The Hope of Christmas

As I was getting out our Christmas decorations this year, I came across a picture of my grandmother. I have fond memories of spending the night at her house as a young child. The evenings started with tasty dinners followed by front porch rocking, a tour of her rose garden, and often a roll down the hill in her backyard. They always ended with me listening to her read Bible stories. My favorite story was of the birth of baby Jesus. I hope my grandchildren will have fond memories of me telling them the very same story.

The Christmas story has been told again and again, for more than 2,000 years. Think about how the story perpetuated and how it continues to live today. At the time of its first telling, there were no tweets between shepherds, no GPS for the traveling wise men, no coverage of the birth in the local press, nor videos of Gabriel appearing to Mary. And although the coming of Jesus had been prophesied, it is a miracle that the story spread amongst believers and is still alive today. The magical story of Christmas sets the stage for Jesus’ ministry. It leads to his brutal death, but gives us the hope in the resurrection. The Good News is that forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace received through faith in Christ and available to all people.

No person, apart from Jesus himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the Apostle Paul. Even before he was a believer, his actions were significant. His frenzied persecution of Christians got the church started in obeying Christ’s final command to take the gospel worldwide. Paul’s personal encounter with Jesus changed his life. He never lost his fierce intensity, but from that point onward, it was channeled for the gospel. God transformed Paul from a persecutor of Christians to a preacher for Christ. Paul’s letters to various churches became part of the New Testament!

Paul was commissioned to spread the message. But he didn’t get to see it completely fulfilled. Neither will we; at least it’s not likely on this side of heaven! We are all waiting on Jesus. In the meantime, we are sharing this message with the world. Our mission is to pass on what’s “most important.” And there is no other message in the world more important than the gospel.

As we prepare to pass on the greatest story ever told, remember that Advent is a season of waiting. The first century Jewish people were awaiting the arrival of their savior. For us, we are waiting for the second coming of Christ. God does not waste our time; he will use our past and present so we may serve him with our future!

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

3I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
 

Are you willing to let God use you as he did Paul?

 

What struggles in your life has God used to prepare you for the future?

 

What is God doing in your life to change you like he did Paul? 
 

Prayer

Lord, prepare me so that I can serve you. Use my past and present so that I may serve you in the future! Help me to spread your Good News. Amen.


This post was written by Pam Haynam. Pam is a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study, a Lead Mentor Mom for Momentum, and a cook for the weekend worship band. She has a passion for education, has served on a public-school board, and serves on a charter school board. She is married with three children and two grandsons.


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I Have to Experience Pain for the Sake of Christ?

Arrested. Beaten. Shipwrecked. Imprisoned. It is unlikely that we will endure the hardships Paul went through while proclaiming his belief in Christ, but he was more than willing to suffer during his life for the eternal reward that would come in his death. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better.” He also counted it as a joy to suffer in the name of Christ.

We often associate waiting with suffering. Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to “wait for God” and to “be patient until the Lord’s coming.” But our culture screams instant gratification, especially this time of year, with Black Friday sales, Christmas lists, and advertisements convincing us we need a new car or television or Lego set.

Waiting is hard, but it is our greatest gift that awaits in heaven as Jesus has already paid the price to buy our salvation. For Paul, waiting for Jesus was physically painful, as he experienced far worse than we will likely have to endure. Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 just some of the suffering he endured – all in the name of Jesus. He was whipped, lashed, stoned, and left for dead on countless occasions.

Waiting is hard, but it is our greatest gift that awaits in heaven as Jesus has already paid the price to buy our salvation.

Our waiting probably won’t be as outwardly painful as it was for Paul, but it can still be physically painful. Everyone experiences stress, but when it ascends to the level of anxiety, it hurts. Anxiety-related disorders affect 40 million Americans each year. When I am waiting, I let my mind wander, considering all possible outcomes (the worst ones usually rise to the surface). My imagination runs wild but tends to assume the result will end with my feeling more like Paul – confused, beaten up, and lost at sea. Fortunately, the gospel proclaims a promise of hope, that even in death, we receive a reward far greater than what we could hope for. When we die, we gain. For now, we wait. But we do not have to wait to die to receive this gift. We can enjoy it right now!

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

23Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

 Look back on the difficult times in your life, or a time when you had to wait for something. How did you feel then, and what is your perspective on it now? Are you able to see how God worked through that situation?

 

While we may not face beatings or imprisonment for our belief in Christ, we will face hardships and times of trial. Find encouragement in the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6 when he tells us not to worry but to seek God first, promising that when we do this, God will provide everything we need.

 

Prayer

God, I will seek you and your righteousness above all else. Even in the waiting, I will trust in you. Do not let me be anxious about anything as I present my requests to you with prayer and thanksgiving. Amen.

This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila.


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If You’re Not Dead, You’re Not Done

Life is full of choices. And the choices we make affect our lives in various ways – some minuscule and others far more complex. Those same choices also contribute to making us who we are.

Have you ever encountered a choice that perplexed you? Something that you had to spend a lot of time contemplating? Paul made one of the most profound statements in Philippians 1:21, “for to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”

Here, he is saying that being with Jesus was the greatest thing that he could imagine. But, he also believed that while he was here on earth, living for Christ was far better than anything that the world could offer.

He had two warring desires: to live for Christ here on Earth and to be with him in eternity. Paul didn’t care where he was; he was focused on Christ no matter what. He was sold out for Jesus. Paul’s real desire was to be used by God, for his purpose. His sole reason to stay on earth was to have an opportunity to share Christ with others and take part in the grace, splendor, and glory that can only come from living a life devoted to Christ.

Too often, we tend to focus on our own problems or circumstances.  We try to force things by taking matters into our own hands. If our situations aren’t moving fast enough, we do things to bring about rapid change. Sometimes, this just results in us spinning our wheels, or bringing more destruction and chaos to our lives.

Ironically, the same could be said for those of us who don’t take action. We sit back and use God as an excuse for our situation. God is telling us to move, and we let fear, uncertainty, and other people talk us out of what is prepared for us.

Paul is telling us that there is a plan; while we are here, we should focus on Christ and the opportunities and experiences that he has for us. We are also to focus on things above (Colossians 3:2). When he moves, we move; when he stops, we stop; when he is silent, we wait in anticipation (Psalm 27:14).

It will be much better for us in heaven, but there is work for us to do while we are here. We need to be like Paul, embrace this life, and live it for Christ. After all, if we’re not living it for him, then what are we living for?

 

Philippians 1:21-24

21For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.  23I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

 

We should use Paul’s example of complete abandon to God’s will as a catalyst in our own lives.

 

What work has God prepared for you? Do you need to allow him to move and work, or do you need to slow down and wait for him?

Prayer

Lord, you are perfect, and you know everything about me. Increase my desire to be completely sold out for you. Return to me the joy of your salvation. I ask that you teach me to wait on you and to fulfill the work that you have prepared for me. Amen.


This post was written by Stephen Dull. Stephen is a Continuous Improvement Engineer, Triathlete, and Blogger. He is passionate about Faith, Finances, Fitness, and helping men to discover their God-given dream. He has a lovely wife and 2 beautiful daughters. You can follow him on twitter here or on his website: www.the360manproject.com


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Do You Have a Bad Reputation?

In Acts chapter 9, we see a powerful example of transformation. Saul was an unlikely candidate for God’s grace. Not only did Saul not believe in Jesus, he devoted his life to hunting down Christians and bringing them to “justice.” Saul’s reputation was widely known and feared. But we see in Acts that immediately following Saul’s life-changing encounter with God, he starts preaching the good news to Jews. Saul does not spend weeks or months defending his previous actions or trying to change his reputation. The message is immediately focused on God.

Saul was a Pharisee – a religious leader. As such, he was intimately familiar with the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Once Saul accepted that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, he understood better than most the promises that were waiting for him: The promise of redemption and eternal life in heaven. Even after his conversion, Saul was still waiting for these promises to be fulfilled. But he was actively waiting. He was spreading the message of Jesus the Messiah to anyone who would listen. He was risking his life, his safety, his reputation, and all of the things that were important to him.

If God can transform someone as unexpected as a Pharisee trying to persecute Christians, why is it so hard to believe that God can overlook your baggage and offer the same forgiveness, grace, and salvation to you? It’s easy to read stories in the Bible and think, “how nice for them.” But do you believe the same change and transformation can happen to you? Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are no qualifiers, no exceptions. We are all equally sinful, we are all equally guilty. The good news is that God’s business is forgiving sinners.

Perhaps you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Savior, your Messiah. How are you waiting for his return? Are you hiding because of your baggage or reputation? Or are you living for God and spreading the good news? Let Saul be an inspiration to you. Let his example show you how to stop trying to defend yourself, or hide from your reputation, and instead, focus on God’s message. Stop worrying, stop delaying, and start waiting by doing!

Acts 9:19b-22

19bSaul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

21All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”

22Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

 

What is most surprising about Saul’s actions in these verses?

 

We all have baggage in our lives – past experiences and decisions that have shaped us both positively and negatively. How can you overlook someone’s baggage and see them how God’s sees them?

 

How can Saul’s story inspire you to act today? List one or two changes you’re going to make.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for loving us, baggage and all. Thank you for your grace and your salvation even though we don’t deserve it. Help us to see others as you see them. Help us to share your good news. Amen.


This post was written by Kaye Althaus. Kaye loves being a part of the LivingItOut Bible Study writing team. In her spare time, she loves to read and do crafts with friends. She and her husband live in the quiet country and raise chickens.


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When to Say the Unexpected Yes

What is the most unexpected gift you’ve ever received? What is some incredible Christmas present you didn’t ask for? That engagement ring? An extension on a paper? All of us have at some point in our lives received an unexpected gift. It doesn’t matter what kind of gift it was, we remember it because it impacted us. Everything about the Christmas (or Advent) season is supposed to help us wait on God. The Jews of the 1st century were waiting on the Messiah, but probably didn’t expect him to come the way that he did – as a vulnerable baby born to a virgin in a manger. We know this story, and know that Jesus did come, so it’s difficult for us to put ourselves in the position of these people. However, we also know that Jesus will one day come back, and he has called us to be prepared – to wait – for that day (Luke 12:35-40). We don’t know when that day will come, so what are we supposed to do right now?

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder addressed this question this past weekend by walking through the story of the Apostle Paul. Originally named Saul, Paul was an enemy of the Christian faith. He approved of the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 8:1), and was on a mission to arrest the followers of Christ before he was eventually converted by Jesus (Acts 9:1-9). Paul eventually became arguably the second most important figure in Christian history, writing roughly half of the New Testament.

Through his conversion story, we learn a few things. Primarily, we learn that to be surprised by God, we need to give and receive the unexpected yes. Saul would have been the most unlikely choice to lead become the Apostle Paul we know today, yet God unexpectedly showed up in all his glory to invite one of the greatest enemies of the church to be one of its greatest leaders. Paul could’ve said no (that would’ve been expected) but he didn’t. Instead, he gave the unexpected yes and became a follower of Christ.

In this interaction, Paul was blinded and needed assistance. God called on a man named Ananias to assist him. Ananias had heard of Paul and was obviously a bit hesitant in helping the man who he thought was out to imprison him. Instead of turning God down, Ananias took God’s unexpected offer and replied with an unexpected yes. Imagine being in Ananias’ shoes. Would you blame him for saying no? After all, Paul was a fierce enemy of the Church. Instead of saying no, Ananias chose to say yes and obey God’s call. This, though a small portion of the story of our Church, turned out to be a very pivotal decision.

What unexpected opportunities has God laid before you? To what might he be asking you to be unexpectedly saying yes? To whom in your life do you need to offer unexpected help? When we reflect on the unexpected parts of Paul’s story, it’s hard for us to say no to those we might be able to help.

 

Acts 9:1-19

1Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

3As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

5“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

10Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

15But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

17So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for saying yes to me. Thank you for offering your amazing grace to me despite my sin. I know that you have given me the greatest unexpected and undeserved gift, and I want your help in sharing that gift with others. Help me to say yes to blessing others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married and has a beautiful little girl. You can follow him on twitter here.


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How To Obey When It Seems Impossible

Wait. Ugh! Are you kidding me? We don’t like waiting. I don’t like waiting. In fact, I despise waiting. As a culture we have made it clear that waiting is simply not part of our DNA. We have instant messaging and video on demand. How could we make it any more obvious that waiting will simply not be tolerated?  The only other word that can raise our ire more is obedience. The mere concept of obedience can cause us to metaphorically thrust our fists in the air and announce that we bow to no one. We make our own decisions. We don’t obey anyone. Obedience is for dogs! Really?  Imagine how much better off we would now be had our ancestors obeyed God’s command in the garden.

Biblical principles commonly run contrary to human nature. That is why following Christ appears so odd to many. So far this week we have seen how Abraham and Sarah were blessed with a son because they waited for God to provide them with a child. But shortly after the child was born, God asked Abraham to kill the very son he and Sarah had waited so long for and offer him as a sacrifice. That’s a big ask.  Who could do that? Better yet, how could God ask Abraham to do that?

But what did Abraham do? He didn’t delay, he didn’t try to control the outcome, and he didn’t make his expectations the focal point. He obeyed. He did exactly what God asked him to do. Abraham raised the knife to kill his own son, but God stopped him. He commanded Abraham in no uncertain terms to do no harm to his child. God then provided an animal for the sacrifice and promised Abraham that not only would he have this son, but he would have so many descendants he would not even be able to count them all. God rewarded Abraham beyond his wildest dreams because of his obedience.  And waiting on God’s timing is one way for us to obey God.

But how do we settle in our minds the fact that God would ask Abraham to kill his own son? How could God ask anyone to do something so horrific?  Christian apologist and teacher, Ravi Zacharias eloquently explains that God stopped the knife before Abraham could plunge it into his son on the altar. But centuries later when God’s own son, Jesus Christ, was on the altar (the cross), he did not stop the knife; God allowed him to be killed and sacrificed for you and for me. Just like in the story of Abraham, God ultimately provided the sacrifice so we would not have to.

Genesis 22:16-18

16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed – all because you have obeyed me.”

 

Why do you think God promised by his own name to bless Abraham? What is the significance of his name?

 

How far reaching was God’s blessing in this scripture for one act of obedience?

 

Prayer 

Ask God to show you where in your life you have been reluctant to obey him or have been disobedient. Confess this to him. Ask him to change you and give you a spirit of obedience, for his glory and because he is deserving of it.


This post was written by David Vernier. David is a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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Having a Baby When You’re 100 Years-Young

More than ever before, our society is marked by the desire for immediacy in virtually every aspect of our lives.  Our need for speed is reflected in our behaviors, including drive-through dining, self-service checkout, on-demand media, instant messaging and texting, and online shopping (with overnight delivery).  Technological advances and the advent of social media have only fueled our need to obtain, consume, and share information (and opinions) instantly.

This yearning for instant gratification has given rise to the term “microwave culture,” which describes our expectation for on-demand access to news and information, entertainment, and goods and services.  In short, we want it all and we want it now.  But at what price?

Now only a Luddite would deny that technology provides conveniences that add tangible value to our lives.  Few of us would be eager to take a road trip without our GPS or visit a physician who lacked the proper medical diagnostics.  But is it essential, or healthy, to move at warp speed in all aspects of our lives?  What is the cost of our impatience, our lack of reflection, and our tendency to rush to judgment?

This week, we’ve explored the value of waiting on God as a lifestyle.  We’ve heard about the virtues of waiting patiently, with anticipation, and resisting the temptation to control outcomes. Another key element of waiting is the suspension of expectations or judgment.

Twenty years ago, a security guard named Richard Jewell was publicly identified as a prime suspect in the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics.  The rash desire to quickly identify the person responsible for a bombing that killed one person and injured 100 others led to an unfortunate rush to judgment that forever changed the life of an innocent man.

In the story of Abraham and Sarah, we are reminded of the wisdom of suspending judgment and appreciating that God’s timing is not our own.  When God reassured the couple that they would bear a child – even at their advanced ages (Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 at the time), their response was laughter in disbelief of God’s promise (Genesis 17:17; 18:11-14).  On an earthly level, their laughter may have been understandable. After all, having a child at such advanced ages defies conventional logic. But as we know, Abraham and Sarah did eventually bear a child, Isaac. (As an aside, the name “Isaac” translates to “he laughs” in Hebrew.)

When we allow our earthly desires for immediate gratification or resolution to cloud God’s promises, we can be tempted to rush to judgment and have unreasonable expectations. But as the story of Abraham and Sarah illustrates, we can take comfort in knowing that even when God’s promises appear bleak at best, he is indeed truthful and his promises are true.  And when we wait with anticipation and patiently trust him, the rewards are undeniably wondrous.

Genesis 17:17; 18:11-14

17Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”

11Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

13Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

 

Prayer

Heavenly father, I thank you for your love and your promises.  Grant me the wisdom to always remember that both you and your promises are truthful, and to cherish the gift of waiting and trusting you with anticipation. Amen.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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Don’t Be a Control Freak

In Genesis 15, God promises Abram that he will have as many descendants as there are stars. Sarai, Abram’s wife, was certain that she must not be part of this equation since she was past child-bearing age. Instead of waiting patiently for God to fulfill his promise, she suggests that Abram conceive a child with her servant, Hagar; he agrees. This, of course, did not end well. Hagar, pregnant with Abram’s child, begins to treat Sarai with contempt, and Sarai develops an expected resentment, despite this being her original suggestion. This drove Hagar away, but an angel appears to her, tells her to return, and that God hears her cries of distress. He also tells her that her child (Ishmael) will be wild and won’t get along with those around him.

More than 10 years pass. God reiterates his covenant with Abram, renaming him Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah. Sarah becomes pregnant with Abraham’s child (Isaac), starting the fulfillment of God’s original promise. Though God promises to bless Ishmael, he states that Isaac is the one with whom he will confirm his covenant.

Abraham and Sarah were blessed to have a clear promise from God, yet they still felt they needed to take matters into their own hands. Their actions, instead of facilitating the process, only got in the way of the original plan. Their relationship was tested and others’ lives were affected, but eventually, God’s plan prevailed. Though we may not have such a distinct plan laid out in front of us, we need to surrender the need to control outcomes of the situations surrounding us.

In “A Spirituality of Waiting” by Henri Nouwen, he writes, “People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes.” Sarah possibly feared that she would be the hindering factor in fulfilling Abraham’s promised legacy. What this displays is not only self-doubt but a doubt in God’s power and trustworthiness. When we try to take things into our own hands, we are essentially telling God that we think we know better than him. Lucky for us, he patiently waits for us to step out of the way and allow him to act in our lives.

We learn from Abraham and Sarah that we need to wait with anticipation for God’s plan to play out, not try to control the outcome on our own terms. We tend to do this when we want something sooner than what God has in mind, e.g., when looking for a significant other or searching for a job. It can lead to an “insert here” job or significant other: one that fills the title, but perhaps wasn’t meant to be. Instead of focusing on how things should be going, release it to God knowing he has a better plan for us. We are God’s children; loved and privileged, but not his advisors.

Genesis 16:5

Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong – you or me!”

What situations in your life are you trying to control right now?

 

What might it look like if you handed it over to God?

 

Prayer

God, help me surrender control and trust in you. I know you are all-powerful, and you are bigger than any situation I will ever experience. Please allow me to be patient as I wait for your plans for me to progress, and help me to keep my own wants from getting in the way of your plans. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a registered nurse on a step-down coronary unit. She loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for LivingItOut. She is married and has a little girl and boy.


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How to Wait Actively

Every morning, they got up and went to the temple. Every morning, they waited in eager expectation that maybe today would be the day that God’s promised one would enter the world. And every night, they went to sleep waiting for God to keep his promise to send a savior. Maybe tomorrow. Simeon, a righteous and devout man, had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see his savior before he died (Luke 2:25-26). Anna, a widow of more than 60 years, spent her days in the temple waiting for the Promised One to appear (Luke 2:36-38). And then, one day, the waiting was over. He was here in the form of a helpless baby, carried into the temple by his parents.

Abram was 75 years old when God told him to go. He didn’t tell him where to go, just that by going he was going to become a great man – famous even – and a blessing to the world. And so, he went. He took his wife and nephew – he had no children of his own – and went. He didn’t delay, he trusted God to lead and he followed.

Paul says in Romans 8:18-25 that creation itself is “waiting eagerly,” “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” for the day when God’s children will be revealed and we will be free from death and decay. We have hope that one day we will be released from sin and suffering and that Jesus will come again.

Waiting for God to act is not a passive process. Simeon and Anna went to the temple every day in eager expectation that maybe today would be the day. Abram did not know where God was leading him and did not know how he could impact the world as a childless man; yet, in faith, he went. Creation itself is eagerly awaiting Christ’s return. When we wait on God, it is a call for action, not procrastination. According to priest and author Henri Nouwen, we should regularly ask ourselves, “What might God want to do right here, right now? The moment as I see it might be boring, frightening, confusing or just tediously routine – but what might God want to do in it anyways? Let me be open to that.”

For those of us with children, God commands us to pray for them. We are to pray for their salvation, their purity, and their futures. We may never see those prayers come to fruition, but we pray with hope that through our faithfulness, our prayers will be answered. It might feel like we’re talking to the ceiling, but who knows what that prayer might accomplish someday in the life of one so precious to us? Sometimes God tells us, like Abram, to go. He leads us away from our extended family and friends into a new place. It might be scary or confusing, but stepping out in faith and waiting on God’s next word may take you to places you could only dream about.

We pick up Abram’s story in Genesis when he is 75 years old. We don’t know much about him except that he was a descendant of Noah’s son Shem. His father, Terah, took Abram, his grandson, Lot, and Abram’s wife, Sarai, and set off to Canaan (but ended up stopping short in Haran). After his father’s death, God tells Abram to leave all that he’s ever known and go into a new and unknown land.

Genesis 12:1-4

1The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

4So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

What were God’s promises to Abram?

 

Are you waiting for God to act in some area in your life? Are you actively waiting and doing your part or are you passively waiting?

 

What is one thing you could change to become more active in the waiting process?

  

Prayer

God, thank you for giving us examples of those who waited well. Thank you for their examples and for the confidence that our waiting is not in vain. Give us the courage to take an active role in the waiting process and to wait with eager expectations for your promises to be revealed. Amen.

 


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie is a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. She has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her four young children.


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Why We Don’t Like to Wait

What presents did you eagerly wait for when you were younger?

A Game Boy?
A Furby?
A Lite Brite?
Teddy Ruxpin?
Stretch Armstrong?

Whatever it was, we can all relate. After you asked for something for Christmas, you waited that long month, which seemed like a year! How often did you wish that Christmas would come early? While it’s fun to reminisce about the days when we eagerly wrote Christmas lists, our problem with waiting hasn’t changed. Instead, it has followed us throughout life. We couldn’t wait to get out of high school, couldn’t wait to get married, couldn’t wait to have kids, and on and on. While these milestones are fun to anticipate, there are many times when we must wait for difficult times to pass. Either way, we typically don’t excel at waiting. We want the good things to come now and the bad things to end now.

As Lead Pastor Ben Snyder pointed out this past weekend, waiting is actually a good thing if done well, because waiting is not a waste, waiting is being ready with anticipation. Priest and Author Henri Nouwen writes, “Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands… But there is none of this passivity in Scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing.” What’s important here is that those who are waiting know they are waiting for something; they have something to look forward to.

As followers of Christ, we should view waiting as an opportunity and a choice. We have the choice when presented with waiting: we can wait well, or not. As Ben pointed out, waiting well means we do three things:

We step out

We surrender what we cannot control

We suspend expectations

When we look at the life of Abraham, we see what it looks like to wait well and what happens when we don’t. What’s amazing is that all of Abraham’s life was a life of waiting. After God promised to make him a father of nations, Abraham waited 25 years to even have a son with his wife Sarah. Abraham lived long enough to have a son, and for his son to have children, and in that, he got to experience the promise of God (Hebrews 6:15). However, he never experienced the fullness of what God had promised: being the father of many nations.

The early Christians pointed back to Abraham as an example of what it means to wait with anticipation. In Hebrews 11, after describing the stories of the patriarchs of our faith, including Abraham and Sarah’s story, the author writes, 13All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own.

Abraham and Sarah did not experience the fullness of God’s promise, but they “saw it from a distance and welcomed it.” That is the posture we should take in waiting. We should be ready with anticipation. We shouldn’t delay or try to drive it, we should wait.

No matter what season you may be waiting in, you can have confident hope that there is something amazing promised to you: an eternal inheritance with the one and only God. He is something worth waiting for (Hebrews 9:15).

What part of waiting do you struggle with?

 

How can you practice waiting well today?

 

Prayer

Father in Heaven, thank you. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for the gift of waiting. Help me to wait well no matter what circumstance I find myself in. I know I have eternal life with you awaiting me, and I want to be ready in anticipation. I don’t want to delay, and I don’t want to try to direct, I want to be prepared for the day I enter glory. I pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married and has a beautiful little girl. You can follow him on twitter here.


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