Sometimes, the easiest way out of a tough situation is to follow someone who knows the way.  That’s what Joshua and the Israelites did in this passage.  Notice that the priests went into the Jordan River (the bridge to the promised land) first, and they had the ark of the covenant (a symbol of God’s presence) with them.  In other words, the Israelites let the Lord lead them.  And, I can’t think of a better tour guide for the journey from trouble to triumph.

This recharge is a simple reminder: let God lead.  Instead of finding your way out, trust the One who knows the end before it begins.  If you “trust in the Lord with all your heart; (and) do not depend on your own understanding.  (If you) seek His will in all you do, (then) He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, New Living Translation).

Believe your way out!

In June 1998, the Chicago Bulls were in route to their second three-peat as NBA champions in eight years.  As the series neared the end, Michael Jordan said something I’ll never forget.  On a flight to Utah, Michael told his teammates that he had only packed one change of clothes for the trip.  In other words, he didn’t plan on staying in Utah more than one night.  This quote amazed me because it happened right after Michael missed a shot to win Game 5, not to mention, the Bulls had already lost one game in Utah.  But, Michael still spoke confidently.  Long story short, Michael Jordan believed the Bulls would win, in spite of what happened the night before!

Sometimes, you have to look at the tough times you’re facing and say, “I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17, New Living Translation).  That’s faith!  Faith made the Hebrew boys (see Daniel 3) look at the fiery furnace and expect to survive, faith made Daniel sleep peacefully in a den of lions (see Daniel 6), and faith made Joshua tell the Israelites, “Get ready, because God is about to do what He promised!”  This statement baffled me, for the last time Joshua spoke of the promised land (see Numbers 13-14), it resulted in a 40-year sojourn in the wilderness.  But in spite of previous disappointments, Joshua still believed God’s Word!  He knew that this was the season he had awaited so patiently.

You may be in a tough spot, but don’t lose hope.  Instead, believe your way out.  Faith is the ability to believe what God said, in spite of what you see.  So, keep trusting, and “… If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed” (Habakkuk 2:3, New Living Translation).

Choose good company!

Last week, I wrote about “The Little Engine That Could,” the steam engine that learned the power of positive confessions.  Additionally, this train learned the importance of good company.  Throughout the tale, she asked larger, stronger locomotives to help her up the hill.  Unfortunately, they were either too tired or self-absorbed to lend a helping hand.  Eventually, however, the “Little Engine” found favor with another train.  Coincidentally, this train was “a little steam engine, just like herself.”

It’s important to choose your company carefully, especially when you’re facing a tough situation.  Bad company can be discouraging and deflating, while good company can encourage and elevate.  In the verses cited above, Joshua chose good company.  He knew he was about to lead God’s people into the promised land, so he needed to choose people who believed what God said.  And, choose he did!  He selected officers who could convince the people that the land possession was inevitable.

If you’re living through difficult times, then now is a good time to reevaluate your company.  The sad but true fact of life is “In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends” (John Churton Collins).  So, choose good company.  Friends can be the difference between triumph and tragedy.

You have GOOD Company!

On Monday, I wrote about “The Little Engine That Could” – the train that made it through tough times by saying, “I think I can.  I think I can.”  But, there’s more to the story.  In addition to those inspiring words, the train received some assistance from a little steam engine, just like it.  Together, they pulled a long train of cars up and over a hill.  In other words, the train found good company, and together, they made it through a tough situation.

If a train can have that kind of an effect on another train, then just imagine how Joshua must have felt when God spoke these words to him, “I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, Contemporary English Version).  Just a quick refresher – this is the same God who created the universe, from nothing, in six days.  This is the same God who carved the first interstate through a river, never lost a battle, and knows the beginning and end.  And He told Joshua that He’d be there to help, wherever Joshua went.  Long story short, Joshua had good company!

Thankfully, Joshua doesn’t have a monopoly on this company; God is present with us now.  As a matter of fact, He’s best at giving comfort during tough times: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.  He rescues them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, New Living Translation).  Remember – you have GOOD company in your crisis!

Speak the Word!

Remember “The Little Engine That Could?”  It’s a fairy tale about a train with an insurmountable obstacle.  Every time it tried to climb a hill (i.e., get through a tough situation), it feel back down.  But the train found comfort in a motivational statement, “I think I can!”  As the train repeated these words, it eventually made it over the hill.

This story is a reminder that words are powerful.  Solomon expressed it like this, “The tongue can bring death or life …” (Proverbs 18:21, New Living Translation).  No wonder God advised Joshua to keep the Word in his mouth.  God told Joshua that keeping the Word in his mouth would lead him to prosperity and success.  In other words, speaking the Word would grant him favor in tough times.

You may be living in torrential times, but the Word is a bridge over troubled waters.  Whenever we speak the Word, we remind God of His promises to us.  And, the last time I checked, God refused to let His Word fail.  So speak the Word, to your tough situation, and expect things to change!

Be Strong!

This morning, I watched an interview featuring a woman who survived a freak accident in Garner, NC.  A tree fell on the car she was traveling in, killing her boyfriend.  I marveled at the woman’s demeanor as I watched the interview.  She broke her back, has to raise 5 children, is three months pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, doesn’t know how she will afford his final expenses, yet she didn’t have an emotional breakdown during the interview.  Apparently, this woman has resolved to be strong, for the sake of her kids, even though she’s facing an unfortunate catastrophe.

This woman isn’t the only person who had to be strong.  The verse cited above show that Joshua also had to be strong.  In fact, God told Joshua to be strong three times within the conversations recalled in Joshua 1.  Why did Joshua need to be strong?  God told him that he would lead the Israelites into the land He promised to give them.  In other words, Joshua had to be strong because others were depending on him.

You may be within the roughest season of your life, but don’t give up.  Someone is watching you, hoping you’ll make it through, so he/she can, too.  Be strong, and resolve to endure the pain in pursuit of the promise!

Serve your way up!

Do you remember Jesus’ sermon about ambition?  If not, then here’s a quick refresher.  Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, were not satisfied with their current “job,” so they asked for a promotion, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left” (Mark 10:37, New Living Translation).  Jesus asked them if they met the qualifications of the position, and with confidence, they replied, “Yes!”  In response to their ambition, Jesus revealed the secret to advancement, “… Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else” (Mark 10:43-44, New Living Translation).

In a world where arrogance and self-promotion seem to be the norm, it’s refreshing to find people who choose the low road to success.  As I read the opening verses of Joshua 1, I marveled at two words – Moses’ assistant.  Joshua, the proposed author of these verses, had grounds to exalt himself – he had faith when others didn’t, he was the new leader of the Israelites, and God spoke directly to him.  Yet, instead of promoting himself, Joshua embraced this identity – Moses’ assistant.  Joshua took the low road, and it led to advancement.

You may be seeking advancement on your job, but don’t follow the norm of rubbing shoulders with “who’s who.”  If you want lasting success, then learn to serve.  And, if you serve, God will promote you!

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12, New Living Translation).

Wait on God!

Have you ever faced a situation that seemed like it wouldn’t end?  Worse, have you ever prayed for immediate deliverance, only to feel like God took His time responding?  Times like these make us resort to drastic measures, including our own solutions.  When Job lost his family, fortune, and health, and God seemed indifferent, then his wife devised an escape route: “Curse God and die” (Job 2:8, New Living Translation).  Sometimes, we get so anxious to be problem-free that we take the wrong exit.

The Israelites reminded me of the dangers of our own solutions.  Prior to the verses cited above, Moses had disclosed the punishment for those who doubted God: all of the Israelites twenty years old or older would not enter the promised land (except Joshua and Caleb).  It was God’s will for them to endure a tough season, and as supporting evidence, His presence (the Ark of the Covenant) remained outside of the promised land.  The Israelites were so anxious to be delivered that they took matters into their own hands – they decided to enter the promised land in their own strength.  What a disaster!  When they tried to enter the promised land, their enemies attacked and chased them away.

I think this story is an illustrative sermon of Solomon’s words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, New Living Translation).  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather endure the storm with Jesus on my ship than escape with my own life preserver.  If you’re in a tough spot, wait on God, for He’ll always grant permanent relief!

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36, New Living Translation).