Many of God’s promises are conditional, requiring some initial action on our part. Once we begin to obey, He will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained had he waited in Chaldea. He had to leave his home, friends, and country, travel unfamiliar paths, and press on in unwavering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers Jesus healed were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went, they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come to their bodies before leaving, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to heal them, and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
The other day, some friends took me on what I thought would be a short climb. We parked the car and took a look at the summit. We got out our climbing gear and started putting on our boots and gathering what we needed in our backpacks.
It doesn’t seem that far or that difficult. Good! I thought.
There have probably been times when you’ve felt like you’ve been squeezed to the last drop and you didn’t have an ounce of strength or willpower left. The apostle Paul admitted to “despairing even of life,”1 and I’m sure that many of us have gone to those depths at one time or another. We’ve reached the point that we felt we couldn’t even bear to get up in the morning and face another day, and maybe you’re going through something like that right now. Perhaps you have been for a long time.
When we lack faith, we miss miracles that are trying to be delivered to us. Life is a lot about having the faith to see possibilities that others might overlook. Take apple seeds, for example. Most people throw away the core and seeds as worthless, but someone with faith as small as that seed might see in them a world of opportunity.
A friend of mine recently had a traumatic experience. While at work, a dog bite took off part of her finger. Weeks of pain, surgeries, casts, pills, anesthesia … and it still wasn’t the end of the story. Her finger had gone into “shock mode”—any touch brought on fresh pain. It seemed almost paralyzed.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.1
I started walking away from what I knew God was calling me to a few months ago. I think I just grew tired of striving.
“I had seen that man before and now he was sitting in the snow outside the stadium [in Madrid]. I asked him what he was doing there. He said he’d been there for five hours, hoping for a chance to see the game, but his money had run out. That’s when I knew I had to help.” This is how José Mourinho, then coach for Real Madrid football (soccer) team, described his meeting with Abel Rodríguez, a Mexican-American who waxes floors in Los Angeles.
Today would have been my daughter Rejoice’s birthday. It’s our custom to celebrate this day every year since she passed away by remembering some of the special moments she shared with us.
This year, mine is the orchid story.
He considers himself a winner, but some might wonder how he’s come to that conclusion. His body is bruised and scarred from numerous beatings. His life on the road has left its mark too. On top of it all, he’s lost his freedom, and the likelihood of execution is looming over him.1
My friend’s daughter, Jenni, is 12 years old and enrolled in a high-commitment gymnastics program. Four times a week, she practices after school for four hours. She does her homework in the car on the way there and eats dinner in the car on the way home.
This has always been Jenni’s choice. She loves gymnastics and wants to take it as far as she can. She’d already won medals and was considered the best gymnast at her level in the area when she enrolled in this intense training program with the goal of earning a gymnastics scholarship for college.