When God’s people obey, God shows up in a big way.

By Julian Jagenberg @pexels.com

Joshua led the Israelite army to march around the formidable city of Jericho. The Lord had instructed him to place seven priests and the Ark of the Covenant at the front of the line. Nobody was to make a sound for six days. On the seventh day, seven priests were to blow the trumpets. Only then could the army shout. (See Joshua 6:1-27.)

Gideon led 300 Israelite soldiers to fight the vast army of Midian. Under the Lord’s command, he sent about 32,000 men home. Gideon divided the soldiers into three companies of 100 soldiers each. Upon the signal, the men were to break their jars with torches inside and blow their trumpets, shouting “For the Lord and for Gideon.” (See Judges 7:1-25.)

Paul and Silas traveled to the city of Philippi after receiving a vision from the Lord. Several days later, they were beaten and thrown into jail because they were considered a public menace when a slave woman was delivered from the fortune-telling spirits that made her master money. At about midnight, with their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God loudly enough for the other prisoner to hear. (See Acts 16:6-40.)

These three distinct stories share a common theme of obedience. Joshua and Gideon were both given unusual battle plans. Both men followed the Lord’s orders. God performed mighty miracles and the Israelites won incredible victories.

Paul and Silas went to the place God had told them to go, but after only making one recorded disciple, they were falsely accused and put in jail. Instead of having a pity party and moping about their unfair circumstances, the two Jesus followers decided to praise the Lord. A divine visitation shook the jail, setting all the prisoners free. When the jailer went to check out the situation, none of the prisoners had escaped (a huge miracle by itself). As a result, the jailer and his entire household put their faith in Jesus.

God’s people obeyed, and God showed up in a huge way!

By Andrea Piacquadio @pexels.com

In the middle of obeying, it didn’t make sense. There were plenty of occasions for doubt to creep in and to quit before the plan was completed.

Joshua’s army could have stop marching before the seventh day. They might have felt silly marching silently around Jericho. But they persevered.

Gideon’s men could have decided to join all the others who had gone home. What chance did they have against the Midianites? But they didn’t give up.

Paul and Silas could have lamented about what a waste of time it had been to come to Philippi in the first place. How could the Lord have planned for them to land in jail? But they trusted Him instead.

However, in each situation, when they looked back, they could see the unmistakable intervention of God.

The walls of Jericho fell and the city was captured.

The Midianite army was soundly defeated.

The Lord visited the jail and a prominent family in Philippi was saved. (The Bible doesn’t say, but I wonder how many prisoners gave their lives to Jesus that night?)

What has God asked you to do?

What next step do you need to take to move forward in obedience?

Take courage, my friend.

It might not make sense in the middle. It might not be easy. But don’t give up.

As you obey the Lord’s leading, expect Him to show up. That’s the kind of God He is.

Special thanks to my son, Jason Babcock, for sharing a devotional that inspired me to write this.   

(Re)acquaint yourself with God’s grace

Resurrection Sunday is here! We put to rest the Lenten season of preparation and focus on the culmination of God’s plan to redeem humanity. The long-awaited and hoped for deliverance, the final blow in the battle against sin, they have been ushered in by the New Covenant of grace and faith in the risen Jesus.

picture by David Dibert, Pexels.com

Lent is observed during the forty days before Easter. It symbolizes the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by the devil. Afterward, He emerged and began His public ministry. The season of Lent is dedicated to reflecting on our lives and opening our hearts to the sacred work of the Holy Spirit. We respond to God’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and giving.

I was drawn to observe Lent twelve years ago. Previously I hadn’t been aware of the church calendar. Through the influences of friends and authors, I learned about the life-giving practices of Lent that draw us closer to Jesus. Since then, I have established a rhythm of renewal each year during the Lenten season.

I’ll be honest with you. This year, Lent was difficult. It felt much more laborious than other years, like walking through the wilderness without any shade or water. I read my Lenten devotional and engaged in prayerful introspection, but fasting was brutal. Self-discipline, which is usually my faithful companion, was nowhere to be found. I related to Paul who described our battle with sin in Romans 7:15.

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.

The harder I fought, the weaker I felt. The more restrictions I put on myself, the more I food I ate. The vicious cycle spiraled steadily downward. Discouragement took root and feelings of failure settled in. What was happening to me?

It took almost thirty days before I could hear what the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart. (What can I say? I’m a slow learner.)

I needed to get reacquainted with God’s grace.

Sometimes we can become masters at outward, godly behavior. We do and say the right things so well that they become automatic. We know how to play the Christian leader role with excellence. We are so good on the outside that we lose sight that the one and only reason we are good is because of Jesus.

God extends His grace to save us. We need His grace to change us. We survive by His grace as He renews us from the inside out. His transforming grace empowers us to honor Him with our lives.

I say “we,” but I really should say “I.” I had allowed self-sufficiency to infect my thinking. It showed up in my failure to fast. I couldn’t pat myself on the back for maintaining a routine with reading and prayer either, because I wasn’t relying on Jesus.

I was including Jesus in my life, but I wasn’t completely relying on Him.

I decided that the remaining days of Lent would be spent embracing His grace. I realized that the end game isn’t to be perfect at reading the Bible, praying, and fasting. It took off the pressure to perform and freed me to joyfully surrender to Jesus.

God’s grace is offered to you and me for every area of our lives every single day. We are blessed when we receive it.

In which area(s) do you need to get reacquainted with God’s grace? Ask Jesus to give you a fresh start.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence (1 Peter 1:3 NLT).