God has an uncanny way of getting our attention…of controlling situations until suddenly we find the walls closing in around us. And most times, we’re there because of our own disobedience. We’re self-absorbed and engrossed in the idols of this world…or we’re preoccupied and fixated on what others think of us rather than God. Either way, we end up in dire circumstances with no way out. And as the old saying goes, “Sometimes you have to end up in the gutter to finally look up.” Jonah was running from the Lord in disobedience, when God got his attention by confining him in the belly of a fish for three days. Three long days to think about what he had done…three long days to repent, relent, and be restored. Have no doubt about it, if you’re running from the Lord today, He will get your attention sooner or later.
Jesus was back in His hometown of Nazareth…the place where He had been brought up, and where everyone knew Him and His family. We find Him on the Sabbath in the Synagogue where someone handed Him the scroll of Isaiah to read from. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 …( Which was Jesus’ exact job description here on earth) and then sat down. Everyone spoke well of Him until He uttered 8 words, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” No wonder the people were furious! All they could see was Mary and Joseph’s little boy…and now He’s daring to claim to be the Messiah! Their minds refused to believe…their hearts were hardened by pride…their eyes were blinded to His Deity. Their long-awaited Messiah had come and was in their midst…yet they rejected Him.
Moses led the Hebrew Children out of Egypt…but none of them ever saw the Promised Land due to their unbelief. Instead, they wandered in the desert for 40 years…going around and around the same mountain. Doubt and unbelief wastes time. God tells us to do something, but out of unbelief, we say “No!” So God sends us around the mountain to think about it. Soon, His tells us one more time the thing He wants us to do. If we again say “No!”, guess where He sends us…wandering around that same mountain! Unbelief wastes time…precious time that we could be changing lives for Christ if we had said “Yes!” the first time.
As it tells us in Romans 8:34, at this very moment, Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. Jesus is our advocate…one who comes forward on behalf and as the representative for another. He is then also our intercessor and substitute…standing in our place before God…intervening in our defense. We have no greater advocate than Jesus…no greater champion and friend.
For all of you that enjoy Bible trivia, the middle Scripture of the Bible is this verse, Psalm 118:8 . It’s the very center point of God’s Word. So was it placed there by chance or divinely inspired? Many times I’ve prayed to find God’s perfect plan and purpose in my life…to be in the very center of His Will. For I know that’s the safest and very best place to be. And if I look at the fundamental truths in this verse, it makes that search easier. Where am I placing my faith and trust…whose promises am I putting stock in…and where really does my confidence lie? If it’s in man, I’m going to be disappointed…but if my trust is in the Lord, I will find His ultimate plan and purpose for my life.
The only way you can become really good at something is to practice…whether it’s a sport, a musical instrument, or a newly discovered talent, without practice, it’s just wishful thinking. Today, this Scripture wants us to take a new and different attitude when faced with the trials in our lives. It wants us to consider trials as practice. Every time we’re put to the test, we need to realized it’s a God-ordained crucible in which we are being purified. In other words, trials equal refining…trials equal developing patience…trials equal suffering in the faith…trials are a chance to practice what we preach.