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About the Author
Pamela L. McQuade is a freelance writer and editor with dozens of projects to her credit. She began her Barbour writing career with coauthor and good friend Toni Sortor then moved on to write solo. She has also coauthored The Top 100 Men of the Bible with her husband, Drew, under the name Drew Josephs. Over the years, seven basset hounds and three cats have made the McQuade turf their home. Pam and Drew volunteer with a local basset rescue and live within sight of Manhattan's Empire State Building.
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Letting Go & Trusting God
180 Devotions for Life's Tough Decisions
By Pamela L. McQuade
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Pamela McQuade
All rights reserved.
Bundles of Decisions
* * *
God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control.
2 TIMOTHY 1:7 CEV
Here is the stuff we need for decision making: courage, power, love, and self-control. Making good choices isn't for the faint of heart.
Decision making often requires us to make many choices at a time, and that takes courage. That kind of decision overload can come when we get married, move, take care of an ailing family member, or lose a loved one. Lots of choices to make all at once; it's hard to even know where to start, even when they're happy choices.
Simultaneously we may face relationship decisions, with their own set of challenges. Sometimes they fall on top of other choices, making each more difficult. But God asks us to deal with all people and situations with love, no matter how burdened we feel or how hard the challenges seem. And instead of rushing into decisions or responding with unbridled emotions, He calls on us to use self-control.
Decision making is often a balancing act in which we weigh one part of our lives against another while constantly keeping the whole in mind. Only the Spirit's power, love, and self-control can provide us with all the necessary decision-making tools.
Though God gives us courage and strength for every choice He puts in our paths, it's up to us to seek His power, love, and self- control.
They're just waiting for us, in His hand.
* * *
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
Psalm 48:14 NIV
Some choices are ephemeral, only affecting a day, a week, or maybe even just a few minutes of our lives. But important choices have lasting impact: Where will we live? What kind of job will we have? Whom will we marry? Or will we stay single instead?
Sometimes those choices seem to easily make themselves for us: We leave school and a job just seems to turn up. But we still decide to take what's offered. When we walk into something easily, it could be a plan God has had for us all along or just a temporary stopping place. In time we may choose to move on, or we may be tempted to remain where life is comfortable. Decisions may not last forever, or they may be serious choices, the start of a lifetime of good things.
But whether things come to us easily or we struggle, we can be certain of one thing: God will be our lifelong guide.
When we come to a crossroads, we don't need to make a quick choice based only on our own experience. God offers us His immense store of knowledge and understanding. All we have to do is ask our Guide. Tapping into Him, we need not worry that one small choice will damage our lives unnecessarily: decisions made with God's wisdom are never failures.
Yes or No?
* * *
"But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne. ... But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
Matthew 5:34, 37 NKJV
Often we don't take our promises very seriously. We tell a friend or coworker we'll help, but if life gets in the way, it's no big deal if we shrug off our commitment. We rearrange things to suit our needs, apologize, and never think twice of it. Promises don't mean that much, and we figure people will understand.
It wasn't that way in Jesus' day. The Jews back then knew that God had said they should keep any vows made in His name (Deuteronomy 23:23). To show they were serious, when they made a vow, they'd swear by various things of spiritual significance, like heaven or Jerusalem, but they'd leave His name out and think their unkept oaths avoided heavenly disapproval. Despite these verbal games, their track record was no better than ours.
Whether you call it a promise or a vow, God takes backing out seriously, as Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount. "You don't have to swear, just say yes or no, but abide by your decision" is a simplified version of His message that left no one with a loophole.
As Christians, the way we act reflects on God; therefore, our every word should be our bond. So let's make decisions to help — or not to help — as life demands. But once we've made a choice, we need to follow through, in Jesus' name.
* * *
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Matthew 26:14–16 KJV
Judas didn't just fall into betrayal or make a sudden mistake. Giving up his Master took planning. The wayward disciple visited Jesus' enemies to set things up. Then Israel's chief priests "covenanted" with the disciple to sell his Lord cheaply.
The betrayal started in one man's heart and mind, spread to others, and worked its way out in all their actions.
That plot should never have gotten beyond a mere, hastily pushed aside thought. But people are not perfect. Jealousy and self-interest draw every human into sin, as these Jewish spiritual leaders discovered. Or doubt fuels believers' motivations when they wonder if God has failed them. Some dissatisfaction filled Judas's soul and led to his downfall.
It's easy for us to pick on Judas, who had been with Jesus and clearly should have known better; but before we pick up a stone to throw at the failed disciple, we'd best take a long look at ourselves. Every wrong that takes hold of our minds and gets acted out in our lives makes traitors of us, too.
We, too, have walked with the Savior. Will our thoughts hold fast to Him or slip as Judas's did?
* * *
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people."
Matthew 4:18–19 NIV
Simon and Andrew heard Jesus' call unexpectedly. One day they were fishermen, toiling long hours in a boat, pulling in nets, and then hauling their catch to the marketplace to sell it. Their lives were predictable, and they seemed to have a secure future. The next day, they left all they knew and headed out to follow Jesus.
Many Christians today have a similar experience. One day they have little or no thought for God, the next they have committed their whole lives to Him. Coming to Jesus, whether it's a slow decision or an overnight one, means a huge change that influences an entire life. But all of us have to make a decision about Jesus: Will we accept Him, ignore Him, or intentionally deny Him? Even not making a decision is a decision, one that influences not only our lives but our eternal destiny.
Have you made that choice? Do you know that Jesus is your Savior, the One with whom you've thrown in your lot, just as His first disciples did? Or are you doubting or ignoring the One who calls you to drop your entangled nets and follow only Him?
Rich Love or Rich Lands
* * *
So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."
Genesis 13:8–9 NIV
When he spoke these words, peaceable Abram had a lot to lose. And as a result of this speech, he temporarily lost some of the richest territory God had promised him. Lot took his uncle up on his generous offer and chose what looked like the very best property.
But, as Abram realized, sometimes even the richest things the world has to offer are not worth it, if it means destroying relationships or constantly having to fight with someone you love. He graciously let Lot have the best.
So Lot became a city dweller, while Abram remained in tents. But Lot's cushy land came with a terrible price. Eventually Abram's nephew discovered the danger that came with living in the well-watered plain of the Jordan, when he and his family had to flee the wickedness of its inhabitants. But his neighbors' sin had already permeated his family and all but destroyed it.
The greatest blessing was not the land but the relationship with God. While Abram got the lesser land, his faithfulness to the Lord remained unimpaired.
Do we want rich love or rich lands? And what are we willing to give for each?
* * *
Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.
Proverbs 15:22 NLT
Ours is a "we can do it" society. Nothing seems beyond our ability, and we're encouraged to have a positive attitude about our skills and abilities — perhaps even when we're better gifted in another area.
Though there's nothing wrong with taking charge of our lives, we also need to know what we're doing. Since none of us can know everything about each decision we'll be faced with in life, it's not wise to assume that we can automatically do it all. That's why God advises us to look for wise advisers to steer us in the right direction.
The first adviser we need is God. He knows the directions our lives will take. For example, where will we live in twenty years? No human can know. But by following God and seeking His wisdom, we can live today in a way that prepares us for the future. Choices that follow His will never fail.
But we also need the humility to ask the help of people who really know about any choices we need to make today. Maybe we need to consult several people to come to a good decision about the home we need today. Then we can weigh advice, pray about the best direction, and come to the wisest choice.
No human knows as much as God, but people can still help turn us in the right direction. Let's look for those God sends our way to give us success.
Hard Work or Poverty?
* * *
Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 NLT
It's been a terribly hectic week, but this project is almost out the door. Just a few minor details to wrap up, and the weekend is all mine, Jason thinks. I certainly deserve a break after all the long hours I've put in.
Just then his boss stops by to remind him of one more detail. "It shouldn't take more than an hour," he encourages his worker. "After all you've done, it will just be the icing on the cake that might win us this bid."
Icing on the cake, all right, Jason thinks. That's about what it is — icing on an awful week. Why do I do this job anyway? There's got to be some shortcut that will get me out the door in just a few minutes, he grumbles to himself.
Does Jason hear temptation calling? Or is he simply so caught up in his own desires that he doesn't understand that one more hour of hard work could bring success to his company — and himself — while shortchanging the job could destroy it all?
Usually we need to do the hard work this verse talks about at the least convenient moment. Hard moments never come when life is easy. But choosing to hang on in a tough time may be blessed by God because we made the right choice in a difficult moment.
Yes, shortcuts provide easy ways out. But let's make sure they don't result in our giving less than our best. After all, we are His handiwork.
Willing to Risk?
* * *
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.
Romans 16:3–4 NLT
After Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, had fled from Rome following Claudius Caesar's deportation of the Jews, this tent-making couple met Paul. We don't know if they received Christ through the apostle's ministry, but clearly they were drawn to his message and became strong Christians and active church members who were skilled in doctrine (Acts 18:24–26). Paul valued them as close friends and coworkers, and the couple established a congregation of believers in their home.
At some point, though we don't know what they did, Priscilla and Aquila made a choice that put their own lives at risk. Their bravery must have been well-known to the Gentile churches, who appreciated the couple's steadfastness to their leader and friend.
When Priscilla and Aquila faced a difficult, faith-challenging decision, they made a faith-based choice. However large the risk, it proved right and worth it, as God protected them and brought blessing to the church.
We may not have to risk our lives, but like Priscilla and Aquila, will we make decisions that are based on our faith and that testify to it? Sometimes God asks us to make hard choices that risk things that seem almost as important as life to us.
Will we risk something for Jesus? Or is life as it is simply too comfortable?
* * *
James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means "sons of thunder").
Mark 3:17 NIV
What did Jesus, who rarely criticized His disciples, mean by calling these brothers "sons of thunder"? Many people believe John and his brother Andrew had a tough time holding on to their tempers.
How many of us know the dangers of quick but ill-thought-out speech? Words spill out of our mouths before we can slap our hands over them. Or we leap into speech before our minds are fully engaged and end up looking foolish.
But God, who gives us "a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7) and helps us put a guard on our mouths (Psalm 141:3 NKJV) can give us the selfcontrol we need. The problem isn't God's willingness to help but our unwillingness to give up the "joys" of wrong speech. Part of us likes to open our mouths and give honest opinions to an aggravating person. Or we'll let off steam on a subject we should have thought out more carefully. But afterward, instead of feeling brave and honest, our decision to speak out boldly makes us feel embarrassed and unclean.
We can cooperate with God's plan for our words or rebel against it. Rebellion brings lots of thunder and very few blessings. Well-thoughtout speech that comes from a heart aligned with God's will brings much more fruitful results.
Our mouths were made for praise, not condemnation or foolishness. Which will we choose?
Nothing to Fear
* * *
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
You really didn't have much to say about your decision. Life just cornered you, and you went the only way you could, boxed in by circumstance. Now, fear fills your heart when you look at your situation.
The Israelites whom Moses spoke these words to knew just how that felt. Their parents and grandparents spent forty years circling in a desert because of one grave, disobedient act. As this group faced crossing into the Promised Land, anything might have seemed better than wandering for forty more years, yet they must have had serious doubts. After all, wasn't this dangerous, to invade a land filled with pagan people?
Making that river crossing that would lead them into a land filled with enemies was a terrifying prospect. Then their leader, Moses, told them he wasn't going to be with them.
There was a lot to be discouraged about! But Moses told them their only hope was in the One who had brought them to this point. Maybe they felt nervous about trusting in the Lord, who had kept them walking in circles for so long. Doubt may have filled their hearts. But Moses promised that God would go before them and never leave them. There was nothing to fear.
That promise works in our lives, too, when we feel doubtful and cornered. God has never deserted us, and He never will. How we feel about our situation is less important than His faithfulness.
* * *
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 NIV
Feeling angry or bitter? Maybe you'd like to slap a false emoticon on your face and pretend you're the ultimate happy Christian.
Excerpted from Letting Go & Trusting God by Pamela L. McQuade. Copyright © 2016 Pamela McQuade. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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