‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ Romans 8:35 NLT
Paul asked the great question: ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ When you don’t know why God loves you in the first place, it’s easy to doubt His love at times. You want to know how He feels about you when you act like a jerk, when you snap at anything that moves, when your thoughts are gutter-level, and when your tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock. You ask, ‘How does He feel about me then?’
And what about when bad things happen—does God care then? Does He love you in the midst of fear? Is He with you when danger lurks? In other words, ‘Will He ever stop loving me?’ That’s the great question, isn’t it? Perhaps you crossed the line this week. Or you started drinking and kept at it until you couldn’t walk. Or your business took you where you had no business being. Or you cursed God for making you stand at the grave of a loved one you weren’t ready to give up. Did you drift too far? Did you wait too long? Did you slip too much? Were you too uncertain? ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ No, absolutely not. Paul reassures us: ‘I am convinced that… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power…above or…below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God… in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NLT)
‘May God… give you grace, mercy, and peace.’ 1 Timothy 1:2 NLT
Let’s face it; much of the time we don’t know what problems people are dealing with or what they’re going through. So when you decide to pray for them, follow Paul’s example, in which he asked God to give Timothy these three things:
(1) Grace. In the Bible, the word grace implies two things: first, God’s unmerited favor; second, ‘all of God’s ability you’ll ever need to handle whatever you are facing.’ Here’s a great Bible promise you should stand on in times of difficulty: ‘God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong… support you and keep you from falling.’ (1 Peter 5:10 NCV)
(2) Mercy. A large publishing house had a machine that automatically mailed reminders to its readers when their subscriptions had expired. One day it malfunctioned and a rancher in a remote Colorado town received 9,734 notices. So he drove for kilometers to the nearest post office, posted his cheque, and wrote, ‘Send me the magazine. I give up!’ That’s how it is with God; He keeps sending us notices. ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22–23 NKJV)
(3) Peace. The peace God gives can sustain us through the worst of circumstances. And it’s different from the peace the world offers. At best, the world offers temporary relief. But ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.’ (Philippians 4:7 NIV) So when you’re not sure how to pray for someone, ask God to give them His grace, His mercy, and His peace.
‘You need to persevere.’ Hebrews 10:36 NIV
Try to imagine what life on the ark must have been like for Noah. He probably didn’t get much sleep. He was feeding, cleaning and caring for thousands of animals around the clock. And it must have smelled to high heaven. Did you know that African elephants produce 136kg of waste per day? It was smelly and messy. And that’s a pretty accurate picture of what obedience sometimes looks like. It’s hard work, and it gets harder. The blessings of God can complicate your life. But unlike sin, they bring a level of joy and fulfillment you have never known (see Proverbs 10:22). No matter what vision God has given you, it will take longer and be harder than you ever imagined. Noah offers a little reality check, doesn’t he?
If a decade sounds like a long time to patiently pursue a God-ordained passion, try more than ten! It’s amazing what God can do if you just keep hammering away year after year! We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade. The key is to be a planner and a plodder. Planners see into the future and cast a vision; plodders put one foot in front of the other and keep going one day at a time. Success is not just about getting where God wants you to go, it’s about who you become in the process. It’s crossing the finish line the way the apostle Paul did: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’ (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT) So, do what God has told you.
‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.’ 1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV
As long as you need man’s approval, God is limited in what He can do through you. Faith is the willingness to look foolish. That’s why faith and humility go hand in hand. Noah looked foolish building an ark in the desert. Moses looked foolish asking Pharaoh to let his slaves go. The Israelite army looked foolish marching ’round Jericho blowing trumpets. David looked foolish attacking Goliath with a slingshot. The wise men looked foolish following a star. Peter looked foolish stepping out of the boat in the middle of a storm. And Jesus looked foolhardy hanging on the cross.
But the results speak for themselves, don’t they? Noah stayed afloat during the flood. Moses delivered Israel out of Egypt. The walls of Jericho came tumbling down. David defeated Goliath. The wise men found the Messiah. Peter walked on water. And Jesus rose from the dead.
There comes a moment when you must quit hedging your bets, quit playing it safe and doing what you’ve always done. You need to build the ark, or at least plant some trees or saw some planks! Faith is acting as if God has already answered our prayers, and acting as if God has answered means acting on our prayers even if, as in the case of Noah, it takes over a century. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ (Mark 11:24 NIV) What has God told you to do? Start doing it!
‘Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.’ Genesis 6:8 NIV
You ask, ‘What is the favor of God?’ It’s God doing for you what you cannot do for yourself. It opens doors of opportunity. It turns opposition into support. It can help you land a promotion, make the list, or seal the deal. The Bible says, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ (Luke 2:52 NIV)
Note, just as you can grow in wisdom and stature, you can also grow in favor with God and men. So instead of being content with the level of favor you enjoy, ask God for an increase. You ask, ‘How do I find favor?’ Obedience! It begins by surrendering your life to Christ. ‘No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.’ (Psalm 84:11 NASB) And God’s favor is not limited to the spiritual realm; it extends to the material realm as well. In Noah’s life, it translated into ingenious inventions. He didn’t just build the first boat and pioneer the shipbuilding industry, he also made many technical discoveries. According to Jewish tradition, Noah invented the plow, the scythe, the hoe, and a number of other implements used for cultivating the ground. The favor of God translated into good ideas.
It doesn’t matter what you do, God wants to help you do it. He wants to favor your business plan, your manuscript, your lesson plan, your legal brief, your sales pitch, etc. But you’ve got to position yourself for that favor by acting in obedience and walking uprightly. If you are willing to give God the glory, He will bless you beyond your ability and beyond your resources.
‘Noah walked with God.’ Genesis 6:9 NKJV
What went through Noah’s mind when God told him to build a boat in the middle of dry land? Nobody had ever done it before. Yet the Bible says, ‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ (Genesis 6:22 NIV) How did he do it? Answer: ‘Noah walked with God.’ Walking takes place step by step. The trouble is, we want God to reveal the second step before we take the first step of faith. But until we take the first step, He won’t reveal the next step. We’ve got to be obedient to the measure of revelation He has given us, if we want more of it. That’s why we get stuck spiritually. We only want to follow Christ to the point of precedence—the place where we have been before—but no farther. We’re afraid of doing what we’ve never done before because it’s unfamiliar territory.
So we leave unclaimed the new gifts, new anointings, and new dreams God wants to give us. You’ve got to push past the fear of the unknown. You’ve got to do something different. The African impala can jump three meters high and ten meters long, yet it can be contained in a small enclosure with 1.2 meter high walls. Why? Because it will not jump if it cannot see where it’s going to land. We have the same problem, don’t we? We want a money-back guarantee before we take a leap of faith, but that eliminates faith from the equation. We are called to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) So the word for you today is: do what God has told you.
‘By faith Noah… built an ark.’ Hebrews 11:7 NIV
Noah built the ark because God commanded it. It’s what he was called to do in life. Sawing planks and hammering nails for him was an act of obedience. And when everything was said and done, it was the longest act of obedience recorded in Scripture. From start to finish, Noah’s one act of obedience took tens of thousands of days! And with each daily act of obedience, he glorified God. No matter what tool you use in your trade—a hammer, a keyboard, a mop, a football, a spreadsheet, a microphone, an espresso machine—using it is an act of obedience. It’s the mechanism whereby you worship God. It’s the way you do what you’re supposed to do. The Bible says, ‘Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.’(Colossians 3:17 NIV) Stop putting yourself down and thinking what you do is not important.
Remember the old proverb, ‘For want of a nail’? It goes like this: ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’ In God’s eyes, small acts of obedience are big things. When you joyfully do little things like they are big things, then God will do big things like they are little things. That’s how His Kingdom advances. So the word for you today is: do what God has told you.
‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ Genesis 6:22 NIV
Noah’s ark measured 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width, and 30 cubits in height. A cubit is thought to be the equivalent of 44.4 cm. That means the ark was the length of one and a half football fields. The internal volume of the ark was 43,000 cubic metres—the equivalent of around 350 buses. If the average animal was the size of a sheep, it had capacity for 125,000 animals. To put that into perspective, there are 4,000 animals from 350 different species at Taronga Park Zoo. That means you could fit over 31 Taronga Zoos on board Noah’s ark. And since it was the first boat ever built, it’s not like it came with an instruction manual. It was back-breaking work that required blood, sweat, and tears. And it took an incredible amount of faith to build the ark. Who builds a boat in the desert? Who hammers away for over 100 years on something they might not even need? Who banks their entire future on something that has never happened before? According to Jewish tradition, Noah didn’t just start building the ark. He planted trees first. After they were fully grown, he cut down the trees, sawed them into planks, and built the boat. And here’s an interesting piece of information: not until the late nineteenth century did a ship that size get constructed again. Yet that design ratio is still considered the golden mean for stability during storms at sea. Noah’s act of obedience literally changed the world—and obedience will change your world too. So do what God has told you to do.
‘“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord.’ Zechariah 4:6 NLT
Zerubbabel was called to rebuild the temple. It was a huge undertaking, so God told him, ‘“It is not by force nor by strength, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord… “Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way.”’ (Zechariah 4:6–7 NLT) When God calls you, you need to know:
(1) You may have to walk alone. When God uses you, people often assume you’re strong and don’t need anything. They don’t realize you’re just a regular person who’s half scared to death at times, and who’s more amazed by your success than they are. And when nobody stands with you or ministers to you, you become vulnerable to discouragement.
(2) You need God’s help or you’re in trouble. Samson discovered this: ‘He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Then the Philistines seized him.’ (Judges 16:20–21 NIV) God stepped back and let Samson see that it was the Lord doing it, and not himself. So you must live with a sense of dependence on God.
(3) It’s God’s power, not yours, that makes the difference. If you’re waiting for God to give you exceptional equipment before you decide to get into the fight, you’re not going to experience victory. God’s ‘strength is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV) The way you know you’re truly anointed is when God takes substandard equipment and performs supernatural feats. And that only happens when you say, ‘Lord, I don’t see how You could do this through me, but I’m trusting You to.’ That’s when He gets involved!
‘All their works they do to be seen by men.’ Matthew 23:5 NKJV
Here’s a working definition of the word hypocrisy: ‘to be seen by men’. Jesus had a no-tolerance policy when it came to hypocrisy. Why? Because He knew it turns people against God. Instead, He taught:
(1) Expect no credit for your good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. Stop and ask yourself this question: ‘If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it?’ If not, you’re doing it ‘to be seen’ by people.
(2) Give your financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So Jesus said, ‘When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’ (Matthew 6:3 NLT)
(3) Don’t fake your spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen, or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake ‘Praise the Lord’, or a shallow ‘Hallelujah’, or an insincere ‘Glory be to God!’
Ever watch children in a playground shouting, ‘Watch me!’ That’s acceptable because they’re still immature, but it’s not acceptable in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite!