If you've ever gone through, or are going through, a hard time and wondered how to break free from it, this message is for you! We've known a lot of people that have experienced hardships of all kinds. We have also undergone these 'storms', but however intense the trial, with the grace of God we overcame! Praise God for Psalm 34:19 "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all." If anyone thinks he is impervious to tribulations, he is wrong. Jesus said in John 16:33 "...in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
These so called 'storms' are all a part of life, which sometimes come from our disobedience to the Lord. A good example is Jonah in the Bible. (Jonah 1-4) His disobedience caused him to undergo 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale. God had instructed him to go preach to the people in Nineveh. But Jonah didn't want to. Have you ever had God tell you to do something that you didn't want to do? Maybe it was because you didn't want to see God do His miracle power for someone you were upset with. It could be you were just wanting your own way. What ever the reason for disobedience, it brings a harsher intolerable condition, thus Jonah in the belly of the whale. So how do we escape from this type of 'storm'? Repentance! Asking for forgiveness and compliance with His instruction will bring you deliverance. It's the only way!
Other types of 'storms' come because we are obeying the Lord. Yes, often times the devil will cause tumultuous times because you obey God! Looking at Matthew 8:23-27 Here's a story where Jesus and His disciples got into the ship to cross the sea of Galilee. Although great (mega, intense, fierce, one scholar used hurricane proportions) winds arose and waves began overtaking the ship, Jesus fell asleep. Perhaps the 'storm' you encountered was so severe and overpowering that it caused you much fear. You may have felt that Jesus was sleeping during this drastic moment. And it seemed like there was no way out. But just like in verse 26, Jesus arose and rebuked the storm, we also need to rise up in our situation and rebuke the 'storm'. In Luke 10:19, Jesus gave us power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over ALL the power of the enemy. When we are obeying the Lord in our call, we have the right to exercise authority in Jesus Name! After that comes peace and calm.
Perhaps a 'storm' has arisen during a time you've been under the authority of a person on assignment. This could be when your at work, in school, or involved in a church. You may have tried to express a leading from the Lord regarding a matter, but they wouldn't listen. It was afterwards that all chaos broke loose, just the way the Lord showed you. Yet, now you're stuck in the mess because authority wouldn't pay attention. This same type of thing happened to Paul, the apostle, when he was on his way to Rome. Being held prisoner by authorities, he tried to tell them not to sail, because the Lord revealed to him pending disasters. (Acts 27) So how can we get out of the storm? First thing, is perseverance! We must remain steadfast in faith, in love and in the Word. Secondly, pray for all those involved, especially the leadership. God will intervene and save you and those connected.
Whatever type of 'storm' you battle, know this, there is a way of escape. Recognize that in the midst of every attack there's something to gain and victory is yours. Rom. 8:28 "We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose." Discern the storm you're facing with the Word of God and discover your way to victory to escape from the storm!
With Christmas rapidly approaching, I'm reminded of a children's song, "Santa Clause is Coming to Town." The chorus says, "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good.." I'm by no means endorsing Santa. Yet it brings to mind something that deeply impacted me, after watching a specific online ministry broadcast. Something I already knew, but somehow, had vaguely disregarded awakened in my spirit. More importantly than Santa watching, Jesus is watching!
A scriptural reference to this is found in Mark 12:41-42 which says, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents." And we know that Jesus stopped and pointed out to everyone there, that this woman's offering was more abundant than all that had been given. Jesus was not only observing the amount they were giving, but He was also considering the way they gave. The attitude of the heart is extremely important. Pr. 21:2NIV "A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart." God is looking on our hearts in all that we do, to see our motive. Are we doing our service because we want others to see us and think we are holy? Do we give in the offering because 'we're expected to'? Is our worship done for the sake of others watching? What is the true motive of our heart?
In Revelation when Jesus spoke to the seven churches, the very first thing He says to them is, "I know your works.." He knew their works, because He had visited their church. He walked up and down their services, He listened to their conversations and their hearts were revealed to Him. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then He's keeping an eye on us. He is paying attention to how we act in troublesome times, to our treatment of others, listening to our conversations, heeding our attitudes we have to the messages we receive from our Pastor. He's watching to see if we behave like He did because we love Him and want to, or if it's because we want to impress. Jesus is not just watching us when we're at church, but He's with us when we're home, at our job, at school, or where ever we may be.
Listen children of God, Hebrews 4:13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Reality set in for me today, God is with us, watching. No matter what we think, hide in our heart, speak, or conduct ourselves, God knows. And one day, very soon, just like the scripture says, we will give and account. I encourage you today to consider your attitude, your behavior, and your words. Are they glorifying the Lord? Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him."
We need to quit pretending we're one way, when our heart says another. Jesus is not only watching, but knows our heart. Make a decision today to practice the presence of God in every day life and activate Colossians 1:10. "That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition]."
Last week we talked about being God's Masterpiece using the scripture, Eph. 2:10 "For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]." We discovered that God created us with a purpose and a plan. And that no matter what others say to make us feel otherwise we were created in the mind of God long before we were actually born with purpose.
Coming to the understanding of WHY we were created is explained in the next part of Eph. 2:10 "....that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]." Do those good works which God planned! That's so awesome! God had a 'blueprint' mapped out of our life. The problem is that most people don't know to ask God what that plan involves. We're too busy making plans, traveling down the route we lay out. And before we realize it, we've made a mess of things, by choosing wrong directions based on our natural desires. Then here we are years later and no where near the path that God had planned.
However, it's never too late, no matter how disastrous things seem, to get in the plan of God. Eph. 1:11 says, "In Him we also were made [God's] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will," In other words, God can take our 'mess' and work it out in agreement with His desire! We can get back into the path designed by God, by repenting and asking for His direction!
So, how can we find out what those good works are? God instilled within each one of us a wonderful gifting. It's what we're made up to be. This gifting is intended to be used in 'plan' and to be a blessing to others. Whether our gift is to help keep people focused on spiritual principles, assist in teaching, be a server in practical matters, encourage others, give materially to the needs of people, be a leader or extend the compassion of God, we are to use them for Him.
Discovering our gift comes by considering what seems natural and easy to do. Perhaps giving gifts to people is something that generates excitement within. Maybe when others are down and out, the words for encouragement are just flowing out. What ever your gift, as you uncover it, realize it's from the Lord and is to be utilized to advance the Kingdom of God. And by operating in your gifting, the process of walking in the direction and path to which God has called you begins.
Find what you're called to do and do it. This puts His plan into action!
We had the privilege of visiting a Christian school and watching a program during their spiritual emphasis week. Being very impressed about the message that was shared, it came to mind that the subject was one that many struggle with daily. The message taken from Eph. 2:10 "For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]."
This verse is talking about us being God's 'masterpiece', His work of art, NOT being saved BY good works BUT saved TO DO good works. And walking in the paths He has already prepared for us so that we can complete our destiny, which is His purpose.
The issue at hand is that numerous people don't see themselves as God's masterpiece. They might refer to themselves as a 'real piece of work' in a derogatory way. Mainly because for years, they've listened to the lies of the devil; to things like, 'you're not very smart', 'you're not going to amount to anything', 'no one cares about you', or 'you're a problem - a mistake'. And whether it was from relatives, school mates, instructors or just self inflicted thoughts, they were still lies from the devil.
Eph. 2:10 says, "For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew]....." You are NOT a mistake! You were created to do good works that God predetermined for YOU! YOU were in the mind of God long before you were born. He intended for you to BE! He deliberately created YOU! YOU are His work of art, masterfully, wonderfully fashioned! When you come to realize that you were a deliberate creation, then you can comprehend the full scope of His purpose for you.
Take time today to say, "I am God's Masterpiece, His workmanship! I am recreated in Christ Jesus! I am part of God's plan. Lord I ask You to reveal the path You have ordained for me that I might live the good life and do good works to glorify You."
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."