I had to pick something up at Walmart and had a coupon for a certain item. I have to confess that I tend to be a stickler for not paying any more than I have to. As I paid for my items I noticed that it seemed that I paid too much. As a matter of fact I was sure that my bill was 10 cents more than it should have been. I grumbled to myself as I walked away and was just about to return and register my complaint when I stopped dead in my tracks. There in front of me on the floor was a dime. As I stooped to pick up the dime it seemed that God spoke to me in Walmart. He was saying to me, “Here’s your dime, now shut up and adjust your attitude”. I was getting upset over a stupid 10 cents. I breathed a prayer of repentance, God forgave me, and a peaceful spirit returned to my soul.
How many times do we let little things occupy our attention when God has so much more for us to be passionate about? We have a tendency to be like Jonah who was so upset that God spared the city of Nineveh from divine judgment. As he waited outside the city he was so glad when a shady plant grew up and sheltered him from the hot sun. He was glad for the plant. However, a worm ate his way through it and it withered. Jonah began to complain that the plant withered and verbally registered his discontent. God spoke to his prophet in Jonah 4:10,11: “But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left--and much livestock?"
God taught his prophet that people are more important than plants. God also spoke to me that a peaceful spirit is worth far more that a dime.
It is a long drive from Indiana to Florida. I was half way home, driving through northern Georgia in the night. The storm made it difficult to see the lines on the interstate. I decided to pull off the road have something to eat and wait out the storm. In Dalton Georgia I found a Bojangles and navigated my way in the back lot to find a place to park. However the parking lot turned out to be a pond due to the recent flooding. I slipped off the concrete and into the mud. The front of my car became hopelessly stuck in the red Georgia clay. I waded up to my waste in the water and mud trying my best to get my car out. But the more I tried the deeper I sank. I soon realized that I was not going anywhere. I needed help. Desperately, I called a tow truck and waited in the pouring rain. Finally, cold and soaked to the bone, help arrived and me and my poor Camry were pulled out. I was so happy to get back on the road and resume my trip.
Have you ever been stuck? The psalmist offers some wonderful encouragement for those of us who find ourselves stuck spiritually. Psalm 40:1-3 says: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD”. God’s people can get stuck in discouragement and depression. We can become mired in the mud of a sinful relationship, a stubborn addiction, or even a hopeless situation. Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck with no way out. That is when we need to cry out to the Lord. As we admit to him our need and seek His face He will be there with His wonderful deliverance.
Sing praise to the One who delivers from the horrible pit and the miry clay. Call out to Him. God will be there for His children who are hopelessly stuck.
I am not the best bowler but have had occasions when I was pretty successful. Have you ever felt like you were on a winning streak and the ball seemed to be in a groove as you hit strike after strike? Isn’t it exiting to live life in the groove when things are going your way? It is wonderful when your health is OK and your family is doing fine and your bills are all paid. However, you and I know that life is not always lived in the groove. We can’t always throw strikes, as a matter of fact sometimes we roll a gutter ball don’t we.
God does not just call us to obedience to His Word when things are going our way. He expects us to live for Him even when we are in less than ideal circumstances. Some New Testament believers lived as slaves. Yet even in that reprehensible position God called them to: “obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Col. 3:22). We must live for God even if we are undergoing physical illness, or married to an unsaved spouse, or suffering under a repressive government, or even caring for a disabled family member. Paul tells us in Phil. 4:11: “…I have learned in whatever state I am to be content”. Later in that chapter Paul challenges all of God’s people with his own determination: “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me” (Phil. 4:13 Phillips). Many feel that they have a pass on living for the Lord fully because of their unique situation. If only I was healthy, if only I had a little more money I would give to the church, if only my husband or my wife would do what they were supposed to, if only my boss were nicer, if only I had more time, and so on the excuses continue.
Seldom do we stumble upon those times when everything seems to be going our way. Followers of Christ are called to faithfulness and obedience even when we are living out of the groove.
My wife’s step-father had a serious blood clot in his lung and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was treated for the condition and stayed in the hospital for several days. He enjoys having fun and teased the nurses and aides constantly that came in to his room. One of them talked about what they were going to do to aid his treatment. He began to kiddingly resist the plans they had for him. She promptly told him that if he didn’t do what he was told there was always “plan B”. She never told him what “plan B” was but promptly wrote it on his whiteboard in his hospital room. His dilatory stubbornness was met by the nurse’s unrelenting resolve.
While Terry’s “plan B” was all in fun, God’s “plan B” is very serious. God instructed the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to it. Jonah understood the instructions clearly but did not obey the Lord. Instead, he found a ship going in the opposite direction. As the story unfolds we see Jonah asleep in the bottom of the ship. The Lord sends a storm to get Jonah’s attention and wake him up to obedience. Jonah was so stubborn that he didn’t respond to God’s “plan A” when the boat was rocking. So God unleashed “plan B”. The seaman at Jonah’s request threw him overboard and God sent a great fish to swallow his dilatory prophet whole. While trapped in the great fish Jonah prayed and repented and decided to obey the Lord. God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on dry land. Jonah then went and preached to the city and they turned to the Lord in repentance.
Are you being a Jonah? Are you running away from the Lord? Have you felt the breezes of God’s chastening trying to get your attention to return to Him? He tells us in Heb. 12:5,6: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." Don’t be stubborn, return to the path of obedience. God loves you so much that He may have to unleash “plan B”.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation