What Happens Today is Preparation for Tomorrow

Charles Stanley uses the life and experience of Joseph in Genesis, to illustrate this truth:

“Whatever I’m going through today is preparation for tomorrow. In the situation God has me in, what is my opportunity?”

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Trials, Israelites, and Spiritual Readiness

Do you prefer comfort and ease over spiritual readiness?

“Deuteronomy 8 tells us that God had a purpose for each trial. In each one, God sought to do three things for the Isrealites: to teach, humble, and discipline them. Why?

First, God was preparing them for the spiritual obstacles they would face in the sufferings and blessings of the Promised Land. They needed to experience trials in order to understand that no matter what things looked like, God’s hand would sustain them. Like all sinners, the Israelites could easily drift into autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Second, they needed to see the propensity of their own hearts to drift away from trusting God and obeying his commands.

Third, they needed to see regular demonstrations of God’s power, so that they would not fear the things they could not defeat on their own.

These trials did not call God’s character into question; rather, they stand as signs of his covenant-keeping love. God knows exactly what he is doing! His eyes are on each of his children and his ears are attentive to each cry. But God will turn up the Heat to give his children what they need to face the challenges ahead.

The problem with the Israelites was not that they faced trials, but what they did with them. Israel’s troubles were in the thoughts and desires of their hearts. They interpreted their trials incorrectly and saw them as reasons to doubt God’s goodness, not as proof of it. They preferred comfort and ease over spiritual readiness for the trials that awaited them in the Promised Land.

In that way, the people of Israel are just like us. If you are humbly honest, you will admit that their responses are familiar. You’ve done the same things in moments of trial. You’ve become irritable and angry. You’ve looked for someone to blame. You’ve even questioned the goodness of the God you say you love. That is why Paul says that these incidents were recorded for us (1 Cor. 10) as warnings, to keep us from falling into the same pattern of doubt and sin.”
How People Change, p. 114

Turn from questioning God, to examining yourself and asking God to give you understanding.

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Three Results of Reading Scripture Should Be Humility, Obeying, and Fearing God

An excellent passage in Deuteronomy 17, shows three results of reading the Bible (specifically in this case, the Old Testament) should be humility and fearing God:

“And when he (a king of Israel) sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
-Deuteronomy 17:18-20

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Heart Change, And Then Behavior Change

“Your behavior does need to change! But this approach only addresses external actions. It does not go after the reasons why you continue to do these things. Instead, the person simply hopes to replace bad behavior with good. He believes he just needs some skills. He doesn’t want to do the time-consuming and painful work of looking at motivation. He just wants to deal with the problem behavior with techniques that will help him navigate life more smoothly…

The Bible is full of principles and commands to be patient, speak the truth in love, listen well, and speak gently and in edifying ways. Yet a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of this approach separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context.

The Bible passages that emphasize the need for new behavior are all built on the foundation of God’s grace at work to change our hearts through the power of the Spirit. The Word and Spirit work together, enabling us to see Christ in all his power and mercy. This leads to heart change at the level of what we worship and cherish at any given moment. This kind of radical heart change reorients me vertically – person to God – and I repent of what I have cherished in place of Christ. This vertical change then leads to new behavior on the horizontal, person-to-person, plane. An approach to change that only focuses on external behavior is never enough. Biblical change is so much more!”

p. 21 How People Change

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Life Transforming Truths In a World of Metaphors

“God uses the situations and relations of daily life to change our hearts. God’s grace and love are revealed in the way he designed the world. His world not only displays his attributes, it functions as a vehicle of truth. In his redemptive love, God created a world that points to him at every turn. The sun, the flower, the rock, the sand, the stream, the ant, the judge, the bride, the sea, the tree, the thorn, the captain, the bird, the sword, the weed, the root, the city, the valley, the fruit, and so on, are common things that are also instruments of truth that reveal God. God knows how spiritually blind we can be. We are much better at seeing physical realities than the spiritual realities behind them. But God uses these familiar things as a lens to help us look at ourselves with new insight and understanding.

How much of your understanding of God, yourself, and life has been illumined by physical creation? God uses a mustard seed to define faith. He uses living water to help us understand the indwelling Holy Spirit. He uses lilies to explain his fatherly care. We wake up every day to a world that illustrates life-transforming truths. God does not want us to stumble through life in terminal blindness. He is not willing for us to be tricked by the Enemy’s lies and half-truths. He loves us too much to leave us to our own explanations and interpretations. Our God is a God of wisdom and revelation. He is the ultimate source of knowledge and he determined that we too would understand truths we could not understand without him. His world is his instrument to bring spiritual sight.”
How People Change by Lane & Tripp, p. 81
A passage that gives additional thoughts to the familiar passage in Psalm 19 that reminds us that God created everything to point to Himself:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4

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When Things Are Going Well, Don’t Forget God

In times of blessing, and when things are going well, it can be easy to enjoy our success and forget God. We’re so inclined to doing that, God decided to warn the Israelites:

“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 8:10-20

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
Deuteronomy 6:10-15

But instead, we need to maintain an attitude of thanksgiving and reliance on Christ. We need to constantly recognize that every good thing in our lives is the result of God’s mercy and grace, and not our own hard work, intellect, and skill.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
1 Corinthians 4:7

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What is the Meaning of the Old Testament Law that the Lord our God Has Commanded You?

The Lord discloses to the Israelites part of His purpose for giving them the Old Testament testimonies, statutes, and rules at that time:

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
Deuteronomy 6:20-25

“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”
Deuteronomy 4:5-8

But for those of us who live this side of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that the Old Testament Law was given to point us to Jesus, the One who fulfilled the Law.

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”
Hebrews 10:1

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
Galatians 3:10-14

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
Galatians 3:23-26

 

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