Nothing Too Difficult

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Enough

“And all of you is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need.  You satisfy me with your love and all I have in you is more than enough.”
Jeremy Camp, Enough

Last summer at a pool party, confident after a few swimming lessons,  my daughter didn’t wait for her dad to put on her “floaties.”   Instead, she just hopped in the pool while my husband was helping her sister get ready.   She thought she could handle it—this preschool swimming class expert.  Unfortunately, she started to sink.  So, she freaked out and struggled.  That made it worse.

It took less than a second for my husband to reach in the pool and grab her up.  To her, that split second seemed to last forever.

On this very same day last week, I felt like I was sinking.  I freaked out.  I struggled.  That made it worse.  This brief moment in my life seemed to last forever, but God reached down and grabbed me up.

God blessed me that day with a  good friend who shared with me this verse: “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach . . .  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deut. 30:11, 14, NIV).   As I struggled to stay above water that day, different portions of that verse would encourage or challenge me and ultimately required me to make some changes.

Not Too Difficult

What God is asking us to do sometimes seems so hard and we want to quit or give up.  Yet, He encourages us to keep going because this is not too difficult or beyond our reach, not with Him helping us.  In our strength, we’ll absolutely sink.  We struggle and flail and cry out for help because we’re overwhelmed with our inability to control our situation.  Yet, as Paul writes “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV).  Isaiah writes: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).  As long as we remain with Him, held up by His “righteous right hand,” we will not sink, no matter how unable we are to swim in our own strength and abilities.

Today

The Deuteronomy verse tells us, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult.”  My friend reminded me that I only need to focus on obeying God’s command for me today.  If I worry about ten years from now, that’ll be too difficult.  Even trying to get ahead of myself by one day can send me to the bottom of a pool!  I look at my month-long calendar and sometimes I lose my breath.  How will I get it all done?  Will I sleep this month?  If I can just make it until next month, I’ll be okay.  And then I flip the page of the calendar and feel overwhelmed again.

But, today and just for today, God is asking me to do things that are not too difficult.

What I Am Commanding You

After my friend shared this verse with me, I meditated on it all day.  I used it as a pep talk for myself: “You can do it.  It’s not too difficult.  You can get it all done and handle all this.”  Then, I realized that I really couldn’t do it.  This was actually far too difficult for me.  I was sinking, no question about it.

So then, what was I doing wrong?  I was trying to do what God was commanding me and then some.  God had told me I needed to quit my job and I had put Him off until it was more convenient for me to obey.  I can’t add to God’s commands and expect Him to hold me up out of the water.  In that case, it’s my own fault I’m sinking!  Walking in obedience brings me freedom and the promise that God will help me do everything He has asked of me.

There are some days when I am feeling great and doing fine, life is good, and then just for a brief moment I have that sinking feeling.  All three of my daughters suddenly need me and it must be right now!  The phone rings while my kids are crying and I’m trying to make dinner.  I’m tired from lack of sleep caring for a newborn or a sick child and I still have to function the next day.  One of my daughters is sick or struggling and I don’t know how to make it better.

I’m sinking.

At other times, it’s a season of feeling out of control and overwhelmed—When I’m pouring out everything in ministry and just want to give up at the lack of results.  When I’m working my hardest and don’t seem to make progress.  When the prayer requests of others seem so overwhelming.  When I am given a new project and I have no idea how to accomplish it.

I’m sinking.

The fact is, I’m simply not enough for all this.  I sometimes tell my daughters, “I only have two hands!!”  There are times I am telling God the same thing.  “God, I’ve got two hands and that’s it.  I’m not equipped enough, strong enough, trained enough, or experienced enough.”

I’m not, but He is.  With His help, and as long as I am focusing on today and walking in obedience with Him, He will strengthen me.   He will be “more than enough.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

I Choose to Obey

“Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”
(1 Corinthians 15:58).

Today is piano lesson day in my house.  I stopped giving lessons to other students when my youngest daughter was born, but I still teach my older girls once a week.  At times, this may seem like a raw deal to my daughters, having a teacher there not just for lessons, but for practice time, as well.  They might not fully appreciate me hovering over their shoulders and correcting their mistakes all week.  I change their hand positions when they shift their fingers too far.  I show them the right notes when they stray to a wrong key.  I remind them of the OTHER song they were supposed to practice this week, not just the song they really like.

In many ways, me being their mom and their teacher has been helpful, not just because I make sure they practice the songs the right way all week long, but also because I’m there to encourage them each day to keep going and not give up.

In the beginning, my oldest daughter asked me to quit about once a week.  Any time she got a new song that was just a little bit harder than the last one, she thought it was a good time to give up.  One minute, she would be super excited about mastering her old lesson, playing it 20 times so I can hear how great she is, and then I’d turn the page to a new song.  Some new notes.  A new hand position.  A new skill.  And she’d be discouraged and a little afraid.  She’d tell me that what she had learned was enough , that she was a great piano player because of how well she could play “Old MacDonald,” so there was clearly no need to play “Aura Lee.”

But, I’m her teacher and mom and I know better.  I know the new song isn’t too hard and that if she just gave it one good practice session, she’d regain confidence. Within a week she’d have mastered it and be ready for something new.  So, I tell her, “Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  You can do it.  The best things in life take hard work and the effort is worth it.”

Today, I feel like giving up.  I’ve looked around at where I’m at and how hard it is, and I’ve thought, “I’ve gone far enough.  I’ve exerted enough effort.  It’s just too costly and time-consuming and emotionally draining and I think I need to stop.  Take a vacation.  Escape.  Quit and do something easier.  Settle for something less.  Did you really call me to this?  Did I hear correctly or am I just off doing my own thing?  I just can’t do this anymore, God.  I’m not seeing any results, blessing or reward, so this just doesn’t seem worth it.”

Have you been there?

Have you changed your 13th diaper for a morning and thought, “I’m over this.  I’m done.   Nine months old sounds like a perfectly reasonable time to potty train.”

Have you listened to yet another fight between your kids and wanted to scream and just shut the door and hide until your husband comes home?

Have you washed every dish and bit of clothing in your house only to find the sink and hampers filled by the evening and just been totally overwhelmed by the endlessness of it all?

Have you given everything you had in ministry only to see little tangible result and watched as someone else seemed to reap success with little effort, so you just want to pack it in?

Have you worked hard to get out of debt or saved to put money aside, only to face a totally unexpected bill or rising gas prices that cut into your budget, and find that you’re never any closer to your goals no matter how hard you work or cut expenses?  And you think, “What’s the point.  Why am I trying so hard?”

But, God’s our Teacher and our Father and He knows better.

He knows that sometimes we grow tired and weary and that in those moments, it’s hard to remember the vision He gave us or the call He placed on our hearts.  He knows we just want to escape sometimes and curl up in His lap for comfort and rest, but He encourages our hearts by telling us, “Don’t give up.  Don’t run away now, not when you’re so close to the reward.  It is worth it; it is all worth it.  Just take another step, go a little further.”

Today, I’ve felt a little like John the Baptist just before the end of his life.  This man had boldly proclaimed the coming Messiah, publicly baptized Jesus and personally witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove with God’s voice from heaven proclaiming, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.   It may seem like if anyone in Scripture had the assurance of his calling and confidence in his ministry, it was John.

Yet, when John was in prison, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2, NIV).

As he sat in that prison, preparing for death, John must have begun to wonder, “Was it worth it?  Did I put everything on the line for the truth or for a lie?  Should I just give up?  Did I hear wrong from God?  Should I have stayed in the desert and never stood before a crowd to preach at all?  Was this guy even the Messiah or has this all been for nothing?”

So, Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5, NIV).   Jesus didn’t just send back a message of platitudes and inspirational quotes.  He gave John concrete evidence and specific reminders that God was at work and that it was all true and worth it.  Just like I tell my daughter at the piano, “Remember when you couldn’t play this song?  Now you can.  Remember when playing with hands together was hard?  Now it’s easy.”  I give her tangible signs of progress and success.

God gives us encouragement for those days when we question our call and think giving up sounds a whole lot better than persevering.

  • “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).
  • “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV).
  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

These Scriptures remind me that it’s worth it, all the effort and sacrifice and heartache and time.  There’s a reward and blessing at the end of this as long as I don’t give up.  But, I can’t stop here.  I have to keep going, step after step after step. Even though I can’t see the end result, I can trust that to God.  All I can see is now and in this moment, I choose to obey.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King