GOD IS PREPARING YOU FOR VICTORY!

MICAH 4:11-13: “Many nations have now assembled against you; they say, “Let her be defiled, and let us feast our eyes on Zion.” But they do not know the Lord’s intentions or understand his plan, that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion, for I will make your horns iron and your hooves bronze so you can crush many peoples. Then you will set apart their plunder for the Lord, their wealth for the Lord of the whole earth.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Have you ever felt like everything in life is stacked against you? You love and trust the Lord but the circumstances in your life seem to be mounting against you. And, in the midst of all this you wonder – “What is the Lord doing?”

God is preparing you for victory!

Micah wrote of the coming judgment of Judah for their sins against Yahweh. They would be taken captive by the nation of Babylon and the Temple would be destroyed. Yet, in his writings, as in many prophetic writings, he goes from the present condition to the future reality at the end of the ages. Verses 11-13 are such a transition.

In these verses we are faced with the final battle of battles – the Battle of Armageddon. It is a time when all the nations will rise against Israel. Israel will not be able to trust in any of their allies. The only one who will be able to deliver them is Messiah. In their weakness the nations feel they have the victory. Yet, it is in their weakness that they find their strength!

God is preparing them for victory!

  • “But they do not know the Lord’s intentions or understand his plan, that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion, for I will make your horns iron and your hooves bronze so you can crush many peoples.”

From the bleakest of circumstances, when all seems to be lost, God’s intentions for them is victory. And, His intentions for us are the same! Paul echoes this truth in his second letter to the Corinthians.

  • “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed — beyond our strength — so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 CSB

There are three important principles that we can glean from this account in Corinthians and the verses from Micah.

1. The enemy has designs for our destruction, but God has promised us the victory!

2. The Lord allows us to come to the place of weakness so that we will not hope in ourselves but in Him alone.

3. The turning point toward victory is not only our faith but the support and prayers of those in the church that He has placed in our lives. We are not alone!

This was not wishful thinking on the part of Paul. This was something that he lived out on a daily basis. It was proven out in his life.

  • “Concerning this (Paul’s thorn in the flesh), I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 CSB

When Israel is surrounded by the nations at the end time, when there looks like there is no hope – God is preparing them for victory! When Paul was persecuted in every city that he traveled to, when he despaired of life itself – God was preparing him for victory! And, when all the circumstances in my life seem to be going in the wrong direction, I know…

God is preparing me for victory!

  • “He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers.” II Corinthians 1:10 CSB

Lord, this morning, I thank you for all those who daily surround me with their prayers as I walk through the trials of my life. May I take blessed assurance that you are preparing me for victory. And, in this blessed assurance, may I stand in the gap for all those you have placed in my life, praying for their strength, and for Your grace to be poured out upon them in abundance!

God – lead us into Your victory!

In Jesus Name!

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AM I RUNNING FROM THE LORD?

JONAH 1:4-5: “But the Lord threw a great wind onto the sea, and such a great storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god. They threw the ship’s cargo into the sea to lighten the load. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel and had stretched out and fallen into a deep sleep.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Have you ever heard someone say – “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you don’t hurt someone else.”? This is usually said to justify an action that one knows is wrong. It is based on the misconception that we can sin in our own lives without impacting the lives of others. There are consequences when we run from the Lord!

We have all run from the Lord at some time in our life. It is not always when one backslides into sin. We can run from the Lord when God calls us to do something and we try to ignore His call. This is the type of running that Jonah was guilty of.

  • “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.” Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence.” Jonah 1:1-3 CSB

The people of Nineveh were Gentiles. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrians were the enemies of Israel. The Lord was calling Jonah to preach against the sin in Nineveh and call the people to repentance. Jonah did not want to do this. Jonah was acquainted with the mercy of God and did not favor giving his enemies a chance to repent. So Jonah ran from God!

Can we really run from God? Consider this.

  • “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night” — even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.” Psalms 139:7-12 CSB

Trying to run from God is like trying to hide from the sun in the middle of the day when there is not a cloud in the sky. You cannot run from God. And, if you do, there will be consequences. The consequences will not only affect the one who is running from God, they will also affect all those around them. This is what happened in Jonah’s life.

The storm that rose against the boat was the Lord’s way of flushing Jonah out from hiding. Yet, this storm had a cost. It was threatening the life of all those in the boat, and it cost them their cargo. Jonah’s attempt to run from the call of God in his life had ramifications. It touched all the lives around him. His disobedience could have pulled down others with him.

We cannot sin or run from God with impunity. God’s mercy and grace do not preclude the consequences of our actions. It does matter what we do. And, it not only matters to us – it matters to all those around us. All we have to do is watch 15 minutes of the nightly news to see this play out on a daily basis.

Some may say – “Well, God intervened and Jonah was swallowed up and saved by a great fish. And, the men on the boat were not harmed and they turned their lives to the Lord.” This is all well and good but we cannot forget the consequences. All these men lost their possessions and livelihood. And, Jonah had to live three days in the belly of a fish, only to be vomited up on the shore. I don’t know about you, but these sound like some pretty negative consequences to me!

Running from the Lord always costs. It costs the individual who is running and it has a definite impact on all those who are a part of their life. God will rescue us when we cry out to Him and repent. Yet, think about how much better it would be if we wouldn’t have run in the first place. God’s mercy and grace are available to all of us – before we run!

Lord, help me to hear Your voice clearly. And, when I hear, give me the grace to obey. When I am tempted to run, bring me to my knees. May I freely surrender to Your will for my life. Instead of consequences that touch the lives of others because of my disobedience, grant me Your blessings that touch the lives of others because of Your great grace working through me.

In Jesus Name!

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BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

JOEL 2:28-32: “After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.” CSB

OBSERVATION: No matter what you are facing – better days are ahead! No matter what you have experienced – better days are ahead! No matter what your future holds – better days are ahead!

BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

These words may sound like the empty words of an insensitive cheerleader to one who is hurting and cannot see past their pain. Yet, they are true. They are the continual, unwavering declaration of the Word of God. And, these verses in the book of Joel bear out this truth.

Whenever one reads this section of the Joel chapter two, they are immediately drawn to the second chapter of Acts. In Peter’s great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the 120 in the upper room, when a great multitude came to hear him speak, Peter said –

  • “…Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:14-21 CSB

So was this the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, or was it merely the firstfruits of something better to come? It was merely the firstfruits. There is a day coming that will eclipse even what happened on the Day of Pentecost. It will come at the end of the age when Jesus returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom. It will be a day of full restoration when He restores the entire nation of Israel to Himself and all those who remain will call upon the name of the Lord.

BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

Even on the Day of Pentecost, although a great number of 3000 believed, there were more who did not. The church grew rapidly, but so also did the opposition to the church. And, the same is true today. There is a battle between light and darkness, good and evil, the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of this world. In the midst of this battle we still partake of the firstfruits, but –

BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

No matter what I am facing – better days are ahead. No matter what I have experienced – better days are ahead. No matter what the future may appear to hold – better days are ahead. Why? Because in Christ we are more than conquerors. We have the Spirit of God within and the Word of God as our sword. We have faith as our shield and the promise of salvation as our helmet of protection. We have the breastplate of righteousness given by Christ to remind us that we are always His own. And, we are secured with the belt of truth and guided by the gospel of peace to lead our way.

BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

Lord, thank you for reminding me this morning that You are the Lord of the better day. Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. Help me to rise up in renewed faith and embrace the day!

BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD!

  • “For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11-13‬ ‭CSB‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS…

HOSEA 4:1-3: “Hear the word of the Lord, people of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land: There is no truth, no faithful love, and no knowledge of God in the land! Cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery are rampant; one act of bloodshed follows another. For this reason the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes, along with the wild animals and the birds of the sky; even the fish of the sea disappear.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What does the world need more than anything? Is it love? Is it peace? Is it economic prosperity? Or, is it something that no one seems to be searching for?

The music industry is filled with songs that try to answer this question. Most songs deal with finding love. If we believe these songs then love is the answer. Yet, love did not solve the unrest of the 1960’s. And, we are watching a repeat of this failed culture unveil before our very eyes. As the world has sung John Lennon’s song “Imagine” countless times, it is still a reality that is increasingly out of reach.

The opening verses of Hosea chapter four sound like the opening headlines from a local cable news show.

  • “Cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery are rampant; one act of bloodshed follows another. For this reason the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes, along with the wild animals and the birds of the sky; even the fish of the sea disappear.”

Let’s be honest and face reality head on. The world is in trouble. The culture we live in is not getting better, it is getting worse. The acts of violence that daily take place today were anomalies in the world that I grew up in. Everyone is suffering, including our natural world. What is the answer?

The answer is truth! What the world needs now is truth. Jesus came to declare the truth of God to a dying world. He declared God’s truth and it was for truth that He was crucified. They did not nail Jesus to the cross because He performed miracles, fed 5000, or turned water into wine. They nailed Jesus to the cross because HE WAS TRUTH!

  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 CSB
  • “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:37 CSB

We live in a era of “fake” everything. Our politicians constantly lie to push their own agenda rather than working for the benefit of the people. And, many of our religious leaders avoid the difficult subjects of the day because they don’t want to offend anyone. This is exactly the condition that Hosea found himself in. Solomon was right in the book of Ecclesiastes – there is nothing new under the sun!

  • “But let no one dispute; let no one argue, for my case is against you priests. You will stumble by day; the prophet will also stumble with you by night. And I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as my priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons.” Hosea 4:4-6 CSB

The world stage is being set for the unveiling of the Antichrist. In the vacuum of truth, the world will grow increasingly lost, unable to solve the ills of the day. They will look for a savior who can rescue them from this plight – without truth! Someone who will lead them but not challenge them. Someone who will allow them to continue in their sin while promising them what they desire. If there is any doubt, simply listen to the promises of many of the current presidential candidates.

So what should the believer in Christ do? We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We must stand up for the true Savior who alone can bring peace. First, He brings personal peace through His death and resurrection. Second, He will bring world peace when He returns to rule and reign over this broken world. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other answer for the brokenness that we see. If we do not stand up for truth then who will?

I believe it is impossible to love without truth. If we know the truth in Christ, if we know the truth that He has proclaimed in the Scriptures, then we must proclaim it. We are not to be insensitive or rude. Jesus was the perfect embodiment of truth and love. Yet, Jesus always spoke the truth. He called sin, sin, and He called the sinner to redemption.

Without exposing sin there is no need to repent. Without repentance there is no salvation. It is the truth that unmasks the lie that binds the sinner and reveals their need for Jesus Christ. And, it the Truth, Jesus Christ, who alone can set the sinner free.

In these last days we cannot be satisfied with preaching a Gospel of peace without repentance, prosperity without sacrifice, and life without the cross. If our message is not causing ripples in the pond then we are not proclaiming the truth. This is not a game. It is the difference between life and death, heaven and hell. And, it is the only way to be prepared and alert for the end times!

Lord, give me the courage and the grace to proclaim Your truth. Help me never to proclaim the truth without a heart that is broken for the lost and filled with Your love. Help me see the world as You see it. Fill me with compassion and an urgency to proclaim the Gospel –

  • “Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father but through Him.”

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION OF MY OBEDIENCE?

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DANIEL 3:16-18: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Why do I obey the Lord? Do I obey Him out of fear? Do I obey Him because I am hoping to receive something in return? What is the motivation of my obedience?

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a lesson on obedience. It shows us both the motivation and the price of true obedience. This familiar story speaks volumes to the modern day church. It speaks volumes to my heart.

The foundational issue of this story is – “Who are your going to worship?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the Jews who had been taken in exile to Babylon. They were trained in the way of the Chaldeans and enlisted to work as overseers in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. They were living in a pagan culture and endeavoring to be faithful to the Lord.

All was going well until their devotion was challenged. When King Nebuchadnezzar erected his golden statue, commanded everyone to worship it or be throne into the fiery furnace, for these three Hebrew men it was crunch time. What would they do? Would they succumb to the pressure and bow down to the statue or would they remain faithful to Yahweh at the cost of their lives?

All of us remember this story from Sunday School. However, how does it practically apply to our lives today? No one is erecting golden statues today and calling us to bow down to them. Or, are they? The golden statues we face today may not be physical, but they are still calling us to make a decision on where we will place our devotion and obedience. Let me give you a very practical example.

I work for a company that owns a candle plant. In fact, I negotiated the purchase of this plant for our company and got it running again from the brink of bankruptcy. Candle making is a combination of art and automation. And, in the process of making candles there is waste. Machines break down, boxes fall off the line, and there is a lot of wax that is wasted in the process.

The owner of our company is very frugal. This is not a bad characteristic. Yet, it proved to be a decision point and challenge of obedience for me. In order to save money and recycle the wax waste the owner proposed making a black candle. The candle jars we use are the tall cylinders that are used for church and prayer candles. We are a company that focuses primarily on the Hispanic market. So, to make a black candle in this cylinder was a gold statue moment for me.

Traditionally, in Hispanic culture, a black candle in this type of glass jar is not used for a fancy sit down dinner. Rather, it is used in occultist practices. The owner tried to convince me that this was not so. Yet, as the key person representing the company I had a choice to make. And, this choice could cost me my job. I prayed over this matter sincerely and came to a decision. I notified the owner that I could not control what he does with his company, but if he made the decision to produce these black candles I would have to quit.

This did not happen once, but several times. Each time the line was drawn and I was asked to compromise. And, each time I had to be willing to quit to stand my ground. And, I have stood my ground and the Lord has honored it. We have never produced a black candle to this day. And, now the entire family that owns the company supports this decision and knows that it is a decision that is both a good business decision and a reflection of our Christian faith.

When we are called to compromise our devotion it is really a matter of obedience. The call of obedience is a call to openly declare our true love. We do not obey because we are hoping for something in return. We obey because we love. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obeyed because they loved the Lord their God. They were unwilling to bow the knee to an idol, even if it cost them their lives. They had full confidence and faith in the power of God to save them. Yet, their obedience was not based on this. They obeyed regardless of the outcome!

  • “But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Obedience is never about us, it is always about Him. If Jesus is the center of our lives, if He is the Lord of our hearts, if we truly love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – obedience is our only response!

  • “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” John 14:21 CSB

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego has a happy ending. Thrown into a fire so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in, they walked freely, unfettered, and someone walked with them. It was Jesus, and He brought them through this fiery trial without even the hint of smoke upon their clothes. Yet, if they would have died, it wouldn’t be any less of a miraculous story. It would have been a story of faith working through love, manifested in sincere obedience. Hebrews records the annals of this type of faith, love, and obedience.

  • “…Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised…”. Hebrews 11:35-39 CSB

Lord, this morning, search my heart and know me. I pray that my obedience to You flows only from my love for You. Forgive me for the times when my obedience has conditions or expectations. Let me love You freely and fully in all I do and say.

In Jesus Name!

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AM I THINKING ABOUT THE LORD?

PROVERBS 3:5-12

5) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;

6) think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

7) Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

8) This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.

9) Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;

10) then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

11) Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline;

12) for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Am I thinking about the Lord? Is He really the center of my entire life? Do I consider Him in every step I take? Do I put Him first in everything I do?

One of the reasons I love reading different translations of the Bible each year is the freshness of perspective that it brings to a very familiar text. I don’t know how many times I have read these verses in Proverbs chapter three, but as I read them today the one thing that jumped off the page was this statement,

  • “Think about Him in all your ways…”

The traditional way that I have memorized this statement is – “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” Yet, what a refreshing restatement of this truth in the above statement – “Think about Him in all your ways.” That got me thinking – about my thinking! How much time do I spend thinking about Him, pondering His lovingkindness, considering His faithfulness, meditating upon His truth?

Solomon calls us to this focus and perspective in Proverbs 3:5.

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”

How do we rely on our own understanding? I believe it is when we stop thinking about Him and begin filling our thoughts with everything else. We think about our weakness and forget to think about His strength. We think about our rights and forget to think about His cross. Thinking about Him in all our ways will change everything!

1. It will help us find His will for our lives!

  • “Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

2. It will keep us from temptation and falling prey to sin!

  • “Don’t consider yourself to be wise (think about Him!); fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

3. It will open up His provision of healing, spiritually, emotionally, and physically!

  • “(Think about Him!) This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.”

4. It will open up the windows of heaven for our daily bread and God’s overflowing blessings!

  • “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest (think about Him!); then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

5. It will give us the perspective we need when we are going through a difficult trial or a time of testing and refining from the Lord!

  • “Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline (instead – think about Him!); for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.”

In every thing, in every way, in every opportunity – our call is to think about Him! Watch how fast the enemy flees when you begin to think about Him. Watch how fast your spirit is renewed when you begin to think about Him. Watch how fast your priorities are changed when you begin to think about Him.

And it really is not hard to do. As I daily abide in the Word of God I am thinking about Him. As I run to Him in sincere repentance and prayer I am thinking about Him. As I lift my voice in worship and praise I am thinking about Him. And, as I share His love with others each day I am thinking about Him!

  • “Think about Him in all your ways…”

Now that is a good thought!

In Jesus Name!

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THE ABUNDANT LIFE IS NOT AUTOMATIC!

EZEKIEL 34:15-16: “I will tend my flock and let them lie down. This is the declaration of the Lord God. I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered – “Where is this abundant life the Bible talks about?” Sometimes, in the midst of trials and suffering we can fall prey to these thoughts. If Jesus is our Good Shepherd – where is the abundant life that He promised?

Ezekiel 34 is a chapter about shepherds. It contrasts the Good Shepherd against the evil shepherds of Israel. Here is a profile of the shepherds that were leading the nation of Israel.

  • “You eat the fat, wear the wool, and butcher the fattened animals, but you do not tend the flock. You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd; they became food for all the wild animals when they were scattered. My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them.” Ezekiel 34:3-6 CSB

The shepherds of Israel were really not shepherds at all. They neglected the flock, focused on their own needs, and let the flock wander into sin and destruction. Yet, the flock was not off the hook. Every lamb that wandered away would have to stand account for their own actions. There would be a punishment for the shepherd and there would be a punishment for the wayward sheep.

The situation in life today is much the same. We have two shepherds to choose from. We can follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, or we can follow the influences of the hireling, the shepherd who does not care for his sheep. It is in this context that the promise for the abundant life is found.

  • “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:8-10 CSB

Jesus proclaims two things in these verses. First, He is the gate to the abundant life. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven, restored in relationship with God, and be placed on the pathway of abundance (finding pasture). Any other pathway, any other influence, is but a thief. The second thing Jesus proclaims is that we must choose which shepherd we are going to follow.

It is possible to enter through the gate and then wander away from the pasture. To simply enter through the gate is not the secret to the abundant life. The abundant life is found as we follow after the Good Shepherd. It is the Good Shepherd that leads us, protects us, and provides the abundant life. Abundant living is not simply the result of placing our faith in Jesus Christ. Abundant living is the fruit of obediently following Jesus Christ!

Some may still wonder. Then why do we go through times of trial and tribulation, sorrow and loss, hardship and disappointment. Volumes could be written to answer this question. However, the reality of life is everyone will go through these times. The choice is whether we will face them on our own or with the care and leading of our Good Shepherd.

The Bible never promises us an escape from the trial of life. What the Bible promises us, through faith, is a Good Shepherd who will lead us through them all! The choice we have to make is – will we follow?

  • “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.” Psalms 23:1-4 CSB

We all love the times by green pastures, quiet waters, and personal renewal. Yet, we recoil when we face the dark valleys of unknown danger. Yet – He is always with us. He is leading us. He is protecting us. He is comforting us. And, if we continue to follow Him He will lead us THROUGH them all – into abundance!

  • “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.” Psalms 23:5-6 CSB

The key to the abundant life is to stay close to and follow the Good Shepherd.

To listen to His voice. To obey His command. To follow in His footsteps.

  • “When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4 CSB

Lord, this morning, help me to hear Your voice. As I face a pathway that I have never walked before, help me to walk after You, in full surrender, and in full obedience. Guard the attitudes and condition of my heart. Give me the grace I need to obey You through every step that I take. Lead me into the abundant life that You have provided.

In Jesus Name!

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