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A New Destination

Father wants to put fresh, new spiritual destinations in your heart, along with a compelling purpose for pursuing them. God has a new destination for you – this is a time to be listening!

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ (Isaiah 43:19)

The Hebrew word ‘wilderness’ means, ‘a vast open field where cattle are driven’, ‘uninhabited land’, or ‘large tracts of open land and pasture’.

The picture is of someone herding cattle like a drover and discovering uninhabited, vast plains of land that are virgin territory. However, the thought is not that of dryness. Quite the opposite! ‘A road in the wilderness’ speaks of a place where there is an abundance of food for cattle. Settlers can come and prosper in a new land. The ‘wilderness’ speaks of new territory. Expansive new territory – a new destination!

Father clearly spoke to me one morning a number of years ago and said: “I want the rest of your life as a blank sheet of paper.” I was amazed, as I sincerely considered that was the case already. However, over a period of a few weeks He showed me how subtle the nature of our desires can be. Indeed, our view of the future can be influenced by our knowledge of the past. I had to discover a place of complete surrender, with no qualifications attached. What an incredible sense of anticipation then flooded my heart!

So, if you feel as though you are facing a wilderness, take courage. The promise of God is that He will give you a ‘road’ that will cause that wilderness to become accessible and a place of great fruitfulness.

Can I encourage each one of you to take some time aside to present yourself afresh before the Lord to hear from Him.  Bring your own blank sheet of paper to see what exciting new things He would write upon it for your future. Of one thing I am certain: He has a remarkable and fruitful new era for each one of us, if we dare to embrace it.

Man looking out over a lake pondering his influence

Influence or Success

God is calling us to be people of greater influence. We are all called to be godly influencers, regardless of our calling or title. We cannot make disciples without influencing others! But we can easily lose our focus on influence and instead look towards success.

The world’s focus is on success, and this focus is on self.

Success means: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the attainment of popularity or profit, a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

One of the evidences of success is growth; you have more of something and its bigger and better. This was not Jesus’ focus nor His example to us. It says in John 6:66, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Jesus had many disciples and when He began to share some challenging thoughts, many left Him. His many followers got whittled down to twelve. Of those twelve, one repeatedly cursed and denied knowing Him, another was characterised by doubt, others were known to argue with each other about their importance and who would get the best seat in heaven, one was stealing from the organisations finances and ended up betraying Jesus and committing suicide. At His point of greatest need, they all deserted Him. He was not, as man would define it, a person of great success!

However, God’s focus is on influence, and this focus is on others. Consider these scriptures:

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Mark 8:36 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Matthew 20:28 “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Influence means: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself, the power to shape policy.

While success equals gain, influence equals change. Jesus came to influence people’s lives, not to be a successful person. Leadership and influence are about us adding to others by giving, while success is about us achieving for ourselves by getting.

Jesus saw the problem in people’s lives, and He added the solution!

Jesus saw death so He came to add life. Jesus saw worthlessness so He came to add value. Jesus saw fear so He came to add love. Jesus saw worry so He came to add peace. Jesus saw hopelessness so He came to add hope.

Jesus literally changed environments, cultures and people’s lives by influencing them – by adding to them by giving.

The woman caught in adultery was feeling condemned. Jesus saw this and added acceptance, and by doing so, removed condemnation. The Samaritan woman at the well was feeling unworthy to be loved because five men had left her. Jesus saw this and added love and honour, and by doing so, subtracted unworthiness. After denying Jesus three times, Peter felt disqualified and unworthy. Jesus saw this and added acceptance and a fresh commissioning.

Like Jesus, we are always adding to or removing things from people’s lives. So, what are you adding to people’s lives and what are you subtracting? There were times in difficult conversations with others that I added frustration, anger and careless words, and by doing so, subtracted honour, respect and value. The reason I did this was because I felt I was right; therefore I focused on achieving for myself by getting the upper hand. I wanted to be successful in this argument.

But there have also been times when I added gentleness, honour, patience and respect. When my focus was on adding to others and selfless giving, I removed anger, frustration and hurt. I wanted to be influential in this conversation; to love them like Jesus does.

God is calling us all to be people of greater influence. So, in your everyday life, when you see a lack in people’s lives, add the opposite. When you see criticism, add some encouragement. If you recognise hopelessness, add some hope. Look to be influential, rather than successful. When you go up – that’s success. But when you help others go up – that’s influence.

Woman with two hands full of fruit

One Handful or Two

I have found myself at times chasing many things. And they may have been good things – related to family, ministry, or church life. But as a bit of an over-achiever, I can easily find myself with too much on my plate. I say yes out of enthusiasm to help others, which can result in feeling worn out or depleted.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

God asked me one day, “What do you have in your hand?” And when I answered the question honestly, I realised that it was not just one handful that I was carrying, but actually I had both hands full. And my hands were full to overflowing. I was so busy doing things for God that I had been distracted from chasing after God himself.

When I was younger, my Dad used to have a bit of fun when offering us certain foods – such as a slice of cake or slice of cheese. He would ask whether we wanted a one-handed slice or a two-handed slice. Of course, if my friends were around, they would always ask for a two-handed slice – it sounded like it was going to be so much bigger and so much better! But in fact, a two-handed slice was so thin and fragile that it needed to be held with both hands. It would crumble at a moment’s notice. The one-handed slice was the one you really wanted – it was thick and stable and easily held in one hand.

When both our hands are so full of stuff in our lives, it is like that two-handed slice. Life seems like it will be so much better when we have two hands full – but in fact, too much and our lives feel thin and as if things would easily crumble. We end up chasing after the wrong things, and it takes all of our energy to ensure that things don’t fall apart. But we don’t want to drop the ball or let people down, so we keep straining to juggle our many responsibilities. As a result, our life feels unstable and uncertain.

When I chase after many things that are not in God’s plan, I lose my tranquillity. I forfeit that inner state of being calm and settled. I end up toiling and working so hard I lose my joy. And if we are honest, amidst the many good things in our lives, we can end up a slave to what seem to be good things. But too many seemingly good things are not always right if they are not in God’s plan.

Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus teaches us not to worry about tomorrow, and to seek Him first. God’s ways are always higher than our ways. If we stick to one handful of the things in life, we have the other hand free – to hold God’s hand. To allow Him to lead and guide us. To ensure that we have the margin and space in our day to hear His voice and be led by His Spirit. With one hand full, our lives are stable and secure in Him. And with just one hand full, we also have the other hand free to help others along the way as He directs.

So, allow Father to speak into what you have in your hands. Don’t get caught up in meaningless toil – live your life with one handful, not two.

Philippians 1:6 (The Living Bible) “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.”

Woman reading her bible

Whatever We Do

Following the life and example of Jesus can be a hard act to follow. Or is it? Can we be so radically transformed by the goodness of God that whatever we do brings honour to the Father?

Colossians 3:17 says, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

In this verse, I see two filters that should be applied to everything that we say and do. These two filters can be summed up in two statements. Firstly, it says, ‘do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’. If we can’t apply Jesus’ Name (His reputation) to what we are about to say or do, then we shouldn’t say it or do it.

So, here’s the first statement that I find myself meditating on more and more: “If Jesus wouldn’t say it or do it, then I won’t say it or do it.” This is easy to say, but it is much more difficult to apply. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us. The good news is that He longs to do just that.

The second filter can be summed up in this very challenging statement: “If I can’t give thanks to God for what I am about to say or do, then I won’t say it or do it.” Everything that we say or do should be something that we believe Jesus would say or do, and something that we can give thanks to God for. You might be thinking, “But Steve, that’s too high a standard, and more than just a little too fanatical!”

Naturally speaking (and that is an important clarification), I agree. But we are not created and called to live by what we naturally think or what the world tells us is right and wrong! Let me put this thought and question to us all today: “If we think that comparing ourselves to Jesus is too high a standard, who do we compare ourselves to in order to get our standard validated?” Other people’s standards must never be the measure of my standards.

Jesus’ standards (evidenced by the life He lived) are to be the measure of my standards. And to do this, we need to care more about Father’s thoughts than people’s thoughts. If we are going to live like Jesus did, then we need to move past the fear of man. I am realising more and more, that the fear of man is not based on a guaranteed outcome. Many times, the fear that we have of other people’s opinions are not what they actually think. Therefore, the fear of man that is based on other people’s opinions is actually based on other people’s possible opinion.

And as I meditate on this, here’s what I felt prompted to write: “Other people’s possible opinions about me are nowhere near as important as Father’s stated thoughts about me!” Please read that again.

My friends, I want to see the grip of fear of what others may think be completely broken this year in all of our lives! May our confidence and security come from what Father has said about us! I want to leave you to meditate on these two statements and seek to apply them to all that you say and do:

“If Jesus wouldn’t say it or do it, then I won’t say it or do it.”

“If I can’t give thanks to God for what I am about to say or do, then I won’t say it or do it.”

May our lives, in whatever we do, bring glory to the Father.

A dove representing the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit Power

We live in a time when too many Christians accept such a small part of what God intends for our new life in Christ. We also live in a time when so many (myself included far too often) try hard to be good, rather than be filled to overflowing with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:11-12 says, I (John the Baptist) indeed baptise you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

This scripture can be a little confusing, yet because it is one of the first mentions of what Jesus will do, I feel it is important to look to see what God is saying. As I pause and listen, I see two things: Firstly, all that God wants to accomplish in our lives is through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through our best efforts. Secondly, God wants to do a thorough and truly transforming work in us, not just a slight improvement.

The work of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit is a thorough clean out work. We need a deeper revelation of this in our lives. But we also need a deeper revelation of why Jesus wants to thoroughly clean out the chaff of our lives.

Freedom is the reason Jesus is an all-or-nothing Saviour. He has no desire to simply improve our present reality and our spiritual condition. Sure, we might measure our lives compared to some other people and think we are not too bad. But compared to a holy, righteous and perfect God, well, we all miss the mark terribly.

And this is why Jesus came! He came to remove restrictions, to remove barriers and to remove obstacles! He came to pay the price, tear down the veil, disarm the devil and usher us boldly into God’s throne of grace! He came to live as a man, sinless, reliant on the Holy Spirit, in communion with His Father and as a tangible example of this new life He was purchasing for us!

All of this is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A significant mountain range

Significance

Do you know that you are significant? That’s right: you are significant to God. Do you also know that God wants you to do something significant with your life? Significance speaks of substance and weight; it is about meaning, worth, importance, and impact… your life is significant.

You might say “Steve, that’s just not possible. You don’t know my situation. My family life is challenging and I don’t have any special gifts. I simply don’t have the opportunity and arena to be significant. I love God but my life will never be significant”. There are some of you that honestly feel that but I have some good news for all of us.

It all depends how you measure significance. Most of the time our thought of significance is doing something amazing! People might do something amazing and it might be significant, but it may also be insignificant in terms of importance and eternal value. True significance is measured by our obedience to what God asks us to do. This is great news for a couple of reasons:

  1. We can all hear from God, and we can all obey Him.
  2. God knows about my current situation and He knows what we are capable of.

Today, here is a good question we can all ask.
“God what would you like me to do with my life that is significant?” Then listen and obey. God might ask you to pray, to encourage, to give, to go, to listen, or to share. He may ask you to simply love your family and give to them sacrificially. Father might speak to you about changing direction or persevering in the same thing. If God asks you to do something and you do it, then that is significant!

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

We don’t need to be important before others; let’s measure our significance according to God’s direction and our obedience.